Blog 23 Sep 18This week was all about taking a few days off before the next Parliamentary session gets underway in October, but we haven’t travelled too far from home this year.

With a big holiday planned for next year, we have taken the opportunity to do a bit of a road trip this year and so we booked a small cottage in Ardentinny near Dunoon, Argyll this week, as a base from which to explore some of Scotland.

After catching the early flight (8.25am) last Saturday morning to Liverpool, we then headed North as we drove the 267 miles to Ardentinny where the cottage was located on the banks of Loch Long.

The journey could have actually been far longer if we hadn’t caught a short 20 minute ferry from Gourock to Dunoon.

I guess the most famous fact I can find relating to Loch Long is that it was used as a Torpedo Testing Station for the British Navy.

There is also the Coulport development on Loch Long, which is the servicing and storage area for Trident, the UK’s nuclear missile deterrent – a little worrying when it is right on our back doorstep…

However, I will post some pictures on my personal facebook page shortly just to show how stunning the view from our cottage is…..

We arrived at the cottage at around 17.45, but then had some difficulties actually getting in the front door. Standing in the pouring rain trying to open the key safe wasn’t the best start, but eventually we got in and within an hour we had the fire lit and tea in the oven.

The weather in Scotland this week as been appalling for most of the time. I have never seen so much rain, mist and fog, but when the sun does shine the landscape and the scenery is breathtaking.

I think this is only the second time that Ellen and I have hired a cottage – the other time was in Cornwall. That trip certainly gave us a taste of doing these road trips in and around the UK.

A lazy day on Sunday enjoying Dunoon and Loch Long and its stunning views, on one of the very few occasions it didn’t rain, but that only lasted about an hour.

On Monday we undertook a round trip to Oban, which is a beautiful town and port in the West of Scotland – also known as the Gateway to the Isles. On the way we stopped off in Inveraray to visit the old Jail and County Court, now open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Finally got back to the cottage for 18.00 after a very long day, and after catching up with emails I finished for around 19.30.

Although I am still on holiday I need to respond to various emails, messages and take a few calls, but nothing that really gets in the way of enjoying some down time.

Off exploring more of Scotland on Tuesday as we drove to the Isle of Bute, which is a small island in the Firth of Clyde. We had to get a small ferry that only took around 10 minutes and the island population is only around six or seven thousand.

We also visited Rothesay Castle on the Isle of Bute, which has a direct connection with the Isle of Man, as King Haakon IV of Norway ruled both islands in the 13th Century.

On Tuesday morning I also published my MHK expenses, which certainly generated a lot of comments online over the past week.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I made a promise in the 2016 Election Manifesto that given the fact that all Tynwald Members are entitled to be paid an annual sum to cover any out of pocket expenses when representing or carrying out their duties / functions on behalf of Constituents and this island, I would therefore publish details of how I used those funds, if I was elected.

Back in 2016 the theory seemed right, it is public money and therefore Constituents have a right to know how the funds are spent.

Unfortunately, the reality is somewhat different and I am finding it difficult to decide what costs should or shouldn’t be considered as an “Expense”……

Not having a Government mobile phone does save money and using some of my expenses for some off Island travel also saves additional funds for the taxpayer.

What I can say is that it is not an exhaustive list of expenses – for example I have purchased three suits over the past 12 months, but only two of them were assigned to my list of expenses.

I have also made a number of small donations to various local organisations and charities, but I don’t wish to put those details into the public domain.

Anyway, I will continue to publish my expenses, as it was the promise I made back in 2016, but I might change the format next year….

On Wednesday most of the UK was hit by severe weather from “Storm Ali”, but to be perfectly honest it hadn’t stopped raining in Scotland all week. We therefore decided to jump in the car and drive to Stirling.

We definitely hadn’t seen rain and wind like that before, but the road conditions were excellent and we drove straight to a shopping mall, with inside parking.

On the way home, we realised how bad the storm had been as we saw lots more debris and broken trees along the roads. We also stopped off on the banks of Loch Lomond to visit the small Sea Life Aquarium and look round another small shopping centre next door.

On Thursday we took another trip out, this time to Glasgow City for a day of shopping, but again we enjoyed the scenery over the mountains and the many lochs located in the area.

On Friday we gave the car a rest and headed out for what should have been a simple walk around the Ardentinny forest, which runs alongside Loch Long. Unfortunately, our walk turned into a bit of a trek that lasted well over fours hours.

It started well enough at 9.30am as we followed what we thought was the correct path, only to discover after an hour or so that we needed to climb our way out of the forest to join the actual path that led to Carrick Castle.

Climbing out of the forest wasn’t easy and I felt I was on one of those adventures with Bear Grylls at times. Anyway, I only fell over about four times and we got soaked to the skin several times, but the views from the top of the forest were amazing.

Finally got back to the cottage for 13.50, which gave me time to catch up with a few emails etc as Ellen packed our suitcases.

On Friday evening we walked just three minutes from our cottage to a local bistro, which was fortunate as the weather was changing by the minute.

The Bistro was Ardentinny Bar & Bistro and the food was delicious.

Despite the horrible weather this week, the trip has been fantastic and I think we have clocked up more than 800 miles.

Details on this weekend’s activities will be given in next week’s Blog.