Go West for Summer – Part 5

Monday
After a wet and wild night outside, we’d thankfully slept well and it was time to pack up Ruby the campervan and carry on along the coast towards Cardigan Bay. We’d booked onto a Coastal site at Nant- y- Croi but we were both feeling pretty fed up from our St Davids washout and having had no internet, radio or TV since Friday we had no idea what the weather was going to do. We were both agreed if the weather looked bad we were heading home!

We had a quick getaway literally throwing everything in Ruby, before
driving to find a lay by with 3/4G! The idea of going away with no phone signal/internet sounds appealing to most I know – but in reality on a trip in a campervan/motorhome it’s really not ideal- we’ve come to rely on the web- always keeping an eye on the weather, banking, local attractions etc- it helps us make the most of our holiday. Plus it’s nice to see the news. We missed the news about Bruce Forsyth dying, our home county seaside resort being on lockdown and also I needed to pre book a boat trip for later in the week! Plus the blog was weeks behind!

Anyway it wasn’t long til we found signal and we were able to assess what to do. Weather looked promising so we made the decision to carry on, so we stopped at the Aldi at Cardigan and stocked up, I booked us onto a bit trip for Wednesday before making our way to the campsite. As soon as we pulled in, he sea view took our breath away- it’s by far the best view we’ve had on this trip. The campsite is on a working farm but the camping field Is HUGE and overlooks the sea. Sun was shining- We were so relieved. Then we realised there was free wifi WHICH WORKED, so despite being no phone signal we can reconnect to the world again!

We spent the afternoon catching up on emails and looking out for dolphins. I nearly cried when I actually saw some! 😊 Keith reminded me to get my telescope out to help me dolphin watch 🐬 and we had a marvellous afternoon chilling in the sun. Dinner was cooked and eaten al Fresco- a yummy simply cook Thai red prawn curry.

What a difference twenty four hours makes.

Tuesday
Tuesday arrived and the sun was still shining! Happy faces in the O’Gorman camp let me tell you!

Today we are having a big chill. We set up the telescope and commenced operation relax – breakfast butties were served at 11:00, and at 1pm we went for a little wander to see the local beach (National Trust Mwnt, very pretty but not dog friendly between May- Sept) so we headed back to camp and carried on chilling whilst publishing all the missed blog posts.

Around 5pm we wandered down through the campsite’s permissive path to the coastal path and I took donny drone for a play.
I really wanted to send him backwards out to sea a bit but got scared so kept him over land.

After that we got the Cadac gas stove out and cooked a steak fajita feast for tea. Yum. The views from this site are just breathtaking- I think we are really going to miss them!

The only thing I would say is that whilst the farmer obviously is very eager for everyone to be happy here which is very nice to see, and of course we appreciate, he’s coming round to speak to everyone on his quad bike several times a day! Lol. I love a natter but think he’s perhaps taking his desire to please his guests perhaps one step too far! But maybe that’s just us being anti social!


Tomorrow we bid a sad farewell to our Cardigan Bay seaview and are heading up the coast a bit. We are also going on a dolphin watching boat trip! Woo.
🐬🐬🐬🐬🐬🐬
Until next time
Lx

Go West for Summer – Part 2

Monday
We were up and away from Knights Folly Campsite by mid morning. We were sad to be leaving the site as it was lovely- however it's always exciting to be moving on elsewhere to see new places.

Our journey took us down the M4 and over the Severn Bridge, at which point we entered Wales and all the road signs were larger with both Welsh and English written on!

We were heading to Burry Port, but stopped at Llanelli for an Aldi shop. In Ruby we've been only shopping 4 days at a time but Keefy talked me into trying a 7 day shop this time. I was worried about fitting it all in, but I had to eat my hat-everything found a home – the cupboards are filled to busting, the fridge stocked to capacity, the cool box full of alcohol and sparkling water BUT we did it- 7 days shopping in Ruby and we can still fit ourselves in! She really is a tardis!
We arrived at Burry Port Harbour, listed in the Britstop book but also many places elsewhere online & paid the Harbour master £8 for our overnight stay. We were encouraged to park side on against the sea- so our sliding door came into its own!


There were a couple of other vans with us- and we managed to have a little wander around the pretty harbour before the rain set in for the afternoon and evening. And wow did it set in- it absolutely LASHED down! So we settled in and watched some Cracker- before I made us a delicious Simply Cook Beef Rendang. Just as I'd finished washing up- the sky's cleared so we were able to have another wander, this time in the Fading light, before sitting and enjoying a dram before bed with the door open listening to the waves crashing below.

Tuesday

The forecast for Tuesday was great, and it did not disappoint. It's always exciting opening the curtains to a new location, when the day before the visibility was next to nothing. The beach here at Burry Port is fabulous!

I wasted no time and almost jumped out of bed- even forgoing my morning cuppa! I'd been itching to launch my DJi Phantom 3 drone and weather conditions just hadn't been on my side- but now they were! Woo!
I loved sending Donny up and getting some shots. You can see the video below👇

After breakfast baps and a cuppa, we took Jazz for a run off lead on the beach. He doesn't normally go off lead as he can forget to come back if he picks up a scent.
But on beaches that are secure we let him off and he loves it. Actually his recall was amazing today!

We had a paddle and the water was lukewarm. I wish I'd got my cozzie on as I could've had a dip but it was time to get moving- we were off into Pembrokeshire. Next time we come here there are loads of cycle paths to ride on, including a country park with a 4 mile Tarmac circuit, an old train line at Llanelli and a coastal bike path running through Burry Port.

