Adventures in Edinburgh- Excellent exhibitions and dog friendly hospitality

Gandalf the VW is parked up on the C&MC Club site on the south side of Edinburgh, having had a good run up from Grassington Club site (Wharfedale) this morning.

We made a stop Tebay services on the M6 just before the Scotland border- this (somehow, despite many recommendations to stop here over the years) was our first stop ever here. Lets just say it was a very expensive but jolly tasty Loo stop! And forever more our journeys north will factor in this very wonderful Services/Farm shop/deli. We stocked up with meats, sausages, beers, cider and even some Scottish Tablet, pasties and sausage rolls for lunch. And enjoyed the sight of the winter wonderland that surrounded the M6.

On arrival at Edinburgh Club site, we had a very quick set up – less than 10 mins- amazing how much quicker when we aren’t faffing with the awning etc, before whisking Jazz out for a mile loop before the sun set. The site is very close to the Firth of Forth and we could have walked for miles along the wide promenade taking in views of Crammond Island and enjoying the beach area too. But it got dark!

We settled in for an evening in Gandalf, I cooked up a Spag Bol and we enjoyed a few drinks together and a read of our books. The facilities on site were, as always with the Club site network, clean, predictable and good. Heated shower blocks and endless hot water supply are just lovely for mid winter camping – especially when you’ve not had any at home for a while. Perhaps the facilities at Edinburgh were touch dated, but they were clean and worked and thats all that bothered us!

Wednesday arrived after a very peaceful night on site, and was a glorious winters day. Hurrah! Cold yes, but absolutely stunning clear blue skies and wonderful winter light. We had pre arranged a cab from the site as we were taking Jazz to doggy day care- aka Cousin Simon in Leith. However for your reference, there is a very handy mini bus service from the site to the city centre, dog friendly and just £3 pp. This is ideal as the bus stop is a bit of a walk down an unlit road (although there is pavement). It runs from 09.30 to midday into the city and from 4-6pm back to the site from the city. We however used Central Taxis for the entirety of our stay as we were needing to go off the beaten track and returning to site later than the minibus. They are totally dog friendly- just mention when you ring and they will send, very promptly, a dog friendly car to wherever you are. 

So, after settling Jazz – who was about to get incredibly spoilt!- into the window seat at Simon’s pad overlooking Leith Links, Keith and I did a very brisk walk from Leith to Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Two)- the main reason we were in Edinburgh at all.

We had tickets for the Ray Harryhausen exhibition. Ray Harryhausen was an American animator and special effects creator who created a form of stop motion model animation known as “Dynamation”. His work involved making the latex moving models for many films such as Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and many many more. Harryhausen left his collection, which includes all of his film-related artifacts, to the Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which he set up in 1986 to look after his extensive collection, to protect his name and to further the art of model stop-motion animation. This collection was being exhibited in Edinburgh to celebrate the centenary anniversary of his birth this year- but it is only on until the end of February.

Keith being a massive film fan, but also a huge admirer of Harryhausen’s work, was beyond excited at the prospect of this visit.

To say that the exhibition delivered all he hoped it would and more is a huge understatement. It was excellent, but especially for Keith who has enjoyed, and been inspired by these films for his entire life.

We spent a good two hours or so enjoying the models on display, before nipping back to Leith to collect Jazz, and making our way into Leith for lunch. Leith and Edinburgh are exceptionally dog friendly. There was only one place in our entire stay that said no dogs allowed, and so we had plenty of choice to wine and dine ourselves with our furry friend. We used this website and looked out for the stickers on windows Another good resource for Dog Friendly Edinburgh

We enjoyed lunch at Teuchters Landing, a really cool Scottish whiskey and Gin bar with a roaring fire and overlooking the river. Their food was delicious and we liked it so much we went back for breakfast the next day! (dog friendly only until 6pm) 

From here we were suitably stuffed, so we decided to walk again up from Leith into Edinburgh along the Water O Leith pathway, part river path and part disused railway path. It took us all the way to Waveney station right in the heart of the city and was lovely (2.5 miles from Leith but the path runs for 12 miles in total and is all traffic free) 

We then spent the remainder of the afternoon mooching about and enjoying some drinks and more food at Holyrood 9A, another exceptionally dog friendly bar that bring dogs out treats on a silver platter! 

