New England in the Fall; a 2 day Roadtrip through Vermont

Day 3

Keith and I got an Uber from our Boston city apartment to the airport, leaving Mum and Alec to finish their packing and have a quick clean up of our Air BnB. We weren’t abandoning them, we just felt the process of hiring our Rental car would be quicker and easier as a twosome rather than a four – and it also saved us having to lug all our luggage back to the airport.

We hired our Medium sized SUV from Dollarcar and for 6 days with unlimited mileage it came in at around £200. The pick up process was quick and easy and we were left to our own devices to go and pick the vehicle we wanted.

We chose a lovely white Kia Sorento and half an hour later I was making my American driving debut. Initially it was terrifying given that the airport is slap bang in the middle of the city. And the driving in Boston reminded me of the driving in Delhi! OMG. But I soon got used to it- basically no rules, expect the unexpected, and Keefy was a fab co pilot. Talking of Co Pilots – Colin the Co Pilot (my iPhone Map system) worked a treat – I had downloaded the whole of America offline for £19.99 and it was brilliant.

We picked up Mum and Alec from the apartment along with all the luggage – which JUST fit in the back – wow we sure don’t travel lightly! We drove past Harvard University before picking up the Highway, where it didn’t take too long at all before we started seeing some phenomenal Autumnal colours on the roadside trees.

Around 3 hours later we were rolling into Wilmington, which is where we were picking up the Scenic Highway 100. Just before Wilmington there was the most beautiful scenic lay-by, which turned out to be one of my favourite views in Vermont.

We stopped for lunch at the Village Roost in Wilmington, before heading North on the Scenic Highway 100, which offered fabulous views as the road wound up and around various ski resorts. The villages were fairly small and remote really, and the houses just so charming – all wooden with picture perfect porches. You could just imagine kicking off your shoes, jumping in one of the comfy chairs and watching the world go by.

Not too far into our journey on the Scenic Highway, we stopped off at the Vermont Country Store in Weston. This is one of the oldest Country Stores in America and dates from the 1940s. It is huge – and here is a tip – don’t go in hungry (or do if you fancy a free lunch- so many samples available!) Wow, what a place – thank goodness we were flying in and out of America and therefore had to consider weight limits, otherwise my credit card would have had a right battering! It was filled with local meats, cheeses, chutneys, jams, maple based products, local alcoholic beverages, clothes, games, old fashioned sweets, kitchenware – oh the list goes on. We brought some maple syrup and some hot Apple Cider (none alcoholic) and made our escape. Certainly worth a visit though – what a lovely shop!

We carried on to our next Air BnB, which was near to Woodstock, with plenty of picture stops on route.

The apartment was a charming loft conversion above a country store. Another chance to buy tons of local produce!

The owner met us and was very friendly – she said they operated an honesty system, basically leaving the shop open for us overnight and if we fancied midnight munchies we could just go down and help ourselves – make a note of what we had and settle up when we leave. She would also prepare us a breakfast basket each morning and leave it at the bottom of our stairs! How cute!

Once we had got over the fact that we all had to share a room (ahem) we got our glad rags on and went for a meal. Unfortunately the downside was that there was nowhere within walking distance, however I didn’t mind driving.

Day 4

Sunday dawned cooler than what we’d been used to on the previous days but it was still clear. We were up relatively early and on the roady 9am. Today’s destination was the Northern part of Vermont. We had fun driving over the historical covered bridge opposite our accommodation – these are a common sight in Vermont and are really pretty.

We carried on just down the road to Quechee Gorge, which is billed as New England’s answer to the Grand Canyon. It’s a steep gorge with a tree lined river running at the bottom and you get a good view from both the bridge at the top and on the river level at the bottom, after a mile or so hike.

Back to the car and our next location was somewhere which I was very excited about – The Ben and Jerry’s Factory!

It was definitely an indulgence for me this stop, I adore Ben and Jerry’s! As you got out of the car, the air carried the smell of ice cream. Yum. We signed up for the next tour, which was 30 mins long and although nothing too special, it was really cool to be there and you got to see briefly where the magic happens!

Next stop was Stowe, home to the Von Trapp Family Lodge – the place which they escaped to from Austria. It’s in a really pretty area and is a ski resort from end of November. The scenery was gorgeous, although the town was more spread out than we imagined which made it hard to explore on foot.

We had a fabulous meal at Piecasso, which specialise in pizza – of course Keith HAD to have the large (just for himself!) ! Oink! It made a good picture though lol and tasted gorgeous.

Alec was nominated to try the local beer “Heady Toppy” – I’d read about it, apparently its voted the best beer in the world. Well, at 8% it must be one of the strongest! Keith really enjoyed the Von Trapp beer. Mum had a Stowe Cider which she loved. I had wait for it……. a tap water as I was in charge of Kelly the Kia.

We started heading back towards our digs along the Scenic Route 100, but this time North to South. We managed a stop at a local distillery to pick up some Bourbon with Maple and some small batch gin. Both of which are gorgeous! We also stopped at the Cider Mill where we had some fresh apple juice, hot cider and I tried the cider donuts, which were good.

We opted for a chill that night as we had been non stop since arriving. It was nice to catch our breaths for an evening – the boys fell asleep by 9 and Mum and I caught up on Strictly.

Vermont Highlights

  • Wilmington
  • Quechee Gorge
  • Ben and Jerrys Factory
  • Vermont Country Store
  • Stowe- esp Piecassimo Pizza and Von Trapp Beer/Stowe Cider

Go West for Summer – Part 6

Wednesday

Wednesday dawned a beautiful morning and we were up and away before 10 heading up the coast to New Quay for our dolphin trip.

