Having had a wonderful night at Fletchers Farm, we hit the road north, Ruby’s wheels heading for Edinburgh. Unfortunately it seemed the rest of the world were also heading north and our 3 hour journey turned into a 5 hour journey. We did however manage to stop off at Carter Bar for lunch and we found the journey along the A66 very picturesque- we normally are on this stretch at midnight!
We arrived at Keith’s cousin Simon’s house in Leith late afternoon and embarked on a lovely couple of days in the sunshine enjoying one of our favourite cities.
We like Leith and as the Proclaimers sang, the sun really DID shine on Leith during our stay. The shore
area is particularly lovely and dotted with bars with outside seating. It felt very continental.
We stocked up on Haggis too- enjoying a full Scottish breakfast and also some Haggis Scotch eggs from the market.
Despite the Fringe festival and the Tattoo being cancelled due to Covid, the centre of Edinburgh was busier than I expected- I mean not as busy as a normal August by far, but still plenty out and about.
We had a nice meal on Grassmarket and did a great 10+ mile walk taking in the sites.
It was lovely to see Simon again too.
Tomorrow we venture further north again; heading for the Cairngorms.
Sunday Continued – on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides.
After disembarkation we pulled into the Isle of Harris distillery carpark to meet Rodney from Surf Lewis. We had hired some wetsuits and snorkelling equipment for the duration of our stay, and he very kindly agreed to meet us off the ferry to give us the equipment. Wetsuits, fins, snorkels etc in hand, we waved bye to Rodney – we are meeting him again on Wednesday as we have booked a Stand Up Paddleboarding session with him. Next stop was Huishnish Beach. I was worried about this as our ETA was 5pm – when we visited in 2012 it was very quiet and we stayed here fore two days and barely saw another soul. Now though, toruism has well and truly hit, and I knew Huishnish was a popular spot. To get there you drive for 40 mins over a mountain pass for 14 miles and Huishnish is the dead end. If we got there and there was no space, I’d have been very disappointed and we’d have to retrace our steps.
Thankfully the luck of the Irish was on our side and there was a small space for Ruby to squeeze in to. As we turned the corner and saw Huishnish for the first time in 6 years, it literally took my breath away. It is absolutely BREATHTAKING. The beach is just stunning.We wasted no time and got straight into the wetsuits – this is our first time in wetsuits and I’m sure we caused a lot of amusement to our fellow campers. It was honestly like trying to truss a chicken!
Our first experience in a 5mm wetsuit in the Hebrides was just amazing! Rodney had sorted us with the whole kit- hood, gloves, shoes, fins etc. I adored being in the sea, it looked so inviting and now we were able to enjoy a swim. We got our snorkels on and had a little look around the rocks.
After our swim the prime spot had become available! We wasted no time, so still in wetsuits, we moved Ruby and vowed to stay there for at least 2 nights. We used the shower facilities (£1) and got on with dinner, overlooking the beach and sea – a salmon and prawn risotto washed down with a lovely white wine.
We didn’t get the chairs out because our side door was facing the view and to embrace the view from our pitch meant we struggled to open the boot with the bikes on- so we used Ruby’s step for seating which worked really well! We felt like proper Veedubbers now!
Monday dawned another beautiful sunny and hot day. We couldn’t believe our luck! We enjoyed sausage sandwiches before donning the wetsuits and snorkelling gear and trying some snorkelling out on the other side of the bay (the right hand side) As it was so uncharacteristically hot, we couldn’t leave Jazz in the van – it was mid 20s and just way too hot to leave a dog in a vehicle, so he came down to the beach with us and we took it in turns to snorkel.
I’m not sure what Jazz made of the wetsuits! Exploring the underwater world was really fun – we saw lots of colourful sea-weed and plants, sand eels, pollock, crabs etc. We used following underwater camera
After ham and cheese paninis for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach on our inflatable sofas, chilling. I don’t think I can remember such a relaxing campervan trip. It felt like we were on a beach holiday!
