On our bothy trip to Tunskeen, Carrick and Galloway forest districts we had to pass through the pretty village of Straiton to get there. This was created as a model village in the mid 1700s , a pet project by a local earl and it shows in the neat street layout and uniform style of the white washed cottages. As many of Ayrshire's inland villages were built to serve long gone coal mines where money was needed for day to day essentials rather than improving the surrounding scenery this area and village has a very different vibe when contrasted with nearby Dalmellington, Bellsbank or Patna- former coal mining community's now surrounded by bleak scarred hillsides or blanket pine forestry. Strictly utilitarian housing and landscaping resides here, although, as a mere visitor, I've always admired the open plan bleak honest austerity of these other villages as well and have enjoyed walking around them over many years. Interesting industrial mining relics around Waterside and a coal heap park/ bing in Dalmellington. Very reminiscent of my own happy childhood during the 'good old days' in the pub heavy, hard punching, hard drinking, former old mining village of Nitshill in the 1960s or indeed any other similar communities worldwide during current bleak times or future bleak times to come. Not pessimism just cold reality.
Anyway, its a lovely golden bubble this area around Straiton, in an otherwise unremarkable rural or small scale post industrial landscape and largely left behind inland village economies. From numerous trips I believe that to be a fair and accurate assessment of this inland district of Ayrshire as an outsider to the area looking in, but if I'm totally wrong feel free to correct me. I always try to get it right in my musings and travels and present an unvarnished but hopefully balanced view. In the 50 years or so I've been around to observe them, former industrial areas, ex- coal mining villages and many coastal towns do not usually experience much of an upswing in fortunes once the industry or tourist numbers evaporate. Not in small places like this anyway. However, lovely hills surround and shelter Straiton village and on one sits a tall prominent monument to an Ayrshire MP and dead solider from long ago. This is the hill we intended to climb.
Finally, without being prompted, John was keen to climb this modest 1000 foot pimple... albeit because he had a temporary injury to his leg and the larger hills were out for now. At last a chance to get up there presented itself. Everything, eventually, comes to he or she who waits, apparently. If not it's a solo mission.
Here's a very good local link to the walks and cycles in this area, an interactive map with photos and a proper history of the district. Worth a look.
Instead of a video here's three cracking books I've read and really enjoyed that I'd imagine anyone would appreciate getting in their Xmas stocking. All have been best sellers, have won other awards, and get largely positive five star reviews.
A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett. A young Scottish miner in the mid 1700s rebels then embarks on a epic journey against brutal living conditions and a life of slavery down the pit that will eventually take him to London then America. Well researched fantastic page turner that left a deep impression on me of life at that time.
A Tap on The Window by Linwood Barclay. Situated near the Canadian/USA border and the Great Lakes this is an excellent modern crime story in a memorable setting. I've read loads of fictional crime novels over the years as its a very dominant and successful genre for writers but this one stands out from the surrounding pack. Great story- really well constructed- moves like a galloping racehorse without any slow moments at all.
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson. A successful music composer returns to the Yorkshire Dales of his childhood- buys a house there then slowly becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the former female owner and her mysterious death. Quite simply one of the best, most haunting books out there. Haunting not in ghost terms but only that the memory of this fine story might well stay with you for life... as might all three books on this list. A no 1 bestselling crime novel and crime thriller award winner.
All three are brilliant, no rude bits or swearing in them, and should appeal to most folk, irrespective of age- around 15 to 90.