Monday dawned a typical Autumnal day and we were up and dressed fairly early. The car was loaded up (no mean feat seeing as we had a steep flight of stairs to navigate and HUMUNGOUS bags) As the shopkeeper open the country store, we settled our bill and hit the highway, stopping for some lovely Autumnal pictures along the way.
Our destination for today’s activity was the Mount Washington Cog Railway, the world’s first Mountain Climbing Railway. We were very lucky – the weather was PERFECT, not a cloud in the sky! We arrived early in case we got caught in traffic, so had a little shop in the gift shop and a picnic lunch whilst we waiting for our 1pm train to descend from the top.
Soon it was our turn to board, as we were lucky to be in the first of 3 carriages so we got a great view.
The Railway track was astoundingly steep in places, and the ascent took around 45 mins. You could get up and wander to the front to look out of the front window and the back window also had amazing views as we got higher.
We had just over an hour on the top of Mount Washington to explore the summit, which was about all we needed- it can reach up to 100mph winds up there, and even though the views were amazing it was flipping cold!
The return journey was in places terrifying, it was so steep! And just the brakesman at the front of each individual carriage operating the brakes. Absolutely marvellous engineering, we just loved our visit. Video highlights here.
It was about 45 mins drive to North Conway, a ski resort within the White Mountains, which would be our next base for 2 nights. We had hired another air b n b, this time we had an entire wooden house to ourselves, complete with hot tub! Happy days.
We were soon in there with a beer, before getting our glad rags on and heading for dinner. By the way, in New Hampshire they don’t measure out spirits – I ended up with a pint, yes a pint! of gin! Whooooah!
Day 6 – My Birthday!
Today was a non driving day as it was my birthday! Sadly the weather god’s hadn’t taken a note of this special day and it absolutely hammered down ALL Day. However, it wasn’t the end of the world as we had booked onto The North Conway Scenic Railwroad for a return journey through the very pretty Crawford Notch. After a pancake breakfast, we crossed the road to the train station ready for out 11am departure.
Our accommodation on the train was up in the dome – a raised area with glass roof which I’m sure in better weather would have been spectacular.
Sadly in the rain, it was a bit dismal and we were all a bit rough (ahem) We had waitress service throughout the journey and despite me thinking there would be no alcohol on board, there was, and so we enjoyed a relaxing train journey and a couple of cocktails. Not a bad way to spend my birthday.
The train turned around at Crawford station, and we headed back to North Conway.
Although we enjoyed the train ride, I don’t think it was anywhere near as spectacular as some of the others we’ve done in the past. If we had to choose one we would definitely recommend the Cog Railway over the Scenic Railway. Video highlights here
Unfortunately I was full of a head cold and therefore didn’t fancy venturing too far out for my birthday meal. However there was nice place a couple of doors down from our accommodation and so we enjoyed a meal and a couple of cocktails there before a relatively early night. Not before trying the most delicious bourbon I’ve tasted. Jim Bean MAPLE bourbon. 🥃 am-aaa-zing
< strong>Highlights of New Hampshire<<<<<<<<
hington Cog Railway
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.
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.
Ben and Jerrys Factory
Vermont Country Store
Stowe- esp Piecassimo Pizza and Von Trapp Beer/Stowe Cider
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!
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!
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!
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.
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up next to another motorhome down the end of the beach road at Staffin Bay. We are parked up underneath the cliffs, at sea level, next to the beach that is famous for its dinosaur footprints. The weather is clear (hurrah)
our pitch at Staffin Beach
Today, we drove the road from Broadford to Staffin, that passes through Portree. As soon as we departed Broadford the scenery stepped up from what we’d seen yesterday (granted the weather definitely helped!) As we got towards Portree Keith suggested we try the walk to the Old Man of Storr seeing as the weather was behaving. Our guide book intimated that this was the most popular walk on the island, and given how busy the car park was I’d have to agree. the view of The Old Man of Storr as we approached on the road
Thankfully we’ve (I’ve!) been trained well and so before setting off we made a full packed lunch including flasks of soup and tea, sarnies, cake, crisps, choc and a cheeky tinny of Tennants! (It was only 10am!!) We also made sure we had all our hiking gear on, boots, weather trousers, macs, fleece etc, as despite it saying it wasn’t a hard walk in the book, you just can’t be too sure. I’m glad we did- unlike every other person we passed (and there were lots) it never fails to amaze me seeing people rock climbing in converse, and today- heeled boots!!!!
