At the crack of dawn on 9th September 28 members and friends joined the coach at various stops from Woodford to Epping to begin our branch holiday in Galloway, South West Scotland. With stops at Stamford, Ripon – where lunch included a tour of Markenfield Hall – we reached the Cally Palace Hotel, our base for the next five nights.
The next day included a visit to the Devils Porridge Museum which demonstrates the work done by the Gretna Girls in the manufacture of cordite for World War I. The process was dangerous and the acid stench caused loss of teach and yellowing of skin to the extent that the girls were called ‘canarys’. After lunch we visited the Savings Bank Museum which commemorates the first such bank for savers of small means. Nearby we were able to visit a church at Ruthwell which houses a massive seventh century stone cross.
On Tuesday we visited Drumlanrig Castle, one of the homes of the Dukes of Buccleuch. Set in grounds of 120,000 acres, the castle of red standstone contains huge quantities of art.
On Wednesday we drove to New Cumnock with a stop at The Cat Strand in New Galloway. Here a redundant school has been converted into a very active community centre. After a short stay we continued to Dumfries House at Auchenleck for lunch and tour of house and gardens. Here the furniture was mostly by Chippendale and virtually priceless.
Thursday, our last day before the long route back to Essex, saw our group at Wanlockhead for a tour of the lead mine. The mine entrance at ground level lead to a narrow twisting path into the adjacent mountain. After a short walk we were 300 foot below the surface. Our guide explained that the miners worked in 12 hour shifts in rat infested shafts and were paid £10 a year once annually. Conditions were damp due to water seepage (as they are to this day) and dangerous due to the presence of radon gas. After leaving the mine we were shown over a miner’s cottage. Originally built by the miners themselves on mud floors they were then charged rent for the privilege! After our tour we set off for our hotel stoping briefly for a visit to the very beautiful Threave Gardens.
After another early start we headed south with a stop for lunch at Clumber Park and dinner at Clavering, the murder capital of Essex. This holiday was a great success due to the hard work and organizational skill of Janet Wallace and the impeccable skill of our driver, Matthew.