For dinner, Keith knocked up an amazing bbq, we’d picked up some venison steaks from the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Stable shop that you pass on the road to Huishnish. This along with some sausages and chicken and a rice salad was yummy.
We walked up the hill to the 5 campervan with electric spaces to watch the sun go down and I tried to use my drone but it didn’t have enough battery (we were off grid and with the heat and the coolbox, the battery was struggling a touch so we didn’t want to charge anything non essential) That was a shame cos I bet it would have been a good view.
Our solar panel is doing well, Keith’s placed it on the roof and it’s soaking up the sun from 7am to 9pm!
With a bit of a lump in our throats we bid Huishnish a fond farewell. Before leaving we used the motorhome service point to empty the loo and refill the water tank for just £3. Considering the parking was free, and showers available for just £1 this is excellent value. We actually shoved a fiver in a donation box to say thanks. Up the hill is a 5 space campervan site with electric for £5 a night but you have to time it well to get a space during peak sunshine I imagine!
On the way we stopped and watched a golden eagle through the binoculars- what a special moment that was, neither of us has seen one in the wild.
We popped into Tarbet to pick up some local gin. On the way we tried to stop off at two more snorkel trail locations but sadly we could not for the life of us find the correct place. In our opinion – North Harris Wildlife trust could probably do with signposts at the locations and visible parking as at one point we drove 2 miles down a farm track trying to find the place and could not find it!
During this period of time, my phone went nuts (without me realising) and decided to emergency call 112. I had no idea about this and because there is absolutely no phone signal I was blissfully unaware that my phone had not only rang 112, but had also text my dad, my mum and Keith (who also had no phone signal!) to tell them I was sending an emergency SOS message and where my location was.
Once buying the gin, we carried on towards Luskentyre beach – which is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. Again we’ve been before, but it still doesn’t fail to impress.
The size of the beach is just overwhelming! We managed to get a great spot overnight spot overlooking part of the beach – provided by the West Harris trust and only £5 a night.
We set our stall out and enjoyed steak and stilton wraps for lunch before taking a walk on the beach with our wetsuits and trying some more snorkelling.
This time we snorkelled in with the tide all the way back to Ruby, taking it in turns again to stay with Jazz and always keeping one step ahead of the tide. We saw lots of crabs and had a lovely time. It’s just so nice to be underwater where you wouldn’t normally be as the water despite being crystal clear is blooming cold!
We both had a solar shower to wash the salt water off when we returned to Ruby and enjoyed some gins, before cooking with meat another wonderful seaview, chicken fajitas.
Wednesday arrived and it was time to set an alarm as we had to leave at 9am to get to Scalpay for our 10am Stand up Paddleboarding Lesson (SUP) I have fancied giving this a whirl since we saw people giving lessons on the Norfolk Broads. Just as we arrived on Scalplay i received many worried messages from Dad and Jenny asking if we were ok. It was at this point we realised what had happened with my phone – they had received an emergency message from us and then couldn’t get hold of us for almost 24hurs due to no phone signal. Quite understandably they were going out of their minds with worry!! Sorry Dad and Jenny! Mum on the other hand, had replied – “glad your having a good time!” It turns out that Apple to Apple (which is what our emergency SOS message was to mums phone) just sends a map link to your location. Apple to Samsung which is what it was me to Dad sends an upscaled “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SOS MESSAGE”! Whoops! A quick phone call to say we are fine cleared the air and put Dad and jenny’s mind at rest!
Back to the paddle boarding . The weather couldn’t have been any better. We met Rodney again at the designated place and along with 6 others donned our wetsuits, and took our boards to the water. Luckily the wife of someone also taking a lesson wasn’t taking part, and had her own dog, so offered to look after Jazz too, as the heat (which was totally not expected when we booked it) was too intense to leave him. God knows what we would have done had Ruth not been there to Jazz sit!
