Skip to main content


Seaside Special - A honeymoon and a fast car: Argyll

Before I first visited Argyll - so before 1996 - I had imagined it to be characteristically highland Scotland: full of muscular, bare crags heaped upon each other with scree slopes crashing down into lochs overlooked by impossibly romantic ruined castles. This betrayed uncharacteristically rank research on my part. Argyll was not like that at all. I usually made an exhaustive study of the nooks and crannies of any of my potentials destination long before making a booking. On this occasion, I was under-prepared and poorly informed. But as this was a honeymoon stay, maybe other matters were legitimately clouding my mind. I do not wish to suggest that I was in any way disappointed with the geography of the area. Far from it. I was thoroughly pleasantly surprised. Our cottage was in a remote spot off the road between Crinan and Achnamara, perched above Loche Choille-Barr. The one-bedroom bungalow, converted from a threshing barn, had acres of land sloping away to the shore. The air was s
Recent posts

Seaside Special - Lowlands highlife: Ayrshire and West Galloway

Another sleeper experience. Having introduced the concept on the Night Riviera , and knowing that this series includes another two such journeys, I’ll skip the detail here and save it up for the Fort William piece. I was a Sleeper Virgin then. By the time I visited Ayr I was an old tart (but on new stock). I emerged from the train at silly-o’clock, blinking into Glasgow Central. Time to seek out breakfast and devise a plan. On Gordon Street, apart from a hubbub around the station entrance (featuring a long, ornate canopy below a renaissance style hotel. Neither had the glorious glass and wrought iron canopy of the main hall escaped my attention. It’s never too early to remark on the architectural detail…), the streets were quiet. It was, after all, before 8am on a Tuesday morning. I found the flower boxes and check tablecloths of Barolo on Mitchell Street very appealing and asked the manager who was just sweeping down the little patio area whether I was too early to be fed. I was u

Seaside Special - Off the beaten track: Dumfries and Galloway

Dipping our noses over the Scottish border for the first time on this circumnavigation, the broad, sparse and forested acres of Dumfries and Galloway beckon. We are back in 2007 now, on our way home from a three-generation, eight-berth family holiday in a remote house on the Sound of Sleat. More of that in later pages. The series goes clockwise, so we’ll hit North West Scotland later. For now, imagine five of us packed into a battered Zafira heading on a long schlep south and looking for somewhere to break the journey. We’d parted company with Mum, Dad and Bruv as they prepared to drop off their hire car and couple up with the Kyle of Lochalsh Line for the splendid Highland train journey back to Inverness via Achnasheen.   “Stop the car!” cried Granny. She’d lost a knitting needle. The girls chuckled and raised collective eyebrows. We were seriously overdue a break, though and this was the cue to pull over. Tourist Information helpfully found us B&B in Annan (remember when that

Seaside Special - Shifting sands: Cumbria

Is there anywhere finer in England than the Lake District? As a Yorkshire lad, it takes a lot for me to nod such glowing approval towards the west. But without sounding like a tourist office publication, Cumbria pretty much has it all. The region is England’s only genuinely mountainous area. It looked positively Alpine-esque on my first visit here as a callow youth, gazing up at the jags and serrations of Sca Fell Pike, Helvellyn, Great Gable and the like. I soon discovered the equally beautiful, if less dramatic, fells around Ambleside, Coniston and Grasmere; stunning passes into Buttermere and Eskdale; and sparse, squat villages like Elterwater, Boot and Glenridding. And the lakes themselves, of course. Swimming in Derwentwater on a summer evening outside the youth hostel. Stone-skimming on Wastwater under the vast bleakness of Whin Rigg. Throwing up on the shores of Crummock water after eating a rotten chicken breast. It was some while before I fully appreciated the Cumbrian c