We stopped off at Saundersfoot thanks to a Pinterest tip off- such a pretty little Harbour and coastal village. It really reminded us of a Cornish village. We grabbed the very last space in the Harbour car park – boy it was tight but I got Ruby in – and once in a random man came and congratulated me on some fab parking! 💪

We paid for an hours parking but we could have spent all day here really. It's gorgeous. Loads of families were crabbing over the Harbour wall. The beach was PACKED (but not dog friendly between May and Oct). There were old fashioned amusements, little beach shops, an old fashioned off license (where we stocked up on local Ale and cider), a local ice cream seller- we loved our Pembrokeshire Promise icecream (honeycomb and vanilla-yum). We even managed to squeeze in a quick pint in a really cool pub called The Old Chemist which had a really great smugglers alley entrance and beach and sea views.

Next stop was our campsite, Middle Hill Farm, just the other side of Tenby, on the outskirts of Manorbier. We were a bit disappointed at first- we booked at the beginning of March and was told we could have a sea view pitch. We were given pitch 4 which basically had a view of a hedge – right next to the main road-we could have been anywhere in the country! Two caravans had the best views, so we were a bit fed up. Plus one of them had a reserved for sign on. The facilities were quite a walk down hill through a field. Keith was grumpy and so was I. Yes, it's only £15 pn but we are here for 3 nights and paid on 3rd March up front! He went off for his shower and returned 5 mins later- he'd spotted a pitch at the bottom of the field next to the facilities and with a sea view, and went to ask if we could move. The answer was yes! Hurrah! So we threw the chairs, windbreaks etc in the back and drove to our new pitch, no. 8, and set up again! And enjoyed our Welsh Ale/cider enjoying the view.

The weather was gorgeous so we sparked up the BBQ for dinner- enjoying a homemade potato salad, garlic mushrooms and venison burger, lamb and mint burger and chilli sausage. We stayed outside until 10pm watching the day change to night. Perfect.

Wednesday
Wow was it blustery in the night! The winds were up to 40mph and we've never heard rain lash down like it did! It was so loud that Jazz had a panic attack and therefore ended up squashed on our bed rather than up front in the passenger seat!

The weather was still rather blustery as we got up, and it was overcast with the promise of more rain from 4pm, so we had a steady morning before walking the short distance down the field path the farmer had put in, to the village of Manorbier.

Manorbier has a really lovely castle you can explore with the best preserved corners of tower we've seen. Inside there is a tea shop and you can enjoy it on the lawn. It's a nice place to spend an hour but there wasn't an awful lot of info about the castle and it's history therefore we found the £5.50 entry charge a little steep.


We carried on up the small road past the sandy beach, where despite it being very dull, lots of people were out enjoying themselves on the beach- good old British eh?! We carried onto a house aptly named as Atlantic View before taking a path off to the left which took us onto to Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for our return back to Manorbier beach. It's a dramatic section of Coastal Path and although Keith found the contours a little tough, we both really enjoyed the wild scenery matched with the driving wind.

We passed a couple of pretty hidden sandy coves but chose to have our picnic overlooking Manorbier Beach before washing it down with a little pint in thelocal, The Castle Inn. Prices down here in pubs are very reasonably priced- we've not paid more than £7 for two alcoholic drinks yet since being in Wales.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling and watching Cracker as the weather turned just as we arrived back at Ruby- talk about good timing! We enjoyed a chilli con carne for dinner before having an early night.

Our annual pilgrimage to Scotland, May 2017. Part 2. Wester Ross

Tuesday

 We had such a peaceful night at the foot of the Cuillin Hills and slept like logs! Unfortunately when we woke up it was still not great weather wise, so we wasted no time in packing up and hitting the road. We made a quick stop at the Spar shop in Broadford before taking the Kyle Bridge back over to the mainland. We had a brilliant time shopping in the Spar, it was crammed full of local food and drink- our major weakness! We popped in for some potatoes and some rice, and came out with over £60 worth of goodies, including some local frozen venison, sausages, veg, a bottle of Misty Isle Gin (whoops, that slipped in the basket!) cheeses, chutney, ales etc. Whoops!


Back on mainland and we took the Wester Ross Coastal route, which was beautiful despite the wet weather. We pulled over for some toast and marmalade overlooking Loch Caron, and carried on towards Gairloch. We really enjoyed this route and can’t recall taking it before. We will definitely return to this area, and hope for some better weather next time. Talking of the weather, just as we were pulling up at our home for the next two nights, Gruinard Bay Caravan Park, the rain stopped, hurrah! 
The pitches at Gruinard Bay Caravan Park have a super view, they are right on the beach front. We however managed to be assigned the pitch closest to the neighbouring graveyard… so we decided to park on sidewards so our door was directly facing the sea. Not sure if we were meant to, but no one challenged us, and it wasn’t particularly busy there. Otherwise our door would have been directly facing the graves! It was a nice enough site, but needed a bit of TLC to say the least. Showers were clean, but very small, and actually only one of each sex, and situated in a rickety portacabin. We enjoyed a chill overlooking the sea for the remainder of the afternoon, and a hearty Spag Bol for tea before having an early night. 


Wednesday arrives and still no sign of rain, so we enjoyed a full cooked breakfast outside before driving off pitch 8 miles down the road to visit National Trust for Scotland’s Inverewe Gardens.


 We enjoyed their pinewood trail first with Jazz, then left him to sleep in the van whilst we wandered round the gardens. They are billed to be the best botanical gardens in Europe. We enjoyed our visit although I think we were perhaps a couple of days late to enjoy the best of the rhodedendrums. Still worth a visit. 



On our way back to the campsite we followed signs for “The Food emporium”, which turned out to be a little smokehouse where we picked up some delicious smoked cod and smoked cheddar cheese.


 By now the sun was back out in force so we scuttled back to the campsite and set up base again. Tonight we enjoyed a lovely BBQ, this time on the gas one as it was bit drafty, consisting of our smoked cod and couscous for starter then steak and chips for main. Yum! Keith washed his down with some very local ales from a small craft brewery down the road, one of which he said was the best he’d had! I also managed to get the drone up a couple of times. A happy afternoon and evening. 