New Quay is such a pretty little Harbour town- there is a large reasonably priced car park at the top and you can walk down the fairly steep but very pretty Main Street towards the sea.

There were several “tat” shops for us to poke our head in and we eyes up a couple of dolphin souvenirs to buy later – if we saw the dolphins!

We had a walk along the Harbour and popped into the ticket booth for SeaMor Dolphin Spotting Trips to pick up our ore booked and paid for tickets. They are very dog friendly and have Jazz a treat along with lots of fuss! Pre booking is absolutely essential as despite there being departures every 1.5hrs- it was booked up for the day.

It was soon time to board our little boat- SeaMor only take 12 passengers and we were greeted by the very friendly owner Brett who made sure all was well before boarding. SeaMor have a marine biologist leading the boat trip so information was really interesting and knowledgable. It also wasn’t pre recorded so it felt very personal.

First stop was the lobster pots- where there was a huge lobster waiting! They showed us the lobster up close and told us some interesting facts. Keefy even was allowed to hold it – not for me though they terrify me!

We carried on our if the Harbour and it wasn’t long at all before we got our first sightings of dolphins. How exciting to see them in the wild!

They weren’t the easiest to photograph- in fact the excitement of watching where they would pop up next was similar to being on our Indian Tiger safari earlier this year! What I absolutely loved was the excitement from the guides – they were so passionate about the whole trip- and it wasn’t just the dolphins we saw, we saw seabirds diving for fish. We also got to the listen to the dolphins in the water as they put sonar equipment into the water and we could hear them clicking.

Jazz was great on the boat (its so nice we could take him) he got loads of fuss and attention and was as good as gold!

After an hour and a half it was time to turn back. We’d seen loads of dolphins and some were very close to the boat. We thought the tour was fantastic value for money at £16 pp.

Once back on land we had a fish and chip lunch – despite having a packed lunch we couldn’t resist the smell! So sat on the Harbour wall and enjoyed a small cod and chips each.

We brought some dolphin souvenirs (such tourists!) and headed back to Ruby.

We headed to Llangranog Beach as there was overnight parking in the beach car park. Only thing is the beach car park isn’t huge and to get their you go down a tiny road (so don’t even attempt it with anything too big) – we got down ok but Llangranog was PACKED! Somehow after only 5 mins of waiting as inconspicuously as possible we got parked. It’s £9 to park from 4pm-10:30am which is very reasonable.

The beach area is lovely – a proper cove with caves etc. Surfing seemed to be a popular activity. It’s dog friendly on half of it and we enjoyed a couple of hours on our sun loungers watching the sun go down.

We were surprised at how many people were still on the beach at 7pm- the car park was showing no signs of emptying out! So we had a cider in the local before starting to cook as it was so busy still! I’m really glad we did as as we came out of the pub here was the most beautiful sunset.

I grabbed us a couple of gin and tonics and we enjoyed a very special sun set with about 50 others- that was obviously why the beach was still so busy.

A Hymer had joined us (gawd knows how they got down there!) so we Cooke da simply supper of salmon and tagliatelle before enjoying a scotch on the beach and having an early night. What a lovely day

Thursday

We slept like logs (something to do with the booze I reckon) and I narrowly had avoided a hangover. We needed to get some air in the front tyre so had a fairly early start so we could find a garage. Today I was excited as we were going to a campsite I’d booked ages ago- we had a got a private hot tub to enjoy!

Tyre sorted, we made our way to a National Trust property down the road. Llanerchaeron is a Georgian Villa and had some lovely grounds to wander. The villa itself was interesting to see and it had the most fabulous walled garden. Certainly worth a trip if you’re passing. y

It was time to move onto our campsite – down the road, Bergeod Farm Camping and Caravan Park- a brand newly opened campsite with lakeside view and private hot tub. I was just in the mood to spend the afternoon chilling in and out of the hot tub. The sun was shining it was lovely.

Apart from- it wasn’t, it was truly awful! We had a suspicion on arrival. We were led through a building site. However- The welcome couldn’t have been warmer- Chris, the owner came out and enveloped me into a huge hug! Never had a welcome like that before but she was friendly and it was nice.

We were shown to our £40pn executive pitch. We were underwhelmed but neither of us dared to admit it. Keith especially as he knew how much I’d been looking forward to it. The road to the campsite was very bumpy and pot holes all over- fine but not what we were expecting for a new campsite. The pitch was very uneven – to the point we needed chocks. Fine- but not as advertised. The hot tub wasn’t working. Not fine- I was not happy at all and was told it would only be refunded if we couldn’t get in by 11pm. It was 1:30pm and check in was from midday. Disappointed!

The water supply was held together with something like Gaffa. Surprising considering it’s a brand new site.

The electrics hadn’t been professionally fitted – wires showing at the base.

There was a poo stained towel left on our pitch- I took it down to reception and didn’t get any form of apology at all.

The hot tub shed was held up by loose planks of wood.

There was a hose running down through our pitch!

The view wasn’t anything like the pics on their Facebook page. It was grotty and man made and hadn’t been landscaped with piles of earth everywhere and loose shingle with breeze blocks dotted around the “paths” and road.

The facilities were in porta cabins and not a brand new toilet block as I’d read online the night before (this has since been updated on their website)

The chemical loo point was disgusting – more similar to something you’d expect on a £10 pn site- NOT £40.

There were NO washing up facilities at all on site. Nothing – not even an outside sink with cold water. Not acceptable on a £40 a night site.

