Isle of Cumbrae

As a child I used to visit the Isle of Cumbrae – a small island a 10 minute ferry ride off the West Coast of Scotland from Largs – due west of Glasgow.  The holidays were to visit ‘Aunties’ of my Dad’s – one of whom was billeted on my Grandparents during World War 2 to make small arms in Birmingham, and she ended up staying until my Dad – the youngest of his siblings – got married to Mum, and then Auntie Una headed back to live with her family in Millport – the town on the aforementioned island.

I remember holidays consisting of cycling (it’s 10.5 miles around the island, and is what most people do when they visit!), walking, horse riding, putting 2ps in the amusements, going on the fair rides at the Garrison,

and rain

and midges.

It was an annual event to go to Millport in the 1980s, we were there when Live Aid was on the TV and I was there for my only visit in the 1990s when Princess Diana was killed in Paris.  Subsequently we went as a family with my parents, sisters and our families back in 2003 when I was 8 months pregnant, and we ended up cutting the holiday short as my blood pressure was really high and I didn’t fancy being helicoptered off the island to give birth.

So now it was time to show the Pricelets where Mummy had spent many a holiday.  Given they’re more used to Dubai or Florida it was going to be very different – but I hoped memorable.  Fingers were firmly crossed for good weather – I wasn’t talking Dubai or Florida – just dry…….

We have a 7 seater car at home – but with us, 4 kids and  loads of luggage (you have to pack for 4 seasons in one day going to Scotland!) we would have been overloaded – so we hired a mini bus from our local Enterprise car rental (who, on an aside, were great – and I would highly recommend them!).  We headed off up the M6 on Bank Holiday Saturday – and as far as Manchester we did fine – it was all a bit busy around the lakes, but a stop at the fabulous Tebay services saw us revived and we headed on up through Glasgow and out to the coast.

Millport 1

When we got to Largs I was *slightly* excited as we waited in the ferry queue.  The 10 minute Caledonian MacBrayne ferry ride across from the mainland to the Isle of Cumbrae was stunning – we could have been on a Med cruise!  I kept saying to the rest of the family ‘it’s not normally this sunny’ – which could have been the mantra of the entire stay!

Millport 2

We’d looked at self catering properties to stay in – but there were only a couple of options for a family of 6 and 1 was fully booked and the other my sister and her family had stayed in a couple of years before and they’d had issues with it smelling of dog and having no WIFI!  Given the husband and I had to work – and our kids are used to free flowing internet access – this was definitely a no no – so we booked a couple of rooms at Westbourne House.  I’d chatted via email with the owners – Jane and Stuart – before we arrived and they sounded lovely (and had kids a similar age to our eldest two) – and I wasn’t disappointed, they were great!  The rooms were well appointed, the breakfasts were beautiful – and I’m not sure we’ve ever stayed anywhere with a better view.

Millport 27

The first evening we wandered into Millport town centre, grabbed fish and chips from the chip shop, and ate them at the park.  Classic British seaside town action – and probably a first for the kids!

Millport 6

Millport 8

The next day we first went to the town graveyard to try and find the graves of the ‘Aunties’ I’d grown up with.  This was like some kind of Anneka Rice Treasure Hunt task – and we weren’t doing very well.  Thankfully the phone signal was briefly good enough for me to call my parents and they pointed us in the right direction and we found all of the graves.

Millport 7

We then headed up to the highest point of the island.  There was obviously some family pride at stake trying to get on top of the marker point – the Glaidstone (I didn’t – the stone needed to remain standing for many more years!)  The view was amazing (and remarkably there was 4G reception #winner)

Millport 9

We’d also booked to go on the Waverley – the last sea going paddle steamer in the world (although I must confess to telling the children ‘you know that boat that takes you from the car park to Magic Kingdom at Disney in Florida – well, it’s kind of like that’).  I’d gone on many trips on this fantastic vessel as a kid, and my sister and her family and my parents had done it the summer before.  In all cases cagoules were the order of the day and it was freezing!  But not on our trip!  It was practically tropical!  We sailed over to Arran – drank prosecco and pop, ate crisps and chocolate and admired the view – perfect!

On the Monday we decided to do what everyone does on Millport – cycle around the island.  Back when I was a kid the local bike shop (there are others, but Mapes is the original and the best – and having just searched for their website, I’ve found out it’s for sale – the end of an era as it’s been owned by the same family for 70 years) had a tridem – so basically a tandem but for 3.  The Homer family cycled on that loads! However now it’s in retirement – so we managed to rent a bike that seated all 6 of the Prices.  We’d been warned it would be a tough ride, and was really for pootling along the front – but we were optimistic.  We were also wrong!  We got as far as the Lion Rock (one of the 3 rocks the island is famous for) and gave up and turned back. It was exhausting.  To be fair we’d geocached that far (this was before Pokemon Go, when geocaching was still a thing!) but that was quite far enough for one day.

