May 7

Click here to read Part 1 of this post

So  just to recap: after an evening spent consuming the very best sheep poo in Scotland, Biggles had suffered what could be described in Star Trek terms as a “warp core breach” in our bed.

It was now early in the morning and I was still tired out, but obviously the idea of climbing back into bed had totally lost its appeal; going for a shower and change of clothes on the other hand seemed like a really good idea, and that’s what I did. On my return I took both Beanie and Captain Loose-Sphincter for another walk in the lane by the campsite, leaving Susan to deal with the soiled bedsheets. Almost immediately Beanie felt the urge to squat, and brought forth a slimy dark green log of epic proportions. I bagged it, binned it, and began walking further up the lane. We’d gone barely a hundred yards before Beanie squatted again, resulting in another bag of recycled sheep poo to dispose of. I dragged Beanie & Biggles back to the bin, then turned to go forward. This time we made it nearly 150 yards before The Beanster hunkered down for a third innings, but even that wasn’t the end of it; during the course of the day Beanie made no less than six ample deposits in the poo bank, setting a new personal record. By contrast Biggles only needed three squatting sessions, but then he’d already unburdened himself in our bed.

Back at the campsite I got an update on the bed situation. I’d seen only the lower cover – and that had been bad enough – but apparently the underside of the duvet cover was in an even worse state.  We had no replacements and only one more night to get through, so Susan devised a cunning plan: turn both covers round and use dog blankets – of which we had several – to protect the bed itself and cover the skid marks on the upturned duvet. Certainly not an ideal solution, but a workable one.  With this settled, we drove out to the first of three walks planned for the day – a circuit around the beach near Kilmory at the southern end of Arran.

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The Walkhighlands site rates this as one of the best beaches on Arran, but unfortunately the tide was in and we didn’t get to see it at its best.

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The second walk was much more satisfying for both humans and Beagles alike: Clauchlands Point and Dun Fionn. The outward leg of the route followed a cliff by the coast, rapidly gaining height for some great sniffs and views.

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Wild rabbit poo was in abundance and I was very relieved to find that our pups were more interested in rolling in it than gorging on it.

At one point in the walk we encountered a group of students who made a big fuss of the pups. Beanie did her signature biscuit-summoning dance and though it didn’t work directly, it did put her within striking distance of unguarded pockets and backpacks as people bent down to pet her. For once I was on my game and managed to pull her away at the critical moment; no packed lunches were speed-swallowed on this walk.

The return route took us through a thankfully unoccupied farm field, emerging at a cottage guarded by a very fit looking Spaniel. He eyed us suspiciously as we climbed over the stile, but he didn’t budge an inch from his station and Biggles kept his woofs firmly under wraps; maybe he was still feeling shame from his leaky bottom accident.

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The final section of the route took us through a short stretch of woodland, across a magical little stream and down a pretty bluebell-lined country lane before emerging on the road just a few hundred yards from the van.

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Any time you want to rate a walk from a Beagle perspective you have only to observe the quality and quantity of napping that follows it. On that basis, I judged this walk to have been a great success! Obviously there were attempts at food theft when first got back to the van, followed by a short spell of irate woofing when a group of kayakers emerged from the sea just a few yards away, but after that, the napping was first class.

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Beanie in a deep snooze. You’ll just have to imagine the contented snoring noises..

I had a substantial walk planned for the third outing of the day, but when we arrived at the starting point in Lochranza I suddenly felt the need to revise that plan.

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I was unaware of this at the time, but Lochranza is famed for its large and bold deer population. As we arrived, deer were wandering around the town’s small golf course while golfers were still playing, and there was a concentrated group of them right by the start of our walk. I really didn’t fancy having my eardrums blown out by baying and my arms pulled out of their sockets, so I settled on a there-and-back stroll out past the castle.

