A DAY OF TWO PARTS
The next morning I awoke to the sound of a thrush singing though I didn't recognise the song at first. I suppose even birds have regional accents. I hoped he wasn't 'Whistling up a Storm' - one of the old names for the Mistle Thrush was Storm Cock.
Phoebe was very stiff and limping quite a bit, so I wondered if she may have fallen down the inside steps last night and hurt herself. I gave her some Arnica and as the day went on she seemed to get better
We both went to a lovely breakfast with Dorothy and Peter and met their two dogs. They were very unsure about Phoebe at first (the dogs that is - not Dorothy and Peter) as she was such a big interloper to have around, but once they could see her intentions were friendly they all settled down together.
Peter and Dorothy live in a lovely Scottish stone built house, very spacious with large halls and rooms, and high ceilings. Exactly the sort of house you would imagine a Scottish Sea Captain living in - though Peter is actually English!
My first Scottish Breakfast – and what a wonderful breakfast it was. I had some lovely orange juice and was then offered a choice of cereal before the main cooked breakfast of bacon, tomato, sausage, mushroom, black pudding, egg and Scotch pancake, all beautifully cooked and accompanied by bread, toast and croissants. Lovely hot freshly brewed coffee as well. What a treat. It was so good I have taken some photos. A real Scottish welcome from two charming people.
Then back to see the Burn's Centre, which was nicely done and also catered for children, though I felt somewhat political as one of the display cases included a copy of The Big Issue. Its amazing how each generation reinvents the past to suit its own purposes. Though by another display case there was a sign carefully explaining the Poosie Nancy was so called because Poosie meant “cat-like” Now I dont understand the Scottish dialect and haven't studied Burn's to any great extent, but my guess is that if his nickname for the wife of the local innkeeper catering to what we might politely call 'the lower end of the market', was Pussy Nancy it wasn't because of her cat like features, especially with the daughter of the house being known Racer Jess., As I say its amazing how facts can be slanted to suit our purposes.
It was rather dark in there, and I wished I had taken my long distance glasses to read some of the notices in the cases, or maybe even my extra strong head torch. It was also fairly confusing to get back out of in the gloom, unless it was my internal dimness which was to blame. I took my time anyway and afterwards had a nice cup of coffee in the very smart restaurant area. I think it would be extra nice in the summer as there looks to be a beautiful garden outside. Afterwards I mooched in the gift shop. It was mostly tartan based trinkets, but I bought some “Tablet” and bumped into two of the ladies who had taken part the previous evening's entertainment - I have to say both were excellent. Then I made it over to Alloway Kirk as well.
The replacement 'parish church' over the road was not built until 1858, immaculately maintained and the grounds beautifully kept. It would have been interesting to have looked inside but it was locked up like a fortess and in every window was a notice warning Thieves to Beware. A sign of our times I suppose, but it was one of the things I always appreciated about the little church back at home in that the door was always open.
I would have liked to have seen the Brig O Doon - or the bridge over the River Doon to us Sassenachs, but I was feeling a bit achy by then with all the walking - so annoying I don't have my scooter with me there were lots of other things I missed as well. But I just went back to Thebus and took Phoebe to stretch her legs.
But I have included a picture from Undiscovered Scotland so you can take a look
I was in no rush to move on as earlier in the day I had phoned about my scooter lift and they have STILL not done it. I will phone him again on Monday – He said they were now painting it - talk about building the Forth Bridge!!!
So my plan was to take the slightly higher road as a different way back, and as on the way I had passed lots of clearly marked pull-ins I intended to travel five or ten miles and just find somewhere to park up and spend the night – I had already checked for potential caravan sites but nothing was open.
In the morning I had programmed Strict Lady to find where my breakfast hosts lived by putting in their postcode. No – she was having non of this and kept insisting it was the same place as I was starting out from, so in the end I gave up and headed for it on the strength of the address and the fact they had said it was only a mile or so up the same road.
They kindly gave me directions back to the Burn's Heritage Centre and that was where I was parked up and reprogramming Strict Lady. She seemed happy with my proposed route and off we set. She wasn't speaking to me so I assumed that, the same as yesterday, I was on the right road and to just carry on till instructed to do otherwise.
We came to a couple of junctions and roundabouts so I went straight on, but began to realise something was amiss. By then I was hopelessly adrift and beginning to get stuck in the school hour rush traffic round Ayr. Not good news. I pulled in and tried Strict Lady again. Nothing. I checked the voice setting. Yes it was set correctly, so I tried the old 'switch it off and switch it on again' routine, but still nothing. I phoned the guy who supplied the Tom Tom but couldn't get through. In desperation I tried Chris (my antiques removal guy) Yes - the switch it off and switch it on again routine would work, but it must be unplugged as well. Hooray we were on speaking terms again ( Strict Lady and I that is - not Chris and I – we have always been on good speaking terms)
She got me out of Ayr and onto the Highland road and told me to drive straight ahead for 34 miles and went off to have a lie down, and I started looking out for suitable stopping places.
