Towards the end of last week we got the irrestible urge for a mini-holiday somewhere. After considerable browsing, Loch Awe seemed to be just the ticket: promising weather forecasts for that area, beautiful surroundings, a castle to explore, and access to the West Highland Way for more adventurous walks. Neither of us felt like turning it into a major expedition by taking the caravan, so we looked into other options. Tent? Not really warm enough yet. Room in a dog-friendly inn? Too costly. However, in between those two extremes sat a whole range of cabin options, from small and basic “hobbit huts” through to deluxe “wigwams” filled with all the mod cons. I rather fancied the idea of a hobbit hut; after all, half of our party are short and have furry feet. Unfortunately prices, availability and no-dog restrictions ruled out the hobbit solution this time around, but we did manage to book a mid-range “hiker hut” for a couple of days that sounded like a great alternative.
The term “hiker hut” suggests a walking party traveling light, with only the bare essentials stuffed into their backpacks. We tried to pack light, but somehow still ended up trying to cram almost the entire contents of our caravan into the car and unsurprisingly some things didn’t fit. Obviously we couldn’t leave out food or clothing, or treats, so we ended up ditching Beanie & Biggles’ fabric crates. It seemed like a good solution; the crates take up a lot of room and the only negative would be somewhat cramped sleeping arrangements (we were hoping Beanie & Biggles wouldn’t expect us to sleep on a mat on the floor).
Leaving the crates behind was of course a stupid idea, which became increasingly apparent when we arrived at the campsite. It transpired that we’d been given a free upgrade to a larger hut, one that came equipped with an integral loo, a fridge and a TV. This was great news, but there was a down-side; the person who’d taken the booking had mistakenly given us accommodation that was meant to stay pet-free. None of this was our fault; we’d been open and honest about having dogs. Admittedly there may have been a bit of wishful thinking when we answered the “are they well behaved” question, but nobody’s perfect.
“Oh well, just keep them off the bed, eh?” said the receptionist.
“No problem, we’ve got crates for them.” I lied, trying my best to sound convincing. Bugger. Strike one for the ‘no crate’ idea.
Once in the hut, the first thing Beanie & Biggles did of course was to jump onto the beds. Fortunately the front of our abode wasn’t particularly overlooked, and by closing the curtains a little we figured that the chances of being discovered with dogs on the beds would be pretty low. Unless that is Biggles felt the need to draw attention to himself by woofing at anyone who had the cheek to walk around his campsite. What were the chances of that? How about somewhere between 99 and 100%.
The camp commandant starts his vigil. Woofer at the ready!
Another drawback to the no-crate approach was that while the hut had a TV, a fridge, a microwave and an en-suite crapper, it had absolutely no cupboards. That’s right. We’d have two unrestrained Beagles with us while we slept, with no solid barrier between them and our food supplies. We mostly solved that problem by piling up our supplies at the back of the upper bunk and removing the stepladder. With all the immediate problems solved, we headed out to Loch Awe to check out Kilchurn Castle.
The castle sits on a little rocky peninsula at one end of the loch. Unlike many of the so-called castles in Scotland that are really only stately homes with turrets, Kilchurn at least looks like it it was built to withstand a bit of abuse. But could it stand up to a pair of Beagles? There was only one way to find out..
The inspection begins..
The gates and grills leave enough space for Beagle heads to poke through!
The stairs are quite hard work for those with short furry legs…
But it’s easy to keep an eye on the ground floor!
In most respects Kilchurn met with Beagle approval, but it fell down badly when it came to the windows. A properly positioned window should be low enough to allow easy viewing by territorial Beagle boys, so that any trespasses by neighbors and postmen can quickly be spotted and punished by a righteous woofing. By way of example, this is how a window should be…
And here’s Kilchurn’s poorly designed equivalent:
See the problem? The assistance of a human is required for proper viewing, and furthermore there’s only room for one Beagle at a time, which means a queue quickly forms. Admittedly things get better on the top floor, but only because lightning blew off the top of the turret many years ago!
Now this is more like it. No postmen sighted so far…
Eventually Kilchurn was given Beagle approval, and we retired to our little campsite kennel. I wanted to head off super early the next morning to photograph the loch before and during sunrise, so it was crucial for me to get as much sleep as possible. I took the little side bed, thinking I’d be able to sleep undisturbed and slip away quietly in the middle of the night while Susan and the Beagles snoozed in the main bed. It was a good plan but it didn’t go smoothly. It took me ages to get to sleep and when I did, I was soon awoken by a wet nose. The nose in question wasn’t mine of course; it was Beanie’s. Apparently dissatisfied with the big bed, she’d decided to try mine. There wasn’t much room, but I did my best to accommodate her, and as a thank you she tucked her head under my chin (it made a change from the bum end I usually get). However, just as I was nodding off again Beanie decided that the big bed was best after all. Her departure disturbed me a little, but not as much as her noisy attempt at bed-making when she returned to Susan. Round and round she went, whining with frustration as she failed to get the cover and bed sheet just right. By the time my alarm went off I’d had maybe three hours’ kip and my back was stiff and sore from having contorted myself around the Beanster. Things would have gone a lot better if we’d had the crates! Nevertheless I got some good shots of the loch in early morning light, and a few from nearby St Conan’s Kirk…
Later that day that four of us went for a long stroll along the West Highland Way. This was very popular with the pups, not least because we encountered a deposit of human poo. Some walker had obviously felt the urge and squatted right there on the path but then, not wanting to appear ill mannered and thoughtless, they’d covered their droppings with neatly folded sheets of toilet paper, and arranged a little circle of stones around the paper to hold it down. In effect they’d made a little poo shrine, and while I had some appreciation for the effort they’d expended in creating it, I couldn’t help thinking how much less hassle it would have been to just take a few steps off the path and conduct their business amongst the foliage. Less hassle for them, and as I struggled to pull Beanie’s snout out from under the toilet paper, less hassle for me. That’s Beanie’s third sampling of human poo, and I think she’s getting a taste for it.
Beanie claims a sunny spot on the floor and dreams of human poo…
The final day was all about getting packed up and erasing any evidence that Beanie & Biggles had been on the beds. While I took the pups for a walk, Susan got lumbered with the cleanup task. This was much tougher than expected because the fine weather had encouraged Biggles to shed his winter coat. The fur was everywhere!
Biggles demonstrates his epic shedding ability
As we made a final check of the hut I had to admit that it was mostly back to its original state, but Beanie & Biggles hadn’t finished trying to get us into hot water with the campsite staff. Before sealing them in the car behind a mountain of unnecessary junk, I took them for a final toilet break. As per campsite regulations this had to be off the site. I walked them around for a good ten minutes, using appropriate encouragement to get them to fully relieve themselves, but nothing was forthcoming. Eventually I gave up and guided them back onto the site towards our car. Just was we passed reception, and in near perfect synchronization, they both squatted and soiled the hallowed ground of the campsite with their smelliest offerings. I cleaned it up as best I could and hoped we’d not been spotted, but as we headed off in the car and waved to the camp warden, I couldn’t help wondering if his smile looked a little.. strained..