Friday 10 June 2011

Isle of Gigha

We have had our campervan for six years and slept in it for a grand total of 10 nights.  It was a long held but hugely impractical dream of mine to have a 'proper' old style VW camper.  When this Transporter van appeared in the local paper during a spell of fantastic summer weather, with friends waxing lyrical about their campervan experiences, we got carried away and bought it on the spot.  With a son aged fourteen at the time whose dreams did not include being jammed in a small campervan with his parents; holiday cottages, chickens and a large garden to attend to during the summer months, I'm not sure when we thought we would use it.  It has been useful for moving furniture, taking baskets to craft fairs, being an emergency vehicle when others were in the garage, taking the lawnmower down to Kirkland and moving aforementioned son in and out of various student accommodations but as far as holidays on the open road go, it's been a bit of a dead loss.  Several luxury holidays in far flung sunny places could have been paid for with what it has cost to keep the old van on the road.
Following John and Zoe's wedding, we thought we would treat ourselves to a holiday in the campervan at the end of May.  The original plan was to head north to the Uists for three weeks.  House sitters were arranged and the North West of Scotland would be our oyster.  Various things happened and the holiday was reduced to two weeks, eventually becoming an eight day break on the island of Gigha.  The change of plan was not without advantage - only an hour's journey to get to the ferry at Tayinloan and economical on diesel.  Gigha is a beautiful and manageable island being only six miles long and travelling over water always adds to the holiday atmosphere.
 May and June are generally our best summer months in Argyll.  The days are long and often gloriously sunny.  Not this year.  The wind which had threatened to blow John and Zoe's wedding marquee away in April, continued to be a feature.  Our holiday vision was of sitting outside in the sunshine, barbecuing fresh fish for dinner and just relaxing, away from the never ending list of jobs at home.  We were certainly able to relax; spending many hours sitting inside the van, reading, sleeping and eating, wondering when the howling gales might allow us to get outside.  At night it was like sleeping on a boat, the campervan rocking alarmingly in the wind.  
 We enjoyed meals at The Boathouse and the Gigha Hotel.  The Gallery has lots of lovely crafts and art and regular exhibitions.  Sitting watching the wind turbines spin gave us hours of entertainment and a walk up to the trig point was the only time I have ever been blown up a hill.  
Having discovered that there is no trout fishing on Gigha, James ventured to the mainland for a fishing trip.  We had a day trip to Campbeltown by bus.  Luckily our visit coincided with Springbank Distillery's Open Day with free tours and tastings.  Our 'free' day became expensive, when, relaxed and cheered by our complimentary drams, we came away with four bottles of cask strength single malt whisky.  Somehow we kept forgetting which one we liked the best and additional tastings only served to confuse us further so we had to buy them all. 
 Achamore Gardens were a delight and wonderfully sheltered from the wind.  We wandered about all by ourselves, not another person to be seen, just this friendly pig.  It was like stepping into 'The Secret Garden'.
 The highlight of the week was an Auction and lunch at the Village Hall on a particularly foul day.  The food was amazing. There were delicious soups - I had seafood chowder, with rolls filled to bursting with fantastic local produce.  Endless cups of tea and coffee with wonderful home baking and puddings.  The Auction was fun and raised a good sum for the Gardens.
In the evening we were entertained in the pub by Henri from the Gallery on Mandola, Graham on Chromatic accordion and Micky, head gardener at Achamore Gardens on Mandolin.
The sun did shine some of the time and the weather was entertainingly dramatic rather than grey and dreary.  The islanders were friendly, helpful and welcoming. We were given lifts by locals when caught out by the ferocious showers on our walks to and from the ferry. On what we thought would be our day of departure, the ferry was stormbound so we had an extra day on the island looking out at the dramatic seas battering on the shore. It's a fabulous place to visit and if you have bicycles you can take them on the ferry for free.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

John and Zoe Get Married at Seafield

The last wedding at Seafield was in 2008 when James and I finally got around to getting married on rocks overlooking Loch Sween with a guest list of twelve and a reception in the boat shed. The ceremony was conducted by our friend and Humanist Celebrant, Annie.

When my eldest son John and his girlfriend Zoe became engaged, they decided they would like something similar, here at Seafield but with around 50 or 60 guests, a marquee on the lawn and the ceremony in the field. Not quite the simple event I had in mind.

It is quite terrifying but also an enormous privilege to be entrusted with hosting the wedding of your son and future daughter in law. It might have been completely daunting had I not known how much work Zoe and her Mum were putting into the arrangements from their homes in Cheshire.

The wedding was nearly completely home made - with an enormous amount of help from friends and family on both sides. Flowers, cake, marquee dressing, food, music - everything was done 'in house' and the result was stunning. Weddings can be a source of enormous stress and conflict but John and Zoe's was conducted in a fantastic spirit of co-operation, laughter and joy. Once again Annie conducted the ceremony beautifully. The sun shone all day, wellies were not required and the dancing went on until four in the morning. A fantastic day to remember and treasure - I almost wish we could do it all again - almost.