This tipped me over the edge- I’d had enough so I told Keith to pack up whilst I went to explain we weren’t staying. I managed to get a refund but they would not listen to my feedback and were not interested at all. Since leaving we’ve noticed on their Facebook page the owner calling anyone who leaves negative feedback “haters” and “evil” and has had discussions about blocking and removing negative feedback. Professional eh?

From their advertising we were expecting a brand new sparkly campsite. In reality it’s not finished- there is no reason why they shouldn’t be open – however they cannot and should not be charging full premium prices for camping there during this time. Pitches without hot tubs are £25pn. That’s more than any other site we have stayed during this holiday alone- and every single one had a washing up area.

I was fuming- it’s taken me 2 days to calm down!

Sadly our decision to leave was followed by our decision to drive home 2 days early. We had a problem with our leisure battery so needed hook up really but I was in such a bad mood I knew I’d be grumpy whatever we did so may as well just drove home.

In actual fact they did us a favour as we had a great journey home and missed the terrible traffic problems that Aug bank hol provides!

On the way we pulled off the M4 to stop off at Caerwent Roman City remains. It would have been the main roman settlement for the west of England. The Roman Walls remains were the biggest we had seen.

We carried on and we’re home for 11pm. What a shame to have finished our holiday like this. Despite our last night- it was a great tour and we really enjoyed Pembrokeshire. We’d eaten some lovey Welsh cheese and ice creams – and drank some delicious Welsh Ale and cider.

We did the whole trip on 2 Tanks of fuel which is astounding!

Until next time

Lx

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

Old Buckenham Air Show Review

For the last five years we've had to endure driving past signs for the Old Buckenham Airshow knowing we were unable to go because of other diary commitments or us taking our holidays too early. This year however our diary was full of local commitments so for the last 6 weeks or so we've been quietly looking forward to this event.

Old Buckenham airbase was built for the USAAF 453rd Bombardment Group during the war and was home to the legendary James Stewart for a time. It's just off the A11 in between Thetford and Norwich.

Showday soon came around and we'd spent all week planning what to take in our picnic hamper. Yes, that's right- Old Buckenham Air Show is one of the few events we've attended recently that still allows a good old fashioned picnic – despite the fact that there was a very enticing local food (and drink) village as part of the show at reasonable prices.

We bundled Jazz the pampered pooch into the van along with enough food to feed the five thousand, and set off nice and early to secure a good spot! As well as being family friendly (apparently the kids changing areas were very good this year) Dogs are also welcome and catered for with a great big Doggie Watering station.

Car parking was easy and free- all the local air cadets were doing a fabulous job guiding cars in and before we knew it we were setting our stall out in prime position (with lots of others I hasten to add- definitely worth arriving around 10am as gates open).

We left our picnic with our chairs and went for a wander around the show. First up for us was the large display of WW2 vehicles- Keith was in his element, he's a huge history buff and the vehicles were in great condition. He had to drag me past the queue for tank rides! It looked so much fun so maybe next time for that!

There was also a large collection of classic cars to look at including a couple of beautiful split screen VWs 😍. May favourite was the one painted in the colour of my favourite wine 🍷.

Further round the site was a small funfair for the kiddies, a collection of stalls selling camping bits, aviation and wartime souvenirs.

After an hour or so of mooching I couldn't wait any longer to get picnicking- this was timed well as the commentators announced the bar opened at 12:00. Keith went to get some beer whilst I set our food out. He really enjoyed all four of the local ales on offer but his favourite was the Shark.


After a lovely leisurely lunch it was almost time for the main feature and boy what an exciting program it was!

First up was some airplane aerobics and some impressive loop de loops!
This was followed by local pilots The Wildcats doing some amazing synchronised formation work.
A favourite act was next- O'Brien's Flying Circus- where Brendan attempted successfully to land his plane on a moving landing area being towed at 60mph by a car! Which was gripping! He managed a touch down despite fairly strong winds

Next up was our show highlight- star of the film "Memphis Belle" – the last flying B17 in Europe, SallyB. Absolutely sensational seeing her in the air. And when she put her smoke on for her final salute and they played We'll meet again through the speakers- well, Keith and I were blubbing like babies!

How do you follow this?! Well, with the P51 Mustang "the Shark" of course. Listen to the sound of the wind rushing through the gun placements. AMAZING

The Hurricane that was scheduled to fly was sadly unable to fly due to technical problems so instead the Messerschmitt took to the skies.

Next up and another treat- the Spitfire- this particular one is used in all the films. Again- just listen to that sound.👇isn't it fabulous.

After such an indulgence of history and beauty it was onto the lighter fun acts, including Otto the helicopter from O'Brien's flying circus doing all sorts of crazy things that you wouldn't normally see helicopters do!
There were a couple more local pilots doing light aircraft manoeuvres before the finale – a real plane shadowed by a remote controlled 41% sized model aircraft- doing a simultaneous routine. Fantastic. The flying went on for over 1.5hours and was fantastic. We absolutely LOVED the whole show (as you can probably gather by this post!)

Tickets cost £18 (advance online rate) or £20 on the door for Sunday. Saturday is a reduced rate but there were less acts flying. Would highly recommend this for next year.

Campsites close by include Old Buckenham Country Park. Or you can pre book camping at the airfield.

Keep an eye on twitter @OldBuckAirshow for details of next years show and if you want to see more pics of the day search #oldbuckairshow

All pics above were taken on my Sony Cybershop Superzoom //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=advinamot-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00IFEWK56&asins=B00IFEWK56&linkId=e233801f00ef97f4ad64e2f77d62eab1&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff.

