At the weekend I drove up North for a short weekend in Scotland. My Grandmother came from Scotland and I promised her back in January that I would visit Scotland for the first time before the year is out. This I have now done – It’s just a shame that she’s no longer around to hear about it.
I left work early on Friday to try and get on the road before the traffic built up. Going up the M6 on a Friday night rush hour wasn’t the easiest. If it wasn’t road works, it was a traffic jam. If it wasn’t a traffic jam, it was roadworks. I left at 13:45 and it wasn’t until 21:20 that I crossed the border in to Scotland. Eventually (at around 23:30), I arrived at my destination: The Travelodge just outside Ayr, where I would stop for a few hours before continuing over to Arran.
Compared to driving to Norway, driving to Scotland in one hit was a walk in the park really (even with all that traffic) – but I think I’d take a full day off work next time. Even with 4 service station stops along the way it was still a long way! (My stops were: Hilton Park Services in Staffordshire; Charnock Richard Services in Lancashire; Tebay Services in Cumbria; and Cairn Lodge Services in South Lanarkshire which were closed but at least I could park and walk about a bit).
Saturday morning and after a lie in to recover from the long drive, I checked out of the hotel and went in to Ayr for breakfast in a nearby café, followed by a walk along the beach. The weather was grey and overcast, but dry (for now). I left Ayr at around 11:15 for the half hour drive to Ardrossan, the port from which I would travel on the Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry to Brodick on the Isle of Arran.
I had around 24 hours on Arran, arriving at lunch time and leaving on the Sunday late morning. Not a massive amount of time – but enough time to visit a few key areas of interest. First stop was to Brodick Castle & Gardens. The castle itself was closed but I was still able to walk around the gardens, and visit the new squirrel hide where I saw quite a few red squirrels…Not seen one of them before! It’s all grey squirrels down South.
After lunch in the Visitor Centre café I returned to the car and drove back in to Brodick. The largest city on the island, this is where all the shops are, as well as the Tourist Information Centre and the local supermarket.
Then it was off to Lamlash, where I had booked to stay in one of the Arran Sleep Huts. Lamlash itself is quite a nice village – it is home to one or two pubs/resutaurants, the local RNLI station, the island’s only police station (and I’ve seen more police cars on Arran than I would expect to see on a Greek or German island of the same size). Lamlash looks across to the Holy Isle and it is possible to travel by boat there. My accommodation was quite good – a small hut, just big enough for me and my luggage, with a view down across the garden towards the Sea.
Once settled in I decided to go exploring – Unable to decide where I’d go, I got in the car and drove all the way round the island, stopping for a walk at each of the island’s main beaches and villages: Whiting Bay, Blackwaterfoot, Pirnmill (looking across to Kintyre), Lochranza – and not forgetting Corrie (only because that’s also my sister’s name). It was in Lochranza I saw some more wildlife: A red deer wandering about just a few metres from the car, not at all scared of my taking photos of it – with 4 other deer, including a small baby, nearby. I’m lucky to see them in the wild once a year in Gloucestershire!
When I returned to Lamlash I went straight out for dinner at the Pierhead Tavern on their busy Saturday night live music night. Slider – an Ayrshire covers band – were playing a good selection of rock music while I sat and ate my favourite British food: Haggis, neaps & tatties. I’ve never had it in a pub before though. I didn’t have a pudding at the pub – it was getting busy by this time so I paid up and went to the co-op to get an ice cream which I ate back in my hut while watching a documentary on Channel 5 about the building/design of Tower Bridge (yes, I do watch some interesting documentaries).
On Sunday I went for a walk in the village before leaving to head in to Brodick to get the ferry back to the mainland. I could have turned towards home as soon as I got back in to Ardrossan but I decided to potter about instead first – I went to the Robert Burns Birth Place Museum just South of Ayr and saw Burns Cottage, the memorial gardens, the Brig o’ Doon and the Alloway Auld Kirk. It felt quite appropriate that as I wandered round the Auld Kirk, a piper was playing the bagpipes outside a nearby hotel/pub/restaurant.
I still wasn’t done in Scotland as I wanted to visit the Culzean Castle, Country Park & Gardens before leaving and I had a good couple of hours here before turning towards home. The country park and gardens were massive – It was probably a good 20-30 minute walk from where I parked the car (by the walled garden) to the castle, via the Deer Park, another 10 minutes to the Visitor Centre, and another 10 minutes in the other direction to the swan pond.
By the time I had returned to the car ready to head home from Culzean, it was after 4pm. In some ways this made the drive home easier – the roads were pretty much deserted as I drove the Galloway Tourist Route from just outside Ayr down to Gretna Green. Driving the scenic route took about 2.5 hours – I joined the motorway M6 at junction 45 (the first junction in England) just after 19:00 and was home 5 hours later.
On the return journey I stopped just 3 times: 5 minutes at the Todhills Rest Area in Cumbria, 40 minutes Knutsford Services in Cheshire and 5 minutes at Strensham Services in Worcestershire (just 45 minutes from home but it was 23:15 by this time, about 2 hours since my last stop, I was in need of a walk about, and I needed to text home with my latest ETA). I reached home at midnight.