Thursday dawned not quite so bright and crisp, more damp and dismal, but it wasn’t going to stop us. Our cab took us to Leith to drop Jazz again, but not before a humongous breakfast at Teichter’s Landing and a breakfast cocktail.

We dropped Jazz and then made our way to Holyrood Palace, the official royal residence for when the senior Royals are in the Capital city (which actually tends only to be for a week in July.) Situated at the bottom of the Royal Mile and beneath Arthur’s Seat, remnants of a former volcano, Holyrood dates back to the 16th Century and was even home to Mary Queen of Scots.

We visited all of the state rooms which were brilliant to see, and the historic apartments where Mary Queen of Scots resided too. Before the Palace was built there stood an Abby, the remains of which are now engrossed into the wing of the Palace.

We really REALLY enjoyed our self guided tour, taking the processional route in and especially seeing the Royal Dining room, the state rooms, Queen Victoria’s Tarten dress dating from the late 1800s, and even jewels that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.

We can’t believe we haven’t visited before. It really is a great place to see.

From here, we made our way back to pick up Jazz who once again had been spoilt and pampered with lovely Simon, and then walked back into the city centre via the Royal Mile. We had a few drinks in the historic pubs, full of atmosphere, and abnormally quiet; we really felt for the businesses up here, tighter restrictions but not tight enough to close and therefore get financial help, were definitely emptier than any time we’ve ever been before. 

At the top of the mile we took pictures of the Castle – usually when we visit in August the area is taken over by tattoo seating. My gosh it was bitterly cold up there though! 

Dinner was at The last drop, on Grassmarket, a favourite area of ours, and we both enjoyed haggis of course along with Crofters Pie and Cullen skink before making our way back to Gandalf at a respectable hour in preparation for our journey back home and a bump back to reality in the morning to sort our heating and hot water at home out!

We made the journey in home in a record 6 hours 50 mins – leaving the site at 8am and pulling onto our drive at 3pm, with just one very brief 5 minute leg stretch south of Grantham. 

The heating is still not fixed nor is the hot water but our guy now has discovered the problem so its on its way to being fixed which is good. 

We’d had a brilliant time away and absolutely no regrets in abandoning the house last weekend whatsoever! We highly highly recommend visiting the Ray Harryhausen exhibition if you can, they say its not going to be touring anywhere else in the UK and this is a rare trip out for the memorabilia. 

We’ve got a couple of weekends at home now but we are looking forward to lots of camping that is arranged for February onwards. 

Until Next Time 

Lx 

Adventures IN Thame

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up on another gem of a CL, this time just 40 mins down the road from Newbridge, which is ON the Thames, to Thame which is NOT on the Thames, but in fact the River Thame. This fact alone blew our minds the entire 40 minute journey!

We’re staying on Lashlake Barn CL, a C&MC CL within walking distance of Thame. The campsite is lovely – each pitch has electric and a water tap, and the site is very secure – it’s situated behind electric gates which we all have a fob to give us access on foot or wheels. At the far end of the campsite The River Thame runs and there is a stream runnning off it which was the backdrop of our pitch. The price of the pitch is £18 pn which feels a reasonable and fair amount.

We ended up meeting Dad and Jenny as we arrived which was handy and it didn’t take us all long to get our vans into relaxing mode, soon cracking open a gin and having some lunch.

After lunch, we were treated to a rare sight… the sun, which I think has been missing in action recently. We hailed its return and set off for a wander around Thame.

Just behind the campsite is St Mary’s Church, final resting place to the incredible Robin and Andy Gibb (Beegees).

Opposite their graves is Robin Gibb’s former house, Prebendal – an absolutely stunning medieval property with its own collection of impressive historical events that it has played host to, including it being the place in which the decision that Joan of Ark was to be sentenced to her death was made.

Keith found this really great video of Robin Gibb showing a camera crew around the house which we found fascinating.

From here we continued up to the high street, admiring all of the listed houses as we went. Thame was actually used in Midsomer Murders as a filming location. It’s easy to see why, there are many medieval houses with brilliantly preserved fascias.