Until next time
Lx

Our annual Pilgrimage to Scotland Part 3: A quick stopover at the Lake District 

Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside  Gillside Beck- we arrived here yesterday, Friday, after a fairly longish journey from our Loch Ness Brit Stop. The reason for departing Scotland a day early is stood proudly behind us, and frankly looks scary as hell- perhaps that’s where the name Helvellyn comes from! For a couple of years now, Keith and I have talked about how we’d like to tackle Helvellyn and Striding Edge. For both of us, it’s a personal challenge. Neither of us particularly like hill walking, and I’m terrified of drops, yet I have spent hours marvelling at people’s instagram pics of Striding Edge. I just knew I had to go and give it my best foot forward. Luckily, my husband is also crazy so despite his hatred of walking up hills agreed to attempt it with me, if he weather looked ok on or way home from Scotland. 

So back in February we booked our pitch at Gillside Farm, knowing there was a hefty chance we’d cancel if weather looked bad. We’d been about internet for well over 24 hours and finally picked up 4g as passed through Fort William. Keith as driving and I checked Patterdale – well il be blowed it was only showing full sun for tomorrow. “Off we go then”, I said, feeling the colour draining from my chops! 

Gillside Farm is nestled right at the bottom of the main path from Glenriding up to Helvellyn- so on arrival we decided to check where our oath started, before prepping our rucksacks, making a packed lunch and enjoying a simply cook Murgh Kari curry for tea. The mood in the Ruby was certainly of apprehension! We watched the live election debate before calling it a night. I dreamt that we got stuck on Helvellyn! What a great dream- not! 

Saturday dawned as promised, absolutely glorious. There really is nowhere as beautiful as the Lakes in this weather! Apprehension was again strife! We moved around our daily routine almost in silence- I chucked some venison and a few bits of stray veg into the slow cooker to bubble away ready for our return. Keith packed, double packed and triple checked the rucksacks. By 09:15 we’d had our porridge and cereal bars and were ready to go. I was BRICKING it. 


The first mile is literally uphill. There is no relief from it – it is hard. Really really hard. Loads of people passed us, we were both puffing like a steam train and I was almost ready to chuck the towel in. However-the  views were stunning and that really kept us going. The views to Ullswater were sensational. 

 

After over an hour and exactly a mile- the uphillness became easier! I thought I’d suddenly become super fit but Keith declared “hurray, we are now following the contours rather than crossing them” We were rewarded with great views of Helvellyn and red tarn and actually started enjoying ourselves! 

Before we knew it we were reaching the start of Striding Edge. I gave myself one last talking to and before I know it we were across! Striding Edge if you are not familiar, is a ridge that leads to Helvellyn, England’s 3rd  highest behind Scafell and Sca. It was really, really hard- in fact a man in front of us stopped and turned round- he said he couldn’t cope with it any more- so was going to find the easier path. Keith and I (and jazz!) kept our heads down,took it very slowly and carefully and stopped regularly for photos – AND I DIDNT HAVE A PANIC ATTACK! 

I still can’t believe we walked across that ridge!!!

Getting to the other side my legs were like Jelly. Then we realised we had nasty scramble ahead to get to the summit. It wasn’t a scramble it it literally was rock climbing. Omg. 😳 However the camoradory between all the walkers was fantastic – and as we crossed the last ridge before the summit I had a tear in my eye! We’d done it! Bucket list ticked ✅




After a cheese roll or three we discovered it was as steep if not worse on the way down! Off we set, taking so much care- we even had to carry Jazz over a couple of bits as he refused and dug his claws in! Slowly we descended and 3 hours later we were back at Ruby feeling immensely proud of ourselves! 


We had a swift dram before continuing to the pub for a couple( including a Lake District Gin!!) and returning to Ruby for our venison stew.


Tomorrow we head home (sad face!) we have had a blast and couldn’t have wished for an sweet finish today. We’ve survived 10 whole days in our downsized campervan with no pop top. Ruby is working for us! Hurrah! 

Until next time 

Lx 

Our annual pilgrimage to Scotland, May 2017. Part 2. Wester Ross

Tuesday

 We had such a peaceful night at the foot of the Cuillin Hills and slept like logs! Unfortunately when we woke up it was still not great weather wise, so we wasted no time in packing up and hitting the road. We made a quick stop at the Spar shop in Broadford before taking the Kyle Bridge back over to the mainland. We had a brilliant time shopping in the Spar, it was crammed full of local food and drink- our major weakness! We popped in for some potatoes and some rice, and came out with over £60 worth of goodies, including some local frozen venison, sausages, veg, a bottle of Misty Isle Gin (whoops, that slipped in the basket!) cheeses, chutney, ales etc. Whoops!


Back on mainland and we took the Wester Ross Coastal route, which was beautiful despite the wet weather. We pulled over for some toast and marmalade overlooking Loch Caron, and carried on towards Gairloch. We really enjoyed this route and can’t recall taking it before. We will definitely return to this area, and hope for some better weather next time. Talking of the weather, just as we were pulling up at our home for the next two nights, Gruinard Bay Caravan Park, the rain stopped, hurrah! 
The pitches at Gruinard Bay Caravan Park have a super view, they are right on the beach front. We however managed to be assigned the pitch closest to the neighbouring graveyard… so we decided to park on sidewards so our door was directly facing the sea. Not sure if we were meant to, but no one challenged us, and it wasn’t particularly busy there. Otherwise our door would have been directly facing the graves! It was a nice enough site, but needed a bit of TLC to say the least. Showers were clean, but very small, and actually only one of each sex, and situated in a rickety portacabin. We enjoyed a chill overlooking the sea for the remainder of the afternoon, and a hearty Spag Bol for tea before having an early night. 


