Islay

Recently we spent a week on the Isle of Islay. Although it’s one of the larger Scottish islands and a popular destination for whiskey lovers, it still only has around 3000 inhabitants and I figured that being there was going to be a very a different experience from life on the mainland. I had visions of getting there and finding that nowhere accepted credit cards, all the newspapers on sale were at least a week old, and that the Islay equivalent of fast food was a potato that had already been rinsed to get the soil off. In reality it wasn’t that bad, but there were still differences that took some getting used to.

Very importantly the island did have a resident vet, so at least I knew we wouldn’t be facing a two hour ferry ride plus at least an hour’s driving if Beanie decided she was due a bit of medical attention. Additionally most of the places that had shops did indeed accept card payment. On the other hand, the so-called petrol station in Bowmore (the island’s main town) resembled a little house on a quiet side-street that just happened to have a single pump sitting outside the front window. When we checked into one of the two campsites on the island, I received a long and unusually detailed lecture on the site rules, particularly concerning what should, and should not, be deposited in the toilet; it immediately brought to mind the Dentons house rules in League of Gentlemen: “here is the sofa bed, with it’s own shower and WC, into which we do not pass solids”.

One thing that didn’t suprise me about Islay is that sheep were everywhere. Biggles and Beanie are much calmer around sheep than they used to be, but opportunities for dog walking were still limited. This is what was outside our van one morning when we wild-camped by a main road.

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One of the more popular walks – to the “American Monument” – was sheep free, but instead it took us right through a field of highland cattle. Happily the cattle showed no interest in us, and even more happily Biggles decided not woof loudly at any of them.

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The path to the monument

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What we had to pass..

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The monument was erected by the American Red Cross after two troop ships were lost off the Islay coast during the first world war.

Some more shots from Islay:

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The marina at Bowmore

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Someone has forgotten what “leave” means

Saligo Rocks [5D4_1729]

The rugged coastline at Saligo Bay

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Portnahaven

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Apparently Portnahaven is a good place for wrestling

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..and bitey-face

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One of the more impressive sea stacks – Soldiers Rock

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse [5D4_1593]

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse

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Cliffs near the American Monument

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It’s a boring two hour journey on the ferry, but at least the seats are comfy

On our final day we drove to Port Askaig, expecting to spend the night there and have a little stroll around the shops in the morning before our return ferry. As it turned out, Port Askaig is essentially just a ferry terminal, with a pub, a post office, and a petrol pump. That’s all. I filled up our van at the pump, then set about looking for where / how to pay. I saw no automated payment facility, no payment kiosk, not even a security camera. Was fuel free here? I kind of doubted it, but still couldn’t see anywhere to pay. I wandered down past the pub – credit card still in hand – then eventually spotted a small sign indicating that the Post Office doubles as the petrol station kiosk. Going inside I found someone from the European mainland trying to purchase stamps to send of a couple of postcards. The guy behind the counter was using his best cross-language communication technique (speaking English LOUD and s-l-o-w): “We’ve sold out of stamps just now, so you’ll have to wait until the Post Office opens up properly. Come back tomorrow. Err no, not tomorrow, we’re closed tomorrow. Come back in a couple of days.”

Yep, not quite the remote, facility-free outpost I was expecting, but not exactly the mainland either.

Heatwave

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It’s a common complaint in our part of the world that there hasn’t been a proper summer for years. Well, now we’ve finally got one, with week after week of sunny, rain-free weather, and guess what? It’s too hot! I know it’s too hot because every couple of minutes there’s a loud thudding sound as Biggles wanders over to an area of the floor that he thinks might be cooler and collapses with all the grace of a drunk rugby player. Beanie doesn’t do this, but only because she’s almost permanently stationed in our bedroom, which is the coolest room in the house.┬áIn conditions like this living by the coast really comes into its own; no matter how hot it is, long energetic walks are still possible thanks to that ever present big salty paddling pool.

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When the weather’s sunny but not overly warm I have to exercise extra caution when unleashing Team Chaos because they’re quite likely to go off in search of picnic debris. This week however I’ve been able to count on them heading straight into the cool wet stuff the instant I unclip their leads. Admittedly Beanie in particular has sometimes embarked on Project Picnic Hunt once she’s cooled off sufficiently, but for the most part, the two of them have been surprisingly manageable.

