Read on for beautiful sunsets, interesting beaches, autumn colour, tasty cakes and fabulous scenery!
The next post will be full of Julips as I'll have a report on the official Julip Live I went to on Saturday!
Dad's work commitments made booking a holiday this year rather awkward and we left this one extremely late, actually booking the house on the Monday, and arriving there on the Thursday! With the Julip Live on the Saturday, and a visit to my Grandma on the cards, the whole thing worked out rather well. We booked a week from Thursday to Thursday, then travelled down to Cheshire to see my Grandma for a few days, then I got the train down south for the Julip show. But that's for another post.. :P
After a late start, we headed south, stopping off for tea and cakes at the wonderful Loch Arthur Creamery near the delightfully named village of Beeswing. (named after a racehorse!)
They're a favourite of ours; with a huge variety of fresh home baking and a wealth of interesting foods and local produce for sale in the farm shop. I had a chocolate and courgette brownie which despite being a very bizarre combination, was delicious, and we bought a loaf of their bread too, along with a decidedly nomable chocolate and orange cake which barely lasted the afternoon.
The house we were staying in was a very lucky find, situated right on the shoreline at Rockcliffe, a very popular little bay we've visited numerous occasions before over the years. In the summer, it's heaving with visitors but at this time, it's a lot quieter, even during the October week's holiday. Our house was further down from the busy beachy bit, and after driving into a caravan site accidentally, (in our defence, the road was rather misleading!) we soon found our home for the week, and isn't it a beauty!
|A planter will be mentioned later on, and it's the one at the back. :P|
|This was a really lovely sculpture which appeared to be a flock of birds.|
It's only been a holiday home since August, and the owners have obviously spent a lot of time and care on making it as lovely as it is. Everything has a rather appropriate 'seaside' theme to it, and there was a bottle of wine and a box of Quality Street chocolates waiting for us on the table when we arrived which was really sweet.
|Not a bad view to look out on whilst eating your breakfast!|
Normally we unpack our stuff then explore the garden but this time round we'd no sooner got in and dumped our things, than we were out of the back gate and onto the path by the beach. Rockcliffe is aptly named, as it's more of a rock strewn and pebbly affair than a wide and sandy bay, but there's no shortage of interestingly shaped driftwood and more shells than you could shake a stick at to collect.
After our walk, we had our tea, and spent the next half hour trying to get the TV to work, ( it kept defaulting to the DVD player and then refusing to work after we switched that off) as well as trying to figure out how to open up this basket thing for putting cutlery into the dishwasher. (We don't have a dishwasher at home so didn't realise that it wasn't supposed to open at all. Oops.)
We managed to get it to work eventually though, but with considerable stress!
Our first full day began with dad reporting that a moth had somehow invaded his trousers and was crawling down his leg. XD
We then headed to our old haunt of Castle Douglas, which has the best craft shop I know. Wool, fabric, paint, ribbon, Fimo, copic markers, oh and a whole host of fossils, gems and minerals to buy upstairs! I always buy at least a couple of fat quarters for making rugs for my Julips as they have such a great range of fabric, even compared to Mandors in Glasgow. Since we were last there they've revamped the fabric section and extended the range of fat quarters so I ended up with more than a couple!
Afterwards we headed to Threave for lunch, only to find that the visitor centre was closed while they resurfaced the drive and car park, leaving only the newly opened 'Stables Cafe' in the garden.
After what appeared to be the world's most generously filled sandwiches, we went for a wander in the gardens. We were a week or two ahead of the best of the autumn colour but we still got lovely views.
There were more butterflies than I think I've ever seen at once, and all were Red Admirals! We did a count and saw at least 68!
Lots of hoverflies and bees too!
One animal we didn't see was a Red Squirrel, which was disappointing as you can nearly always spot one hiding up in the trees. A Red Kite flew overhead at one point though, so that was nice, though we'd have liked to complete the 'red' set.
We had a coffee later on at The Schoolhouse at Ringford - the sign outside always makes me laugh.
|(and they're not wrong about the great food - om nom NOM)|
After plootering around the house for a while, I decided to go for another walk, eventually joined by Dad. We didn't go far, just the half mile to Rockcliffe, but it blew away a few cobwebs.
One of my aims for the holiday was to take a photo of the beach from the same position as this old postcard I bought at an antiques fair recently.
The house with the three windows is still there, but the sand on the beach appears to have eroded away significantly since then! (It's also cow free nowadays too!)
I'm not entirely happy with my photo as I was working from a picture on my phone rather than the postcard itself, so it wasn't so easy to line up in the right place - not helped by the fact that the tide was in on the postcard but out when we visited! As it is, I think I was too far away, I should have been closer to the houses and more to the left.
The rest of the evening was spent watching the Rugby. (Tonga deserved more tries than they got!)
