Thursday, 12 July 2018

What should have been a relatively straightforward drive home :)

Time to go home . . . after six days of glorious weather, fabulous gardens and an unusual amount of sitting around doing nothing it was time to get back to Management and Daisy.  Driving time back to home is about three hours, add a coffee/lunch stop . . . and I finally pulled into Bag End more than 8 hours after leaving the campsite; I got a little distracted on the way!

I was happily tootling along thinking it might be time to stop for coffee when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a tempting brown sign:

I knew this place was nearby, and the chance to stop was just too much to resist - last time I came home from this area was by way of Garlieston and the Galloway Forest Park so I missed out the section of A75 east of Newton Stewart.  The "road" to the cairns was narrower than a narrow thing (to start with I wasn't even sure it was a proper road) but there was plenty of space to park at the bottom, and a signpost which said "½ mile" so I took water, a hat and my camera and set off.  Trouble is, it wasn't half a mile, it was a lot further, and it was uphill, with very little shade and I was starting to have a sense of humour failure.  Until I realised this (a) was a proper road (b) had a parking area at the top, and (c) there was no-one there whom I might meet on my way up and their way down.  So I legged it back to the van as fast as I could, and drove up the NARROWEST road I have ever taken Bill on.  The hedges were scraping on both sides of the van at the same time . . .  But we made it and what a reward for my 'bravery".

I sent M. a picture of where I was*.  The response I got back was something along the lines of "so you'll be a while then?".  Aw bless him, knows me so well.

There are two sites, the first next to the parking and considered the most impressive because of the huge standing stones at the front.  None of my pictures even begin to do this place justice, nor can they convey the feel of the site which was still, quiet, calm and quite magical.

The second is a few minutes walk up the track, with a modern bungalow and farm buildings nestled incongruously right next to it.

Even though I knew I "ought" to get off my bottom and go home I struggled to tear myself away.  I wandered around, had the coffee I'd stopped for in the first place, wandered some more, had a late lunch, admired the view and just soaked up the gift of what had become an extra day of holiday, instead of just a travel day.

One of the things which irritates the beejeebers out of me is the insistence of archaeologists to claim that sites "definitely had ritual purpose" when they don't know anything of the sort.  I remember a wonderful section in an archaeology book I have since lost describing 23rd Century archaeologists unearthing a late C-20th building that went something along the lines of:

The internal features were strictly linear, with a 'containment area' at one end of each line, either for the people or animals who were competing.  It was clearly a sporting arena of some kind, and the huge numbers of silver-coloured metal canisters were discerned to be tokens thrown by spectators to their favourite competitor (which is why they were concentrated in certain places).  Those spectators clearly sat on wooden bleachers around the linear features because no signs remained - they had all rotted away.  

And so the 'archaeological report' went on culminating in a Big Reveal - the excavation was not a sports arena at all, but the local supermarket.  Which is why ascribing "ritual" purpose to something created thousands of years ago drives me nuts, but on this occasion , I think we can accept that interpretation 😊

* Within touching distance of a 5,000 year old burial chamber and I've got a full-strength mobile signal.  Shakes head . . . 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The end of the road

A day at the most southerly point on the Scottish mainland, thankfully in much nicer conditions than the last time I visited here.

There was a Plan.  And we all know that at Bag End "plan" is a four-letter word which usually ends up somewhere beginning with "F".  But this was not Bag End, and for once my plan worked perfectly.  The idea was simple - get up early, drive to the southern tip of the Mull of Galloway, stay all day, drive back to the campsite.  I did all the "van housekeeping" the night before (empty waste, fill fresh water, put stuff away), got up at 6.00am and was driving out of the site by 6.15.  I would have been at the lighthouse carpark by 6.30 but there were a couple of hold-ups in the road which delayed me.  Unfortunately the DashCam footage isn't very good (light coming from the wrong direction) so this is about the best there is:

I had to come to a complete halt FOUR times because of hares in the road - what an absolute gift!  A little later on the first of many walks around the isthmus I startled two more.  Six beautiful hares before breakfast, does it get much better?