Thame was also home to the famous poet – and Keith’s favourite Poet – Yeats. We saw the house in which he lived, and Keith even recited an extract of his favourite Yeats poem outside.

We spent some time indulging in our family hobby – charity shop hunting! All the shops were brilliantly dog friendly, and we all picked up one or two bits and bobs!

After a couple of drinks, we nipped back to the campsite to change for dinner, before heading back to town. We had a table booked in the Black Horse, a really lovely gastro pub bistro, which amazing also was dog friendly. The food and service was great and we really enjoyed our evening.

Friday dawned sunny! Yes Sunny!

After a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and salmon on toast, we got our bikes unhooked and set off on the Phoenix Trail, an off road, disused railway path between Thame and Princes Risborough. The trail runs for just over 7 miles and has a number of sculptures to enjoy on route, along with great views of the Chilterns.

We had lunch and some more charity shop hunting in Princes Risborough before making our way back in record time to Thame. Dad was on the only non electric bike and did a sterling job setting the fast pace on our return! I was on high assist to keep up!

Apparently Jamiroquai lives opposite here!

Before making our way back to the campsite from Thame, I picked up some butchers lamb, and when we got back I knocked up a Lamb Dhansak in the Remoska, along with a chicken saag. That’s right, Friday night is Curry night! We enjoyed our feast of curry’s outside as it was still fairly mild before settling down in front of the campfire as the stars came out. What a lovely day we’d all had.

Saturday soon arrived and our time was up. Before we left though, Keith spotted some enormous crayfish in the stream behind us. Having never seen these before (me and Keith anyway) they kept us amused for quite some time.

This one only had one claw, but if you click on the photo you can see it’s got a new claw growing back.

Dad had accidentally sent some of our bacon flying into the steam and they were enjoying it massively! We also had some other new friends on site- the free range chickens although Jazz wasn’t sure about these!

We’d had a wonderful couple of days and really enjoyed our time in Thame, despite our mind being blown that it wasn’t on The Thames.

Until next time

Adventures on the Thames

Gandalf the VW Campervan is parked up a stones throw from the River Thames in Newbridge, a tiny hamlet consisting of 800 year old bridge, two pubs and a farm, who’s field we are camped on! We’re on Newbridge Farm, a C&MC CL, with no facilities other than a loo disposal, tap and bin. We’ve come for a last hurrah before we return to work next week, after a terrific summer of travel and adventures. The first part of this trip is a bit of a “working holiday” as we both attacked our return to work admin and time tabling for the term ahead. However, as all we needed for this was a phone, iPad and 4g, we decided a change of scenery out of our office window would be nice. Also there is something really liberating about being off hook up- it does something (positive) to our mind and so we’ve found the headspace here that we needed to crack on with admin.

The site itself is a medium sized field, with elson point, tap, and rubbish disposal and views over the fields. There is a footpath which takes you across a field to the Thames and the Thames Path, and not one but two pubs, and a very historical bridge.

There is some road noise, however it didn’t cause us too much of a problem, and at £6pn we just can’t complain at all! It’s packed as you can see…..!

As I said earlier, we just ADORE these off grid sites. It’s also really interesting to see how the solar panel copes as it’s very grey and cloudy- we seem to be stuck in a cloudy tunnel at the moment! (Update – it worked brilliantly! 2 nights off grid with very cloudy skies and we’re still sat at 12.5 v – really chuffed!)

We arrived here on Tuesday afternoon and settled down for some admin time before taking a dog walk to the local for a river view. We enjoyed a pint in the Rose Revived, a green king pub, and as the seasons have apparently shifted to autumn, it would have been rude not to try an Abbots Ale overlooking the bridge and river.

Newbridge, contrary to its name, is actually the oldest original crossing of the River Thames. It’s 800 years old and was built during the reign of King John. It’s a beautiful bridge.

After our pint at The Rose Revived we decided to inspect the bridge from the other side, this time taking a river front seat at The Maybush. Our luck was in as they had declared £1 a pint as they tried to clear some left over beer festival stock.

We returned to Gandalf, had a shower each in the awning and then made beef and potato curry for dinner. Delicious! Before settling down under fairy lights and reading our magazines.