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On the return leg we found that the deer had moved in on the more developed part of town. Almost every garden had high fences and I realized now this wasn’t because the people of Lochranza are mostly Beagle owners; nope, those fences are all about keeping the deer out. And the deer were everywhere, munching on bushes and nosing around cars. I braced myself for an outburst from Biggles, but both he and Beanie were stunned into silence. When we made it back to the golf course I paused there for a few minutes, hoping this calm exposure to deer might tone down the dynamic duo’s reaction to them in the wild. Only time will tell if it has the intended effect…

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Our last night on Arran – in the poo smeared bed – went remarkably well. Bright blankets covered the obvious signs of soiling and the smell, though not exactly pleasant, wasn’t intolerable. Let’s put it this way: I’ve smelled Pot Noodles that were worse. Come to think of it, given a choice between sleeping in a bed smeared with Beagle-processed sheep poo versus a bed smeared in Pot Noodle dregs, I’d probably take the hybrid poo option.

We spent the next morning parked close to the ferry terminal, and to kill time I took the pups part way along the so-called Fisherman’s walk in Brodick. This was the scene for the final drama in our holiday.

The outward leg went well; the route skirted a golf course and was well signed, no doubt because the golfers didn’t want all and sundry straying onto their territory. Unfortunately, none of those signs mentioned that the route becomes flooded when the tide is incoming, as it was on our way back. Our little party of three went from a stroll to a forced march when I realized that we were racing the tide, and as we grew close to the finish it looked like we might just make it. I strode over a slightly raised grassy bit between two big puddles, and Beanie (sensibly, for once) followed in my footsteps. Biggles however decided that he wouldn’t mind a little paddle. He started through the puddle. One step, two steps and all was well. He took another step and abruptly discovered that the puddle was not of uniform depth; his chin smacked the water loudly as his body sank like a stone. Any self-respecting dog would have leaped out of there immediately, shaken themselves off and tried to pretend that nothing embarrassing had happened, but not Biggles; he just sat there in the puddle looking up at me with a helpless yet hopeful expression on his face. I reached down and hauled him out by the extra-wide handle on his swanky new Ruffwear harness. Something tells me that the designers at Ruffwear have silly Beagles too. If they ever come up with a poo-proof bed cover, I’ll be first on the pre-order list.

Apr 24
Courtesy Beagle
icon1 Paul | icon4 04 24th, 2017| icon32 Comments »

In many ways, Beanie is our most biddable Beagle. When I tell her to get out of our bed on a morning, she does so without hesitation; if I tell her not to stick her snout in my coffee cup, she will comply (at least until I’m distracted or out of the room); and when it’s time for her nightly tooth-brushing she doesn’t play hard to get, unlike Biggles, who often flops onto his back to and tries to kick the toothbrush away with his rear legs.

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Everything works the other way when food is involved however. Biggles is surprisingly respectful at human mealtimes, in fact he sometimes averts his gaze when a human starts eating; it’s as though he daren’t look at the food for fear his instincts will push him to do something naughty.

Beanie on the other hand has absolutely no respect and has to be told in no uncertain terms to keep her distance. Even then, the second you’ve finished your food, she’s on top of you, vacuuming up crumbs. It’s like those insistent sales calls we get from the bank, Sky TV and energy firms when we’re switching supplier; no matter how many times you tell them you don’t want to be hassled, they just keep on calling. They typically refer to these intrusions as “courtesy calls”. In the same vein, I guess you could call Beanie a “courtesy Beagle”; you’re going to get the furry crumb clean-up service whether you want it or not.

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Apr 8
Ben Ledi Revisited
icon1 Paul | icon4 04 8th, 2017| icon34 Comments »

Just over eight years ago The Biggly Boy experienced his very first hillwalk: Ben Ledi. He made a ton of noise on the way up, a ton-and-a-half of noise on the way down, and we never got so see any views because the summit was in cloud. We revisited Ben Ledi last weekend, and I’m happy to say that things went very differently, in all respects.

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Ben Ledi is one of Scotland’s most popular hills, and if you’re going up it and don’t like crowds, you’d better get an early start; we started so early we actually left home the previous day. I parked up the Beaglemobile below the mountain just before midnight on Saturday, with the intention of snatching a few short hours of sleep before heading to the summit on Sunday morning in time for sunrise. Ordinarily something like this wouldn’t make me the least bit apprehensive, but Susan had a big gym session the next day and wanted maximum rest before it so it was going to be me and two naughty Beagles alone in the van overnight, with no responsible adult to guide us.

