Couple O Galloway Facts
Let me tell you a little about Galloway Forest Park.
Galloway Forest Park is a vast, sprawling wilderness of mountains, moors and forestry. The flatness of the south half of Scotland vigorously denied by small mountain rages across the land. The park hosted the Battle of Glen Trool in 1307, in which Robert the Bruce fought a variety of people and won. Monuments erected to commemorate this include a large stone with the suitable title; ‘Bruce’s Stone.’
A King so worthy, they gone and piled sum there rocks
Tourist information defines the park as ‘three hundred square miles of wild beauty’ Another figure floating around states 373 square miles. To put this in perspective, it is roughly the size of 1850 Vatican Cities. For the British reading this, that’s 5.5 times the size of Glasgow.
These 370 miles of parkland are threaded together that a road not unlike the Sichuan.
Like this, but with more pot holes.
The craters are mere scars of Ayrshire council’s negligence. I’m somewhat bitter after my car was swallowed hole. (Hole – get it?)
The park is a vastly uninhabited area bar a number of mansions that lords from long ago decided to build. Before one arrives at the park (From the direction of Straiton), one can aso view a moment on top of a large hill that a lord decided to commemorate himself with.
The website ‘factoids’ section states the fun fact that ‘The Galloway Forest Park can be seen just as clearly from space as the Great Wall of China!’ which didn’t excite me much since it has been scientifically proven that the Great Wall of China cannot, in fact, be seen from space.
Another fun factoid.
‘At least 35 aircraft have crash-landed in the Galloway Forest Park.’
Even more reason to visit. If I were a tourist, this would be the selling point. I mean, who wouldn’t want to visit an area of 300 miles of forest park where 35 aircraft crashed? Presumably the burning wreckage no longer remains, ‘else the fun factoid would have been promoted to the main page.
There! Crash site! See it? No, me neither.
This was followed by;
‘Only 62% of the Galloway Forest Park is actually covered in forest.’
The first clue that the name of the area is rather deceptive.
I took a look at the 1960’s style ‘what’s on!’ brochure (One can forgive park rangers for lacking a contemporary design). Galloway forest park was a mere twenty minute drive from Ayr, so I figured it would be a good first step to see what activities are held there.
The first event in June is ‘fishing day.’ This is followed promptly by July that sports a similar event. ‘Fishing day.’ The next month had its very own ‘Fishing day.’ Scrolling down to scan the following months, I can conclude that there were, indeed, many fishing days. December is the exception, where ‘Fishing day’ has been replaced by ‘Christmas Day.’
The last sentence of the website read the following;
…Actually, it didn’t read anything. There was simply a blank page.
Whether this was the webmaster’s idea of irony, honesty or simply incompetence, I will never know.
A final note to amend any discrepancies I developed about the park. I checked the weather.
* Heavy Rain
* Max: 8°C
* Min: 5°C
* Wind: SE 13mph
Light Rain Shower
* Light Rain Shower
* Max: 9°C
* Min: 4°C
* Wind: S 18mph
Light Rain Shower
* Heavy Rain
* Max: 10°C
* Min: 3°C
* Wind: WSW 24mph
Beautiful, beautiful Scotland.
There’s nothing quite as enlightening as climbing a mountain.
And when I say enlightening, I mean bloody awful.
I exaggerate. If I hated it that much, I wouldn’t do it. In a way climbing serves as a polite reminder of how unfit I am. Though young, I would wallow up the Merrick (Tallest mountain in the southern uplands – yet only a modest 843m) at a leisurely pace as men and women in their seventies strode by in glee. They smiled and went about their chirpy ways, but even that enthusiasm was patronizing. It didn’t help when I realized that quite a few of them had reached Glen Trool using their free bus-passes. No wonder they looked so smug.
The real kicker was when I sat back (merely to admire the view, of course) and was promptly overtaken by a toddler and his parents, red Wellington boots and plastic space rifle at hand.
The whole idea of climbing the Merrick was an outdoorsy method of getting experience and getting fitter. It was taking a lot longer than I had anticipated.