Wednesday arrives and still no sign of rain, so we enjoyed a full cooked breakfast outside before driving off pitch 8 miles down the road to visit National Trust for Scotland’s Inverewe Gardens.


 We enjoyed their pinewood trail first with Jazz, then left him to sleep in the van whilst we wandered round the gardens. They are billed to be the best botanical gardens in Europe. We enjoyed our visit although I think we were perhaps a couple of days late to enjoy the best of the rhodedendrums. Still worth a visit. 



On our way back to the campsite we followed signs for “The Food emporium”, which turned out to be a little smokehouse where we picked up some delicious smoked cod and smoked cheddar cheese.


 By now the sun was back out in force so we scuttled back to the campsite and set up base again. Tonight we enjoyed a lovely BBQ, this time on the gas one as it was bit drafty, consisting of our smoked cod and couscous for starter then steak and chips for main. Yum! Keith washed his down with some very local ales from a small craft brewery down the road, one of which he said was the best he’d had! I also managed to get the drone up a couple of times. A happy afternoon and evening. 


Thursday 
We decided to make an earlyish start as we’d got a few miles to cover today. We skipped our morning cuppa and breakfast, choosing to stop at viewpoint further into our journey to enjoy those. 

Somehow, despite a breakfast stop and a top up Tesco shop, we managed to arrived at our Brit Stop location almost an hour before our first eta! We are now at BritStop no. 841, a tea room and farm shop situated on the quiet side of Loch Ness. We’d never taken the B852 road on the other side of Loch Ness before, and Keith tells me the road is called General Waide’s Military Road. It was a lovely alternative to the much busier A82 . After introducing ourselves, we had a quick bite to eat and set off for a little walk down the road to the Falls of Foyer. What we didn’t realise was that Robert Burns based his poem “Waterfall” on these falls, and they are set within a most spectacular gorge. 

It really was a lovely walk, and we worked up a good appetite to enjoy a nice afternoon cream time on arrival back at the tea rooms. 
The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chilling, tomorrow we have a longer drive towards the Lake District as we have a date with Hellvelln and Striding edge (weather permitting!) on Saturday. Dinner tonight was a very very tasty Simply Cook Haddock risotto. Yum! 

Until next time 

Lx 

Our annual pilgrimage to Scotland, May 2017. Part 1. Norfolk to Skye 

Thursday (into Friday!)

Ruby the campervan is parked up at our favourite Scotland Border crossing, Carter Bar, just before Jedburgh. It’s 00:30 (Friday morning) and we were working until 7pm in Thetford. It’s been a funny ol week, we’ve battled illness, workload and a new (unplanned!) motor for Ruby’s habitation sliding door, but somehow we’ve made it here and in record time! If that doesn’t warrant a beer I don’t know what does. Unlike previous stays here, tonight we have company in the form of two other motorhome. Trying to be as quiet as we could, we set Ruby up for bed and crashed out for a hefty deep sleep. 

Friday 

Friday dawns the most spectacular of day’s. We were up by 07:15 and enjoyed actually seeing the view! Usually it’s misty! Not only is it ☀️- it’s also HOT!!! At 07:30 I’m parading around in shorts and a vest top- with NO FLEECE! We had a quick chat with our neighbours before hitting the road again just after 08:00- destination, Loch Lomond, via New Lanark, a UNESCO heritage site near to Glasgow. We followed the Tweed Valley all the way and it was so beautiful, all these years of coming, it’s always a great treat to discover a new gem and has earnt a place on our “next time” list. 

New Lanark was lovely. It’s now looked after by UNESCO but once was a Georgian Mill village. All the buildings have been kept original, and you can go inside many for a fee. We chose not to as it was such a sunny day it seemed a shame to be inside. Instead we took advantage of the 5km woodland and waterfall trail along the banks of the River Clyde. Parking was free which was a nice touch and there is no entrance fee if you are only wandering the village without going inside. Parts of the walk along the Clyde reminded us of being in Colorado. After our walk, we enjoyed some of the New Lanark ice cream which is made on site. 

After a quick lunch we hit the road again passing through Glasgow and onto Loch Lomond. Always an exciting moment for us getting that first view of Ben Lomond. We stopped at the farm shop near to Luss, stocked up with local cider, cheese, venison- all the essentials! before carrying on to the main car park in Tarbet. Recently wild camping in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs has been banned, however they have introduced a fair system of pre purchasing a permit for the evening at £3 per night. We were keen to support it and duly paid our £3 online 30 days in advance, choosing where we wanted our permit to be valid. Sadly, on arrival at 5pm the car park was packed. We managed to squeeze in a space but the area was heaving. Obviously the sunshine and the bank holiday was bringing the world and his wife out, and although we gave it a good hour, we decided it was far too busy for us, and so we set off again, this time heading for the viewpoint at Black Mountains, just beyond the Bridge of Orchy. It was a gamble, would we turn up and find no space, as it was going to be near to 7pm. It was a tense journey, but luckily we arrived to find bags of room, with only one other van there. We bagged the best spot too, so we went about setting up a BBQ and went on to enjoy a fabulous evening. During the evening several other vans arrived, including a caravan, all stopping for some rest before heading north again early the next morning. We had a wonderful evening and slept like logs! 

