Walking Cambridge’s Roman Road – A One night Britstop Adventure

Ruby the VW Campervan is parked up at Britstop number 217/18 – which is a pub in Cambridgeshire, just off the M11, A11 and A14. We are sharing the carpark with a Dutch family who are on the way to the Harwich ferry.

This one has been on our list since February, when the 2018 book was released and I spent a rainy Sunday flicking through each and every location, adding Post It notes to those which catch my eye. I’m not the only one who does this right?

Despite living only an hour from Cambridge, and having one of our best friends living near enough ON this walk, we had no idea until the Britstop book arrived that there was a Roman Road walk in Cambridge. Those who read regularly will know Keith is a huge history buff, and he particularly loves anything Roman.  We’ve had two failed attempts at this trip – due to weather conditions either being too hot or too rainy. The joys of living in the UK and its unpredictable weather!

The Roman Road is approximately 10 miles in length and runs from about 1 mile away from Cherry Hinton Park and Ride almost to Haverhill, bypassing Wandlebury Country Park, Worstead Lodge, Little Abington, Hildersham, Linton and Horseheath.

We had arranged with the Britstop pub when booking our table for dinner, that we could leave Ruby in their carpark from 10ish that morning. On parking up, we grabbed our two rucksacks packed full with water and snacks, and jumped on the number 13  Stagecoach bus from near enough outside the pub to Wandlebury Country Park at an eye watering £5 each for a single! For any more than two of you, I reckon a taxi may have been cheaper! Shock subsided, we took our seats upstairs for the 20 minute journey to the Country Park, disembarking at “Fort Stop”.

We met our friends for a picnic lunch in the park (you need to bring your own as we didn’t see any cafe’s or anything) before waving bye to them and hunting down the Roman Road – actually its very well sign posted, as is the Bus Stop if you decide to do this walk the other way round.

We were joining the Roman Road about a mile or so from it’s starting point, just off Wort’s Causeway. As with any well-preserved Roman Road, the path was visible for as far as the eye could see. We put our best foot forward, and with the Memory Map app on Keith’s phone tracking us, we were pretty impressed with our pace considering it was quite a warm day and we’re a little out of shape.

The path varied in how well it had been preserved – some bits were really excellent and some less so. The walk took in the rolling hills of the Cambridgeshire countryside, but the Roman engineering never made us feel like we were climbing huge gradients. Well, to be fair, they weren’t huge gradients but there were definitely some gradual inclines!

Along the way we saw loads and loads of butterflies and wild flowers and parts of the path are SSSI.  The heat of the day gave it a Mediterranean feel throughout so it was very atmospheric. We stopped for water every mile and got through a bag of haribo and a box of angel slices! Despite passing several villages equipped with pubs, cafes and shops, there wasnt any signs to these villages off the Roman Road – so you need to bring your own food and drink.

Before we knew it we had reached the end of the road, literally! We were both genuinely shocked that it only took us 3 hours to walk- time flies when you’re having fun but surprisingly considering our lack of long walks recently, physically we felt fine and like we could have carried on! Happily our parking spot in the pub was just off the Roman Road so by 4pm we’d found ourselves a table in their beer garden and enjoyed a few cold drinks – my first pint of Aspall did not touch the sides!

Our meal later on was absolutely sensational. We had scallops and tempura prawns to start, followed by homemade burger and chips for Keith and lamb kebab, flatbread greek salad etc for me. The bar was dog friendly and they served local gin from Bury St Edmunds, so we settled in there for the evening, feeling thoroughly satisfied that we’d managed to walk the walk!

The Britstop did well out of our stay – our bill came to £106! So far more expensive than a campsite, however the food, drinks and service was exceptional – far higher standard than the standard pub grub – and therefore a real treat for us to enjoy together without having to wash up. We also had probably £50 worth of drinks! And Jazz got a handful of dog treats too. More importantly the location was perfect for this walk.

It’s worth me pointing out that most people wouldn’t have to spend the amount we did- mains were between £10-£19- we chose the most expensive starters at £12 for the scallops but they were amazing and we fancied a blow out meal.

After quite a warm night, we woke up early and set off around 7.30am for Wandlebury Country Park again – where we started yesterday. Parking from 8am was £3 all day – we wanted to walk the small northern section that precedes the Country Park before going home. I’m really glad we did too as it was by far the best preserved section – the high banks which had been dug by the Romans are still visible and in use today to make the Road stand higher.

At the bottom of this section there is a free car park – so you could park here and walk the entire length then get the bus back to the Park and return to your car if you didn’t want to stay at the Britstop – your loss though there!

We feel privileged to enjoy this walk – we’ve spoken to loads of people since getting home from it and noone seems to have heard about it. Neither had we – so a big thanks to Britstops for once again opening up a new area/walk for us. We will absolutely deinitely return – next time we will treat ourselves to the Chaetaeubriand that lurked on the menu!

Until Next Time

Lx

Some Helpful Planning tools for this walk:

The Walk information leaflet

About the Roman Road

Getting to the Roman Road

Stagecoach Bus 13 Timetable 

Wandlebury Country Park Access Info

Join Britstops 

Stepping into Churchill’s footsteps – A night away and a visit to NT Chartwell

It’s hard to believe that our last little adventure in Ruby was back at the beginning of June, when we had a weekend at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site at Crystal Palace and visited the Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms.

It therefore feels natural that our next little trip away followed in the theme of Sir Winston Churchill, with us visiting his house – National Trust Chartwell. Of course, in reality it wasn’t planned to be so ordered – we were of course supposed to be setting of to the New Forest on Wednesday for two weeks. Life got in the way however, and we decided to treat ourselves to a week in the Caribbean instead to recharge – but we don’t leave for a couple of weeks, so we decided to combine an important visit to Keith’s dad who is recovering after a new hip with a cheeky night away and then a day out to Chartwell.

After spending some time doing some odd jobs for Barry and Valerie and helping them with some chores (and having a little relax in their beautiful garden), we headed just 5 miles to the Caravan and Motorhome Club site Alderstead Heath. In all the years we’ve had a motorhome, we’ve never stayed here despite its close proximity to the M25, London and most of our family and friends! It also is literally across a field from where Keith lived for 6 years!

