Woke up and guess what? It’s STILL raining! It’s beginning to bring back nasty memories of that long winter which we thought was behind us. Never mind, we have managed to salvage some sun so far so let’s hope our luck continues.
We’re off to Scotland today and first stop is Gretna Green! I had a funny feeling that I wasn’t going to like what I saw and I was right to a certain extent. Large wedding related signs started to pop up some miles away and you might wonder whether we would ever have heard of Gretna if it hadn’t been for all those runaway brides and grooms, escaping from the rigid marriage laws of England. Even today you can be married in Scotland at 16 without parental consent so it still does a roaring trade in “over the anvil” weddings.
As we approached Gretna Green the sun came out and we spotted a carriage drawn by a piebald pony with the happy couple plus what looked like someone’s granny. Oh how times have changed!
They were heading towards one of the original blacksmith’s shops (see featured image) – now tarted up but somewhat incongruously surrounded by local authority housing. We turned around and caught them coming towards us. The driver looked as though he was going to a funeral rather than a wedding. Apparently, though, one in every six Scottish weddings is held at Gretna so it’s very big business.
The rolling hills of Dumfries and Galloway were green and lush – probably all the rain – and this is definitely cattle country. We bypassed Dumfries itself and headed south on the A70 – a good choice as it’s a quiet but excellent road which skirts around all the towns. We saw the sea as we bypassed Gatehouse of Fleet and followed the coastline of Wigtown Bay, all the while running in and out of the rain every few minutes. From this:
Stranraer used to be the ferry port connecting Scotland and Belfast and Larne in Northern Ireland. In 2011 this service was transferred to Cairnryan just up the coast.
As we carried on up the Ayrshire coast we couldn’t help spotting a large lump of rock about 10 miles out in what is the Irish Sea. We couldn’t find it on our small scale road atlas so we were in complete ignorance until we reached Girvan which proudly proclaimed on an odd brick structure that it was the “home of Ailsa Craig“.
Ah – Ailsa Craig – the home of the famous granite from which all competition curling stones are made!
In the summer of 1818 John Keats and a friend undertook a pedestrian tour through Scotland. They travelled along the Ayrshire coast from Ballantrae northwards, Ailsa Craig being constantly in their view, just as we had found. At the King’s Arms Inn in Girvan, Keats wrote his sonnet on Ailsa Craig:
Hearken, thou craggy ocean-pyramid!
Give answer from thy voice-the sea-fowls’ screams!
When were thy shoulders mantled in huge streams?
When from the sun was thy broad forehead hid?
How long is ‘t since the Mighty Power bid
Thee heave from airy sleep, from fathom dreams?
Sleep in the lap of thunder, or sunbeams,
Or when grey clouds are thy cold coverlid?
Thou answerest not, for thou art dead asleep!
Thy life is but two dead eternities,
The last in air, the former in the deep!
First with the whales, last in the eagle-skies!
Drowned wert thou till an earthquake made thee steep,
Another cannot wake thy giant size!
The coast road looked beautiful in the late afternoon sun now and there was red campion amongst the rocks:
A Gannet wheeled overhead. Apparently there are upwards of 36,000 breeding pairs on Ailsa Craig!
We passed Turnberry Golf Club – one of many splendid international golf courses along this coast.
We were now very close to our campsite for the night – Garton, a certificated C & CC site, with its lovely owner, Iris Edgar, in residence. Apparently, deer are regular visitors – hope we see them before we leave tomorrow morning!
Glad to see you’ve arrived in Scotland safely.
How have you managed to get in first? x
I just happened to be at the computer when the email, saying the blog had been updated, arrived. It’ll probably be the only time!
Super scenery, somewhat unsurprisingly. No food references, very surprisingly!!
I thought I’d let Sally comment first this time.
Oh no – I forgot to mention the rib-eye steak we had for dinner tonight! Best steak we’ve ever eaten – from the butcher in Keswick.
That’s better. I remember you mentioning buying it in a previous day’s blog. good to hear you’re having a great time.
I did give you a Keats poem though… 🙂
Sue Mann said:
Just caught up with you in Scotland – looking good so far!
Good old curling… just need to meet Dave now!
I want to play on one of those golf courses! They look so nice.
They do don’t they? There’s plenty to choose from up this coast. x