Adventures on the Moray Firth, Scotland

Gandalf the VW is parked up with a terrific view of the Moray Firth, in the highlands of Scotland, near to Lossiemouth.

We made the 5 hour journey from Beadnall bay, with a couple of comfort stops en route/ it was a tiring drive but the end result- our pitch at West Bay Caravan Park was worth the drive.

Our drive through the Cairngorms on the A9 enabled us to stop for supplies at an old haunt of ours, the House Of Bruar- a fabulous collection of local food, drink and goodies and we raided their cheese and butchery section as well as their local drinks too. Well worth a stop if you’re passing but perhaps hide your credit card as it’s easy to get carried away in there! Haha

We arrived on site about 5:30 and despite our weariness managed a quick set up. Our pitch had lovely views of the ocean and was close to the facilities block- we both enjoyed long hot showers in a heated shower block having had 6 nights of camping showers in our awning.

Our dinner was sausage and mash- with venison Sausage from the House of Bruar. Absolutely gorgeous and easily done in the Remoska now we were back on electric after 4 nights off grid.

We sat outside until dark, admiring the cruise liner leaving Invergorden just down the coast and slept well – especially after I took down the awning at 2am- the wind off the sea was making a racket through the awning!

Sunday arrived and we were both feeling tired – it had been a full on week of travelling on top of a full on half term of work.

We decided to have a day of doing nothing. We took a gentle walk to the village shop to pick up a couple of supplies and then Keefy made a delicious haggis pizza for lunch.

He started it off on the cadac pizza stone but it was struggling against the wind, so we transferred it to the Remoska for the second half of cooking. It was delicious.

We then took a wander down to the campsite beach and had some time larking around on the paddle board. I enjoyed a swim too. We both enjoyed making use of the on site bar, the Salty Dog when we made our way to the site for a dram.

After a lazy afternoon back at the van we cooked up Cullen skink for dinner which was delicious.

A perfect day of just sitting and watching the sea – something that we had driven all this way for- it really hit the spot.

Monday arrived and despite a not so pleasant weather forecast we were blessed with beautiful sunshine. We unloaded the bikes and cycled along the Moray coastal trail to Lossiemouth (6 miles but sadly not off road like other parts of the trail- although the road wasn’t too busy)

We found the bar/restaurant Harbour Lights immediately and got won over by their position and menu.

Keith had grilled haddock and I enjoyed Cullen skink for the second time in less than 24 hours! I have to say theirs was absolutely exquisite. We then cycled around the harbour, pausing on the wall for a while enjoying the sunshine and also on the look out for dolphins. I’d seen some from the pitch at the campsite yesterday but Keith missed them. I was itching for us both to see them together.

Alas, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time and no dolphins made their appearance- it didn’t matter though, we loved siting there nice and relaxed.

After a quick stop at the Coop we made our way back to the site for a relax. We enjoyed a local cheeseboard and to our delight spotted a pod of dolphins swimming by.

We spent the reminder of the day relaxing watching the sea and another cruise ship- before enjoying dinner- homemade chicken balmoral. (Chicken stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon) served with neeps and tatties and cooked in the Remoska.

Tuesday arrived and again the weather was better than the forecast! We unloaded the bikes again and made a short but beautiful journey to Burghead. This section of the coastal trail is only 2 miles but is fully off road on a disused railway track – part of the Moray coastal trail.

Burghead is small but very traditional. The harbour is used for fishermen although there is a company operating boat trips, which we would have loved to have done one- sadly they aren’t dog friendly without us chartering the entire boat at almost £500 for 2 hours. A shame really- we’ve always managed a boat trip with Jazz and considering the amount of campers with dogs on our site I’m surprised there isn’t a market for dog friendly boat trips along this stretch of the Moray which is heavily populated with dolphins so would make an exciting family activity. But there we go. We saved ourselves £70 (or £500 for the charter) but for the record we were willing to spend our £70 to a local company for a boat trip.

We picked up a scotch pie and a macaroni pie for a picnic lunch to enjoy on the long journey back to Gandalf – haha! – from the Coop- nowhere else open in Burghead. We also enjoyed a look at the Pictish fort, which had great views along the coast too.

Once back at the van we went back down to the beach for more paddle board fun before enjoying more cheese, dolphin watching and an afternoon snooze.

When we were awake we couldn’t take our eyes off the sea!

Dinner was a slow cooker special of Beef stroganoff. As I went to wash up, We saw more dolphins – a majestic site. I just love them.

After dinner we started packing up as tomorrow was our big drive home. We enjoyed the most spectacular sunset we’ve ever seen I think in Scotland that evening. We could have been in Greece.

We’d very much enjoyed our time at West Beach Caravan Park. Although it was pricier at £37 pn we were pleased with the sea view- despite not being right on the front row (we only booked 10 days prior to arrival- the front row book up months in advance and I can see why!) we had a great view. Some of the pitches on the site in our opinion are better than others. The front row (S then number) are phenomenal location just a stone throw to the water. The ones behind that were ok, but a little hemmed in as were the E pitches in our opinion . We liked the VW pitches which we were on but felt ours #7 was the best of those as it had no van on one whole side so you got a wide view of the sea.