The campsite itself is fabulous actually – its huge and the pithes are well spaced out and landscaped. Despite it being close to the M25 its really not noisy – and is surrounded by rolling Surrey hills. It has all the excellent facilities that you come to expect from a Club site and at £24.90 for the night we thought it was good value.

We arrived at 4pm and headed straight out for a walk to nearby Chaldon Church, which is a really pretty little Church with rare and magnificent medieval wall paintings dating from the 1100s. The walk from the campsite took us about 20 minutes across the heath, over a field and through a field of sweetcorn. It couldn’t have felt more away from the traffic and chaos that surrounds the area! (We both lived there – K for 38 years – me for 3 years – so this area brings back lots of memories!)

There is the option at this point to carry on walking on a circular walk until you reach the Fox, but as it was late in the day and Keith wanted to show me his old house in the other direction we retraced our steps back across the fields and beyond the campsite to Netherne on the Hill to see Keith’s old stomping ground.

Nostalgic session over we got back to Ruby and had the most delicious BBQ we’ve had in ages, before sitting and chatting and chilling as the sun went down.

After a wonderfully silent night and deep sleep we woke and enjoyed a snooze with the tailgate open – the joys of a spacious private pitch! Keith made me an omelette for breakfast using our new gadget – Electric Omelette Maker. Just plug it in, whisk some eggs and whatever fillings you enjoy, pour in and ten minutes later you are enjoying the most perfect omelette. Perfect for campsite days with electric hook up and really dinky to store too. A bargain at £13.99  and it’s really easy to clean too.

After breakfast we packed up, waved bye to Alderstead Heath, joined the M25 and drove 25 minutes to Chartwell, once home to Sir Winston Churchill.

We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to visit, the sky was a wonderful shade of blue with not a cloud in the sky. The National Trust own Chartwell so members visit for free. It is however worthwhile pre booking your house tickets online to make sure you have a time that suits you. Its free to do so (if you’re a member that is)

We really enjoyed our look around the house – but its understandably very busy – especially since the film The Darkest Hour – which parts of were filmed here.

There is also a really good museum which includes plenty of Churchill’s uniforms and medals. I loved the Monet painting of Charing Cross Bridge -it didn’t jump out at me first but when it did I was mesmerised by it.

The grounds of Chartwell are wonderful – there is no doubt why this was a favourite place for Churchill. We brought a picnic with us and enjoyed it on the lawn in front of the house.

After a wonderful few hours (and possibly the best local ice cream I’ve had – the salted caramel Kent ice-cream was gorgeous) we nipped into nearby NT Quebec House – home to General Wolfe, we hit the carpark of the M25 and got home about 7pm feeling refreshed.

Highly recommend a couple of nights at Alderstead Heath – one to walk their walk and one to visit Chartwell, then onto Crystal Palace site (but it closes end of this year) for your Churchill War Rooms visit

Until next time

Lx

A change to our Summer Plans

The long awaited Summer Holidays are finally here. I’m not going to lie; last half term practically broke me. I have never been so non stop in all my career as a self employed music teacher and musician, which is great for the books but emotionally and physically I nearly cracked!

On top of a mad 7 weeks of work, we’ve once more had some hefty family situations to deal with resulting in numerous trips to and from London (some had to take place during the night and back again!), a village fete to organise, a hen do in Dublin and enough other stuff. Other than 2 nights in Dublin its been all work and no play for almost 8 weeks. However, we got through it all (just) and by Friday last week as we neared the end, Keith sat me down with a rather concerned look on his face. The conversation went something like this:

K: “I’m very worried about you – you’re exhausted”

Me: “I am”

K: “I think you need to sit on a beach for a little while and let someone else run around after you”

Me: “that sounds nice – yes please”

Don’t get me wrong – we both adore Motorhome Road trips, and we were both very excited about our 2 week pre booked jaunt to the New Forest, Dorset, Devon and Somerset which should have started on Wednesday. However, they aren’t always the most relaxing of breaks – I love driving, so despite Keith always offering, I generally drive. I also adore cooking so will aways make the most of being in a new area by cooking up some lovely meals. We have the bed to set out, decisions to make – shall we do this today, or that? They just don’t always allow for us to sit and not move for days on end unless we pre book a week on a site somewhere well in advance and then we run the risk of getting bored or the weather being rubbish.

So last Saturday we spent half an hour looking online for some last minute deals on Thomas Cook, flicking through package deals after package deal in Greece, Spain, Turkey. Nothing jumped out and we resigned ourselves to the fact that actually we are campers through and through and we’ll make an effort to chill this time.

We were just logging off when I said “lets see what happens when you click ‘All Caribbean'”…..

7 nights all inclusive in Cuba in a 5 star resort, thats what. £1500 all in for the both of us. Suddenly we felt excited and 10 mins later we were cancelling our campsites.

Sorry South Coast of England. Hope you understand…

Trying out our new Inflatable Kayak

Last week in Lidl, they had inflatable 2 person Kayak’s for sale for the measly sum of £39.99. Always looking for our next adventure, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one! Annoyingly though we only managed to get it out for a test today: cue the longest week ever as I drooled over everyone else’s Instagram pics of inflatable Kayak adventures.

Neither of us has kayaked before so I decided to pick up a couple of life jackets from Amazon and also a waterproof phone case.

It wasn’t until I looked at the box of the kayak at home that I realised our combined weight was slightly (ahem!) over the maximum weight of 160kg that the kayak could handle. This, along with a well timed Aldi offer of an inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard set becoming available this week, led to another rather more expensive impulse buy! 🤭 bet you can guess what else we added to Ruby’s collection?!

Anyway back to today- I was working until 1pm in Norwich but for the first time in several weeks we both had the afternoon and evening off. That and the fact that it was glorious sunshine here cemented the fact that today would be test day for our new inflatable water crafts.

After a few errands, including a stop off at Norwich Camping and Leisure to get a refill Camping Gas cylinder, we arrived at Whitlingham Country Park where there is a lovely small broad fit for two novices to make their debut launches!

