Here in Scotland, it’s so rare to have temperatures higher than 12°C that the moment we see that furnace in the sky, we red-blooded males form queues at the meat counter of every supermarket like we’re about to enter the next ice age.
We also have another odd habit, that of pulling out a rusty old barbecue generally found lying in a dusty corner of a shed and pretending that we’re the next Gordon Ramsay!
Rarely does black cremated meat ever form part of a normal diet, yet, we offer it up twice a year on the two days that we call summer as if it’s five-star dining.
There’s one other oddity that we Scots generally do during our “summer”. We load the car with everything but the kitchen sink, tip the kids in, and then pack up enough food to feed a small country for around a month before heading off to the seaside for what is commonly known as a picnic.
And so starts the story of a day trip out to Ardmore point on the Rhu peninsula near Helensburgh. It’s a small outcropping with two sheltered bays on the Firth of Clyde, located approximately one hours drive from Glasgow.
It features some spectacular views across the Clyde estuary and provides a vantage point for both birdlife and seal watching, as well as being listed as a Regionally Important Geological Site being located, as it is, on the Ardmore Fault Plane.
It’s not as well-known as some other locations for alfresco dining by the sea, such as Ayr and Troon on the Ayrshire coast. This makes it an ideal location as generally, it’s never that busy (until now quite possibly).
Reached by leaving the A814 onto an unmarked road at Lylestone Cottage, continue along the single track crossing the railway line until you reach a small parking area beside the beach. Be aware there are no toilet facilities or disabled parking. Essentially, it’s just some off-road layby type parking. The nearest toilet and location for refreshments are at Ardardan Garden Centre nearby.
Now, on this gorgeous April afternoon, while the sun was beating down making hats, and for us, ‘peely-wally’ Scots, a liberal coating in factor 50 sunscreen a necessity, off we trundled to claim our spot on the beach. Unloading the ubiquitous tartan travel rug handily fitted with a waterproof backing for that one day when it looked deceivingly like summer, but, by late afternoon it lulls you into a false sense of security and winter pops its head up yet again, also a must-have.
I’m sure we must have gotten some odd looks in the past as people walked by in rain jackets, hats, gloves, mufflers and welly boots, while we sat on the beach, in the pouring rain, freezing cold, trying to warm our hands on a plastic cup of lukewarm tomato soup, and attempting to digest a sandwich, which before the gale force wind blew in, didn’t actually contain sand! Luckily for us this time around, we had summer all day long.
There’s a wee gravel path which is single track width at spots around the edge of the beach, which I should probably clarify, contains more shingle than sand. Please don’t message me complaining that you couldn’t find your Caribbean white sugar-sand beach fringed with palm trees and turquoise waters with pedalos to hire. I’ll let you into a secret now, you’re not going to find that at Ardmore point. Back to the path, it’s roughly built, not tarmacked therefore is unlikely to be suitable for wheelchair users or those who have difficulty with their mobility.
It’s a reasonable size area with two bays, north and south, although the north will mean you taking a walk to reach it, but well worth it because it is generally deserted. Most people prefer to park their car and stroll to the beach on the southerly side, which is much more accessible. So, blanket on the beach, a quick rearrangement of the shingle to provide as much comfort as can ever be possible sitting on stones – but, hey, who cares, the sun is out and we are here for the annual family picnic outing. And by God, we’re going to enjoy ourselves no matter the level of discomfort. National Lampoon’s Vacation comes rapidly to mind. Have you ever seen a family schlepping along a single track carrying boxes and bags of goods like an Egyptian caravan en-route for a month away from home? No, well I have. We are the very definition of that vision.
So, if you’re looking for somewhere other than the beach at Ayr or Troon, that doesn’t have half your street and the remainder of Glasgow pitching up with a McDonald’s big whatever in a bag that you just know will be left littering the beach along with a bottle of Buckfast perhaps it’s time to try Ardmore point instead.
However, if you’re a fast food junkie, and think no picnic is ever complete unless you can drink 12 cans of cider and fall asleep under the searing heat, waking up like a ‘crispy critter’ then do me a favour and just head to the Ayrshire coast instead.
Wear shoes and not flip-flops
Take rubbish bags with you because there are no bins available
Watch out for the hidden fairy doors