Wednesday dawned grey again, never mind, we cracked on with our admin in the morning, and just before lunchtime went for a 3 mile linear walk from Newbridge towards the sea (which is 153 miles to the east)

In lockdown earlier this year, I spent a considerable amount of time planning a Thames Path adventure using Gandalf and campsites as our base each night. Sadly I got a foot injury and we had to postpone our walk. The Thames Path runs for 183 miles and runs from the source of the Thames just south of Cirencester where it’s just a spring and tiny stream, into the sea at the Thames Barrier. I really really want to walk this, so hope my injury improves for next year. In the meantime I’ll blog about my Thames Path plans separately sometime.

Today’s walk took in a very remote and pretty section of the The Thames. It’s hard to image this picture perfect rural river ending up running through the capital of England with high rises, Parliament etc on each bank.

After our walk we stopped for lunch at The Maybush -unfortunately the staff in The Rose Revived were extremely rude to us, but it was their loss. Plus, the Maybush still had £1 a pint!

As we’d had such a productive couple of days, we decided to treat ourselves to a trip on the Thames, by hiring an electric punt boat from a stall just by the Rose Revived – Oxford Punts. We spent an hour having the most relaxing time making four way towards the source of the Thames. [£25 for 1 hour on electric punt, £3 for dog] I was desperate to see either an otter or a kingfisher but it was not to be. This stretch of the Thames is so quiet and tranquil. Keith did a marvellous job driving the punt- much better than me! It was great to sail under the historic bridge too.

Following our adventure on the Thames we made our way back to Gandalf for a rather large chill. We attempted pizzas on the Cadac using our new pizza stone but they weren’t successful. We followed the instructions of putting the stone directly on the flame, but it soon became obvious that this was a misprint and infact we ended up with a burnt base. Never mind, next time we will know to follow our instincts rather than the instructions!

Thursday and it’s moving on day! Admin completed, we’re off for an adventure with my Dad and Step mum down the road. Stay tuned for updates!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures on the coast of Aberdeenshire

Gandalf the VW campervan is back on our favourite type of site, a Caravan and Motorhome club Certified location, on the outskirts of Gamrie Bay (Gardenstown) Aberdeenshire. The site, called Gamrie Bay CL is surrounded by beautiful wild flowers and it is OH SO QUIET which is quite honestly music to my ears, having had 3 nights on the noisy Mortonhall Caravan site on the Outskirts of Edinburgh.

The drive from Edinburgh was an easy 4 hour journey mainly along A90- although we didn’t hit any traffic the journey did seem to drag a bit! We made a stop at Morrison’s for provisions and also to pick up an Amazon delivery that we’d had made to an Amazon locker! We used our Amazon prime account to purchase a couple of new hats, selected deliver to locker, added our postcode of where we were local to; when the package was delivered we went to pick it up- scanned a code that had been emailed to us and the appropriate locker pinged open! What a time to be Alive!

Travelling through rural Aberdeenshire was pretty, mainly passing fields and fields of golden Barley. We’ve since learnt that the barley grown in Aberdeenshire accounts for a third of Scottish malting requirements.

Not my picture but this is what we passed, miles and miles of barley and I couldn’t help but sing Fields of Gold as we travelled towards our campsite

When we arrived at Gamrie Bay CL, we met the friendly owner Linda and were directed to our pitch, a hard standing fully serviced pitch, overlooking wild flowers and rolling countryside. At just £17pn this feels like a bargain, and we can’t wait to explore the local area on our bikes tomorrow. We’re about a mile or so to the closest harbour village, Gardenstown and something tells me the E bikes are going to be useful!

We had a big chill tonight. The weather is much cooler here so we sat inside Gandalf, and read and watched some episodes of Ozark (well Keefy did!)

I cooked us a lovely Scottish style Sunday dinner in the Remoska; Chicken Balmoral which is chicken stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon served with roasted new potatoes and carrots and green beans. It was delicious and actually one of the first Sunday dinners cooked in this van by us.

We really love Gandalf so much, the living space is just perfect for us.

It’s really very peaceful here, have I mentioned that already?! We really do love these certified locations SO MUCH

Monday

It was a fresh night last night and we actually ended up plugging the heater in. As the weather was not so good we decided today to make use of the public bus service that runs between Gardenstown and Banff/Macduff. We walked into Gardenstown along the quiet road – about 1.5 miles- and the last mile downhill!

