Sunday, 27 June 2010

ARRAN,AYR & GALLOWAY

16th-20th June

The pretty route ( not recommended by the Caravan Club but 'perfectly negotiable with care') up to CLAONAIG for the ferry to LOCHRANZA on the Isle of Arran. We intend to spend 5 days circumnavigating the Island and camp wherever as there are few campsites, and then cross back to the mainland from BRODICK to ARDROSSAN. No problem and 30 minutes and £97 later we are on Arran ( this is courtesy of a discounted Island Hopscotch Ticket No.5). As there are only 2 ferry ports (ie Lochranza & Brodick), I expected Lochranza to be a hive of civilisation and a decent urban conglomeration. We did stop at the ferry terminal and look around but we couldn't find any signs of the normal trappings of what passes for urban such as a bank (which we needed), a shop (which we didn't) or a pub (which would be nice) so we set off in a southerly (or anti-clockwise) direction.
The weather was perfect, the views stunning as the road follows the coast very closely, and the highway maintenance non existent....no thats not fair......they have repaired the roads-frequently-so frequently that the repairs on top of repairs make for a corrugated effect that rattles the teeth...and keeps the speeds down......as though the narrow,winding,hilly road was ever going to let me get into 3rd for too long. Anyway, a picnic lunch by seaside looking over to Kintyre,whence we had just come, and at BLACKWATERFOOT we found a Post Office dispensing cash (after waiting until 2pm) which replenished the cash stash. Deciding we ought to investigate the campsite situation, we studied the books and found a nice sounding site and rang to check availability. They took some time to confirm a pitch for 3 nights which I thought was just marketing, it being Wednesday, but it turned out to be quite small and mainly geared up for tents, with only 6 dedicated mhome/caravan pitches and when we arrived we were the largest thing by far. However, it was on the beach, had the most stunning views out to Ailsa Craig and was next door to a very nice pub-hotel-shop. This was KILDONAN and is very close to paradise. Our 3 nights turned into 5 nights as we couldn't imagine being anywhere else that was nicer. The site owner used to own the hotel and was a bit of a character and sorted our request for the extra 2 nights even though the place was heaving for the weekend as half of Glasgow descended for a camping/cycling/walking break. We had a great 5 days, out on the scooter, walking the hills, and having fun . Father's day lunch at the Kildonan Hotel next door, eating in the garden, great views and watching the gannets diving for fish. Ace spot.

21st.-25th.June

From BRODICK (which is a pleasant but unremarkable collection of houses and 3 shops) to ARDROSSAN ( which gave no reason to linger) and down the Ayrshire coast to CULZEAN CASTLE ( pronounced CULLANE) where we stopped 2 nights in the grounds at a Camping & Caravan Club site. Excellent site on the coast next to the grounds of the house which was a very enjoyable country park with great gardens well worth a visit and in which we spent a very enjoyable day. Left there on Wednesday morning, stopping at GIRVAN where I took the opportunity to join the MV Glorious on a trip to AILSA CRAIG, 10 miles off the coast and the secong largest colony of gannets in europe. It is also the origin of all the rock used to make curling stones. The weather was v.overcast and the sea v.rough. The Mv Glorious (crew 2, passengers 17 @ £20 ea) was like an old flat -bed truck, with Big Wullie and Dougal in the cabin in the front and thus shielded from the spray (unlike the rest of us ) as they bounced through the waves. The trip out took an hour, an hour circling the rock, 30 mins ashore and an hour back and I was very glad that I had taken the advice of nurse GoodFairy and taken a stugeron tablet - and I reckon I only just made it back in time. But the trip was well worth while. Not only millions of Gannets, but Kittiwakes, Fulmars,Guillemots, Black Guillemots, RazorBills and-joy of joys-PUFFINS. The big problem was actually getting good photos as the boat was pitching around so much in the swell and the birds were so numerous that it was difficult to know what to focus on - and they moved so fast esp. the puffins. The island(and lighthouse) is now uninhabited and an RSPB reserve and our boat owner is the only boat allowed to land - apart apparently from the 2 boatloads of marine commandos who suddenly appeared, all tooled up and ran ashore to do commando type things on the cliffs (without disturbing the birds ?!)
Onward down the coast, past STRANRAER to DRUMMORE where we stopped 3 nights at New England Bay (overlooking the SOLWAY FIRTH) and a CC campsite which is very good, large and landscaped into the dunes. Excellent day out on the scooter to the MULL OF GALLOWAY - the most southerly point of Scotland, with lighthouse another RSPB reserve worth a visit- and another day exploring the peninsular. Great botanic gardens at PORT LOGAN which was another picturesque ex-fishing village. Weather warm but cloudy

26th-27th. June

A short drive to KIPPFORD, a very pleasant site with terrific walks in the surrounding hills with great views over the SOLWAY FIRTH where we spent a great couple of days getting some good exercise interspersed with watching England get thrashed by Germany, Murray progress to the 2nd week in Wimbledon,Hamilton & Button get 2nd & 3rd in Valencia and listening to England go 3-0 up in the 5-series one day matches against Australia (for which we have tickets for the final game at Lords on July 2nd. This site has terrific holiday homes (norwegian log cabins) with superb views and beautifully landscaped. We may have to buy one when we stop touring as this part of Scotland is v.scenic and unspoilt.

Culture Note 1....avoid Gatehouse of Fleet.....nowhere near as interesting as its name
Culture Note 2....If you think David Coulthard is a legend, then you may be tempted to visit his birthplace, TWYNHOLME, where his father has established a museum dedicated to his son together with the PitStop Diner. The shed is packed with pictures,cars,helmets ,trophies and not worth the £4 .....especially as you can see everything from the diner whilst having a cup of coffee. The Diner's management have to be the most miserable uncommunicative couple it has ever been my misfortune to encounter and I reget the £2.45 we spent on coffee. We were the only customers at 11.30 on a Saturday and trying to engage them in conversation regarding DC was worse than blood from stones and is why I then refused to part with said £4 to look closely at the interesting shed of memorabilia. If DC's dad reads this, get shot of those two, they're costing you money getting you a bad name.

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