At just before 3pm on Monday afternoon, we packed everything into the car and headed off towards Scotland. I would have liked to have set off a little bit earlier but a couple of things cropped up and then I managed to break Codie’s glove box so we had to sort that out. Still, we weren’t in any particular rush and so as we joined the M6 northbound, I sat back to enjoy the journey. It was certainly a lot different to all the times we hopped in the car in Australia, here the rained poured down and meant that gazing at the beautiful hilly landscapes but it was nice to see more of the countryside and the 2 hour trip flew by in no time.
Before heading into the depths of Galloway Forest Park where we had decided to spent the night, we headed over to Langholm for something tasty and a little look around. I’ve been going there since I was little and really enjoy it so I wanted to show Codie how nice it could be. The last time we visited was a couple of years ago and we hadn’t had the best experience since all the shops had been shut, we were midged within an inch of our lives on the caravan site and were only able to buy cold snacks from the Londis shop so I don’t think he had the best opinion of it. Unfortunately, as we crossed the little stone bridge and made our way into the centre it looked as though we were to have a rather similar experience as every single shop was shut again. Apart from Londis. Grrrrrr. Rather than just leaving and heading off somewhere else, we decided to have a little look in the shop, picked up a couple of cold pasties and french fries crisps and then drove to the car park by the river to enjoy the view.
Even though it was absolutely tipping it down, it was really nice just sitting munching and watching all the birds wandering about. You couldn’t really see a lot with it being so hazy but as we dropped crumbs all over the car and I avoided the smell of Codie’s horrible Worcester sauce crisps, I enjoyed having a rest before all the fun of sorting out the tent later on. We watched a man feeding the ducks, jackdaws and seagulls from two big buckets and carefully brushed the crumbs off our knees before deciding it was time to leave and find somewhere to camp. The weather picked up quite a bit as we left Langholm, there was even a patch of blue sky, so by the time we reached Castle Douglas I was quite optimistic that setting up the tent wouldn’t be quite as hard work as it perhaps would have been. Hooray!
As we approached the little town, a huge neon red sign flashed before us and I realised we were right next to a Tesco. Seizing the opportunity to use a proper toilet, possibly for quite a while, we quickly made phone calls to let our family know where we were whilst we still had signal and then headed inside. I don’t know what it was that drew me over to the cakes but I can’t explain how excited I was to discover that they sold a tray of flapjack for 80p. With being faced with tinned meals for the foreseeable future, it was nice to have something extra tasty to look forward to and after collecting some bananas and some ham for the trail camera we paid and wandered back to the car. It was time to enter the forest.
Galloway Forest Park is a wood in Dumfries and Galloway known for it’s amazingly clear skies and wonderful wildlife. Whilst it was initially it’s Dark Sky Park status (the first in the UK) which had drawn me in, it wasn’t looking as though we were going to have enough of a clear sky to really appreciate it for the time being. The rain had held off for a while but the clouds were darkening once again and the occasional spot of rain splattered across the windscreen. To be honest, it didn’t really bother me as the whole camping experience and the thought of foxes and rabbits was exciting enough. All it really means is that we’ll definitely have to visit again to see the stars…what a shame!
Pulling on to the road running alongside Loch Ken and entering the park, everything suddenly felt a lot more ‘Scottish’ and full of wildlife. Gliding above the road I spotted a red kite and sparrows fluttered about nearby and the vast expanse of water sparkled as the sun began to set. It was lovely. As we continued along we suddenly spotted a turn off signposted ‘Raider’s Road’ and we decided to have a little look around to see if there was anywhere for us to stay for the night. The path was really rather bumpy, though you have to expect that for a road which is only open to cars for 6 months a year, but the scenery was captivating and I found myself not even looking for anywhere to stop instead just looking around. After a little look at the loch and almost finding ourselves underneath a very drippy and leaky bridge, we eventually found the perfect spot and headed up the tiny hill to get set up for the night. We had managed to find a little spot just off from the main track, tucked around the corner with a stunning view of a little waterfall type thing just across from us. It all seemed perfect.
It was not perfect. As we opened to doors, a cloud of midges seemed to descend upon us and subsequently spent the next 20 minutes or so draining us of as much blood as was possible. Flailing my arms around to try and shift them for a second, I helped quickly shove up the tent and flung everything in. Hmmmm. Not as relaxing as I thought it would be. One of the tent pole’s elastic had snapped as Codie was getting it out of the bag which had meant we had to be extra careful posting it throughout the loops and this had meant extra midge time. Still, it was better to make the most of it and appreciate where we were than let the pesky bugs win so already covered in bites we set up our chairs in the porch, got the gas cooker out and made ourselves a tasty bowl of spaghetti and pork sausages. Yum. I had to admit that with the sound of the buzzards circling overhead and the noise of the water gushing down the hillside, it really was quite nice and the fact that you couldn’t hear any human noise meant that it really was quite relaxing (if you ignored the constant stinging pain that is!)
Food munched, it was time for use to climb into the tent and separate us from the evil bugs still circling us outside. I know it was probably our own fault for camping so close to the loch but other than that, it was a really great place to camp so it was easier to just push on through than pack up and possibly spend hours trying to find somewhere else. I certainly couldn’t be bothered doing that when it all looked so snuggly inside. Wrapped up in the sleeping bags, the tent was zipped up and we sat back to watch a film. By this point I was quite sleepy and so barely made it through the opening though I did keep waking up to find that I’d rolled down the slope and had my face pressed right up against the wall. Despite regularly laughing at the fact that we pitched the tent on a little hill in Australia which had meant all the blood had rushed to our heads,somehow we’d managed to do it again and so had to lie sideways (I blame the midges!) It wasn’t so bad really other than the fact that the sleeping bag was so slippery that I couldn’t seem to stay on the mat! Grrrrrrr.
With thoughts of wildlife and lots of things to photograph swimming about in my mind, I settled down once again, positioning myself so I hopefully wouldn’t roll away, and looked forward to what the second day of our trip had in store for us. We had a whole forest to explore and I couldn’t wait.