Thursday, 11 October 2012

About not going to Harrogate.

I tried it without the wellies - too cold!
Like several million other people we didn’t go to Harrogate this weekend, but unlike many of them we very nearly did.  I finally had the rare opportunity to take a short break and I really fancied being looked after for the weekend, nothing too pampery, just  not doing the cooking would do me fine.  Spa weekends and the like have never appealed; the very idea of being half naked while a complete stranger smears expensive goo about my person doesn’t make it anywhere near my list of “relaxing pass-times".  In fact someone kindly bought me a voucher for a pamper experience once; I came out more stressed than I went in and very nearly punched the masseuse.  Anyway, back to Harrogate, or not as the case may be.

We tried all of those “last minute” sites but none of them seemed to have particularly good deals; a little digging soon showed that their “very special, once in a lifetime, never to be repeated oh my god it’s amazing” deal was in fact very similar to their “this is our usual rate” deal except it was written in red and had the rather misleading words “special offer” written in front of it.  The final nail in Harrogate’s coffin was when we decided to bite the bullet and click the “book now” button for one hotel, only to be told on the very next page that an additional £68.72 had now been added in “taxes and fees”. My stress levels reached a new high as I hurled some very rude words at the laptop and shelved the whole idea.  Or at least the idea of Harrogate.  As we still wanted to head off we decided to forget the notion of being looked after in any way, dust Delores down and head for the border.
Finest view of the weekend?

We managed to get her ready in double quick time and were soon on our way towards Luce Bay, or more specifically the CC site at New England Bay on the far side of Luce Bay some distance south of Stranraer.  Some of you may remember when we visited here before during our Great North Fun tour when I vowed and declared I never wanted to leave and if you’ve ever been there you’ll understand why.  It’s funny isn’t it when you think you want one thing (Harrogate) but in reality what you actually need is something else entirely.  Our weekend was truly idyllic and here’s why.

Rainbows.  The weather had been squally the whole way up and about 20 mins after we arrived there was a heavy downpour.  No major concern as we were already snuggled up inside with a cup of tea and a biccie.  We’d positioned Delores to make the most of the stunning sea views and a couple of moments later 2 of the most amazing rainbows I’ve ever seen popped up over the bay.  Tea mugs (and biscuits) were quickly discarded as we raced out with our cameras to admire it close up and try and get some shots.  Not a bad start really.

Not a bad start.

If only we had a boat to find the pot of gold...


Celestial bodies.  Being on the very edge of Dumfries & Galloway the site benefits from being incredibly dark which means there are excellent views of the night sky.  On our first night the moon rose at the same time as Jupiter making for some dramatic shots.  The only downside to the moon being up so early was that it was so bright that it made the Milky Way a little tricky to see.  No problems the second night when a later moon rise and a completely cloudless sky gave us ample opportunity to try and enjoy the incredible night sky.  Billions of stars with the Milky Way arcing up and over Delores in spectacular fashion made  us all feel very tiny indeed.

Milky Way

Moon (seriously - you needed a caption for that?)

Milky Way

Neptune. Ha! Kidding.  It's the moon again.

Delores & moonrise.

Sunrise.  Steve’s not much of a morning person, but the combination of a cat jumping on his head and a few golden strands of sunlight seeping through the blinds were enough to lure him outside and onto the beach uncharacteristically early.  I followed soon behind having paused to make us a flask of coffee and a bite to eat.  There’s nothing quite like watching sunrise from the beach with hot coffee and a warm egg and bacon roll.  The beauty of this secluded spot is that apart from the odd dog walker we had the place to ourselves.  An hour or so later it was all done and we were back in the van before the clouds and a little light drizzle appeared.  As I made my way across to the campsite shop one cheery camper greeted me with a “miserable morning isn’t it?”  I would have told him it was beautiful at sunrise but I didn’t think I could cope with the chirpy company the next morning if he decided to join us.

"Miserable morning"

Do I smell coffee & bacon?

Wildlife.  As you may know we’ve teamed up with CumbriaWildlife Trust and are currently on a mission to learn more about wildlife so we thought we’d see what Scotland had to offer.  Plenty as it happens.  For starters the campsite is teeming with bunnies; hundreds of them everywhere driving all the local dogs to distraction and providing Monty with plenty to peer at as he surveyed his surroundings.  On our first day we cycled down to the Mull of Galloway and back via Port Logan; a 20 mile hilly route not made any easier by my bike deciding to lose half its gears.  No matter, the trip was more than worth it.  We ate lunch sat on a cliff top watching gannets, gulls, shags and harbour porpoises diving in and out of the choppy waters before stuffing ourselves with hot chocolate and cream scones at the rather splendid visitors centre.  Then on towards Port Logan; we stopped along the way to watch a small murmuration of starlings swooping and diving over a freshly cut field of hay – a first for both of us.  They were joined by a large flock of crows and a fair smattering of pigeons – not a combination of birds I was expecting, but wonderful to watch nonetheless.


Starlings & a few crows.

Port Logan.

Harbour Porpoise

The next evening the seas were completely calm and as we sat on the beach (again) with our coffee (again) we watched a shag flying low across the water as he made several trips to and fro across the bay.  A few other birds pottered around overhead and then a solitary seal made an appearance, lazily bobbing around, keeping a nosey eye on what we were up to and seemingly enjoying the quiet calm of the evening.  As the evening wore on and the stars began to appear we could hear a flock of birds nearby; no idea what they were but they made a distinctive chirrupy chirping noise that went on well after dark.

Birds.  Not sure which ones...


Seal.  Not crazy.

Luce Bay

Balancing Stones.  We've seen the arty photos of balancing stones on a beach so decided to have a go ourselves.  Hmmmmm...  Really not as easy as it looks.  These "towers" may look simple but they took ages to balance, and all the while the tide was coming in and getting higher and higher up my wellies...

Ta daa!

Ta daaaa again!

Delores.  Ever since we moved from the campsite at Silverdale, having lived in her for best part of 3 months, she’s been woefully underused thanks to work commitments and wrangling with our dodgy tenant and eventual house sale down south.  With all of that now blissfully behind us and my permanent work commitments coming to an end, we’re looking forward to spending much more time touring the country and seeing what the UK has to offer.  Great adventures don’t necessarily require you to travel to the far side of the world; our aim is to explore just what amazing sights and adventures are available right on our doorstep.  Who knows, one day we may even make it to Harrogate, though I think we’ll give the hotels a miss.

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