The travel bug started for us when we realised that with both of our birthdays being in January ( a mere 4 days apart) we could get each other stuff for presents or we could spend the money on travel and explore the world together.
About a week out from John’s Birthday, Karen proclaimed that we would need to pack our bags for the weekend as we would be going to Scotland!!!
Normally that is a acceptable proposition. Scotland is a magical place but we had just come back from there, like the fortnight before. The fear of a long haul flight back to Europe, the last trips’ jet lag still clinging to our bones, was dreadful. What’s more it would be the same month as our last flight – which means the same movies. The thought of having to watch an instalment of the Maze Runner or The Hunger Games.
Picking up on that vibe, Karen laughed and said “Don’t worry it is closer than you think!”
Located in the middle of the Pittwater estuary and close to the Northern Beaches is a small island. The first European settler to own land on the island was Andrew Thompson, who built a salt works there and decided to name it after his homeland…Scotland!!
Andrew Thompsons’ story is fascinating after researching him. Coming from the Scottish Borders region he arrived in Australia as a convict in 1792 – sentenced to 14 years transportation and exile for stealing 10 pounds worth of cloth. 5 years later he was pardoned and granted land for bravery during flooding in the Hawkesbury before becoming one of the richest men in New South Wales at that time.
It was originally called Pitt Island by Governor Phillip in 1788 after the then British Prime Minister William Pitt – but he has enough stuff named after him so it was good to get a name change.
We got the bus up to Church Point – the nearest ferry port that serviced the island. There is a great restaurant and shop next to the ferry that does a good coffee. Church Point is a very non-descript part of the world but was put on the map thanks to the Teachers Pet Podcast in 2018.
18,000 years ago we would have walked and climbed to the “island” as it was just a hill in a valley until sea levels rose after the last ice age and flooded the area forming the Pittwater Estuary.
Up until 1906 the island was owned wholly by one owner after another before being sub-divided and sold as lots.
The Ferry journey was pleasant – far more calm than the waters below – swamped with tons of man-of-war jellyfish as we made our way around to the East side of the Island and the jetty at Tennis Court Wharf – the location of that Salt Works we mentioned before.
We spent the Saturday exploring the island and chilling in our accommodation – a great homestay called Scotland Island Lodge – great home cooking (excellent as there are no cafes or shops on the island) friendly hosts and interesting fellow guests.
A little stroll in the National Park
The next day we decided to take a more circuitous route home. Our first skip was the Church Point Ferry but headed across the bay towards Halls Wharf at Lovetts Bay.
Then we had a big climb – scrambling up the side of a hill to make it onto the Towlers Bay Trail. It was tough going with the backpacks and loose rocks but we were treated to some great views once we reached the top (after climbing for 400m!!!) – back over Scotland Island and then Palm Beach and Newport in the distance.
Afterwards we headed inland to connect with the West Head Road. This entire area forms part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park so we had a lot of trails to choose from. Checking our maps we worked out we could make it down to Soldiers Point and the ferry wharfs that would take us across the Pittwater to Palm Beach.
We took the Bairn Track to Basin Lookout – notice that key last word. It was a really great walk along the sandstone ridge and then we got to the lookout point and the trail ended. At least that is what is meant to happen. John was convinced the trail just went a bit rough and proceeded to drag Karen down the side of a cliff and through the back of some houses to make it to the wharf.
We survived our ordeal with no broken or rolled ankles and our marriage intact 🙂
All that was left was a pleasurable ferry back to Palm Beach Wharf and then a last minute lunch at the then New Barrenjoey House Restaurant. Located in an amazing building that is celebrating it’s 100th birthday in 2020 this was a great way to end the trip and a good reward for all the hard work we did – almost 10k of Moderate to Hard hiking.
(Also we were delighted they even let us take a seat – dusty backpacks, covered in sweat and grime, every other table was a 21st Birthday or Ladies Lunch all dressed to the nines – we need to go back there properly dressed)