Adventures in Brora

Gandalf the VW is at his most motherly point of this trip. We’re parked up a stones throw from the sea, and it’s glorious. We can hear the waves crashing and smell the salty seaweed as we watch the Artic Turns overhead.

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’re actually in a prison camp with this huge fence and barbed wire; however the reason for the maximum security is that this campsite, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site called SeaBreezes Caravan site, is a former World War 2 Listening Station. In fact it was so top secret that it doesn’t even appear on the map. 40 people from across the UK were stationed here and it was used throughout both World War 2 and the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1986.

The views to the sea are unrivalled and we fell in love with this place as soon as we drove onto our pitch.

Our journey here today was let’s say, stormy! The weather in Inverness as we passed through was so bad that the coop we tried to visit had closed as their roof caved in, B and M bargains had sewerage coming up under the store as the storm drains overflowed and Aldi was evacuated due to flooding inside! It was so bad I honestly thought “sod this, let’s go home!” But then my northern stubborn genes kicked into action and errands finally complete, we made our way north to Brora into more bad weather.

Apart from…. Unbelievably with just 10 mins of our journey remaining, someone switched off the rain tap above, sucked the grey and black clouds out of the sky and we rolled into Brora with not a cloud in the sky and blue skies above us. Absolutely insane and very lucky, as we were DREADING a wet set up!

We celebrated with an emergency bbq (always have meat in the freezer to knock up an unplanned BBQ) which was delicious and enjoyed some outdoor relaxing time after being cooped up inside yesterday. Honestly we could have been in Greece (perhaps the temperature was a touch lower!)

Sunday

Sunday dawned with a dodgy forecast but we were thrilled to wake up to bright blue skies. In fact it was really quite warm! We had a lazy morning enjoying the view before deciding to have a leg stretch around the village of Brora, following the Village Historical trail.

Brora is a really beautiful little spot on the very north east of Scotland. The river Brora meets the North Sea and as such Salmon fishing was once one of the main industries here.

We saw an old Ice House which used to be used to keep salmon cold, and the oldest house in the village, the oldHarbour master’s house which also included an original barometer on the outside dating from the late 1700s.

In the late 1800s, the arrival of the railway here and the beautiful beach brought holidaymakers and as such large villas were built.

We stopped for a drink in the Garden room, part of the hotel marine, one of the for-mentioned villas, and then went for a drink or two, including sampling the very local whisky, at the Sutherland Arms.

It was interesting sat outside there in the glorious sunshine watching the traffic (a lot of motorhomes and Campervans) travelling on the A9/NC500. There were loads and none were stopping here. Please do, it’s a lovely village with some nice little shops and a great pub. Don’t ignore this beautiful Stretch of coast!

We had an early dinner; the weather was sublime- and we enjoyed a smoked haddock and salmon lemony linguine with fish brought from Buckie on our journey yesterday. Ooph, it was delicious! Recipe here

We then did something that we’ve never ever done before! Used a campsite washing machine and washed our bed linen, towels and some underwear as we’re running short!

Keith made a makeshift washing line from bungies and we let the campsite name (Sea Breezes) work it’s magic!

What a lovely day we’ve had!

Monday

After crashing out quite early last night, we slept really well but Monday soon arrived, and we felt sad about it’s arrival. It’s our last full day here – and indeed in Scotland for a while.

We decided to have a cooked breakfast, and do a coastal walk to Golspie, a 6 mile walk that hugged the coastline all the way. We timed our walk with a return journey via either train or public bus – this is fiddly but manageable as they are quite sporadic (although more available than where we live in Norfolk!£

The first section of walk was slightly rocky underfoot and we found ourselves concentrating more on our step than the view. But we kept plodding along and it became an easier path the further we went.

Unlike the South West coastal path the gradient is very low, most of the path is on field edges and so no mass ascents to worry about.

The Sandy beach turns into pebbles and about 3 miles in we saw possibly 70 seals having a little sunbathe. What a remarkable sight- it was a joy to watch them from a far for some time.

Round the next bit of headland we went and were faced with a wonderful vista – the stunning Dunrobin Castle- which in our opinion transported us to Bavaria and then France.

Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

The coastal path goes right behind the castle so we were treated to amazing views. You can easily visit the castle from the path we were on however it doesn’t allow dogs into the grounds so we just enjoyed the view.

By now we were only 2 miles from Golspie, and as the weather was looking moody, we picked up our pace, arriving into Golspie just ahead of the rain.