The SUP lesson was FAB!!! We are complete beginners and have no balance, so our hopes were not high that we would achieve the end result of standing up. However, we both managed it and it was exhilarating, exciting and quite hard work. I can’t think of a more lovely way to experience the coast line of this stunning island.
Lessons are £40 and Rodney was just a brilliant and patient teacher. I can’t recommend the experience enough! See our video highlights here
Feeling completely exhilarated and little sad that our Hebridean adventure was nearly over we handed our wetsuits back to Rodney and waved goodbye.
We made use of the spotlessly clean and FREE showers at Scalpay Community Centre before booking a table for evening meal at the Anchorage Restaurant, Leverburgh, the opposite end of the island. If we had any criticism of the Isle of Harris it would be that despite fishing being a huge part of life here, we found it impossible to find some fresh seafood to buy and cook. We were both craving a seafood meal so decided to splash out on an evening meal. We visited the Anchorage when we last visited and had a fab meal, so table booked, we jumped in Ruby and made our way to the south of the Island.
The restaurant were happy for us to stay overnight in their carpark, right next to the ferry to North Uist, so we made use of the time before our reservation by having a HUGE tidy – wetsuits and snorkelling equipment had put a serious strain on our storage – we managed, but we had half of Luskentyre beach gathered on the floor!As the weather has been so good we haven’t packed Ruby’s bed away since Saturday so we’ve effectively had a fixed bed which has been nice.
Ruby soon was sparkling clean and organised again, so we went for a couple of drinks in the restaurant garden – I enjoyed the Barra Gin, before dinner. We even managed a celebrity spot – we only sat next to THE Billy Connelly! Amazing – such a gent (sorry no pic as I didn’t fully realise it was him – I said to Keefy he looks and sounds like Billy Connelly, then later on instagram I saw someone down the road at an art studio had posted a pic of him!)
We had a brilliant meal, it really is a spot to visit if you like fresh fish and seafood. We both had identical meals – hand dived scallops to start, fresh cod with chive mash and pak choi, and chocolate fondue. It was FABULOUS.
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 onA14 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.
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.
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.
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!
Ever since Keith and I got together 7 years ago- one (along with many others!) mutual bucket list adventure we wanted to achieve was attending The Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. 10 years ago I spent an entire summer up in Edinburgh playing in a Fringe Show, and Keith's dousing has lived up here for years and years, yet still we've never been able to make it happen. 7 years ago we made a pact that we would and this year is the year it finally was able to happen!
We dropped Jazz with my mum and Alec and boarded our Virgin East coast train on Friday morning. Unsurprisingly, as not only was the Tattoo starting on Friday but so was the Fringe Festival, the train was packed and quite uncomfortable so we settled ourselves in and watched some catch up on the iPads, and actually before we knew it we were rolling into Edinburgh Waverley Station.
Simon couldn't meet us until after work so we had an hour or so to kill- naturally we headed for the pub, one of our favourites the Ensign Ewitt for the first of many gins, beers and drams!
Our very good friend Mark is a sound engineer for the Tattoo and was busy at the castle in his super duper recording van prepping to record that nights show – his job is to record it, edit it and have the official CD on the shelf for Monday's performance. He contacted us and said although he couldn't get away we were welcome to pop up and see his office for the weekend which was exciting, and as always, lovely to see him for ten mins.
It was 4pm and time to meet Simon so we bid Mark a farewell and headed to the Malt Shovel on Cockburn St. The Royal Mile is always a fun place to be at this time of year- lots of people doing publicity for their shows and a really happy, exciting if not slightly nutty vibe all the way!
Once we'd met Simon, Friday night followed in a big catch up, naturally involving a few bars and refreshments! Simon once again showed us some really cool places in Leith and we enjoyed our dinner of Shetland Mussels and beef and Haggis burgers at Nobles.
