Go to the day by day view here...
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!
Monday 18th February
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.
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.)
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!
Tuesday 19th February
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.
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.
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!
We all get together for our evening meal. The left over curry has become nice and thick. Warmed up leftovers! We don't care!
Thursday 21st February
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
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."
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.
"Very comfortable too."
Friday 22nd February
Rise at 9:00
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."
We're back in Cambridge at 20:00. How wonderful to be back in the Fens. No bloody mountains to get in the way!
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.
Expect rain. It rains on Scotland's west coast. Just prepare for it!
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