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Scotland

February 2002 - and it's time for a holiday. Nick and friends visit Scotland.

Our holiday planning was a last minute affair. A combination of seeing what Landmark properties were available, and seeing which of our friends would be able to get time off work at short notice.

The "Old Place of Monreith" was available - we took it!

Old Place of Monreith

The old place of MonreithThe Landmark Trust took on the building in 1983. The roof, timbers, flooring were all replaced, and the interior sympathetically restored. The surrounding derelict farm buildings were cleared. 

The result is a comfortable and interesting place to stay.

 

The Party

Andrew
Bernie
Gavin
Jennifer
Laura
Nick
Rick
Sprog (the dog)

Comments? Email Nick. Planning

Monday 18th February

Driving!

I stay overnight at Cambridge ready for a prompt start. I pick up Rick and drive over to Ely to collect Gavin and his 2 mini tower pc's. And 2 monitors. And a network hub to connect them. And a cellular modem for internet access. And some DVD's, and speakers. 

Bernie and Jennifer travel together from Cambridge in another car. We soon meet near Coventry, and drive the rest of the way in convoy.

The route directions are easy: A14, M6, A74, A75. MapPoint calculates 8 hours 15 minutes for the 409 mile journey. We're there by the evening.

Andrew and Laura drive up together from Milton Keynes. They reached the "Old Place Of Monreith" first. They light a fire, and wine opened ready for when we arrive.

Monreith Arms Hotel

We enjoy an evening meal at the Monreith Arms in the nearby village Port William on the coast.

My initial feelings were: "What a dire shabby place!" If you saw a place like this down south you'd probably leave! (Electric wiring dating from the 1940's: 15 Amp 3 pin, and 5 amp 2 pin, sockets on the wall!)

The bar was busy. We were shown another back room - but we would have to leave as the bus drivers' AGM was about to start. All done in a friendly way. (Seemed to me like a scene out of the film whisky galore.)

We were lead through a another room where 20 tables with elderly folk, 4 per table, quietly playing bridge. A surreal scene for my delicate mind. 

Then we were led to a cold dining room. A Calor Gas Superser gas stove attempts to warm the place.

But the food was wonderful! Steak - cottage pie - excellent! The vegetarians amongst us made do with Omelettes. That's Scotland for you!

Tennents Velvet - good. Heavy - excellent. The price was very reasonable, almost half the price we pay at home.

This is not such a bad place. The room warms up. I order pudding from their modern kitchen. A round of sticky toffee puddings finishes the evening.

We end up coming here every day. It gets 5 stars. * * * * * No expense spared on this web site!


Retire

Gavin's network installationOpen fire in loungeWe arrive back at the house, and relax in the lounge by the open fire.

We hit the hay. The beds are narrow, but they work!

Tuesday 19th February

Communications

Aerial. 40 metre dipoleBernie erects a short wave aerial for 40 metres - talks to Jenny in Cambridge. "5 9 plus."
Amateur radio works, but cell phones are very patchy and unusable. The RF engineers amongst us seemed to coax some life out of them. This involves holding the phone well away from the body, so the aerial is not obstructed, and shouting at the thing.

Jenny wants pictures now! I take a couple, and Gavin uploads them to his web server. This is all we can provide: the data rate is slow, 600 bytes per second!


Portpatrick 

Jennifer at PortpatrickToday it is wet! Today is a day to stay in the dry. We drive to Portpatrick, and at The Crown enjoy yet more good Scottish pub food.

We wander over to the harbour.

A huge wave - we all get splashed - Gavin gets a good soaking..

On the road back a sign says "smoke room".  Not related to anything in Amsterdam, but a factory and shop selling smoked salmon. We stop by and give them some business.

Gavin poses......then......a wave...
...comes......crashing in and gets us all bloody wet!

We return home via Stranraer, stopping at Safeway's to collect ingredients for tonight's meal, and sundry nibbles.  The weather had really set in. We drove back along the wet and windy coast. The rough, turbulent sea was impressive.


Evening Meal

Laura cooksCurryLaura prepares 2 large saucepans of veggie curry for our evening meal.

 


Risk

RickGavinJenniferJennifer, Rick, Gavin, Bernie and I battle it out with Risk 2110

5 hours later Rick is declared the winner.

There was some disgusting collusion with Gavin.

 

Wednesday 20th February

We casually split into three groups, after all we're not married to each other!

Group 1 - The Walkers

Jennifer, Bernie and I walk along the old track from the house leading to Monreith and towards the sea. It's raining, but the odd break in the cloud gives us a view of distant mountains covered in snow. 

There are large clumps of snowdrops. Carpets of snowdrops seems a clichéd but accurate description.

We are enticed back to the Monreith Arms Hotel. Good Food! We eat at the bar - joined by the locals and the landlord.

We walk back home in sunshine, with blue sky making an appearance. Jennifer hadn't broken in her shoes: her feet have blisters. 

Group 2 - The Drivers

Laura and Andrew and Sprog drive around the coast and hug a few stones. They visit Wigtown which has an excessive number of book shops.

Group 3 - The Chillers

Rick and Gavin play Risk, backgammon and DVD's, and generally chill.