Saturday dawned brighter than the BBC had indicated, despite a few foggy heads in the O'Gorman/Williams clan! 🤣 Nothing a good sausage and haggis roll, super charged espresso, a pork and Haggis scotch egg and a Bloody Mary, or in Keith's case a Bloody Scotsman (replaced vodka with whiskey!!) can't sort out!
After a lazy morning we took the bus from Leith up to Princes Street where I deposited the boys in John Lewis Gadget section whilst I went off for a shop for an hour. Big mistake- Keith, inspired by Simon's "Smart Flat" has brought a Amazon Echo Dot and subsequently has spent every available minute researching what we can link up to it in our house! Boys and their toys eh?!
Edinburgh is always such a special place for me, I had a little moment as I dragged myself away from the shops- look at the view from Princes Street- lovely architecture, Arthur's seat- and check out the blue sky!
We opted for lunch at Wagamama's, a treat for me as usually when we go I'm driving- so today I could indulge in my other favourite alcoholic drink, SAKE! KANPAI!
Trying to be sensible (!) we decided to head back to the flat for a nap ready for the excitement of the evening to come.
We made our way back into town 6ish and had a couple of drinks, including one on the mile so we could indulge in some people watching before a delicious curry at Gurkha Restaurant- definitely recommend it there, it's our second visit!
It was now time to head to the castle, I e never seen so many people queuing to get in either! Mark had texted us to make sure we gave ourselves lots of time, he said at the 7:30 showing people were arriving once the show had started. At 9:00 when we were wandering up, we had he previous audience departing and the current audience arriving- so 18000 people and the top end of the mile is rather narrow. Still, the organisation was with military precision, what else would you expect, this is the 68th year!
We were in within 20 mins of he doors opening at 9:45- exceptional!
To show was simply SENSATIONAL. Everything that I hoped it would be and a million times more. The special effects and projectors (all 12 of them according to Mark) casting phenomenal images and patterns onto the castle backdrop, the music obviously, the choreography, THE WEATHER!- everything was just awesome. I will never forget our night there!
We walked all the way home to Leith and to took me about an hour to get to sleep- I had so much adrenaline! Today has dawned sunny again, hurrah! So we will head back into town. Plans are to try and see the Jacobites exhibition and perhaps see some Jazz.
Then back south tomorrow to see Dad and Jenny, pick up Ruby and Jazz and get some adventures going in our campervan!
Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside Gillside Beck- we arrived here yesterday, Friday, after a fairly longish journey from our Loch Ness Brit Stop. The reason for departing Scotland a day early is stood proudly behind us, and frankly looks scary as hell- perhaps that’s where the name Helvellyn comes from! For a couple of years now, Keith and I have talked about how we’d like to tackle Helvellyn and Striding Edge. For both of us, it’s a personal challenge. Neither of us particularly like hill walking, and I’m terrified of drops, yet I have spent hours marvelling at people’s instagram pics of Striding Edge. I just knew I had to go and give it my best foot forward. Luckily, my husband is also crazy so despite his hatred of walking up hills agreed to attempt it with me, if he weather looked ok on or way home from Scotland.
So back in February we booked our pitch at Gillside Farm, knowing there was a hefty chance we’d cancel if weather looked bad. We’d been about internet for well over 24 hours and finally picked up 4g as passed through Fort William. Keith as driving and I checked Patterdale – well il be blowed it was only showing full sun for tomorrow. “Off we go then”, I said, feeling the colour draining from my chops!
Gillside Farm is nestled right at the bottom of the main path from Glenriding up to Helvellyn- so on arrival we decided to check where our oath started, before prepping our rucksacks, making a packed lunch and enjoying a simply cook Murgh Kari curry for tea. The mood in the Ruby was certainly of apprehension! We watched the live election debate before calling it a night. I dreamt that we got stuck on Helvellyn! What a great dream- not!
