This post has been sat in my backlog for quite a while now, as we actually went away right at the beginning of May! The bank holiday this weekend has actually given me some time to sit down and write, a cathartic release I've been missing during the past month.
This early May excursion couldn't have come at a better time, as I desperately needed to get away from my phone, laptop and commitments, even if just for a few days. My life has been unexpectedly (but mostly enjoyably) jam packed full ever since the snap election was called way back in April.
I'm a big fan on the mini-break, as you can pack a lot in without having to take large chunks of time away from work/projects. It's also a great way of fitting more trips in throughout the year, rather than having to wait months for a big two week jaunt.
Our destination for this particular short holiday was Portpatrick, a sleepy harbour village nestled on the south-westerly coast of the Scottish mainland.
Despite never visiting this area before, descriptions of the surrounding area drew me in with the promise of excellent seafood, beautiful scenery and a pleasant climate provided by the gulf stream.
We were actually extremely lucky with the weather throughout our stay, which was a perfect combination of balmy temperatures, blue skies and lots of sunshine.
I came back feeling thoroughly rested, decently exercised and well fed, which is always the sign of a good trip.
Here are some of my highlights from our time in Portpartick and the surrounding area:
Climbing the lighthouse on the Mull of Galloway
Upon braving exactly 115 steps, you will emerge at the top of this 19th century lighthouse. Your reward is a spectacular 360° view of Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man and Cumbria. You can also see where the great tidal forces meet in the bay, visible in the strange striping effect it has on the water's surface.
Upon completing your ascent you also get a small memento of your visit, a certificate, which I now am proudly displaying at work! (No shame here.)
We didn't quite have time for it ourselves, but alongside the lighthouse there is also a small museum which focuses on the remote and harsh conditions faced by the lighthouse masters and their families.
There is also a small visitor centre and cafe, I throughly recommend the cake, having taste tested it extensively... for the blog, of course! ;)
Scrambling across coastal paths and discovering medieval ruins
We spent hours exploring the coastal paths either side of Portpatrick, which lead both north and south.
This area is full of wildlife, both marine and terrestrial. We actually managed to catch a glimpse of porpoises off the coast, aided by the fact that our visibility was almost perfect due to the weather.
On one afternoon excursion we came across the remains of Dunskey Castle, which is precariously positioned on top of the cliffs just outside of Portpartick.
Built in the 12th century, this tower house-come-castle offered shelter to surrounding inhabitants during raids. It also presumably acted as a watchtower for the village, ensuring they could look out for hostile ships out at sea.
The castle came into disuse in the 17th Century and has slowly been crumbling away ever since. Whilst you can not physically enter due to the risks posed by the ruins, you can get very close and peer in through the various windows and cracks.
Visiting prehistoric burial chambers
As someone who studied History at university, it's fair to say this kind of stuff interests me a lot!
I particularly love going to see prehistoric sites, as there's something almost symbiotic about their relationship with the landscape they inhabit - both being different yet also inextricably part of the same terrain. They are also usually very still and calm places, often remotely located in a farmers field or meadow.
On our way back home we took a quick detour from the A75 to visit Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns, a pair of Neolithic burial monuments situated on a hill offering fine views over the coastline.
Both were built in the 4th millennium BC and were partially excavated in 1949. Each has two chambers, in which shards of neolithic pottery and even an arrowhead were found.
If you're driving on the A75 and have a spare half an hour, I highly recommend taking the detour (it really doesn't take long to see them!)
Watching over 100 Red Kites have lunch
This was honestly was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
Bellymack Hill Farm is a Kite Feeding Station located near Laurieston, a bit of a detour on our drive home, but well worth it in every sense.
Red kites have been congregating at the Farm since 2001 when they were reintroduced to Galloway. They have been fed regularly here since 2003, which has enabled visitors to get close firsthand experiences of these amazing birds.
We arrived well before the 2pm feeding time, so we took a stroll around the new nature reserve which offers amazing views over the surrounding countryside. We also got to see around 20 red kites flying overhead, soaring on the thermals created by the warm weather.
As it got closer to the event, we noticed more and more birds appearing from all directions. We took our places on the viewing platform and waited with other eager viewers...
The feeding was spectacular, with the birds swooping in a mere 20 meters away. You were close enough to make out individual tags on the bird's wings.
Their speed and agility was breathtaking, as were the displays of social behaviour (Red Kites are actually sociable, something people don't normally associate with birds of prey).
We watched over 100 birds swoop in to grab chunks of meat for an hour, which went by in a flash. I'm not a birdwatcher by nature, but there was more than enough action here to keep me enthralled.
It was also great to be supporting the project, which provides both food for the Kites and a boost for the local economy with increasing numbers of visitors boosting job numbers and other nearby businesses.
If you're looking to take a short break in the UK, you should seriously consider Portpartick. It's admittedly quite a drive for anyone south of Manchester, but well worth it.
The scenery and wildlife are spectacular, the seafood is excellent (see where we ate below) and the local people are particularly friendly and welcoming.
Where we stayed: The Waterfront Hotel, Portpartick
Where we ate: The Crown Hotel, The Waterfront Hotel, Campbell's Restaurant, The Port Pantry