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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Portpatrick on a whim

Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway, harbour

Sometimes, it’s good to do something on the spur of the moment.  In fact, I’ve often planned to be more spontaneous.

So we visited Portpatrick on an impulse – not to labour the point, without any forethought.  It’s a wee seaside town on the west coast of Scotland – more accurately on the Rhinns of Galloway.  The Rhinns of Galloway is that hammer-shaped peninsular on your map, in the south west of Dumfries and Galloway.  Portpatrick is at the end of the A77 and pretty much as far west as you can go thereabouts without getting your feet wet. The Isle of Man lies about 45 miles to the south and Northern Ireland is around 20 miles to the west.

Portpatrick, lifeboat, Dumfries and Galloway, harbour

By tradition a fishing village, in former times Portpatrick was also a busy seaport, a conduit for trade between Ireland and Scotland, until Stranraer’s more sheltered harbour gradually gained ascendancy.  These days, it’s a popular holiday destination where people go for sea angling, golfing, walking, or to watch the boats go in and out while the gulls wheel and squawk overhead.  Sometimes, there’s a traffic jam.  And there’s an annual folk festival in September.

Portpatrick, fishing, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

I know Portpatrick’s a popular place because we bowled up in out-of-season March, shortly after the place had stopped being snowbound, to find it heaving.  My theory is that some of those stranded by inclement weather hadn’t quite managed to navigate their way out of the taverns that run along the waterfront.  Anyway, this is where spontaneity first let us down, because it was late afternoon, we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay overnight and many of the bewilderingly large number of bed and breakfast establishments were full.  Eventually, we were generously allowed to lodge in one close to the harbour – provided we agreed to take out a second mortgage.  The room was scrupulously clean, but appeared to have been created by dividing a former broom cupboard into two.  It boasted an ensuite that could also have been euphemistically described as ‘compact’.  Indeed, if inclined to multi-task and a certain amount of physical contortion, it might have been possible to perform certain essential tasks simultaneously.

Portpatrick, beach, Rhinns of Galloway

Squeezing our way outside, half of Scotland seemed to have noisily migrated into the bars and eateries, so we considered it expedient to make sure we could dine later by reserving a table somewhere.  Our B&B actually turned out to be a small hotel with a restaurant so, not knowing any better, we plumped for that.  You might say it was a spontaneous thing.  And I must confess that bit worked a treat, because the meal was really excellent, the staff were a delight and we had a wonderful evening.  There were just two downsides.  Firstly, the proprietor was one of those individuals whose bonhomie seemed somewhat exaggerated (though I’m sure it was sincere) and extended to … touching.  Now, I don’t know about you, but as a middle-aged male Brit I require a reasonable amount of personal space; actual touching (apart from a good, firm, manly handshake) is normally reserved for the memsahib, very close friends, my GP – and of course the rugger club.  The second thing was that this tactile toady had a thing about Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits.  I’m partial to hearing a little of Ol’ Blue Eyes myself, but after ‘My Way’ struck up for the third time I called a waitress over and asked – no, pleaded - whether they could possibly change the CD.  Perhaps they could take a musical quantum leap and try a bit of Crosby (before he joined Stills and Nash), or even Matt Monro.  The waiting staff seemed delighted that someone had dared speak up and rapidly replaced Frank with the latest ‘Now That’s What I Call Music (feat. Take That, Robbie Williams, David Guetta etc); I’m convinced the service got even more betterer from then on.

Portpatrick harbour, Dumfries and Galloway, sunset

In between extricating ourselves from the ensuite hutch and eating, we had a wander round the town.  It’s an attractive place, with pretty houses clustered round the harbour.  We watched the boats go in and out while the gulls wheeled and squawked overhead – as you do.  At this point I should return to the shortcomings of spontaneity.  You may be familiar with the maxim, “proper planning prevents poor performance” – also known as ‘the 6 Ps’ (I know, you only counted 5 – there’s a missing adjective before ‘poor’).  So the absence of any planning before our brief visit to Portpatrick meant that we completely missed seeing the old kirk, St Patrick’s, the local ruined castle, Dunskey, as well as a nearby hill fort.  In fairness, we did have limited time.  It simply means we’ll need to go back.  And while we’re there, we could pop down the coast to Logan Botanic Gardens too.  Regrettably, I can’t remember the name of the place we stayed in…


For more information, visit Portpatrick’s website.

Portpatrick harbour, Dumfries and Galloway, sunset, visit Scotland

24 comments:

  1. Your sunset pics are fabulous! It is surprising that that is such a tourist spot.

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  2. beautiful scenes, mike! lovely light and color in these shots!

