Adventures on the Moray Firth, Scotland

Gandalf the VW is parked up with a terrific view of the Moray Firth, in the highlands of Scotland, near to Lossiemouth.

We made the 5 hour journey from Beadnall bay, with a couple of comfort stops en route/ it was a tiring drive but the end result- our pitch at West Bay Caravan Park was worth the drive.

Our drive through the Cairngorms on the A9 enabled us to stop for supplies at an old haunt of ours, the House Of Bruar- a fabulous collection of local food, drink and goodies and we raided their cheese and butchery section as well as their local drinks too. Well worth a stop if you’re passing but perhaps hide your credit card as it’s easy to get carried away in there! Haha

We arrived on site about 5:30 and despite our weariness managed a quick set up. Our pitch had lovely views of the ocean and was close to the facilities block- we both enjoyed long hot showers in a heated shower block having had 6 nights of camping showers in our awning.

Our dinner was sausage and mash- with venison Sausage from the House of Bruar. Absolutely gorgeous and easily done in the Remoska now we were back on electric after 4 nights off grid.

We sat outside until dark, admiring the cruise liner leaving Invergorden just down the coast and slept well – especially after I took down the awning at 2am- the wind off the sea was making a racket through the awning!

Sunday arrived and we were both feeling tired – it had been a full on week of travelling on top of a full on half term of work.

We decided to have a day of doing nothing. We took a gentle walk to the village shop to pick up a couple of supplies and then Keefy made a delicious haggis pizza for lunch.

He started it off on the cadac pizza stone but it was struggling against the wind, so we transferred it to the Remoska for the second half of cooking. It was delicious.

We then took a wander down to the campsite beach and had some time larking around on the paddle board. I enjoyed a swim too. We both enjoyed making use of the on site bar, the Salty Dog when we made our way to the site for a dram.

After a lazy afternoon back at the van we cooked up Cullen skink for dinner which was delicious.

A perfect day of just sitting and watching the sea – something that we had driven all this way for- it really hit the spot.

Monday arrived and despite a not so pleasant weather forecast we were blessed with beautiful sunshine. We unloaded the bikes and cycled along the Moray coastal trail to Lossiemouth (6 miles but sadly not off road like other parts of the trail- although the road wasn’t too busy)

We found the bar/restaurant Harbour Lights immediately and got won over by their position and menu.

Keith had grilled haddock and I enjoyed Cullen skink for the second time in less than 24 hours! I have to say theirs was absolutely exquisite. We then cycled around the harbour, pausing on the wall for a while enjoying the sunshine and also on the look out for dolphins. I’d seen some from the pitch at the campsite yesterday but Keith missed them. I was itching for us both to see them together.

Alas, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time and no dolphins made their appearance- it didn’t matter though, we loved siting there nice and relaxed.

After a quick stop at the Coop we made our way back to the site for a relax. We enjoyed a local cheeseboard and to our delight spotted a pod of dolphins swimming by.

We spent the reminder of the day relaxing watching the sea and another cruise ship- before enjoying dinner- homemade chicken balmoral. (Chicken stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon) served with neeps and tatties and cooked in the Remoska.

Tuesday arrived and again the weather was better than the forecast! We unloaded the bikes again and made a short but beautiful journey to Burghead. This section of the coastal trail is only 2 miles but is fully off road on a disused railway track – part of the Moray coastal trail.

Burghead is small but very traditional. The harbour is used for fishermen although there is a company operating boat trips, which we would have loved to have done one- sadly they aren’t dog friendly without us chartering the entire boat at almost £500 for 2 hours. A shame really- we’ve always managed a boat trip with Jazz and considering the amount of campers with dogs on our site I’m surprised there isn’t a market for dog friendly boat trips along this stretch of the Moray which is heavily populated with dolphins so would make an exciting family activity. But there we go. We saved ourselves £70 (or £500 for the charter) but for the record we were willing to spend our £70 to a local company for a boat trip.

We picked up a scotch pie and a macaroni pie for a picnic lunch to enjoy on the long journey back to Gandalf – haha! – from the Coop- nowhere else open in Burghead. We also enjoyed a look at the Pictish fort, which had great views along the coast too.

Once back at the van we went back down to the beach for more paddle board fun before enjoying more cheese, dolphin watching and an afternoon snooze.

When we were awake we couldn’t take our eyes off the sea!

Dinner was a slow cooker special of Beef stroganoff. As I went to wash up, We saw more dolphins – a majestic site. I just love them.

After dinner we started packing up as tomorrow was our big drive home. We enjoyed the most spectacular sunset we’ve ever seen I think in Scotland that evening. We could have been in Greece.