If you don’t have your own kayak or SUP you can hire one here for a very reasonable amount. To launch our own it costs £5 per craft.

We agreed we would try the Kayak first. It took us about half an hour to unpack and inflate and instructions were easy enough to follow. Luckily, with the SUP kit came a large pump, which helped enormously on the larger air chambers- our 12v pump coped well with the smaller ones.

Life jackets on, we put a blanket in for Jazz to sit on without his paws piercing the kayak and in we went! At first we struggled to get a comfortable position going on our bums (I think it was because we were too heavy!) so we decided to kneel which gave us more height for the paddle in the water. There was quite a breeze but the small contained broad was ideal for us to practice on especially as it was now after hours so no one else on it!

Keith did the majority of the paddling and I along with Jazz sat up front taking pics.

It took me a little while to get my water legs but we had lots of fun trying the kayak out!

After a while our bellies started grumbling so we heaved the kayak out of the water and left it to dry outside Ruby whilst I cooked us dinner inside Ruby. The sun was beating down despite it being almost 6:30 now!

We enjoyed burgers for tea followed by some local Lakenham Icecream- yum. I hoped that I could get the SUP inflated for a play, but realistically by now it was just too late. It’s been a very busy week of work and we were both feeling exhausted so we decided to return perhaps next week for a go on the paddleboard instead. So keep your eyes peeled for our review on that new toy sometime soooon!

It didn’t take long at all to deflate the kayak and pack away! It stores away well in a bag for easy storage.

I’d highly recommend a trip to Whitlingham Country Park. For kayaking and water based activities (not swimming though) needs you can either go solely on the Broad for £5. Or you can go on the river which takes you to Norwich in about 6 miles- for this you need a permit which is £7 approx and last for 7 days.

For cycling or walking there are ample paths- including a well surfaced circumference path around the broad.

There is a huge array of wildlife to enjoy, whilst we were there we saw numerous dragonfly’s, and there were some bird watchers with huge camera lens’.

There are two large pay car parks (you pay on departure- it’s camera recognition, so you can’t avoid it) we paid £4.20 for 3.5hours. The car park isn’t gates so you can enter or exit at any point.

There are toilets and a cafe along with an info centre open during the day.

There is a basic campsite right on the Broad which allows fire pits but has no electricity. However if you prefer the more well serviced pitches and campsites the Norwich Camping and Caravan ClubSite is just down the road.

We would highly recommend a trip here- we had a wonderful afternoon chilling and having a mini adventure.

Need another reason to visit Norwich? Check out our “reasons to camp in Norwich post

Until next time

Lx

A wander around Thetford Warren

We are so lucky to live in the area that we do. We’ve had so much to do this weekend that we were unable to get away; however after blitzing the to do list yesterday we decided to go for a nice walk and a cuppa tea somewhere local today, for a change of scenery.

Just 10 miles down the road lies Britain’s largest lowland pine forest, Thetford Forest.

We headed to Thetford Warren, a (free) English Heritage site that is a rare example of a rabbit Warrener’s lodge, a now lost local industry.

After a quick look at the building remains, we put our best foot forward and set off on the well signposted 4.5 mile Beech Trail. The trail takes you through woodland glades, along grass and sandy tracks, past tall pines, and Rhododendron Bushes (sadly we’ve missed their peak now). Occasionally the track is overlapped by another trail, some of which are bike trails

Nearby is High Lodge which is a hive of activity, with numerous walking and cycling trails along with a Go Ape. You can also get refreshments from the cafe there. Our trail, the Beech trail didn’t go as far as High Lodge but at one point we were very close to the car park (payable)

Parking at Thetford Warren is free though and far enough off the main road to enjoy a peaceful cuppa and cake in Ruby after our walk.

We really enjoyed our walk and will definitely return for a similar day sometime soon. Isn’t it amazing how a walk and a cuppa in the Campervan makes you feel like you’ve had a mini break, even if you’re only 15 mins from home!

If you’re not local enough to enjoy Thetford Forest as a day trip, we’ve heard the following campsites are really good and very local:

Puddledock Farm 9 miles/ 15 mins

Dower House 11 miles/ 18 mins (this is on the outskirts of our village!)

Other things to do in the area:

National Trust Oxborough Hall

Lyndford Stag Walks

Knettishall Heath Walks

English Whiskey Distillery Tours

Where do you like popping to for a local walk/change of scenery? We’d love to hear so comment below.

Also if you find yourself in this neck of the woods, let us know

Until next time

Lx

🇬🇧 A weekend camping in our capital; London 🇬🇧 8-11th June 2018

After a fairly stressful week this week trying to source not one, but two sets of new wheels for Ruby (thanks Yodel for loosing a wheel!) it was looking uncertain whether we’d actually manage to get to London for our pre booked weekend of Birthday celebrations for Keefy. Thankfully whilst I slaved away at school on Friday morning, K managed to sort it all out and after our gig on Friday afternoon, we set off towards London, via Bury St Edmunds to pick up a wheel then carried on towards to home for the next three nights, the Caravan and Motorhome Club Crystal Palace Club Site.

New wheels for Ruby

Our route from the M11 took us through London on the North Circular- a risky manoeuvre for rush hour on a Friday, however Google maps was insisting the M25 was a car park, so we obliged and sure enough 3 hours later we had arrived at the leafy Crystal Palace Site. Before pitching up, we had the small matter of taking off the spare and replacing it with the new wheel we’d just picked up. Keith managed it, with some help from the warden who had a brilliant winch- ours was next to useless.

The pitch was lovely- we were on a grass one with electric but it was surrounded by trees and shrubs, and nicely landscaped. It was also really large! Whilst K showered, I got on with dinner, burgers and salad and we enjoyed a gin together toasting the terrible week turning out ok.

We had an after dinner stroll to the pub; just ten minutes walk and you’re right in the hub of Crystal Palace where just about every type of restaurant and takeaway is available if you don’t fancy cooking.