With the Scotland match on at 2, we only really had the morning to do anything outwith the house, so after Dad had emptied his moth trap, we headed out to Castle Douglas for some supplies.
We had a brief but appreciated sighting of the elusive red squirrel en route as it ran across the road in front of oncoming traffic, but luckily it scurried over in one piece. After a quick cup of coffee
and cake at 'Designs', we stocked up on local produce for tomorrow's breakfast, and hit the charity shops. I managed to find two pairs of fine leather gloves for £1 each, (perfect for tack making) a metal mesh bag for 50p (perfect for 1/6 scale chainmaille), a damaged vintage doll's house figure who I only really bought as I felt sorry for him, and a small pile of Barbie accessories, which with a repaint and new labels, will fit into the tackroom nicely. (and all for less than a fiver - bargain!) \
We also discovered a new fabric shop where I bought a lovely fat quarter with a horseshoe print! We chatted with the owner for a bit , then discovered that it was already 2 o'clock and legged it back to the car. Luckily, the match actually started at half past, and we switched the TV on just as both teams walked onto the pitch. Talk about excellent timing!
Update: We won. :p
It was the sort of day where just sitting out in the sunshine was enough, and I took the opportunity to do a bit of sketching, as I rarely do any at home. With Rough Island literally right in front of me all day, I had no excuse not to!
I also experimented with my iphone and a set of binoculars to see if I could use them like another lens and I have to admit, while the execution needs work, it's not bad for a few minutes faffing about!
|I couldn't even see these Oystercatchers without the binoculars!|
|I tweaked the depth of field on Instagram, not gonna lie.|
We headed out to Carsethorn after a rather delicious cooked breakfast of local sausage, bacon, eggs, black pudding and mushrooms.
Carsethorn is always a good place for beachcombing, though there wasn't as much as we usually find. Some of my ancestors lived in one of the cottages on the waterfront in the 19th century, though we're not sure which one, so there's always something nice about going there and finding fragments of what could have potentially been their dinnerplates! This time however, the only thing coming close to interesting was a dead dogfish, though we did eventually find a few good bits of blue and white china amongst the rocks. We always manage to go when the weather isn't in our favour, but it was nice this time round, even with Criffel looming over us in the distance.
I got a great view of a Curlew, my best yet!
Afterwards we stopped at another of our regular haunts - the New Abbey tearoom beside Sweetheart Abbey - where we enjoyed some rather good home baking, before heading back to the house.
En route back we got a smashing view of a hare, which ran across the track in front of us. You don't often see hares, let alone so close to human habitation so it was a real treat.
The night ended with a most spectacular sunset.
Castle Douglas was our first destination.
We had a quick browse in the junk shop...
(no bargains today sadly!) then went for lunch at old favourite cafe 'Designs'.
Afterwards we fancied a walk that wasn't beside the sea for a change, and headed off to Dalbeattie Forest.
The autumn colours were lovely, though there was still not quite enough of it for my taste!
We hoped to see another red squirrel but they were obviously doing a very good job of hiding from us as we saw no sign of them.
We did however, get a fleeting glimpse of a jay, then stumbled across a very fluffy caterpillar - a moth of some description...
...a Bumblebee queen...
...and an incredibly striking beetle, who we sent on his way once we tipped him back onto his feet.
A tiny little cafe had opened up in the conservatory of a local, who lives right next to one of the forest's car parks - ideally situated for walkers heading back to their cars after a nice stroll through the trees. We tried it out (very nice cake!) and wouldn't you know it, a little red squirrel was evidently a regular visitor to the garden! We didn't get the best of views because of a particularly annoying branch that blocked off the feeder, and the table of loud kids nearby managed to scare it off before I could get close enough to photograph it properly, but hey-ho, no complaints here, at least we got a reasonable view!
Although I'd felt myself tiring on the woodland walk, by the time I got back to the house I was ready for another, so after spending some time photographing the huge selection of Red Admirals on the rosehips by the house...
...Dad and I headed down the track up to Castlehill Point - the site of an ancient Iron Age hillfort with spectacular views.
I vividly remember going there when I was a child and being rather scared of getting too close to the edge - its a long way down!
On our way through the field, a couple of dogwalkers asked us if we'd seen what their dogs had just bolted after (one had three legs, not that you'd have noticed, as it was just as fast as it's four-legged friend!) We hadn't, but surmised it was probably a fox or a hare. We met another walker and her dog at the point itself - this time a tiny little toy poodly thing rather than the collies from before - she was running about like a mad thing and was so small you could barely see her in all the long grass!
The view was just as beautiful as I remembered it being, and you could see why it would have been an ideal place to build a fort back in the day. You could easily see anyone approaching from the sea, and it was high enough up that you'd get a good shot at anyone coming from land as well.
