Adventures North of the Border – June 2015


Adventures North of the Border – June 2015

This year’s Northern Meet was being held over the mid-summer weekend at Witches Craig campsite, just outside Stirling, but before we could leave we had a disaster at home. We woke on Wednesday morning to a cascade of hot water coming through the ceiling at the bottom of our stairs.

The hot water tank had developed a leak on the worst possible day, as we were both supposed to be at a Board Meeting at 10am. Alison rang British Gas and they promised to get someone out within a couple of hours so, after she’d done her presentation to me so I could repeat it to the rest of the Board, I left her to it.

We’ve got breakdown cover from BG and they were fairly prompt in attending but told her that we needed a new tank – so no hot water until we come back from Scotland. When I got back we made a hasty decision to head up to the caravan in the Dales so that we could get a shower on Friday morning before driving up to Stirling.

It could have been worse – it could have happened whilst we were away I suppose.

 

Stirling

At least stopping at the van knocked about 45 minutes off the journey to Stirling and we were there by mid afternoon, arriving at the same time as Gill and Alan.

We soon had the little festival tent up and settled down with a brew and a sandwich. The pitches were hard standing and the pegs took some driving in, plus Boris really doesn’t like stones under his paws – at least it stops him from running off.

Everyone else arrived during the day and we had a barbecue in the evening plus the odd glass of wine. It’s just possible that Alison may have had a glass of cider too many.

Saturday was walk day and we all headed off to the nearby Wallace Monument before going on to Bridge of Allan, a small town on Allan Water, for lunch and a trip to the micro brewery. The walk back seemed further somehow, I’ve no idea why.

Another BBQ in the evening brought more of the superb Polish sausages provided by Connie and Pawel, although a sudden downpour put paid to proceedings (or was it the amount consumed in the brewery earlier?)

We were joined on Sunday morning by Tony and Penny, who’d driven over from Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond, where they help to manage the campsite. We were going to follow them back later to spend a couple of days with them, but there’s more of that to follow.

The plan was to pack the vans, then drive in convoy, first to The Kelpies and then on to The Falkirk Wheel. First, though, was a photo opportunity with the vans.

 We got quite a few smiles as we drove through the countryside to the Kelpies. We all managed to park together and I think there were as many people looking at the vans as there were heading off to see the sculptures.

After a quick snack we formed a mini convoy as four vans headed to Milngavie for tea (and more meat) at Connie and Pawel’s house before we drove on to Luss.

Connie and Pawel’s son, Titus, striking a pose

 

Loch Lomond

We got to Luss by early evening and soon had the vans sorted. The wind had dropped, the sun was out and so were the midges. We all headed to a nearby restaurant for an evening meal, then Alison and I joined Tony and Penny for copious amounts of gin before heading back to sleep in the van.

We awoke to a glorious day and a view of Loch Lomond.

Tony’s sister and brother in law were staying locally and had their speedboat wth them. They’d very kindly offered us a trip out on the Loch so, after coffees in the cafe, we all climbed onboard and had a brilliant time. Even Boris joined us and, whilst he wasn’t quite so keen when the throttle was open, he sat on Alison’s knee throughout, wrapped in his blanket, and seemed ok to be onboard. I’d like to thank Chris and Paul for taking us out – we really enjoyed ourselves.

After lunch, Tony and Penny went to meet Chris and Paul to help them take the boat out of the water and we pottered around the shops in Luss. The weather was great and the Loch looked at its best.

In the evening we all met up again at the Loch Lomond Hotel for a lot of giggling and just as much beer, whisky and fizz to celebrate T & P’s 30th wedding anniversary.

Taken after the picture incident – I swear this was in focus when I took it!

Tuesday was packing up and moving on day, after a brilliant weekend, but there was more action to follow as we headed to Ardrossan to catch the ferry to Arran.

Leaving Luss

Arran

We’d arranged to stay on Arran at the Lochranza campsite until Sunday and we’d got tickets to the Distillery Whisky and Music Festival on Saturday.

We managed to get on an earlier ferry than we’d booked so we were at the site by 3pm. It’s only 14 miles from Brodick, where the ferry lands, to Lochranza at the north of the island but the roads are so bad it took us nearly 45 minutes.

We took our time pitching up the Glawning and were rewarded with blue skies and few midges.

We walked up past the distillery in the evening and got some great views of the harbour.

Later the sunset was almost Northern Lights-like – a great end to the day.

On Wednesday, we left the van on site and walked the 1.4 miles into Lochranza. There are quite a few red deer which live in or around the village and sure enough they were around as we walked down.

After a coffee from the sandwich shop and a chill watching the ferry from Claonaig arrive, I found a couple of sea bird skulls on the beach – the perfect present for my ornithological 9 year old, step grand daughter, Aimee.

The Catacol Hotel was only about another 1.5 miles round the island so we set off for lunch and maybe a beer. The place is for sale but open for business as usual and the food was fine if a basic.

By the time we got back the rain was falling so we lit the stove in the Glawning and hunkered down for the night.

Thursday was a much more action packed day. Alison drove me to Brodick to catch the ferry back to Ardrossan as a foot passenger. My fellow Directors, Michael and Phil, were picking me up on their way to Largs, from where we were going to sail Mick’s yacht back to Lochranza.