Saturday dawned as promised, absolutely glorious. There really is nowhere as beautiful as the Lakes in this weather! Apprehension was again strife! We moved around our daily routine almost in silence- I chucked some venison and a few bits of stray veg into the slow cooker to bubble away ready for our return. Keith packed, double packed and triple checked the rucksacks. By 09:15 we’d had our porridge and cereal bars and were ready to go. I was BRICKING it.
The first mile is literally uphill. There is no relief from it – it is hard. Really really hard. Loads of people passed us, we were both puffing like a steam train and I was almost ready to chuck the towel in. However-the views were stunning and that really kept us going. The views to Ullswater were sensational.
After over an hour and exactly a mile- the uphillness became easier! I thought I’d suddenly become super fit but Keith declared “hurray, we are now following the contours rather than crossing them” We were rewarded with great views of Helvellyn and red tarn and actually started enjoying ourselves!
Before we knew it we were reaching the start of Striding Edge. I gave myself one last talking to and before I know it we were across! Striding Edge if you are not familiar, is a ridge that leads to Helvellyn, England’s 3rd highest behind Scafell and Sca. It was really, really hard- in fact a man in front of us stopped and turned round- he said he couldn’t cope with it any more- so was going to find the easier path. Keith and I (and jazz!) kept our heads down,took it very slowly and carefully and stopped regularly for photos – AND I DIDNT HAVE A PANIC ATTACK!
Getting to the other side my legs were like Jelly. Then we realised we had nasty scramble ahead to get to the summit. It wasn’t a scramble it it literally was rock climbing. Omg. 😳 However the camoradory between all the walkers was fantastic – and as we crossed the last ridge before the summit I had a tear in my eye! We’d done it! Bucket list ticked ✅
After a cheese roll or three we discovered it was as steep if not worse on the way down! Off we set, taking so much care- we even had to carry Jazz over a couple of bits as he refused and dug his claws in! Slowly we descended and 3 hours later we were back at Ruby feeling immensely proud of ourselves!
We had a swift dram before continuing to the pub for a couple( including a Lake District Gin!!) and returning to Ruby for our venison stew.
Tomorrow we head home (sad face!) we have had a blast and couldn’t have wished for an sweet finish today. We’ve survived 10 whole days in our downsized campervan with no pop top. Ruby is working for us! Hurrah!
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.
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!
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.
Getting from A to B in Bluebell the motorhome is quite different to getting from A to B in our little Yoda the Skoda. We need to consider many different factors when planning our jaunts in the motorhome, but mainly the issues we run into (sadly literally in one case back in 2010!) are our height and weight. We’ve used the standard Garmin satnav for 4 years now, and don’t get me wrong, its been ok, but this year we found ourselves looking at new satnavs and particularly one which we can input our vehicle dimensions in, so that the best route is found having taking these into account.
For the last year or so we’ve used Google Maps as a secondary sat nav, although because it uses data to download the map it relies on having a decent internet signal, something which we are not blessed with sadly, even in not so deepest Norfolk! We enjoyed using the phone as a sat nav, finding the screen on my iPhone 6 a good size for clear mapping.This led us to looking into an App based sat nav,which works offline and more specifically one which we could enter Bluebell’s vehicle dimensions into. Enter “CoPilot Caravan Europe”
At £49.99 I wondered if it was a bit pricey as I don’t tend to pay more than £4.99 for an app, but then Keith reminded me that actually having looked into Caravan/Motorhome/HGV sat navs, we were hard pushed to get one for less than £100. We decided to give it a go, and trial it on our recent Scotland trip- a handy test as most of the time we were without Mobile data.
After download, a user friendly screen prompts you through set up, with clear and easy instructions to navigate through. There are lots of options to tailor the app to your own personal requirements, something which we found useful- we could even personalise the welcome to say “Welcome Lydia and Keith” – not the most important factor on a sat nav I realise, but a nice touch nonetheless- (I’m such a girl!!) You have the option to display safety camera alerts (and change how much distance ahead you want to be warned of them) and set it to save battery, another useful tool when you’re doubling your phone as your sat nav. Finally it’s time to enter those important measurements- the app allows you to input your Height, Width, Total Length and Total Weight. You can also select how it should naviagate- the fastest route or shortest.