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It’s almost like having a regular doggies, just so long as I don’t break the cardinal rules of off-lead Beagling:

  • never run out of chicken
  • never take your eyes off them
  • never run out of chicken
  • always get the little buggers back on lead before sunset, or the dusk scents will lead them astray
  • and most importantly, never run out of chicken

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Golden Hour Biggles [5D4_2282]

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Yep, apparently someone did and Beanie is inbound!

Boardwalk Beagles

The day following our big walk up Arran’s Cir Mhor was largely spent touring Arran in the van. Ordinarily the pups travel in their fabric crates for maximum comfort and safety, but since we were doing lots of short, low speed journeys on quiet roads we figured a different arrangement would be in order. While one of us handled the driving, the other sat in the back of the van to keep the pups out of mischief as they lounged on the floor and rear seat.

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Yes Biggles, you get to be chauferred around Arran and you don’t have to be in your travel crate!

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But you will still have to vacate the driver’s seat!

Beanie absolutely loved this! While Biggles simply snored through the tour, she insisted on having the window seat and watched intently as Arran’s scenery passed by. Much of the time we had the window open slightly, and I’d often see her little black nose twitching away as each new scent reached it. She was so taken with the view that we even managed a few soppy cuddles without provoking a yawn and lip-licking.

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We had one activity planned for the third and final day of our stay: a walk from Whiting Bay to the ferry terminal at Brodick along part of the Arran Coastal Path. The walk started on regular footpaths before dipping down onto the rocky beach across from the lighthouse on neighboring island Holy Isle.

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It then swung briefly inland before returning to the coast for a throughly enjoyable stage that kept us right by the water’s edge. Much of this section involved alternating stretches of boardwalk and algae-covered rocks. The rocky bits were both slippery and smelly (not that the furry types complained about this) but the boarded stretches were great fun for all of us. There must have been several kilometers of boardwalk in total, constantly winding and undulating, all the while lined with bluebells and other wild flowers.

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The final section took us from Lamlash to Brodick, and the first bit of this was intensely boring. It gave us a closer view of Holy Isle, but the route followed a dry and largely featureless road. Even Beanie and Biggles couldn’t find anything worth sniffing on that surface, so we upped our pace in the hope of getting to somemthing more interesting. Before long I spotted a family taking lots phone selfies out by the water. I couldn’t figure out why they seemed so keen to keep taking shots, and then beyond them – just twenty metres from the shore – I saw a seal sunbathing on a rock. I had a long lens with me so headed out towards the seal, wondering how the pups would react to him. Predictably he returned to the water before I could take a shot, but I decided to hang around for a bit to see if he’d return. He teased us a few times – bobbing his head up out of the water – and when Beanie spotted him she began to growl, but it didn’t seem to put him off. We had plenty of time before the ferry sailed from Brodick, so we hung on a bit longer, and a bit longer still. Eventually, our patience paid off!

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Beanie was just as enthralled by the seal as I was

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Biggles wasn’t quite so impressed.

Satisfied with the little show the seal had put on for us, we got back on the trail to Brodick and arrived with ample time to pillage the local chippie before boarding the ferry. The ship was absolutely packed with holiday makers returning to the mainland and we counted ourselves lucky to get seats. Though breezy it was sunny, and we were all set for a relaxing journey back home when Beanie spotted a handful of crisps that a kid had dropped on the deck. Beanie was sitting on Susan’s lap at the time, and now she laid down, with her head angled directly towards the crisps. Any non-Beagle owner observing her would have thought she was well on the way to a snooze, but we knew better; she was ready to pounce instantly if she sensed the slightest lessening of the grip on her lead. All that was required was a lapse in concentration from Susan, and those crisps would be in the Beanster’s stomach. Then without any warning, her plans for those little dropped savories went straight down the toilet; a terrier trotted into view and hoovered up the lot of them. I’m willing to bet that no dog anywhere in the world at any time has suffered the torrent of verbal abuse that Beanie hurled at that poor little mutt. Beagles! Can’t take them anywhere. Especially if there are crisps on the floor.

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