We had a mooch around the exceptionally pretty Gardenstown. It’s very small, very unspoilt and just adorable.

The small little residential roads weave down to the working harbour and the backdrop of steep hills is just dreamy.

You can actually overnight park at the beach car park for £10 if you wish, but we just adore this CL. The CDP (loo emptying) is the cleanest we’ve seen on a CL, it actually makes most club sites look dated and unkempt. The owners, both motorhomers clearly understand our needs and it’s just so enjoyable to stay here.

Back to Gardenstown- we enjoyed our mooch around and would have had a drink at the pub but it was closed so instead we enjoyed the views before catching the bus from the harbour to nearby harbour town Macduff. By doing it this way we avoided walking back up the very steep hill! The bus ran every 2 hours and the timetable could be found by typing into maps on my iPhone “Bus stops near me”. 2 adults were £7.50 pp each return and Jazz the dawg was free.

The journey to Macduff was pretty, with ample views of the sea and also barley fields and the occasional wild flower meadow.

Macduff was a hive of activity- we only went and stumbled on the cast of The Crown, including Imelda Staunton making her debut as the Queen. They were taking up the harbour by filming scenes for series 5.

Not my picture – taken from here

Whilst it made an enjoyable hour of so being nosey, it was a shame as we couldn’t get down to the harbour because of it, and that was the highlight of Macduff.

We did manage to buy some fresh fish from the fishmongers though and by mid afternoon the sun had reappeared.

We probably wouldn’t rush back to Macduff- it’s a very traditional working harbour but not as pretty compared to Gardenstown and not much to see (other than the harbour which we couldn’t access!) there are lots of shipyards here and the two pubs were a bit run down. But the fish was superb!

The bus brought us back to within half a mile of the campsite – and the appealing side of the hill! Where we settled back onto the campsite, sparked up the cadac and the fire pit for a fish supper. We enjoyed Scallops and tomato kebabs, fresh salmon and cod accompanied by samphire and vegetable rice. Delicious!!

We enjoyed an hour around the fire pit before retreating for an early night. All this fresh air is really wiping us!

Tuesday

This morning we were woken with shards of sunlight shining into Gandalf. The air was much warmer and it was great to see such blue skies, especially as our plan for today was a spot of cycling, exploring the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. We stocked up on a full Scottish breakfast and hit the road.

Whilst we weren’t covering too greater mileage – it was only 4 miles to our furthest destination, the contours were close together and we knew to expect some serious hills, something which we don’t see on our Norfolk bike rides.

The journey to Pennan from the campsite was breathtaking, the road hugged the coastline and those fields of barley shone in the golden sunlight.

The final approach to Pennan saw us taking in a 17% hill descent before back up, then back down into Pennan, a beautiful unspoilt fishing village made famous in 1983 when the film Local Hero was released as many of the harbour scenes and external shots of the hotel and village scenes were filmed here.

We have visited before back in 2012 but it was joyous to return, it’s absolutely wonderful with its row of houses lined up along the Main Street, many with washing lines on the street – I imagine the sea breeze here dries their washing in no time at all. The pub was sadly closed but there was a coffee hut on the harbour. It is absolutely worth a detour here if you’re ever in close proximity.

It’s all very well coming sailing down the hill into Pennan with not a care in the world- getting back up to the main route is bloody awful – despite our E bikes, which proved helpful with their walking assist to push up the hill, I still nearly collapsed by the time we’d reached the main road. Just 3 more of those to navigate Lydia! 😱🥴

We stopped at the next village along, Crovie which absolutely blew our minds. It is absolutely stunning.

There is absolutely nothing there but don’t let that put you off a visit. Crovie is fairly unique in that it’s entirely vehicle free, because the ledge in which the single line of houses sit is so small no vehicles can pass through. Locals park in a car park on the edge of the village, and use wheelbarrows to transport their shopping etc whilst visitors are requested to park half way up and use the steps to descend into the village.

Because of this, and restrictions on development here, Crovie is one of the best preserved fishing villages in Europe. I honestly can’t remember feeling so at peace in anywhere else we’ve visited. Just wonderful!