Fw: Scotland for the Brave
Scotland for the Brave
The day dawned bright and mild on the 16th of March 2019 when four cars belonging to the Bent and White related families set off northwards from Oakham. Christine, Robert’s first wife and mother of their three children, Richard the eldest, then Charly their daughter and finally Jonty who could not make the trip, was accompanied by her partner Graham in his car. Richard came along with Julianna and their two children Rupert and George and Charly with her hubby Tom and young Milo on his first holiday at age four and a half months. Oh and Rob and me in Charly’s car.
There was a strong SW wind blowing us on our way up the A1, a broad reach in sailing terms which became a beam reach as we turned across the Pennines on the A66 after a snack together at the Scotch Corner Services. There was lots of surface water around after heavy rains. Raging brown streams and rivers, flooded fields, waterfalls and sheltering flocks of sheep tucked behind stone walls that had withstood the wind for centuries in high, marshy fields.
Almost tree-less moors. Thick stone-walled farm houses withstanding whatever weather is blasted their way. High sided vehicles swerving across lanes, imagine if one carrying eggs were to be blown over.
Ruined red Brougham Castle, red earth, red rivers, red bricks, red rock. Open cast coal slag heaps reminded me of the 1966 Aberfan school disaster when a water-logged slag heap slid over a primary school wiping out a generation and its teachers. The temperature was dropping too, from double figures to 7’. Tall chimneyed crofts just visible through the misty rain. At Annan we were sent on a diversion away from a flooded road. More swollen rivers topped with piles of natural foam, ‘The Water of Ken’, dam, dam and another dam creating power and fed with bubbling burns. A tower house from the sixteenth century stood like a bastion on the high moor, surrounded by plantations of pine, forestry on what was poor farming land fit only for sheep and a few hardy cattle. 3’ and dropping.
The rain is horizontal now and the sheep shiver in the bleak bleakness. Craig Malloch is hidden in the rain and comical belted Galloway cattle with their pure white waistbands are untroubled by the conditions. Granite quarries have obviously brought some wealth to the area. Around a double bend we find a farmer who loves tractors, there must have been at least 100 parked all around his farmhouse.
Soon we are watching the England v Scotland Rugby Game in our cosy lodge. What a match, records were broken, the 38-38 score was the highest scoring draw in International Rugby history and the highest score in the first half of the Calcutta Cup. The crowd never stopped cheering from start to finish and neither did we. The playing momentum remained at fever pitch throughout. It was great rugby.
Next day we started exploring. This part of the west Ayrshire coast languishes in the Gulf Stream which brings mild winds northwards and rarely sees snow except on the high hills of Arran we noticed as we gazed out to sea and saw Paul and Linda McCartneys’ Mull of Kintyre faint behind Arran and Ailsa Craig Island a little to the south with its precious Puffin colony.
We drove back to the lodges past disused airstrips dating back to both World Wars and Trump Turnberry, the Station Hotel, Golf Course and Stevenson Lighthouse bought by the Trump Corporation in the 1990’s and used as a money laundering base according to Eric Trump, who now denies it. More about that place later.
Our lodges were amongst nearly one hundred built, along with a now disused golf course, in the grounds of the 16th century Brunston Castle, an L shaped tower house on the banks of the River Girvan, rendered even more of a ruin when marines motored up river from their base in Girvan for some pointless target practice.
The swimming pool, coffee shop, lounge and offices were housed in a modern building just a few moments’ walk away and we had the lovely pool to ourselves a number of times with Rupert and George quickly gaining confidence in the water. The sweltering sauna was a rare luxury too.
Early one morning I read the Scottish bard Robby Burn’s epic poem ‘Tam o Shanter’ to my Robby just to start an appetite for the local culture. Then Richard, Rob, Rupert and I went for a walk to the three bears’ wood, followed by a circuit of quarry wood along the old narrow railway line past lots of falling and felled trees.
By the time we returned to base the family was ready to go and explore the harbour and town of Girvan.
Built at the mouth of the River Girvan the harbour is still home to the fishing fleet and the offshore lifeboat. With the arrival of the railway came seaside holiday makers of which we saw none of course, it being March. Judging from the fine old buildings and high proportion of empty shops Girvan is suffering a decline in its fortunes, but local industry, in the form of a whisky and gin distillery and Nestle factory which sends chocolate to York to make KitKats and Yorkie bars to name but two is helping to sustain the economy during the hard times. The town rested quietly waiting for the coming summer season to bring its mixed fortunes.