The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley.
To a Mouse, by Robert (a.k.a. Robbie) Burns, (1759 - 1796).
Up the Clyde
We had booked our first overnight stop in Scotland, at Culzean, overlooking the Clyde. Our scheme had been to visit Dumfries en route so that we could take in the Robert Burns House museum and I could visit the legendary specialist Whisky and Wine Merchant, T.B.Watson Ltd. We have become quite experienced motorhome travellers so we took the precaution of asking the friendly staff at Annandale if there was anywhere to park. They gave us detailed directions, even consulting fellow colleagues with local knowledge.
We returned to our 7.3 metre behemoth with optimism. The A75 would take us right there, we just needed ensure we didn't take the bypass.
There was no problem finding the correct exit and I was getting excited. My extant friend, Robbie Burns, had exhorted me to visit the museum and I'd definitely find the appropriate whisky and wine for the call-of-the-glen. It was further than we thought to the edge of the shopping precinct and I forget how many ever-decreasing circles of the town centre I made looking for a parking. There wasn't even a place to stop. A switch in strategy to ever-increasing circles was no more successful and we eventually gave up and rejoined the A75 more than an hour later. Now I know why they are often called ring roads. We still had 130 km to go.
Shelley-ann (Shan) and I used to call these Nick Broomfield moments. Burns moments may be more appropriate from now on.
The Scheme was to spend a few nights acclimatising to Scotland while overlooking the Clyde Estuary before travelling up it. Looking over to Arran and Kintyre from Culzean (pronunciation anything from "Klane" to "Coolain" )
Despite feeling a tad frustrated as we left Dumfries, our spirits were lifted by the splendid landscapes we crossed during the next few hours. Which all goes to show that the operative word in the quote from To a Mouse is "aft" (pronunciation anything from "often" to "occasionally"). This is where Serendipity comes in. As you can see above, the campsite was worth it. The staff were friendly and helpful and the view was to die for.
The next day we walked to Culzean Castle where we joined the National Trust for Scotland as a "senior couple" and learned that many of the hairy cattle we'd been admiring en route were not Ayrshires but Heilan Coos. Believe it or not ye Sassenachs, Heilan Coo is a breed rather than an affectionate moniker. We developed a great affection for these cuddly looking beasts and have bored our friends by involuntarily shouting Heilan Coo at inappropriate moments. We didn't have sufficient courage to test the "cuddly" bit, I'm afraid, but here's a gratuitous picture of Shan with the castle's own gasworks in its picturesque setting alongside the Firth of Clyde.
The venerable pile and its gorgeous grounds have a colourful and fascinating history in addition to manufacturing its own gas from coal . If it's more detail on gas production you're after ...
Shan and I were feeling virtuous, having walked to and from the camping site to the castle and then around the grounds, a quite hilly round trip of more than 8 km. We hoped, with irritating smugness, that the National Trust for Scotland would be playing its part in the campaign to reduce obesity by discouraging the continuous stream of Range Rover, BMW, Audi, BMW and Volvo fawbefores carting kids around the internal road network. YES. I did say VOLVO. I thought that Volvo owners were supposed to be lithe and hairy and wear Scandinavian woolly jumpers? Not irritatedly tailgating walkers in their diesel guzzling XC90s.
The call of the Glen
Culzean was a lovely interlude but it was time to move on. Our next scheme was ...
I'm going to press a PAUSE button here because I've had an epiphany as to the origins of the word "scheme". Not everyone knows the connections between South Africa and the disaffected parts of the "United" Kingdom. Many disaffected Scots found themselves in remote parts of the Orange Free State, the equally disaffected Boer republic, united in their suspicion of the Ungrish. Irish people, too. Shan's ancestors were Huguenots who ended up in the "Vrystaat" via Ireland (after a few generations).
The etymology of the Vrystaat version of "scheme" might originate (bear with me) from the Scottish bard himself.
Not many Seffrikin born people of my generation could claim that they've never been challenged with "Vutt is you scheming men ... is youze checking me skeef?" or "Youze scheme youze gratemen".
I've done a few coarse translations of these so I mazewill share them with you:
"What are you plotting there, man ... are you regarding me with intent to do me harm?" or "You have delusions of grandeur, man (i.e. greater than my own)".
There's a big difference between lazy sentence construction and the added expressiveness of a local vernacular or patois. Hate the former. Love the latter. When in Rome ...
OK that's enough of my pontificating peroration, time to press PLAY again:
Our previous scheme in Dumfries had gone agley. We needed a contingency scheme vis-à-vis my failure to procure an Islay malt and some reasonably respectable wine. We consulted the site staff who suggested the Majestic on the outskirts of Ayr. It was Sunday and parking outside should be a breeze. It was, although the beverages were safe rather than spectacular, which is what I'd been hoping for at T.B. Watson.
We still needed to get to Buchlyvie, having circumnavigated Glasgow. I had visited the home turf of Charles Rennie Mackintosh many times and had travelled East with Scott and others often. Neither Shan nor I had ever been downstream on the Clyde and it had seemed like a good scheme to follow the river upstream from Ayr. I had been poring over maps for months, including ferry crossings at Greenock. Ferries are wonderful things in Scotland and to be embraced in any travel plans. More of that later in this series.
It probably comes as no surprise that this scheme had gone agley. We had proceeded through Largs, enjoying the coastal scenery (we do like a good bit of coast) but were halted just short of the appropriately named Routenburn. Route him burned. Shut. Geschlossen. My copilot immediately went into contingency mode and announced that there was a short detour over the hills to Greenock. We just needed to retrace our footsteps a few miles to Largs and turn left. That was closed, too.
There was nothing for it but to go to Paisley. Next and only time we saw the Clyde again was when we crossed the bridge to Old Kilpatrick. It was blerrie lekker to see Scott's broad grin as he guided us into the ample McKee courtyard an hour or so later.
Flying the flag for Scotland. The somewhat battered McKee Saltyre heralds the view while keeping Campy safe for the night.
Coming soon: Avoiding Loch Lomond - it's all a bit Pythonesque.
 For the full poem please visit the place I found it
 Apologies to those of my friends who are considerate, safety-conscious, Volvo-owning tree huggers xoxoxox. I'm sure you're sticking pins in my effigy as we speak: "Die you selfish motorhome hypocrite. You are generating enough pollution to poison the whole UK." Fair point. There's no answer to that. Please leave an appropriate comment on my blog. I will genuflect, complete with birching, accordingly.
 You really need to say these aloud. Phonetically. There is a treasure trove of examples in
Ah big yaws?: A guard to Sow Theffricun Innglissh; Malong, Rawbone; Published by David Philip, Publishers (1973); if you want a copy
 "Very nice" in Akrikaans