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

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

Sunday

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

See drone video here

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

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

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

You can read our next instalment here

Until Next Time 

Lx 

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 

Easter Holidays 2014: Pt 3 Glen Coe to Skye

Tuesday:
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up right next to the gorgeous white sands of Arisaig, just off the road from Fort William entitled “The Road to the Isles” – the A380 to Mallaig.

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Today we left Loch Leven fairly early, as we wanted to get some supplies from the Morrisons at Fort William. After a quick scoot round, a few mins online, a diesel fill and a calor gas exchange, we were back on the road, heading towards Mallaig. We had a brief stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct and monument. The viaduct was used for filming some Harry Potter scenes (we’ve actually not seen HP so this was lost on us!) However, it’s a nice location with a visitors centre and of course the Bonny Prince Charlie monument too.

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Our intention for the rest of the day was to get to a campsite that we’d booked onto, allegedly on the beach that Local Hero was filmed at (Camusdarach Campsite). I say allegedly, as either we totally misinterpreted their website when booking, or someone was slightly exaggerating their position on the coast- either way on the road down to this particular campsite, we passed some stunning beaches and beautifully located campsites right on the sea front, so our hopes were getting higher and higher as we anticipated our arrival. When we arrived, we were surprised that the campsite was half a mile or so back off the coast, there were limited limited sea views, and the actual beach used in the film was over a mile away! Keith went in to check, and decided once he was told there were no sea/beach view pitches etc (despite pics on the website showing sand dunes and seaside) that we would not take our pitch and we would look for a different site. I was pleased in a way when he returned to the van to tell me, as I’d spent 10 mins sat in the van feeling disappointed the site wasn’t as we’d expected it to be.

So off we drove, this time slightly back on ourself maybe 2 miles. The first site we passed was called Silver Sands so we pulled in to check it out. As we drove down the entrance road, we were thrilled to see pitches with a sea view that seemed vacant (tick), with hook up (another tick) We drove up to the reception and was greeted happily with a sign saying if you can find a pitch, it’s yours- we will be round in the morning to collect money (£16 pn with electric): perfect. We bagged a stunner of a pitch, which was hard standing (unlike the grassy boggy pitches of Camusdarach Campsite- another cross by their name). It was £9 a night cheaper, the sun was shining, and so naturally we plugged in, cracked a beer and went for a chill on the beach. Chill is an accurate word actually, as the driving wind was freeeeeeeezing, but the sunny skies and beach/sea combi more than made up for that!!

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So a lovely relaxing evening was had by us all, Jazz enjoyed an hour or so tearing around on the beach, I was happy playing with my camera and tripod and Keefy spent an hour umming and aa ahhing about whether or not to bbq! Decided against it in the end due to rain clouds looming, so we settled on the Aberdeen Angus steak each anyway but cooked inside (still fab view though!)

We had a wonderful night at Siversands , and would whole heartidly recommend. Just to warn you though, you can’t book, so it’s luck of the draw I guess if travelling during peak season.

Wednesday:
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up overlooking the mainland (well, if we could see it that is- visibility not good today) We went to visit the beach filmed on for Local Hero this morning with the help of this handy site
it turned out that you could access it 1/2 mile further on up the B8008 past the Camusdarach campsite (not what we’d been led to believe) The beach is a hidden gem, that has huge sand dunes protecting it from the road, and is a good half a mile wide of pure white sand. You can see where they built “Bens Shack” for the movie, and also the church, which isn’t actually a church in real life, they dressed it up to look like one. This is also he stretch where Burt Lancaster arrived in his helicopter at the end of the film. It was great to finally visit the official one- over the last 5 yrs we’ve stopped at a number incorrectly!!!

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We then carried on up to Mallaig to board the Calmac ferry to Skye- a 30 minute crossing which we’ve done before but I doubt will do again!!!! Well- it’s taken us both til now (6hrs) to vaguely recover. I never get sea sick, until today that is. Bleughhh. To be fair, it is a wee bit murky out there, and we probably should have not bothered with the sausage baguette each beforehand.