We grabbed a quick drink at the Golspie Inn before making our way towards the train station, but instead Intercepting a bus heading our way for just £3pp.

By the time we reached Brora and Gandalf we looked like drowned rats as the rain had caught up with us, but it didn’t matter- we’d really enjoyed the walk – route found here.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening chilling and watching Breaking Bad which we are utterly hooked on! As the sun set (much later than down south- it’s still light at 10pm), we have enjoyed watching the lighthouse across the water wake up. The lighthouse is Tarbet Ness Lighthouse and looks like this

Not my picture – taken from Wikipedia

Isn’t it amazing how effective just one bulb and lots of reflectors is.

Tomorrow is our big journey home. In a bid to avoid traffic jams we are planning on leaving mid afternoon rather than first thing and travelling into the night.

So with some time to kill tomorrow we’ve hopefully got one more adventure up our sleeve!

Tuesday

Tuesday travel day dawned overcast but dry. Despite our long day ahead we decided to get up and on, Keith being keen to get the kit packed up on the dry. No rain was forecast but the second we’d closed the boot, the heavens opened. Top tip, never trust the weather forecast and if it’s dry on pack up day- just get on! We’d been having some issues with our bike cover – and which I’ll cover on a separate post when it’s resolved 😳 so that delayed our departure a touch but it felt good to be able to take our time and not rush to a time schedule of “oh we really should be on the road by now”.

We did however roll off the site at 10:30, waving goodbye to the very friendly and hard working owner of SeaBreezes. We made our way an hour and 20 mins south to the outskirts of Inverness- our destination to “hang out in” until later in the day was Chanory Point – on the Black Isle. Chanory Point is reportedly one of the best places in the world to see wild dolphins. Access is tight; as the name suggests it’s at the point of a rather slim bit of headland – the road leading to the car park is single track with a golf course on each side and with holiday traffic and the bin man causing havoc, getting there wasn’t quite as stress free as I’d have hoped. But- we persevered and we’re rewarded with bagging a car park space immediately. Which was good because the best time to see the dolphins, I’d read – was 2 hours before high tide, and the clock had just crossed that marker!

I’m not lying, I actually RAN from the van to the beach whilst Keith sorted paying etc out, and therefore couldn’t believe my eyes (through the binoculars which I’d hastily grabbed) when less than a minute after looking I could see a pod of dolphins about 100m out having the time of their lives.

Keith soon caught up and we spent a good twenty mins or so along with a significant number of others admiring these beautiful creatures playing blissfully in the Moray Firth.

I honestly could have stood there all day, and have already eyed up a caravan park for future reference to stay at along with a boat trip I want to take. Here’s a slightly bad video which doesn’t capture the moment properly but gives you an idea. (Look near the white boat)

Around 1pm we decided to make lunch in the car park – a large plate of spaghetti bol to keep us going through the night, and around 3pm we hit the road- stopping at Halfords Inverness to try and rectify our cover problem.

Our journey home took just over 10 hours with us taking 2.5 hour driving shifts. The roads moved freely and the journey was actually really pleasant indeed and rather scenic, passing through the Cairngorms and then the lowlands and the Pennines. We’d far rather this approach to a near 600 mile journey home.

We have had the most amazing trip- Scotland’s East Coast has been everything we could have hoped for and more. Stayed tuned for a debrief post with some hints, and a summary of our trip in a few days- but for now it’s time to get the washing on and get my “Bridesmaid” hat on as I’ve the honour of being a bridesmaid my best friend this weekend near Coventry.

Until next time

Lx

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Brora

  1. Hi Lydia
    I really look forward to reading your adventures in Gandalf. I also have a Bilbo’s campervan and love it!
    Your review of small cc sites is very helpful and I think this trip up the east coast of Scotland sounds wonderful. I think I will add it to my list in preference to the really busy 500.
    I hope the wedding goes well.
    Diane

  2. Glad you managed to see the dolphins. It really is a magical spot. Two great campsites on the shore as well. What’s not to like. We went out on the ecoventures rib from Cromarty and that was great fun. Hopefully we’ll get back there next year.

  3. Hi both, I’ve been following you for some time now even before you had Gandalphi!
    I have ‘Fred the Bed’, my trusty and loved VW, now 7 years on. I love this post and have made notes as I have just set off on a 7 week tour of the coast of Scotland and will be on that very site in Brora in October!
    Now I have time again, I’ll be looking out for your summary too!
    Keep up the good work!

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