It is nice and sunny when we arrive in Cairnryan, so we have a lovely drive to Dumfries, where we will be staying a few days. Of course there is a lot of traffic from the ferry going the same way, so the road is busy.
Originally I had booked a room in a b&b. Two weeks before we left home I got an email that it had closed with immediate effect and that our reservation had been cancelled. Not ideal when you need wheelchair accessible accommodation. Fortunately, the Premier Inn in Dumfries still had a room available at the time of the email, so that is where we were going to stay. We arrive at the hotel around four. When checking inn I find out that our room is almost at the other end of the hotel, through a long narrow corridor with many doors. Not ideal if you are pushing a wheelchair or when you have to carry many bags from the car to your room! And of course as a carer you have more luggage than other people on holiday. When I mention this the receptionist opens a fire door closer to our room, so I can bring the luggage in.
The room is nice and big, with plenty of room around the bed. Not a lot of room for clothes, so we have to live out of the suitcase for a few days. The bathroom is quite big too, so enough room to manoeuvre, if it wasn’t for the fact that the washbasin was right next to the toilet. This means that every time I help J with the transfer from wheelchair to toilet I have to be careful that I don’t open the tap and get my trousers wet! I guess it is useful for other people to be able to wash their hands whilst sitting on the toilet…..
The first night and the next morning we have our meal in the restaurant next to the hotel. The food is quite nice, but we don’t want such a big breakfast every day. I guess there are quite a lot of people with blue badges coming to eat in the restaurant because most evenings when we return to the hotel all the disabled parking spots are occupied.
Enjoying the countryside
As before, we spend quite some time over the next three days driving around the countryside. We see most of the coast from Port Logan to the mouth of the River Nith. High points are the view at the Mull of Galloway, the Isle of Whithorn and village of Kirkcudbright.
At the Mull of Galloway there are ample disabled parking bays from where you are able to enjoy the view, and you are also allowed to drive on to the visitor centre, which unfortunately is already closed by the time we get there. The weather is reasonably clear so the Isle of Man is clearly visible, and we can even see the Mountains of Mourne, despite thunder storms coming our way from that direction.
There are also plenty of disabled parking bays on the quayside in the Isle of Whithorn, although we didn’t get out of the car. In Kirkcudbright we stop for coffee and also have a quick walk around. We saw quite a few castles and abbeys during our drives, but the only castle we actually visit is Caerlaverock. There are no special disabled parking facilities but there is plenty of room. It is possible to get inside the castle into the courtyard but you have to get down a very steep slope. I manage to get the wheelchair down, but find someone to help me up the slope when we want to leave. J enjoyed his visit very much so it was worth the effort.
We also have a lovely drive past New Galloway to the Galloway Forest Park. We stop at the Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, where I walk to one of the many Bruce’s stones. As it just started to drizzle J decides to have a snooze rather than getting out of the car. There are (free) disabled parking bays available in the car park. It would have been possible to take the wheelchair on the path along the lake, and into the visitor centre which has disabled facilities.
We manage to squeeze in four gardens in the few days we are in Galloway and Dumfries. The first is the Newtonairds Hosta Garden, just outside Dumfries. We arrive late in the afternoon, but this means the owners have plenty of time for us. This is a private garden, so no parking facilities, but plenty of room on the road. The garden is a delight. Part of it is on the slope under trees, which is where most of the hostas grow. This is a bit difficult to do with the wheelchair, but you can see a lot of it from the bottom of the slope. There is a more or less flat grass path in the valley at the bottom of the slope and a lovely patio area surrounded by Clematis and climbing roses. The owner brings us a pot of tea which we enjoy in the sun on the patio. Although the garden is officially closed by then they let us sit there as long as we like, as they are enjoying the lovely weather themselves. One of the outhouses has a shop with knickknacks, and a regular toilet, but no disabled facilities.
