Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Big Adventures on a Small Budget

Frugal Gran Fun on our Budget Scottish Adventure!

(Part 1 of this post can be found here, where I first announced plans for some big adventures with eldest grand daughter.)

October school holidays arrived at last and I was able to pack the tent and rucksacks then head off into the wilderness with my 9-year-old grand daughter, taking her on her first ever frugal adventure - to 'climb a mountain'. We headed for Stranraer, boarding the train for Glasgow and taking many photographs along the way.  It cost a grand total of £26 for the two of us to get into the big city (Glasgow) and then a further £5 to get us from there to our destination in Lanarkshire, where we were planning to hill walk.

Along the way, we saw Ailsa Craig. This is a small island about 10 miles off the coast and is known locally as 'Paddy's Milestone'. It's part of an extinct volcano where they used to (and possibly will again) mine granite for making curling stones. At the moment, it is a bird sanctuary that you can visit by boat from Girvan. It's also for sale, if anyone has a cool £1.5 million to spare.

Once we reached Glasgow Central Station, we walked to Buchanan Bus Station to catch the express coach to our destination in Lanarkshire. We passed a puppeteer putting on a free street display, we stopped to see a student demonstration against Monsanto and we stopped to enjoy a free performance by this  fantastic pipes and drums band known as Clanadonia. Grand daughter wasn't overly enthusiastic about their music until I told her the name of one of their songs - 'Hamster heid'. (You can listen to Hamster Heid here.) I think the combination of bagpipes and tribal drums is brilliant! Free open air concerts - how frugal is that in the entertainment stakes?
We arrived in Lanarkshire at dinnertime on Saturday after travelling for about 6 hours. We spent Sunday catching up with family and then, on the Monday, we headed off to Black Law wind farm, near Forth. There are over 50 huge turbines, each measuring over 125m in height. We took a picnic and had that while seated under turbine number 43. From the wind farm, we were able to see that there was no snow on the top of Tinto Hill, our next destination. Unfortunately, we got absolutely soaked when a huge rain cloud arrived and burst over our heads!
A curious find we made last year had to be checked out again and, sure enough, it remains to this day - a massive pine tree decorated with Christmas baubles! It sits by the edge of the forest that runs along the main road from Black Law to what's known as 'The Headless Cross'.
Tuesday dawned fairly dry, so we packed our rucksacks and headed through Lanark towards Thankerton and Tinto Hill. The summit of this hill is the highest point in central Scotland, at 711m or 2,332ft. It's a 5-mile walk from the car park and a perfect introduction for anyone interested in hill walking. On arrival, we couldn't see the top for low clouds!
Fortunately, the rain stayed away for the couple of hours it took us to walk to the top and back. It took us approximately two and a half hours to complete, walking at what I would call an easy pace, stopping for littlest member of our group to eat sweets, add or remove layers of clothing as required and check out the landscape while looking for all sorts of weird and wonderful beings! Visibility was very poor from about the halfway mark, so it made for an eerie first hill-walking experience for grand daughter. She did seem to enjoy it, though.
The cairn at the top of Tinto dates back to the Iron Age and is the largest cairn in Scotland. We could just make it out before we reached the rocky scree and, although we had passed several other walkers, we found ourselves alone at the top.
Like all good visitors to the site, we carried our pebbles to the summit to add to the pile. On a clear day you can see for miles and pick out many of the other Scottish peaks but we didn't get a clear day - maybe next time. We left our pebbles, on which we had written our names and the date, on the cairn.
As you can see, 9-year-olds aren't very tall compared to the summit d├ęcor and the view was non-existent, but we made it! Hats and gloves were soaked by the swirling fog, grand daughter had to cling on for all she was worth to stay upright in the wind that blasted the summit and the place was deserted. Not quite a day for picnics, but it didn't stop us from scoffing what we had with us.
As we descended from the clouds we managed to catch a glimpse of the views lower down the slope. Despite the lack of sunshine we still had a sing and dance on our trip back down. Indeed, we jogged the final leg of our journey while singing all sorts of silly songs, pretending to be on exercise like army recruits!