We drove off the ferry and travelled 1/2 mile somehow to the visitors centre where we emergency pulled in (you don’t need to know the rest!) An hour or so later, we felt better enough to check out the wild camping spot at the south of the Island. It was nice and had a cracking sea view- but it’s elevated position and today’s windy weather meant that we felt like we were still on the boat. Down we came, and trundled about the roads between Armadale and Broadford for an hour or so, feeling uninspired, tired, hazy, spinny and nauseous still. We are now parked on the sea front at Broadford, within walking distance of a chippy and a pub. I suspect this combination of establishments will aid our recovery, and so we can set off tomorrow feeling normal again

Until next time

Lx

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Easter Holidays 2014 Pt2: Loch Lomond- GlenCoe

Saturday
Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up in a large viewpoint car park on the side of the A82- on the map it’s called Black Mount. The views are stunning:

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Sunday
We drove down the 16 mile long minor road that wound through Glen Etive, finishing in a small carpark on the banks of Loch Etive. The drive was stunning and followed a picture perfect river all the way through the Glen. I would certainly recommend heading off the A82 down this road, signposted Glen Etive, as it was stunning and well off the beaten track. About 4 miles down, we stopped at the point where Daniel Craig posed as James Bond in Skyfall and reinacted the moment with my own James Bond, aka Keefy 😉 Once at the bottom, we parked up on the shores of the Loch. Despite it being a very small cut off road we weren’t the only ones down there- there were some very hard core wild campers in tents sharing the spot with us. We went to say hi and got the distinct impression they weren’t impressed with us being there! Oh well we thought, and retreated back to Bluebell for lunch- eggy bread and baked beans- a new firm favourite of ours thanks to the VW Camper Cookbook I got last year off Sam (thanks)! As the weather was rainy we had another day of chilling, apart from a short stroll along the banks in a window of dryness after lunch.

Around 7pm, and after several dodgy things happening over at the tents which we are fairly sure involved drugs, we decided that neither of us were comfortable being that isolated with some randoms that were starting to give us the eeby jeebies. So we decided to pack up and head back towards the main road. About half way back along the road we encountered two further strange folk that looked like they were up to no good, so we stepped on the gas and departed a beautiful area, sharpish! I’m sure it was all innocent, and it’s more than likely that we over reacted based on watching too many films and getting wrong ideas, but we both felt uncomfortable and our golden rule is always to move on if we feel like that. One advantage to moving on was that we saw loads of red deer and half a dozen or so stags grazing in the dusk. Gorgeous.

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So we arrived at the main viewpoint in the middle of Glen Coe at 8pm and were relieved that the no overnight signs that we saw on a previous trip had been removed. Unfortunately it was blowing a GALE, so much so that I was scared we would topple over – the gas kept being blown out on the fridge and the heating – but equally I didn’t fancy hitting the road anymore as it was definitely unsafe. It was nerve racking to say the least, and I may or may or have had a minor meltdown (il leave it up to you to decide that one!) but we battened down and sat it out with the help of Criminal Minds series 2 on Sky Go (no wonder we get the eebie jeebies!) and after 6 hours of spectacular Scottish storm with two eye of the storms passing through, all went calm and we could finally go to sleep without panicking!

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Monday
All was calm when we awoke in Glen Coe, and I was relieved to see no damage to the van. The views were spectacular so it more than made up for the stress of the night before. We planned a chilled day of visiting the Glen Coe visitors centre, the village, then Loch Leven, which is where we were staying, at the Brit Stop number 820. It was nice to revisit the visitors centre at Glen Coe, last time we came in Aug 2010 it was peeing down and we couldn’t see past the end of our noses- today was overcast but dry, and definitely we could see the mountains. We did a little mile walk from the visitors centre to take in where the Glen Coe Massacre happened in 1692. 38 people were murdered here in cold blood by troops carrying out government orders (again, no wonder we get scared!) After the walk we then nipped into the village for supplies.

We took the road around Loch Leven towards Kinlochleven, at the head of the Loch. It was another pretty journey, and I’m fairly sure I saw a Golden Eagle too! We did a little walk to look at the Grey Mares Waterfall, which we saw signposted off the main road through Kinlochleven. It was a great waterfall, with some really cool boards to walk on to get close. A really nice treat, we always like to take in a waterfall!

After our walk, we stopped at a gorgeous layby overlooking the loch for lunch (more eggy bread!!) and took in the views. We then made our final 6 mile journey to our pitch for the night, and we are now once again parked overlooking the Loch, with the restaurant behind us, where we are to eat tonight! We’ve just been in to reserve our table (a window seat- hurrah) and are now about to have a nap, then a cuppa and get our glad rags on for dinner!

Tomorrow is Fort William for supplies, then on to Glenfinnan Viaduct and Arasaig, taking in two more movie locations, Harry Potter and Local Hero.

Until next time
Lx

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