We took (by accident) the more advanced rock climbers scramble to the base of the Old Man – and it was tricky to say the least at the top. I possibly had a minor panic when I realised the path around the base was non existent, but I’m proud to say we persevered and survived(!) and scrambled round, and therefore were rewarded with the most amazing views:
Having carted my tripod up, I was pleased to be able to give it a whirl, and I was very impressed especially given the wind speed up there! The spikes on the feet are ingenious.
Naturally, once having our picnic sat underneath the old man himself, we noticed the far easier and safer path that we should have taken up, so we had a good chuckle about that and looked forward to our descent.
Once safely back in the van, we drove on 5 miles or so for our second luncheon of the day- this time at Kilt Rock waterfall view point. The waterfall falls over the cliff into the sea and is next to the rock formation entitled Kilt Rock- supposedly it looks like a kilt. I will let you decide!
Next and final stop, the beach at Staffin to a) see if we could stay overnight there and b) hunt these dinosaur footprints. We’d read the best time to see them is at low ride, which we’d missed by 4 hrs, but nevertheless we happily hunted for an hour or so, aided by the trusty hip flask of homemade sloe gin of course as by then we knew we had found our pitch for the night.
Sadly no such luck with the hunting of footprints, but we will stick around until low tide tomorrow, due at 1137 to see if we have any luck. Keith asked a local who was walking his dog, and apparently he’s lived here years and NEVER seen them. So we will see!
Friday and Saturday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked by a river, in a sheltered valley behind Brit Stop number 822.
We woke up after a quiet and relaxed night to a bit of a murky one in the weather department, but it didn’t affect our plans- we were going to have a late breakfast then go footprint hunting at low tide, then drive the 5 miles or so to the Quaring- a mystical unusual rock formation, including The Needle, The Prison and The Table. Our book told us that whatever the weather it was something to visit.
First things first- the dinosaur footprints. I’m happy to say, after an exciting (and competitive) hunt, Keith found them, we think! This to us looks like the photo displayed at the info board, and we are fairly sure it is it, but without the Staffin museum open and no indication on the beach it’s a bit difficult to be 100% sure. 🙂
Next we drove up a great pass to take us to the start of the Quaring walk. At first the path seemed a breeze, much easier than yesterday’s Old Man of Stoer, but as we approached the bottom of “the needle” a trickier path presented itself to get us to “the table”. We took the path with some sense of trepidation, but equally were keen to get to the top section to appreciate the full sense of enormity. The path was hard going, but we got there eventually, just in time for the mist to come down! Typical eh? Oh well, we got to the top.
Once back at Bluebell we were exhausted, cold, wet, hungry and a bit grumpy, so rather than venture out to find a new spot for the night, we decided to head back to the familiarity of the Staffin Beach spot, where we’d spent a pleasant night last night. We weren’t the only ones- our fellow motorhome neighbour had also returned, so we settled in for a chill and more importantly an early night.
