“ROOOAAARRRRR” screamed the jet as it passed us, hurtling along the loch for the second time. If we’d have still been tucked up in the tent it would have been quite a surprise but luckily for us we were up and packing the tent away ready for another day of exploring. It had been quite a good night despite the fact that I’d awoken with a pain in my back to discover that I’d been sleeping on a rock and I felt quite refreshed and determined to see some interesting wildlife. Before setting off I’d looked online to see what was in the area and had found a couple of places which promised to fulfil some of my animal exceptions; the red deer range and the wild goat park. It’s always exciting to see deer and the goats were definitely an added bonus so after carefully making sure we hadn’t left anything behind, we hopped into the car and carried on down the Raider’s Road.
A little way down and we saw a sign for a little place called ‘Otter’s Pool’ so turned in to have a little look. Now it really did seem like a lovely place to spend a bit of time looking for creatures and possibly even having a little paddle but for me it was overshadowed a bit by the fact that there were actual toilets in a little hut. Actual toilets! I’d had to taint a tin that morning not knowing when I’d be able to use a proper one anytime soon so it was a bit of a shock to discover that there was one about 20 minutes down the road. Grrrrr. Never mind. After a little look but deciding not to hang around for too long as there was already quite a crowd, we grabbed some leaflets and then headed off to see what else we could see. The road was quite bumpy so we couldn’t go too fast though that just meant that we had more time to take in our surroundings. Passing through sections of forest, the trees were so still whilst all around them the wind howled. Buzzards circled overhead and the occasional stone flicked up, clanging gently against the side of the car. It was great.
After a while we came to a rather sorry looking red tractor and stopped to take a couple of tongue-in-cheek “artistic” shots with the ginormous pine trees behind framed by the river behind. At the time we quickly decided the meaning behind it was “the erosion of the value of British farming” but having recently read so much about how farmers are being ripped off due to the ridiculously low price of milk, it actually seems quite apt under the circumstances. Continuing along down the road we eventually came across a turning that took us back onto the main road and so we left behind the lovely bumpy track. It was nice to not be shaken around so much but it had also been nice to go on what felt like a mini adventure. Ah well, I was sure we’d find somewhere equally as interesting further along our trip.
After a little while we came along the sign for the Red Deer Range and turned off hoping to see some deer wandering about. Unfortunately we were a little bit slow in getting the camera things together, some of much had wriggled out of reach during the bumpy road trip, and so a rather large and loud family headed into the hide before us. Now it really sounds as though I’m being picky and mean and perhaps even selfish but by the time we got in, the all seemed to have spread out taking every single window up (apart from one we managed to grab) and screeching across to each other, all whilst dropping bits of litter and seemingly dropping everything they owned onto the floor. Grrrrrrr. I had been hoping to be able to sit and watch for the deer in peace so about 15 minutes later when they declared it “boring” and “a waste of time” and left, I breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately there weren’t too many deer about with only one out straight ahead but too far away to really photograph, a couple on the hill further up and a couple more behind some fencing lower down. Still, it was really nice to be able to see them and even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, it was enjoyable all the same though that could be partly due to all the different birds fluttering about on the bird feeders next to the hide. There were so many! My particular favourite was a common woodpecker which flew down and scared all the others away though I did like watching a naughty yellow sparrow-like bird trying to eat as much as it could before a chaffinch wandered around the food globe to share.
Back in the car, we headed down the road a little bit more to visit the Wild Goat Park. All it really was was a carpark and a fence behind it but thanks to the rain holding off for us a little while, we were able to get up really close to this ancient species of goat living on the hillside. Again it was completely different to what I had expected, I’d thought they’d be quite far away and we’d have to really look to see them but of course I’d forgotten the goat’s inquisitive nature. These were right up against the fence desperately searching to see if anybody had brought any snacks and quite happy to stick their head through for a stroke. We didn’t stay with the goats for too long, mostly because it had started to really throw it down again but also because a woman had turned up with food for them so naturally their attention was diverted. It had been a good way to spend a little but more of our afternoon but I was ready to set off in search of our own food. Off to Newton Stewart we went….
