Scotland: Islands and Highlands
The 4 am ferry from Larne, Northern Ireland pulled into the dock at Cairnryan, Scotland at dawn. We hadn't slept well knowing we needed to be on a 4 am ferry, and the upright seats on the ferry hadn't allowed more than some brief nods. I pulled the campervan into the nearest rest stop and we slept for several more hours, eventually waking in the late morning, ready to start exploring Scotland ... a soon as we found some coffee! ATB#1 (Approved Travel Buddy) and I were on a grand adventure caravanning around the UK. We had picked up our beast of a campervan (painted with fearsome eyes and zebra stripes) in Dublin and had spent the last 10 days or so exploring the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Our plans in Scotland were going to start by exploring some of the Scottish Islands and had a rough itinerary that would begin on the Isle of Arran the following day. We headed north along the coast towards Ardrossen where the Caledonian MacBrayne (Cal-Mac) ferry would take us to Brodick. The route would take us through several towns along the way.
The first town we stopped in was Ayr. Ayr is an ancient market town on the edge of the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland. Ayr has been a tourist resort since the mid 1800s mainly due to the beautiful sand beach, golf centers, and for fans of Robert Burns, the poet. It is also the home of the annual Scottish Grand National Equestrian Steeplechase and the Scottish International Airshow.
It was a showery and windy day, so there wasn't a lot happening on the beach. There was a group of riders exercising their horses along the beach.
Along the promenade are signs indicating the "Lang Scots Mile Walk". This paved "Scots Mile" path was built to encourage locals to get out and walk but also to honour Robert Burns and the Scots Mile.
The walk takes visitors to the remains of Cromwell's Fort and Miller's Folly. The fort was built by Cromwell's army back in the 1600s. A couple of hundred years later a local businessman called John Miller bought the Fort and declared himself "Baron" and added this quirky tower to the old walls. There was no use for this tower and locals dubbed it "Miller's Folly"
Over the River Doon is the Brig o' Doon also known as the Auld Brig of Ayr, and the topic of another Burns poem. Burns tells of a conversation between the old and new bridges where the old bridge tells the new bridge that he will be standing longer.
The Auld Brig replies-
"Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!
This mony a year I've stood the flood an' tide;
And tho' wi' crazy eild I'm sair forfairn ,
I'll be a brig when ye're a shapeless cairn!
It turns out Rabbie was right. The New Brig was demolished after a severe storm in 1879. Today's New Bridge is a complete rebuild but the Old Bridge of Ayr is still standing as a pedestrian pathway and historical monument.
We read about a lovely campsite on a working sheep farm and horse stable called South Whittlieburn Farm near the seaside town of Largs. We made our way to the delightful farm and explored the farms and enjoyed a long walk along the rural road.
The next morning we continued along the road, stopping in another seaside town called Largs, with a fabulous Viking sculpture, beautiful beach, and amazing art deco architecture.
There was no way to resist the urge to stop and have brunch (and ice-cream) at Nardini's and ogle the stunning surroundings before heading off to catch our ferry.
We could have chosen to drive straight to Ardrossen in a couple of hours but we were enjoying our slow travel and meandering. However, as experienced travellers, we know that long trips are marathons, not sprints and that we will always discover something special when we slow down and take the time to look around.
Thanks for meandering with me! Do you like to take the slow route or go straight to your destination? What are some of your highlights that you discovered when you were travelling without a strict schedule? Share your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments. Send the link to a friend and help grow our community. Become a member to get notifications of new content, access to our members' only forum, and a monthly newsletter full of chatter, hints, tips, & links, plus more!