Saturday, 28 May 2016

Our Scottish Tour Part 1

Scotland Day 1
Wednesday 25th May 2016

This morning we woke up to greet the morning on Brighouse Bay Campsite and proceeded to watch the rabbits while we ate our breakfast - but then came an incident that very nearly put us off completely.  There were 3 very little bunnies hopping about and enjoying the early morning sunshine, and they seemed to have crept out from underneath a nearby caravan.  As the minutes ticked by they became more confident and moved further away from the van's shelter and safety - and then, all of a sudden, down swooped a great big black raven and grabbed one of them in it’s talons.  At this stage the bird seemed unable to take flight with it’s burden but it was throwing the baby about and pecking at it - a horrible sight to see! But then John quickly donned  his underpants on the outside and rushed out scaring  the bird away and allowing the  little bunny, who seemed to be okay, to nip safely back under the van.  Once John came back inside the raven strutted about for the next half an hour looking for it’s prey, but for today at least, he would have to do without his breakfast!

After that gruesome excitement it was time to pack up and get on our way to the Galloway Forest to do a bit more exploring - however, we hadn't gone far when we came across Loch Ken - and it was so lovely we felt compelled to stop for a coffee break while gazing across it’s tranquil waters.

Then it was forwards and onwards to Loch Clatteringshaw where we had a little walk to see the Robert the Bruce stone - not overly exciting unless your into it’s bloodthirsty history - but it did make a comfy perch.  

We also came across this structure - it must have made for compact living but without the conveniences that we benefit from in T4rdis2! 

However, the Loch and it’s surroundings were much more interesting and not lacking in grandeur - the colours all around just looked as if an artist had taken a palette of paint and squatted  a bit of every available colour to complete the picture. 

Following our lunch (which we ate overlooking the calm waters of the loch) we proceeded a few miles further down the road to the Red Deer Range.  Here you can see deer and goats feeding on the hillside, along with myriads of small birds fluttering about while collecting their lunch.

And finally we drove onto the Rhins of Galloway - a narrow peninsula that is almost entirely surrounded by water, the Irish Sea along it’s long coast, Loch Ryan to the north (left) and Luce Bay to the south (right).    We did a little bit of exploring in T4rdis2 - we drove nearly all the way down the southern arm and then across to Port Logan, but as many of the roads were very narrow, we decided to continue our exploration on two wheels tomorrow.  

Therefore, our focus was mainly on finding a parking spot, and as most of the car parks had ‘No overnight camping signs’ we decided to return to the New England  Caravan Club Site that we had passed earlier - and I'm not sure if it was a mistake, but they only charged us £24.60 for a two night stay - bargain!  

The site overlooks Luce Bay and our pitch has lovely views right over the water, so it didn’t take us long from pitching to being out in the evening sunshine walking along the shingle beach spotting birds as we went. 

Oh and did I mention the rabbits - there are hundreds of them here - it doesn't matter which of the windows you look from, we can always see at least half a dozen racing and chasing and nibbling away at the grass!  I'm sure they don’t need to mow very often.

Scotland Day 2
Thursday 26th May 2016

The morning dawned a little drizzly and cold but we weren't about to change our plans to ride, so we made our porridge, packed our picnic and then I sent John out to unload the bikes - I sent him because the air was full of midges and I wanted to hide in T4rdis2 for as long as possible! He told me that at one stage his arms were almost black with the little blighter's - this resulted in him rushing in and smothering  himself in Avon Skin So Soft - which made him smell very nice, but I'm not sure it had any other benefit because once we started moving we seemed to outrun the bitey things and they didn’t bother us again for the rest of the day!  

We set John’s automatic internal Sat Nav for the Mull of Galloway which is the most Southerly tip of Scotland and it's where a lighthouse can be found.  The trip was only to be about 10 miles but the terrain was very undulating, so a very though workout was provided by our ride! The scenery was however spectacular, so distraction was at it’s very best, and the miles just slipped  by very quickly - and when we got to the top - several people shouted ‘well done’ so it was all worth the effort!