Saturday dawned bright and fresh; we knew as the alarm was set for 7:30am, a very rare occurrence for weekends and camping trips! 🤣 The reason for our early start was that we had pre booked tickets to visit the Cabinet War Rooms, for 10am. The transport link into London from the site is excellent. Almost outside the gate is the number 3 bus stop which takes you directly to Trafalgar Square, the journey takes an hour and costs just £1.50 (or free if you’re over a certain age and have a bus pass!)

The Queen had kindly laid on a birthday celebrations for Keith- our arrival at the CWR coincided with the gates opening for Trooping of The Colour. We felt very underdressed in our jeans and flip flops!

The Cabinet War Rooms were fantastic. We spent almost 3 hours exploring the endless underground corridors and rooms- the hub of the British War Logistics and where Churchill lead us to victory.

After the war ended, the underground war office was closed- with everything left inside, maps, office items and everything else, and not found until about twenty years later- with everything as it was on the day we won the war. The map room you can see above is completely original and how to was left/ found.

There is an extensive Churchill museum which has many of Churchill’s clothes and personal items. It was an absolutely brilliant way to spend the morning and we highly recommend it- but advise you to prebook.

We managed to time our exit so that we enjoyed the Battle of Britain fly past which was lovely!

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Having lived in London for many years we’ve done most of the normal tourist sites many times before so after lunch at Bubba Gumps, we spent the afternoon having a wander around Soho taking in the atmosphere and having a drink stop here and there.

Keith had no idea, but I’d arranged for his friends to meet us at 5pm at Covent Garden for the evening, his face was a picture!

We enjoyed a curry at the Strand Tandoori and then a drink on the river Thames, at the Tattershall Castle- right opposite the London Eye, before catching our night bus back to the campsite.

Sunday morning arrived and we had a little bit of a woolly head. Obviously dehydrated.. Ahem 😜. Nothing that a eggs and bacon bap and a cold can of coke didn’t fix! We were back into London, this time in or “above average” camping clothes. We were being treated to Brunch at AquaShard (up the Shard) by Keith’s Dad and stepmom.

It was the first time we have eaten there and it was excellent. It’s not cheap, but the quality of the food was great and the views are marvellous. Definitely the best restaurant view in London.

After a long leisurely Brunch we bid farewell to Barry and Valerie and as the sunshine was glorious had a stroll down Southbank, stopping at a couple of bars on route before making our way back to Ruby on the number 3 from Trafalgar Square.

We just scratched the surface of London activities as we’ve done many of them before. What we can’t understand is why we’ve never stayed at this campsite before!

At just £25 pn we highly recommend it for a London trip- but, be quick – sadly it’s closing at the end of this year! Sad face.

Trip info

Until next time

Lx

Our Annual Scotland Pilgrimage – May 2018 Part 3; the Trials and Tribulations of making our way back down South

Thursday – Time to leave Harris. I was so emotional, I cried as we sailed out of Tarbet!! It is SUCH a beautiful island, however the realisation dawned that we will never be able to visit again as the chances of us getting such amazing weather again are just so slim, we will never recreate this week away again! I was an emotional WRECK! A hungover emotional wreck after our meal last night!

We landed on Skye, and made our way back to mainland Scotland over the bridge and back over Invergarry, which is a nice scenic run. Traffic in Fort William was horrendous so we didn’t get to our prebook C&CC Club site at Glencoe til almost 6pm. The site was only booked as a stopover to break the journey back south up, and to empty, fill, enjoy one showers etc. We’ve wild camped in Glencoe many times before right in the heart of the mountains but this was a nice scenic campsite on the outskirts.

Sadly our luck with the weather was about to catch up on us, and out luck was about to change. First of all, the dreaded midges made a dramatic entrance around 7pm. There were foul, aggressive little blighters, and no matter what we had to prevent them we couldn’t get them to leave us alone. An hour later, we were so uncomfortable that we made the decision to pack up and drive south! So two hours after arriving we were on our way again. Britstop bible in hand, we rang an overnight stopover near Gretna, explained that we may not get there during opening hours but please could we stay. Of course came the friendly reply. 3.5 hours later, we were pulling off the M74 at Gretna Green and bang. We had a blowout. 😦 Luckily, we were less than a mile away from the Britstop (actually, it took me a while to realise that it was a blowout and not a dodgy road surface). We carried on tentatively and limped into the carpark around midnight to access the damage. Thankfully I’d not wrecked the rim by driving on a blowout. There was nothing we could do so we got the bed out and attempted to sleep. 

Friday By 7am Keith was up, dressed and ready to change onto the spare. An hour later and we’d got the spare on, but our confidence in these fabulous looking 20 inch rim and low profile racing tyres was diminished as its our second blowout in 9 months. Our moods were pretty rock bottom too (or so we thought!)  – We were tired from the journey, confused about what to do with the wheels – should we sell these popular wheels and replace them with normal T5 wheels. In doing that are we going to loose value on Ruby as the wheel rims are eye-wateringly high in value – they came with Ruby and do look swanky and generate a lot of interest in her. Are we putting ourselves in danger driving on these low profile tyres? Are they meant just for show and light driving? Ruby is our only vehicle so we use her lots. Since the end of March we’ve done 3500 miles and 3 weeks of that we were in China (not in Ruby lol!)  Our load rating is ok but why are we getting blowouts? So many questions and things to consider. Load Ratings, Inch of rims, wheel types… the list went on and it became clear we needed to get home. 

We rang our next stop, Dufton Caravan Park and explained and they were so kind, and told us not to worry and they would hold our deposit so we can use it when we rebook.

2 hours along the way I’m sure you can imagine our faces as half way down the A1 there was another bang. Keith pulled straight onto the hard shoulder and out we got, fully expecting to see another Blowout. Thankfully (as the spare was already in use!) it wasn’t a blow out. What the blinking hell was it? We get back into Ruby and tentatively start her up and she sounds like she’s been chavved up to the max with a super exhaust on. Not only that but there is thick black smoke billowing out of the exhaust. Oh My God. Exactly 12 hours after having a blowout we are now sat on the side of the A1 (thankfully we limped to a section of a drive to an equation centre- so were off the main carraigeway) calling out the RAC. You just couldn’t have made it up. 