There was a tempting little beachy bit below, so after a rather tricky scramble down the steep and at times, rather slippery path, we stepped out onto the wonderfully named Lagmuck Sands.
Owing to the difficult climb down, I can't imagine many folk visit it, and there was something almost sacrilegious about making footprints on such an untouched stretch of sand. Unusually for this part of the coast there were hardly any shells to be found, mostly smooth sand and lots of stones, as well as some very well worn glass which was added to the finds bag.
|This was my favourite find of the day - a shell with a face!|
We were starting to lose the light when we headed back which made for some very striking photos. (especially in my case with Instagram's help!)
|That's Castlehill Point up there - see what I mean about the long way down?!|
As we walked through the field we spotted the hare again, this time hunkered down in the grass, trying to pretend he was invisible. We didn't want to spook him so we kept our distance, hence the crappy pictures, but it was still closer than I've ever seen a wild hare before.
We ended the evening with a couple of games of Scrabble, as per the family holiday tradition...and Mum won both as usual. XD
Dad was meeting a friend in the morning, so we all went back to Loch Arthur for coffee, then off to Sandyhills beach.
|Homemade apple sponge cake and yes, it tastes just as good as it looks!|
We don't often go there as the beachcombing is never as good as other places, and being the only *proper* sandy beach in the area, it's usually very busy. Unusually, despite the sun coming out it was still quite quiet.
Seizing the opportunity, I got a couple of Julips out and took photos of them for a while. I've long rejected the idea of being embarrassed by taking pictures of model ponies in public, so I lay on the damp sand with absolutely no qualms. XD I'll post them all in another post as I took rather a lot...
As I only get to the beach once a year usually, and it was such a lovely day, I took the plunge and went for a paddle. It was bloody freezing to begin with, but I managed to get in up to my knees at one point which I suppose isn't bad for October in Scotland!
|More evidence this was me actually there. XD|
By the time I got back to the house afterwards I could feel a headache coming on, which knocked me flat for the rest of the evening. I got up to take some photos of the sunset when I was feeling better and eventually decided to try out some Astrophotography again.
I tried it last year and it was a complete disaster but I had better luck this year I think. Dumfries and Galloway is a brilliant place for stargazing as there's next to no light pollution (something that I absolutely loathe back home) and it's the only place I've ever been where I can see the Milky Way clearly.
I tried shooting with my macro lens as I thought the wider aperture would guarantee better light, but no matter what I tried I couldn't get it to focus properly so eventually I just stuck the standard lens on and experimented until things started to work.
There was supposed to be an aurora visible that night which I at first thought this was, but now I reckon it was something else. It's still pretty though.
Overall, my pictures were hardly brilliant, but far better than my previous attempts, especially considering that I didn't have a tripod, and instead used a planter and a pair of binoculars to balance the camera. XD
Our last full day. We knew the visitor centre part would be open again so we went off to Threave for lunch. I'd given up on seeing a squirrel there so you can imagine my surprise when I looked out the window and this little thing shot past on the terrace!
I was literally gaping and pointing out the window, it was really funny. He came back five minutes later, from the other direction, then again, so I waited, camera in hand...and then some people went outside and sat with their lunch which I'm certain scared him off. Later on, Dad had a brilliant view of him on a peanut feeder round the corner, so we think he'd been grabbing food from there and taking a short cut through the terrace to stash it somewhere. According to the lady in the shop, he'd been making a nuisance of himself all week and had managed to destroy a brand new bird feeder the day it was hung up!
|The door to Threave House|
We stopped at a little pond near the cafe in search of Dragonflies.
Sure enough, we spotted a couple patrolling the perimeter and followed them, hoping they'd settle somewhere we could get photos of them and well, one kinda did.
...though I'm pretty sure my mum would have rather it stopped elsewhere!
Though at least it wasn't chewing a bee's head off, like the one that landed on my back on another holiday years ago...
Afterwards, we went to our final beach - Balcary Bay. We could just see it with binoculars from the house, and we found that we could spot the house from there too!
(That's us to the left of the long white building in the distance!)
There was a lovely little fishing boat moored there which made for some nice pics, as well as the view over Heston Island.
The beachcombing there is a bit erratic, though it's always good for shells.
We admired our last sunset of the holiday and finished packing everything up.
Day 8. - Leaving day!
We've been coming down to Dumfries and Galloway on holiday for just about as long as I can remember and this house is now firmly in our top three holiday houses! We'll definitely be back!
As we bid it farewell, we had a slightly disturbing view of a big chunky cat crossing the road with a dead red squirrel in its mouth! Typical! We see them everywhere but where we were staying and then this! XD
So yeah, a VERY enjoyable week and we were beyond lucky with the weather - normally at this time we're glad of a day or two without rain or wind, and we had a full week of sunshine!
My next post will be about Julips, I promise! I just wanted to get all this out of the way first. XD