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 Peak District

February 4th- 6th 

Gandalf the VW is parked up alongside his pal, Hiilda the Hymer (my Dad and Step Mum’s) motorhome and we’re nestled behind The Waterloo Inn in Biggin, Derbyshire, cashing in our Christmas present from them- a camping weekend.

We’re staying at the Waterloo Inn campsite, conveniently located just behind the pub. The site is fairly basic, but does have hard standing pitches, heated showers and loos, a washing up shack, usual waste emptying facilities, miles up on miles of walks and bike rides on its doorstep; and of course the  (dog friendly) pub complete with log fire within staggering distance. What more could we possibly need?! Some decent weather was on our wish list, but honestly, having been grounded due to a broken big toe and even ending up on crouches for some of January, I really couldn’t care less about the weather. I was just ready for an adventure and to see some hills!

We had a great journey up from Norfolk on Friday morning, arriving at the site just in time for lunch. Following lunch, we had a walk down to Hartington, a pretty little village with a nice and cosy pub, The Devonshire Arms.

We had a quick dram – it had to be a quick one as the daylight was fading fast, before making our way back up the track to Biggin ready for dinner in the pub.

The Waterloo Arms was unpretentious and exceptionally friendly. We instantly were made to feel welcome and the food was nice too. Keith and I enjoyed the local banger of the week from the butchers nearby at Stanage Edge. We enjoyed our evening in the pub catching up with Dad and Jenny, so engrossed we were with our company we had no idea that snow had fallen whilst we’d been inside!

Friday night was exceptionally peaceful on site and we all slept well. 

Saturday arrived, and whilst it was a bit blowy and chilly, it was dry- so we unloaded our bikes, and after breakfast baps, hit the very nearby Tissington Trail. 

The Tissington Trail is an old disused railway line, now turned into recreational track. The surface was ideal for our E bikes, and the scenery was stunning. The more exposed sections offered panaromic views of the The Peak District, as we whizzed by Alsop dale and beyond.

Some sections had terrifically tall and steep sides- the path (old track) cutting through the limestone like a knife. There were huge railways bridges for us to cycle under too.

The only problem was the rapidly deteriorating weather- it was blowing a hooley to put it lightly, and actually blooming cold wet and a bit miserable. We explored Tissington, a very pretty little village with picture perfect stone cottages and small lanes and a hall now used as a venue, and also a duck pond.

We nipped into the butchers, and enjoyed our picnic lunch…. in the bus shelter, which was a very welcome relief as it was FREEZING.

We had considered carrying on slightly further to Ashbourne, however we had done 7 miles already – some of which were hard work with the high cross winds, and also Dad didn’t have an E Bike so was struggling with the weather conditions on his bike. We all agreed we’d had enough for one day, and would rather finish and feel happy weather than carry on a bit further and begin to feel unhappy/ratty.

So we made our way back the way we came, along the Tissington Trail back to our new temporary local, where the roaring fires awaited us and a top shelf bottle of Jura to warm us up.

Despite the weather, it hadn’t dampened our spirits, and once warmed up I think we all felt a huge satisfaction about our day’s adventure. Keith and I really enjoyed the scenery along the way and I’m sure in warmer and dryer weather this would be a brilliant activity to enjoy. 

Dinner was a delicious beef brisket pot roast and we followed this by an earlyish night! Unfortunately our neighbours on the site did NOT have an early night and we were awoken several times by campfire singing and general noise. However – they were in TENTS! So clearly Needed to get wasted I think to cope! 🤣

Sunday dawned, and despite it absolutely lashing it down during the night, we awoke to fairly ok weather, so had a quick early breakfast and donned our walking boots. The campsite we’re being generous and allowing us to have a later check out. We enjoyed a terrific walk down through Biggin Dale- which reminded me and Keefy of something out of Lord of the Rings, with its green mossy banks and stone and scree banks.

As we had set off early we had the place to ourselves. If we had had more time, we could have extended the walk to either Hartington or Milldale in the opposite direction – however the river was a reminder of how rough the weather had been – you could hear it quite a distance away, it was thrashing though the valley.

Our return route was a retracing of our steps, or rather a sliding back to the pub- the grass path was really muddy and slippy in places with both Keefy and Jenny going over a couple of times. Still – we loved it. I really feel invigorated in this scenery, and having had a number of weeks being unable to even do the mile dog walk loop, just being out and feeling the wind and cold on my face and some scenery was brilliant. We had sunday lunch in the pub before retrieving Gandalf the VW and Hiiilda the Hymer, saying our farewells and retreating back to Norfolk, just in time to unload before it got dark. 

A splendid weekend away.

We’d recommend the campsite for walking/cycling around the Tissington/Hartington area. Its no frills, but did the job superbly!

Until Next Time – which is in less than 5 days… eek!

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