In March of 2017 my buddy Harry and I had the wild idea to go on a two month backpacking trip through Europe. The idea was to pack light, hostel hop, eat cheap, and camp. Time jump past the budgeting and scheduling and BOOM, we’re on a plane to Europe. Time jump about a week from that and we’re on a ferry approaching Cairnryan, Scotland.
The plan was to dock at Cairnryan Port, get a shuttle from there to Girvan, sit there for a few and then get a bus from Girvan to Glentrool Village, from which we would hike to Galloway Forest Park and into the Highlands. Now up until this point the trip had gone smooth as butter, pretty much zero hiccups. We thought we had this whole ‘traveling the globe’ thing in the bag. Well I found out that things weren’t going so smooth when I realized we weren’t docking at Cairnryan Port. We were docking at the Stena Line Port, which was a forty minute walk from where we needed to be. So getting to our bus on time was not gonna happen. Missing the bus was only a minor hiccup. After checking with at least five bus drivers we finally found one that went the right way. One bus ride later and we’ve arrived in Girvan.
The city was nice. It was situated in a valley with a beach on the west side, and hills and meadows in every other direction. If I were to choose one word to describe it it would be ‘pleasant’. Everybody there was friendly and had such thick Scottish accents you couldn’t understand what they were saying. From here it was smooth sailing, we sat on the side of the road with some donuts from a bakery down the street and waited for our bus which was an hour out. During that hour we decided to go for a quick beach walk.
According to a local, this is the giant rock where they get the material to make curling stones.
So after our little beach stroll, we hopped on the bus going to Glentrool, which to my knowledge was a town right outside the Forest Park. After a lot of winding around the tiny European roads, we stumbled off our bus and realized that we were way more in the middle of nowhere than we had thought.
The bus stop.
The bus driver had dropped us off near the caravan site for the park, so we walked a little ways and came to the administrative cabin, where we got ourselves a map that showed a solid half of the park. The receptionist told us that the trail head we were looking for was a four mile walk down the road, so we walked our four miles, passed through Glentrool (which was basically just a cluster of twenty houses around a post office), and came to the trail head. After a five mile hike down the trail we only had about three to go before reaching the border of the Highlands. However, we were pooped. We hadn’t had a whole lot to eat leading up to that point nor had we had a lot of sleep. So we took a breather on a rock overlooking a lake and came up with a decision.
The view from our breather rock.
At our little scenic overlook we saw a little peninsula reaching out into the lake and figured that wouldn’t be a half bad place to pitch camp. So we found a spot that was less than a ninety degree angle to hike down and made our way to the site. It was perfect.
Home for the night.
Makin’ a veggie stew.
After dinner and a little bit of basking in the view, we threw our blankets down on the ground and conked out for the night. The sleep was solid for the first two hours, then it got cold. REALLY cold. Harry and I woke up shivering like crazy with nothing but a few embers from the fire and a flask of Famous Grouse to keep us warm. I stumbled around the woods looking for decent firewood and came back with a handful of twigs and at least a dozen ticks. Once we got the fire going I made a few more fuel runs into the woods and came back with enough wood to last us the night.
My bedroom view.
Post- freezing our butts off.
Finally we dozed off next to our roasty toasty fire, waking up every 30 minutes to keep it going. Finally after the longest night of the trip, morning rolled around and warmed the world up.
Sunrise here wasn’t half bad.
After our brains were thawed enough to function properly we packed our stuff and began to hike out the way we came in.
Sunrise from the top of the hill.
Gotta love those country roads.
We made our way back to Glentrool Village, where the bus would pick us up and take us back to Girvan, and onward from there to Edinburgh. Overall our little camping trip was a tad sloppy, but I was satisfied, Harry was carsick, and the rest of our Europe trip was waiting for us.