2 hours later, Mr RAC Mechanic arrived, instantly spotting our spare, well it does stick our like a sore thumb! “You look like you aren’t having much luck” he says. We fill him in on our previous 16 hours. By this time, I’m fairly sure our engine has given up. Keith’s pacing tells me he’s thinking the same thoughts. The tension in the air was palpable and the silence between us was fraught with anxiety which is very rare for Keith and I.

It took Mr RAC mechanic man less than 5 minutes to reassure us that our engine was not dead, and that actually the problem was that the turbo hose clip had popped and come off. This didn’t mean much to either of us, but Mr RAC Mechanic man smiled and said, you’ve got two options. 1) I’ll call out the tow truck and they will tow you home or 2) I’l source a new part for you locally this afternoon, and come back and fit it for you, at no charge other than the part itself. “How much is the part likely to be” we ask? “oh, £40 max” he chirps! I don’t know if it was the stress of the last few hours, the long journey or whether I’m just a highly emotional lass, but my bottom lip began wobbling AGAIN and next thing I know I’m blubbing again!! What a relief.

2 hours later, and only £33 lighter, we were back on the road again.

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Thankfully this time we got all the way home without anymore drama other than two hold ups due to accidents and we managed to get home 24 hours after leaving Glencoe and more importantly, in time for a fish and chip supper to celebrate National Fish and Chip day! 

Despite the trials of the last 2 days, and arriving home two days early- we absolutely adored our trip to Harris. The weather couldn’t have been better and I’d recommend a trip to anyone who hasn’t visited this wonderful part of the world.

For us, we may give the West Coast a miss now for a couple of years, just because we are sure to be comparing it to this trip. Also, I don’t think we will go the last week of May again – it was so busy and those midges really were awful on Thursday. We were told but he wardens that they’d been around since Monday and they were just so intense. So perhaps back to Easter Scotland trips for us I think. 

Also – make sure you pre book your CalMac ferries – even just to get to Skye. We met two families who hadn’t and therefore couldn’t take the ferry as it was full. It’s a long way back to Fort William from Mallaig and then at least 2 hours from Fort William to the Skye bridge. 

Until Next Time

Lx 

Our Annual Scotland Pilgrimage – May 2018 Part 2: The Isle Of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Sunday Continued – on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides.

After disembarkation we pulled into the Isle of Harris distillery carpark to meet Rodney from Surf Lewis. We had hired some wetsuits and snorkelling equipment for the duration of our stay, and he very kindly agreed to meet us off the ferry to give us the equipment. Wetsuits, fins, snorkels etc in hand, we waved bye to Rodney – we are meeting him again on Wednesday as we have booked a Stand Up Paddleboarding session with him. Next stop was Huishnish Beach. I was worried about this as our ETA was 5pm – when we visited in 2012 it was very quiet and we stayed here fore two days and barely saw another soul. Now though, toruism has well and truly hit, and I knew Huishnish was a popular spot. To get there you drive for 40 mins over a mountain pass for 14 miles and Huishnish is the dead end. If we got there and there was no space, I’d have been very disappointed and we’d have to retrace our steps. 

Thankfully the luck of the Irish was on our side and there was a small space for Ruby to squeeze in to. As we turned the corner and saw Huishnish for the first time in 6 years, it literally took my breath away. It is absolutely BREATHTAKING. The beach is just stunning.  We wasted no time and got straight into the wetsuits – this is our first time in wetsuits and I’m sure we caused a lot of amusement to our fellow campers. It was honestly like trying to truss a chicken! 

Our first experience in a 5mm wetsuit in the Hebrides was just amazing! Rodney had sorted us with the whole kit- hood, gloves, shoes, fins etc. I adored being in the sea, it looked so inviting and now we were able to enjoy a swim. We got our snorkels on and had a little look around the rocks. 

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After our swim the prime spot had become available! We wasted no time, so still in wetsuits, we moved Ruby and vowed to stay there for at least 2 nights. We used the shower facilities (£1) and got on with dinner, overlooking the beach and sea – a salmon and prawn risotto washed down with a lovely white wine. 

We didn’t get the chairs out because our side door was facing the view and to embrace the view from our pitch meant we struggled to open the boot with the bikes on- so we used Ruby’s step for seating which worked really well! We felt like proper Veedubbers now! 

Monday dawned another beautiful sunny and hot day. We couldn’t believe our luck! We enjoyed sausage sandwiches before donning the wetsuits and snorkelling gear and trying some snorkelling out on the other side of the bay (the right hand side) As it was so uncharacteristically hot, we couldn’t leave Jazz in the van – it was mid 20s and just way too hot to leave a dog in a vehicle, so he came down to the beach with us and we took it in turns to snorkel.

I’m not sure what Jazz made of the wetsuits! Exploring the underwater world was really fun – we saw lots of colourful sea-weed and plants, sand eels, pollock, crabs etc. We used following underwater camera

【Upgraded】Action Camera,Campark ACT68 Sport Cam Wifi 4K/1080P Full HD Underwater Camera with 170° Wide-Angle 2 Inch LCD Display with 2 Rechargeable Batteries and Mounting Accessories Kit

It cost only £25 and was absolutely amazing!! Would highly recommend. It came with all the fittings needed to attached to helmets, bikes, surfboards, arms, legs – you name it. 

Snorkelling Highlights Video here

After ham and cheese paninis for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach on our inflatable sofas, chilling. I don’t think I can remember such a relaxing campervan trip. It felt like we were on a beach holiday!

For dinner, Keith knocked up an amazing bbq, we’d picked up some venison steaks from the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Stable shop that you pass on the road to Huishnish. This along with some sausages and chicken and a rice salad was yummy. 

We walked up the hill to the 5 campervan with electric spaces to watch the sun go down and I tried to use my drone but it didn’t have enough battery (we were off grid and with the heat and the coolbox, the battery was struggling a touch so we didn’t want to charge anything non essential) That was a shame cos I bet it would have been a good view. 

