May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

South-west Scotland

South-West Scotland was a complete revelation to me. I like its coastline and its lochs and gentle green farmland, and the Turneresque purple, blue and grey hills of the Southern Uplands. Cathy, who had joined me on Arran, and I set off down the Ayrshire coast from Ardrossen.
Just south of Ayr, the village of Alloway is the birthplace of the 18thC poet and man of the people, Robbie Burns. The Robbie Burns Birthplace Museum opened in 2010 and goes a long way to explain how he grew from humble farming roots to superstardom in his short life. He died at 37 after living a very celebrity lifestyle. The museum is very hands-on for children and crammed with exhibits, but it's directionless and badly lit. There is a handsome monument to Burns near the museum and the cottage where he was born is also open to the public.
Culzean Castle
Culzean (Cull-ean) Castle is beautiful and classical; on the site of an older building it was redesigned by Robert Adam in 1777, and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Eisenhower was gifted a suite of rooms in the top of the castle, as a token of gratitude for being Supreme Allied Commander Europe during WWII. Now the Eisenhower suite can be rented and it must have the most stunning views because the castle sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay.
Down the road Turnberry announces itself as “Golfing Perfection”. The hotel has been bought by Donald Trump who is going to pump millions into it, and improve the course, so it'll be even more perfect. It is in a beautiful situation looking out towards Arran and Ailsa Craig.
The Rhins of Galloway is a hammerhead that sticks out to the west of Dumfries and Galloway. Poor Stranraer, which sits in the top half of the hammer, really feels a bit sad since Stenna Line moved their ferry service to Ireland up the road to Cairnryan. The huge ex-terminal is bleak and empty with signs askew and weeds growing up through the tarmac. I think it's going to become housing.
Portpatrick in the middle of the west side of the hammer is a pretty fishing port turned holiday resort; a horseshoe bay lined with cafes and souvenir shops, and with children building sandcastles on the beach. When I approached the sun was out but a sea mist hung over the village. 
At the Mull of Galloway, the most southerly point in Scotland, the mist was a thick fog;  I walked to the lighthouse but couldn't see the sea!
St Ninian's Chapel
The whole of the southern part of the region was shrouded in mist (I could just make out some lovely sandy beaches) until I got to the Isle of Whithorn, when the cloud lifted. This is barely an isle – it feels attached to the peninsular, which is beautiful, wild and windswept. The chapel was built in 1300 for pilgrims who came ashore to visit the shrine of St Ninian. Today there is a small busy community here and a pretty harbour with holiday houses and bars.

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