Easter 2012 – The biggie – The Hebrides! :)

It’s been on our both our bucket lists, and before we had even picked up Bluebell, we had already booked our Island Hopper ferry ticket for the Easter Holidays!

We literally COULD NOT WAIT! Finally the day came when we could set off, and we set on our very excited merry way. We had booked a small certified site in the lowlands to spend a first night at. In actual fact, we probably should have wild camped, as after our long drive we were fully charged and carrying water. Never mind, you live and learn. The site was nothing special, although we had it all to ourselves and bought some of the farmers homemade honey. My goodness me, it was yum diddly dum!

The next day we set off to our first proper stop – Glencoe for 2 nights. However as we passed Loch Lomond we passed a number of wild campers parked up, the sun was shining, the Loch looked stunning and so we thought “sod it, lets park up here for the night”. This was one of the advantages of Wild Camping, we didn’t have to worry about letting down a campsite, we were free to roam! We had the most perfect day chilling on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, the weather was stunning. We walked to the pub and had a lot of fun sampling some of the Scottish Whiskeys off of the Whiskey menu. It was one of those perfect days, and reinforced to us why we were enjoying this wild camping business.

We were settled in our van watching some TV that night and there was a knock on the door… “Uh oh” we both thought, but it turned out to be a random guy who was towing a speedboat back home after a days fishing somewhere. His trailer wheel buckled and he lived in Glasgow and needed to go and get some tools. He asked if we could keep an eye on his boat overnight and he’d be back first thing in the morning to fix it. We were a bit dubious and suspicious, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and kept an eye on it. The next morning we woke up as the sun rose and went down to have our cuppa on the banks. We saw the guy arrive and set about fixing his trailer. The reflections on the Loch we just spectacular and despite the ungodly hour I was having lots of fun playing with my camera and tripod! I was trying to get a good pic of Keefy and I with the loch behind us and the next thing I knew this boat guy was tapping me on my shoulder and asking for my camera. It turned out he was a professional photographer and to say thanks for looking after his boat he wanted to take some pics of us both on my camera. Cue him starting to boss us around, ” you stand here, you stand there” etc but give him his due, the photos were AMAZING a perfect reminder of our perfect night spend wilding on the banks of Loch Lomond.

We carried on up to Glen Coe that day and did a mammoth walk to the hidden valley. As usual, the Glen was simply stunning and we had a fab time. We were just chilling with a cuppa back in Bluebell when “one of those moments” happened. This guy pulled up in the car next to us, got his bagpipes out and just started playing, with the backdrop of Glen Coe. It was lovely!! About 2 mins later 3 big bus loads of tourists came, got off, took pics, tipped him and drove off. 2 mins later he was off. We were so happy to have him to ourselves for a couple of minutes, it was just lovely. So atmospheric!

We stayed at Red Squirel campsite that night. What a mistake. Now we were getting into this wilding business we found Red Squirel massively overpriced and rather annoying. Never mind, we slept well and were up bright and early the next day ready to head towards Inverness.

We stopped for a visit to the Battle of Culloden site as I’d promised Keefy that we would. It was a very moving visit and I found myself really becoming overwhelmed by the history of it all. We then drove round the coast looking for a place to park up with a view of the sea so I could try and spot some dolphins..! We tried about 5 places, with no luck and ended up settling for the night in a small carpark on the road to Fortrose. About 6pm the heavens opened, and to our surprise we were welcomed to the north by a very very heavy snow “shower” – I say shower, it lasted for 12 hours! About 2 hours in, our carpark looked like a ski slope – we had a slight incline to get out, and so we started to worry that if we stayed overnight we may in fact not get out! So we packed our things up and left in the hope we would find somewhere nearer the A9 so that we were less likely to get stuck. We ended up parking right underneath the Inverness A9 bridge. It was pretty cool actually! We woke up to loads of snow the next morning but managed to get on our way. Next stop Ullapool! The roads gradually got worse and worse but we carried on, hoping for the best. it was on this road below that we saw the most amazing sight. A stag stood proudly by the side of the road. Amazing. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the camera in time to get it. But this pic shows the level of snow on the roads we traveled on!Before too long we arrived at the gorgeous Ullapool. Excitement was definitely brewing, we had had an amazing time and we hadn’t even left mainland yet!

We spent the night wilding on the carpark looking down over Ullapool and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon stocking up on supplies to take across to the Hebrides, namely beer, as we had read there weren’t an awful lot of pubs or offies..! We also had a nice pub crawl round Ullapool. We were really enjoying spending some money in the local towns, we made sure we spent at least the amount we would usually spend on a campsite, and usually more.

The next morning the day had arrived. We were off to the Hebrides! Woo! We boarded the ferry like two excited children and set on our way across to Lewis. We were aiming for The Butt of Lewis for our first night- the more north westerly point of the UK. It did not disappoint. We were able to park right under the lighthouse, and it really really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We did have a few cars roll up throughout the night which was surprising, but nothing that bother me – I’d got my 6 foot 4 bodyguard there to protect me.. 🙂

Next day, seeing as we were the most north westerly in the UK, we did the only option and, drove south! We headed through Lewis taking in all the sights and before we knew it we had reached Harris! We were staggered at the change in landscape between the two islands, and as soon as we set our wheels onto Harris, we fell in LOVE! A fantastic combination of mountains and the most fabulous beaches I’ve ever seen. We spent a two days exploring and loved every second. We stayed on the car park overlooking Hushinish bag. Wowee, this place is STUNNING. You must go! We had a very chilled out night there drinking gin and tonics and watching the view. For us, this was what it all is about.