Our solar panel is doing well, Keith’s placed it on the roof and it’s soaking up the sun from 7am to 9pm!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B013VVUQM6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=advinamot-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B013VVUQM6&linkId=3f554e22dcfacad0b676fa9c1c4e699a
Tuesday

With a bit of a lump in our throats we bid Huishnish a fond farewell. Before leaving we used the motorhome service point to empty the loo and refill the water tank for just £3. Considering the parking was free, and showers available for just £1 this is excellent value. We actually shoved a fiver in a donation box to say thanks. Up the hill is a 5 space campervan site with electric for £5 a night but you have to time it well to get a space during peak sunshine I imagine!

On the way we stopped and watched a golden eagle through the binoculars- what a special moment that was, neither of us has seen one in the wild.

We popped into Tarbet to pick up some local gin. On the way we tried to stop off at two more snorkel trail locations but sadly we could not for the life of us find the correct place. In our opinion – North Harris Wildlife trust could probably do with signposts at the locations and visible parking as at one point we drove 2 miles down a farm track trying to find the place and could not find it!

During this period of time, my phone went nuts (without me realising) and decided to emergency call 112. I had no idea about this and because there is absolutely no phone signal I was blissfully unaware that my phone had not only rang 112, but had also text my dad, my mum and Keith (who also had no phone signal!) to tell them I was sending an emergency SOS message and where my location was. 

Once buying the gin, we carried on towards Luskentyre beach – which is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. Again we’ve been before, but it still doesn’t fail to impress.

The size of the beach is just overwhelming! We managed to get a great spot overnight spot overlooking part of the beach – provided by the West Harris trust and only £5 a night.

We set our stall out and enjoyed steak and stilton wraps for lunch before taking a walk on the beach with our wetsuits and trying some more snorkelling.

This time we snorkelled in with the tide all the way back to Ruby, taking it in turns again to stay with Jazz and always keeping one step ahead of the tide. We saw lots of crabs and had a lovely time. It’s just so nice to be underwater where you wouldn’t normally be as the water despite being crystal clear is blooming cold!

 

We both had a solar shower to wash the salt water off when we returned to Ruby and enjoyed some gins, before cooking with meat another wonderful seaview, chicken fajitas.

Yellowstone Camping Shower – 20 Litre

 

What a cracking spot. 

Wednesday arrived and it was time to set an alarm as we had to leave at 9am to get to Scalpay for our 10am Stand up Paddleboarding Lesson (SUP) I have fancied giving this a whirl since we saw people giving lessons on the Norfolk Broads. Just as we arrived on Scalplay i received many worried messages from Dad and Jenny asking if we were ok. It was at this point we realised what had happened with my phone – they had received an emergency message from us and then couldn’t get hold of us for almost 24hurs due to no phone signal. Quite understandably they were going out of their minds with worry!! Sorry Dad and Jenny! Mum on the other hand, had replied – “glad your having a good time!” It turns out that Apple to Apple (which is what our emergency SOS message was to mums phone) just sends a map link to your location. Apple to Samsung which is what it was me to Dad sends an upscaled “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SOS MESSAGE”! Whoops! A quick phone call to say we are fine cleared the air and put Dad and jenny’s mind at rest!

Back to the paddle boarding . The weather couldn’t have been any better. We met Rodney again at the designated place and along with 6 others donned our wetsuits, and took our boards to the water. Luckily the wife of someone also taking a lesson wasn’t taking part, and had her own dog, so offered to look after Jazz too, as the heat (which was totally not expected when we booked it) was too intense to leave him. God knows what we would have done had Ruth not been there to Jazz sit! 

The SUP lesson was FAB!!! We are complete beginners and have no balance, so our hopes were not high that we would achieve the end result of standing up. However, we both managed it and it was exhilarating, exciting and quite hard work. I can’t think of a more lovely way to experience the coast line of this stunning island.

 

Lessons are £40 and Rodney was just a brilliant and patient teacher. I can’t recommend the experience enough! See our video highlights here

Feeling completely exhilarated and little sad that our Hebridean adventure was nearly over we handed our wetsuits back to Rodney and waved goodbye.

We made use of the spotlessly clean and FREE showers at Scalpay Community Centre before booking a table for evening meal at the Anchorage Restaurant, Leverburgh, the opposite end of the island. If we had any criticism of the Isle of Harris it would be that despite fishing being a huge part of life here, we found it impossible to find some fresh seafood to buy and cook. We were both craving a seafood meal so decided to splash out on an evening meal. We visited the Anchorage when we last visited and had a fab meal, so table booked, we jumped in Ruby and made our way to the south of the Island. 

The restaurant were happy for us to stay overnight in their carpark, right next to the ferry to North Uist, so we made use of the time before our reservation by having a HUGE tidy – wetsuits and snorkelling equipment had put a serious strain on our storage – we managed, but we had half of Luskentyre beach gathered on the floor!  As the weather has been so good we haven’t packed Ruby’s bed away since Saturday so we’ve effectively had a fixed bed which has been nice.

 

Ruby with the Cal Mac ferry behind

Ruby soon was sparkling clean and organised again, so we went for a couple of drinks in the restaurant garden – I enjoyed the Barra Gin, before dinner. We even managed a celebrity spot – we only sat next to THE Billy Connelly! Amazing – such a gent (sorry no pic as I didn’t fully realise it was him – I said to Keefy he looks and sounds like Billy Connelly, then later on instagram I saw someone down the road at an art studio had posted a pic of him!) 

We had a brilliant meal, it really is a spot to visit if you like fresh fish and seafood. We both had identical meals – hand dived scallops to start, fresh cod with chive mash and pak choi, and chocolate fondue. It was FABULOUS.

 

Read our next instalment here

 

Until Next Time

Lx 

Our Annual Scotland Pilgrimage – May 2018 Part 1, Norfolk to Arisaig

Thursday

Is it me, or has this half term just flown by?! It only seems like last week that we were returning from China, but in fact we’ve been home for 6 weeks now and therefore it’s surely time for another road trip. May Half Term for the last few years has been earmarked as our annual jaunt up to our most favourite travel location of them all, Bonny Scotland. Thursday is our mad busy day at work and we don’t finish in Thetford until 7pm. We parked a fully loaded Ruby the Campervan at school, then Mum delivered Jazz the pampered pooch to the school gates at 7pm, and by 7.10pm we were on  A14 heading towards Carter Bar border crossing near to Jedburgh. 