With the rain pouring down, the only logical step in our mission for food was to head for the nearest fish and chip shop and indulge in some battered haggis. Ever since I’d had it in Gairloch in the north of Scotland a few years ago I’ve been looking forward to enjoying some more and the prospect of having warm food in the freezing cold cheered us up no end. It wasn’t as far as I thought it was to the little town and after a bit of a wait in the shop and an (almost) sticky situation involving us being barricaded in between 2 cars, we drove back to a little fishing pond where we sat back to enjoy our food. The last time I’d munched it it had been in small round battered slices but this time it came in a huge battered sausage, dripping with grease. Yum. As we sat there in the car nice and toasty, a couple of people further down were wrapped up in anoraks fishing in the rain. I had to give them credit, if I was caught in rain that torrential I would have headed back to the car, at least for a little while but they seemed very determined to carry on. Good for them.
Now very full and with a car smelling of greasy chips, we decided to head towards Glentrool to see what was there and if there was anywhere for us to spend the night in our tent. It surprised me just how hard it was to wild camp, after all it’s just finding somewhere clear and out of the way to pitch a tent, but all around the forest was either public walking tracks or roads. Not really suitable for us or anyone else wanting to enjoy the pristine beauty of it all. We drove down a couple of single track roads, all very interesting, but there wasn’t anywhere for us to stop and so after a little look about, the next destination of Carrick Forest was decided. As we’d had a lot more success last night along the “less sleek” roads, it seemed a good idea to see if there’d be anywhere nice for us to settle down there. It also meant that we’d get to see a good amount of the forest at the same time and I was happy to sit back and watch all the beautiful scenery and the occasional cocky ram on the road whizz past the window.
Around 5pm, we found the perfect camping spot. We’d found the Carrick Forest Drive road and after a bit of a rocky start with a road full of holes and huge rocks we discovered a little stony area just off it with the ideal patch to put up the tent under the cover of some trees. Unlike last night’s quite solid ground, here it was really spongy and comfy and I just knew we’d have a better night’s sleep. Hooray! Sadly, there was one problem; the midges. They were back and they seemed angrier than ever. Carefully making sure that my hoody was pulled tightly over my head, we leapt out of the car and hurriedly shoved the tent together. With midges creeping into my clothes, biting at my face, back, arms and neck and even crawling into my eyes, getting everything sorted was even more of a challenge this time but we got there in the end and quick threw ourselves inside for some protection. It was exhausting. Now I thought I’d managed to escape too many bites but after hearing Codie describing my head as being “like a pizza”, I supposed I hadn’t. Grrrrrrr.
Since we’d ended up in the tent quite early, about 7, we decided to finish watching last night’s film and I read a bit on my kindle. There wasn’t any signal at all so we weren’t able to let anyone know where we were but after having messaged earlier on, we knew they’d know we were ok and so we got on with making the most of the night. A little while later it was time for another tasty tea of tinned food and this time it was chilli. The temperature had dropped massively and it had started to reach the stage where you could see your breath so it was a comfort to know we’d have something to warm us up. Codie sat out on the lovely (and free) IKEA chairs we’d bought with us again and cooked it up and then once that was demolished, boiled some water for us to make some hot chocolate later on. At least that way we’d have something to heat up our hands! With all that sorted we sat back in the tent for a bit before nothing a lovely warm glow on the trees in front. Alerted to the fact that we could be missing a beautiful sunset, we leapt out and grabbed our cameras to get some photos. It really was very pretty with purples, yellows and oranges all mixing together in the sky with the pine trees silhouetted against them. We waited until the sun set behind the trees and hills before heading back inside to try and warm up again. By this time it had got really, really cold and we resorted to using hand and feet warmers to make sure that we could actually sleep. All part of the camping in Scotland experience I suppose but it meant that I’d used most of my energy up on just trying to stay slightly warm and was now absolutely shattered. It was time for a nice sleep ready for the next day and, after becoming convinced someone was going to attack us after we heard a car pull up nearby, I snuggled up in the sleeping bag and eventually drifted off.