“Pimping” our Ride

As ecstatic as we were when we found Ruby the Campervan after our rather short- yet full on (in the grand scheme of things) search; there were a few “adjustments” we wanted to make to her to enable us to carry on as we had been in our beloved Bluebell the motorhome. From the day that we realised that we had to say Bye to Bluebell, we said there would more than likely have to be compromises made here and there, but we would concentrate on getting a decent (we hope!) base vehicle- anything extra can be added on.

First thing on the shopping list when we brought Ruby was a bike rack. Because she has a tailgate back rather than Barn Doors, it meant that we couldn’t get the standard Fiamma bike rack. On top of this, Ruby’s previous owner had taken “Pimping” up to an extra level by adding a rear spoiler. I still am not really sure what this adds to Ruby, other than the difficulty of adding a normal tailgate bike rack, so therefore a rather large hole in the wallet! Because we have this rear spoiler, we are unable to attach a normal tailgate bike rack, so investigations soon led us to getting quotes for a tow bar to be added, allowing us to go for a tow bar mounted bike rack instead.

We got a few quotes from a some local tow bar fitters, then Keith found a company online with an all singing and dancing website, and a quote that was a few quid cheaper than the local fellas. TowBarExpress.com. We booked and paid for our appointment for the following Monday- and celebrated with a cuppa. Then the phone rang- “Sorry Mr O’G, we can’t do that date”. “Ok”, we reply, and book in for the Monday after that. A week later, we get another phone call. This time, there were no apologies, just a curt “We can’t get a fitter, we need to reschedule”. Hmph. The only free day we have is Monday, so we rescheduled for the following week. Again. During that day, we both had a grumble, and Keith decided to go back to one of the quotes he had received. He realised it was only about a tenner more, so cancelled TowBarExpress and booked the local fitter in for the Monday that had been cancelled.

We cancelled our booking with TBE and asked for an email confirmation of the refund. We never got this, despite ringing twice and emailing. Almost a week later, still no sign of a refund and no word from Tow Bar Express- and our booking still showing on the online system, I decided I would take matters into my own hands. I rang up and received THE WORST customer service I’ve ever received over the phone. I kept asking for written confirmation about our refund and kept being told, we don’t have to give you written confirmation. Excuse after excuse I was given, but I lost my cool in the end when I could clearly hear the staff in the office mimicking me. I confronted the advisor and she denied it. They refused to put me through to a manager. In the end I got someone pretending to be the manager – I know this as she was so unprofessional but also, I later heard from our towbar man that the manager is a male! Along with a few other horror stories.

We eventually got our refund – but I would warn anyone about using them in the future. Disgraceful customer service- and that doesn’t half get my blood boiling.

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On to the saga of finding a bike rack that would allow us to still open the tailgate door with the bikes on the rack. Did such a thing even exist? We were starting to think probably not! Keith must have ordered 10 different racks, of varying costs, and none of them worked! It was looking like we would not be able to open our boot with the bike rack on. Stress levels were rising, so I stepped in and asked on the VW Facebook page and also the overnight parking page. Keith, you see, is FAR too cool for Facebook (yeah right!!) but as I explained to him afterwards, he could have saved himself a week of stress if he were on Facebook as within 5 minutes I had over 10 replies, many of which saying the same thing. The http://www.roofbox.co.uk/scripts/rbvehsel4_tab.php?AR2603 . It was coming out a bit higher in price than we hoped, but- everyone was saying what a good job it does. So we ordered one. And, boy are we glad we did.

It’s very lightweight, yet doesn’t feel flimsy in anyway at all. It is so easy to use, it really is just a flick of lever to lower the bikes enabling the tailgate to open fully. Also, the attachment to the towbar is really slim, so you can walk in-between the tow bar and the van, really good when you’re trying to get something out that’s lodged its way further into the boot!