Thursday 
We decided to make an earlyish start as we’d got a few miles to cover today. We skipped our morning cuppa and breakfast, choosing to stop at viewpoint further into our journey to enjoy those. 

Somehow, despite a breakfast stop and a top up Tesco shop, we managed to arrived at our Brit Stop location almost an hour before our first eta! We are now at BritStop no. 841, a tea room and farm shop situated on the quiet side of Loch Ness. We’d never taken the B852 road on the other side of Loch Ness before, and Keith tells me the road is called General Waide’s Military Road. It was a lovely alternative to the much busier A82 . After introducing ourselves, we had a quick bite to eat and set off for a little walk down the road to the Falls of Foyer. What we didn’t realise was that Robert Burns based his poem “Waterfall” on these falls, and they are set within a most spectacular gorge. 

It really was a lovely walk, and we worked up a good appetite to enjoy a nice afternoon cream time on arrival back at the tea rooms. 
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chilling, tomorrow we have a longer drive towards the Lake District as we have a date with Hellvelln and Striding edge (weather permitting!) on Saturday. Dinner tonight was a very very tasty Simply Cook Haddock risotto. Yum! 

Until next time 

Lx 

Our annual pilgrimage to Scotland, May 2017. Part 1. Norfolk to Skye 

Thursday (into Friday!)

Ruby the campervan is parked up at our favourite Scotland Border crossing, Carter Bar, just before Jedburgh. It’s 00:30 (Friday morning) and we were working until 7pm in Thetford. It’s been a funny ol week, we’ve battled illness, workload and a new (unplanned!) motor for Ruby’s habitation sliding door, but somehow we’ve made it here and in record time! If that doesn’t warrant a beer I don’t know what does. Unlike previous stays here, tonight we have company in the form of two other motorhome. Trying to be as quiet as we could, we set Ruby up for bed and crashed out for a hefty deep sleep. 

Friday 

Friday dawns the most spectacular of day’s. We were up by 07:15 and enjoyed actually seeing the view! Usually it’s misty! Not only is it ☀️- it’s also HOT!!! At 07:30 I’m parading around in shorts and a vest top- with NO FLEECE! We had a quick chat with our neighbours before hitting the road again just after 08:00- destination, Loch Lomond, via New Lanark, a UNESCO heritage site near to Glasgow. We followed the Tweed Valley all the way and it was so beautiful, all these years of coming, it’s always a great treat to discover a new gem and has earnt a place on our “next time” list. 

New Lanark was lovely. It’s now looked after by UNESCO but once was a Georgian Mill village. All the buildings have been kept original, and you can go inside many for a fee. We chose not to as it was such a sunny day it seemed a shame to be inside. Instead we took advantage of the 5km woodland and waterfall trail along the banks of the River Clyde. Parking was free which was a nice touch and there is no entrance fee if you are only wandering the village without going inside. Parts of the walk along the Clyde reminded us of being in Colorado. After our walk, we enjoyed some of the New Lanark ice cream which is made on site. 

After a quick lunch we hit the road again passing through Glasgow and onto Loch Lomond. Always an exciting moment for us getting that first view of Ben Lomond. We stopped at the farm shop near to Luss, stocked up with local cider, cheese, venison- all the essentials! before carrying on to the main car park in Tarbet. Recently wild camping in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs has been banned, however they have introduced a fair system of pre purchasing a permit for the evening at £3 per night. We were keen to support it and duly paid our £3 online 30 days in advance, choosing where we wanted our permit to be valid. Sadly, on arrival at 5pm the car park was packed. We managed to squeeze in a space but the area was heaving. Obviously the sunshine and the bank holiday was bringing the world and his wife out, and although we gave it a good hour, we decided it was far too busy for us, and so we set off again, this time heading for the viewpoint at Black Mountains, just beyond the Bridge of Orchy. It was a gamble, would we turn up and find no space, as it was going to be near to 7pm. It was a tense journey, but luckily we arrived to find bags of room, with only one other van there. We bagged the best spot too, so we went about setting up a BBQ and went on to enjoy a fabulous evening. During the evening several other vans arrived, including a caravan, all stopping for some rest before heading north again early the next morning. We had a wonderful evening and slept like logs! 

Saturday arrived and the sunshine was still here. Hurray! The forecast however was not so optimistic, so we set off, stopping for breakfast at Glencoe, always a favourite- good lord, it was SO BUSY! We’ve stopped there every year for breakfast and this year without a doubt was the busiest we have seen. We squeezed on to the end and managed to have our breakfast, I decided to make the bagpiper a cuppa which he enjoyed. Good deed done so off we travelled again, towards Fort William.


 Again, it was PACKED! We squeezed into Morrisons for a top up shop, there were queues everywhere, not too dissimilar to the Christmas Eve shopping experience! I managed to get some local gin, which cheered me up, so shopping loaded in, we set off along the road to the Isles, our destination being one of our favourite sites, SilverSands at Arisaig. We tried to stop at Glenfinnan Viaduct, but couldn’t get parked. Are you noticing a theme here? 

Onwards we went, arriving at Silversands just as the rain began. A spot of rain does not take away the beauty of this place, and once again we were lucky to have a sea front pitch so we settled in, had a long nap and woke in time for the rain to have gone. 10 steps away from our pitch we had the most gorgeous white sand beach. It really is idylic. We enjoyed a beer on the beach, and met our neighbour, Charlie, who turned out to be a lovely fella- always checking if we needed anything from the shop when he went in his car. That evening I cooked us a delicious Simply cook prawn linguine and we went to bed around 11- it was still light! 


