Gandalf the VW campervan is back on our favourite type of site, a Caravan and Motorhome club Certified location, on the outskirts of Gamrie Bay (Gardenstown) Aberdeenshire. The site, called Gamrie Bay CL is surrounded by beautiful wild flowers and it is OH SO QUIET which is quite honestly music to my ears, having had 3 nights on the noisy Mortonhall Caravan site on the Outskirts of Edinburgh.
The drive from Edinburgh was an easy 4 hour journey mainly along A90- although we didn’t hit any traffic the journey did seem to drag a bit! We made a stop at Morrison’s for provisions and also to pick up an Amazon delivery that we’d had made to an Amazon locker! We used our Amazon prime account to purchase a couple of new hats, selected deliver to locker, added our postcode of where we were local to; when the package was delivered we went to pick it up- scanned a code that had been emailed to us and the appropriate locker pinged open! What a time to be Alive!
Travelling through rural Aberdeenshire was pretty, mainly passing fields and fields of golden Barley. We’ve since learnt that the barley grown in Aberdeenshire accounts for a third of Scottish malting requirements.
When we arrived at Gamrie Bay CL, we met the friendly owner Linda and were directed to our pitch, a hard standing fully serviced pitch, overlooking wild flowers and rolling countryside. At just £17pn this feels like a bargain, and we can’t wait to explore the local area on our bikes tomorrow. We’re about a mile or so to the closest harbour village, Gardenstown and something tells me the E bikes are going to be useful!
We had a big chill tonight. The weather is much cooler here so we sat inside Gandalf, and read and watched some episodes of Ozark (well Keefy did!)
I cooked us a lovely Scottish style Sunday dinner in the Remoska; Chicken Balmoral which is chicken stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon served with roasted new potatoes and carrots and green beans. It was delicious and actually one of the first Sunday dinners cooked in this van by us.
We really love Gandalf so much, the living space is just perfect for us.
It’s really very peaceful here, have I mentioned that already?! We really do love these certified locations SO MUCH
It was a fresh night last night and we actually ended up plugging the heater in. As the weather was not so good we decided today to make use of the public bus service that runs between Gardenstown and Banff/Macduff. We walked into Gardenstown along the quiet road – about 1.5 miles- and the last mile downhill!
We had a mooch around the exceptionally pretty Gardenstown. It’s very small, very unspoilt and just adorable.
The small little residential roads weave down to the working harbour and the backdrop of steep hills is just dreamy.
You can actually overnight park at the beach car park for £10 if you wish, but we just adore this CL. The CDP (loo emptying) is the cleanest we’ve seen on a CL, it actually makes most club sites look dated and unkempt. The owners, both motorhomers clearly understand our needs and it’s just so enjoyable to stay here.
Back to Gardenstown- we enjoyed our mooch around and would have had a drink at the pub but it was closed so instead we enjoyed the views before catching the bus from the harbour to nearby harbour town Macduff. By doing it this way we avoided walking back up the very steep hill! The bus ran every 2 hours and the timetable could be found by typing into maps on my iPhone “Bus stops near me”. 2 adults were £7.50 pp each return and Jazz the dawg was free.
The journey to Macduff was pretty, with ample views of the sea and also barley fields and the occasional wild flower meadow.
Macduff was a hive of activity- we only went and stumbled on the cast of The Crown, including Imelda Staunton making her debut as the Queen. They were taking up the harbour by filming scenes for series 5.
Whilst it made an enjoyable hour of so being nosey, it was a shame as we couldn’t get down to the harbour because of it, and that was the highlight of Macduff.
We did manage to buy some fresh fish from the fishmongers though and by mid afternoon the sun had reappeared.
We probably wouldn’t rush back to Macduff- it’s a very traditional working harbour but not as pretty compared to Gardenstown and not much to see (other than the harbour which we couldn’t access!) there are lots of shipyards here and the two pubs were a bit run down. But the fish was superb!
The bus brought us back to within half a mile of the campsite – and the appealing side of the hill! Where we settled back onto the campsite, sparked up the cadac and the fire pit for a fish supper. We enjoyed Scallops and tomato kebabs, fresh salmon and cod accompanied by samphire and vegetable rice. Delicious!!
We enjoyed an hour around the fire pit before retreating for an early night. All this fresh air is really wiping us!