Millport 3

Lunch in the pub and playing on the traditional fairground rides (the same ones from when I was a child – albeit in a different location) were the order of the day – and some clambering over the AMAZING crocodile rock!

We ate in the lovely Harbour Restaurant that evening – a definite recommendation – but be careful – it appears to open on random evenings, so be careful to plan for a night it will be serving you!

The next day we did cycle around the island properly – bikes / trailers / tag-a-longs for all family members and we did all of the geocaches as we went around the perimeter of the island #boom.

 

When my sister and her family had been there 2 years before they’d managed every single geocache on the island apart from one – which was out on one of the Eileans (little islands) a boat ride from the main town beach.  It was a journey we’d done lots as kids (in fact there is an infamous family story of the aforementioned sister doing a poo in the dingy when she was about 2 whilst Mum rowed out to the first Eilean!  Thankfully, as the eldest child, there was no space for me in the boat so I’d had to swim alongside them – so avoided poo-gate!  Oh how we reminisced about Auntie Charlotte’s poo!!!!)  Anyway, the husband and the eldest 2 hired canoes to row out there – and they found the missing geocache!  The 4G signal might have been rubbish – but my son was still able to send a photo of it to his cousin! To be honest, once we’d got this geocache, we couldn’t really be bothered with all of those on the internal area of the island – this was the golden one!!!

The little 2 and I stayed on the beach – and it was beautiful.  The sun was shining, the sea was glistening – and we’ll ignore the fact I loathe sand!!!

We’d had a great time – totally made by the weather (it would have been a completely different trip if it had rained!) – but we were all getting on top of each other.  The bedrooms were fab – but that was all we had.  There was no bar / snug to chill out in – and so we were either ‘out’ or all 6 of us were squashed into bedrooms.  The kids were niggling with each other, we played musical beds every night – and all in all it was a bit tiring.  We’d had a fab time – but we decided to call it quits 24 hours early so we could remember a fabulous holiday – and not the time the children killed each other in the middle of the night because they’d nicked the duvet!!

The next morning Jane served us another one of Stuart’s fabulous breakfasts, and we headed back across on the ferry.  We then stopped off at Nardini’s (the local Italian ice cream place – and family business of Daniella Nardini who was one of the stars of ‘This Life’ back in the 90s – for all people of a certain age) and all had far too much sugar for the time of day!

Millport 28

It was then a  trek back down the M6 home – we had a pitstop at Gretna – to show the kids the history of weddings there, and the great new maze – and to stock up on supplies for the rest of the journey.

All in all, it was a fabulous few days away – and one I’m sure the children will remember far more than their 5 star trips to other significantly further flung places.  I will freely admit we were super lucky with the weather – even the locals admit 5 consecutive days of pure sunshine and 20+ degrees in May / June is unheard of – but all in all it was amazing.  I’m so pleased that revisiting a childhood haunt wasn’t a huge disappointment.

I would thoroughly recommend staying with Stuart and Jane – and they’re currently extending their caravan park – so you can have your own space, still with that amazing view.

Millport will always be a very special place to me (although if my parent’s plan to go and live there when I was a small girl had actually come to fruition – who knows where I’d be now!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe by Hazel Osmond

Mr Wolfe

This book was recommended to me by the same friend who recommended Please Don’t Stop The Music – so I guessed I was on to a good thing. She also said it was FULL of sex – but clearly that had no influence on me downloading, no, not at all.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Ellie Somerset’s high-flying job as an advertising copywriter is hard work, but she’s got it under control. Her sexy, devil-may-care new boss, on the other hand? She’ll try her best…A perfect romantic comedy for fans of Holly Martin and Cathy Bramley.

Ellie Somerset loves her career-obsessed boyfriend Sam and she loves her job as an advertising copywriter. But Sam is always at work and her fresh ideas keep being overlooked. Her life gets more complicated when new boss Jack Wolfe – Heathcliff in jeans – arrives at the agency. With his brooding good looks, trademark scowl and plans for change, he challenges Ellie to smarten up and prove herself. To Ellie’s horror, she finds herself both repelled and attracted to the sexy and dangerous Jack. But this particular wolf has an awful lot to hide . . .”

I really enjoyed it.  There are twists and turns that I can’t reveal without giving too much away – but one in particular was very close to my heart – I’ll leave you to work out which!

Ellie is a great heroine and someone you’d want to be mates with – which always helps me get in to a book.  I also loved her Great Aunt Edith who was a real character – and reminded me a lot of my best friend’s Grandma – who also doesn’t take herself too seriously in her late 80s (she recently tried Jagerbombs, and listed to the Fifty Shades of Grey audio book to help her go to sleep as it was so boring!!)