There are disabled facilities at Logan Botanical Gardens, but they are tiny, so a lot of improvisational talent needed on my part when J needs the toilet. Most paths around the garden are reasonably accessible, although we avoid the Woodland area in the Southern half of the garden which is more on a slope. It is gorgeous and sunny when we arrive, so we enjoy our lunch outside in the sun. Suddenly the clouds come over and we even have a short drizzly shower, but not enough to stop us enjoying the garden, we just seek shelter in the greenhouse.
At Glenwhan Gardens there is a very steep ramp to get from the parking to the entrance and the tearoom. There are some signs indicating there is a wheelchair accessible trail around the garden, but it is not marked on the map, and sometimes it is very difficult to see where you have to go, so I leave J at the lakeside from where he has lovely views of the garden.
The last gardens we visit are Threave Gardens, the gardens where National Trust for Scotland trains its gardeners. The paths are wide enough and tarmac, so easy enough if it wasn’t for the slope. First quite steep down from the entrance towards the walled garden, and then again quite steep up towards the house. As it have been a few very busy days John chooses a quiet spot in the sun near the walled garden to rest a bit, while I run around the rest of the garden. Fortunately someone offers me a hand (again) to get the wheelchair back up the hill to the visitor centre. We could have used the viewing platform at the visitor centre, but chose not to. There are disabled facilities in the visitor centre too, but we haven’t tried them on this visit.
The last leg
All too soon it is time to set off on the last leg of our trip. Fortunately there is still time on the way to make a few stops and see a few things on the way. John sleeps through the visit to the Ruthwell cross, but it would have been possible to get the wheelchair into the church to see it. He does wake up for the lunch break at Gretna Green. We couldn’t pass it without visiting the old Blacksmith’s. The museum is wheelchair accessible and so are the shops and the restaurants. There are plenty of facilities too. However, it is starting to get very warm, so we are glad to get back into the car, with the air conditioning.
The road to the ferry brings us back on the road along Hadrian’s wall which we visited a few years ago, so happy memories. Because of traffic jams on the road we get to North Shields on time, but later than we would have liked and get told off by the receptionist checking us in for the ferry. She tells us she now can’t guarantee us a place by the lifts, as they have already started boarding. I tell her that I couldn’t risk having to be in a queue in the sun for hours at temperatures above 25 degrees with an elderly vulnerable person, and that my experience from several previous crossings was that they started boarding much later. Also that it wasn’t my fault that our queue had progressed much slower than other queues because they had a trainee receptionist doing the checking in. After checking in a thunder storm breaks with a deluge of rain, most of it while we are in with border control, and when we come out on the other side the temperature has dropped almost 10 degrees! In the end everything turns out okay, we still get our place near the lift on the ferry. The DFDS ferry is the one that we have used most often, as it is usually the most convenient for our crossings. So from previous experience I know that it is easier to take a disabled cabin with sea view as they are fractionally larger and the set up of the cabin gives us a little more room for the transfers. The bathroom is as always on the ferries: difficult to get in and out of. I also notice that the socket to plug in a razor is in an illogical place for a disabled cabin……
We also like the sailing times, leaving late in the afternoon, arriving after breakfast. On top of that it gives us a chance to end our holiday with a nice dinner in the buffet restaurant of the ferry. We have booked a later sitting at 6.30 rather than 6 o’clock, giving me time to pop onto the sun deck to see the ferry sail off the Tyne to sea. By this time the thunder storm has well and truely passed, it is nice weather with a little sunshine.
After dinner we spend some time in the bar, drinking coffee and listening to the music before we go to bed. The next morning we just have coffee and croissants in the bar, rather than a full breakfast. The purser giving us assistance refuses to listen to me that he wants to take the wrong lift going back to the car so we have to travel quite a long way before retracing our steps and doing it my way. Fortunately we still get to the car on time (after he has had to ‘throw’ other passengers out of the lift), giving me enough time to get everything in the car before disembarkation. The temperature is soaring already when we get off the ferry and drive the last bit of our trip back home. Being well rested helps in getting through the heatwave that follows….. and it gives me a good excuse to stay indoors and sort through all the photographs.