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Other enhancements that we have made include changing the factory fitted radio to a CD/Bluetooth radio. This was a simple and cheap upgrade thanks to our local Halfords Store. £60 radio / £30 to fit. It’s pretty decent in sound quality, and the bluetooth is fab. I’m loving having my spotify blasting out, plus it make in car phonecalls much easier/safer (and legal!)  We’ve just got our hands on Jamiroquai tickets so we’ve been blasting out quite a bit of JK- Keith now wants to fit a sub or something- I’ve told him he’s not allowed- unless he wants the world to know he’s having a mid life crisis!

Last but not least (I expect!) and we’ve bagged ourselves a //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=advinamot-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=B00A4A07JA&asins=B00A4A07JA&linkId=&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>portable 12v TV. Now I know its not everyone’s cup of tea, taking a TV away in the camper van. But we use our van all year round, including those ridiculously short winter days where by 4pm its pitch black outside. It’s then that we are most grateful for the TV. Especially when Strictly Come Dancing is on!

This portable TV is GREAT. It’s about the size of our iPad, picks up all the free view channels, has a handy little arial that is magnetic and reaches through the kitchen window onto the roof, and best of all- has a record button, so we stuck a large memory card in the side and suddenly we can record Saturday Night Takeaway, whilst away in the middle of nowhere *ahem, obviously I just stuck that TV programme in as a random one….* It has 2.5 hours charge without being plugged in, but comes with a 12v charger too. Perfect.

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So, theres a list of our new accessories for you. Ruby is now complete – although the new Cath Kidston catalogue has just arrived with some lovely melamine glasses, jugs and serving bowls in…. #justsaying

What are your must have camper van/motorhome accessories? Other than the obvious.. the corkscrew, that is!

Until Next Time

Lx

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road with CoPilot Caravan App

Getting from A to B in Bluebell the motorhome is quite different to getting from A to B in our little Yoda the Skoda. We need to consider many different factors when planning our jaunts in the motorhome, but mainly the issues we run into (sadly literally in one case back in 2010!) are our height and weight. We’ve used the standard Garmin satnav for 4 years now, and don’t get me wrong, its been ok, but this year we found ourselves looking at new satnavs and particularly one which we can input our vehicle dimensions in, so that the best route is found having taking these into account.

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For the last year or so we’ve used Google Maps as a secondary sat nav, although because it uses data to download the map it relies on having a decent internet signal, something which we are not blessed with sadly, even in not so deepest Norfolk! We enjoyed using the phone as a sat nav, finding the screen on my iPhone 6 a good size for clear mapping.This led us to looking into an App based sat nav,which works offline and more specifically one which we could enter Bluebell’s vehicle dimensions into. Enter “CoPilot Caravan Europe”

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At £49.99 I wondered if it was a bit pricey as I don’t tend to pay more than £4.99 for an app, but then Keith reminded me that actually having looked into Caravan/Motorhome/HGV sat navs, we were hard pushed to get one for less than £100. We decided to give it a go, and trial it on our recent Scotland trip- a handy test as most of the time we were without Mobile data.

Set Up

After download, a user friendly screen prompts you through set up, with clear and easy instructions to navigate through. There are lots of options to tailor the app to your own personal requirements, something which we found useful- we could even personalise the welcome to say “Welcome Lydia and Keith” – not the most important factor on a sat nav I realise, but a nice touch nonetheless- (I’m such a girl!!) You have the option to display safety camera alerts (and change how much distance ahead you want to be warned of them) and set it to save battery, another useful tool when you’re doubling your phone as your sat nav. Finally it’s time to enter those important measurements- the app allows you to input your Height, Width, Total Length and Total Weight. You can also select how it should naviagate- the fastest route or shortest.

Map Choice

I like the fact that you have the option of which maps you want to download- having got the Europe version of the app, I had the option of downloading “Europe”, “Eastern Europe”, “Western Europe” then the individual countries as separate maps. This was useful for me as I have limited storage on my iPhone 6, so I was able to just download UK, although when we go to Germany over the summer I have the option of downloading “Western Europe” or just “Germany”.