Saturday arrived and the sunshine was still here. Hurray! The forecast however was not so optimistic, so we set off, stopping for breakfast at Glencoe, always a favourite- good lord, it was SO BUSY! We’ve stopped there every year for breakfast and this year without a doubt was the busiest we have seen. We squeezed on to the end and managed to have our breakfast, I decided to make the bagpiper a cuppa which he enjoyed. Good deed done so off we travelled again, towards Fort William.


 Again, it was PACKED! We squeezed into Morrisons for a top up shop, there were queues everywhere, not too dissimilar to the Christmas Eve shopping experience! I managed to get some local gin, which cheered me up, so shopping loaded in, we set off along the road to the Isles, our destination being one of our favourite sites, SilverSands at Arisaig. We tried to stop at Glenfinnan Viaduct, but couldn’t get parked. Are you noticing a theme here? 

Onwards we went, arriving at Silversands just as the rain began. A spot of rain does not take away the beauty of this place, and once again we were lucky to have a sea front pitch so we settled in, had a long nap and woke in time for the rain to have gone. 10 steps away from our pitch we had the most gorgeous white sand beach. It really is idylic. We enjoyed a beer on the beach, and met our neighbour, Charlie, who turned out to be a lovely fella- always checking if we needed anything from the shop when he went in his car. That evening I cooked us a delicious Simply cook prawn linguine and we went to bed around 11- it was still light! 


Sunday- the weather forecast wasn’t good, which was disappointing so we decided to have a lazy morning. I cooked us a cooked breakfast and just as I was serving up, the sun came out! “Quick”, I said to Keith, “get the outside chairs out, it may not last”! We enjoyed our sea view and watched as people fled to the beach, kayaks and dingies in hand, everyone desperate to enjoy the sun whilst it was there! 

Last night we discovered that the midges are here! Booo! Apparently it’s the long mild winter, but they are here, and in force. Keefy has been eaten alive! And guess what, we’ve left all our sprays at home! During a morning chat to our neighbour, he got brave and asked if they had any repellent he could borrow. Cue Charlie giving us an entire full spray of Smidge, insisting we keep it. What a nice man! 

Ruby is getting a lot of attention. Keith gets stopped several times as he is getting the bikes off! All these years of motorhoming and barely anyone ever speaks to us, yet now we have Ruby we seem to be attracting people for chat after chat! Not that we are complaining, it’s nice to be sociable, and everyone here is just SO FRIENDLY!

 We finally manage to get off, we are cycling 2 miles down the road to Camusdarach Beach- where the film Local Hero was filmed 35 years ago. We came a few years ago but the weather was dull and murky then.


Today, the sun is hanging on in there, so we optimistically pack a picnic and keep everything crossed! The weather gods are certainly on our side it seems, it’s a picture perfect day. This beach is simply stunning. It stretches for probably nearly a mile when the tide is out, as it was when we visited today. When the tide is in, there are 2 beaches not reachable without getting wet! I tried to send my drone up but it wasn’t happening, a badly timed update request means I can’t send it up which is annoying but can’t be helped. 😡 We had a lovely picnic though of cheese, venison slices, fresh baguette, and of course a beer and cider to wash it down. We had such a lovely visit! 

 
The sun was still shining on our cycle back, and it continued to shine the remainder of the day and evening. We sat outside taking in the ever changing view from our pitch- we watched as the tide came in and then went out again.

We had a lovely chat with next door, and shared a drink together. As the evening went on we were joined by several other couples seeking out the best views of the site. Seems we were on the best pitch going- we were happy to share it. I also managed to override my drone so I sent that up to capture the phenomenal sunset. Next door also had a drone, a DJ phantom, so he sent his up too! 

The atmosphere on site was electric. Everyone having a drink, toasting the sun, it was just such a happy atmosphere. There were even people doing yoga on the beach! It’s a really really special place! Obviously the local gin helped of which I managed to make quite an indent and Keefy’s whiskey must have evaporated in the heat 😜 but we soon realised it’s was gone 9pm and we still hadn’t eaten! Whoops! Dinner was quickly cooked and eaten and we enjoyed the last of the sunshine. 


The whole campsite came out to see it dip below the horizon, I almost felt like applauding! Off to bed we went, tipsy but on a massive high to say the least! The next thing I know, and it’s 3am and K is raiding the fridge, rubbing the contents of the the fridge on his legs! Turns out he is in agony with his bites. 😞 An advantage of having Ruby is that he can’t pace any more, however tossing and turning in bed and grumbling is as bad for me to hear. At 4am I suggest we go down to the beach and he goes for a paddle! The seawater helped soothe his legs earlier and I know he must be in agony cos he agreed quickly, so at 4am we were on the beach having a paddle, like you do! 


The seawater must have helped as of course, he managed to get straight off to sleep, whereas I lay away awake for 2 hours! 🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄 mind you hearing the sea lap beneath you and the dawn chorus is not the worst way I’ve spent a couple of hours. 

Monday arrived and as forecasted, the rain decided to make an appearance. Next door, bless them, gave Keith some antihistamines to help his itching, and also a couple of cans of Tennants for our fridge as a parting gift- how nice was that? We had another couple of people stop by Ruby interested in her conversion, and admiring her, it’s really a very strange sensation for us as unlike many others it seems, we were not drawn to VWs cos of their image! It was just the van which worked for us! Hey ho, it’s really nice to have chats with lots of different people and something that has never happened to us before in 7 years of motorhoming! We waved a sad farewell by 10:15, and rolled into. Mallaig for our ferry to Skye just before 11. “Are you booked on?” the man cheerfully asks. “Er no….”. “Sorry but we are fully booked ALL WEEK!” You could see the colour drain from our faces. What an epic oversight. We’ve done this crossing three times before and never booked. What’s going on?! The man offers for us to queue in the reserve queue for the next ferry at 12:00 although he says there is no guarantee that we will get on. We decided to go for it. Luckily, Lady Luck was on our side and they fit us on, what a relief, neither of us fancied the journey back to Fort William retracing our steps! 


