Category: The Liquorice Allsorts are back – Scotland 2023

Scotland 2023 – Days 11-13 Dumfries & Galloway

We are now on the return part of our journey for the last few days of our Scottish trip. We keep returning to this wonderful country and why not, there is so much to like about it. I feel as though I’ve lost my ‘mojo’ for writing the blog, not as amusing or descriptive as I have been in the past. I’m trying to put my finger on it and there are a couple of thoughts that creep into my head. One is the heat, the past two weeks have been extraordinarily hot and with this comes a jaded lethargy invading the body and mind – basically it’s called being lazy (but I have to admit to having enjoyed it!). Second is the mindset of of the time it takes to do this, often during the evening after a day of traveling or activity and my wish to get this down digitally before it all fades away is, at the moment, feeling like a chore. I don’t want it to because this is a record for Janette and I to look back on in our dotage and enjoy, for those future moments I want it to be light, airy and happy. I’ll try my best next time.
Meanwhile back on the road we are traveling from New England Bay to New Abbey for a 2 night stopover. Along the way we stop for lunch at Clattershaw Loch for lunch and then on to the Ken-Dee Marshes RSPB reserve for a spot of birding.

View of a Scottish Loch - Clattershaw

Driving the ‘B’ roads in Dumfries & Galloway has its advantages.

Hilma the Hymer

Once again we venture down the ‘B’ roads and found an amazing place to park for lunch.

Boy it was hot, we were glad of the shade in the trees walking down to the reserve. Highlight of my birding calendar was spotting an Osprey flying over Loch Ken looking for food. That was a first for me, only ever seen one on camera at Loch Garten or watching ‘Springwatch’ on television. A not to be forgotten experience albeit briefly.
Landis Farm CL site is a real gem, a beautiful 5 van site sitting above New Abbey which is only a 15 minute walk from the site. The ruins of the Cistercian Abbey were closed to the public due to safety inspections on the stonework. Probably a wise move as you would need more than a prayer to help you if one of the high stones fell on your head!

Cistercian Abbey

Unfortunately we could not access the site as safety inspection work was being carried out and so a pretty uninteresting picture!

Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to New Abbey’s 13th Century Corn Mill – apparently one of 7 mills that used to supply all the local area with all their needs. A fascinating tour and a glimpse into a bygone age, the corn miller held a very important role in the community as the law said that all the surrounding farmers had to use him, the owner of the mill, the local laird, took his cut from the miller and the miller took his cut from the farmers.

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill

The lifting mechanism to raise 56lb sacks to the top floor

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill

This machine was for ‘rough’ milling cattle feed from the Oats

Leaving New Abbey we wound our way through Dumfries and Gretna sticking our noses up at the M6 motorway and went across the North Pennines through some bleak yet wonderfully uplifting countryside. Mrs Garmin is definitely playing up and I need to get used to plotting routes better. We came across the South Tynesdale Railway – a heritage narrow gauge railway which used to be a fairly large standard gauge railway in the heyday of coal as our main energy supply.

Signal Box at Alston Station

Now a narrow gauge heritage railway

A busy day in Alston as there was also a sheepdog trial on the local playing fields. We have noticed where there is no pressure on home building a lot of small towns and villages have large open spaces for the community to use, and long may it stay that way! I digress, the sheepdog trials were a marvel of communication between man and beast. These working dogs love their work and you can see it in the way they move, they are bred with the instinct of gathering stock, however the stock always have other ideas!

Sheepdog trials

One of the few ladies’ we saw working a dog today.

Our final leg of the day took us to The Crown at Mickleton in Teesdale where we ate and then wandered into a folk concert in the local village hall. Not your ordinary festival, it was celebrating the life of John Martyn a Scottish singer songwriter, a serious gathering of very, very talented singer-songwriters and guitarists. Met an interesting fellow called Will Fox from York, a poet descended from Keats. The whole evening was one of those surprises we have found often raise the level of our tour to something special and not just writing about pretty pictures and museums. That’s what I’ve been missing – talking about events and people!! The headline act was a Scott Matthews who heralded from Wolverhampton and has had success all over the world.

Scotland 2023 – Days 8-10 New England Bay

Day 8 – to New England Bay 11th June
We head off from the Bonnybridge and drive towards a long-awaited visit to a site we had seen 7 years ago on our first visit to Dumfries and Galloway in Hilma – New England Bay, it’s taken a while, but we are finally going there. The trouble was over the years we always wanted to see new places and so it was low priority on our list to go back to the same area. We are glad we did, of course the weather makes a huge difference, we are parked only 50 yards from the beach!

New England Bay

Glorious beach only 50 metres from Hilma’s front door!


New England Bay

The Caravan Club site right on the edge of New England Bay.

We decided (as usual) to keep to the B roads where possible and so glad we did. Getting out of the Edinburgh / Glasgow gap is always best to use the motorways though. Today we heard that Glasgow has punitive clean air zone fines if you ‘wander’ into them, Hilma is not good at ‘clean air’ being 22 years old (bless).