Michael has his own Blog at http://www.moody35.com/

There wasn’t enough wind to sail so we motored across, spotting dolphins or porpoises along the way (I must try and learn which is which), before picking up a mooring buoy in Lochranza Bay.

Moored in Lochranmza Bay – you can just about see Absinthe in the background

Alison picked me up from the shore in Absinthe and we all met later in the Lochranza Hotel for dinner and drinks.

We’d promised to take Phil and Mick for a trip round the island in Absinthe on Friday, although the weather wasn’t too promising. We headed to Brodick first and stopped in Corrie to watch a kite surfer enjoying his time on the water.

Two Directors and a dog

 Onwards to Lamlash where we stopped for a snack at the Old Pier Tearoom.

We drove right around the island, stopping to buy logs and kindling on the route, before pulling into Cafe Thyme at the Old Byre Showroom at Machrie for lunch.

The Turkish pizza-style Piders were superb and obviously gave Phil enough energy to shoot a few hoops as we left. One thing’s for sure, he ain’t no Shaquille O’Neal.

The weather quickly improved once we left the cafe and we were able to have a stroll along the beach. I even managed a quick paddle although I have no evidence to prove it.

We stopped for a photo opportunity within sight of the 12 Apostles, a group of cottages built for fishermen after the clearances. Each has different first floor windows, so that the ex-sheep crofters could tell their own cottage from the others when they were at sea.

The trip was rounded off by another visit to the Catacol Hotel and a beer in the garden.

The logs we’d bought were put to good use as we lit the stove when we got back to the site and the four of us drank red wine and ate crisps to our hearts’ content in the cosiness of the Glawning, until it was time for Phil and Mick to return to the yacht.

We walked down with them and caught another lovely evening as they took the dinghy back to the boat.

Saturday was the day of the Whisky and Music Festival. The sun was just about shining and we arrived about 12.30 after a ticket incident.

We drank quite a lot of Arran ale during the day and also a few drams of Arran whisky. Fortunately there was food to soak it up.

We were all going to the Ceilidh in the evening so bought a bottle of Arran Malt to have between us later on. I, for one, regretted that decision on Sunday morning.

We managed to get a table at the back of the Ceilidh tent but, as more and more people arrived, we were joined by three lively ladies who turned out to be Ceilidh dance specialists. They said they were trouble and boy, were they correct!

They didn’t sit with us for long but found a table closer to the action. We thought we’d shaken them off but no.

The first band had been on earlier and played Blues – the lead singer had a fantastic voice and reminded us of  Andrew Strong from the 90s film, The Commitments. They were joined on stage by a cool dude in a kilt who just happened to play Blues harmonica. We hated him immediately! (only joking – it’s great to see someone so talented and attractive.)

The main Ceilidh band were Skipinnish. They play traditional Scottish music but also much more than that. When we went to the Hebrides last year every cafe seemed to have their single “Walking on the Waves” playing – it became the anthem to our trip (much to Alison’s dismay).

They soon had everyone up and dancing – including Phil and Mick who were grabbed by two of the mad women and whisked away to the dance floor. When the band played the Saw Doctors, “Joyce Country Ceilidh Band”, I insisted on us getting up too.

The next dance was the Gay Gordons, which was a bit of luck, because it’s the only one that Mrs B and I know the moves to – up to a point anyway. It’s a good job I had Country Dancing when I was at junior school in Nunthorpe.

I found this version on the net but frankly it’s not quite as frantic or manic as the one we did, although I think I did spot Mick at one point:

I mentioned before that we’d bought a bottle of Arran in the afternoon. It was bit difficult to get out the bottle at the Ceilidh so Alison had to sneak out to the Ladies and come back with a half pint plastic glass full of the amber liquid. Quite what anyone thought when they saw us drinking it is anyone’s guess.

We’d had quite enough by the time the evening ended, but that didn’t stop us from going outside, finding a table, and finishing the rest of the bottle. I seem to remember sharing some of it with a lady who came over and also the Distillery director swigging the last from the bottle, although I may well have imagined it all.

There are bits of the evening I can’t remember and some bits I’d rather forget. I only learned today that our two jolly sailors didn’t make it back from the dinghy to the yacht without a quick involuntary dip in the sea! Be careful out there.

Sunday was a struggle. Fortunately Alison (as always) drove us home and there was time for a bacon and egg buttie in Brodick before the Ferry.

We’ve had a fantastic 10 days (is that all? It seemed like longer) and I can’t recall fitting in more adventures than on this trip.

Next weekend it’s Camperjam so there’ll be another Blog along soon.  

There’s a full set of photos here:  Flickr

I’ve borrowed some excellent photos too – not least from Simon Carr’s Blog here: http://skoobyblue.blogspot.co.uk/ Thanks to everyone who’s let me use their shots – it’s much appreciated.

Things we’ve learned:

The Polish know a sausage when they see one
Drinking all afternoon in a Scottish Brewery can make you quite sleepy
Pawel has great taste in trousers – he’s needs to get them waxed though
Allan and Jane sure know how to organise a Northern Meet – thanks Guys, we’ve had a ball
Time spent with friends can’t be beaten
Alison can still persuade people to do Upside Down Spotty Dog in the middle of the road
Drink and dinghies maybe don’t mix
Midges are savage b*st*rds (actually I already knew that)
There aren’t many more beautiful countries than Scotland – if you’ve never been, then why not?

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