Dumfries is absolutely wonderful; it's like a red Edinburgh. it is architecturally stunning, has a lot of interesting shops and places to look at and is, of course, the home of Queen of the South. We dropped Jenny off at the station that isn't signposted (it's the same in Stranraer, so this part of Scotland really likes giving you a mystery search) and then headed out of the busiest place we've found so far.
The Solway Trail really is something to behold, especially at points where you could literally be anywhere in the world. It winds and wends its way through that particular peninsula, passing right next to the sea and then minutes later through woods at the base of the solitary mountain that looms over the coast line. We barely saw any other cars after we disappeared from Dumfries, but by the time we got to the lovely Sandyhills Bay it was tourism central - there must have been 20 tourists on the massive beach. it was like the London Underground.
The picture to the left shows me doing my Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis impersonation, with the four dogs of the apocalypse and, yes, that is a massively impressive wind farm behind me, about five miles off shore - people who complain about things like this should have a fucking nuclear reactor built next to them, see if their three eyed children mind wind farms...
As you can see, it is sunny and it was also very warm - about 21 degrees according to the car - and the tide was well out, but I still got covered in mud. We walked for about a mile up the coast, where the wife took various photos of things such as rocks, seaweed and a few more rocks. The beach was great, but it didn't have the character that Back Bay has (plus there were people here and that simply won't do).
From there we decided to find somewhere to have lunch*. After lunch, we headed back along the trail and ended up in Kirkcudbright. I wasn't really fussed, it was 3.15 and we still had 40 miles to go to get home; but the wife decided she was going to have a look, so we broke the dogs out and got dragged round the streets of the Artists' Town and what a divine little place it is. It is pronounced Kerkoobree and it has its own micro-climate - it has only snowed there enough to settle once in the last 32 years and only half a dozen times since records began. "Oh, it gets cold, but never as cold as anywhere else in Scotland," said this 77 year-old ex-pat from Bow in East London. From the date palms, Mediterranean plants and secluded southerly facing bays, sheltered by the hills and mountains of Galloway to the north, Kerkoobree isn't the only place along this coast that gets this treatment, but it's probably the nicest.
The road home was a lot like parts of Dorset; the roads were still empty and when we got back to the main road we still had 25 miles to go and it was gone 5pm - fortunately, dinner had already been made. We stopped at a Smokehouse and bought cheese and (very expensive) locally produced strange jams - gooseberry and elderflower! We eventually got home just before six and everyone is knackered.
There is no TV here, so I've had BBC News streaming while we've been in, so I know what the world is doing, but generally it has been quite lovely not being governed by the box - but going away during the Olympics was always a clever move when you don't have a TV. I think tonight is going to be a short one before bed beckons. I've been ploughing my way through the first Grimy Thongs book and we're going to watch Carry on Vamping, which I downloaded today, to see if this latest series continues to impress after the last few really crappy camp series. That means watching it on a big monitor but with the sound this netbook kicks out - which is a bit like whisper in a dungeon. Tomorrow is going to be the woods; the big woods of the Galloway Forest Park. Marley wants to take Lexy hunting.
Disappointment of the day:
As the entire day was something of a highlight; for a while the worst thing was going to be having to pay £1.50 to park at Sandyhills Beach, especially as they've put it up by 50p since Google Street View was last there. But that was nothing compared to Auchencairn and the * from above.
The wife thought we'd blown our chances of finding a decent pub when we got to this very quaint and picturesque village about five miles past the beach. The Smugglers' Inn sold real ale, just, and they looked a bit posh and geared up for in door diners; but, hey, I'm on 'oliday, so screw that, let's see the lunch menu. As you might have guessed, Scotland doesn't really understand vegetarianism and the choices were simple - cheese and tomato sandwich or savoury cheese sandwich - a local delicacy of cheese, onion, mayonnaise, black pepper and tomato ketchup - it sounded like something a tramp would sick up after finding a skip outside Tesco. I asked the 'chef' if they could do us a plain cheese sandwich, which he seemed to think was really difficult and a cheese and onion sandwich which he didn't think was a problem.
Now as RnB will attest, my wife and pub food is pretty much a non-starter. In almost 30 years together, we have found two pubs that have served her food she has really liked and one of them was by mistake. Whenever my wife goes near a pub that sells food it's like all the staff become fucking cretins. "My wife is really fussy," I said explaining why she wanted just a cheese sandwich when he seemed to think that it would fall apart and offered to put mayo or toast it slightly to hold it together. "All she wants is a plain cheese sandwich on brown wholemeal bread and a bowl of chips - nothing else, just that." He nodded. "I don't care what mine comes with, but don't put anything else on hers." He nodded again and I felt comfortable. He seemed like a relatively intelligent man, if not a little... off.
They had a locally brewed beer called Grace, which was very nice and Greene King IPA - which I poured scorn on to the barman. When I took the drinks and the menus back, the next person in who ordered Grace was unlucky - it ran out. It was replaced by Old Speckled Hen, which meant I might as well have been in Northampton at a shit pub. The barman appeared about ten minutes later with our 'meals'. This little concoction of sandwiches and chips cost just shy of £15. Our 'sandwiches' if that's what you could call them, looked like they were made out of Tesco Value Thin-sliced White or Brown bread. I could almost have picked my teeth with the stuff it was so thin and also slightly battered - not as in fish, but as in it looked like the chef had pushed down on the tops of them both to ensure the pre-bought grated cheese didn't fall out. Mine came with a dollop of coleslaw that had that cheap shop bought smell; a handful of salted nacho chips and some salad that had some kind of dressing on it; all of this was sitting in the residue of the cheap smelly coleslaw. The sandwiches, the kind you would be given by your dirty friend's mum when you were 8, were untainted by the slurry on the plate, so we ate most of them. The chips were frozen - not literally, they were cooked, but they were obviously from a freezer bag.
I would have complained, but a) I was having a good day, b) we're on 'oliday, so you expect to get ripped off for shit food at least once and c) he was much bigger than me, the chef, and like I said he was a bit off. The dogs loved it!
The shame of it was the pub was nice; it had a lovely garden with a babbling brook at the bottom and the interior was remarkably warm and welcoming. They are off the beaten track, you'd think they would be bending over backwards to impress folk, because round her, word of mouth between chatting tourists is worth a damned sight more than advertising anywhere. So we disappeared as soon as the drinks were finished and got back on the road. It was just the food and all that surrounded it that was disappointing; had the food or the choice been better it would have topped a really good and satisfying day.