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  3. Sometimes it's fun to visit places like this off season, when most of the tourists are gone.

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  4. Portpatrick looks like a lovely seaside town. I visited Scotland 25 years ago with my husband. Hope to come there again in future. So much still to see, like Portpatrick.

    Madelief

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  5. The upside and downside of being spontaneous, but it's something I should do more, I feel. There's nothing (no-one) to stop me but sometimes you need someone else to egg you on.

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  6. I was laughing by the end of the first paragraph! This was great fun, although it sounds like it was probably more fun to read your account than it was to have actually lived the event. Still, it just cracked me up. We've stayed in B&Bs like that (referring to your description of the bathroom). And I have to tell you that once when we stayed in Leyburn, we were dismayed to find that our B&B room was decorated not with British decor (whatever that may be), but with everything Frank Sinatra. I guess they wanted us to feel at home. We didn't travel across the Atlantic to feel at home. Anyway... I can see you need to work on the spontaneity thing, but thanks for the very fun read and beautiful photos.

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  7. I believe that the B&B you stayed in is part of a chain as I recognise many of the features even though I've never been to Portpatrick, spontaneously or otherwise. My room was in St Ives and was so designed that I could brush my teeth without the need to get out of bed in the morning - a luxury which many more fashionable establishments fail to provide. If going to sleep at nights was a problem you could knock yourself senseless on the wash-basin.

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  8. It looks quite a pleasant area for a ramble about. Beautiful shots!

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  9. Must admit I tend to stay in my Caravan, places like you discribed put me off. Fact is I have not stayed ina B&B for years, last place I wentto was a Travelodge in Dundee but at least that had a huge bed and an ensuite I could swing my dog in let alone the cat. Nearest I have been to where you were is Garlieston.
    Least you had a good time and if you return you know where not to stay

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  10. Not only did I love those photos but I laughed at your very entertaining rhetoric. Thanks Mike, it took me back to some of the places we have enjoyed over the years.

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  11. you should plan to be spontanous more often ;) beautiful trip!

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  12. Looks like you had a pleasant stroll-about. Loved the sunset photos.

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  13. Absolutely gorgeous, Mike! :)

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  14. Mike, wish I could visit Portpatrick on a whim! I had a friend from about 80 miles away, Saltcoats. He emigrated to Canada and then the US. Loved his accent! Some friends of ours spent three weeks in Scotland last year and had a grand time.

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  15. Great post Mike!
    P.S. I have found many times in life that 'unplanned', on a whim, excursions are the best (yes, we miss here and there something but there is always the next time!)
    All the best,

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  16. gorgeous boat - what an amazing sunset / what a view!!! ( ;

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  17. Well, you just discouraged any feelings of spontaneity that I might consider having in the future. The pictures you took were awesome, though. (LOL?)

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  18. It is an absolutely charming place. You got some amazing photos! But I know what you mean about "poor planning." I'm glad you found a room....sorry it was so small and cost so much! I'm glad you had a good meal, but sorry about the touchy feely proprietor and the Sinatra music! And I'm sorry you missed some of the most important sites. The upside is twofold: 1. you can go back again after better planning and know exactly what to do and 2. you have a great story to tell! :-) What is life without a few good stories now and then! :-)

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  19. Lovely place and photos. You told a great story too about your trip ... and your host :-)
    Anyone travelling west of Newton Stewart on the A75 deserves some recompense dealing with the heavy lorries going to the ferry terminals :-)

    I only remember being there once for less than two hours on a Mull of Galloway tour although I could have been there another time as a child ... my parents had a record cover with Portpatrick on the front.
    I mustn't be spontaneous as I always seem to have some accommodation booked on leaving home.

    Despite the weather being grim at the Mull, the road systems being poor, I was amazed at the tropical plants in Logan gardens. Something that the south facing Galloway coast is famed for ... the Atlantic Gulf stream.

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  20. What an AMAZING sunset!!! Have a great weekend!

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  21. It looks a beautiful place and no wonder it was booked out. The colours are stunning a too are the sunsets. I like your style of writing with the touch of humour. It is hard to be spontaneous in travelling these days, too many people doing it.

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  22. You are a witty writer! I love it. We like to take daycations, what with 4 cats at home.

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  23. Ha! Spontaneity can be over-rated, apparently. As for the accommodations, I've had similar surprises even though I booked far in advance. There is a camera lens that makes the tiniest room look vast, I have learned. In one inn I remember, my partner could not open the bathroom door to exit unless I sat and pulled my feet up on the bed. Booked months in advance! It's all part of the fun.

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