It rained on Tuesday. But were we defeated? No way! We are English and so we are stoical. Was Captain Scott put off by a little bit of snow when he gallantly allowed that cheating Norwegian, Roald Admundsen, to get to the South Pole first? No, he wasn't. Of course, he froze to death, but that was just a minor inconvenience. The MadGang are on holiday so we do the holiday stuff and damn the elements. So, up we get and off we go.


Girvan is a small town on the South Ayrshire coast. It was originally a fishing port but with the arrival of the first steam packets in the Nineteenth Century it became a popular seaside resort. Like all British seaside towns its glamour days are long gone and, to be honest, it is a rather run down and dismal town now. It's high street is particularly depressing. But it is rescued from being a complete write off by a fine beach of silver sand and a bustling, working harbour.

Historically, Girvan was significant as the home of the Hairy Tree. According to legend, the Hairy Tree was planted by Sawney Bean's eldest daughter in the town's Dalrymple Street.[citation needed] However, when her family was arrested, the daughter was implicated in their incestuous and cannibalistic activities and was hanged by locals from the bough of the tree she herself planted. According to local legend, one can hear the sound of a swinging corpse while standing beneath its boughs. The Hairy Tree's whereabouts are currently unknown, but two high profile campaigns have been launched to relocate it. (Wikipedia)

Although modern Girvan was officially founded in the Seventeenth Century, the site of the town has a ancient history. It was under Viking rule at one time and the inhabitants still celebrate a fire festival in November every year. In the Middle Ages it became a place where legal proceedings took place and it is still has a law court.

Up from the beach on the edge of the shopping area is the Stumpy Tower, built to house the town's miscreants back at the beginning of the 1820s.

Ailsa Craig (Scottish Gaelic: Creag Ealasaid) is an island of 219.69 acres in the outer Firth of Clyde, Scotland where blue hone granite was quarried to make curling stones. "Ailsa" is pronounced "ale-sa", with the first syllable stressed. The now uninhabited island is formed from the volcanic plug of an extinct volcano. The island was a haven for Catholics during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, but is today a bird sanctuary, providing a home for huge numbers of gannets and an increasing number of puffins. The island is currently owned by 8th Marquess of Ailsa, 19th Earl of Cassillis but is up for sale for £1,500,000. (Wikipedia)

My plan for the day was to visit Girvan and then go for a leisurely walk along the coastal path. However, Mrs MP decided over lunch that we were, instead, going to climb up into hills. Personally I thought this a little foolish, if not downright dangerous bearing in mind the weather, but I learned long ago that it's best not to argue with my wife when she has a goal fixed in her sights.

So, we drove to the picturesque village of Barr, parked the car at the bottom of the track that ascends up the Water of Gregg valley and started to trudge up the brae alongside the bonnie banks of the fast flowing stream. Not only did we survive, despite the persistent rain and threat of being enveloped in low lying clouds, we, in fact, had a marvellous ramble and got to gawp at some truly lovely scenery.

About a third of the way along the trail we came across a substantial memorial cairn raised in memory of a young shepherd who died nearby.

Christopher McTaggart (Kirstie to his friends and family) a nineteen year old shepherd lad set out on January 11th 1913 in a raging blizzard to care for his sheep. Later that day he was found dying by his twin brother David and two friends. Their efforts to restore heat to his frozen body were in vain. He died fifteen minutes later. With such weather they were unable to carry his body back. Kirstie's faithful dog "Wag" refused to leave his master. The following day between twenty and thirty men set out for the Howe of Laggan to bring back the body of their friend. At Kirstie's funeral the Reverend John Angus charged the young men of the village to raise a memorial to the young shepherd and this they did by building a cairn a few yards from the spot where he died.

After our brief stop at the cairn we crossed over the hill to descend back down to the car alongside the Changue Burn. It was tough going at times. At one point we had to climb down a hundred odd foot, steep, muddy bank which, after all the rain was extremely treacherous. But it gave me the chance to be a real man, leading the way and holding out my hand to Mrs MP so that she did not slip.

Legend has it that near High Changue, there is the site of a famous battle between the Laird of Changue and the Devil. The story goes that Changue was getting short of money and he decided to make a bargain with the Devil. He would sell his soul in return for great wealth. The Laird's fortunes changed and he prospered for many years. When the time came to deliver his soul the Laird reneged on his bargain and refused to go. The Devil proceeded to lay hold of him, but Changue placing his Bible on the turf and drawing a circle with his sword around him, sturdily and, as it turned out, successfully defied his opponent. The story must be true because to this day on the hill above High Changue you can still see the Devil's footprints, the circle drawn by the sword and the mark of the Bible clearly visible on the grass.

In the next photo you will see some Scottish sheep, in a field in the middle of South Ayrshire, trying their hardest to ignore the fact that there is a South American camelid in the field with them. If they could, they would probably spray "HOME RULE FOR SCOTLAND! ALPACA GO HOME!" on the side of one of the barns.



  1. This must be the place referred to in the Bible where it says “He restorith my soul.” Because that is surely what must happen in such a beautiful area. Thank you for sharing the pictures. Perhaps the sun will come out soon.

  2. It’s like a Western Washington holiday, BUT the sun returned to our neighborhood yesterday in time for the 4th. I’m sure the same miracle can happen for you. Thanks for sharing the pictures!

  3. It always amazes me how much beautiful country there is in England. So much of it green, leafy and unspoiled by cement and tar and buildings. So many places to let the dogs off leash! :>)

    I hope that a book comes out of all of this someday! Happy holiday!

  4. Lovely pictures of the dogs and the countryside. I like the house down the hill in the last photo. Is it inhabited, do you think?

  5. Then I take it that it’s more than just a house. And I noticed that Nij said England and went back to read the post to be sure that you are still in Scotland! Don’t tell the Scots! Bad Nij!!

  6. Oh gee, my bad there! let me re-phrase; 0H NO, because it really doesn’t surprise me that SCOTLAND is greener and leafier and bushier because I am under the impression that SCOTLAND has a smaller population than does England.

    Inyhoo, this is a good time to ask the question: is the plant life and vegetation actually different in SCOTLAND than in England?

    No war please, I’m a love, not a fighter! :>)


  7. Happy, happy collies. Mwah!

    Scottish proposition: “Lassie, want to get together and Knockushion?” ;-p

  8. Nij. To an extent it is. But it is probably more to do with altitude than latitude as Scotland has considerably more high land than England and what they’ve got is a lot higher than what we’ve got. They’ve also got more wild, uncultivated land which has allowed for the persistance of rare fauna and flora that we wiped out years ago with our industrial style agricultural practices. Then there is the fact that some parts of Scotland, especially the outlying island. But you can find oak trees in Scotland and rowan trees in England. Some parts of Scotland look no different to the home counties of England as far as vegetation is concerned. Let’s face facts here, the UK is a piddling little country which you can drive from one extreme of to the other in less than half a day without breaking the speed limit. And global warming is changing everything. Scotland is looking lusher than I have ever seen it this year because of all the rain and humidity.