 

 

 

On The Road

With CoPilot you have the option to save certain addresses as favourites. For those one off entries, its easy to input, especially if you have the postcode of your destination. You get the option to select a “cross street” too, making pinpointing your destination much easier.

There are several ways to view the app whilst navigating- the one we preferred was the larger instructions with a mini picture of the next junction and a countdown to the next junction. This made navigating really easy. Other options included a smaller instruction but more details for future junctions. I guess this would be useful for the passenger if they are navigating you. It reminded you several times which junction to take on a roundabout and although that was a bit annoying, it was useful and saved us going round roundabouts several times…ahem!

We LOVED the fact that it was easy to change the proposed route by a simple drag of your finger. For example- our route up to Loch Lomond from Norfolk wanted to take us up to Edinburgh on the A1. We wanted an overnight stop at Carter Bar border crossing near to Jedburgh so simply dragged our finger to the route we would rather take and it automatically updated. Fab. Equally you could add via’s etc and also it comes with an extensive list of POI – even more when you are online.

Traffic Updates are included for a year, however depend on Mobile signal. Our journey home was affected by a huge accident on the A1- we were delayed for nearly 3 hours (ouch) but sadly it didn’t do a great job in prewarning us (and we had 4G).

Verdict 

We travelled nearly 1500 miles using the app and in general we were extremely happy with how it worked. The only criticism was that sadly it did still try and take us on single carriageway A roads near to Inverness rather than the duel carriageway A Roads (it wanted us to take the A833 to Beauly to cut off the corner of Inverness, rather than staying on A82 then A9. It thought it would save 30 mins but when we ignored it, suddenly the ETA decreased by nearly an hour!) If we could get an update to make sure that duel carriageway roads take priority then for us, it would be 5*. Until then, we give it a very useful “does what it says on the tin” 4*.  We look forward to using the app in Germany over the Summer.

In Summary– yes it’s nearly £50, but it made travelling round in a great big motorhome much less stressful and we were confident we weren’t going to find ourselves in a tricky bridge situation! We will still continue to use a road map alongside the app, but, find me a motorist that doesn’t do that!

CoPilot Caravan Navigation App is available from the Apple App store for iOS devices or Google Play store for Android devices.

Additional Accessories to make life easier

Phones are so much more than phones nowadays aren’t they? Here we are using my phone to guide us 300 miles up to the Scottish Border, whilst using Spotify to serenade us- what happens when we arrive at the border at 01:00 – I have no battery left to take the obligatory “we have arrived” selfie! This was a worry for me- read into that what you will… ;0)

Our Solution – a decent Apple Certified Car Charger and Phone Holder for Air Vent, Magnetic Cradle Car Mount

Everywhere we went, despite using my phone as our sat nav and DJ, my battery was 100% charged and ready for #selfie action!

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01:15 at Carter Bar England/Scotland Border following a day at work and a 7 hour drive north!

*Disclaimer*

I was given this app for free by CoPilot Caravan in return for an honest review of their product. All opinions are strictly my own having extensively tested the product. 

Summer 2016 plans – Germany and Austria

We have spent this weekend researching our next big adventure – 4 weeks in Europe next Summer – we are already starting to feel excited about this, as we’ve been wanting to go to Germany for a few years. We’ve been busy saving up our Tesco Clubcard vouchers for a few months and decided today was as good as time as any to book our Eurotunnel crossing for next Summer.  We leave on Wed 27th July and return on Wednesday 24th Aug – 4 whole weeks!

The loose plan is Calais to Waterloo, Belgium to Arnhem, Netherlands so Keith can see his battlefields then onto Germany, where we hope to travel along The Romantic Road and maybe The Black Forest – I’m thinking gateaux galore! Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 12.15.12

^A loose idea of our general direction – it will be interesting to look at this nearer the time and then again once we return to see how our projected route changes!

