Once the early evening traffic was past it has been reasonably quiet apart from a few heavy goods vehicles on the main road, but around midnight suddenly so many heavy lorries thundered past at high speed one after another that the noise made me wonder if we were parked by a railway line. Then it occurred to me that we are just off the road to Stranraer, presumably the ferry had not long come in and the lorries were bunched together like a lot of horses at the start of a race.
Strict Lady has trouble with pronouncing Scottish names, with somewhere like Stranraer she starts off really confidently and then the last bit tails off into a blur of consonants as she is not sure how the vowels fit in. It will be interesting to see how she gets on if we do make it to Orkney and Shetland.
Its true what they say about Scottish weather - it is very changeable. I was woken early this morning by a thunderous downpour, which I thought didn't bode well for the day, then I remembered the old saying – Rain before seven, Dry before eleven – which certainly held true where I lived in the Midlands.
This torrent of rain lasted around twenty minutes and stopped like someone switching the tap off. It was then totally calm and quiet for around twenty minutes, when suddenly the wind got up to such an extent I wondered how much it would take to actually blow Thebus over. That lasted about twenty minutes and it was calm again. All my ideas of early rising are having to be re-thought. I think that will work wonderfully well on those lovely summer mornings when I can dawdle along with the roads to myself before everyone has drawn back their curtains and the world is fresh and new again. But there seemed little point getting up in the dark to pouring rain, which it was once again. I switched the heating on for a quick blast through to keep Phoebe happy, though I checked the temperature of her ears (always a good sign of her core temperature) and they were lovely and toasty warm, so I think the dog nest is working well. And I snuggled back into my lovely warm bed thinking I would rise when things improved.
At around just gone eight a weak sun was showing and I thought we were in for a good day, and on getting up this time Phoebe was keen to go out and “stretch her legs” As she didn't have the confidence to do anything yesterday evening when we pulled up I knew she would be bursting so I just quickly put on a pair of fur lined slippers, but the country sort with solid waterproof soles, and a thick cardigan. I have decided to sleep in a thermal jumpsuit thing, which is really made for joggers and daywear, so if I need to get up in the middle of the night I look already dressed. Its not the most comfortable thing I have ever slept in but I think I will get used to it, and it has the advantage of being warm as well.
She had her extending lead put on and off we popped outside for a little walk. Now there was lots of grassy verge and a reasonable size bit of woodland between us and the main road on this particular layby, but over the years I have encouraged Phoebe to “go” on the gravel drives, as anything is easy to spot there and equally easy to get up giving no problem with the mowers if the grass had got a bit longer than normal. So of course she wanted to use the tarmaced bit, which is fine, and no one was around. So she started off in the middlish of the road, and it was going to be a long one, having been waiting since yesterday morning at Carlisle Services, plus needing a big drink last night after all the panting caused by the terrifying windscreen wipers. Just as she got going a van pulled up to park just about where she was squatting. I felt a real prune with my furry slippers on having to stand right in the way, but I got a cheery “Morning” and a cheeky grin from the van driver as we passed on on the way back to Thebus.
The tide in the inlet has gone out this morning and it is obviously very shallow and now looks all rather muddy, so I think I had the best of the views when we arrived last night. After another ten minutes or so of promising day the rain started again, and since then we have had sun, a hail storm, steady rain and drizzle in various successions. Whatever I am going to do in Scotland obviously needs to be done at high speed the instant there are a few dry moments
I had parked not far from Creeland which is apparently famous for its granite or so it informs me on a big piece of rock not far from the layby
What a day!!!
We started off in heavy rain and Phoebe tangling herself up in her harness again in an effort to avoid the windscreen wipers. But before too long it cleared and a bit of sun came through just in time for me to see my first two deer, large ones with fine antlers and big white tails and behinds as they bounded over the fields towards a wooded estate. I then got lost in Stranraer through a misjudgment of either me or Strict Lady regarding how long 100 yds is, I expect she was right. But she got me back on the road again before long and we were following the coast road of what I now know was Loch Ryan. The waves were close against the drivers seat as I am seated on the left and we were following the coast northwards. Suddenly across the fields was a big ship moored up right by the road. It was the PO Ferry! Quite a surprise for a land locked Midlander.
Not far from Stranraer we started climbing and saw the first of the snow capped mountains in the distance. I thought – how scenic – but before long we were in the middle of a fairly thick sleet storm and it was beginning to stick on the roads. I started to wonder if I might be snowed in some twenty or thirty miles away from Ayr and all this would have been for nothing.
