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Camping in Scotland

Sometimes its nice to travel light. What do you really need for camping? 

1) A tent

2) A couple of airbeds

3) and a view

Camping, at it's simplest.

So it's pretty obvious that I didn't take the ferry to Scotland just to go camping for one night. I was actually in Carlisle to pick up my eldest son Elan who is at the end of his last term of Uni. As an Illustrator, he had an end of year show which is the culmination of his three years of work. 

It was a multi day event so I went from a Wednesday to the Sunday. I stayed in his Student house in a room that is right beside a busy junction on a main road. We also had extremely good weather, with the temperatures hitting 30 degrees on one day. 

The heat and the noise were a bit much for me, and coupled with the fact that my son has some of his own camping equipment that we had to take back to Northern Ireland anyway, it made sense to use it to get out of the city and closer to the ferry so that we would have a shorter journey to the ferry in Cairnryan.

I had a couple of days in Carlisle to hunt out the perfect campsite on the internet, since my son had lots of goodbyes to say to his friends and was busy most evenings and so I was on my own. The Galloway and Dumfries area has more campsites than you could shake a stick at, and most of them look fantastic. I would love a fortnight just to spend some quality time in this area.

I'm a sucker for a view though and so when I came across Castle Bay Holiday Park in Portpatrick my mind was immediately made up. It was only 25 minutes drive to the ferry at Cairnryan. 

Ruin One of the Day

On the Saturday morning we got all of Elans worldly possessions in the car, made sure the camping gear was on top and set off. On the way we stopped at a Cafe just outside Dumfries for a big breakfast to set us up for the day, and to buy supplies for dinner that night. Closer to our destination, we stopped off for a leg stretch at Glenluce Abbey which is not far off the main road on the way to Stranraer.

Next stop Portpatrick and Castle Bay Holiday Park which I navigated to with the Sat Nav. Having booked in at reception and paid our £18 we set up the tent. A couple of years ago I had bought the Olpro Pop which is an umbrella style pop up three berth tent. I liked it a lot but donated it to my son for his own camping kit. The tent is available in three colours and the one I had bought and donated was green. I then bought myself an orange one to replace the one I had given away. I had one airbed with me, which was for Elan to sleep on when we were in Carlisle (I took over his bed) and I'd also brought my own bedding for staying in Carlisle. So all I needed to do was buy one cheap airbed from a supermarket on the way to the campsite and he had a sleeping bag he had as part of his camping kit. We had no chairs, no cooking gear, nothing other than the tent and the beds. And you know what? That's all you need.

Our campsite was at the end of a drive through the Holiday Park, overlooking the sea and also a spectacular ruin called Dunskey Castle. The weather was beautiful, warm but the sea breeze left the temperatures comfortable unlike Carlisle where is was too hot. 

Ruin Two of the Day
There is a public right of way to the castle and apparently it takes you past the castle right into the fishing village of Portpatrick.  We were not there long enough to go on that walk, but we did explore the ruins. It is possible to get right into the castle ruins, up a spiral staircase and into the upper floor. It was a second ruin of the day. 

zoomed in from the campsite

view from the castle

spiral staircase

Back at the campsite, I enjoyed a bit of rest time with a spectacular view overlooking the Irish Sea from which, according to David the warden, you can see Northern Ireland on a clear day.
Looking back at the campsite from Dunskey Castle ruin

Our dinner was simple - a french stick, a packet of ham and a couple of beef tomatoes and crisps. Dessert was a punnet of fresh cherries. This was one of the best dinners we had in the whole trip. We each had our own swiss army knife, you'd nearly think we'd done this camping thing before.

About 8pm the scottish midge made an appearance. They were malicious and the only thing we could do was pile into the car and get out of the campsite. Everyone else in the campsite did exactly the same thing. Except these people who turned up in a campervan.

Ruin Three of the Day 

We decided to explore the village of Portpatrick, which is a small fishing village with a couple of hotels on the sea front. We also happened to be in town at the same time as a group who were obviously having a meet and were all Moped enthusiasts. We had come across them camping on a sports pitch on the same road as our campsite, and it seemed they were all from Northern Ireland too.

just a few of the mopeds

We explored the village and came across another ruin in an ancient graveyard. The photo below shows the dovecote which is inside the old graveyard.

Old Portpatrick Church of St Andrews - Dovecote

The following day we packed up our tent and belongings and went back to Portpatrick in search of Sunday Lunch. We were a bit early and went for a walk along the seashore and visited a pottery and a couple of tourist type shops. We bought some locally made lemon and lime marmalade for bringing home. We saw the most enormous Jelly Fish along the shore. A woman was trying to take a closer look at it when her boyfriend tried to push her in!

Sunday Lunch at The Crown

The Marina at Portpatrick

RNLI lifeboat with Portpatrick in the background
This last photo shows the path and steps that goes eventually to Dunskey Castle and the campsite as well as beyond (I believe it's a coastal walk).

