Thursday, 13 August 2015

Galloway


Hurrah! Only five weeks to go now, before I set off in the caravan again! I can't wait. I've been suffering dreadful deprivation symptoms!

Oh, I've been having a very pleasant time socially, during this long three-month break from going anywhere. I've been out every few days with friends old and new. I certainly can't complain about being bored or ignored!


Gosh, doesn't it all look oh-so-frivolous? It has indeed been a lot of fun. However, I have a limited capacity for staying in one place and immersing myself in the company of other people. A full three months without getting away on my own is too long. I am beginning to pine like a forlorn lover for my next caravan holiday. I won't mind what the weather is like. Just now, as I write this, it's raining steadily outside, in that mild, late-summer way where things get wet but not chilled by the soft rain. The kind of rain you'd like to feel on your face while walking in waterproofs on a huge wet beach late one morning - lapping ocean on one side, misty dunes on the other - with the prospect of a lunchtime toasted sandwich a mile ahead. I'm definitely a cool-climate person!

Well, I'd better finish writing up my last holiday, before the next one comes around.

This post is about Galloway. That's the south-western part of the Scottish mainland. It's a sunny place, with a coastline full of wide bays, sandy beaches, and the odd cove that reminds you of Cornwall or West Wales. In fact to my mind this is the least 'Scottish' part of Scotland that I've visited so far. And yet inland Galloway is full of wild hills - some forested, some bare - and lonely blue lochs, all in the proper manner. Admittedly the hills can't really be called mountains, certainly not Highland mountains, and the lochs are not much larger than small lakes, but inland Galloway - up in the hills and away from the coast - is still an empty and remote place inhabited only by sheep. You can be on your own there, all day, without the slightest difficulty. But in this post I'm sticking to the coast.

I was pitched near the shore at Garlieston, a place I'd never seen before. It's a village south of Wigtown, and very pretty. Like many a coastal spot, it seems unsuitable for working-age people, but just right for those seeking a quiet and sunny place to retire. It was important during World War 2, as the spot where the prefabricated floating Mulberry harbours needed for the 1944 Normandy Landings were developed and tried out. I imagine it was closed off to the public, so that German agents couldn't get close and find out what was going on. (The Luftwaffe wouldn't have been flying over with cameras by then) Here's a few shots to show you what it looks like now:


So calm, so serene! So warm and colourful! Can this really be Scotland, and not instead Barmouth or Aberdovey in Wales? The Scots accent of the fishermen instantly corrects that impression, but this is still very different from those stern wind-whipped villages on the Aberdeenshire coast. And around the corner of that headland in the bottom shot are some exotic gardens. I didn't find the time to see them, but some people I was chatting to later on told me that they were very well worth the walk.

Garlieston was exceptional. Most of the other coastal villages I saw (such as Sandhead, Drummore and Port Logan) were somewhat less attractive than this, although Isle of Whithorn, which I saw at sunset on my last night in Galloway, was almost as nice. Here it is:


Isle of Whithorn is (or once was) the port for the inland town of Whithorn, and is not an island. Out on the headland (which very nearly is an island) is an old chapel. I went to see it.


 The beach close by was full of strangely-marked pebbles.


It was late evening before I drove away. Some departing views:


One last place now. Not one of the big towns. Actually, this is a thinly-populated region, and the only town of any size at all is Stranraer, at the head of Loch Ryan. I gave it a visit, for the sake of going to a proper supermarket (Morrisons), and getting some fuel. I wasn't impressed. 

No, my final location for this post is Scotland's Land's End, the Mull of Galloway. I suspect it vies with the Mull of Kintyre for this honour. The Mull of Kintyre sticks out into the ocean just the same, it too has a lighthouse, and it's lofty and rugged - even more so. It certainly needs considerably more personal determination to get to, involving a very long drive along the A83 to Campbeltown, and then a series of narrow minor roads to reach the eventual car park. Whereas the Mull of Galloway is an easier travelling proposition all round, and offers you more than just a car park and a view. You get (if you want them) an RSPB Visitor Centre with toilets, and a civilised sunset-facing cafĂ©.   

One day I'll go and see the Mull of Kintyre, with Paul McCartney and Wings' Mull of Kintyre playing full blast as a musical accompaniment on the way there. (And I shall expect, on arrival, to see massed pipers on a beach, playing their hearts out) 

But on this holiday, I was content to check out the less-romantic Mull of Galloway. 

Unfortunately I chose a bright but overcast day for it. Crossing the peninsula on which Garlieston lay, the Mull was only an unpromising smudge on the horizon. I very nearly asked myself 'Is this really worth an eighty-mile round trip?' A just question, as it turned out. 

I persevered. My first stop was at Sandhead, at the west end of the famous Sands of Luce, on which cattle were grazed for centuries. (Grazing on what, though? Sand? Seaweed?) But this was the only cow in sight: 


A bit to the south, however, gave me a sweeping view with genuine cattle in the foreground - although they were not, at the time, actually messing about with buckets and spades on the sands:


Further on, Drummore had one pretty spot, bursting with summer flowers - a kind of memorial garden with a great sea view - but was otherwise mediocre. I went down to the dried-out harbour, hoping for something picturesque, but it was dull, smelly with seaweed, and I did not linger. A harbourside house tried to inject humour, with a prominent 'Beware of the cat' notice outside. It got no titter from me.


Soon I caught my first close-by glimpse of the Mull itself. The narrow road became busy with a surprising number of cars - people were arriving here from various points northward. Well, it was the chief tourist attraction in this part of Galloway. I followed the road to the end, and parked. 


It was all a bit underwhelming. Noticeboards pointed out all the facilities. That was nice, but made it all seem like a theme park. 


I saw a poignant memorial plaque in the car park. Someone had earned a kind of immortality:


Oh well. I made the best of it, and headed towards the lighthouse, getting glimpses of rugged cliffs on the way.


As you can see, the sun finally came out while I was there, sort of. But the distant view in all directions remained shrouded in haze, and I was unable to confirm that - on a clear day - it was indeed possible to see Northern Ireland, the English Lake District, and the Isle of Man, all at the same time. Next time I'll try getting this 'three countries' panorama from the Isle of Man instead, viewing Northern Ireland, the English Lake District and the Scottish Mull of Galloway from the top of Snaefell, the highest Manx peak. Let's scrub the Falklands, and pencil in 2018 or 2019 for that.

I used the loo at the RSPB place, deftly avoiding the girl there who clearly wanted to tell me all about the sightings of the day. Or maybe she just wanted a chat. It must be a lonely job at times, stuck on one's own at an isolated outpost like this. I rejoice to see them, but birds are not really my subject.

Well, that's Scotland wrapped up. Next, a quick post on What Lucy Did in North Wales before heading decisively for home.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fine igneous rock like basalt with veins of quartz running through, geology is becoming hazy...

    Think you might have enjoyed Logan Gardens, part of the National Botanic Gardens.

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