Sunday- the weather forecast wasn’t good, which was disappointing so we decided to have a lazy morning. I cooked us a cooked breakfast and just as I was serving up, the sun came out! “Quick”, I said to Keith, “get the outside chairs out, it may not last”! We enjoyed our sea view and watched as people fled to the beach, kayaks and dingies in hand, everyone desperate to enjoy the sun whilst it was there! 

Last night we discovered that the midges are here! Booo! Apparently it’s the long mild winter, but they are here, and in force. Keefy has been eaten alive! And guess what, we’ve left all our sprays at home! During a morning chat to our neighbour, he got brave and asked if they had any repellent he could borrow. Cue Charlie giving us an entire full spray of Smidge, insisting we keep it. What a nice man! 

Ruby is getting a lot of attention. Keith gets stopped several times as he is getting the bikes off! All these years of motorhoming and barely anyone ever speaks to us, yet now we have Ruby we seem to be attracting people for chat after chat! Not that we are complaining, it’s nice to be sociable, and everyone here is just SO FRIENDLY!

 We finally manage to get off, we are cycling 2 miles down the road to Camusdarach Beach- where the film Local Hero was filmed 35 years ago. We came a few years ago but the weather was dull and murky then.


Today, the sun is hanging on in there, so we optimistically pack a picnic and keep everything crossed! The weather gods are certainly on our side it seems, it’s a picture perfect day. This beach is simply stunning. It stretches for probably nearly a mile when the tide is out, as it was when we visited today. When the tide is in, there are 2 beaches not reachable without getting wet! I tried to send my drone up but it wasn’t happening, a badly timed update request means I can’t send it up which is annoying but can’t be helped. 😡 We had a lovely picnic though of cheese, venison slices, fresh baguette, and of course a beer and cider to wash it down. We had such a lovely visit! 

 
The sun was still shining on our cycle back, and it continued to shine the remainder of the day and evening. We sat outside taking in the ever changing view from our pitch- we watched as the tide came in and then went out again.

We had a lovely chat with next door, and shared a drink together. As the evening went on we were joined by several other couples seeking out the best views of the site. Seems we were on the best pitch going- we were happy to share it. I also managed to override my drone so I sent that up to capture the phenomenal sunset. Next door also had a drone, a DJ phantom, so he sent his up too! 

The atmosphere on site was electric. Everyone having a drink, toasting the sun, it was just such a happy atmosphere. There were even people doing yoga on the beach! It’s a really really special place! Obviously the local gin helped of which I managed to make quite an indent and Keefy’s whiskey must have evaporated in the heat 😜 but we soon realised it’s was gone 9pm and we still hadn’t eaten! Whoops! Dinner was quickly cooked and eaten and we enjoyed the last of the sunshine. 


The whole campsite came out to see it dip below the horizon, I almost felt like applauding! Off to bed we went, tipsy but on a massive high to say the least! The next thing I know, and it’s 3am and K is raiding the fridge, rubbing the contents of the the fridge on his legs! Turns out he is in agony with his bites. 😞 An advantage of having Ruby is that he can’t pace any more, however tossing and turning in bed and grumbling is as bad for me to hear. At 4am I suggest we go down to the beach and he goes for a paddle! The seawater helped soothe his legs earlier and I know he must be in agony cos he agreed quickly, so at 4am we were on the beach having a paddle, like you do! 


The seawater must have helped as of course, he managed to get straight off to sleep, whereas I lay away awake for 2 hours! 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄 mind you hearing the sea lap beneath you and the dawn chorus is not the worst way I’ve spent a couple of hours. 

Monday arrived and as forecasted, the rain decided to make an appearance. Next door, bless them, gave Keith some antihistamines to help his itching, and also a couple of cans of Tennants for our fridge as a parting gift- how nice was that? We had another couple of people stop by Ruby interested in her conversion, and admiring her, it’s really a very strange sensation for us as unlike many others it seems, we were not drawn to VWs cos of their image! It was just the van which worked for us! Hey ho, it’s really nice to have chats with lots of different people and something that has never happened to us before in 7 years of motorhoming! We waved a sad farewell by 10:15, and rolled into. Mallaig for our ferry to Skye just before 11. “Are you booked on?” the man cheerfully asks. “Er no….”. “Sorry but we are fully booked ALL WEEK!” You could see the colour drain from our faces. What an epic oversight. We’ve done this crossing three times before and never booked. What’s going on?! The man offers for us to queue in the reserve queue for the next ferry at 12:00 although he says there is no guarantee that we will get on. We decided to go for it. Luckily, Lady Luck was on our side and they fit us on, what a relief, neither of us fancied the journey back to Fort William retracing our steps! 


We arrived on Skye thanks to a smooth crossing (unlike last time!) and it’s been raining all afternoon. Can’t complain though, we’ve had our share of good weather for Scotland. We drove to Tallisker, hoping to park somewhere local so we can have a few drinks and a meal in the pub opposite the distillery. Like everywhere else, Tallisker is heaving with people and we struggle to park. 😔 in the end we manage to get a space but we are unable to stay overnight. So we opted for an early dinner in the pub, which was delicious before driving on to a large lay-by on the way towards Sligachan where we settle in for a chill. 

Until next time 

Lx 

A cheeky night away in Constable’s Country, Suffolk May 13th 2017

Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside 4 caravans on a very pleasant Camping and Caravan Certifed site, The Briar,  just south of Ipswich. The main draw for us to visit this area, is Alton Water, a man made reservoir complete with cycle path around the circumference. 


The Briar is a lovely grassy CL situated in the small village of Bentley, and offers EHU, a loo and emptying and filling points. It’s very relaxed and at only £15 for the night, and less than an hour’s drive for us it’s perfect location for a one nighter. The owners are lovely and made a point of coming to say hello once we were set up. They’d kindly let us arrive before lunch to enable us to enjoy an afternoon of cycling. They were fascinated with Ruby and were keen to have a nosey, as they are thinking about getting their own Ruby in the near future. 