Day 9 – rest day – 12th June

A nothing day. Chillaxing. Boy it is hot.

Day 10 – Logan Botanical Garden – Port Logan – 13th June
Up early and on the bikes to Port Logan and the botanical garden. Amazing plants and trees from all over the Southern Hemisphere, the climate here is like that of Tasmania, never really exceeding 24 deg C and hardly ever below -9 Deg C which means this unique microclimate can support some unusual plants for the UK.

Tall blue flowers - Echium

Echium flowers at least 7 feet tall

New Zealand tree ferns

A swathe of Dicksonia ferns, commonly know as New Zealand tree ferns

A truly sub-tropical environ thanks to the Gulf Stream all looked after by 6 full time gardeners and a couple of interns. A good couple of hours can be spent wandering the various garden sections followed by a lunch in the shade with their café offering some decent salads.

A huge Gunnera

A huge Gunnera leaf towering above me, part of the ‘Gunnera bog’ in the Port Logan Botanical Garden

It’s a matter of scale

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Scotland 2023 – Days 6-7 ‘The Kelpies’ & The Falkirk Wheel

Day 6 – 9th June – ‘The Kelpies’
Today we left Yellowcraig and started moving west, but only a short way as we are off to see The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel. The Kelpies are two huge (each 30 metres tall) stainless steel ‘Kelpie’ heads. Kelpie? Well, it’s a mythological water creature often taking the form of horses (think Nessie) that lure us humans to meet, greet and stroke them, and if you do it’s the end for you! The works are the vision of Andy Scott a renowned sculpture artist and he based the idea of the heads of the Kelpies rearing out of the water to get you, using Clydesdale horses as his models.

Kelpies at Falkirk

Janette taking on the might of a Kelpie – all 300 tons (The Kelpie – before you say it, cheeky).



Kelpie head at Falkirk

Kelpie head in fantastic light

The sculptures are truly breath-taking and no number of pictures I took can really do them justice. It is a must place to visit if you are in the locale, however you can touch these, even pay to go inside to see the structure and the bonus is you won’t get eaten!

Day 7 – 10th June – The Falkirk Wheel
Cycling on the Forth and Clyde canal path was a real joy and straight out the back of our 2-night stopover, Underwood Farm. The air was filled with swallows feeding, the water clear and bright (yes, I know our canals in general are brown, so this was a real surprise to me) the sun was shining, and a light breeze washed over us en-route, bliss. This was another day of marvelling at our industrial heritage of the canals combined with a modern, practical piece of engineering that for all the world looked like another piece of sculpture. This marvel connected two canals at differing heights of around 30 metres, the Forth and Clyde which we cycled along and the Union Canal towering above it.

Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel – approx. half way rotating to raise the far ‘bath’ up to the Union Canal

The Falkirk Wheel

An amazing feat of engineering built in 2001

Immediately surrounding the area were huge public spaces for the benefit of the community, cycle paths and grassy football areas, playgrounds and patches left for wildflowers to flourish, one must assume these were part of the whole build project in 2001 to benefit all, not just the visitors.
And so, 2 days of sightseeing tourist hot spots ended, Janette and I agreed both were well worth the time and effort.

The Falkirk Wheel

Looking more like a sculpture than an engineering marvel.

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Scotland 2023 – Days 4-5 Archerfield, Dirleton & Gullane

Day 4 & 5 – Archerfield Estate and Gullane
Bikes off Hilma and we set off down the road for a short ride to the Archerfield Estate, Janette had read about an acre of walled garden to view. Upon arrival it was clear that this is a big operation, regenerative farming practice, farm shop, gift shop, restaurant (good local food), golf course (yet another), spa and accommodation. It not only looked expensive, it was, but quality and luxury.
Some great flowering spaces for wildlife in the walled garden all looked after by 2 gardeners and 7 volunteers. My question is; “why use volunteers when the whole place smacks of money?”. With all respect to the volunteers of course because they will enjoy it (and probably get some free coffee and meals).

Geranium

A purple geranium in the walled garden at Archerfield

We cycled back along the John Muir way along rough tracks and on our way stopped off at Dirleton Kirk then through fields and trees and even got stuck in some sand. A good test for Janette’s new electric Dutch style back with a 500W Bosch motor assist. Now she beats me to the top of the hills!

