Sunday, September 02, 2012

Let's go together, somewhere we haven't been...

What to do with the Bank Holiday weekend? That was the burning question in the Amberry household as the summer months ticked gradually by without a sniff of holiday action. We'd looked at campsites in England and Wales, but they were all full, so I had the bright idea of heading up to Scotland, where the kids were back in school and there was no bank holiday. Mich agreed and we plumped for the Isle of Arran - somewhere in reasonably easy reach of the northwest yet a little bit out of the way too.

We made an early start on the Saturday morning at 5am. That was the sort of adventure I remember from my childhood and it was nice to see Meredith was up for it too. We made such good time that we ended up on an earlier ferry and made it across the Firth of Clyde before noon. The crossing was mill-pond calm which was a relief considering none of us are great on boats.

MV Caledonian Isles, approaching Brodick Harbour
Arran was lovely and as we drove north across the island towards our campsite in Lochranza we thought of all the things we could do with a few days of unexpected sunshine. We got the tent up in the lovely campsite next to the golf course and had a spot of lunch in the fresh air. Not long after the rain started and we withdrew to shelter for the rest of the afternoon. The sun was soon out again, but... oh dear... so were the midges! I thought we might be reasonably safe from the wee beasties at the end of August right by the sea, but apparently not. There were clouds of them and they took a particular interest in Meredith!

We went to bed a bit early on the Saturday night, wondering if we'd made a bit of an error in our choice of holiday location, but in the morning the midges were gone and gorgeous weather tempted us out for a walk along the coast. We were heading to the Fairy Dell, along the north coast of the island, to see if Meredith could spot any! On the way we enjoyed the views of distant Kintyre.

The view from Newton Point, Arran
The path to the Fairy Dell was muddy in places but I carried Meredith over the worst sections, making a mental note to buy her some hiking boots next time her feet go up a size. The whole walk took us most of the morning and though we saw no fairies we did see some seals, bouncing comically up and down on a rock.

The afternoon took us to Brodick for some crazy golf and a spot of afternoon tea at the Castle. We couldn't believe how lucky we were being with the weather and, arriving back at the campsite we saw no midges, things seemed to be looking up. Two more days ahead of us and loads of stuff to do...

With Farley & Meredith at Brodick Castle

I woke a couple of times in the night to heavy rain and wind. In my sleepy state I didn't give it much thought. The walk to the toilet block in the morning was decidedly damp and as we sat inside eating breakfast we noticed just how gusty it was getting. The wind was bowing in the side of the tent quite severely and water was starting to leak in, forming a couple of puddles at the entrance to Mich & Meri's bedroom. Outside the peaceful little burn which had babbled away behind our tent was now beginning to rage and rise towards us and we began to wonder whether staying any longer was really wise.

I went out to take down the porch of the tent, which was catching the wind like a sail. This helped a little but as the gusts got stronger the ends of the tent started to flatten. It was time to go. Michelle packed up our belongings very quickly and we got everything into the car. Most of our stuff was soaking wet and so was I, the driving rain having defeated my waterproof top and trousers comfortably. I dropped the tent as quickly as I could, noting the two shattered tent poles and realising that we were right to be packing up. I forced the wet tent into the roof box and closed the lid, breathing a sigh of relief that we could be on our way.

Then I turned the key, or rather I didn't. The key was jammed and no matter how much I tried to repack, shuffle or wobble the roof box it wouldn't lock. A helpful man from a nearby caravan came out to help me, bearing WD40, but to no avail. After 20 minutes struggling in the rain I decided the only option was the rope. I lashed the roofbox shut and hoped above hope the thing would hold.

I got changed into my dry clothes and joined my damp family in the car. What more could possibly go wrong? Well, how about the car not starting? Yes, that's right - the engine was dead. Fortunately the campsite owner was on hand to jump start the engine with his truck and we were on our way back to Brodick, with the intention of finding a B&B or getting a ferry out of there.

By sheer luck we saw the ferry was in when we arrived in Brodick and drove up to see if CalMac would let us sail home two days early. They listened to my slightly desperate story and agreed at one, directing us onto the ferry as the last car on board. The sailing was a bit more choppy than it was on the way out, but at least we knew we could get all of our soaking belongings back home rather than having to rationalise everything in a B&B!

We paused at Dumfries around teatime to get a quick bite to eat. Pulling up in the car park at KFC Meredith announced to us that "Sick is coming!" and promptly hurled into her new jacket, which was the first thing Mich could grab to stem the flow. There wasn't a lot we could do to clean her up and Meredith was very patient, imploring her addled parents to "Get me out of this state!"

Under the circumstances we revised the KFC plan and made a rudimentary picnic from the nearby Tesco Express store. This stayed down... until Garstang at any rate, when my slightly travel sick daughter reprised her earlier performance with equal fortitude. At least this time we had her potty nearby, which was easier to clean than her jacket.

And there we have it... home safely. At 10:30pm, of course, after 7 hours of driving. Why did it take so long to get back to Lancashire from Ayrshire? Well, the rope surrounding the roof box wasn't quite reliable enough to hold it shut at motorway speeds, so we took the decision on safety grounds to use A roads to get home. The A6 is lovely, but when you're soaked to the skin, tired and desperately hungry it's not the road you would ordinarily choose to get you home.

So - a summer holiday at last! Or at least two days on a pleasant Scottish island before being beaten back by the desperate weather. We were a bit shellshocked as we surveyed our soaked belongings at 11pm over a takeaway pizza, but we had had fun as long as it lasted... but perhaps another holiday was in order...?


David L said...

What a read Mike! Sorry you had such a torrid time mate. For some reason I came away thinking my own children were missing such an experience. Guess it will happen some day.

Graham said...

7 hours to get from Lancashire to Ayrshire? That's crazy!