All was well until around 6pm when our alarm bells were raised when our neighbours very quickly packed up shop and moved up to the next layby- a higher slip layby, that was right on the edge of a cliff. We couldn’t understand why they had moved in such a rush- the wind was picking up and it seemed odd to us to go to a higher lever on a cliff edge. Ever being the optimists, we decided to punch their spot, as they’d nabbed the best spot earlier and settle in for a panoramic view. About an hour later the wind picked up, and convinced it was just a passing storm, we made light of it, and settled in waiting for the storm to pass. By 10pm it was showing no sign of easing, if anything the winds were getting stronger and stronger, and bluebell was rocking further and further. Keith admitted to me this morning by this stage he’d noticed the windows buckling. We out an hour later, we’d managed to get enough mobile data to load the met office and bbc weather, both of which saying that the winds were south westerly and would increase to 50 mph by 5am. As we were parked our bum was totally the first thing these south westerly winds were grabbing as they bounced off the sea. Excellent- obviously this is why the other motorhome moved!
We set the bed out deciding once again (like Glencoe on Sunday) it was now far too dark and dangerous to drive and that we would be brave and hold tight. Once the bed was out we lasted approximately 5 mins before I decided enough was enough and that we were moving. My justification was that the exit road followed the south westerly wind so the wind would be pushing us up the hill rather than crossing us and making us wobble.
We got the 500 odd yards up to where the other motorhome had retreated to, and to our surprise there was no sign whatsoever of the winds in that spot, so we joined them and hit the sack. All was well, apart from the battling rain, I can’t remember ever hearing such heavy rain until 5am when the wind swiftly changed direction to the west, which meant we were now entirely swaying, the bike rack was clattering, the TV Ariel was squeeking- you name it. Keith this time made the call to move- this time back up to the main road and along maybe 10 miles to a sheltered pull in where we got an extra hours kip.
So when we woke up at 8am, it’s safe to say the mood was fractious- we were both drained and in addition to our lack of sleep the bed had broken, one of the lights had fallen off and the fridge door had broken! We spent the next half an hour fixing Bluebell, but we were both thrilled that other than these minor unrelated problems, there were no signs of leaks, or outer damage. Hurray, we’d survived.
We decided a chill was in order, so drive round the coast road to Uig, to stop at the Isle of Skye Brewery to stock up, then onto the Fairy Glen- a magical mystical small valley just outside of Uig where it’s really unnaturally green, and the hills and lakes are all in miniature! This is a natural phenomena caused by glacial meltwater ten thousand years ago, but I can see why the myth is that fairies live here as the hills look tiny and perfect and have ridges round them- you honestly can imagine the fairies living here!!
our visit to The Isle of Skye Brewery, in Uig
The Fairy Glen
We headed towards Dunvegan and are now happily nestled behind a sheltered Brit Stop- an old hunting lodge that is now a bar/restaurant and inn and so, seeing as it’s Saturday night we are going to have a few drinks and a chill in there tonight. Sounds perfect, and just what the doctor ordered after last nights adventures!
We had a great relax at our Brit Stop last night, and got mildly tipsy on the inn’s special ale- brewed specially for them by the Isle of Skye Brewery. It was delicious and we happily chatted to the landlord and landlady for a couple of hours.
After a great nights sleep, we hit the road in the rain, and managed to full with water at Dunvegan. We had a bacon butty looking out towards the castle, and then followed the road to Carbost, home to the Tallsiker distillery. Sadly the distillery is closed today, however there is a fantastic smell of whiskey lingering in the air, and the pub here, The Old Ship, is a fantasticly warm and cosy place to spend an hour or so, before heading back towards Portree for our final night on Skye.
storm brewing over Cuillin Hills
pleasant way to spend our last night on Skye
our pitch over looking the Cuillin Hills, and half a mile stagger from the Sligachan Hotel bar!
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up right next to the gorgeous white sands of Arisaig, just off the road from Fort William entitled “The Road to the Isles” – the A380 to Mallaig.
Today we left Loch Leven fairly early, as we wanted to get some supplies from the Morrisons at Fort William. After a quick scoot round, a few mins online, a diesel fill and a calor gas exchange, we were back on the road, heading towards Mallaig. We had a brief stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct and monument. The viaduct was used for filming some Harry Potter scenes (we’ve actually not seen HP so this was lost on us!) However, it’s a nice location with a visitors centre and of course the Bonny Prince Charlie monument too.
