Our Annual Scotland Pilgrimage – May 2018 Part 2: The Isle Of Harris, Outer Hebrides

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. 

20170101_003545A20170101_003619A20170101_003650A

 

20170101_013042A20170101_021258A20170101_021314A

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

【Upgraded】Action Camera,Campark ACT68 Sport Cam Wifi 4K/1080P Full HD Underwater Camera with 170° Wide-Angle 2 Inch LCD Display with 2 Rechargeable Batteries and Mounting Accessories Kit

It cost only £25 and was absolutely amazing!! Would highly recommend. It came with all the fittings needed to attached to helmets, bikes, surfboards, arms, legs – you name it. 

Snorkelling Highlights Video here

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!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B013VVUQM6/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=advinamot-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B013VVUQM6&linkId=3f554e22dcfacad0b676fa9c1c4e699a
Tuesday

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.

Yellowstone Camping Shower – 20 Litre

 

What a cracking spot. 

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 with the Cal Mac ferry behind

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.

 

Read our next instalment here

 

Until Next Time

Lx 

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 

48 hours in Boston, MA

Day 1

We had arrived late (well 8pm – but 1am English time) so after arriving at our Air B n’ B around 9pm we hit the sacks, and therefore woke up very early on Day 1.

Not wanting to waste a second, we showered and were out by 7am having breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, which was near enough next door to our 2 bed flat.

Our Air BnB was located on the outskirts of Charlestown, about 10 mins cab from the airport and about 10 mins taxi to the centre of Downtown Boston. We like the idea of AirBnB as because we are used to motor homing, we really just needed a base, with a shower, bed and coffee making facilities.

Day 1 started with us exploring the Freedom Trail – which is a 2.5 marked trail through the centre of Boston taking in the most famous and historical sites the city has to offer. Before we booked Boston, I had no idea about what a historical city it was.

boston-nps-map

Our plan was to take in half of the freedom trail on day one and half on day two. We began at the Visitor centre on Boston Common so took a Tube from our accommodation to Park Street Station.

We walked through the common admiring the golden leaves and soon found ourselves at the State House.

We followed it though the city centre stopping at the old Burial Ground and the Old State House which is where the Declaration of Independence was read (pictures above).

We popped into Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market – two of the oldest markets in Boston – Faneuil Hall was great to shop for souvenirs and Quincy was a food lovers heaver. Crammed full of food stalls from every cuisine you can imagine, but a recurring theme was seafood of course due to our seaside lication, and lobster and clam chowder featured heavily – as it’s a popular dish here in New England.

Mouth’s set to drooling we popped to the waterside grabbing a beer each at Boston Harbor Cruises ‘The Landing’ – harbor-side bar, before making our way to Quincy Market to pick up a picnic lunch.

I opted for the Lobster Ravioli and boy was it good – Keith went for a Lobster roll, Mum a mac n cheese pie and Alec, a Hot Dog.

After lunch we went back on ourselves back through Boston Common and up Beacon Hill – we stopped for a quick beer in the famous Cheers Bar – slightly disappointing inside, but a must anyway, before exploring the trendy and insanely pretty Beacon Hill district.

All the houses around here had gorgeous fall decorations on their doorsteps and Acorn Street was worth a stop for a picture with its charming cobbled hill.

We went for another wander around Boston Common before requesting an Uber to take us back to our apartment for a freshen up and change for dinner. That was a mistake – traffic in Boston is horrible most of the time. Avoid taxis during peak hours – we called ours at 4pm and it took us over an hour to get 3.5 miles. If we hadn’t have been so tired we could have walked – but the T rail is very good and cheap so if I were there again that’s what I’d do.

Day 1 was our lobster meal night. After many recommendations from Twitter etc, we had pre booked a table at Legal Seafoods in Seaport region. Alec had never had Lobster and it was his dream to eat it in Boston, one of the reasons behind our trip. We had a cocktail on the roof terrace before we made our way to our table by the window – Keith and Alec had the full lobster experience, whilst Mum and I had other lobster alternatives. The meal was fantastic, as was the service and I would wholly recommend this place to try Lobster, our server held Keith and Alec’s had throughout the “cracking the lobster” procedure and actually the meal was very good value -each lobster was under £30 each!

Day 2

Darned Jet lag – we were awake early again, so got up and dressed and went for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts once more. Today was part 2 of the Freedom trail, along with a look around the Naval yard, USS Constitution, the Italian North End and we even squeezed in a boat trip too!

We took our T line train to Haymarket station where we picked up the Freedom trail and followed it all the way around the very charming North End – the “Little Italy” section of town. It’s a lovely place to browse around, perusing menus for later on, taking pictures of the many buildings decorated in lead, and smelling the wonderful aromas of coffee and other Italian delights. The buildings are charming and it was lovely looking around.