We enjoyed a quick cheese and ham toastie before we unloaded the bikes and hit the road, less than 3 miles to Alton Water. The weather was cloudy, but not raining, and there were lots of families out and about around and on the water which was lovely to see. The track around Alton water was kept well and our bikes coped well – I was so impressed, despite some steep bits we managed to cycle non stop with no getting off and pushing! We stopped every now and again to find some geocaches and take some pictures, and didn’t rush, the circuit took about 2 hours to complete. There was a lovely wildflower meadow that we passed- It was lovely. 





We cycled back to the campsite, via the local strawberry seller (check out the size of those 🍓 and promptly had a longish nap! I love Ruby naps! Good for the soul! 

We’d decided we were going to be brave and risk an outdoor BBQ for dinner, despite the weather forecast being a bit so so, you can imagine our delight when just as Keefy sparked up, the weather gods took care of the lingering dull skies and the sunshine and warmth we’ve missed recently came out to say hello! It was glorious, we even took our jumpers off and had short sleeves! 


Keefy cooked a blinder of a feast for us; local burgers, pork and apple sausages and chicken, cooked to perfection on our new gas BBQ that we were gifted from May and Bernard, whilst I served couscous, coleslaw and jacket potatoes, which were an experiment done in the slow cooker, but they were fantastic! It really was a lovely evening, and as the sun went down we decided to have a walk to the local for a couple of pints which was really nice. 

Sunday dawned wet unfortunately, so we made the most of a lie in, partly as someone, ahem, had a little bit of a headache. A bottle of red wine followed by two pints of aspall will do that Lydia, when will I learn! By the time I was ready to surface the rain had gone, and so we cracked the bacon and eggs out and I was soon feeling 100% again. We also tried some toast (done in the toastie maker, worked well!) topped with John, the campsite owners Saville Marmalade, which was delicious.


 He caught us mid marmalade sampling as he came to check we’d had a nice evening and was thrilled we were enjoying the marmalade. He also wanted to tell us that having been in Ruby yesterday, his wife had dragged him to Marquis to view two yesterday afternoon!! We had another nice chat before packing up and waving goodbye. The sun had decided to reappear so we pointed Ruby’s wheels in the direction of National Trust Flatford Mill, 3 miles away. Flatford Mill is well known as being the view behind the painter John Constable’s paintings. 


It was a picture perfect day, so we enjoyed a 5 mile circular walk from Flatford through the Depdale Valley.   I can’t think of anywhere that is more English- with green meadows, a perfect river running through, rowing boats, ducks and ducklings, a tea shop, and 16th century buildings to peruse. 


We enjoyed a lovely cream tea overlooking the bridge and then a local ice cream before heading home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead.
What a lovely bit of escapism- and now it’s less than two weeks til our next trip- one of our favourites, Scotland. 

Until next time 

Lx 

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 3

An hour after leaving Kielder Dam we were back in civilisation again- phone signals had pinged back, and we were turning off the A6079 at Chollerford onto the beautiful B6318, the road that skirts Hadrian’s Wall. The weather was still incredible, a heavy frost on the moors left the ground sparkling, yet the sky was this fabulous shade of winter Blue. The ultimate winters day. A few miles along we passed signs for the Temple of Mithras, so we pulled in for a quick look.

Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh

It was a fascinating insight into the early Roman Pagan religions, and seeing the Roman inscriptions was really amazing.

We carried along the B6318 occasionally catching glimpses of Hadrian’s Wall, before turning off at The Milecastle, following signposts for half a mile for our campsite, Herding Hill Farm. This was a last minute booking, the temperatures had plummeted and we decided it was important for us to have electric hook up. Nearby Hadrian’s Wall Campsite were full so we emailed Herding Hill and they responded very quickly to tell us we were most welcome. The campsite has to be one of the best we’ve stayed on. Yes, it comes at a price tag, we paid £58 for two nights- one of the highest we’ve paid for a UK campsite- however, it was absolutely fabulous. The pitches were large, and we had the campsite to ourselves actually! The amenities block, well, they won “Loo of the year” last year, and I can see why. It was clean and luxurious- Radio 2 was playing through the speakers all the time, the showers were HUGE with endless piping hot water, there was a SAUNA!!, two cubicles with baths in in the ladies, a drying room, hand sanitiser next to the Elsan Point- wow I can go on. Location wise, second to none, we were about a mile’s walk to a fab section of wall at Cawfield’s including a Milecastle. We were a mile from Haltwhistle, and had miles of footpaths from our door. A bit of a splash out for us, but just what we needed to thaw out our cold bones!

img_9592

Bluebell the Motorhome parked on her “Super Pitch” at Herding Hill Farm

After a quick bowl of soup, we threw on our walking boots and in a style similar to the Roman Army, marched down to Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields just in time to catch the last winter rays of the day.

img_9602Hadrian’s Wall at Cawfields

img_9611Sunset at Hadrian’s Wall

img_9615Looking down over the Milecastle

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Drone Pic
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Drone Pic

That evening we were treated to a fabulous night sky, so I took full advantage of the empty campsite, doing some serious star/moon gazing using my new telescope. We were treated to a fantastic view of the crescent moon, viewing the craters and even the sea of tranquility. We also were able to view Venus and Mars alongside the moon. Wonderful stuff!