Then we topped the hills and the sun came through, and was stronger and brighter and warmer than any sun I have seen at all this year. We drove on over the tops and there in the distance peaking over the horizon was a most peculiar pointy little mountain. I made a mental note to find out what it was called when I stopped, then over the brow of a hill I thought the landscape was flooded and snowy in the valley below, but of course it was the sea, and what I thought was snow was the breakers, and the funny little mountain was an island – Alisa Craig (of tomato fame)
The sun was glorious and warm, and the breakers were nearly at my elbow as we drove along the rocky shoreline with the road clinging to the edge. I could almost taste the “blown spume” lovely phrase that. Did you know that John Masefield hardly ever went to the sea and lived near me in landlocked Ledbury, but as a boy played with the canal bargees in the cutting and dreamt of faraway places.
There was a charming spread out village with fishermen's cottages built in amongst huge outcrops of rock, I made a mental note of the name* but as the day became increasingly hairy forgot it. It would be a wonderful road to travel along slowly on a fine summers day. As it was I decided not to linger too long on the off chance the snow came back and stopped my reaching Burn's Cottage by the evening.
I managed to get lost in Girvan due to another misunderstanding with Strict Lady, this time definitely my fault. She told me to take the A road, and it looked so narrow I just went past it. Then I did the same again when she told me to turn left to get me back onto the road we needed, and finally ended up in a dead end. I had to reverse Thebus out and turn him round. Not good for my nerves at all and Phoebe who is very attuned to me got terribly anxious and she panted a lot making all the windows steam up. My feelings of panic got the better of me and I shouted at her sharply to lie down. She put her nose down with the top of her head resting against the dashboard and looked so thoroughly miserable I was longing to give her a reassuring cuddle, but no matter how kindly and sweetly I apologised and said it was not her fault and that I was sorry for shouting she stayed like that for ages.
At last we were free of the town and back on the coast road and I looked for the first available pull-in so I could get her up on the settee with me for some reassuring and apologetic cuddles. In we pulled. And it was a fine high spot with a wonderful view. The top of the world with the open sea beneath us.
I let her off her travel harness and got her on the settee with me and that very instant an immense squall blew in. Thebus shook and shaked and rattled. I thought we would sit it out until it dropped a bit, but the wind strength was increasing and the noise from I was not sure what outside convinced me that something vital was about to blow away at any instant. I had intended to have a break and cup of tea and had already taken the milk from the fridge and got out the kettle in readiness – but I just couldn’t stand the thought of the potential damage to Thebus. We had to find some shelter. So poor Phoebe was clipped in again, and we tentatively inched our way down from our Eagle's Eerie to a little village I could see below us. There was a loud crash as the nearly full three litres of milk spilt on the floor with the fortunately still empty kettle in pursuit. Equally fortunately there was a small and quite sheltered council carpark with no height barrier and only one car in situ, so we pulled in to weather the storm.
I tried to phone Signature to see what might have been damaged, but the phone signal wasn't getting through either. Then as fast as it had started it was dry and back to warm sunshine again. I did manage to make contact later to ask about potential damage, but they said it was probably the noise of the wind in the ventilators and also I hadn’t realised I have a second awning on the drivers side, so that would have been rattling as well
No more delays – we were getting straight to Ayr. It was only nine or so miles by now, but by fairly narrow roads and hilly to boot. We got there and Strict Lady announced we had arrived at our destination. Once again I disbelieved her, which then involved a further trip of around nine miles up hill and down dale and also reversing out from a farmtrack onto the road whilst trying to avoid deep ditches on both sides and at the back. Strict Lady didn't deign to speak to me again, as far as she was concerned she had got us to our destination and that was that. Any further sorties were to be entirely at my own risk.
We now are parked up in the coaches section of the carpark and although my parking was not very straight the nice man at the kiosk said I was fine and they were not expecting any coaches this evening. He also gave me a free ticket to the Heritage Centre which is a short distance away, I think because they couldn't allow me into the Cottage as it is being prepared for this evening. But I said I may use it tomorrow as all I want now is a nice cup of tea.
Within half an hour of parking the weather has changed again and there is now about two inches of snow blanketing everything, so my decision to arrive early was a good one.
* The name of the village is Lendalfoot - I shall go back there again sometime and maybe stay