This year we were particularly excited as the weather forecast was looking amazing! I think this excitement and the fact that we avoided every traffic jam going, helped us pitch up just after midnight at the large lay-by at the Border Crossing on the A68 Jedburgh road (Carter Bar) 

Friday dawned disappointedly cloudy, but this enabled us to make a very quick exit from Carter Bar as we weren’t distracted by the view. We shared our space with a traditional romany gypsy cart and horse, but for the first time ever, no other motorhomes. We had quite a drive today as we were skipping through our normal stopovers of Loch Lomond and Black Mount in order to get to Silversands Arisaig in one day. We did however make exception for the Loch Lomond Farm shop, a traditional stop for us to line Ruby’s fridge full of local fresh meat and ale and cider. 

We had a quick picnic “on the Bonny Bonny banks of Loch Lomond…..” before carrying on the A82 up past the Bridge of Orchy, Black Mountain, Glencoe and then Fort William.

We were noticing that the traffic was a lot heavier than other years, in fact we were nearly unable to get parked at the Glencoe viewpoint, definitely no cuppa this time, so instead we stopped at the Glenfinnan monument for a cuppa and a quick leg strech before arriving at Arisaig Silversands campsite at 5pm. 

We’ve been to this site several times previously. In our opinion, its one of the best beachside campsites in the UK. Especially if you book early and manage to get one of the beach front pitches. The showers and loos are basic but clean. And just look at our view!

We got the gas grill out and set about cooking a burger feast from our farm shop haul for dinner before enjoying a sensational sunset and a wee dram.  We couldn’t believe when we looked at the clock, expecting it to be near to 9pm – it was actually nearly 11pm and still pretty light.

Saturday

The weather was just glorious! Our plan was to unload the bikes and cycle round to nearby Camusdarach Beach which is where Local Hero was filmed, just like we did last year. However, the weather was just so gorgeous, and the beach in front of Ruby looked so inviting, we decided that we would stay at the campsite all day and enjoy the campsite beach and have a chill.

Out came the self inflating sofas and we made the long (10 metre) walk to the beach which is where we stayed ALL DAY!

We’ve never ever done this on a camping trip – we always try and cram in some cycling or walking or exploring. Jazz loved it as because the beach was empty he got to do lots of off leading which we normally can’t do as he’s not the most obedient pup in the world!

 

 

We actually managed to get sunburn – this is a first for us in Scotland. We felt like we were in Greece on a beach holiday. It was perfect. A perfect day has to end in a perfect BBQ, and Keefy did not let us down on this.

After another incredible sunset we hit the sack. A lovely relaxing day.

Sunday

We had a relatively early start today as it was time to wave goodbye to our stay at SilverSands. We waved a sad goodbye to owner Jim, around 9am and drove the short distance on the coast road to Camusdarach Sands. As the beach was quiet I had a play with my drone and Keith pretended he was Peter Reigert (Mac in Local Hero) and went for a long walk along the shoreline.

See drone video here

The weather was just beautiful again. Around 10am, we set off to Mallaig, and after stocking up on some supplies at the Coop we boarded our first of two ferries that day – Mallaig to Armadale (Skye). 

The journey was smooth and enjoyable, we had the binoculars out looking for wildlife. We were first off the ferry which was handy as we had to drive across Skye from Armadale to Uigg for our next ferry to the Isle of Harris. Skye was looking wonderfully green against the bright blue sky. We were desperately looking for some local fresh fish to take with us to cook as we were fairly sure we were going to be on the sea again tonight, but as it was Sunday there was nowhere other than the coop open. I managed to get some Hebridean salmon, but that was it. The Sunday closing also prevented us spending a sizeable amount in Uigg at the Isle Of Skye Brewery shop! If you are passing through, we highly recommend the Skye Red and Skye Gold Ales. 

After a quick ploughmans lunch in Ruby whilst queuing for the ferry, we loaded onto the slightly larger ferry, the CalMac Hebrides Ferry. We were so excited, its been a plan to revisit Harris after our last visit in 2012 and the weather was just incredible and looked set for the week. The ferry journey was a lovely and smooth 90 minute journey. We sat on the top deck looking for whales and dolphins and enjoyed an Isle of Skye red. It got so hot we actually needed to move to the shade! 

You can read our next instalment here

Until Next Time 

Lx 

A Cheeky escape to Chirk; May Bank Holiday 2018

Friday 4th May

Ruby the VW Campervan is nestled amongst 4 other motorhomes beside the Oxford Canal in Warwickshire. We are at Britstop number 427/18 and for the first time ever, we are sharing our Britstop location with other vans! In 6 years of using Britstops, we’ve never encountered other vans!

This weekend’s mini escape has been a little topsy turvy to say the least. We were supposed to be going to see Tears for Fears tomorrow in Birmingham, which meant bank holiday camping plans were difficult. Then, Keith popped onto Arena Birmingham’s website 2 days ago to get parking directions when he noticed TfF wern’t listed this weekend. A little bit of digging and we discovered that the gig had been been cancelled. Thanks for letting us know.. not. Thank goodness I have a nosey OCD husband otherwise we definitely would have been non the wiser and would have turned up.

As soon as we found out the gig was off, before we even investigated rescheduling/refunds, the next step was to embrace the fabulous weather forecast, and our now completely empty diary and get ourselves onto a site somewhere for the weekend. All the forums/facebook pages I follow had been saying May bank Holiday had been fully booked all over the country for ages so my hopes were not high and I went to work extraordinarily hacked off to say the least.

Happily my husband is some sort of miracle worker and found us a site within an hour – vaguely in an area that we wanted to visit at some point this year, Chirk. Our preference was of course the Camping and Motorhome Club’s “Lady Margaret Park” in Chirk – it ticked all our boxes, we’d had several people recommend it and it had near enough direct access to the Llangollen Canal and it’s cycle route to Pontcysyllte aqueduct. Obviously it was fully booked already, but the warden told us to keep trying. During work on Thursday my email pinged with the email “Booking Confirmation – Lady Margaret Park” – Keefy had managed to get us on THE site we’d wanted. Woo!