The view from the top was almost 360 degrees and it was possible to see Ireland, The Isle of Mann, The Lake District and the Paps of Jura over and above the Mull of Kintyre.   

But the site was really dominated by the lighthouse that has stood there since 1830 and was built by Robert Stevenson,  It stands 26 metres high and 99 metres above sea level, and it cost £9,000 to build - but that would be the equivalent of about £9 million at today's prices. These days it's automated  (since 1988) and thus unmanned, but in times gone by the keeper would have the responsibility to ensure the light flashed correctly all night, and in the daytime he would have a myriad chores such as cleaning, painting and generally keeping everything running smoothly - and all for the princely wage of £45 a year!

Today the site is managed by the RSPB and the cliffs around it provide nesting grounds for all manner of sea birds, and it also forms part of The Mull of Galloway Trail. The information boards informed us that it is possible to undertake a long distance walk from here to Cape Wrath, which is noted as being the most North Westerly point in Scotland - but we thought that might be a bit too far for us - so we’ll go in T4rdis2 instead!

We paused for lunch right at the very top of the hill, and then it was a lovely swoosh down, but not for long, because just like our outward journey, we needed to proceed over the undulations that were a bit like a roller-coaster, so by the time we got to the bottom, we dismounted and almost fell in a heap just like these two - and that was before we’d had any inebriating refreshments!  

Now our dilemma was, should we nip into the Clashwhannon Public House for a quick pint or should it be the village shop at Drummore, and then back to the comfort of T4rdis2.  The latter won, so in the late afternoon we sat sipping a pint while watching the hoards of bunnies skipping about!

Scotland Day 3
Friday 27th May 2016

This morning we departed form The New England Caravan Site and headed off to Castle Kennedy Gardens which is advertised as one of ‘Scotland's Hidden Gems’ - and we wern’t disappointed.  

The Gardens cover 75 acres and have the most magnificent displays of azaleas and rhododendrons that we have ever seen.  Many of the plants were really ancient and there displays were nothing short of breath taking, and whats-more, when you took a breath you were rewarded with a lovely floral perfume that wafted about throughout the walkways.  

We also learnt that the garden was constructed in the early 19th century and was originally planted with a single type of monkey tree - many of which can still be seen today as they majestically reach towards the sky.

However, beautiful as the garden is, one of it’s dominating features is the ruins of Castle Kennedy which dates back to the 14th century.  It and the gardens nestle romantically between the White Loch and the Black Loch, and even though the picture doesn't do it justice, you can maybe get the idea of it’s grandeur.  Sadly, in 1716 the castle was accidentally gutted by fire, and since then it has remained unoccupied thus allowing Mother Nature to claim it backto some degree.

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On our meander through the gardens we also came across Lochinch Castle - a much newer building dating back to 1864 - and it really did remind us of a French Ch√Ęteau with it’s conical turrets and stunning position on the edge of the White Loch.  The info boards informed us that throughout it’s history it has belonged to Earls of Stair, and today, the 14th Earl and his family still occupy it, and although it isn't open to the public, it is available for private functions!   

Eventually, our time was up and hunger drove us back to T4rdis 2, and once fed we headed off towards Girvan where we knew that there was an ‘accepted’ parking spot right on the shore line where we should be able to stop for the night - however on the way we did pull into a large lay-by/picnic area that would have served our purpose equally well.  And it was here that we spied seals basking on the rocks.  

Our day ended in the afore mentioned parking area, but we were not alone!  As the evening wore on several other vans pitched up, and then to our amazement, a massive double axle caravan arrived and proceeded to set up there home for the night.  Even the French don’t allow that in their Aires!  

Scotland Day 4
Saturday 28th May 2016

Well,  the car park provided a little haven for the night and in the morning we were rewarded with the eerie view of Ailsa Craig - a tiny off shore island that appeared to be topped with snow!  In reality it was cloud with the morning sunshine glistening on it, but it did look surreal!  

Following our breakfast, we soon had everything stowed away and set off on our long northward trek - probably about 200 miles today.  Our plan is to ‘wild camp’ again tonight at Cairngorm, and then to proceed onto the Black Isle tomorrow - but that will be another story!

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