Anna is booking a number of staycations and the latest adventure took me back to Scotland and to Dumfries & Galloway. I say ‘back to’ as it isn’t more than a few weeks ago that I was trundling a few miles to the east of here wending my way from Gretna to John O’Groats on my LEJOG trip.
She booked a house for four nights just outside Kirkcudbright, or as the natives pronounce it ‘Kirkcoobry’! The house’s location was fabulous on the banks of the River Dee estuary and could sleep six. It was therefore very spacious!
The first observation was that the area made its living from tourism and livestock farming. There was no industry or major settlements. The tourism is very low key with lots of discretely hidden sites for caravans and camper vans. There are attractions but they come in the form of forests, beaches and walks. Dog walkers abounded and if there were children they were all young and enjoying the beaches and simpler pleasures.
I say simpler because the 4G reception was patchy throughout the area and our property didn’t have wi-fi; this was a considerable bind. Everyone uses Google to establish, say, opening times of attractions or the nearest cafe. You’ll be unsurprised that the present Mrs Ives received a severe reprimand for this inconvenience and was told to ensure it never happened again or it would unfortunately have to go on her file.
Famous residents of the area are the Belted Galloway cattle. This chap or chappess has the distinct white band around its middle. Anna made me stop on a dangerous busy road so she could capture the above photograph. In fairness most fields of cattle were not Belted Galloways; you had to stop when you found one. They are not common throughout the area nowadays. Just as you might entertain a small child with a car journey game I found Anna was easy to occupy with the task of reviewing every field full of cattle, of which there were many, for the Belties. (Google tells me that their beef is top quality, something unlikely to endear the animal to my vegetarian wife.)
We visited beaches, other than the one across the road, and they were all fairly empty. Water sports or BBQ’s were often underway. Below is Bayhorse Bay which was shallow for a long way out.
I was allowed to take my bike and clocked up 120 miles over the three days. Up toward Galloway Forest the views and tranquility were sublime. Cycling was popular whether road cycling or mountain bikes. This is a snap I took as I laboured up a track.
Anna was lured out one evening for a route she picked. Sadly, she didn’t work out the amount of climbing she’d elected to do. However, after 270 metres of severe climbing, it seemed to meet Baby Jesus, she was allowed to turn her bike around and quickly descend toward a pub in Kirkcudbright where she was rewarded with a gin and tonic.
It has to be said that the road traffic was light to non-existent on this night and on my other jaunts. The Scots can have a very unattractive road surface in places, this consists of a thick gloopy tar that is very uneven and peppered with large chunks of aggregate. On a later ride I lost the feeling in my hands through the vibrations over such roads. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that being a hero I battled on.
Kirkcudbright was an attractive settlement at the top of the estuary. We had a wander around and used the supermarkets. Most of the area hasn’t started to cater for the idle elite who want artisan bakeries unless this type of Snickers bar and shortbread combo is big in Islington. I must admit a shop with a loaf of sourdough would have been a treat but what you lose in sophistication is gained in peace, quiet and exclusivety.
We drove about and visited the local towns including Gatehouse of Fleet, Wigtown, Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas. We did drive into Dumfries but it was busy and didn’t seem to have a lot of charm; so we drove along the Solway and out toward Dalbeattie. All the towns were ‘working’ small settlements with their own character but little to detain you. Wigtown has a reputation for books and there were several second hand book shops for those attempting to find some old mighty tome.
The weather was always mild and up until the last day it was dry but there again you don’t go to Scotland for the weather. I’d like to go back and head further west to Stranraer next time and then have a look up the west coast.