We arrived on Skye thanks to a smooth crossing (unlike last time!) and it’s been raining all afternoon. Can’t complain though, we’ve had our share of good weather for Scotland. We drove to Tallisker, hoping to park somewhere local so we can have a few drinks and a meal in the pub opposite the distillery. Like everywhere else, Tallisker is heaving with people and we struggle to park. 😔 in the end we manage to get a space but we are unable to stay overnight. So we opted for an early dinner in the pub, which was delicious before driving on to a large lay-by on the way towards Sligachan where we settle in for a chill. 

Until next time 

Lx 

A cheeky night away in Constable’s Country, Suffolk May 13th 2017

Ruby the campervan is parked up alongside 4 caravans on a very pleasant Camping and Caravan Certifed site, The Briar,  just south of Ipswich. The main draw for us to visit this area, is Alton Water, a man made reservoir complete with cycle path around the circumference. 


The Briar is a lovely grassy CL situated in the small village of Bentley, and offers EHU, a loo and emptying and filling points. It’s very relaxed and at only £15 for the night, and less than an hour’s drive for us it’s perfect location for a one nighter. The owners are lovely and made a point of coming to say hello once we were set up. They’d kindly let us arrive before lunch to enable us to enjoy an afternoon of cycling. They were fascinated with Ruby and were keen to have a nosey, as they are thinking about getting their own Ruby in the near future. 


We enjoyed a quick cheese and ham toastie before we unloaded the bikes and hit the road, less than 3 miles to Alton Water. The weather was cloudy, but not raining, and there were lots of families out and about around and on the water which was lovely to see. The track around Alton water was kept well and our bikes coped well – I was so impressed, despite some steep bits we managed to cycle non stop with no getting off and pushing! We stopped every now and again to find some geocaches and take some pictures, and didn’t rush, the circuit took about 2 hours to complete. There was a lovely wildflower meadow that we passed- It was lovely. 





We cycled back to the campsite, via the local strawberry seller (check out the size of those 🍓 and promptly had a longish nap! I love Ruby naps! Good for the soul! 

We’d decided we were going to be brave and risk an outdoor BBQ for dinner, despite the weather forecast being a bit so so, you can imagine our delight when just as Keefy sparked up, the weather gods took care of the lingering dull skies and the sunshine and warmth we’ve missed recently came out to say hello! It was glorious, we even took our jumpers off and had short sleeves! 


Keefy cooked a blinder of a feast for us; local burgers, pork and apple sausages and chicken, cooked to perfection on our new gas BBQ that we were gifted from May and Bernard, whilst I served couscous, coleslaw and jacket potatoes, which were an experiment done in the slow cooker, but they were fantastic! It really was a lovely evening, and as the sun went down we decided to have a walk to the local for a couple of pints which was really nice. 

Sunday dawned wet unfortunately, so we made the most of a lie in, partly as someone, ahem, had a little bit of a headache. A bottle of red wine followed by two pints of aspall will do that Lydia, when will I learn! By the time I was ready to surface the rain had gone, and so we cracked the bacon and eggs out and I was soon feeling 100% again. We also tried some toast (done in the toastie maker, worked well!) topped with John, the campsite owners Saville Marmalade, which was delicious.


 He caught us mid marmalade sampling as he came to check we’d had a nice evening and was thrilled we were enjoying the marmalade. He also wanted to tell us that having been in Ruby yesterday, his wife had dragged him to Marquis to view two yesterday afternoon!! We had another nice chat before packing up and waving goodbye. The sun had decided to reappear so we pointed Ruby’s wheels in the direction of National Trust Flatford Mill, 3 miles away. Flatford Mill is well known as being the view behind the painter John Constable’s paintings. 


It was a picture perfect day, so we enjoyed a 5 mile circular walk from Flatford through the Depdale Valley.   I can’t think of anywhere that is more English- with green meadows, a perfect river running through, rowing boats, ducks and ducklings, a tea shop, and 16th century buildings to peruse. 


We enjoyed a lovely cream tea overlooking the bridge and then a local ice cream before heading home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead.
What a lovely bit of escapism- and now it’s less than two weeks til our next trip- one of our favourites, Scotland. 

Until next time 

Lx 

#TBT – Snowdrops 💕

*TBT (Throw Back Thursday!)

Those of you who saw yesterday’s blog post will realise we’ve been a tad preoccupied of late. So this morning as I was following our zombie like early morning routine, it took me quite by surprise to see a tiny white flower standing proudly underneath our apple tree. It feels like we’ve lived in this house forever- but of course moving in in May meant that we missed last winter here and therefore we had no idea that the previous owner apprears to enjoy snowdrops just as much as me. 

I’ve always wanted to have my own snowdrop display so I’m off to work a happy bunny indeed 😄

If like me, the first sign of snowdrops are enough to put a spring in your step then see our post below from last year about where to see a fabulous display. 

