Those who know me will know that I’m a serial planner. When it comes to planning trips away there is no exception. I envisioned spending the summer of 2020 exploring new European cities and swimming in the med. Of course, all of our plans were uprooted this year and it gave me the opportunity to take a step back and take life one day at a time.
The pandemic has thrown plans out of the window and made ruin of my carefully laid out two year plan. However, it’s not all doom and gloom and I believe it’s opened up new opportunities and ideas to me that I never thought of before. It’s also meant I’ve explored places a little closer to home.
Over the strict lockdown period, I spent months exploring bike rides and areas close to me and was amazed at how many areas of beauty were accessible by foot from my house. I also started to appreciate what beautiful scenery we had here in the UK and I started thinking of where else I could explore in the country.
This led to conversations with my roommates from Sydney, Katherine and Stephanie about a trip together in the UK. We decided to head to Scotland and the west coast country of Ayrshire for a week. With little knowledge of what was in the area, we took advantage of accommodation at Brunston Castle and set off.
I decided to get a plane to Glasgow from Birmingham since it was the cheapest mode of transport to Scotland. I only paid £45 for the return flights which felt like an absolute bargain! The airport experience was pretty similar to what it was like in the past and I felt safe, comfortable and happy. Everyone in the airport was social distancing and complying with wearing masks.
On the plane, Easyjet made sure to leave a space between each separate passenger so no one was squished up against someone they don’t know. The flight was only short so I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all and the experience made me much happier at the thought of longer flights in the future under the same restrictions.
I had a few hours waiting at the airport for the girls to arrive from Luton. The only place serving food before security in the airport was the wetherspoons so I braved the busy restaurant for a seat and a bite to eat.
The girls finally arrived and we set off to the car hire to pick up our chariot of choice for the trip. We had booked a Ford Fiesta but lucked out on an upgrade to a chunkier and larger car which was perfect for the windy and bumpy roads we drove on over the week.
Brunston Castle was around an hour and a half from the airport. It was nestled in a large valley and each property on the sight offered seclusion and privacy. We loved our little cottage for the week which was fully self contained and comfortable. That evening, after making a curry for dinner, we set off for a quick walk before the sun went down. The sunset was beautiful and the rolling hills around us felt very different to the landscape down south.
We decided to split our days between packed and relaxed. Our first full day edged on the more relaxed side. We headed to the main town in the area, Ayr. This small town has a unique location on the edge of a river running into the sea. There are historic bridges crossing through the town with views out to the ocean. We walked along the beachfront here and bought some items that might make our stay in Scotland a little more comfortable.
We headed to bed fairly early for a rousing 5am wake up call. Our ferry to the Isle of Arran, an island off the coast of west Scotland was booked for 7am and we were over an hour away from the port. We set off around 5.45am and got to the port with around 10 minutes to spare. Once on the ferry, it was masks on the whole way unless you were sitting outside. Since the morning brought with it such lovely weather, we decided to brace the wind and cold and sit outside. The island is mountainous and as we approached we caught sight of the highest point on the island which we planned to hike that day. It is called Goatfell and is over 700m above sea level.
The ferry ride took just under an hour and we arrived just before 8am. Of course not much was open so early in the morning so we strolled along the boardwalk of the main town until we spotted a bakery. Armed with fresh goodies and hot chocolate, we found a beach to sit and eat on overlooking the beach. We sat here until 10am and decided to start our ascent.
Although the guides online told us to take the bus to the starting point of the hike at Brodrick Castle, since we missed the bus by a few minutes we chose to walk it. It was less than a 20 minute walk and there was pavement along most of the road, making it perfectly safe. The hike to the top of Goatfell was long and uphill consistently. The first half is through forest and heather, but once past the tree line you are exposed and following a rocky path to the top. Much of the last ascent is bouldering over rocks but with lots of rest stops it is doable for most hikers.
The view at the top is spectacular, with amazing views down to the sea and a surprising mountain range on the other side. We chose a great day in terms of weather to attempt this hike and could see the coast of Ireland in the distance. We made sure to get lots of photos at the top, making the hike worth the while! The descent was the same way back down and tiring on the legs. We were all relieved to make it to the bottom of the mountain where a pub is located. We stopped here for a drink and some well deserved food.
A surprising addition to the day was the introduction of midges. These small little flies seemed like nothing, but after hiking up and down the mountain I was covered in little bites that resulted in days of scratching. Do make sure to take insect repellent with you!
Our day on the island was long, with our return ferry at 7pm, but at no point did we feel we had outstayed our welcome. Hiking up Goatfell was a fantastic day activity and the quaint town of Brodrick was also lovely to walk around and explore. The island does have more to offer, so for those with more time, do consider a stay here.
This was our longest day in Scotland and as a result we spent the next day relaxing and recovering at our cottage. Although we may not have done much physically, it was lovely to spend some quality time with Katherine and Stephanie just enjoying each other's company.
The next day we left early for another adventure day, this time to the city. We drove the hour trip to Glasgow and spent the day mostly walking and checking out the sights. Due to Covid-19, a lot of attractions were pre-bookable only and had already sold out of allocation. We therefore couldn’t visit any museums or art galleries but we did walk from the downtown area to the university which was a lovely walk. It took around 40 minutes and crossed through traditional streets and expansive parks. The University of Glasgow has been compared to Hogwarts many times. Although none of Harry Potter was filmed here, it is said that JK Rowling did get her inspiration from here and you can see why.
Around the University Campus is a series of sweet lanes filled with art and boutique shops. We spent a fun afternoon exploring them and picking up some local artwork and pieces. That evening we had set our eyes on a Korean restaurant in the city but when we got there realised they hadn’t updated their google info and they were closed. We were there on the last day of the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme and many restaurants were either booked out or had lines down the street. Luckily I spotted a Dim Sum restaurant which were able to squeeze us in and we had an amazing meal here. Glasgow really impressed me and was a nice day out in the city.
We headed back to our little haven in the valley for the night and the next day spent a rainy and wet afternoon in Galloway Forest. This Forest is the largest in the UK and had many loches and waterfalls to explore. We chose a mid-lenght walk in the forest to shield us from the rain and despite the cloud got some nice views of the scenery around us.
Our last day was spent at Culzean Castle which is a 16th century castle and home surrounded by the beach and cliffs on one side and expansive grounds on the other. Although the house wasn’t open to explore, the grounds were large enough to keep us entertained all day.
They had a small walled garden, a swan lake, a deer park and of course a long line of coast to walk. We also found caves in the cliffs which were used by smugglers to get to the castle. This was another great and varied day out in the Ayrshire area and we felt we had made each day different to the other.
On our last evening, me and Katherine set off to pick up some Fish and Chips and stumbled upon an amazing sunset over the beach in Girvan. We attempted to eat some chips on the beach but the seagulls amassed very quickly so we hid in the car. The sunset was incredible and really was an amazing day to round off the trip.
On the final day our flights were early in the morning and before 10am I was back home in Lichfield. Our trip to the West Coast of Scotland was fantastic and really showed the variety on offer. Although I had never heard of the area before, we were able to make each day different and I learnt a lot about the area, it’s history and people. Although it wasn’t the sunny summer holiday I expected this year, it was a great break from reality.
I hope your UK break experiences were equally interesting this year and that you learnt a little more about what is available in our varied and beautiful country.