THE SECOND part of our west coast holiday is almost at an end. We have had six nights under canvas this time, in a tent that has seen better days and can no longer be said to be waterproof.

The seemingly continuous downpours on our first few days left me with a determination to go home as soon as possible, after no single item of clothing was left dry. We were on the Isle of Bute, helping out at the fantastic music festival, but my old bones in the damp of a sodden farmer’s field were protesting loudly “what are you doing to us?”

Leaving the festival on the final day was not so easy. The dirt track turned into a river and the field itself was utterly soaked.

We needed the help of a tractor to pull our car through a sea of mud, until finally we were on the road.

In that moment, I fully understood the gift of tarmac and gave secret thanks to its Scottish inventor. Now we were free to go home, with the smell of dampness permeating the car and midge bites all over our bodies.

“Ok now we go back to sleep in our own warm beds,” I declared.

But the kids howled in protest. Our friends were heading off in their caravan to another camping site and my children wanted the camping experience to continue. But it was still raining off and on, and the prospect of putting up an already wet tent with soaking clothes seemed almost unbearable to me.

But in truth I was also secretly proud of my kids’ sense of adventure and uncomplaining spirit. The weather over the previous three days had done its best to dampen our moods but the kids had thrived in it.

It had also created a sense of community and fortitude amongst the festival goers.

The music continued unabated and in the family tent the circus performers and storytellers had kept their fantastic show running in truly adverse conditions.

Even when the circus tent was flooded, the kids put their own show on while members of the festival crew brought hay to soak the mud and allow the show to go on. Perhaps inspired by the Butefest spirit my kids used my own words against me.

“You always tell us not to give up easily,” they scolded. My wife agreed with them!

So, stung with my own advice, and outnumbered, I had no choice. We followed our friend Chris Yule and his family to Glendaruel campsite on the Cowal Peninsula, not far away.

As we crossed over the Kyles of Bute on the ferry, the rain gave way to mist, which created a magical and mysterious atmosphere. The wooded hills which leered over the sea whispered to us of a land full of mystery and history. These days there is a sense of tranquil remoteness in this area, but it was here the early story of the formation of our country was played out. Prehistoric sites, ancient chapels and ruins of settlements all tell their tales of people now long gone. Vikings and clans fought and died for this soil.

Glendaruel, I was told by the campsite owner, means the glen of the red water.

Centuries before, it had been called Glenduisk, the glen of the black water, because of the dark peaty colour of the river. But a great battle turned the water blood red and the name of the glen changed. When we arrived at the site we put our tent up close to an ancient oak tree.

I reflected on the stories and changes this great guardian of the glen will have witnessed. The children vanished amidst the woodland to play. The mist lifted and streaks of blue sky peeked from behind less threatening clouds. We were warmed by the arrival of the sun but also by the friendliness of the campsite staff. The facilities included a washing machine and a dryer and soon we were wearing clean dry clothes.

Holidays, I suppose, are partly what you make of them, even when things such as the weather make them challenging. But like life itself, these challenges, when you look back, often become the legends of the experience, to be told and laughed at later on, and to become part of family folklore. The children were right to insist we didn’t give up, for we arrived in what feels like paradise and the weather, in true Scottish style, rewarded our perseverance. It has been a holiday of extremes, and that is what has made it so memorable.

My regret is that after writing this we will definitely have to leave, due to a work commitment. The sound of children laughing and playing is coming from the woods, mixed with birdsong. The only other sounds come from the slight breeze in the trees, and the nearby sheep and cows. We grow used to the constant wail and buzz of urban living and finding a place where it is absent is truly a soulful discovery.

A red squirrel has accompanied me as I scribble, scurrying about and at times pausing to look at me, wondering what I’m doing. The abundance of red squirrels here sparked a mention by Chris of the white squirrels of Dunbar, where he lives.

They are really grey squirrels born with a white coat and can be seen in Lochend Woods on the edge of the town. I never knew of them before, and so now we have a new nature safari trip when we get back to East Lothian: spotting the white squirrels of Dunbar!

Here’s hoping our old car, named ‘Black Fish’ by the children, will make it home, despite the injuries our adventures have inflicted on her!

By Tim Porteus