Tuesday arrived and sadly the weather was a bit dull and overcast, so we took full advantage of a lie in, even indulging in Breakfast in Bed! We decided to take short walk down to Haltwhistle to get some supplies, so using a map the campsite provided us with, we took a short but picturesque path over some fields and down a steep gorge into Halthwhistle. There wasn’t an awful lot to see in the “Centre of Britain”, and all the pubs were sadly closed, despite the sun being well over the yardarm. We treated ourselves to a sausage roll from the butchers, which ended up being worth the walk alone- quite simply the best we’ve ever had! and a bargain at 90p each!!!

Supplies purchased, we took the return path to Cawfields which was a beautiful riverside path next to Haltwhistle Burn, with steep gorge surrounding us. On reaching the Milecastle Inn, we decided to stop for a quick pint, it’s always nice to sample the local ale on our trips. Sadly, despite the pub being EMPTY, stone floors in the bar area and us saying we would like food, we were denied access with Jazz, so had to settle for a pint whilst sat outside in the FREEZING COLD! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those annoying “my dog has to come everywhere with me” people, however a pub that is situated half a mile off a major walking route, not allowing dogs….. to me seems like there are just turning away business- especially when there is no one in there!!

Wednesday dawned and we awoke to another corker of a day weather wise. Sadly it was time to head south, we had work commitments at home on Thursday evening. We had a look at the map trying to decide where to have our final night of the tour before settling upon the city of Durham. Campsite located and booked, we made an early start, waving a reluctant goodbye to our slice of heaven on Hadrian’s Wall.

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We made a stop at Steel Rigg car park on Hadrian’s Wall, about 5 miles down from the campsite. We took a fairly strenuous 1 mile walk right beside the wall, which was rather hilly and caused us to be out of breath for most of the walk, our destination was Sycamore Gap, a lone sycamore tree in a dip that has become one of the most photographed spot in Northumbria. It also features in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. The walk was stunning, we saw more stretches of fantastically preserved wall, and Sycamore Gap itself was stunning, it really was worth the walk. As we had had an early start, we were treated to the whole place to ourselves. I made use of playing with my drone, but sadly my SLR decided to pack up, so all photos are iPhone from now on!

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The walk was invigorating to say the least and our return to Bluebell was much quicker.

We carried on towards Housesteads Roman Fort and made use of our National Trust Membership. Again, we really enjoyed our visit- amazing to see the underfloor heating systems still in place 2000 years later! I may or may not of sent my Drone up for a sneaky picture. I’l let you decide… 😉

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After a quick lunch in the van, we hit the road to Durham. An hour later and we were pulling onto our Caravan Club CL right next to the river in Durham. The site was at Durham Amateur Rowing Club, and cost £12.50 per night, with electric. It was only a five minute walk along the river to the City centre, and we managed to get into the centre just before sunset. We had a quick look round the cathedral, which was beautiful, before making our way to some dog friendly pubs, thanks to our Dog Friendly Pub app!

Durham Amateur Rowing Club CL £12.50 pn

Durham Cathedral 

The Court Inn, Durham, my favourite pub, it had 120 gins to try- and was Dog friendly. My fave was the Durham Cask Aged Gin, devine!! 

Our whistlestop tour of Durham was the perfect end to our week in Northumberland. We had a brilliant time, and can’t believe that we have taken this long to visit!

In total we travelled just short of 800 miles, spending around £300 including fuel and site fees. Would we go again? Absolutely.

Until Next Time

Lx

Twixmas 2016: Northumberland, Part 2

New Years Eve Continued 

We retraced our steps back towards Otterburn for a quick stop at the site of the Battle of Otterburn, where there was a picnic area and info board, along with a large stone from the battle.

Battle of Otterburn site
 The wind was absolutely savage so we didn’t stop for too long! We made our way back down the A68 and then made our way towards Kielder, a beautiful journey despite not being via the private forest drive (toll) as that is closed for winter. Our destination was Brit Stop number , a village pub right in the heart of Kielder Forest and Water park. We were intending on eating at the pub but with it being New Years Eve food service wasn’t offered all day, the menu looked good though! We opted for several drinks instead whilst getting to know the friendly barman (see below!)  and then a cosy night in the van accompanied by a fillet steak and bottle of Pape! Yum. 

Friendly barman, Charlie 🐾
Last supper of 2016 in our home on wheels


Sunday, New Year’s Day

New Years Day dawned bright yet chilly. A perfect day for a bike ride, so we dismantled the wheels and set off for a few miles on the Lakeside Way path, a wide, hard surface track that is 27 miles long around the circuit of the reservoir. We didn’t realise that Kielder Water is in fact the largest reservoir in Western Europe! We didn’t fancy over-exerting ourselves, we’d had a lazy morning already, so just went on a short circular which took us under the impressive Kielder Viaduct, then over it, and alongside the lake for a little way before turning round and returning via Kielder Castle. In actual fact it was only about 4 miles! 

Kielder Viaduct
The cycle path over the Viaduct
An old railway line over the Viaduct has been transformed into a decent cycle path which goes right around the water.

 I had a good play with my drone camera around the viaduct taking some amazing shots, and we also did some Geocaching too. 
Kielder Viaduct from the sky- taken on my Parrott Bebop Drone with full HD camera

It was a lovely day and the light was simply breathtaking, until the heavens opened as the sun set for the first time in 2017. Being New Years Day, food service in our Brit Stop was again disrupted, but they were happy for us to stay put for the evening and we returned the favour by enjoying a few pints of the local ale, which was very nice! 

Who says camping and caravanning means Beans on toast and Frey Bento pies..!