Before too long though it was time to head back to Long Wharf for our 10.30am Historical Harbour Cruise. What we didn’t realise when we booked it, was that today was the day the USS Constitution was making it’s first sailing in over 2 years because of restoration works that have taken place. Also – when it’s not being restored, it only sails once a year – so we were beyond thrilled to learn that not only was it sailing but it had just left it’s shipyard and was about to sail RIGHT PAST US! Wow! It truly was the most wonderful sight.

The Harbour Cruise worked as a hop on, hop off, which was perfect as we got to hop off at the Navy Yard, where the USS Constitution usually is based – despite it not being there we could still look around the USS Cassin Young, and also pick up the ending of the Freedom Trail, which led us through the absolutely stunning area of Charlestown and up to Bunker Hill Monument.

We climbed the 492 steps up Bunker Hill Monument and we rewarded with views of the USS Constitution making it’s way back to the yard.

We opted to go for a sandwich lunch at one of the oldest taverns in Boston, which handily was right by the Bunker Hill monument, The Warren Tavern. It served delicious food – mum and I loved our clam chowder, whilst the boys had humungous burgers. The local Downeast Pumpkin cider was one of the best ciders I’ve tasted.

After lunch we walked back to the Navy Yard where we were in time to see the USS Constitution back in dock – what a majestic ship she is. Our Harbour Cruise picked us up at 2pm and we made our way back to Long Wharf.

From here we walked the mile down to the Boston Tea Party Museum and got booked onto the next tour. Whilst this wasn’t my cup of tea (scuse the pun!) – Keith loved it. It was a proper all out American presentation of the history of the Tea Party Massaceur and was very interactive – i.e. the actors all gave us a role to play. There were a couple of moments inside the museum which were pretty impressive (technology based and I won’t spoil it) and also you got to see one of the original tea crates which was  pretty cool.

We made our way back to the apartment for a quick change before heading back into downtown for a couple of local beers in two more historical taverns – The Green Dragon and The Bell in Hand, before wandering into the North End for a delicious Italian meal at  Quattro.

Itinerary Details

Day 1

AM: Freedom Trail  from Visitor Centre Boston Common to Visitor Centre Fencuil Hall.

Lunch: Beer at The Landing (Boston Harbor Cruises) and Lunch at Quincy Market

PM: Beacon Hill District especially taking in Cheers Bar, Acorn Street and Chestnut Street.

Evening: Pre dinner cocktail on the roof terrace then seafood dinner at Legal Harbourside (Floor 1) 

Day 2

AM: 9.00am  Pick up Freedom Trail at Haymarket Station then do the North End Section up to Copps Hill Burying Ground.

10:30 Pre booked Harbour Cruise   $22.99 pp (Hop on Hop Off)

11:00 Disembark Harbour Cruise at Navy Yard, look around then continue up to Bunker Hill on the rear end of the Freedom Trail.

Lunch: Warren Taven – one of the oldest tavern’s in Boston

2pm: Take the Harbor Cruise back to Long Wharf and walk to the Boston Tea Party museum 

Evening: Couple of beers at Green Dragon Tavern and The Bell In Hand – both historical taverns then an Italian meal in the North End – we went to Quattro and it was delicious.

ACCOMODATION

Air B n B – 2 Bed apartment by Sullivan Square transport hub. Total for 3 nights for 4 people – £ 411

Next Up: (Coming Soon)

2 Day Roadtrip in Vermont

2 Day Roadtrip in New Hampshire

24 Hours in Salem, MA

24 Hours at Niagra Falls

Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Aug 5th 2017

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!

Until next time
Lx

Scotland May Half Term – Part 3

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.
Glen Garry viewpoint, the best weather we’ve had here
Glen Garry from the Drone camera
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!
Shrines in Glen Garry
Shrine
An amazing place for a spot of reflection
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!
Loch Ness
The viewing platform across the Corrieshalloch gorge. Gulp. And that’s not the deepest section 
Jazz was as scared as I was and laid flat on the floor so had to be carried!
Corrieshalloch Gorge

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.

Ardvreck Castle, Assynt

 

Ardvreck Castle, Assynt
Can’t resist a selfie
A place of tranquility

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.

View over Clachtoll Beach
Our own slice of heaven

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!

 

Stoer Lighthouse

 

Stoer lighthouse

 

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?!

Can you spot Bluebell the motorhome? 

 

The Old Man of Stoer

 

The old man..
Jazz got photobombed

 

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!

Lunch with a view. The best motorhome lunch I’ve made and a top view too

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.

A perfect spot for a picnic and whale watching (despite not seeing any!)

 

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

Fishmonger arrives at Clachtoll
Enough fish there Lydia?!
Pre dinner walks don’t get better
So happy, we love it here- can you see the mountains at sea? 
Clachtoll Beach
Homemade Seafood linguine for dinner

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!

Secret Beach near Clachtoll only accessed by foot
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.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Scottish adventures

Until next time, which possibly will be our 4 week Germany trip in August.