Things didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. Some other people had also parked up, presumably planning the same thing, and the best spot I could find was right by a really big puddle. I reversed in, hoping to make my exit the next morning as easy as possible, but this put the puddle right by the van’s sliding side door. Ever since we got the van, Susan’s been thinking up ways to keep Beanie & Biggles from bolting out of the door the instant it opens; as it turned out, that muddy but not particularly deep puddle worked really well. Neither of our two pups was at all keen about stepping down out of the van into the murky, wet brownness below for a leg stretch and piddle. I actually had to lift Beanie over it, and Biggles only jumped out after a lot of encouragement and an excited countdown.

Back in the van I put the lights on and served up a late snack for myself, and two cow ears for my furry companions. Biggles finished his lug in record time, but still not quite fast enough to grab a piece of my pork pie before I’d consumed it; after all these years with Beanie & Biggles to copy I’ve become quite good at speed-swallowing, though I do still chew things a bit first, so haven’t quite achieved Beagle mastery level yet.

I checked my watch and realised that I only had at most three and a half hours of sleep ahead of me. It was time for bed! I pulled the rear seat out into it’s sleeping configuration and now, without Susan to hold the pups, I had to play several rounds of “transplant the Bigglet” as I struggled to get the bedding into place without any furry lumps underneath it. Oddly Beanie seemed quite content to sleep on the drivers seat, but I called her into bed with me and Biggles to maximise warmth. We all slept remarkably well – there was only minimal fidgeting and bed-hogging, but when the alarm went off I awoke to an atmosphere thick with fart gas. It was arranged in layers – a stack of three distinct aromas – one of which was presumably my own contribution, fueled by that pork pie. It made that first lung full of clean, cold air all the sweeter as we exited the van.

The path up Ben Ledi is the best I’ve ever seen; clear and easy to follow, relatively bog-free and very well maintained. Unfortunately, maintenance was ongoing at one short section we encountered. The path suddenly turned into deep, sticky mud with a JCB digger somehow floating on top of it. I didn’t float of course, and neither did  Biggles; I had to carry him through it, keeping one hand free to use the side of the digger for purchase. Had we been going up in daylight I might have seen the little diversion that bypassed all that boot-swallowing muck..

Despite that small hiccup we made it to the summit in plenty of time for sunrise, but to my surprise we discovered that someone had beaten us to it! A hardy fellow had actually spent the whole night up there in his tent, and he hadn’t had two furry hot water bottles to keep him warm. Beanie greeted him by doing a particularly frantic version of the biscuit-summoning dance, while Biggles gave him a stern woofing. I tried to have a conversation with him in between Biggles’ outbursts, but my mouth was malfunctioning from the cold and everything came out a bit like John Hurt in The Elephant Man. I suspect the guy thought we’d all just escaped from a local care home, because he packed up and headed off down the mountain in short order, leaving us alone on the summit.

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Although Ben Ledi has a summit cairn and trig point, its most natural focal point is the large metal cross sited just a little way down from the highest point. This is a memorial to Sgt Harry Lawrie who died while on duty with the Killin Mountain Rescue team in 1987. It turns out that early April is an ideal time of year for a visit because the sun lines up spectacularly with the cross just a little after sunrise.

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We walked on past the summit to see what views lay beyond. There’s an alternative route down the mountain from here that passes through “Stank Glen”, however it’s not particularly easy to follow and since we’d already experienced “Stank Van” we just turned around and went back the way we’d come.

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Things got warmer as the sun rose and our height reduced. We paused at a particularly nice spot for a couple more cow ears and a slug of water before continuing on.

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The closer we got to the bottom, the more people we encountered starting out on their own journey up Ben Ledi. The car park was beyond full by the time Biggles had announced breakfast to everyone, eaten it, and been safely zipped back up in his travel crate along with Beanie for the journey home. It took nearly twenty minutes of queueing to get back out of the car park, with some new arrivals having to reverse back round a tight bend and over a bridge to let us out. If you ever get a chance to visit Ben Ledi, remember this: go early, really early, and always park facing out. And of course, take plenty of cow ears and a can of Chappie!

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