Last year’s blog post in search of the best display of Snowdrops

Summer 2016: Adventures in Europe, part 10- Homeward Bound

Day 26- Saturday

Location – Trier Campsite, €25 pn with electric

Miles driven – 300

Weather- showery but sunny and warm in late afternoon

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on the banks of the Moselle River on the outskirts of Trier. It’s not the nicest campsite we’ve been on, but it is serving a purpose. 


We were up early and drove 4 hours to Trier and its 110 space aire, arriving at 1.00. Annoyingly, the aire car park was completely taken over by the ADAC world championship rally, and there were rally cars, stewards all over the place and a big cross through the Motorhome sign. Not quite knowing what to do for the best, I pulled over and promptly got whistled at by a steward- turns out I had stopped in a pit stop!! 😂 Bluebell’s been officially everywhere now! Lol

On the exit road there was a sign for a campsite so we pulled in and luckily they had space, Keith wanted to see the Roman remains here and I could tell he was disappointed the aire was shut. They probably could have included a note in the Camperstop Book as I’m sure it would have been known about.

After a quick lunch we walked along the banks of the Mosel River to the old town. We saw the Roman bridge, the lower columns were 2000 years old!


We crossed the Roman bridge and went into town, the outskirts of town are awful, seedy and filthy, I was crossing everything that the historic centre would be nicer. Once we got into the Market Square, we relaxed, it was very pretty indeed and had a lovely character- high wooden building etc, lovely.


A short walk from the Market Square and we reached the most impressive of the sights in Trier, the Porto Nigra, which is the worlds largest preserved a Roman City Gate. What an amazing sight. Keith went inside whilst I had a cheeky wine, payment for dog sitting!


We then did a walking trail which included other Roman remains, including the amphitheatre, Roman baths and Basilica. My favourite was the amphitheatre, it was surrounded by banks of vineyards and was a bargain to go in, only €4 each. You could go underneath the arena and right around the top of it. It was very easy to reinact Russell Crowe’s Gladiator!


Roman sights visited, we headed back to the market square for some beverages, Keith was happy he found somewhere selling Kristellweissen (spelling!) I settled on the local wine. We moved onto a pop up wine stall also in the market square, I tried the local fizz which was delicious, and Keith had a pino noir white. 


We then had a meal, only our second meal out of the trip- opting for a local restaurant also on the market square, we both had pork schnitzel and frites, which was delicious.
Day 27– Sunday

Location – Oye Plage- municipal aire, free GPS: n50.977090, e2.039650
Miles driven – 280 Weather– showery but sunny and warm in late afternoon

Bluebell the motorhome is almost back where she began 3.5 weeks ago! We left Trier bright and early and did a full service fill/empty before checking out of our campsite. 


We were on the road for 9am, and as a result we were filling up with ridiculously cheap fuel an hour later in Luxembourg- €0.92 per litre! After squeezing as much as possible in we were back on the road and soon in Belgium. Our toll free route took us through Belgium, round Brussels and back up to Calais. It was an easy journey and we were pulling into Gravelines aire at 2pm. Sadly the fair was in town opposite the aire, and we didn’t fancy a noisy night, especially at €7 for the night, no services, so we carried on to where we spent our first night on Oye Plage beach aire. You can imagine our shock when we arrived and there was a great big height barrier blocking the carpark- considering we had stayed there literally 3.5 weeks ago! Oh well, we trundled down the road to the municipal aire in the village and found a space alongside another Brit, shortly followed by several others!

We had a good chill, watching a couple of movies, and had an early night after prawn egg fried rice for tea.

Day 28- Monday Location – Home- Norfolk, UK Miles Driven 150 Weather – Sunny

Bluebell the motorhome is sat having a well earned rest having carted us and our mad dog around 2900 miles Europe for the last 28 days, with barely a problem -other than the tyre incident in Brugges and lack of power on hills!

We started this morning having had a lovely quiet night at Oye Plage, and having bit of a lay in. Once up, we decided to give ourselves a head start on packing up, stripping the sheets and loading up the washing bags- 2 huge Ikea bags full of dirty washing- oh joy!


After a thorough clean at the service point on site we head 30 minutes away towards Wissant, we were heading to one final WW2 site of our tour- the would have been launch site of the awful V3 guns set to bombard London with over 1600 bombs per day – Fortress de Mimoyecques (GPS n50.517 e1.4530)
It was only €5.50 to go in, and you got to explore right through the under ground tunnels, 600m of them. It was so eery in there, but so fascinating. Thank goodness for the French resistance who along with the RAF aerial surveillance noticed the site being built and therefore bombed it heavily so it never got completed.


After a very enjoyable visit (feels not quite the right word but I’m sure you understand!) we headed to Cite Europe, right next to the Eurotunnel Departure, for a chill, shop, and to give Bluebell a thorough clean – one less job to do when we get back. I had a good hour exploring the French supermarket- I’ve really missed the choice, sorry Germany but your supermarkets weren’t (in my opinion) as good as the French, before whipping us up an early tea. Keith got on with some bits of maintenance- we’d lost a few screws here and there. At 6pm we moved round to begin check in- a longer than normal process, not entirely sure why as the actual passport check was minimal, again! 8pm and we were on the train and by 11pm we were home and ready for bed!


We have had a brilliant tour- seen some absolutely amazing sights, eaten and drank some cracking food and drink. Our general opinion of Germany is we loved what we saw, but not sure we would rush back. We found some parts of it hard work- all outweighed in the end by the good stuff obviously, but we came back feeling satisfied but ready for home!

Thoughts now turn to our next adventure- lined up for October Half Term, and my birthday! We are thinking about visiting South Wales- but as ever, who knows till nearer the time!

 Until Next time

Lx