We did feel the rules on site were hit and Miss. No ball games for example but no one monitoring when people were playing ball games and therefore hitting our van. Parking with doors facing a particular way made some A class motorhomes that were LH have their main window away from the view. That must have been annoying.

The showers were well cleaned and nice but the push button was the shortest we’ve ever encountered and could have been a degree or two warmer.

Usually we’re not too fussy on these things but I suppose when you’re paying premium you take more notice of smaller details. Having said all of this- we really enjoyed our stay, it was perfect for our needs and we will likely return at some point.

As we left on Wednesday, we decided to make a morning of it seeing as the weather was so good and we were craving the mountains. We filled with fuel at Elgin which was so cheap (£1.78 haha!) and then made our way to Braemar. The route was splendid passing through Tomintoul – we were in heaven. At Braemar we then headed towards Pitlochry – another extremely scenic route, before joining the A9 which led us on our journey south and back home.

If you’ve never been to the Cairngorms- you need to go! There’s a past blog from our previous stays here. We’ve also got a previous blog from further down the Moray Firth / Moray Coastal trail last year here

We left Pitlochry at 12:30 and we’re back home at 9pm having stopped for some shopping in nearby Thetford. So a very good run indeed!

We’d had a brilliant time on our travels- Scotland once more ticked our boxes- and by staying East… no midges!!!!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in the North East of England- using THS

Tuesday

Gandalf the VW is parked up on a rugby pitch- literally next to the goal post- on the outskirts of York. We’re on a rally field essentially, a Temporary Holiday Site (THS) ran by C&CC like a pop up campsite. There are no loos/ ehu or fancy ness- it’s a field with a tap, non and loo emptying facilities, but at £10 pn it’s a bargain and heaps cheaper than the other options for camping in York.

Our journey here from Burnley was smooth and picturesque as we crossed country via the scenic Yorkshire Dales. We pulled into site at lunchtime- in the middle of a county cricket match and had the surreal experience of driving through the cricket match to get to the rally field (the rugby field!)

Set up was quick and easy, and before we knew it we were taking the river path from the site for 20 mins on foot into the centre of York.

We’ve been to York many times, it’s a city we return regularly too and if you’ve not been it’s well worth a visit. It’s rich in history and has the unique Roman city wall walk which can be enjoyed. The shambles – a medieval street with heaps of character is like something off a pantomime set and the majestic minster is also worth a visit.

Our visit today was organised by Keefy- he was keen to visit the Yorkshire life museum as on display currently is an impressive Roman Horde called the Rydale horde. As we had Jazz with us who couldn’t go into the museum, I dog sat in a nearby bar overlooking the river.

As well as the Rydale horde, Keith enjoyed a collection of Prehistoric, Viking, Anglo Saxon and medieval artefacts, all found in York and surrounding areas. He was particularly impressed with the Anglo Saxon helmet dating from 750, considered to be the best preserved in the world and some Viking shoes. He was really impressed with the whole museum and would definitely recommend it.

Follwing this, and reunited once more, we had a quick wander through the city, doing a couple of errands as we passed through, before meeting our friend Gary for a few drinks in the evening.

Our afternoon and evening in York was brief this time, but enjoyable non the less.

Wednesday

After a quiet night on site, we packed up and hit the road at a reasonable hour. We had a 3hr journey north ahead of us- we were heading to Northumberland. We made a stop at National Trust Cragside on route. Somewhere I’d wanted to visit for some time now and thankfully it was cool enough to leave Jazz in the van whilst we went inside together.

Cragside is considered to be Britain’s first “smart home”. Living in a smart home ourselves- Keith loves his technology- I knew we’d enjoy this visit. Built by Lord Armstrong in the Victorian era, this home was carved into rock in a crag- and boasts wonderful views from every corner. But its the pioneering technology inside that makes it’s particularly interesting. Lord Armstrong developed all sorts of gadgets running inside such as hydraulic “dumb editors” – rotating hydraulic spits over the fire, underfloor and over head heating, hot water taps and the first hydroelectric light bulbs in the world.

The thing that blew me away the most was the 10 ton marble fireplace, installed in the “drawing” room – an additional wing built for a royal visit. Lord Armstrong’s pioneering technology gained interest from the Royal family and as such they paid Cragside a visit in the late 1800s. What was fascinating was the idea that their bedroom here would be more advanced than at their own royal home.

After our visit inside we took Jazz for a wander around the grounds before retrieving Gandalf and enjoying the carriage route around the grounds- a 6 mile scenic loop in the car through the grounds.

From here we made a quick stop at Alnwick, filling the fridge with supplies before arriving at our next home, Beadnell Bay THS.

This large rally field, ran by Teesside DA was another corker. Two large fields this time, right opposite a beautiful beach situated walking distance from both Beadnell village and Seahouses. Again, just £10 pn. We paid our dues for 3 nights, and went to set up.