Our next port of call was the Carmichael visitor centre, where we went in for a late lunch.

We also had a trip around the little animal park, meeting the hens, goats, pigs and a lovely Sebastopol 'furry' goose, among other creatures. Then it was time to explore their waxwork museum!

It's quite a scary place, especially when you get further in to the part with Sawney Beane and family, displayed in all their gory glory! Entry to the waxwork exhibitions is free, although we did drop a donation into their collection tin. (But who is Sawney Beane, you might ask?)

Alexander Bean (or Sawney) was an infamous Scottish cannibal said to have originated from East Lothian in the 15th Century. He lived with his wife and extended family in a cave at Bennane Head, between Girvan and Ballantrae on the Ayrshire/Galloway coast. We pass through the area when travelling between here and Lanarkshire but I haven't, yet, taken the time to go in search of the gruesome cave.

After all the excitement of wind farms, mountains and waxworks, we had a surprise birthday party to throw, so we got ourselves some modelling balloons and had fun making balloon animals, designing cards, decorating a room and then enjoying all the party fare.

Next on the agenda was a crafting and making day, when we did knitting, crochet, weaving, needle point and pompom making. After that we had a shopping day and then, on the day before our holiday ended, we carved a pumpkin.

Lighting the pumpkin lantern marked the end of our first big, fun-filled, frugal adventure. Everything got packed up and we now need to wait until next year to do it all over again, but in a different location.

I hope you enjoyed sharing our frugal mini-adventure.

NYK Media, Frugaldom


  1. What a wonderful adventure, that I am sure she (and you) will remember for ever! It is our job to make memories for our grandchildren isn't it?
    Is the island Ailsa Craig anything to do with onions and tomatoes of the same name?

    1. According to http://www.ailsacraig.org.uk/ the island was gifted to the Crossraguel monks in 1304, so perhaps they cultivated fruit and vegetable seeds either there or at the Abbey in Ayrshire? I'm not exactly sure, but will definitely ask when I get around to sailing out to the island. Maybe I should add that to my bucket list, too? :)

  2. Just shows it needn't cost a fortune to make a wonderful day out.

    1. There are so many places that are free entry that it's well worth the effort to pack up a picnic and go exploring. Transport costs are what need to be controlled once you remove the cost of eating out in cafes etc. I prefer packing a picnic but we had great gran with us, so she treated us to sit-down lunch at the visitor centre once we got back down off Tinto. :)

  3. Great to share in your adventure. Its great you can do this with your GD

    1. Plenty more trips planned for next year, just need to save for train & coach fares. Hmm... and I now need new walking boots, as that's the bargain Regatta Outlet ones worn out with part of Tinto stuck in the soles. LOL

  4. Brilliant, what a great adventure. Grandchildren are a joy. Did you get to sleep in the tent ?

    Cheap and Cheerful

    1. Weather didn't permit us to pitch the tent outdoors so it got set up in a spare room indoors. Grand daughter made that her own little room and slept there in her sleeping bag, using the wind-up torch for reading at nights and the rechargeable clock radio for music. :)

  5. Memories are made like this and last a lifetime. sounds you like you both had a great time. Happy days....!

    1. Yes, we had a great time. However, when grand daughter spoke to her mum on the phone, the highlight of her week was reported as "I bought wool to knit!". After that came climbing the 'mountain', going to the windmills etc. LOL

  6. Fantastic adventure, and I bet your Grand daughter wont forget her time she spent with you in a hurry.

    Sharon x

    1. Hopefully this will have been the first of many 'gran adventures' once I catch up with friends. Some have grand children of similar age, others have children of their own ages. I like to think of us ladies within the 48 to 50 age range as being young grans. :)

  7. Thanks so much for sharing! It makes me look forward to next year even more!

    Looks like you both had a great time making the most of things!
    Is that where our saying 'don't be sawney' comes from?
    How interesting.

    Have a great day dear lady.

    1. I've never heard the term 'don't be sawney' but if it refers to anything associated with wicked cannibals, then it could be. If you do a quick search for Sawney Beane you should come up with all sorts of myth and folklore about him and his family. :)


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