We had a New Year’s feast of Moules Marinade followed by chicken casserole for dinner in the van, and just as we finished eating we noticed a break in the pitter patter on our roof; the rain/sleet had stopped and a quick check through the sky light and bingo, the stars were out. Our main reason for visiting this area was the draw of the night time skies. Northumbria is a Dark Skies area, and Kielder actually has an observatory with telescope. Sadly the events at the observatory were all sold out for our trip however I’d been itching to get my new telescope out for play. Here was my chance. My highlight was viewing Vega- the star in which the film Contact receives extra terrestrial signals from.. cue some singing of that wonderful John Williams theme! 
We wandered up 100 yards or so to Kielder Castle and set up. The sky was phenomenal. We saw the Milky Way with our naked eye, and thousands of stars. Absultely breathtaking. Until a snowflake landed on my face. Then another. “Keith, did you just feel that” by the time he answered “Yes” we found ourselves in the middle of a snow storm! Northumbria, your weather is mental. 

Monday 2nd Jan

We had another quiet yet cold night’s sleep, the temperature dipped to -3c, but we were toasty inside. We both woke early, a little apprehensive that the snow shower we found ourselves in the middle of, may have settled, causing us problems getting out of Kielder. We needn’t have worried, although there was an awful lot of ice on the ground, the road out of the forest park was clear. The weather again was gorgeous, a perfect winters day.

Our Brit Stop pitch in Kielder

About 12 miles away from Kielder, we passed a large car park and viewing area for Kielder Dam. We pulled in for a leg stretch, and slip slided our way across the footpath across the dam. I also managed to get some more good drone shots despite poor Jazz’s protests, he’s not a fan of the flying camera!
Kielder Dam

Aerial shot of Kielder Dam- taken from my Parrott Bebop drone with HD camera

 The light was beautiful. After a cuppa and the last of my gingerbread house (Annie, it really is yummy!!) we hit the road once more- our destination was Hadrian’s Wall. 

Until next time 
Lx  

An Autumnal visit to Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire

The nights are drawing in and the leaves are turning golden brown. There is the faint smell of smoke lingering in the air and it feels acceptable to draw the curtains, get the Jim jams on and watch strictly back to back. Autumn is here and al out rolled into winter! I feel like I’ve blinked and lost 8 weeks- since returning from our epic Europe adventure, poor Bluebell the motorhome has been having a big rest in storage, whilst we have seemed to be non stop! I couldn’t believe it, 8 weeks since our last adventure in a motorhome, it was most certainly time to go and get Bluebell and hit the road for a few days to catch the last few days of this gorgeous autumn we are having.

Half term began for us at 7pm on Thursday, when we headed north in the car to Newark, where we dropped Jazz off for a weekend with my mum, then caught an early train up to Edinburgh- Keith had treated me to a weekend of non driving, and even so,asked out for first class- not that we will bother with that again, virgin east coast were diabolical and provided a disappointing start to my birthday weekend. We arrived in Edinburgh and had 3 great, booze fuelled nights staying with Simon, Keith’s cousin, in Leith. I set myself a target of trying every gin available in Scotland, and think I probably smashed it! A highlight was our visit to the Royal Britannia Yacht. Well worth a visit if you haven’t been, we loved it.


Monday, and my birthday, came and it was back on the train south to Newark to pick up Jazz and enjoy a birthday meal at Damon’s, famous for its ribs, in Lincoln with Mum and Alec. After a quick lunch with Dad on Tuesday it was back to Norfolk for a meal with friends Annie and Ash, before picking up Bluebell first thing Wednesday. We sure know how to cram things in!

Our destination was only an hour down the road, to Grafham Water, a reservoir near to Cambridge. We had booked onto the Caravan Club club site at Grafham- unusual for us, but given its close proximity to the water and not much other option we went for it, and actually we really enjoyed our stay. At £21.50 a night we thought it was good value for hard standing pitches serviced pitches. The site wasn’t as large as others we’d stayed on and the wardens not too overbearing. Phew. We also were hopeful that we would see Ollie the Owl whilst there, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

After a quick lunch and nap, we wandered the half a mile into the village over fields, visiting the community shop and also stopping at a house on Church Road who sold fresh trout, line caught from Grafham water. We got a massive fillet for £3!

We did several circuits of the site around dusk looking for Ollie, and even had a play on my drone, which was interesting as it highlighted how close we were to the water!


Next morning after a great sleep, I chucked some meat and veg into the slow cooker and Keith got the bikes ready. We were off on our bike ride around Grafham water by 10:30, promising to ourselves we would take it easy with lots of picture stops and even some geocaching.


The ride itself was great, a real mix of terrains, not too steep, but through woodland, waterside, across fields and even through a village, all off road.


If you’re into Geocaching, it’s a cacher’s paradise, I’ve never seen so many caches in one area. We managed 8- and didn’t even scrape the surface – as you can see! We were very lucky with the autumnal light, and we had a lovely day.

That night we tried to find Ollie the owl again,despite hearing him several times, didn’t catch a glimpse. Next time, and there definitely will be a next time.

On route home the next day we decided to have a stop at Wimpole National Trust site, where we were treated to another phenomenal dismay of Autumn leaves.


Scotland – May Half Term 2016 Part 1

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up admiring the views, and boy, are they special. We are up in the Highlands of Scotland, and, wait for it……. It’s glorious sunshine! Hurrah!

 
The last week has been ridiculously busy, we bought a house, moved in, had two big gigs, not to mention our normal teaching schedule. When we booked this jaunt to Scotland in January, we hadn’t in a million years thought that we would be house hunting, mortgage shopping, moving in the 4 months that would follow. There have been several times during the process that we nearly cancelled our Scottish trip, the house completion date was earmarked as Fri 27th May or Friday 3rd June for the  majority of the journey, but we never got round to it, then in a last minute supermove by Nationwide, our mortgage lenders, it became apparent it was moving quicker so we pushed for 20th and the rest as they is history. Or mayhem, as I’m going to rename it. 
 
