I've quickly discovered that blogging while travelling and camping isn't going to be the easiest thing to do, which I pretty much knew before I started, but I really want to share a little journal of my travels with you so I'm trying to set aside time to do some quick updates when I can. Apologies if they are a little brief but I fully intend to write some longer blog posts when I return, the ones I write along the way are really just to keep you up to date with where I've been so far.
I'm already on day 5 and thought I'd do a little round up of my time on the Ayrshire coast. This is an area that I know pretty well as we had a family caravan in Girvan then Turnberry for over 20 years and my aunt had a caravan in Irvine which we also spent a lot of time at. Add to that countless day trips and there aren't many places that I've not explored in the area at some point, which is why I only spent 2 days here to allow myself more time in regions I've not visited before. Although there are of course still a few places that I've never been and one of those was my very first stop on my 6 week trip.
Portencross Castle - Overlooking the Firth of Clyde near West Kllbride and said to be the last resting place of the great Kings of Scotland on their way to be buried at Iona. I arrived before it opened so I didn't manage to visit inside but on a gloomy day it looked suitably atmospheric.
Juniper and Jane/Jane Hunter Art - Another place that has been on my radar for some time is West Kilbride, known as Scotland's craft town due to the support and promotion given to artists and crafters. There are lots of studios and shops to visit on a designated trail and regular exhibitions.
I had been contacted by the lovely Jane Hunter who invited me to pop in if I was passing and it was great to meet her and her partner Sam who both design a range of gorgeous textile products inspired by the great outdoors. Jane was wearing a rather nifty t-shirt designed by Sam which will be part of a new mountain inspired range, think I might have to get myself one of those!
Unfortunately I didn't have a great deal of time to stay on this occasion but I will definitely be back to explore more of the town. Thanks so much to them both for encouraging me to finally make the effort to visit West Kilbride and be sure to check out their lovely online shops or even better stop by and say hello if you're passing.
I'm really grateful to the people and businesses that have invited me to stop by when I'm in their area and plan to accept invites whenever I can as it is so much nicer to communicate in person than online.
Next stop along the coast was Irvine and I loved discovering some colourful street art beneath the shopping centre.
I have a thing about photographing boats so expect a few more as I travel around the coast! These were next to the Maritime Museum in Irvine.
This is my travelling companion for the trip, my 3 year old lurcher Willow. We stopped by The Ship Inn in Irvine for lunch as it has great food and a large dog friendly area. Willow was delighted when she was given some homemade shortbread, not something she would normally be allowed but I made the exception since she is technically on her holidays! This is the oldest pub in Irvine, full of quaint historic details and character. A family favourite when we were on holiday at my aunt's caravan, I always pay a visit when I'm passing and highly recommend it if you're in the area.
It is virtually impossible for me to drive along the Ayrshire coast and not stop at Culzean Castle and Country Park. As a child I spent so many happy and adventurous summers here and still love visiting as an adult.
Culzean even has llamas and if you read my recent blog about my visit to Orkney and my trip to feed alpacas, you can imagine how excited I got seeing llamas!
Dunure castle is one of many that line Scotland's coast and it was already my third of the day, I'm sure castles will feature heavily on this trip. It has been a ruin for at least several hundred years and there isn't much left to see today of what was once the main fortress of the powerful Kennedy family, descended from Robert the Bruce and the same family that originally owned Culzean Castle.
After a busy day it was time to head to Maidens where we planned to camp for the night and ended the evening with a walk along the beach, much to Willow's delight as she is a total beach dog!
A short walk along the coast from Maiden's harbour is the strange looking Port Murray House which now lies abandoned but I'm sure seemed a very exotic building in the area when it was built in the 1960s. Perched on the rocks with an amazing sea-view, I understand that the materials used just weren't up to the job for such an exposed building. The swimming pool collects debris and the interior has been stripped of anything useful although some original features remain. Apparently it is due for demolition with planning permission for a new house in its place. I'm sure this is good news to those that think it looks like a bunch of caravans or cheap sheds stuck together, personally I have a real soft spot for it.
Happily my husband was able to join me for my first 2 nights away and as another camper was in our usual spot we pitched our tent around the corner with a view of the harbour and drifted off for the night to the therapeutic sound of seabirds and tinkling of the boats, oblivious to the eventful episode ahead! Maidens is normally a sleepy, peaceful little village and is the ideal place to wild camp, everyone is friendly and the locals happily chat away to you so when we both woke up to the sound of banging and thumping just before 3 in the morning we knew something wasn't right. We sat in the darkness listening for a couple of minutes, still half asleep, trying to figure out what the noise was, all we could tell was it sounded like it was right outside our tent. My husband popped his head out and I thought he was joking when he said 3 people were trying to break in to the bowling club behind us! Without going in to all the details in case it ends up in court at some point, we phoned the police and an hour or so of drama ensued which all felt like a bad dream. I really felt like packing up at that point and driving to my parents in Glasgow but to be quite honest I was far too tired. Thankfully it was starting to get light and with the police around I knew we should be pretty safe so despite my adrenaline being in full flow, exhaustion won over and I was sleeping sound in no time. In the morning it all felt very surreal and what a dramatic way to start my trip!
The following day I had two places that I wanted to visit and the first of those was Dalquharran Castle (yes another castle!). Apart from my fascination with abandoned buildings, this castle had extra interest for me as it is the younger sister to Culzean Castle, both of which were designed by Robert Adam, it was commissioned 5 years after Culzean and regarded as one of his best works. Yet while Culzean attracts visitors from all over the world and is well cared for by the NTS, Dalquharran sits 9 miles along the road, abandoned and forgotten about after the roof was removed by the then owner in 1968 to avoid paying taxes.
The ruins of the original Old Dalquharran Castle can also be found on the grounds. Although you can get close to the castle, there is a fence around it to prevent entry as it is a dangerous building.
Next stop was Girvan, a place full of nostalgia for me after spending over 20 years escaping Glasgow to holiday at our family caravan. Like many once thriving sea-side fishing towns it no longer attracts large numbers of visitors and the fishing boats that once filled the harbour have mainly been replaced by yachts in the recently built marina. Amazingly many of the same businesses have existed since I last went on holiday here almost 20 years ago and in some ways it feels like a time capsule. It might not have much to offer tourists these days but it will always bring back many happy memories for me.
The second thing on my must do list was climb Byne Hill which overlooks Girvan and was the first hill I ever climbed when I was 7. Our family caravan was originally at the foot of Byne Hill before it moved to Turnberry so this is a hill I climbed many times when I was young and although it is not exactly the mountain I thought it was when I was little, it is the place my love of the outdoors began and I felt quite emotional standing at the summit, reflecting on how much the surrounding area spread out below me has shaped the person I am now. I was also flooded with thoughts of family that I once shared so many happy times with here but who are no longer with me; in that moment I felt like they were standing by my side once again.
That night we camped in Girvan's south car park with a view to Ailsa Craig and with overnight lorry drivers sleeping in their cabs and a couple in their camper-van parked next to us we felt quite safe and despite the noise of traffic from the road I slept like a baby.
The next morning I said goodbye to my husband and set off with Willow for more coastal adventures in Dumfries and Galloway.
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