Other sites in Germany that interest us are The Eagle’s Nest, Neuschwanstein Castle, and Bavaria. We also want to get as far as Austria – Salzburg and Halstatt are on the list!

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The Romantic Route ^

Now the real fun starts – re reading other peoples blogs that I have bookmarked over the past couple of years that this trip has been on the cards.

Anyone got any tips for Germany? Must see’s? Good Stellplatz? Any tips most appreciated!

Until next time

Lx

Looking ahead

So we are back in the thick of term time now, and with all our wedding adventures over and done with, the photobook’s are printed and filed on the shelf, and we are on the hunt for new adventures to look forward to. 🙂

Although we have had THE most AMAZING year so far, with trips to America, Paris, Lake District, Kent, Oxfordshire -not to mention a couple of cheeky weekend jollies to local areas in Norfolk, we are excited about the final quarter of 2015 as we no longer need to save pennies for the wedding, leaving us free to jump into Bluebell as often as we like! Hurrah!

We keep a list of places we want to go to/return to and so without further ado last week I set to booking our first trip away in Bluebell since July. Top of the list was Sandringham, a local one for us, so we got straight onto the Caravan Club website and booked ourselves onto their Club Site situated within the Estate grounds. We try to avoid Caravan Club sites generally, the large commercial feel they have aren’t really our cup of tea- however Sandringham has been one we will make an exception for given its Royal location!

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We’ve booked a trip through the middle of England for October Half term, starting at North Norfolk as its my birthday and I’m being taken out to Morston Hall for a slap up meal (Michelin restaurant, hubby did GOOD!) After being wined and dined we will head West towards Rutland Water, then onto Leicestershire to explore Foxton Locks and that area.

We’ve even gotten as far as Twixmas and NYE- tonight firming up bookings on two hard standing pitches in the Peak District- hopeful the weather will allow us to cycle the Mensal Head Trail and The High Peak trail. Wonder if we will see snow?!

Anyone else going out anywhere over the next few weeks? Any favourite winter sites?

Planning our February Half term Escape to Oxfordshire

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but thank goodness, we are finally able to start planning a little trip in our beloved Bluebell the Motorhome. A mixture of saving for our wedding and a ridiculous work schedule has meant that Bluebell hasn’t had quite so many outings last year as we would normally like, so to say we are looking forward to our next trip is a MASSIVE understatement!

We will be heading west towards Oxfordshire for February Half term so have spent a little while this afternoon getting the maps, the cycle books and the new addition to our planning tools, The Caravan Club site book, and having a little look to see what floats our boat. In true Keith and Lydia style, this initial look has turned into a “right, thats all booked then” and I’ve even got my nerd on by making a fancy spreadsheet itinerary!

Nothing like a bit of holiday spontaneity, eh?!

The truth of the matter is that due to gigs on both weekends of the holiday we can only get away for 4 nights, so we wanted to be especially organised so we don’t waste any of our precious time away with the dreaded “What do you want to do today” discussions! That and I really do enjoy making spreadsheet lists!

So we are hoping to have 5 blissful days of cycling and walking- I’ve found us an ex railway cycle path to enjoy, a canal side cycle path, a day out in Oxford and a couple of hopefully lovely walks. We’ve made the decision to join http://www.caravanclub.co.uk in order to hopefully enjoy some of their Certified Location Sites (5 vans or less). The reason for this is so that we can base ourselves at small site for a couple of nights every now and again so we can switch off and relax – the latter was something that we were struggling with a little at some Brit Stops due to all sorts of reasons. We are still HUGE fans of the Brit Stops scheme and will continue to use their hosts to enhance our time away when we can. 🙂

This is the route we are looking at following; we have booked ourselves onto two small sites for two nights at each, one near to Kidlington (£11pn) and one near to Wantage (£12n) both with electric. We aim to travel home via Thame on the Friday, stopping for a quick cycle down the Phoenix Trail – like you do.

Proposed route

So that’s about all for now, Bluebell the motorhome has her MOT booked in for Monday, so please keep your fingers crossed that she gets through with no problems to worry about.

