We’ve been back from our wonderful trip ooop north for just over 2 weeks, not that our feet have touched the ground – I’ll come to what we’ve been up to later – and so I thought it was high time that I wrote our end of trip summary.
We were shocked to learn that during our 15 nights camping in Gandalf, we travelled a total distance of 1386 miles. We made some changes to how we planned this trip; in the hope we would strike a good balance of relaxation and exploring time, we decided to book 3 nights at each of our campsite stops. This for us worked perfectly. We looked forward to two days of no driving and by the time night 3 had passed we often felt ready to move on to a new area. I know some are happy to use their campervans and motorhomes to drive each day from the campsite, but for us, we really try hard to make sure that once pitched up we don’t have to drive again – we cover many miles weekly for our day job, so its the most important factor for us to have time off driving on holiday.
Fuel wise Gandalf was AMAZING! We filled our tank in Thetford (£90 approx) as we left and by Edinburgh we still had half a tank left. We filled there anyway as we wanted to make sure we didn’t run out somewhere remote, and then still had half a tank left as we passed through Inverness on the day we drove home. We filled in Stirling as we made our way home and when we got home, we still had half a tank left! Considering we were full of luggage and had the bikes on we think this is brilliant.
Campsites- we absolutely LOVED the smaller Certified Location sites (5 van C&MC or 5 van C&CC sites). The peace and tranquility on these sites cannot be matched. We will ALWAYS try to pick these sites over the larger, busier and nosier sites during the summer months.
Our electric bikes enhanced our trip more than we could have anticipated. Having the option to explore a few miles further out from our campsite than our sole leg power could manage was just brilliant and we highly recommend travelling with them if you don’t like moving your vans once pitched up. I will talk about these seperately and how we transport them in another post next week.
Catering – We had anticipated on this trip trying to eat out a bit more in an effort to relax more. Whilst we both LOVE cooking, it can get tiring and I hate washing up. Having said that, we struggled, especially in Scotland (except Edinburgh) to find places either open or serving food. So we actually only ended up eating out whilst in Edinburgh. We did however have some DELICIOUS meals that we cooked. Since downsizing to Gandalf (and Ruby before) we’ve had to alter the way that we plan our meals due to the smaller size of our fridge. As this is the longest trip we’ve had Gandalf, this was an experiment really, but one which worked out well. We took our electric toolbox which acted as our drinks fridge. This then meant that the fridge was food only, and we could therefore fit 3 full days of food to cook ( breakfast, lunch and dinner) within it. We then shopped as we drove to the next campsite. This system worked well for us and meant that the driving days, we got the household chores out of the way. We would plan our three days meals the morning that we moved site. We always made sure one of the meals at least could carry forward (date wise on meat etc) in case we found somewhere to eat instead. The electric coolbox charged from the 12v up front when we drove. On site it would plug into the mains power if we were on hook up. If we were not on hook up, it would not be plugged in and lasted well for the two days that we were off grid. Overnight, once the bed was down we moved the coolbox to under the tailgate awning as there is not enough room for cool box to go in the van whilst the bed is down and the toilet is in position. This system was really effective for our needs.
Showering was done within our tailgate awning fondly named our en suite. My friends could not believe our shower routine when we were telling them at the wedding we attended recently. We’ve got it down to a fine art, and were rewarded with really wonderful hot showers, but to non campers I suppose it sounds a bit hard core! We had* a collapsible bucket which was filled with cold water 3/4s of the way up. This was then topped up with a full kettle of boiling water. On hook up we used this 3.5 litre kettle, which gave us a boiling hot shower (the ratio of hot water to cold was larger than the gas kettle) Without EHU we used this standard smaller gas kettle, which gave us a more lukewarm, but still very acceptable, shower. I say *had because we ended up changing the collapsible bucket to a normal bucket because it kept collapsing with our precious hot shower water in JUST as we had stripped of for a shower! We stood in a foldable paddling pool, which collected the water after we’d washed, and following the last shower we’d pour the “dirty” water into the now empty bucket to pour down the grey drain. I get asked why we do this – its so our shower residue which is made up of non eco shower gel and shampoo doesn’t deposit and dispose onto the pitch. I’m sure if we were to arrive on a pitch which had soap suds on we’d not be too happy- its just about courtesy for the owner and fellow campers really. We did 15 days of two showers a day pp this way. Even at Mortonhall, where there were shower blocks we preferred our ensuite.
We are reading about SO many people heading to the NC500 this year. You will have noticed that we didn’t touch this – apart from getting up to Brora. We have travelled this route before a few years ago and before it was titled the NC500. It’s great to see such a wonderful renewed interest in Scotland but the success of the route marketing worries us as it has caused divide throughout locals who live on the route. Whilst many we spoke to were pleased at the opportunities it brings, they were equally disappointed and worried about the level of anti socialness it has brought to the area too. We’ve travelled to Scotland almost yearly now for the last 12 years and I can honestly say this year we passed the most campervans and motorhomes we’ve ever seen. I can only hope that everyone tries to be conscientious about camping etiquette because the locals we spoke to talked extensively about witnessing less than acceptable camping etiquette and we worry that if it continues then campers will be made to feel very unwelcome indeed. Also, please remember that Scotland is NOT just the NC500. Aberdeenshire will forever be a favourite for us, and last year’s Cairngorms trip too – just stunning! It is a STUNNING country.
Since getting home our feet haven’t touched the ground! The day after we arrived back from Scotland, we headed West to my best friend’s in Coventry for her wedding, in which I was honoured to be a bridesmaid. Imagine my surprise and sheer glee when I discovered what was transporting us to the wedding…
After the most wonderful Wedding, we came home for an evening before heading South, and then even Souther…. ON A PLANE! We nabbed a very last minute week in the sun, travelling with Tui to Zakynthos, where we had the most exceptional relax in a 5 star Adults only hotel. It was JUST what we needed. The travelling abroad experience was much smoother than we had envisaged and the airports were absolutely empty.
Whilst the primary objective of this trip was relaxing, us being us managed a couple of adventures whilst in Zakynthos – going on a turtle spotting cruise and lots of snorkelling one day and a trip to the Smugglers Bay with more snorkelling and shipwreck another day. Zante is a beautiful island with stunning coastline. We had a great week.
We felt very very safe all the time, and most importantly came back fresh as daisies feeing super recharged.
So that brings us up to date with our summary of our big trip and what we’ve been up to since. We still have a bit of time before we start back to work so next week will be pointing Gandalf’s wheels in the direction of another adventure. Stay tuned to find out where!
Until next time