We set off for Scotland on a Friday morning, the intention was to meet friends for a party in Inverness. Our plan was to drive around 6 hours and then stay two nights somewhere and then continue for another 4 hours to arrive in Inverness. Our planned stopping place was Culzean Castle near to Ayr, a Camping and Caravan site in the Castle grounds.
Off we set, no weekend drivers around and we made very good progress. Alas we took the expensive decision and went via the M6 Toll road. How flipping expensive is that, £11, could have done over 100 miles on French toll roads for that price. In France we were treated as a car, in the UK as a van. On we drove continuing at maximum speed until we reached the motorway upgrade. A few years ago roadworks were kept to no more than 3 miles. This so called intelligent motorway upgrade went on for 10+ miles with average speed cameras, and hardly a person to be seen working. Oh well, at least we made a reasonable 50mph on that section, and of course Google Navigation knew about this and had already factored it in for our estimated arrival time.
We stopped off for our own home-made sandwiches (we have to make some savings after the M6 toll fiasco) at the Westmorland Services which has the famous farm shop. We did buy a Cappuccino, and some posh bread, which turned out to have raisins in it. (This bread turned out fine as a complement to are pre-prepared evening vegie stews over the next two nights.) Google had not factored in this stop, so we were now behind her schedule.
We continued on our way crossing into Scotland and turned off at J12 towards Ayr. Rather worryingly there were road closed signs on the way we were going. We continued, then more signs with some mentioning the village of Douglas, but we continued. There was hope, vehicles were still coming the other way. Suddenly we saw there was a recovery operation in progress where some vehicle had gone over the edge of the road on a bridge and down into a small valley. There were a couple of marooned trucks on either side of the recovery. No problem Google sorted us out with a short detour down some single-track roads. We were soon at Culzean Castle after travelling 376 miles at 53mph.
At Culzean Castle campsite, we were greeted by the site manager and were shown various parking options. We chose one over-looking the sea and potentially the Isle of Arran. Yes, it was in view. Still with some day-light, we took a little walk through the woods and to the National Trust of Scotland road entry to the castle grounds. Back at the campsite we ate our dinner of bread and veggie stew, and took a well-earned drink before going to bed.
Today we had the entire day to explore the Castle grounds. We walked back to the entry, showed them our NT cards and walked to the castle to get the first tour of the day. Wow, the flint lock pistol collection was fabulous with more than 750 pistols. The largest public display of flint lock pistols in the world. We were explained the history of the place. Not much sticks in my mind, other than the male line were always called Archibald Kennedy. The top floor of the house was set aside for Eisenhower, who used it during WWII and after when he was president until his death in 1969. The floor is now set aside as the Roosevelt Hotel.
The park is huge and we spent several hours exploring the lake and various paths through the site. We ended up for scones, jam and tea at the visitor centre. Our walk back to the campsite was met by a stream of cars and taxis arriving for a wedding which was due to take place that evening.
Our humble evening meal over, I went out to photograph the entry gates to the park. There were some nice steel lighted balls which deserved a picture, and a fabulous gateway from the public road which looked good in the dark.
Up early, packed away, we set off from Culzean at 7:39, stopping at the Electric Brae to try and figure out whether the road sloped one way or the other. Wasn’t total impressed, but the real slope was in the opposite direction to the perceived eye view of the slope. I think the picture proves this, then I am taking it for granted that the plaque was not misrepresenting the heights. We arrived at Inverness in a few minutes less than the predicted 4 hours given by Google. One overriding thought about Scottish roads are the number of average speed cameras on the A9, the number of flashing signs in villages for speed, and the pervasive 20 mph zones in villages and towns.
Leaving Inverness at 9.50 we headed off south to stay at a campsite near Carlisle, the Darlston Hall Holiday Park and Golf Club. A five-hour drive with 42 minute stop near Stirling. Average speed 53.2. The road from the motorway to Darlston Hall competed with Milton Keynes on roundabouts, coming a very credible second.
Darlston Hall has many permanent holiday homes. The campsite does also have touring caravans with many obviously parked over the week for weekend use. Not many people in residence today. We took a walk into the village to buy some food, 1.5 mile walk mainly along road. The village has a butchers and a well stocked CO-OP. The walk back was different, through the church cemetery, around the playing fields and past the Nestle factory. The path continued along the river, until we took a left and headed into the holiday park. The holiday park has a golf course, and the camping fees include use of course.
We ate our meal and went to bed. The wind was rising and at midnight I closed the pop up roof, good decision as it was raining and very windy in the morning.
Final drive back home, where we met horrendous rain and wind over the lake district. Windscreen wipers working at maximum. Van battered by winds. The BBC news in the evening, picked out the lake district as having over 20 cms of rain that day. Further South it all dried out for the rest of the journey home. Being skin flints, we drove the M6 through Birmingham, not a bad choice, very free flowing traffic, and saved us £11, almost missed the M42 junction.