Arriving so early I had the place to myself, except for one campervan; the occupants were a lovely couple who told me they often sneaked up here for a weekend.  Later in the day it was a different matter as I sat and relaxed doing a little spot of people watching.  The ones that really got me were those who, after negotiating themselves all the way down here, got out of the car, took photos whilst still within touching distance of the vehicle, and then drove off again . . .

I played tourist and went up the Lighthouse feeling stupidly pleased with myself that the 100-and-something steps did not cause any shortness of breath and was rewarded with glorious views.

The rest of the day was sitting around, walking around, sitting around some more, until I finally left around 8.00pm.  It was a blissful day and for once, something I had planned had gone exactly as I had intended (which isn't something I get to say very often!)

Monday, 9 July 2018

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Attempting my best Craig Revel Horwood impersonation:  A -  MAZ - ING !

If you are used to visiting the grounds of National Trust properties then Castle Kennedy would probably not strike you as anything out of the ordinary.  I am not, therefore it did: With Knobs On.

The loveliness starts the moment you turn off the A75 and enter the estate.  I've had a bash at editing some DashCam footage but it does not really show the magnitude of the approach.  (The quality was a lot better before YouTube got hold of it . . .)

This Google satellite image made me chuckle - there must be hundreds of times the satellite has caught an aeroplane below but I've never seen it before.  But I digress, the purpose was to point out the scale of this place, and where I "had" to park.

In order to protect a narrow entrance and small bridge, anything larger than a car has to park in the small clearing at the end of my video.  Oh what hardship [not!].  Silence, privacy, nice view - a perfect place to return to for a quiet lunch midway through my visit.

I usually start a garden visit with a quick recce, then go back to the van for a cuppa, and then set off again for a long, slow meander;  the day was shaping up to be brilliant when one of the first things I came across was this tiny Muntjac doe, she had a fawn with her but it's not visible in this photo.  A short while later a red squirrel kitten ran in front of me and a pair of raven were calling above the castle ruins.

The scale of this place is staggering.  Most of these pictures were taken in the general area of the plane (see first photo!)    I did not go all the way to the castle - sadly the sunken garden was closed so that's a good reason to go back.

If you look for the very large estate wagon in this picture the scale is apparent.

I walked miles in this visit, and covered nearly all of the "drives" twice, this is the Monkey Puzzle drive.

Another reason to go back would be a visit earlier in the year to see the rhododendron in flower.  There were very few still in bloom, but those which still had flowers were stunning.

This is a garden of two very different styles - the expansive 'estate' woodland and grassy walks, and an absolute GEM of a walled garden.  If I could pitch a tent against an inside wall I might never ever leave.

Not everything in the garden was rosy - after admiring a completely untouched and massive hosta

I came across this poor little baby . . .

The Aeoniums were trying to pretend they grew outside but close inspection revealed the tops of massive tubs, sunk into the ground.  They will spend the winter in the (not accessible to visitors) huge glasshouses & polytunnels in the other walled garden.  Yes, two huge walled spaces, I'm guessing the second would have originally been used for vegetables for the Big House

Two walled gardens, and two castles - this place doesn't do anything by halves - including the vegetation all over the ruin, not ivy as you might expect but wisteria, which sadly had finished flowering.   Definitely another reason to visit earlier in the year.

The best (outside the walled garden) is saved until nearly last.  The Lily Pond - two acres of rare Victorian plants, but this time I was a couple or three weeks too early for there to be much in flower.   This massive panorama is compiled from the four photos which follow.  I've deliberately left it large so a double-click might be worth a moment of your time.

If you look closely on the left-hand side you can just make out two people on a bench - completely dwarfed by the scale of the 'pond'.

And of course, beautiful gunnera

and what's this - yes, another Wollemia!  (A very fuzzy one because it was there was a heck of a wind coming off the lochs)

This made me smile, a hark back to the days when the Estate was a far more significant part of the local community.

And so we end with the information boards, a smashing place and one I look forward to visiting again.

PS:  It is very dog friendly.