(onderstaand verhaal is er ook -iets korter- in het Nederlands)

Scotland holiday September 2012

Dumfries & Galloway

(most pictures are clickable and will open a larger one)

Countless forum stories had made us go to Scotland for a first impression trip and we have to admit: the country didn't disappoint us. Well, there was no rain as promised nor did we experience that typical midge feeling, but for the rest we enjoyed a marvellous short break.


Sunday

After several mini-cruises with DFDS-seaways we felt the urge to have a look beyond the Newcastle horizons, preferably even into Scotland. When earlier that year the Rabobank happened to mention an offer we couldn't resist (mirror), we took the opportunity with both hands and so on Sunday September 2nd we were sailing (sort of) for England once again, this time with car. The weather was calm and dry, and there was no storm head-on (as had occurred before); a nice start of a nice week to come.

As usual it was a relaxing crossing; spending one's time with whatever one cares to do.
There was a lot to see. And outside a lot of sea as well.

Monday

We had breakfast onboard. While slowly approaching England we got ourselves used to the beans and sausages and other (warm) parts of the English/Scottish breakfasts.
Debarkation was kinda slow, but having plenty of time we just sat and watched the moving about of people and cars around the buffer zone where we had to wait. Eventually England opened the gates and we drove in.
This second day we chose to drive through the countryside in stead of on the main roads. A rather trivial route to follow is as such:

Soon after Newcastle the satnav directed us to the B6318, which is an easy to follow road so one can pay much attention to the surroundings as well. It's a real treat to drive this road. Easy going, the landscape continuously changes from one beautiful view into the other and time seems to run at a lower pace.
I planned a pause about halfway at Birdoswald. A little museum, a large stretch of the Hadrian's Wall and just being outside for a while were the things we aimed for. The stories told in the museum together with the remains of the real stuff gave us a good impression of the people's lives in those past days and what the impact of the Wall must have been.

Next, we continued on the B6318, which guided us into Scotland

By this time the petrol gauge began to touch the red zone and we intended to take in some fuel in Langholm. Just before the connection with the A7 we consulted the Live! subscription of our Tomtom satnav to verify the whereabouts of petrol stations, but the nearest one appeared to be over 30 km away in Lockerbie. No real problem were it not that we were using our last 2 liters of petrol. We thought best to take the advice to bypass the route between Langholm and Lockerbie and we managed to reach Lockerbie in time, filled the car and went on to Dumfries.

Late afternoon we arrived at the Aston hotel and checked in. The reception, bar and dining room are housed in one of the original buildings of the Crichton Campus whereas the guest's rooms were attached to it at the back in a modern, more functional setting.
The dinner tasted very well after our day trip and a good night's rest was going to prepare us for the next day.

Tuesday

We planned to go for a drive today and started with our first Scottish breakfast to fortify the inner man (and woman).

We didn't really expect it but we still hoped for a dry day to do the butterfly route:


And what a day it was! No hesitation whatsoever to take the roof off from the car. An open Suzuki Cappuccino, dry weather, little wind, warm and a whole day to spend. How lucky can one be?
Right from the start we drove on a country road near the coast and soon we encountered a viewpoint where we could see the sea itself.

< The sea


and the other side >


We continued the drive as we had chosen Rockcliffe for stretching the legs and possibly touching the sea. We parked the car and walked the first bit towards the castle point. Although we ourselves live near the sea, we also like foreign ones, so we spent quite a while on this coastal path.

 

 

  the sea

  and the sand,

  the sound

  and the scent;

  we love it!

 



Btw, I spotted a local Merida here



The Broughton House in Kirkcudbright was our next goal and on a day like this it's a real pleasure to be in its gardens, but before going there, we had a look inside the house. Things were well preserved and exposed. The house was thoughtfully built and furnished and decorated. It's a nice exploration to find out why and how things have been done the way they have.

The garden was still very colourful, about to prepare for the autumn. A kind of twilight zone between seasons. Lovely!

After a while we continued our route which lead us to Loch Ken. From the maps I thought that we might be driving very much higher than the water surface, but in stead we were at the same level. The view over the lake is not less spectacular.