Now this isn’t Fifty Shades – but there is a lot of sex in it – however it’s written really well and not in a squirmy way, and fits into the story – rather than a dodgy scene, shoe horned in for the sake of it which is how I sometimes feel about raunchy bits in romance books.

I also really liked the end.  Whilst I still want to know what happens to all of the characters in the future – it felt like you were given proper closure at the end of the book, which is always a winner for me.  I feel short changed if lots of loose ends aren’t tied up!

I will definitely be checking out other books by Hazel Osmond.

 

Book Review: Please Don’t Stop The Music by Jane Lovering

Please don't stop the music

 

“How much can you hide?
Jemima Hutton is determined to build a successful new life and keep her past a dark secret. Trouble is, her jewellery business looks set to fail – until enigmatic Ben Davies offers to stock her handmade belt buckles in his guitar shop and things start looking up, on all fronts.
But Ben has secrets too. When Jemima finds out he used to be the front man of hugely successful Indie rock band Willow Down, she wants to know more. Why did he desert the band on their US tour? Why is he now a semi-recluse?
And the curiosity is mutual – which means that her own secret is no longer safe …”

I was discussing the need for well written, with a bit of content, rom com esque books with a friend, and she recommended Jane Lovering – and this particular book to start with, so I dutifully downloaded it, and read it cover to cover whilst taking my daughter and 3 friends to Alton Towers. (My Kindle was far preferable to roller coasters!!)

I LOVED it! There is a huge twist in the middle which I can’t say too much about without giving it away – but it’s one of those things that has you looking back to see if you missed any major hints.

It’s well written, funny, excellent reference points, sex scenes that are realistic without being cringy – and enough twists and turns to keep you intrigued.

I will definitely be downloading more by Ms Lovering!

Book Reviews: ‘Billy and Me’ and ‘Always with Love’ by Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna Fletcher properly hit my radar when she was body shamed a few days after her 2nd child for not having snapped back into celeb shape immediately.  (I remember a similar incident after my baby number 3 when my son’s friend asked how I could still have a bump when the baby was out and had I saved another one in there?  It was 24 hours post partum, but he was only 6 years old so it was forgivable!)  After that I started stalking following her on various social media, and liked the fact that despite her and her husband (Tom from McFly) having celebrity status, she shared the good, bad and the ugly of parenthood.

Giovanna’s book ‘Always With Love’ came out – but I realised it was the second instalment in a series, so I needed to read the first one first – hence I downloaded ‘Billy and Me’.

Billy and Me

 

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“A gorgeously romantic novel about fame, friendship and falling in love
Sophie May has a secret.

One that she’s successfully kept for years. It’s meant that she’s had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.
But then Sophie unexpectedly meets the gorgeous Billy Buskin – a famous actor with ambitions to make it to the top. As they begin to grow closer, Sophie finds herself whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy’s glamorous – but ruthless – world.
After years of shying away from attention, can Sophie handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? How much is she prepared to give up along the way? And is their love strong enough to keep them together against the odds?
Charming, heart-warming and utterly romantic, Billy and Me is an unforgettable story that will completely capture your heart.”

Now I suspect I am slightly older than the reader this is aimed at (Zoella chose it for her book club which kind of backs up the fact that 40 something mothers of 4 kids aren’t target market!) but I still really enjoyed it.  It was a fun escapist read – but still well structured and well written.  Sometimes I wanted to give the main character Sophie a bit of a shake and tell her to get a grip – but I’m guessing that could be the old cynic in me?! Overall a relaxing, easy to dip in and out of, charming read.

I enjoyed it so much, I immediately downloaded the sequel (it’s like reading books the ‘box set’ viewing stylee!!) I should say there is a Christmas special that fits between the 2 books, but my stupid Kindle wouldn’t download it – but I don’t think it mattered that I hadn’t read it, as you were soon brought up to speed on what had happened in the intervening period.

Always With Love

Here’s the Amazon Blurb for ‘Always With Love’:

” The next much-anticipated romantic chapter in Billy and Sophie’s love story from bestselling author Giovanna Fletcher.
Sophie’s got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of.
But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she’s totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy’s controlling mother.
And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there’s more than just miles between them.
Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not every love story lasts the distance . . .”

Again I really enjoyed it – and again I found Sophie a bit annoying at times – but overall I enjoyed the twists and turns.  Right up until the end I wasn’t sure which way things were going to end – but it was fun.

I’m not sure my teenage daughter is a million miles away from reading this (maybe a couple of sexy bits mean she’s not quite there yet!) – but it would appeal to younger readers too.  But enjoyable for an older reader like myself who fancies a ‘comfort’ read – and perfect to read with a stinking hangover after a raucous 40th birthday party for a friend last night………

Roll on the next book!!