Lx

 

Sunshine on the North Norfolk Coast

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up back at home having whisked us off to the Costa del North Norfolk coast for a sneaky night/couple of days of sunshine, beach time, swimming in the sea, good food and an enjoyable 8 mile walk. It’s been a little while since our last outing due to work commitments- summer term is always a grueller for us with summer concerts, exams, gigs etc, so we were delighted to find ourselves with a gap in the diary this week, that coincided with the weatherman giving the virtual thumbs up on getting some decent weather!

We were planning a trip to Sandringham House and Castle Rising, but after seeing the weather forcast predicting temperatures of 28-30 degrees, a trip to the beach just couldn’t be resisted, so we chucked our beachwear in, loaded the essentials ( Pimms….check, gin…..check, bikes, picnic, etc) grabbed our Brit Stops bible and hit the road. We were to return to a Brit Stop pub/restaurant that we’ve been to twice (read about it here and here) before, number 239, situated right on the North Norfolk Coastal Path, in between Hunstanton and Wells next to Sea.

20140725-211127-76287150.jpg
Bluebell the motorhome in the car park of BritStop number 239

20140725-211207-76327188.jpg
The outside of BritStop 239

We arrived just after 12:00, it only took just over an hour to get there from our house- ideal for a one night trip. A quick hello to the staff, confirmation that we had a table booked for dinner that night and Keefy set about dismantling the bikes whilst I packed the picnic bits into the cool bags. All loaded up, we cycled the 3 miles to the nearest beach, Brancaster Beach, which we’d visited back in February and vowed to return to in nicer weather.

20140725-212518-77118020.jpgBrancaster Beach in the summer sun- we could have been in Spain!

We enjoyed our picnic on the beach, several glasses of pimms, and a right good chill (or rather bake!). We even managed a swim in the unusually warm sea, it was like a bath!

20140725-213130-77490053.jpg

20140725-213128-77488496.jpg

20140725-213127-77487061.jpg

20140725-213126-77486773.jpg

20140725-213129-77489081.jpg
a few beach snaps 🙂

As dinner time fast approached, we packed up our kit, cycled back and had a sneaky nap (well all this sunbathing is tiring!) before getting on our glad rags, and moseying across for our 7:30pm booking.

The pub/hotel (I’m referring to it as number 239 as you have to be a member of BritStops to stay there in your motorhome and Steve and Mandy are working very hard on the scheme, which we fully support and recommend) is quite an upmarket place, but in a nice subtle way. It has all the appeal of a cosy village pub, with roaring log fire, views over the sea and splendid ale, but then its annex is a fairly posh affair, almost mimicking a Michelin Starred restaurant with its table layout.

The menu is amazing, and ranges from fresh local oysters, fish, steaks, traditional pub food- you name it. We both opted for a battered fish and chip dinner and a crisp bottle of white, and it was delicious.

20140725-214042-78042618.jpg
enjoying my fish and chips

After dinner we nipped Jazz out to walk it off and enjoyed the sunset.

20140725-214221-78141686.jpg
red sky at night, sailors delight..

After a blissfully quiet nights sleep we awoke and enjoyed a Harling Sausage Bap (The Harling sausage is a sausage made by our village butchers and it is delicious!)
Today’s plan was to do the 8 mile circular walk from Holme Next to Sea through Ringstead and Old Hunstanton. Sadly, we were unable to park at the car park at Holme next to Sea due to a ridiculous height barrier meaning we couldn’t get in! Sorry Holme, you just lost our £3:50 parking charge we would have happily paid and money at the kiosk on cold drinks! We carried on up to Hunstanton and found a suitable spot there, and therefore starting at a different point. The walk was lovely, it took in a stretch of the North Norfolk Coast Path and The Peddars Way, as well as some of the sand dunes along the coast between Hunstanton and Holme- interesting, as you walk right beside and then through the Golf Course!

20140725-214918-78558477.jpg

20140725-214918-78558162.jpg
walking on the North Norfolk Coast Path, through the dunes, with the sea on one side and the golf course on the other

20140725-215012-78612329.jpg
walking towards Holme next to sea and looking back to Hunstanton

20140725-215112-78672582.jpg
walking through Ringstead Downs, a pretty area belonging to Norfolk Wildlife Trust

20140725-215158-78718858.jpg
a lonely medieval barn ruin

20140725-215300-78780215.jpg
the pretty school house in Ringstead

We had a great night away and have come home feeling like we’ve been on holiday- good job, as we are now busy with gigs for the next 3 weeks, but are looking forward to our 2 week trip later in August!

Are you off out in your van over the summer? If so, where? Need some serious holiday inspiration as ours feels ages away yet!

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.

20140409-185846.jpg
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.

>

20140409-190022.jpg

20140409-190030.jpg
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!!

>

20140409-190218.jpg

20140409-190229.jpg

20140409-190249.jpg

20140409-190255.jpg

20140409-190326.jpg

20140409-190337.jpg
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!!!

20140409-191054.jpg

20140409-191102.jpg

20140409-191110.jpg

20140409-191135.jpg
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

>