After what seemed like forever; I reached the summit. The view was fantastic. I admired it between gasps and coughing fits – wonderful! The southern uplands stretched for miles. In the far distance I could see Ailsa Craig. I could see Northern England and – as myth would have it – Wales.
Well. Wales at a push. I just waved my hand in a direction I generally believed to be south. Look – Snowdon!
Two gentlemen (both retired.) whom I met at the summit nodded in a subdued awe at my astounding knowledge. I realized later that I had been pointing towards Glasgow. I hope I never encounter these gentlemen again.
The sun is shining. I have a cold drink and I have shed the sweater I’ve been wearing for the past eight months. I smell like tropical fruit, the house is clean and my cat has finally disposed the worm that has been hanging out his bottom for the last week. Life is good.
Good enough for a walk, anyway. Days like this are hardly designed for the indoorsy-antisocial like myself. One must shake off the thoughts of drawing the curtains for a video-game session and embrace the summer-loving bandwagon. The Ayrshire coast is mere minutes from the house; a beach that Glasgow in its entirety tends to visit on days like this – what’s there to do but stroll along the beach? It is a beautiful country after all.
Dutifully, I managed to walk at least thirty minutes down the coast before inevitable crankiness kicked in. There were a lot of tourists – mostly from Glasgow. I walked past kids, parents, grandparents, dogs, donkeys, a horse and a couple of cross-dressers enjoying the summer breeze (Glasgow). Most would nod their head or smile in recognition, some would look away and a few would glare at me like I was the devil’s offspring. All in all, pleasantries were just an obligatory ritual for everyone.
However, during the stroll, I encountered an elderly couple from Germany. A grey haired-lady called Sarah and boisterous gentleman, Jasper. After exchanging hellos, they asked if there was anything I could recommend in Scotland. They had come on a tour across the United Kingdom with their son (a banker – poor sod) and were hoping to make the most of the three-weeks they had.
‘Anything in particular?’ I asked.
‘Anything!’ Jasper said enthusiastically.
And at that point, my mind drew a blank. Well – almost.
‘There’s some good pubs.’
‘Oh, I don’t drink.’
I didn’t really know. I didn’t really know much about Scotland at all. After leaving the Germans, I trod home thinking about what I would be interested in if I was going to visit Scotland. What was there to do?
Some research was required.
The big guns of the travel guide industry Lonely Planet stated ‘As an old Scots saying has it, ‘guid gear comes in sma’ bouk’ (good things come in small packages). And despite its small size, Scotland certainly has many treasures crammed into its compact territory.
This follows an article from the Telegraph that cheerfully states “the reputation of the Scots as dour and miserable has been reinforced by academic research, which found that satisfaction with life is significantly lower north of the border than south.” (Peterkin, 2004)
Another fact astutely observed by the Telegraph informs us that the results indicate that Scots have remained steadfastly miserable for 30 years while others in Britain have grown happier.
This, of course, still holds more manners than the optimistically titled ‘Scotland : The land of shit weather and deep fried everything.’ Taken from a popular Internet blog. I’m starting to see these treasures Lonely Planet speak of already.
The Scot’s gloomy reputation seems to tie in neatly with its stubbornness. Results from the Eurobarometer survey – essentially a ‘happiness scale’ showed that the Scottish people had no increase in happiness between the period of 1973 and 2002. In fact, results show that Scotland had no increase in life-satisfaction since devolution began. This may or may not be due to the Scot’s willingness to admit to being a chirpy, happy clappy nation. Another reason may be that Scotland’s ‘happy’ and Scotland’s ‘drunk’ are synonymous. That, or we actually are just a dour nation. I’d look further into the bright side of these statistics for an idealistic observation, but – being Scottish – I’m simply not feeling optimistic enough.
Though now educated on the miserable nature of the Scottish people, I realized how little I actually knew about the country itself.
I had a wave of enthusiasm. An idea. Something that would place me in the shoes of those German tourists. I needed to see Scotland.
This could be the start of a very, very long journey.