My brothers and I were all eagerly anticipating our trip across the border in our motorhome to bonnie Scotland, as we had never travelled that far north before. What would lie in wait for us? Would we be able to comprehend the canine accent in all the various regions? Would we be easily able to find good, doggie friendly pubs?
My pawrents’ idea was to explore mainly the coastal areas of Scotland, beginning first of all with the western coastline. We set off very early one morning and after a very long drive our first port of call across the border was Gretna Green, where we stopped off at The Old Blacksmith’s shop which is dog friendly along with their gift shop. In the past it was famous for people running away from home to get married, often strictly against their families’ wishes. Today people travel from all over the world to have their weddings there. Apparently when the person presiding over a wedding hits a hammer against an anvil a couple is officially married. Unfortunately this happened when Gizmo and I were inadvertently exploring the area and we were therefore deemed to be officially married by the powers that be!
However, due to my brother’s excessively bad behaviour which included frequent drunken brawls and barking out of obscenities, the marriage was immediately annulled forthwith. Phew! Needless to say I heaved a huge woof of relief!
After that narrow escape we soon came across Galloway Forest park, a Dark Sky Park, one of the very few areas in the UK where in the evening you are plunged into total darkness and can see the stars above.
From there we travelled to the delightful town of Invergary which has a beautiful castle (dog friendly grounds only) and an old jail (dogs visit for free) to explore. We stayed at a campsite just a couple of miles outside town and I have to say we were soon mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the countryside, despite the incessant rain which did not dampen our spirits. Well not Gizmo or Pupstar anyway!
We discovered the ferries in Scotland are pet friendly and our first experience on one of these vessels was in Oban where we caught the ferry to the Isle of Mull. There we headed for the quaint, picturesque fishing village of Tobermoray, which has a very dog friendly pub called Macgochans by the harbour.
Needless to say Gizmo had a tour round a whisky distillery, one of many visits on our journey I hasten to add!
After a walk round with Gizmo in a semi-inebriated state we decided to find our own spot to camp. This is the great thing about Scotland – unless there are signs telling you not to do so it is perfectly legal to do some wild camping. We were lucky enough to find a very peaceful location with stunning views of a Loch opposite.
We left the Isle of Mull by ferry the next day and continued our journey northwards.
After a fairly long day of driving we came across a lovely dog friendly pub called the Torridon Inn. We were immediately greeted and fussed over effusively by the bar staff and were given water and treats to eat. My pawrents had a very nice meal and were even allowed to charge up their mobile phones and iPad. Generally we found eating out a bit hit and miss: whilst some places welcomed us with open arms, others only allowed dogs in when food wasn’t being served and others had a total ban!
One of the highlights of the trip was undoubtedly our stay at Durness Bay. The beach there is spectacular – turquoise seas crashing against the rocky cliffs and soft sand on which we ran our little socks off! Our campsite had beautiful views overlooking the beach and if the weather had been consistently sunny it would not have looked out of place in a holiday brochure promoting the Caribbean.
We moved on along the northern coastline and visited John O’Groats. We stayed on a campsite right on the edge of mainland Britain, overlooking the spectacular Pentland Firth and the Orkney Islands. The immense wind buffeted the motorhome around but this all added to the atmosphere! It was nice to see that John O’Groats has not been too commercialised. There is a gift shop and places to eat and drink but it was lovely not to see too many buildings and traffic.
We travelled down along the eastern coastline for a while and enjoyed the scenery in the Grampians and Cairngorms (another dark sky zone). As we were in Scotland we just had to visit Loch Ness and met a man who has been living on the beach at one end of the Lake since 1991. He is absolutely fascinated by the Loch Ness Monster and has been stationed there in the hope of one day spotting the elusive creature.
We didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had made friends with a family of Nessies.
We enjoyed the western side of the country so much so that we headed back but this time we went to the Mull of Kyntyre. We stayed on a charming little campsite right by the sea. The wind was making the motorhome sway so much that mumzie wanted dad to park further away from the edge of the cliff! The views were stunning and we were able to have a run on the beach there.
We travelled around Loch Lomond and the next day we thought we would pop into Falkirk to see the amazing ‘Kelpies’, two statues of monsters made entirely of metal plates. The structure is hollow inside. It is truly an incredible sight and well worth a look if you’re ever in the area. In the evening it is lit up to make this look even more spectacular.
Scotland is indeed a truly beautiful country. Once you get away from the cities the scenery is stunning, particularly in the Highlands in the west and the north. It may have rained on us for a few hours every day but this did not detract from our enjoyment. It is wonderful to think that on this small island of ours there are still places which you can visit that are very remote and peaceful. The mountains, lochs, brooks, streams, cliffs and green fields are sights to behold! We met many friendly people and by the end of our trip I could even understand most of what our Scottish canine friends had to bark about! Most of the campsites we encountered were dog friendly. We shall be woofing about our experiences there for a long time and we shall certainly return there one day in the not too distant future!
PS. There are lots of ticks in Scotland and we saw warning signs up in most campsites. Make sure you’re up to date with your treatment before setting off on your hols.