I like the fact that you have the option of which maps you want to download- having got the Europe version of the app, I had the option of downloading “Europe”, “Eastern Europe”, “Western Europe” then the individual countries as separate maps. This was useful for me as I have limited storage on my iPhone 6, so I was able to just download UK, although when we go to Germany over the summer I have the option of downloading “Western Europe” or just “Germany”.
On The Road
With CoPilot you have the option to save certain addresses as favourites. For those one off entries, its easy to input, especially if you have the postcode of your destination. You get the option to select a “cross street” too, making pinpointing your destination much easier.
There are several ways to view the app whilst navigating- the one we preferred was the larger instructions with a mini picture of the next junction and a countdown to the next junction. This made navigating really easy. Other options included a smaller instruction but more details for future junctions. I guess this would be useful for the passenger if they are navigating you. It reminded you several times which junction to take on a roundabout and although that was a bit annoying, it was useful and saved us going round roundabouts several times…ahem!
We LOVED the fact that it was easy to change the proposed route by a simple drag of your finger. For example- our route up to Loch Lomond from Norfolk wanted to take us up to Edinburgh on the A1. We wanted an overnight stop at Carter Bar border crossing near to Jedburgh so simply dragged our finger to the route we would rather take and it automatically updated. Fab. Equally you could add via’s etc and also it comes with an extensive list of POI – even more when you are online.
Traffic Updates are included for a year, however depend on Mobile signal. Our journey home was affected by a huge accident on the A1- we were delayed for nearly 3 hours (ouch) but sadly it didn’t do a great job in prewarning us (and we had 4G).
We travelled nearly 1500 miles using the app and in general we were extremely happy with how it worked. The only criticism was that sadly it did still try and take us on single carriageway A roads near to Inverness rather than the duel carriageway A Roads (it wanted us to take the A833 to Beauly to cut off the corner of Inverness, rather than staying on A82 then A9. It thought it would save 30 mins but when we ignored it, suddenly the ETA decreased by nearly an hour!) If we could get an update to make sure that duel carriageway roads take priority then for us, it would be 5*. Until then, we give it a very useful “does what it says on the tin” 4*. We look forward to using the app in Germany over the Summer.
In Summary– yes it’s nearly £50, but it made travelling round in a great big motorhome much less stressful and we were confident we weren’t going to find ourselves in a tricky bridge situation! We will still continue to use a road map alongside the app, but, find me a motorist that doesn’t do that!
Phones are so much more than phones nowadays aren’t they? Here we are using my phone to guide us 300 miles up to the Scottish Border, whilst using Spotify to serenade us- what happens when we arrive at the border at 01:00 – I have no battery left to take the obligatory “we have arrived” selfie! This was a worry for me- read into that what you will… ;0)
Tuesday morning saw us saying a reluctant goodbye to Glen Nevis Holiday Park and Fort William. We were heading North, to Clachtoll, which is about 40 miles north of Ullapool. The journey was due to take us about 5 hours as the direct route is still smallish roads ( not duelled). As it happens It took us more like 8 as we stopped for a few picture stops en route! Our first stop was a detour off the A82 towards the Glen Garry viewpoint, always a favourite of ours for a quick cuppa and slab of tablet.
We followed that road back round to Loch Ness, stopping at an additional view point just after the Glen Garry one- with a fab view but also lots of what looked like to us, self built Japanese Shinto shrines. We are unsure if the hill is believed to be a sacred place- maybe someone reading this can fill us in!
Next stop was near to Urquart Castle on Loch Ness, then Corrieshalloch Gorge near to Ullapool, which is where we had lunch before going down (again) to see the 300 ft gorge, billed as the largest in Britain. We’ve been several times before, and I can report that despite me getting across the viewing bridge, I am still terrified of it!