Next morning we begrudgingly hit the road, we honestly could have stayed there for a week! But alas, the rest of the trip was calling. We set off south and went round the coast of Harris thoroughly loving every single corner we drove around as it gave us a new view. We couldn’t get enough! We were heading to Leverburgh that night and were intending on stay on the car park of the ferry port ready for our early morning ferry. We did, and following recommendations from fellow members of wildcamping.co.uk we ate that night at the restaurant on the car park- The Anchorage. It was every bit as good as the reviews we read, and some more! The view, the atmosphere, the food – all second to none.

That’s the restaurant on the left……

Next morning – onwards to Berneray and North and South Uists. We were very impressed with the island hopper ferry ticket by the way. As we weren’t in peak time we didn’t need to book, although we did- and it gave us an excuse to stop at the lovely red phone boxes dotted around to pre book. Neither of us had phone signal and the number you ring is freephone so win win.

We did the Uists in one day. We had been lucky with the weather so far, but unfortunately our time on the Uists was a bit more traditional in the weather sense… as in bleak and rainy. We just didn’t enjoy The Uists as much as Harris. We picked a lovely place to park overnight though- overlooking Baleshare Beach.

Next day we head off towards Eriskay and enjoyed a night overlooking the beach there. The islands were now getting smaller and the beaches were stunning. We stayed a night before getting the ferry to Barra. We were the only ones on the ferry! When we arrived we spent an hour driving round the whole island, so that we could pick our place to stay. There is only one road around Barra and we soon found a lovely spot. We then drove to the town to get water and provisions. We asked at the tourist info place where the best place to watch the plane land was and she told us about this hill to climb where you can see it well. We parked up where she told us and hiked up to the top. We were just in time. We managed to get a great view of the small Flybe plane landing on the beach of Barra. 20 mins later, refuelled and loaded with new passengers off it went again. Fascinating to watch!

The next day we drove across the causeway to Vatersay, which was an absolutely lovely small island, but unfortunately for us, very motorhome unfriendly. We instantly got told off for parking in 2 separate locations. We weren’t planning on staying we just wanted to do the walk around the Island. Needless to say we did our walk then drove back to our spot on Barra. Beautiful Island though.

Before we knew it, our last day on the Islands had come round, so we spent our final day climbing the hill on the island and were rewarded with some spectacular views. We then chilled until our ferry came to take us back to mainland, Oban.

We arrived late in Oban and found a carpark to grab a few hours kip in. We had had such an amazing time, The Hebrides had been everything that we had hoped for and more. Our favourite Island by far was Harris, and we will definitely return.

We managed our whole time on the Islands wild camping.

We found water daily with no problem at all.

Not once did we go into a pub whilst on the Islands – not because we were being tight, but because we didn’t see a single one!!! So make sure you take plenty of booze if you are into that, which we are!

We did however have a fantastic meal at the Anchorage restaurant, Leverburgh and if you are ever passing there you should definitely go!!!

Until next time

L xx

Our first taste of “Wild Camping” – North Norfolk Feb 2012

One of the things we were rather excited about when we picked up our new pride and joy (Bluebell) was the prospect of having a go at “wild camping” – since our leisure battery seemed to hold its charge more we figured we could occasionally last a night or so parked up somewhere other than a campsite.

Unfortunately England isn’t quite as geared up for Wild Camping as Scotland or even the Continent.. in fact technically it’s classed as not legal, but of course, there are all sorts of loopholes and as far as we were/are aware it is tolerated as long as you are not breaching any public order notices/traffic orders or similar, or blocking anyone’s view, on their land etc etc.

For us the appeal was to be able to park up where we like and when we like. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy staying on campsites, but sometimes we leave them thinking “flipping heck, that was a bit noisy for our liking” or “25 quid to stay for a night?!” We found ourselves sometimes paying up to £30 per night and then begrudging spending any more in the local pub for a meal or whatever, cos we aren’t made of money and if we’ve paid £30 to stay a night in an area it cuts into our holiday spends budget so are more likely not to spend as much money in that local area…

So after A LOT of research on the internet we found this website called http://www.wildcamping.co.uk. WHAT A FIND. We quickly joined for £15 and in return downloaded over 4000 gps coordinates of spots where you can park overnight to our trusty sat nav. We decided to give it a go one night at the end of February, and decided to head towards the North of the county. We visited Walsingham Abby to see the glorious snowdrops (my favourite!) and then headed north towards Wells Next to Sea. There was a spot in a little car park near to Wells that we had read about so headed straight there. When we arrived it was a fantastic location, right on the sea and in a harbour carpark. We spent the afternoon walking up to the main beach, chilling out and enjoying the view. It was glorious. But there was something niggling me. We had seen a small sign saying “no camping” and although we were fairly sure we would get away with it, we both decided that we would rather not risk it as we didn’t think we would be able to relax. So, we watched the sun set over the sea and decided to head into Wells Next to Sea. We found a quiet secluded road and parked up, then went for a walk around the town. We had a meal in the local pub and a few drinks around the town. We wandered back to Bluebell about 9pm and settled in for the night. We set the alarm for 7am and after a great nights sleep we just got straight up and left. We went and had bacon butties back at our spot from the day before and were thoroughly chilled out by the time we headed home to work that afternoon!

From our first experience, we took the following things..

1) If you don’t feel comfortable in a spot, don’t stay

2) Have more than one option of a spot to stay for each area you go.

3) We really enjoyed our wander around the Wells pubs, even though I didn’t have a drink “JUST IN CASE” we were moved on

All in all, we had a great time, and couldn’t wait until the next time.

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