Do you have any recommendations of places to see/visit etc in Oxfordshire? We’d love to hear from you if you have!

Until Next time,

Lx

Bluebell the motorhome gets a new carpet

We recently had some wood effect vinyl laid in our hallway and ended up with quite a bit unused due to it being L shaped. Keith decided to have a go at making some sort of overlay rug to sit on top of the current carpet rather than the thick rugs we previously had, which made opening cupboards tricky.

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Keefy has apparently not stuck them down so we can take them out and shake them, but it’s good that when you walk on them they don’t slip.

Also a fluke that the wood effect matches the wood inside 🙂

Until next time
Lx

Cornwall/Devon Summer 2014: Facts and Figures

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Trip Stats
13 nights away
1065 miles
3 Tanks of fuel
7 Britstop overnight stops
6 Community car park overnight stops
0 campsites
1 night on electric
3 fab cycle rides on disused railway lines
Oodles of local food, ale and cider
A few additional scratches down the side
A broken indicator
And here’s the amazing bit:
Total cost ( including fuel from and back to Norfolk and ALL food)

£648

Amazing really to think we enjoyed a 2 week holiday for 2 (heavy eaters/drinkers!) for less than £700.

Until next time
Lx

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French Fancies- where shall we go?!

Bluebell the motorhome is taking us to France at the end of this week for 10 days and we can’t wait! Sunshine (hopefully!) wine, cheese and saucisson – yes, yes, yes!

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Our excited faces…..

We’ve got nowhere specific planned to go to, our only plan is to follow the sun! We have been having a little think about it this morning though, compiling a list of places we wouldn’t mind revisiting, and places we’ve never been to that we fancy trying. Ultimately though we will be looking at the weather forcast closely from Wednesday morning, again on Thursday morning at 6am when we get up for work, we will work from 08:40 to 13:00 in Norwich, nip back, final Bluebell prep, work 16:00-18:30 in Thetford, zip back load Jazz in lock up and be on the road for 19:00 ready for our Eurotunnel at 23:20! During the drive to Folkestone we will double check where the sunshine is, and once on French soil we will bed down at Cite Europe for some kip, getting up bright and early Friday to drive to wherever the sunshine is! Exciting!

Our list so far of places we’d happily revisit:

St Tropez
Ramatuelle beach , just south of St Tropez is a fab motorhome aire right on the dog friendly beach. Very tempting to head due south for a few days on the beach.

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this was me and Jazz on the beach at Ramatuelle last August on our return from Italy. It was a great beach to chill on, bonus that dogs were allowed and a good place to nose over all the luxury yachts through my super zoom camera…ahaha!
read about our stay at St Tropez in 2013 here!

Carcasonne: wonderful medieval walled town to explore again; eat, drink and be merry with fantastic surroundings. The aire is right next to the ramparts.

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these pics were taken on our 2011 visit in Bluebells predecessor, Daisy!
read about our 2011 trip in Daisy here!

Dordogne: we both fancy a week following the Dordogne river, enjoying France Passion sites – on our last stay in the Dordogne we experienced the clearest night sky we’ve ever seen- allowing us to view the Milky Way with no telescope or binocs!

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pics taken at an amazing France Passion site situated on the banks on the Dordogne on our 2011 tour of France in Daisy
read about our 2011 trip here!

Chataeuneuf Du Pape not sure a trip to France would be a trip to France without another stop over at the vineyards of our all time favourite wine

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Places that we’ve not been to that we fancy:

Narbonne Apparently (thanks Dad!) there is a nice aire here situated on a good stretch of beach, with ample cycle routes, and a nice historical town to explore. Our only worry is whether or not the beach is dog friendly at this time of year.