We’d very much enjoyed our time at West Beach Caravan Park. Although it was pricier at £37 pn we were pleased with the sea view- despite not being right on the front row (we only booked 10 days prior to arrival- the front row book up months in advance and I can see why!) we had a great view. Some of the pitches on the site in our opinion are better than others. The front row (S then number) are phenomenal location just a stone throw to the water. The ones behind that were ok, but a little hemmed in as were the E pitches in our opinion . We liked the VW pitches which we were on but felt ours #7 was the best of those as it had no van on one whole side so you got a wide view of the sea.

We did feel the rules on site were hit and Miss. No ball games for example but no one monitoring when people were playing ball games and therefore hitting our van. Parking with doors facing a particular way made some A class motorhomes that were LH have their main window away from the view. That must have been annoying.

The showers were well cleaned and nice but the push button was the shortest we’ve ever encountered and could have been a degree or two warmer.

Usually we’re not too fussy on these things but I suppose when you’re paying premium you take more notice of smaller details. Having said all of this- we really enjoyed our stay, it was perfect for our needs and we will likely return at some point.

As we left on Wednesday, we decided to make a morning of it seeing as the weather was so good and we were craving the mountains. We filled with fuel at Elgin which was so cheap (£1.78 haha!) and then made our way to Braemar. The route was splendid passing through Tomintoul – we were in heaven. At Braemar we then headed towards Pitlochry – another extremely scenic route, before joining the A9 which led us on our journey south and back home.

If you’ve never been to the Cairngorms- you need to go! There’s a past blog from our previous stays here. We’ve also got a previous blog from further down the Moray Firth / Moray Coastal trail last year here

We left Pitlochry at 12:30 and we’re back home at 9pm having stopped for some shopping in nearby Thetford. So a very good run indeed!

We’d had a brilliant time on our travels- Scotland once more ticked our boxes- and by staying East… no midges!!!!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in Edinburgh- Excellent exhibitions and dog friendly hospitality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time 

Lx 

Adventures in Brora

Gandalf the VW is at his most motherly point of this trip. We’re parked up a stones throw from the sea, and it’s glorious. We can hear the waves crashing and smell the salty seaweed as we watch the Artic Turns overhead.

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’re actually in a prison camp with this huge fence and barbed wire; however the reason for the maximum security is that this campsite, a Camping and Caravanning Club Certified Site called SeaBreezes Caravan site, is a former World War 2 Listening Station. In fact it was so top secret that it doesn’t even appear on the map. 40 people from across the UK were stationed here and it was used throughout both World War 2 and the Cold War before being decommissioned in 1986.

The views to the sea are unrivalled and we fell in love with this place as soon as we drove onto our pitch.

Our journey here today was let’s say, stormy! The weather in Inverness as we passed through was so bad that the coop we tried to visit had closed as their roof caved in, B and M bargains had sewerage coming up under the store as the storm drains overflowed and Aldi was evacuated due to flooding inside! It was so bad I honestly thought “sod this, let’s go home!” But then my northern stubborn genes kicked into action and errands finally complete, we made our way north to Brora into more bad weather.

Apart from…. Unbelievably with just 10 mins of our journey remaining, someone switched off the rain tap above, sucked the grey and black clouds out of the sky and we rolled into Brora with not a cloud in the sky and blue skies above us. Absolutely insane and very lucky, as we were DREADING a wet set up!

We celebrated with an emergency bbq (always have meat in the freezer to knock up an unplanned BBQ) which was delicious and enjoyed some outdoor relaxing time after being cooped up inside yesterday. Honestly we could have been in Greece (perhaps the temperature was a touch lower!)

Sunday

Sunday dawned with a dodgy forecast but we were thrilled to wake up to bright blue skies. In fact it was really quite warm! We had a lazy morning enjoying the view before deciding to have a leg stretch around the village of Brora, following the Village Historical trail.

Brora is a really beautiful little spot on the very north east of Scotland. The river Brora meets the North Sea and as such Salmon fishing was once one of the main industries here.

We saw an old Ice House which used to be used to keep salmon cold, and the oldest house in the village, the oldHarbour master’s house which also included an original barometer on the outside dating from the late 1700s.

In the late 1800s, the arrival of the railway here and the beautiful beach brought holidaymakers and as such large villas were built.

We stopped for a drink in the Garden room, part of the hotel marine, one of the for-mentioned villas, and then went for a drink or two, including sampling the very local whisky, at the Sutherland Arms.

It was interesting sat outside there in the glorious sunshine watching the traffic (a lot of motorhomes and Campervans) travelling on the A9/NC500. There were loads and none were stopping here. Please do, it’s a lovely village with some nice little shops and a great pub. Don’t ignore this beautiful Stretch of coast!