This summer we have been trying to take advantage of both our Family and Friends Railcards and the good weather by striking out to adventure further afield than usual. We discovered we could buy ‘rail and sail’ tickets thus making considerable savings on ferry journeys as well as on the train. On one of the hottest days of the year, we packed up our buckets and spades and set off for Milport on the island of Cumbrae. We were a large party, totalling ten adults and over 20 children.
The train was as packed as it could be so we were scattered throughout the carriage. Some of the older passengers were vocal in their disapproval of children taking up seats while adults were standing so some of our children opted to sit on the floor, singing and laughing and tumbling over each other all the way to Largs.
The ferry journey was brief but so exciting
with loud cheers of “land ahoy!” as we reached the island. We then squashed onto a bus for the final leg of our outward journey to Milport with more raucous singing and daft jokes to while away the time. Once in Milport, we piled off the bus thinking it might be nice to walk a little before setting down our bags but the children were so keen to get into the water that we ended up laying down picnic rugs right next to the bus stop.
Then followed hours of carefree play in the sea and sand – the water water warm enough to comfortably swim in for extended periods and the beach full of interest.
I exclaimed, more than once, at the sheer beauty of our surroundings and was never met with any disagreement. The time passed too quickly and all too soon we had to pack up to go home. Ice creams were consumed and a final farewell said to ‘the best beach day ever’.
On reaching the mainland we were met with public transport mayhem. We were told the trains had all been cancelled, and then that perhaps they hadn’t. We hastily purchased many portions of chips and plopped ourselves onto a cool train in the hope of going somewhere in the general direction of home. The adults were starting to get fractious but the children took it all in their stride. When we were unexpectedly dropped off in Paisley instead of Glasgow, they took to the balmy streets as though on a Mediterranean holiday – playing football in the town square and mimicking statues, mannequins and each other.
We got home many hours later than expected but, on reflection, it still stands out as the best meet we’ve ever had.
Fast forward a month and the weather had cooled a little. This time we were a smaller group and our island of choice was Arran. The customary singing on the train kept the children entertained and our rail and sail tickets meant we could hop directly off the train and onto the ferry.
It was a longer ferry ride and a bigger vessel than the one to Cumbrae so the scope for fun on the journey also grew exponentially. The older children darted about playing games and exploring, though the wind was so strong they had to hide from it and take shelter at times.
Once in Brodick, we slowly picked our way around the coastline, stopping to look at whatever caught our eyes –
shells, stones, shipwrecks, crabs…
The path took us through a golf course and over marsh land
till we got a beach whereupon more treasure was sought out and arranged, stones skimmed and some brave characters paddled in the icy water.
Clusters of children happily pottered about for hours and occasionally we would end up in a large group discussion about matters as broad as whether AI robots should have the same rights and responsibilities as humans and the merits of thin biscuits over conventional ones.
Once again, the time passed too quickly and before we knew it we were racing back to the harbour, our ferry in sight, all digits crossed we would get to it in time.
On the way back to the mainland, some children set up an illicit stall selling decorated stones. Their lack of custom saved them from getting into hot water with the staff on board.
We all lamented the brevity of our time on Arran
so plans are afoot to book out the youth hostel for a few nights in the spring so we can more properly explore the island.
One of the families in the group have since returned to Arran to take visiting family and impressively document the impressive surrounds.
Back at my family home, shells are everywhere.
They have been studied and catalogued and some made into a mobile to gift a friend.
The summer feels like it is drawing to a close but we’re realised we can take on more adventurous journeys as a group and still thoroughly enjoy them. It’s exciting to be heading towards a new season with an emboldened sense of what we can achieve.