We drove on, past the Galloway Park (our destinition of tomorrow) and took the long road back to the hotel.
Each of us chose the special menu for tonight, for which we again took our time.

Wednesday

Here is the tadpole route. The weather conditions were about the same as the day before, so: off that roof!

A special part of South West Scotland that we very much would like to see was the Galloway Park. We couldn't really imagine how it would look like. Forests? Fields with heather? Bare hill tops? Lakes and swamps? Surprise, we found it all. OK, small in both size and amounts, but nevertheless, they were there. For a place to do some exploration on foot, I selected this visitor centre, but alas, a 'strictly no access' sign on the last stroke kept us from reaching it. We found an alternative place to go to and on second thoughts it may very well be that the visitor centre has been relocated to an easier accessible area near both the lake and the main road. A little exposition showed and taught us some facts about the plants and animals living near the lake, and hereafter we walked a stretch to some higher points for an extended view over the lake lying between hilly surroundings.
After a while we went on some kilometres and made a walk where the woods were more present. In late summer the heather turns purple and trees with berries prepare themselves for the wintertime.
We continued our route for a large length along the sea and halted in Gatehouse of Fleet. Unfortunately it was closing time by now, so we could only stroll a while. We saw these thick snowberries that are told to be a predictive indication for a cold winter to come.
After some time we went on to the hotel for our third and last night, and ditto dinner and breakfast.

Thursday

was the day to start travelling back home, which does not mean that the holidays are over yet. Right through the Kielder forest runs a probably scenic road and it can easily be included in the going-home route:

The most Northern part would consist of a single track road, another must-have-done item. Again nice roads to drive. Mostly small enough to make them pleasantly exciting, large enough to keep pace. After all we had to catch the ferry boat in time.
Like all the above routes, I had 'designed' this one with the aid of Tyre so that it could be uploaded as a series of waypoints into the satnav. Besides being perfectly guided through unknown area, you can also constantly keep a eye on the estimated time of arrival, which is *very* handy when you cannot afford to be late.
Hence it was no surprise that we actually were on time. And went aboard.

Friday

For the second time we had slept very well on the slightly swinging ship. Early morning we spent a long time on the open corridor at the front of the King Seaways (the Princess doesn't have one, which is always a pity), seeing us entering the harbour so familiar to us (we live nearby IJmuiden). Debarkation went smoothly this time, so we were home very soon.
We unpacked the car (the 'Highland Black' fortunately had survived) and we had gained a lot of very good remembrances.
And soon I started to write this story ...


Things we learned:

  • the existence of 'floods'. It said so on the signs and we reckoned there should be water in, but none of them actually had.
  • 'severe dips' are sort of fun if you know what you're doing.
    And the counterpart:
  • the 'blind summits' that could be very spectacular should you know that you're the only one on the road. From both sides, mind you!
  • there were announcements of 'concealed entrances', but unfortunately we haven't seen any.
  • 'Single track roads' are no big deal, when you're only 1.40 m (56") wide.

and the inevitable "Bloopers":

  • I managed to have my satnav tell me: "after 200 yards: turn left, after that: try to return". It sounds funny and in a way it is, but be assured, it was all as planned.
  • On the A712, heading the hotel, there was some water on the road, deceptively hiding a hole deeper than the usual ones. We went right through it causing the chassis shortly smash on the road. Luckily it seemes to have been no more than a frightening blow that didn't damage the car.
    Could we perhaps have missed the 'concealed hole' sign?
  • The early bird definitely does not catch a bottle of wine in this country. We went to the supermarket to buy one for the evening on the ferry back home, but the till doesn't allow alcoholic purchases before 10 am. It was only a couple of minutes before, so we could wait the time away. On the stroke of ten the check-out lady took up her routine and the business went on. In this particular case such an H&S regulation has no pros, just cons.

I've made some photos to give you an impression of our holiday.

All in all we experienced a beautiful country, friendly people (except for one or two speed drivers) and a lot of nice things to see and do.
Oh! And so much sunshine!


 
 
We had a fantastic time and some day we hope to fulfill the wish we saw when leaving the hotel:


 
Is this a Spanish influence?
In that case: ¡Hasta Escocia!

 

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