Dirleton Kirk - modern stain glass

Dirleton Kirk – modern stain glass – so unusual it deserved an image

Dirleton Kirk - reclaimed stain glass window

Dirleton Kirk – reclaimed stain glass window – I thought the colours are amazing and so took the picture

Gullane was a very different ride, all along quiet back roads and eventually into the town staying off the main drag. Dropping down to the beach area we were hungry and could only see an ice cream van, not very sustaining after a bike ride! Cycling back up the small hill into town we came across a fantastic Italian gelato ice cream shop. One panini, a cannelloni and 2 superb Italian ice creams later we were sated. More golf courses in Gullane and more Americans. I decide to find out how much a round would be. So if you have plenty of dosh to spend for 4 hours it is £220 (£250 at weekends), I asked if that included a caddy, I received a strange look and was told a caddy was extra at £55 per round PLUS (emphasised) gratuities. Basically if you played at the weekend with a caddy in tow you could kiss goodbye to the better part of £350 if you throw in some food and drinks. Now any golfers reading this (probably very few) might raise an eyebrow at my intended surprise, but I am mean by nature (read as: tight git). When I played golf some years back at Cradoc nr Brecon (lovely course) £350 was my annual membership! Hey ho.

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The Liquorice Allsorts are back – Scotland 2023 – Days 1-3

The liquorice allsorts are back! – 4th June, 2023
Our 5th trip to Scotland and the allsorts are lining up on the dashboard again.
This trip is a cathartic journey for both Janette and me. The second half of 2023 was ‘anus horribilus’ for both of us. I won’t go into too many details, but we lost a daughter to cancer in August, and I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in October resulting in partial amputation of my left thumb. We had various trips planned for this year but ended up cancelling a trip to France due to my diagnosis. I just was not prepared to pay an exorbitant insurance fee for 14 days abroad on the back of what has happened to me. Still, their loss as we are now on another Scotland trip and we’ll defer France until after my treatment has finished (February 2024 – fingers crossed). Oh, and by the way, I am feeling marvellous.

A little treat for Ian as he is driving.

Day 1 – Longtown, Carlisle
Traveling from home we got off (for us) to an early start before 9:00am, miraculous! Never heard of before when going away in Hilma. Retirement means we have more ‘preparation’ time, ha, there’s always a last minute, “oh I forgot the thingammyjig from upstairs, I won’t be a minute” – 20 mins later and we are off. Setting off is always an exciting time, wondering what adventures are heading our way, for our last few trips we never really plan a precise itinerary only where we are heading. Once we reach our destination(s), we then look at what is around and invariably decide what will be between walking, cycling, birdwatching, train travels or simply a game or two in Hilma (all weather dependent). I digress, our first day on a long trip is usually getting to a partway point and so it is today. A CL site (Caravan and Motorhome Club small site that only allows 5 vans) on the edge of Carlisle is our rest point for the night.

Day 2 – Carlisle to North Berwick – 5th June, 2023
We generally regard this as our true first day of the holiday and look to make it as interesting as possible whilst still travelling to our first 4 day stopover. I decide that the best way is to travel to North Berwick was to motor mostly on B roads, which in Scotland can sometimes mean an interesting time when confronted with the odd timber lorry!
I was trying to get to grips with our new Avtex Garmin Camper Satnav system. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right way of using it yet to Janette’s satisfaction – must try harder and not do the ‘man’ thing and think I can use it without reading the manual. Still we had some great views and came across Whitrope Heritage Centre, a museum run by the Waverley Route Heritage Association celebrating the previous train line from Edinburgh to Carlisle. Things don’t look too pristine, but their website indicates open days for the summer of 2023.

Hilma at the Whitrope Heritage Centre on the old Waverley route Edinburgh to Carlisle. Coffee time.

Diesels and a brake van in need of a paint job

The rest of our journey was punctuated with stunning scenery we have come to expect in Scotland, this is an area we have not visited before so it’s all new to us. The journey was also punctuated with the occasional ‘u turn’ due to my lack of Satnav programming skills (yet to be acquired on this new system).
After arriving at Yellowcraig a short walk along the beach with the binoculars we felt rejuvenated after our somewhat twisty journey, steak and salad with red wine followed and so the day ends with me signing off.

Scottish landscape

Our first view of the Firth of Forth looking towards North Berwick

Day 3 – Yellowcraig – 6th June, 2023
Today we walked along the John Muir way from the Yellowcraig Caravan site into North Berwick. Janette was hankering after a Lobster for lunch (expensive tastes!), she had done her research and identified the ‘Lobster Shack’ on the harbour was the place to go. Before that we had to negotiate the route too town along the dunes, roads and golf club links. Golf is big business here; Americans could be heard on the greens as we passed by and many of them had caddies. Perhaps they need help on the Scottish links courses which are famous for hosting our British Open Championship and are a far cry from many of the manicured US courses seen on our television screens.

Golfers on the North Berwick links course

US Golfers on the North Berwick links course

North Berwick Harbour Bay

North Berwick Harbour Bay

Onward we go slavering at the chops for our Lobster. North Berwick is a lovely harbour town with a fantastic beach meaning it is a tourist trap, and why not, all the old industries are a thing of the past. The lobster shack did not disappoint, in addition to half a lobster we had dressed crab, salad and a portion of chips and sat on the harbour in a make do clear tent with tables. Evidence below.

Dressed Crab

Dressed Crab on North Berwick Harbour

A fantastic walk back along the beach all the way to the caravan site and after that lunch it was toast for supper!

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