This morning we were woken with shards of sunlight shining into Gandalf. The air was much warmer and it was great to see such blue skies, especially as our plan for today was a spot of cycling, exploring the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. We stocked up on a full Scottish breakfast and hit the road.
Whilst we weren’t covering too greater mileage – it was only 4 miles to our furthest destination, the contours were close together and we knew to expect some serious hills, something which we don’t see on our Norfolk bike rides.
The journey to Pennan from the campsite was breathtaking, the road hugged the coastline and those fields of barley shone in the golden sunlight.
The final approach to Pennan saw us taking in a 17% hill descent before back up, then back down into Pennan, a beautiful unspoilt fishing village made famous in 1983 when the film Local Hero was released as many of the harbour scenes and external shots of the hotel and village scenes were filmed here.
We have visited before back in 2012 but it was joyous to return, it’s absolutely wonderful with its row of houses lined up along the Main Street, many with washing lines on the street – I imagine the sea breeze here dries their washing in no time at all. The pub was sadly closed but there was a coffee hut on the harbour. It is absolutely worth a detour here if you’re ever in close proximity.
It’s all very well coming sailing down the hill into Pennan with not a care in the world- getting back up to the main route is bloody awful – despite our E bikes, which proved helpful with their walking assist to push up the hill, I still nearly collapsed by the time we’d reached the main road. Just 3 more of those to navigate Lydia! 😱🥴
We stopped at the next village along, Crovie which absolutely blew our minds. It is absolutely stunning.
There is absolutely nothing there but don’t let that put you off a visit. Crovie is fairly unique in that it’s entirely vehicle free, because the ledge in which the single line of houses sit is so small no vehicles can pass through. Locals park in a car park on the edge of the village, and use wheelbarrows to transport their shopping etc whilst visitors are requested to park half way up and use the steps to descend into the village.
Because of this, and restrictions on development here, Crovie is one of the best preserved fishing villages in Europe. I honestly can’t remember feeling so at peace in anywhere else we’ve visited. Just wonderful!
Once again, we found ourselves high assisting our way back up out of the village for a good couple of miles, before then the gentle return to the campsite. We’d only rallied up 9 miles return but my gosh, they were tricky and most of all satisfying!
Dinner tonight was chilli con carne and a rewatch of Local Hero, at which point we realised that the pub, which we always have photographed as the hotel in the film, is not actually on the film! Major facepalm! So- as we wave goodbye to Gamrie Bay CL we shall be making a quick detour to rectify our film location tick list!
Gamrie Bay CL has been everything we hoped for and more. The facilities here (disposal facilities- there are no loos or shower blocks here) are the nicest we’ve ever encountered on a CL. The large hard standing fully serviced pitches are a joy to park on, far more level than many Club sites and the chemical loo point is just spotless and not grim, like sometimes CLs can be!
It is SO peaceful here, and we managed two full days of exploring without moving the van once. Obviously having a car or motorcycle would enhance your stay here even more, but even us, two relatively unfit adults managed just fine! It’s a wonderful area and one which we think is often overlooked.
The sun was shining for us as we packed away from Gamrie Bay, and so we made the short detour and retrace of our steps back to Pennan – this time in Gandalf, to try and find once and for all the property used as the hotel/bar and accountancy firm in Local Hero.
And even better… we met the owner of the house on the end, who lived in that house during the filming in the 80s. We were both in our element as she very patiently answered all our questions regarding the filming and changes made to the properties etc. I think she was impressed we’d figured out her house was used as she mentioned how they laugh at the tourists who take pictures of the Inn, when they know they’re looking at the wrong place 🤭
So there we have it- we are officially super fans.
We enjoyed some breakfast overlooking Pennan beach before making our way back up the hill and on towards our next campsite. We made a quick stop at Banff, to look through the window of The Ship, now closed sadly, but was where the interior shots of the bar were filmed. The harbour here was pretty too.
Our final stop in Aberdeenshire before we crossed the border into Moray, was Portsoy. Again we’ve visited here before but the 17th century harbour is just as pretty as we remembered it to be. Apparently, to continue the theme of filming locations- Portsoy has been used for filming of Peaky Blinders. We haven’t watched this but have put it on our list.
We had our lunch at the harbour and a little mooch around before queuing for some rather tasty ice cream at Portsoy Ice Cream, which seems to have become very popular and we can’t argue- the ice cream was exceptional!
Our campsite for the next three days is just over the border on the outskirts of Findlochty. More to come in our next instalment on what we get up to in Moray.