Anyhow, in a swift move in/unpack manoeuvre, Thursday 7pm arrived in a blink, and we put down our teaching hats, got straight into a pre packed (as in pre packed at the start of May, just in case!) and hit the A11 from our school in Thetford. By 9pm we were in a lay by on the A1 near Newark picking up Jazz the pampered pooch, who had had a week with mum and stepdad whilst we moved, and by 01:10 we were sipping on a cold beer at Carter Bar Border Crossing, near Jedburgh! We had a good sleep and woke up feeling almost shell shocked that we had managed to get away, but very excited about the days to follow. Scotland is probably our favourite place to travel, and the weather looked promising. 
 
1am on the Scottish border
We had a leisurely start, and enjoyed listening to the piper who turned up minutes before a coach load of Americans! We had a nice chat with him before hitting the road towards Loch Lomond in time for lunch. The traffic wasn’t brill between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but we were in no rush, and the weather was drizzly, so we settled in for the journey eventually arriving at “our” layby for a late lunch (* our layby because we’ve stayed there then, then, then and then
Morning from the border
Scottish piper!
 
Farm shop treats

We stocked up at the Farm shop on the A82 near Luss just before lunch, always risky when you’re hungry!  “Our” layby is the second one Loch side before the Inverbeg hotel, now named The Lochside Inn”, where we have enjoyed many a dram. Happily, the litter problem we encountered here last time has improved, however selfish (in our opinion) parking hasn’t. As soon as we arrived we noticed a Winnebago parked lengthways taking up 3 spaces and a motorhome parked with a marquee up and the chairs the other of the marquee leaving not much room for any other vehicles. We squeezed in next to her, she wasn’t amused and was obviously saving the place for someone else arriving later.  Selfish parking here is going to ruin it for everyone. Wild camping is allowed up here, but setting out your stall like this, in our opinion takes the Mick.
Campfire quesadilla’s
We had campfire quesadilla’s for lunch, not on a campfire I add, but still yum. Then sent the drone up for some pics before moving on up the road to the new viewIng platform beyond Tarbet. 
Drone pic of Loch Lomond
 

 

 

 

 

Bluebell and Loch Lomond
Moody skies above Loch Lomond
New viewing platform/Pyramid
Head of the loch
 

Loch Lomond
The pyramid shape was an interesting design and it was nice to see a different view of Loch Lomond, this time from the head of the Loch. 
Pyramid viewing platform
 
We carried on towards Glencoe, stopping at the Black Mountain view point and sending the drone up again. there were a few vans parked up for a night there and it bought back happy memories of our night there two years ago.
 
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We carried on though, although I could have easily stayed there! We were booked onto Glencoe Mountain Resort campsite for two night. When we booked this trip, we decided to travel less and make more use of campsites in order to relax more. Ironic given that we had no idea what lay ahead of us! So around 6pm, we rolled onto the campsite, checked in with a grump receptionist and on to our pitch. First impressions were …. Meh. A gravel carpark, not in the most picturesque area of the valley. But, a fully serviced pitch. £15 pn. At least we are here. 
 
What followed over the next 10 hours was horrendous. What we didn’t know when we booked, or until we arrived, was that our visit coincided with a Scottish Downhill Association mountain bike event. This resulted in HUNDREDS of mountain bikers and their cars/vans/trucks/caravans/campervans turning up right through the night. I’m really not exaggerating here. From 9pm to 6am ALL we could hear was cars arriving, people directing each other into every last space there was, bike pumps pumping tyres, wow, that’s an annoying sound when it’s right on your pitch at 5am. At 07:00 the resort switched on their music and by 07:30 the decision had been made to abandon the campsite. I marched off to reception to explain we were leaving a night early and why, was met with a stubborn manager who insisted it was normal activity for cars to be arriving right through the night on a campsite, and I explained  it wasnt for us, way too noisy and we wouldn’t be back. 
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We drove down to the main Glencoe viewpoint, where we’ve had to retreat to before(!) and had a leisurely breakfast of haggis sausages, bacon, beans, eggs and fried bread, which helped to restore sanity and we looked at new plans for the night ahead! The haggis sausages by the way were sensational! Our Britstops bible saved the day- we realised there was a Inn down the road that welcomes motorhome stopovers, so after a quick emergency phone call we booked ourselves in, and relaxed a little while more at Glencoe. The view here will never get old. We simply love it here. 

 

Scottish breakfast at Glencoe
Glencoe ❤️
Glencoe
GC Drone
Pap of Glencoe

 
After a while, and a drone flight, we carried on down the A82 and crossed Loch Linnhe via the Corran Ferry. Despite driving this road many times, this was entirely new to us. The short ferry crossing took 5 mins, and cost £8.20 but saved nearly 40 miles of driving. The views across the Loch Linnhe towards the Great Glen were super. 
Corran Ferry
Corran Ferry
 
We soon found our Brit Stop, number 838 right upon the Lochside and said hello, had a couple of drinks each and pootled off for a leisurely bike ride. We have been Geocaching for a few weeks now and had a fun afternoon finding geocaches – a bit like a treasure hunt! The road was flat and on the banks of the loch. It was breathtaking. 
View from Britstop
Britstop
Bike ride from Argdour
Picnic
Beautiful ❤️
Paddle
Jazz
We had a picnic and a paddle, much to Jazz’s displeasure- and mooched back to Bluebell for a nap. We didn’t eat at the pub, but went in for several more drinks and whiskeys before a late walk (10pm – and still light!) along the loch. 
 
Nap time
Aerial shot of Britstop. Can you see Bluebell?
10.30pm
It’s simply beautiful and we are thankful to Britstops for guiding us here. We’ve lost count the number of times we travelled here and missed this spot. For us, this is the reason we love BritStops. Yes, wild camping is legal here and our back up would have been exactly that. But we feel happy that we spent a bit money locally, in return for a pitch with a view like this in an area we usually miss. Happy days. 
 
Sunset