Canal Du Midi
Really fancy spending a few nights by the side of this UNESCO canal- which links two seas, the Med to the Atlantic. I’ve read a lot about how lovely it is and given that there are lots of pretty waterside motorhome aires and cycle paths it does seem a good place to visit
Canal Du Midi

Mont Blanc
One off my bucket list- a trip up Mont Blanc to attempt to stand on the viewing platform here I’ve had this on my list for a while now but recently Jenny (Dad’s partner) was there on a business trip and seeing her pics has increased the draw for us to head East rather than west!

Lake Annecy
We almost got here last year, but instead headed for the Med. I really fancy a few days chilling lakeside with the dramatic mountain vistas on the horizon.

Recommendations via Twitter:
@paul_jackson: @saxylydz We stayed on the aire at the Knight’s Templar village of La Couvertoirade last year. Very atmospheric: http://t.co/oVCJKzt3k7
Also sounds right up our street!

So as you can see, although our plan is to have no plan and follow the sunshine, we’ve got some ideas – let’s just hope Mother Nature plays ball and throws us some mid 20s sunny days 🙂

Have you got any tips on where to head? Any must see sites? Beaches? Rivers we can swim in? We’ve got a list, and we’re not afraid to add to it!! 🙂

1 day to go :-)

Bluebell the motorhome is all packed, plugged in and ready for the big off tomorrow evening!

It’s been a staged prep, as we’ve had a busy old week or two what with concerts, exams and general end of term ness

Last Friday Keefy had a day of tinkering inside the van, washing curtains, cushions and fixing little bots and bobs here any there.

On Monday we sorted out all out clothes so they were ready to pack in. Then we took Bluebell out to get diesel and do the food shop which we loaded straight into the cupboards (apart from the fridge stuff)

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Today (Wednesday) I loaded the clothes into the wardrobes and cupboards, Keith plugged Bluebell in so her fridge gets nice and cold and I loaded the fridge stuff in.

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I also got busy in the kitchen making loads of sweet treats for the road 🙂

Everything gadget wise is on charge, so I think we are ready for the off now! Just got teaching this afternoon, a school concert tonight, and a full days teaching tomorrow to get through then we will be on the road and heading for the border crossing at Carter Bar!

In other news, I found out today that one of the places that we are heading- Loch Etive near Glen Coe is where Daniel Craig and Judi Dench filmed Skyfall so that’s very exciting as we will definitely be hunting that one out! >

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One week til we’re off…..

Bluebell the motorhome is getting excited. She can always tell when preparations are being made for a trip as the humans start pottering in and out, checking cupboards, filling cupboards, and this week she had an extra treat- she got stripped bare and all her cushion covers, curtains, blankets etc got taken into the house and came back out all sparkly and clean. She knows something big is about to happen……

That’s right- next Friday, the 4th April she will be hitting the highway and heading north for our annual pilgrimage to the highlands. Excitement is hitting the household and plans are being formulated.

As ever, we’re going to follow our nose mainly using BritStops and wild camping, but there are a few places we are aiming for. We’re heading for Loch Lomond for day one, to our fave spot on the Bonny Bonny banks of Loch Lomond, where we shall no doubt partake in a few whiskeys at the Inverbeg Inn.

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Then onto Glen Coe, for some walking and incredible views

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20140327-202703.jpg then to Arasaig to see the glorious white beaches where Local Hero was filmed. We’re aiming for a few days on Skye, then back via the East coast, especially popping in the small village of Pennan- where they filmed the town scenes of Local Hero
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(Pics above taken by ourselves on previous trips)

This will be our 5th trip (4th Easter trip) to Scotland and if you are interested in touring Scotland in a motorhome (or otherwise) you may be interested in having a scroll through some of our previous entries:
Scotland 2010 – The First Trip

Scotland 2011part 1

Scotland 2011- Part 2

Scotland 2012 – The Hebrides and beyond

Scotland 2013- part 1

Scotland 2013- Part 2

Scotland 2013- Part 3

Scotland 2013- Part 4

Scotland 2013- Part 5

Scotland 2013 – Part 6

So my question to you is, where is your favourite place to visit in Scotland?

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