On Thursday we are off on the first post-Doggo Tour of Scotland. His presence will be greatly missed but now we've got the Lad to take island hopping with us and, oddly, there does seem to be quite a lot of Doggo in the Lad.
Plan A was the Mull Half Marathon this weekend, which we both fancied, but I’ve since decided that I’m not fit enough. Then the problem with holding off on entering while I decided whether I was fit enough means that the Mull race is now full. Although I’m sure L told me there was only about 10 people in it last year. Not only that but now that all the ferries to get there are full too. Bloody tourists.
So, do we have a backup plan? We do. The Dunoon half. There’s plenty of spaces there as no one knows where it is and it has a ‘just turn up and go’ ferry. Dunoon is on the Cowal peninsula but still requires a ferry, either that or a very long drive. L announces that it was actually her first choice race all along even if she also says that the thought of her doing a half marathon on such meagre training is a ridiculous idea. Ridiculous ideas are always the best ideas.
I book a camp site at Glendaruel, download an audiobook (Kristina Ohlsson’s Buried Lies) and off we go. We break the journey on the way up, stopping for my first ever Subway salad and then overnight at Barnsoul Caravan Park near Dumfries. The Galloway Arms serves us a decent meal but with red wine as they have no real ale.
The next day we get the Western Ferries ferry from Gourock to Dunoon and then take the single track across the peninsula to the camp site which is 18 miles away. We will be based there for three nights.
Then we look for somewhere to eat. The pub at Colintraive is packed so we about turn and take another single track road to Tighnabruaich where we eat at the Royal an Lochan. Again there is no real ale but the bottles of Fyne Ales Highlander go down very well.
In the morning we head back to Dunoon for the race, stopping briefly so that L can scrape a dead deer off the road (poor thing). There is entry on the day but the cold, damp, prime calf popping weather causes me to decline entering either the half or the 10k. Instead the boys and I support, then when the weather improves I run the last bit with L. She declares it as her worst race ever (alongside all her other worst races ever).
We have a post run drink, a pint of Skye Gold, at Holy Loch Inn at nearby Sandbanks but they decline the offer of feeding us, which is so Scotland. With not many other options available we eat at a nearby café.
On Sunday we do a bit of a tour around the peninsula stopping for a pint of Fyne Ales Yarl at the Otter Ferry Inn before having an excellent meal including some amazing Cullen Skink at the Kames Hotel in nearby Kames. The beer is called Thorough Bread from the Bute Brewery and a very moreish 5.1%.
Talking of Bute, that’s where we head next. We had looked at doing some of the smaller islands further north such as Canna, Rùm, Eigg and Muck but they don't allow cars. Which is good in a way but could result in a very fraught ferry crossing with a couple of collies under our arms while carrying all our clothes and camping gear. There would also be the risk that they’d be nowhere to leave the boys if it's chucking it down with rain when it turned out that they didn't take dogs in the pub, if there is a pub.
So Bute it is, which was also under consideration because of the fact that the now rebuilt Bluebird K7 is being tested for the first time up on Loch Fad. So the next day, after checking in at Roseland Caravan Park, we get down to Loch Fad to see the boat after spending our first night checking out the Bute Brewery and looking (successfully) for more Thorough Bread.
We see Bluebird on it’s mooring but not on the water as they are having a few technical issues which they sort out but not until after we’ve left. We spent the evening checking out the Black Bull for beer and the Esplanade Hotel for food. Surprisingly the hotel has the better beer, albeit Welsh in Brains Rev James on draught but also a bottled dark stout from Keith Brewery. The Lad spends his evening biting through his new six day old lead.
The next day we get the Rhubodach to Conlintraive ferry back the way we came then get another one from Portavadie to Tarbert as he head for Kintyre. We camp at Peninver Sands, which is four miles north of Campbeltown, where we eat and drink in the Royal Hotel's Black Sheep Bar. Fyne Ales are following us around and particularly Hurricane Jack which is on the bar here.
After a couple of days with the amazing coastline of Kintyre, where there is more than a passing nod to the McCartneys who put the place on the map and lived there for many years, we head over to the Isle of Arran. Which, unlike quite and peaceful Kintyre, seems pretty much full when we get there.
We camp by and eat at the Kildonan Hotel. The default reaction in Scotland when you ask about a table in a Restaurant is that they are fully booked up. This happens everywhere and then if you stick around you get to observe empty tables all night. Same here, as we eat in bar which is packed because they’ve told everyone the Restaurant is full. I think the dogs like this bar because it backs out on to the beach. The Lad really does like his beach.
On Saturday we complete a total circuit of Arran by car because yesterday we were looking for a camp site and today we’re looking for a ferry home but the direct one from Broderick is all booked up. So we go back the way we came, taking the same three small ferries but in reverse to get back to the mainland.
We camp at the seaside resort of Largs as this is close to the 10k run at Port Glasgow that we have planned for Sunday. I run this one too and it’s good to get back into action even if we do get the first wet weather of the holiday.
Then it’s home time.
(Monday 13th August)