By this point it was nearing 4pm and we still had to get to Ullapool for some fresh supplies, before heading the further hour onto Clachtoll. It was foot down time, and by 5.30pm we were passing Ardvreck Castle, only half an hour from Clachtoll and somewhere we’d passed 3 times and never stopped at. For future reference this looks a fab place to wild camp. We had a play with the drone camera and the SLR.
We made the final approach to Clachtoll along a single track mountain pass (although it’s large enough for a caravan if you travel from Ullapool direction and have nerves of steel). You pass Lochinver and descend into the tiny oasis of heaven, known to us as Clachtoll Bay. We were booked onto Clachtoll Beach caravan site for 3 nights- it was £20 pn for a fully serviced pitch and we were lucky as ours was right on the front over looking the beach.
The campsite is in a tiny hamlet although there is a small beach shop stocking essentials and the campsite has free wifi although we struggled to get it strong enough to download or upload the blog. There is also an immaculately clean shower block and the ladies even had GhD hair straighteners!
We had a BBQ however despite it being glorious sunshine, it was very drafty and too cold to sit outside so moved inside to eat- however we could still enjoy the view from Bluebell. The joys of a motorhome eh? I felt sorry for those in tents.
Next day and somehow it was still sunny! Perfect for our day up at Stoer lighthouse and the Old man of Stoer sea stack. We drove the ten minute journey from campsite as it was uphill and also chilly still, so we wanted a warm base to whale watch. On arrival we were directed to park up the top by the lighthouse and we were thrilled. We were sure we had the best view in the world!
Again, we’ve been here before 6 years ago, but enjoyed the cliff walk to see the impressive stack nonetheless. We also enjoyed watching bluebell get smaller and smaller, and larger and larger on the way back! We can see why he’s called the old man, don’t you think he has character?!
After our walk (4 miles) Keith got the chairs out and I cooked the most amazing lunch I’ve ever cooked- I know that sounds big headed but trust me, it was yum. We had steak and Stilton wraps, from my camping cookbook. They were so delicious – made with sandwich steak which was about £3 from Morrisons. Yum. Terrible pic, cos I was itching to try it as at this point Keith was making all sorts of appreciative noises!
we sat for an hour or two whale and dolphin watching but didn’t spot anything, I think it was a bit rough at sea. We did see an artic skua though.
We headed back to the campsite for 4pm as it was Wednesday and the fishmonger was due to visit the site.
Bang in 4:30 he arrived and attracted a large queue (us included). We stocked up with fresh mussels, scallops, smoked haddock and prawns – all for £12- and that evening after a pre dinner stroll, I cooked us a delicious seafood linguine. Yum
Thursday arrived and we had a lay in. The weather had turned, and although it wasn’t raining, it was grey and gloomy, so we decided to have a work from the motorhome morning, preparing invoices and timetables for our return to work. After a large brunch we loaded up a geocaching location nearby and took a stroll stumbling upon a secret beach!
We had a good chill as we decided to attempt the drive back to Norfolk in one day the following day, as we had a gig to perform at on Satirday night and we didn’t want to get caught up in end of half term traffic the following day. We left Clachtoll at 06:30 as quietly as we could, which was fun, not, and set off on the 650 mile journey. Actually, it was a really good journey, we split the driving into strict 4 hour slots. All went well until we hit the A1 and then we got stuck for 3 hours, moving a grad total of 7 miles! There was a nasty accident which resulted in the road in front of us being closed. Still, with the delay we still made it home before 11pm, in total a 16.5 hour journey. We were tired but satisfied and had had such an amazing week! I bet we will never be that lucky in Scotland again. Oh, and not one midge bite. We survived armidgeddon.
I will do a seperate post about our experience using the Co Pilot iPhone satnav , otherwise known as Colin, another day, so keep your eye out.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.