Adventures on the coast of Aberdeenshire

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.

Not my picture but this is what we passed, miles and miles of barley and I couldn’t help but sing Fields of Gold as we travelled towards our campsite

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

Monday

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.

Not my picture – taken from here

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!

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

We succeeded!

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.

Adventures at Trewethett Farm C&MC club site, North Cornwall

Gandalf the VW is parked with a million dollar view, overlooking the North Cornwall coastline in between Boscastle and Tintagel. We are staying in what has to be the best C&MC Club site on their network; Trewethett Farm Club Site. Despite booking this months and months ago we only managed to book a pitch with no electric for our two night stay, something that’s been on my mind. But as soon as we arrived all worried disappeared. I reckon we’ve bagged the best pitch on the campsite. Look at the view!

As we left Minehead this morning we made a stop to Gallox Bridge in Dunster. This is a medieval double arched park horse bridge which dates from the 15th century and is a rare surviving example.

We then made the 2.5 hour drive towards Boscastle, stopping at a lovely farm shop, Hilltop Farm as we neared Boscastle.

On arrival we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw our pitch. Absolutely spectacular. Annoyingly as I emptied the boot the entire food box came crashing out and we sacrificed an entire bottle of red wine! Once we cleared up that mess, we continued setting up and had a drink and a quick sandwich.

We then walked the two mile rather undulating but massively spectacular path to Boscastle along the SWCP.

The water looked incredible and the coastline is just stunning. As we descended into Boscastle we stopped for ice creams, before a drink at the Cobweb Inn and a wander around the now quiet (it was 6pm) streets. Bosvastle’s harbour walls date from 1500s and the streets (there aren’t many) are lined with pretty fisherman’s cottages.

We thankfully had a bus, the last of the day, the 95 to bring us all the way to the campsite (it’s a request stop) for a very worthwhile £5 (£2.50pp single)

Dinner was bbq cod served with asparagus and rice and we sat enjoying the sunset, which was delicious. We could have been in the Mediterranean. Absolutely perfect!

Tuesday dawned a bit draughty to say the least! In fact the wind became so bad in the night that around midnight we LITERALLY battened our hatches by dropping the pop top down!

This morning therefore we declared a rest, and had a fairly lazy start to the day; neither could draw our eyes from the wonderful view!

We enjoyed haddock and poached eggs on muffins for breakfast before taking a very slow walk along the coast path towards Tintagel; my injury still playing me up a touch. With no deadlines or plans today we were free to stop and admire the view as much as we liked, which turned out to be every five mins or so!

When we arrived at Tintagel, we lucked out once more as Ye Old Malthouse, a pretty and old pub with outdoor seating, had a table leaving. We took this as a sign and jumped onto the table. One quick look at the lunch menu and we were drawn in, ordering Cornish crab scotch eggs, and Cornish seafood bisque and the mussels to share. The food was exceptional. A real treat!

We spent the rest of the afternoon having a wander around the town of Tintagel. As we’ve visited before it took the pressure off the need for us to be racing around and cramming stuff in, so we enjoyed a more leisurely afternoon. English heritage have built a new suspension bridge leading up to the remains of King Arthur’s castle, but as we hadn’t booked tickets we were unable to try it out.

We caught the number 95 bus back to the campsite before having an hour out in the sun on our banana chairs, enjoying our premium view.

Dinner tonight was seafood kebabs with rice, once again in front of the most wonderful view, which continued all the way until sunset.

We’ve absolutely adored this site and have been very tempted to try to extend our stay here. But rather than do that we’ve decided to continue with our next site which we move to tomorrow and make it a priority to revisit this site, although whether we’ll be as blessed with the weather and pitch again, who knows!

Until next time

Lx

Adventures in Stonehaven

Adventures in Stonehaven 

Ruby the VW is parked up on the now dry Stonehaven Caravan and Motorhome club site. We’re just on the outskirts of Stonehaven, on the East Coast of Scotland underneath Aberdeen. The site is a standard C&MC Club site, although after the last few nights of being surrounded by terrific views, we can’t help but feel a bit ‘meh’!

The purpose of our visit here is to visit the quaint harbour and the hidden gem that is Dunnotter Caste. The campsite is ideally located for both of these – just a short walk to the harbour and a little further to the castle along the coast path.

As its Friday we decided to treat ourselves to a nice fish meal in one of the pubs here. Seeing as the campsite facilities were open we also decided to treat ourselves to a long hot shower beforehand so I decided to declare it a date night, and therefore I even put some make up on for the first time in over a week! 

We walked along the sea front to the harbour and enjoyed a nice meal in The Ship Inn. Cullen Skink to start and Haddock and chips for main, both of us enjoyed the meal and the view out to the harbour. 

After dinner we took a wander around the harbour and enjoyed looking at all the fishing boats before heading back to Ruby for an earlyish night; the weather had turned a bit cooler on the coast and all our excitement of the previous days had begun to catch up on me!

Saturday dawned not quite as bright as the weather forecast has suggested, but no rain which meant our 10th day with no rain during the day. Hurrah! First job was to extract a tick on Jazz’s eye lid. Thank goodness I had my tweezers! We donned our walking books and set off again back into the harbour area, stopping for lunch at The Seafood Bothy – which we’d eyed up last night. They are a converted horse trailer which sell posh seafood lunches for takeaway – and all the seafood comes off their own boat. We ordered two lobster wraps, for collection in half an hour; just time to nip and try a pint of lager in The Maine Hotel bar; 6 degrees north. They brew their own lagers and ales. In fact we’ve noticed more and more local lager becoming more of a thing on this trip. It was very nice and refreshing.

The lobster wraps were delicious. Whilst we were enjoying them the fisherman (and assuming husband of the lady in the trailer) asked us what we’d gone for, when we told him he said “good choice, I caught those lobsters less than 20 hours ago!” Great!! 

After lunch we set about our walk to Dunnottar Castle. The first bit out of the harbour was very very steep! But once up on the cliff top it was a fairly easy walk and we were rewarded with lovely views, especially when the castle came into view. 

On Wednesday, after all the rainfall, Dunnottar Castle suffered a landslide which resulted in them closing the castle. Saturday was its first day reopening and we could see the damage caused as we descended to the entrance of the castle. 

Dunnottar Castle is a hidden gem, let me tell you! We LOVED our visit so much. There is absolutely loads to see including some amazing bread ovens that have survived since the 1400s, an original cistern, brewery! Also some of the walls and chimneys that have survived all these years were just incredible, considering their position on the coastline and the years and years of battering they must have endured.

The Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden here from Oliver Cromwell’s army in the 17th Century. We spent a good few hours here exploring the nooks and crannies, before making our way back along the coast path to Stonehaven. It took about 45 minutes the way each way from the harbour.