It had been raining steadily since before we had started out and the day was now drawing on, so I was keen to find somewhere fairly quickly. But when I say we did not pass any sort of lay-by for around fifteen miles I am really not exaggerating. Then I saw a blue sign – Hooray – but no – some other poor benighted traveller had beaten me to it, and there was only space for one vehicle. As I passed I saw he had a largish flag flying behind his car. I wondered if it was some sort of “surrender” signal and I would have happily joined him if I could have, but I could find no-one to surrender to.
By now it was pitch dark and raining heavily with a gusting wind – not the best conditions for taking the “high” road. I kept passing brown tourist signs telling me I was on the Scenic Galloway Tourist Trail, and it quite possibly was though I could see nothing but the approaching headlights of home-bound traffic, and the impatient headlights from the home-bound traffic building up behind me. I would have willing stopped to let them by but there was just nowhere TOO stop. It might be the pride of the county as a Scenic Route, but it is obviously one to be taken at speed and not dawdled over, and certainly not stopped and admired.
And what is it with northern drivers and headlights. (Sorry to all the lovely Scottish folk I have recently met) but I think it must come from living in rather dark winter conditions. Though quite a few motorists are prepared to waste the extra fuel by putting on lights in the gathering gloom, there are certainly some who feel this is a waste of good petrol, and wait until it is totally dark before lighting up. And when they finally do there seem to be quite a few who can manage on only one headlight. I wouldn't mind if it was the nearside light they were saving money on, but it normally seems to be the offside one. Perhaps they have all run into each other on that side. I couldn't see as by now it was pitch black and raining hard. The Scenic Route became very scenic and the road so narrow and bumpy I was worried all the tyres had gone flat, but of course there was nowhere to stop and check so we just had to plough on.
I eventually entered a narrow little village, where they had made a layby for the council houses and I managed to squeeze in there to let the hungry workers whizz by me for their teas. Inching out again I picked up the next lot of homeward bound racers. This time I appeared to be being followed by a team of trick cyclists - three balanced one of top of the other. When I slowed to let them pass it turned out to be a large white van with three lights on the nearside and nothing at all showing on the off side.
By now, and feeling marginally hysterical I decided to stop at Carlisle Services again, as I was convinced that was likely to be the first stopping place I would come to. We were out of the incredibly bumpy bit of road and up on the high tops again. I was worried about how the winds might be after the terrible squalls of yesterday. But I needn't have. The wind had dropped and now were were in a thickish mist. Oh Please God! Let me get to the end of this.
I did pass a couple of unsigned pull-ins, but they wouldn't have been big enough for Thebus even if I had spotted them in time to pull over without doing an emergency stop and causing a pile up behind me. Then at last a Blue Parking Sign. I signalled to the obligatory tail back of traffic that I was pulling over and hoped for the best. We fitted. Though only just!
Feeling somewhat wrecked I took Phoebe to stretch her legs. She was not impressed, and there was a sound of rushing water just by us. And what was that? A white sign just out of range of my eyesight having taken off my driving glasses to give my eyes a rest. I could read the bit which said in large letters DANGER, but not the rest. Getting Phoebe back inside I got my glasses and and extra strong head torch and went to investigate.
We were parked just above a wide rushing river, and the sign said that the water levels are liable to fluctuate quickly because of hydro electric dam operations. I was too exhausted to drive on and decided to assume that they normally don't allow it to overflow the road. It did say something at the bottom about not attempting to ford the river, but as that is furthest from my thoughts I will take a chance and spend the night. If you don't hear from me again, look out for “woman and dog in motorhome swept away in flood water”.
My mother and my grandmother were both terrified of water. It was a real phobia with both of them, and though I haven't inherited it fully I am not keen on rivers so I wonder if I will have nightmares tonight as the sound of the rushing water really is quite insistent.
Not a particulary good picture of them all but it is hard to
take a photo of two dogs and two people all at the same time!
Breakfast is Served. With Dorothy at high speed
rushing to get everything on the table
A lovely Scottish Breakfast
Alloway Auld Kirk as it was in Burn's Day.
The parish was annexed to Ayr in 1690, though worship continued in the old building
by 1790 it had fallen into ruinous state.
Above is the engraving by Capt. Francis Grose, made at the request of the poet Robert Burns, in return for which Burns wrote the poem Tam o' Shanter to accompany the illustration calling it “Alloway’s Auld Haunted Kirk.”
Burns had been baptised in 1759 in the cottage just along the road and the poet’s father is buried in the churchyard
Below is the Auld Kirk as it stands today together with a photo of a lintel inscribed 1516
The Brig O Doon