UK trip 10 May 2005: Whitehaven to Girvan
We woke up to a beautiful view over the sea, with the village of Lowca in the foreground, and St Bees Head in the distance.
After breakfast we drove back through Whitehaven to Wasdale Head, where Val’s grandmother, Mattie Pearson, had told her was the highest mountain, the deepest lake, the smallest church, and the biggest liar, but he’s dead.
The highest mountain in England is Scafell Pike, and and Wastwater is the deepest Lake. We went to see the smallest church, St Olaf’s, but we could not see a tombstone for the biggest liar.
We returned to Whitehaven, passing the nuclear power station at Sellafield, which looked rather ominous, like the one in Wales we had seen, which had been two concrete cubes. We drove through St Bees, and took photos of a statue of St Bega.
According to legend, St Bega was the daughter of an Irish king, living some time between AD 600 and 900. She refused to marry the man of her father’s choice and fled in a small boat. She landed at the place now named St Bees after her, and lived as a hermit, caring for the local people. When she moved on, she left behind her arm ring. A few centuries later a male monastery was built there, and the monks kept her arm ring as a relic, which was lost when English monasteries were closed at the order of King Henry VIII.
After the closing of the monastery the story became more garbled, and more details were added, including the story that when she landed she approached the Lord of Egremont, asking for land to build a monastery. He promised her as much land as was covered by snow the next day. The next day was midsummer, but it snowed.
We stopped above Whitehaven and took photos over the town and the harbour, which had once been the third port of England, but now no longer even runs ferries to the Isle of Man, which could be seen on the western horizon. We went to Michael Moon’s book shop, and bought a Whitehaven guide and directory for 1901, which was quite expensive, but also had quite a lot of information in it. Val sent an SMS on her cell phone to Jethro to wish him happy birthday. We took photos of Scotch and Irish streets, where the Ellwood and Pearson families had lived at various times.
We went on our way, driving through winding country lanes to Keswick, where we had lunch at an Indian restaurant, the Royal Bengal, which was the closest one to the car park. They did a good lamb breyani, and had a chatty waiter from Goa.
From Keswick we headed north again, past Lake Bassenthwaite, though we only caught glimpses of it through the trees, and went through Mealsgate, where another of Val’s ancestors, Isabella Carr, had been born, and then drove through Carlisle, where we got a bit lost as the signposting was bad, and we kept getting in the wrong traffic lanes. We drove past Wigtown Bay, and up to Girvan, with its astonishing Ailsa Craig, a round mound over 1000 feet high sticking out of the sea, which I did not remember from my previous visit in 1967. If anything deserved to be called a “mump”, that did.
We looked for a place to stay, and found one a little way out of town on the way we had come
in, a bed and breakfast in a farmhouse, which was rather more expensive than some of the others we had been in, at £30 per person per night. It also turned out to offer less, as there was no tea and coffee making equipment. And, like most of the bead and breakfast places we had stayed at, there was no table where one could write, or put a laptop computer.
We went back down to the town and looked at the cemetery near the beach, where I found the graves of Thomas and Stanley Hannan without difficulty, and took photos of them with the digital camera. The inscriptions were a little more difficult to read than they had been on my last visit 38 years ago, when Willie Hannan had brought us down from Glasgow. We looked at some of the other graves, and found one more recent one of McCartneys, then went to the harbour, and took photos of the town from the jetty.
At the harbour we also watched a swan swimming in the sea, and gradually paddling into the harbour entrance.
We drove round the town and found Duff Street, where the Hannans had lived, but the house they had lived in had been demolished and turned into a builders yard or something similar. We then looked for something to eat, most most of the places were closed, and it was deceptively light, with summer time, and the sun setting only at about 9:00 pm, so it felt much earlier than it actually was. But there was a kebab and pizza place, so we got kebabs, and took them back to the guesthouse and ate them in the bedroom.
Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005