I would recommend Castle Bay Holiday Park because of it's spectacular views, the easy walks to both Dunskey Castle and along the shore to Portpatrick. The village had plenty to offer too with a few hotels, a couple of arts and ceramics shops and a lovely marina to explore. Portpatrick is very convenient to the ferry but there is so much more to explore in this area and the next time I'm in the area I hope to find out more about the place.


Waterfall Caves new campsite near Benone - opening weekend

I had the honour of being invited to open a new campsite this Bank Holiday weekend, May 2018. Paula and George Canning from Ballykelly area near Benone had already got a busy fishing lakes business when they decided to open up a campsite beside the lakes. I had been asked to give some ideas and feedback and then coming up to the big weekend I was asked to cut the ribbon and say a few words. It was combined with a fund raiser for a young relative of theirs, a little boy called Caden Jack Moore who has recently had a bone marrow transplant The Adventures of Caden Jack Moore.

Caden Jack Moore

It was to be a weekend of catching up with old friends, as friends old and new came to help celebrate this big opening.  So it was a busy weekend in blistering hot weather and we all got very sunburned even with the factor 50.

L-R, David, Karen, Stephen, John and me

The site itself is small in scale and is flat and dry with hardstandings for Motorhomes, Campervans and in the future, Caravans. At the moment there is no electricity so the site, although open, is still in development. There are a couple of fire pits sitting around and loads of picnic tables built by the local Mens Shed. There is one toilet and one shower for everyone in the rear of the main cabin with only a short one minute walk from the campsite along a pretty wooded path. 

Access to the site is along the Duncrun Road. The turn in to the site from the main road is an acute angle, and because of this it is advisable for people towing caravans to approach from the East. The Sat Nav co-ordinates are 55°07'50.3"N 6°55'55.9"W. The access road is steep enough but quite wide and there are 10mph speed restrictions signs along it's length. Roadside signage is not in place for the campsite as of May 2018 however there are signs for Duncrun Fishing Lakes at the road side. The nearest village is Ballykelly and there are two shops. One of the shops will deliver for 50p with a minimum order of £30 and you just put in your order at the campsite (there are two times a day to do this). Just past Ballykelly is the turn off to Magilligan Point with the Point Bar that does food, a beach and the ferry to Donegal. Another couple of miles along the road is Benone Strand with caravan parks, the Tourist Complex and a cafe called 'Waves' who do a 'golfers fry' for £5.95 and open on a Saturday and Sunday morning from 9am. Incidentally a Restaurant called 'Coast' does a free pick up and drop off for campers at Waterfall Caves.

short path to the cabin from the campsite

The facilities for campers are mostly based in the cabin which already serves as an office and small snack shop for the fishing business. The new campers facilities are a kitchen dining area to the rear of the building with an open to the outside porch with seating. Directly behind the cabin is a play area with climbing frame, a see saw and soft surface.

campers kitchen

campers kitchen with porch

There are fishing lakes which are very pretty and there are rod hire and tickets are available in the office. Campers can walk around them but there are no dogs allowed and they must be quiet when fishing is in progress. There is a little bit of a Canadian flavour to the lower lakes landscape, and the upper lake is a turquoise pool with a backdrop of the famous cliff face of Benevenagh Mountain. The upper lake is also overlooked by the other type of accommodation available at this site, four 'caves' which are subterranean rooms with glass frontage. 

Upper Lake

Lower Lake

There is another walk which is more dog friendly (because no dogs are allowed around the fishing areas). It is the 10 minute Viewpoint Walk which takes you on a circular route around the owners land, with a spectacular viewpoint stop off for photos and actually enough room to park about four motorhomes so it may even be a future motorhome park. Off this walk is another walking route which is the 'Game of Thrones' walk which takes a line up the hill side to the cliffs, taking in the areas that were used as filming locations for the TV series.

view from part of the Viewpoint Walk

Game of Thrones route

On Saturday the main party and fundraiser took place. There was a barbecue, a bouncy castle and loads and loads of people turned up. They were a mixture of fishing people, friends and family of the Canning Family who were supporting the new business venture, family of young Caden who the day was in aid of, neighbours and people who just called in to support the event. To date the day raised £1400 with more due. Young Cadens father, Brian, provided the a Tepee for everyone to enjoy as a communal space and explained that he had to give up a job which he loved because of the care that Caden requires. His prior job was using the big Tepee as a classroom for teaching outdoor activities to children.

On the day of the big opening 'do' I had the honour of cutting the ribbon and a few words were appropriate. I started with a brief description of who I am and what I do, which is that I am a blogger and camping enthusiast. I then touched on the fundraising element of the fun day and then led everyone on a round of applause for the Canning Family who worked so hard on the site. There was quite a crowd and afterwards we all went through to look at the campsite and John and I hosted some tent and awning tours. In the meantime back in the cabin the barbecue and wine was in full flow.

big speech

some of the crowd going for a campsite tour

Campsite tour

On Sunday it was pack up day. We started the day the only way we knew how. Bacon and coffee.

Then it was time for John to do his Yoga moves as he struggled to get the air out of the tent. He is available for weddings, parties and bar mitzvas anywhere in Northern Ireland. All in all a fantastic weekend and a rough idea has come together for a future meet up with many of the friends I met on this camping trip.

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