Monday, 23 September 2013

A Scottish Stay-cation.

The last time I took a proper leave of absence from work was back in February in order to finish off my flat redecoration, so I was very much in need of some relaxing time off and time away from home.

Despite all my world wanderings over the years, I have not holidayed in my own country for an extremely long time, so it was about time I had a look in my own backyard again.

The West coast was once again the focus of our attention and we had various ideas of where we would travel to, but of course being Scotland much of this would depend on the weather. It was hoped that we would have a mixed holiday bag of walking, road cycling and mountain biking, and stay in hotels, hopefully throwing in a spot of camping a long the way.

The starting point of my week of fun was Arran, a place I had not been since a family holiday back in 1978.

Me and my Bro back in 1978. Goat Fell in the background.

I was very much looking forward to going back, even more so given the fact that I was to be staying in the very luxurious Auchrannie Spa Resort. I have stayed in a wide variety of living quarters over my travels, but nothing this fancy, ever!

However, in order to get to the beautiful Arran, you do of course have to take the ferry. Not my most favourite mode of travel but thankfully only a half hour crossing and the waters were extremely calm. In order to get the maximum holiday time, an early sailing time was booked. Arriving in plenty time, we arrived in a sunny Ardrossan with great anticipation and excitement. This excitement was to be tinged with a slight apprehension, when the lady in the check in booth, told us that our sailing was actually booked for the following day!!! Thankfully, even although it was a bank holiday weekend the early crossing seemed to be on the quiet side and we were rebooked and boarded with no further problems.


All aboard the Cal Mac.

The day was so gorgeous, upon arrival we headed straight to Goat Fell and walk up the highest mountain on the island. It stands at around 874m which I think makes it a corbett. The path was quite busy with people but it was well worth it for the views from the top.

On the way up.

Looking down towards Brodick.

Blue skies.

Rescue helicopter practice.

Nice clouds.

The top.

The Auchrannie resort did not disappoint. The room was fairly spacious and nicely decorated and the bed was extremely comfy, what more could a girl ask for? A surprise bottle of bubbly certainly helped ease me into my lap of luxury.

A big part of travelling for me is the food and the often incredible difficulty I have trying to find anything gluten free. This always becomes more apparent when eating out in restaurants. I can not fault the menus and assistance I had from the staff at the Auchrannie in accommodating my dietary awkwardness. They were brilliant and I felt like a spoilt Princess.

Sadly the lovely sunny weather did not last and the next day we woke up to the usual wind and rain associated with sunny Scotland! Not to be put off we wandered in the rain to find a coffee shop before realising the rain was on for good, so we jumped in the van for a tour of the island. We had hoped to do this on the bikes, but it was not to be.

Day 3 and it was still raining. We needed to do something so a trail was found and off we went on a mountain bike ride. Not the best trail in the world, but it certainly blew away and drowned our cobwebs.

Rainy bike day followed by snooker.

Our hopes for doing some island hopping were dashed due to more bad weather so we headed north to Fort William, although the weather was not much better. the first night we stayed at the Holly Tree Hotel situated on the banks of Loch Linnhe. Again a very lovely hotel but sadly for me was let down by the less than helpful waitress when asked about gluten free choices.

View from ferry crossing back to mainland.

Ahh rainbow.

Room with a view.

Looking down the loch.

Looking up the loch.

We managed to squeeze in another mountain bike ride around the "Ten under the Ben route"without getting rained on, although the trail itself was mega muddy. It was a good route but not one of my favourites. I think it would be good for speedster types as opposed to my slowish pace.

That night we decided to camp and of course it stayed dry right up to the moment that we had set up and started cooking our dinner. Thankfully the master chef on hand was not phased and a mouth watering steak, mash and veg combo was produced. We were saved from further downpours by the very close proximity of the camp site and the pub.

The rain continued, so the dry tourist option was taken and a day out to Mallaig on the Jacobite steam train was booked. An all day activity but worth it for the views and experience.

Jacobite steam train.

It always rain in Fort Bill.

First class.


Steam and lonely church.

Steamed tree.

Glenfinnan viaduct

With continuing wet weather forecast we had to turn to plan E. As much as it pained my partner in crime the East bound plan was the only one left. Another mountain bike trail in Golspie was our destination with an over night stay at the coastal camp site in Dornoch.

The trail was set on the hillside of Ben Bragghie, but the only way to the top of the hill was via the black route. Now I have only been mountain biking for a few months so the thought of a black route at this stage was a mix of excitement and slight panic. The upper portion of the black was beyond my skill level so mostly pushed my bike to the top of the hill. The downhill was also quite technical and so some pushing was also involved on the way down, but I managed a fair chunk of it. The red route to the base was excellent and very enjoyable and so was the coffee bothy at the base that served me a BLT on gluten free bread. Mmmm Mmmm happy days.

Made it up and down alive!

Travelling home on the last day we stopped at Wolftrax to complete the upper and lower red routes.

The holiday was a great success on many levels and despite it being possibly the wettest week since May, much fun was had. I loved the fancy hotel but I also loved being back camping again. I also loved touring in my own country, I had forgotten how beautiful it is.

Sadly good things don't last forever and it's back to work tomorrow and time to save up for next year.

Haste ye back.

Peace x

All photographs by Caroline Harvey

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