A trip down Memory Lane

ardwell-3931

They don’t look like much.

Simple wooden chalets tucked back from the road, barely visible through the trees as you drive though a tiny Scottish village. But something about them prompted my grandparents to look closer, way back in 1978.

And that’s how my family discovered Ardwell.

Six chalets in a row, facing a quiet beach. The accommodation was simple – no TV, no shower, and an electricity meter that needed to be fed regularly to keep the lights on.

My Dad always forgot the torch and the lights would also go out at the most inconvenient moments. But what it had in abundance was space, and freedom.

ardwell bay

The first time I came here I wasn’t quite four years old. For a kid, Ardwell was a magical place. We’d wake up in the mornings, and stand on our tiptoes to see over the grass to the beach. We’d race between the chalets, saying good morning to Aunts and Uncles, cousins and grandparents.

If the tide was out, we’d grab wellies and buckets and go rock pooling. If the tide was in, we’d walk up the hill into the woods, and gather sticks that my grandfather would make into swords. He loved us to collect whelks on the beach. Then he’d cook them up over a fire, and we’d eat them with tiny pins.

ardwell bay

There were games, too, played on the strip of grass that separates the chalets from the beach. Football, rounders, cricket, even badminton, one year. We’d collect rocks and watch seals and read books on the many rainy afternoons (well, it was Scotland). There were trips to the village shop (home to the only phone box for miles) where we’d stock up on Creamola, an annual holiday treat.

The years went by, and we still came. In my late teens, my Mum ran a home for adults with learning disabilities and we’d bring the residents to Ardwell on holiday.

Late in the evening, after everyone was in bed, my brother Ross would open a couple of beers and we’d sit up talking into the small hours, playing video games and putting the world to rights.

Going back was hard.

It’s been over 15 years since my brother died, and mostly my memories of him are a gentle thing. “Remember when…” we’ll say, with a smile. We were lucky to have so many good years, so many good moments.

Finding myself in Ardwell this summer was more like having a ten ton truck land on my head. Repeatedly. With every familiar corner turned, a little voice in my head couldn’t help saying, “I want my brother to be here.” 

We visited last week, the whole clan. Me and Flea, my brother and his family, my parents, two of my cousins, both with their partners and children, my aunt and uncle… it was quite the crowd. And somehow in a crowd, the person who’s missing becomes more obvious, I think.

ardwell 2016

But kids have a way of dragging you into the future whether you like it or not. Seeing Ardwell through Flea’s eyes reminded me of how magical we used to find the place.

So it was a week of barbecues, and walks, and looking for seals, and reading books. There were board games and picnics and nights sitting around a fire. There were family rounders matches and silly races, and even a birthday celebration for my nephew, complete with cake. It was perfect.

ardwell

So if you find yourself in that corner of Scotland, and notice those little chalets tucked behind the trees, do stop for a second look. They’re pretty much the same as they every were. They have tiny TVs now that sometimes have a working signal, and this year for the first time since 1978, there were a couple of chalets with a double bed. You’ll still need a stash of coins for the electricity meter. But it’s pretty special, even so.

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She's also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world's coolest ten year old.

17 Comments

  1. 2nd August 2016 / 7:57 pm

    Oh sally ..some place justare just heavy with memories and make us smile and break are hearts al at once. I lov your photos ..more precious memories
    Becky recently posted..How to make story stonesMy Profile

    • 2nd August 2016 / 11:04 pm

      Yes, it was a bit of a shock to the system but lovely in lots of ways, too.

  2. 2nd August 2016 / 9:39 pm

    Oh that made me cry. I’m glad you went back. Sending love xxx

    • 2nd August 2016 / 11:05 pm

      Thanks lovely x

    • 2nd August 2016 / 11:05 pm

      I hope so, and we do try and keep my brother ‘alive’ to her in some ways, and I think that’s part of that. Besides, kids LOVE hearing about your adventures and misadventures of childhood, don’t they? Flea loved hearing about our woodland walks and who scared who and when!

  3. 2nd August 2016 / 10:29 pm

    I’ve been following this trip on SM and it made me want to seek out the chalets for our own family getaway. It must be very difficult for you to have that brother-shaped hole in your holiday and in your heart, but it sounds like you made some great new memories with the young ones and that has to be worth it x

    • 2nd August 2016 / 11:06 pm

      Thanks Karen, it’s a lovely spot. I haven’t linked it though – part of me doesn’t want everyone to know, it feels a bit like our little secret!

  4. 2nd August 2016 / 11:01 pm

    Oh Sally, it must have been such a bitter sweet trip. Brilliant that you got to take Flea there and share that with her.

    Stevie x
    A Cornish Mum recently posted..My School Years with M&SMy Profile

    • 2nd August 2016 / 11:07 pm

      Thanks Stevie, she had a complete blast, with all the family, the beach and the woods, she was in heaven. So was Teddy…. although with Teddy it was more that she went completely native!

  5. 5th August 2016 / 3:39 pm

    This is so lovely Sally. What a beautiful, unspoilt place to share with Flea. I know how hard it can be going to places that hold so many bitter sweet memories of people who should be there with you. Last week was the 13th anniversary of my brother’s death. It seems both a moment and a life time ago X
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  6. 5th August 2016 / 7:47 pm

    As soon as I saw the photo of the chalets I thought it was my memory of my holidays, with my grandparents in the 1980’s. We stayed somewhere near Bournemouth in very similar set up. I remember the coins for the meter too! I’m glad Flea enjoyed the holiday with the family.
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  7. 14th August 2016 / 3:31 pm

    I definitely feel this way when going to places my dad used to take me. It’s hard when there are places that make you feel sad by also have joyful memories. It sounds like a lovely family tradition. #whatevertheweather

  8. 16th August 2016 / 9:48 am

    It sounds like a great place for holidays, with lots of memories. It must be hard when it brings back sad memories as well, although great to have so many fantastic holidays there as a family back then and now with Flea too. She certainly looks like she’s enjoying the family tradition, Scotland is a beautiful place (of course, I’m biased) and it’s great to be somewhere with little access to internet or phone reception. Thanks so much for linking up to #Whatevertheweather 🙂 x

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