2002 The Old Place of Monreith

Monday 18th February

Andrew & I decided it was time for a holiday, The Old Place of Monreith was available, it also allowed dogs so we could take Sproggie.

It is a large place so we invited the Nutters along. Nick, Jennifer & Bernie, Gavin & Rick are joining us.

This Landmark Trust building was renovated in 1983 to their usual standard. Monreith or Dowies as it is also known, has a history, it used to belong to the family of Gavin Maxwell the novelist who wrote The Ring of Bright Water etc. & has been mentioned fondly in his biographies.

Andrew, Sproggie & I set off fairly early as we knew we’d need a few stops on the way for walks etc. It was a pleasant and uneventful drive to Monreith, which is quite isolated, the nearest village being Port William.

Ayr, 68 miles away is the closest large town. We arrived first & Andrew lit fires in the kitchen and drawing room, I opened some wine and we settled down to await the others.

Landmark trust places are wonderful to holiday in, no TV, radio, telephones or other stuff to tell you what is going on in the world, I love this as you can just lose yourselves for a few days and totally relax.

Port William has an hotel called The Monreith Arms, we went in and enquired about dinner. The bar was rather shabby, the lounge was occupied by a local workers meeting.

An enormous function room awaited us, beautifully laid out tables set with silver cutlery etc. very Miss Haversham - surreal.

A gas fire was switched on to attempt to warm us. The food was amazing, one of the best steaks I have ever eaten & sticky toffee pudding to die for, the others were equally impressed.

A pint of heavy went down well too. The bill was half the price of anywhere in England, of course we will be back

We retired to the house, Andrew stirred up the fire and we relaxed with some wine for the remainder of the evening, reading & playing games.

Tuesday 19th February

Andrew and I took Sprog for a walk to explore the countryside nearby. Later on we all drove out to Portpatrick which I’d read about in the Landmark Trust diary, it recommends some of the pubs there. We tried The Crown and had an excellent lunch in the conservatory. Afterwards we took a walk to the harbour which is very pretty, and let Sprog explore. The waves were huge all of us got splashed, Gav the closest to the shore was engulfed from top to toe, he laughed, what else can you expect in Scotland, we both agreed that it was good to be home.

On the way here I’d seen a sign for a local smokery, we stopped on the way back and bought smoked salmon, bacon and mussels - all delicious.

We drove on to Stranraer to shop for essentials as we are fairly isolated at Monreith. The drive back was very wet and windy, it will be cold tonight.

I started cooking veggie curry when we got back, the others settled down to play Risk.

The table was partially cleared for dinner, then the game continued, for 5 hours, till Rick won.

Bernie and Jennifer offered themselves for washing up duty – sweeties. Andrew and I settled by the drawing room fire and read relaxing with some wine then retired to bed.

Wednesday 20th February

Andrew, Sprog and I set out early this morning, we drove to Whithorn Bay, a lovely wild and windy place with the ancient St. Ninian’s Chapel ruins at the top of a hill by the sea.

We parked up by the harbour pub, then battled up the steep hill in the wind to the ruins and explored. Sproggie was all excited and leapt out and in the open windows, with a silly grin on his face. We wandered around the coast, I had to call Sprog back as he almost hurtled himself over a precipice. He has glaucoma in both eyes now & obviously hadn’t noticed the edge of the cliff, he frightened me witless!

There is a cairn here, of stones from the beach with names and messages written on them, they appear to be peoples wishes so we add ours to it. We returned to the harbour and dropped Sprog back to the car then went into the pub for a welcome coffee, it’s freezing outside.

The bar is open but the lounge is a mess, apparently there was a dreadful storm a few days ago and the sandbags didn’t hold so the pub was flooded. The whole place is being refurbished, the landlord is used to this and smiles as he tells us all about it.

We headed to Wigtown next, this small town is renowned for having the most bookshops in Britain - over forty in all. We explored awhile then the rain set in in earnest, we headed for a pub as the car was too far away. The landlord was very chatty and told us that the ladies of the town now complain that there are books everywhere but the have to travel 68 miles to buy a pair of knickers!

We made it back to the car between heavy showers and stopped a mile or so from Monreith, where we had seen some standing stones in the distance and whole carpets of snowdrops on our way out this morning.

We parked up and walked through four extremely wet marshy fields, our feet sinking at every step to the standing stones at the top of the hill. We read later that they are fertility stones, the sunset was wonderful over the sea viewed from here. We hurried back through the marsh, don’t want to be caught here in the dark in case we get stuck.

Jennifer, Bernie & Nick had been to the Monreith Arms for lunch after a walk. Gav & Rick have played Risk all day. Gav tells us that he has been e mailed about a job he wants - he got it, so we all congratulate him. We relaxed in front of the fire again this evening.

Thursday 21st February

Jennifer & Bernie are up and packed early this morning. Jennifer must return for a meeting and Bernie is happy to go home too. We bid them farewell & safe journey.

Gav has decided that celebration is in order for getting the job - he wants to buy himself a kilt.

We all set off to Ayr to find a kilt shop, the weather is dreadful again, high winds & torrential rain. We have left Sproggie guarding the house.

En route we stopped at The Old Trout pub for lunch - a mistake, the old trout running the place was horrified. Food?? this is a public house we don’t do food, you will have to go to Girvan if you want to eat food!

We did, and had fish & chips all round at a cosy little pub, sitting by a roaring log fire.

We drove on, close to Ayr I spotted the familiar signs to Culzean Castle and asked if we could stop This is my favourite castle, it was designed & built by Robert Adam, a stunning place built out on the edge of a cliff so that 3 sides overlook the sea. It has a unique oval staircase and stunning gardens and a deer park. Unfortunately we were out of season and it was closed to the public.

The kilt shop agrees that they can measure up and send on the kilt to Cambridge without Gavin coming back for fittings. I had suggested Hunting Stewart as Gav didn’t fancy the Royal Stewart, but it is his clan tartan, he really liked it so that was settled and he was measured and sorted fairly quickly. Gav looked at home in the kilt, it really suits him.

We returned to the Monreith Arms for our last meal as we leave in the morning. As before it was excellent, this time everyone followed my lead and it was steaks and sticky toffee puddings all round, in the main room in front of the roaring log fire. We said farewell to the nice landlord and returned to Monreith & to Sproggie who was very happy that we were back. A walk for him then we settled in front of the fire which Andrew quickly got going, with a glass of wine before bed.

Friday 22nd February

We were up early to pack and tidy up, before leaving. We stopped off at Dumfries on the way back for lunch at a little cafe and to shop for some Scottish food to take home.

All of a sudden it started to snow, so the journey home was horrid blizzards, high winds and storms. Sprog was not well and slept moaning all the way home. We saw several overturned lorries, one of them upright, it’s bonnet buried in the ground. We were so glad to get home safely. The following day the weather forecast announced that the roads we had used were completely blocked and there were drifts of up to 20 feet deep. Andrew got a phone call from the housekeeper at Monreith to thank him for leaving the place so clean and tidy - so our efforts were worth it.

The Pictures