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After having had to make a tough call about not going to the Canterbury beer festival at the weekend due to an ever diminishing supply of holiday, having had to use some to see the girls’ school activities the week before, I managed to tick off one of the “must do” things for the year at the weekend, namely go to Scotland to see Steve and Jill in Ayr.

I’d promised them I’d pop up and see them after I’d finished the walk but that was almost a year ago now and I was determined to get up there before the year was out to again thank them for their help, spend some quality time with them after the brief catch-up en-route last year and to see some of the beautiful Scottish scenery again. Fortunately everything fell into place and Shelli and I headed off Thursday afternoon to hit the motorways to hopefully reach Ayr before the day was out.

We had 400 miles ahead of us so we headed off around 4:30pm, Shelli taking the first stint of the drive. As it happens, she did all the driving on the way up bless her. I guess it was good training for the drive to the south of France next month? Anyway, she did amazingly well and not wanting to bore you with the details of the journey, we managed to get there shortly before midnight after a diversion right near the end of the trek.

Even though we arrived late and were a little tired from the drive we sat up, having a few drinks and chatting loads until around 3am when we finally gave in to the tiredness of a very long day.

Friday

After the late night before we didn’t rush up Friday morning, finally congregating downstairs around 10am wondering what to do for the day. Still feeling the day before’s journey we all decided to take it easy and chill out for the day, which is exactly what we did. The weather was glorious so we sat outside talking, catching up with everything that’s been going on and only left the house to pop to Sainsbury’s to get some supplies in, i.e. food to cremate on the BBQ for dinner, oh, and more booze!

It was lovely to just sit around in the sun and spend the time just talking and enjoying each other’s company. It felt like such a long time ago I’d seen Steve [aka Hag] and Jill.

And that was about it for Friday. A lovely day spent catching up over drinks and food in the glorious sunshine. It was great to see Steve and Jill getting on so well with Shelli too, not that I ever doubted that that wouldn’t happen!

Saturday

Much like Friday we all didn’t run around too early in the morning. By the time we were all up and had decided what to do for the day we headed out the door around 11am. It was nice not to have to rush around and just take everything at a nice, comfortable pace.

Steve very kindly drove us all around for the day – thanks mate – and took us up to Kilmarnock to see Dean Castle. This was his old neighbourhood as he grew up in Kilmarnock and had been to Dean Castle and its grounds many times before.

As castles go it was exactly huge but it was a lovely old building and, after having taken some photos, we took a walk along the river through the woods. It was a great way to start the day and the walk through the woods was really nice, especially being down by the river. Steve almost fell in as he hopped across some stones to the other side. Shelli managed to catch it on her camera so I’ll be sure get hold of that photo!

Back at the castle we enjoyed a light refreshment at the shop and then headed off in the car again, this time along the coast road to Dunure, somewhere I’d been before but I didn’t mind as the castle, harbour and the coastline there is very pretty indeed.

First things first we went and had a look at Dunure castle, Shelli and I snapping away with our cameras like mad! Again, it’s not the biggest of castles and you can only walk round part of it but its location right on the coastline is pretty impressive. It’s incredible to think that people used to live there in that remote location in such a building.

Castle done, and the afternoon getting on a bit, we headed to the Dunure Inn for a refreshing pint and some chips, seeing as we’d not really had hardly anything to eat that day so far other than some toast before heading out. The inn’s really nice and they keep their beer well, and it was great to take the weight off for half an hour and have a good natter.

Before leaving Dunure Steve said he just had to go down to the beach to skim some stones, so drinks and chips finished that’s where we went. Again, more photos were taken and quite a few stones were thrown into the water – sorry, skimmed in a professional manner – and with that done we walked back to the car and headed off to Maidens as Shelli wanted to go and see the beach there having seen the photos from my last visit.

Even though the sun was still out the wind coming across the sea at Maidens had a little bit of a chill to it. That said, it was still not what you would consider to be typical Scottish weather and we had a lovely long stroll along the beach, dodging jelly fish as we made our way along as far as the incoming tide would let us before having to head back.

By the time we got back to the car it was time to phone the girls so Shelli and I spoke to our girls, respectively, and then we headed back to Ayr to get freshened up before heading out for dinner. I’d promised Steve and Jill I’d take them out to dinner when I last saw them while I was on the walk and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to make good on that promise!

We got a cab into the town centre and went to Vitos for some very nice food indeed. It was a great evening sat eating, drinking and chatting…with lots of laughter too. Once our bellies were full though it wasn’t long before the fresh air of the day began to catch up with us all so we got a cab back for a few more drinks before crashing out after a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Sunday

Not driving back until Monday meant we had another day to head out and have a look round. As Steve had driven all day Saturday we decided to walk into Ayr town centre – something I’d not done before – to have a look round and to have a stroll along the beach. As it turns out, the stroll through town turned into a mini pub crawl, visiting four pubs on a little tour of Ayr. Nice!

Ayr had everything you’d need in a town shop-wise but one excellent selling point of the place was the vast sandy beach; it was huge! As the weather was still lovely there were loads of people on the beach and in the water, which I must admit looked a little uninviting with its natural brown colour. A board by the beach reckoned the water quality was good but you couldn’t get away from the fact that it just looked dirty. It didn’t stop everyone getting in it up to their necks though.

The final pitstop before heading back was the Glen Park Hotel where they sold a number of different beers by the Ayr Brewing Company. The beers were great and Steve and Jill bought Shelli and I a little gift box with a glass and a couple of bottles of beer in it – thanks a lot guys, they were lovely!

All being a little on the peckish side after yet another day walking around in the glorious sunshine we decided to eat at the hotel having some rather splendid pub fayre followed by sticky toffee pudding – we all decided we wanted that for dessert.

Bellies full we strolled home and once back it wasn’t too long before Shelli was virtually asleep on the sofa and my eyes began to struggle too. With a long drive ahead we decided to call it quits around 11pm and the next thing we knew it was Monday morning and almost time to say goodbye to Scotland once again.

Monday

As seems to be the order of the weekend, we didn’t rush up on our final day in Scotland. A lazy morning was had having our final catch up, filling the car up and getting supplies for the long drive back home.

We hit the road shortly after midday and after a reasonably uneventful drive back (I helped with the driving this time doing the last 280 miles or so), with only one bit of traffic dodging on the M6 required with Shelli directing me using my phone and Google maps, well done my dear – and we were back in Twyford in time to get some bits in for dinner from Waitrose in the village, somewhere around 7:30pm if memory serves me correctly.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend away. Any excuse to visit Scotland is a good excuse in my books but it was a pleasure to catch up with Steve and Jill after all this time. Even better was the fact that Shelli, Steve and Jill got on so well, something I know both Shelli and Jill were worried about – women eh?!

Thank you so much for your hospitality guys, very much appreciated. I look forward to reciprocating sometime in the future when you can make it down to these here parts.

Photos are well on the way. I’ve managed to sort out all the ones from our day out on Saturday so go and check them out. Just the ones from Sunday to go now which will hopefully be done very soon.