I had work until 4pm Friday so we decided to break the 4 hour trip to North Wales with a popular Britstop half way. We phoned ahead, booked a table for dinner and off we tootled, sunglasses on feeling pretty chipper.

Britstop 427 offered a very warm welcome, the landlord liked the look of Ruby – and we enjoyed showing her off like proud parents, especially as we gave her a little makeover this week.

We had a beer on the canal side before heading inside for a delicious meal and crashing out early. It’s been a hell of a week!

Saturday

We had peaceful night tucked away in the pub car park, but were keen to get up and on, as we still had to get past Birmingham. We were just having a cuppa when much to our surprise we found ourselves with some guests..! See video……. 🤣🚒

It delayed our departure a touch, but was fascinating to watch Warwickshire Fire Servie carry out a drill. Ruby gained a few more admirers from the fire crew and we were treated to a serenade of Morning has Broken. One of the more surreal mornings we’ve had, thats for sure!

Our journey to Chirk was smooth – a highlight was spotting Ruby the VW’s twin!

After a quick stop at the local butcher’s in Chirk of course we rolled onto the club site at midday exactly. It took us a while to set up as it’s been some time since we’ve been out on site with all the dry weather gadgets but it was soon time to have lunch – steak and stilton wraps, before having a little wander into town.

We enjoyed our walk, which took in the Chirk aqueduct and viaduct – which are positioned so close to each other that from a distance it looks like they are double decker.

We wandered across the aqueduct back into England and found my dream house.

We then picked up a couple of bits that’d we’d forgotten from shop before walking through Chirk tunnel – an amazing piece of engineering – a canal tunnel that is almost 500m long – so long that you can barely see the end of it!

It’s very cool – boats can only go through single file and have to have their light on so people know they are coming. We watched boat go through alongside us, and then some canooists we waiting to go through next. I quite fancy a go at that myself.

Back at the site – it was glorious weather so we tried out these self inflating sofabeds that we got off Dad and Jen for Xmas. I say self inflating – what I actually mean is “self inflating if you run around in circles wafting your arms around looking like a complete tool!” Our next door neighbour actually took pity on me and came to ask if I wanted to borrow his air pump – then looked mighty confused when I say thanks but this is actually how you’re supposed to do it! Once inflated though my goodness, they are comfy – it’s like you’re floating on a hammock!

We had a delicious bbq for tea which featured some welsh dragon sausages and welsh lamb leg steaks from the butchers down the road, before we both crashed out again at 9pm!

Sunday

Another day of sunshine was forecasted for today – we could hardly believe our luck! After a tea in bed watching the rabbits behind us, we got on with breakfast – a full English on our outside gas ring. I love cooking al fresco- and is there anything greater than walking through a campsite on a sunday morning with all those AMAZING smells tickling your nostrils. No, I don’t think so either!

Whilst I got on with breakfast, Keith prepared the bikes and by 10.30 we were off on our way. We joined the canal tow path just by Chirk Station – and the first bit towards Pontcysyllte aqueduct is especially beautiful – steep banks either side, lush green trees and banks upon banks of bluebells and wild garlic. Just wonderful.

In actual fact – the whole cycle all the way to Llangollen (9 miles each way linear) was just breathtaking. It has absolutely worked its way to our (imaginary for now) list of top cycle routes in the UK.

The main feature of course is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the UK’s longest and highest aqueduct, which has now received World Heritage Site status. As such it is absolutely heaving with people, on the tow path on bikes and foot, and on the canal in canalboats and canoes; but who can blame them.

We just loved it there. We walked our bikes across the aqueduct, then carried on the canal towards Llangollen (you have to go over the bridge, cross the road and then take the new tow path). This stretch was another breathtaking sections, and the 4.5 miles to Llangollen just flew by.

At Llangollen you have the option to take a boat trip on a horse drawn barge. We didn’t fancy the trip but enjoyed watching the horse pull the barge – we’ve never seen this before.

We turned back round at this stage but you can carry on to Horseshoe Falls. After stopping for an ice-cream at the sweetie barge and a quick purchase of some souvenirs (some of you reading this will know we are suckers for souvenirs 😜) we soon found ourselves back at Ruby – exhausted but completely overwhelmed by the scenery.

After a chill on the inflatables (and causing amusement to yet more campers on the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site!) we cooked fajitas for dinner and had a little evening stroll down across the border back into England, to the Bridge Inn for a swift one whilst watching the sunset, before bed.

What a cracking day. You can view our Llangollen Canal cycle video highlights here.

Monday

Monday dawned way too quickly – we were having far too much of a good time to have to pack up and start spinning Ruby’s wheels back home! Luckily we were both feeling it, so after packing up, we drove the mile down the road to Chirk Castle National Trust in a hope to procrastinate!

Arriving early worked in our favour – I bagged a prime seat within the castle courtyard at the cafe in the sun and read my kindle whilst Keith went inside then we swapped (Jazz obviously wasn’t allowed in and it was WAY too hot to leave him in Ruby so we were tag teaming!)

We had to do the same for the formal gardens and woodland unfortunately as dogs weren’t allowed in there either – only the estate grounds for the furry ones. I assume this is because of the actions of selfish dog owners in the past leaving their poop.

The gardens were lovely, but I don’t think either of us enjoyed visiting them without each other. Especially seeing all the families and couples enjoying picnics etc. 😦 But if you don’t have a dog – I’m sure you would just love it there!

All too soon, it was time to hit the road – we couldn’t put off the impending bank holiday journey home any longer. Luck was once again on our sides though it seemed as we got home in 4 hours exactly  with no traffic jams. Unlike the poor folk who were queuing to get out Norfolk on the A11 – we hit no traffic problems whatsoever.

Lady Margaret C&MC site – you have won us over and we will most definitely return. How’s next weekend?! Joke. 😞

If you haven’t yet visited this area and enjoy off road easy cycling, this is a must for you.

Until next time, which is departing in just over 2 weeks, eek and is one of our favourite trips of the year – our annual pilgrimage to Bonny Scotland. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Lx