Dinner that night was a homemade curry from home that had been packed in our freezer. We enjoyed a chill before an early night.

Thursday arrived and the weather was drizzly to begin with. We had a fairly lazy morning waiting for the weather to blow over, which it did- before making our way on foot via the gorgeous and empty beach to Seahouses.

Seahouses is a small little village with a couple of pubs, a couple of fish and chip shops, and some touristy gift shops. It’s got a pretty harbour and is know as being the gateway to the Farne islands. There are plenty of boats trips available (although we’d been organised and pre booked ours with Golden Gate).

We enjoyed a delicious lunch of crab soup- Devine! in the Olde Ship- in their beer garden overlooking the Farne Islands. The sun was shining- life was good!

At 3pm we boarded our (dog friendly) boat trip to the Farne Islands. Our boat is the only one which stops at the Indians of Longstone- with its pretty red and white lighthouse, once home to Grace Darling, which we could visit. (Keith went in- I enjoyed the view outside with Jazz).

The boat then continued around the inner and outer Farne islands where we saw lots of birds and seals. Even a couple of puffins- it’s not puffin season anymore so this was a treat!

We really enjoyed the boat trip. A lovely way to enjoy an afternoon.

Once back on dry land, we enjoyed a beer in the Bamburgh Castle pub before enjoying a fish and chip supper at the harbour (from Neptunes- they were delicious!)

We’d had a cracking day, and once back at Gandalf, we enjoyed the last rays of the day with a drink.

Friday

Today we took the bikes out for a pootle along the coastal route. We nipped down into nearby Beadnall to see the 17th century kilns on the harbour wall, before making our back past the THS to Bamburgh.

Bamburgh is home to the phenomenal Bamburgh Castle, which dominates the coastline for as far as you can see. It’s also linked to Lord Armstrong (from Cragside) as he purchased it and restored it in the late 1800s. So tied nicely in with our visit to Cragside a couple of days ago.

The views of the Farne Islands from the grounds (which are dog friendly by the way) are great and the expanse of white Sandy beach below are just stunning.

We took it in turns to go inside – I finished my book whilst Keith went in, and he had a coffee and cake whislt I went in, and both found the interior really interesting.

It was a great visit and one which we’d not planned as we didn’t think it was dog friendly even in the grounds.

We enjoyed cycling a bit beyond the village, admiring the views constantly. What a marvellous section of coast.

Back at the site and we enjoyed a prawn and avacado cocktail and spag bol for tea.

We’d really enjoyed our time here. The THS site runs from July to mid august each year and I think there is another in September. To find out about the THS’s use this link. (You need to be members of C&CC to attend)

If you’d prefer the luxury of a more formal campsite and perhaps ehu, there is a club site next door.

Gandalf had coped admirably with 4 nights off grid, we’d had a mix of weather so the solar panel didn’t get sun ALL the time. The thing with VW’s is the fridge running of the leisure battery rather than gas which is a shame and makes off grid a bit more of a challenge. Having said that, ours managed – we just ran the fridge and water pump off the solar panel and van leisure battery. We then used this – a new gadget for this trip- to charge phones and run the 12v shower, plus give us light for the evening. It worked a treat.

This area is an ideal base for a few days as there are bus stops outside the site for routes along the coast, to Alnwick or even Newcastle. So plenty to do without moving your van.

What a great time we’d had. But it was time to move on! Where next?!

Adventures in Lancashire; Following in the footsteps of the Pendle Witches

Sunday

Gandalf the Campervan is nestled on a lovely pitch at a C&MC CL on the outskirts of Burnley, Lancs. He’s done us proud today. We left home bright and early- with alarms set at 4:30am and us on the road just after 5am. Our first destination was just under 5 hours away- Lancaster Castle – and we wanted to get there in time for the first tour of the day so it wasn’t too hot to leave Jazz in the van (no dogs allowed in the grounds of the castle). We needn’t have worried it rained continuously from home to Lancaster, but happily on arrival we were greeted with sunny skies and a cool breeze. Perfect conditions to leave Jazz in the van at Dallas road car park (no height restrictions) for an hour or so.

Lancaster Castle blew us both away- the grounds and the keep are in great condition and it almost felt like a mini Windsor. The Lancashire sandstone against the blue sky was really dramatic.

The castle is steeped in history. It holds one of the oldest court rooms in the UK and many historic dungeons too. (Sadly these were out of bounds). The most famous trials which took place here were those of the Pendle Witches; 10 witches from the Pendle hill area of Lancashire were famously tried and found guilty of witchcraft in 1612. They went on to be hanged at the nearby park. No pics allowed inside whilst on the tour but we really enjoyed the hour or so.

Following our castle visit we retrieved Jazz and went for a walk to the Roman bath site, and then down Church street and Moorgate. We walked through Lancaster’s city centre and past the pub in which it was said the witches had their last drink before they were lead to their execution. (There is some debate on the truth of this though as historians say the pub building wouldn’t have been there in 1600s)