Radio

We all meet up by late afternoon. Rick and Bernie play radios. The aerial is moved to a better position. This is the only way to communicate with friends at home that works reliably!

Evening drive 

Isle Of ManBernie and I drive off to fill his car with petrol. We fill up at an peculiar garage that's a converted church in nearby Whithorn. 

We find a derelict house in an amazing location overlooking the Irish Sea. The Isle of Man clearly visible 20 miles away.

The roads are almost empty - evening rush hour is not a concept around here!

Sun over Luce Bay
Sunset

We had given up on seeing any sun - but an hour before sunset the sky cleared.

We witness the sun setting over Luce Bay. 

 

Evening

We all get together for our evening meal. The left over curry has become nice and thick. Warmed up leftovers! We don't care!
Leftovers and a combination of red wine and beer is excellent!

Bernie and AndrewAndrew and Rick and LogbooksLaura, Red Eye Gav, and Jennifer examining the Landmark Handbook

Thursday 21st February

Fragmentation

Jennifer and Bernie return to Cambridge as had been arranged. Jennifer has a council meeting where the future of democracy in the Western World was in peril. "It's vital to attend." They leave early and are back in Cambridge by 15:30

Ayr

The remaining party travel to Ayr. The inclement weather has returned - more wind and rain.  

Sprog the dog gets left to guard the house while we trek across to Ayr, 68 miles away.

We stop at at pub, The Old Trout, at Barrhill. Inside we ask the old trout behind the bar about food. She was so amazed at our request. It was if I had requested a deviant act to be performed there and then on the pool table. She could not oblige.

Ten miles further on we enjoy fish and chips at a cafe by Girvan harbour. The locals shift out of the way so we can all sit together. Mutterings of "Bloody Sassenachs."

Castle in the rainCulzean Castle

(Laura says it's pronounced Cullane) It's a 18th Century mansion designed by Robert Adam. 

The castle is closed: we're too early in the season.

We walk around the outside of the castle in the rain. At least there are no crowds, and the car is easy to find in the car park!

Kilt Shop in Ayr

Arrive Ayr - turbo sweet cakes and a good cup of tea.

Gavin learns that his new job offer is confirmed, starting the following Monday. He celebrates the good news by ordering himself a made to measure kilt. He chooses a "Hunting Stewart" tartan that has more subdued colours than the garish regular Stewart tartan. 

He tries on a couple of kilts whilst he is being measured up. He looks very smart. Very appropriate - no stupid juvenile "bloke in a skirt" comments.

"Very comfortable too."

Monreith Arms Hotel

We return along the switchback road and back to our favourite hotel to enjoy more excellent food. We are welcomed and given the best table in the house, next to a roaring log fire.

Old Boy looking out to sea at Port William

Friday 22nd February

Depart

Rise at 9:00
Breakfast, pack, strip bedding, sort laundry, clean up doggy foot prints and leave at 11:15,  a tad late. We meet the cleaner arriving to prepare for the next guests. She's delighted with the efforts we made to prepare the place for her.

Dumfries

Robert BurnsDumfriesWe take a break on our journey home. 

We are in Robert Burn's country and have lunch at a small cafe in Dumfries. Yet more good food! 

A sudden blizzard blows in, and we think it's time to get going.

We say farewell to Laura and Andrew, who make their way to Milton Keynes.

Journey

Rick and  I share the drive back There's strong sunshine mixed with gales and heavy rain.

We see lorries that have been blown off of the motorway. We're really fortunate with the weather - sunshine on the motorway, with rain and snow falling on the surrounding hills and mountains. 

The following day there were heavy snow falls and roads were blocked.

The BBC states: "As drifts up to 20ft deep formed many roads in the country were closed and heavy falls also brought routes in the north of England to a standstill."

Cambridge

We're back in Cambridge at 20:00. How wonderful to be back in the Fens. No bloody mountains to get in the way!

Conclusion

More time! 

A couple of extra days would have been welcome.

I would have liked to explored further. There are the local ruins, standing stones, St Ninian's chapel, Wigtown for the ridiculous number of second-hand book shops.

Weather

Expect rain. It rains on Scotland's west coast. Just prepare for it!

The Machars - A place to live?

Wall in sunshine!The "Old Place of Monreith" is on land called The Machars, jutting out into the Irish Sea, north of the Isle Of Man. 

Would we want to live there? Well better phones and internet connectivity would help. House prices are cheap!

Tempting, just a little bit too isolated.

Links

A Map of The Machars

The Rhins & Machars of Galloway 

Landmark Trust

Annex 1

Gavin Maxwell

Gavin Maxwell, the naturalist, racing driver, painter, is connected with the "Old Place of Monreith". He was the famed otter fanatic, and author of  "Ring of Bright Water". He had unconventional lifestyle, better suited to today's more tolerant attitudes than with the Britain of his day. 

The "Old Place of Monreith" was one of the Maxwell family houses. In his biographies there are drawings and descriptions of  the building.

Gavin in our party was named after Gavin Maxwell. This seems to be a good a reason to visit the place as any!

All images © N G Hubbard February 2002