Our intention for the rest of the day was to get to a campsite that we’d booked onto, allegedly on the beach that Local Hero was filmed at (Camusdarach Campsite). I say allegedly, as either we totally misinterpreted their website when booking, or someone was slightly exaggerating their position on the coast- either way on the road down to this particular campsite, we passed some stunning beaches and beautifully located campsites right on the sea front, so our hopes were getting higher and higher as we anticipated our arrival. When we arrived, we were surprised that the campsite was half a mile or so back off the coast, there were limited limited sea views, and the actual beach used in the film was over a mile away! Keith went in to check, and decided once he was told there were no sea/beach view pitches etc (despite pics on the website showing sand dunes and seaside) that we would not take our pitch and we would look for a different site. I was pleased in a way when he returned to the van to tell me, as I’d spent 10 mins sat in the van feeling disappointed the site wasn’t as we’d expected it to be.
So off we drove, this time slightly back on ourself maybe 2 miles. The first site we passed was called Silver Sands so we pulled in to check it out. As we drove down the entrance road, we were thrilled to see pitches with a sea view that seemed vacant (tick), with hook up (another tick) We drove up to the reception and was greeted happily with a sign saying if you can find a pitch, it’s yours- we will be round in the morning to collect money (£16 pn with electric): perfect. We bagged a stunner of a pitch, which was hard standing (unlike the grassy boggy pitches of Camusdarach Campsite- another cross by their name). It was £9 a night cheaper, the sun was shining, and so naturally we plugged in, cracked a beer and went for a chill on the beach. Chill is an accurate word actually, as the driving wind was freeeeeeeezing, but the sunny skies and beach/sea combi more than made up for that!!
So a lovely relaxing evening was had by us all, Jazz enjoyed an hour or so tearing around on the beach, I was happy playing with my camera and tripod and Keefy spent an hour umming and aa ahhing about whether or not to bbq! Decided against it in the end due to rain clouds looming, so we settled on the Aberdeen Angus steak each anyway but cooked inside (still fab view though!)
We had a wonderful night at Siversands , and would whole heartidly recommend. Just to warn you though, you can’t book, so it’s luck of the draw I guess if travelling during peak season.
Bluebell the motorhome is parked up overlooking the mainland (well, if we could see it that is- visibility not good today) We went to visit the beach filmed on for Local Hero this morning with the help of this handy site
it turned out that you could access it 1/2 mile further on up the B8008 past the Camusdarach campsite (not what we’d been led to believe) The beach is a hidden gem, that has huge sand dunes protecting it from the road, and is a good half a mile wide of pure white sand. You can see where they built “Bens Shack” for the movie, and also the church, which isn’t actually a church in real life, they dressed it up to look like one. This is also he stretch where Burt Lancaster arrived in his helicopter at the end of the film. It was great to finally visit the official one- over the last 5 yrs we’ve stopped at a number incorrectly!!!
We then carried on up to Mallaig to board the Calmac ferry to Skye- a 30 minute crossing which we’ve done before but I doubt will do again!!!! Well- it’s taken us both til now (6hrs) to vaguely recover. I never get sea sick, until today that is. Bleughhh. To be fair, it is a wee bit murky out there, and we probably should have not bothered with the sausage baguette each beforehand.
We drove off the ferry and travelled 1/2 mile somehow to the visitors centre where we emergency pulled in (you don’t need to know the rest!) An hour or so later, we felt better enough to check out the wild camping spot at the south of the Island. It was nice and had a cracking sea view- but it’s elevated position and today’s windy weather meant that we felt like we were still on the boat. Down we came, and trundled about the roads between Armadale and Broadford for an hour or so, feeling uninspired, tired, hazy, spinny and nauseous still. We are now parked on the sea front at Broadford, within walking distance of a chippy and a pub. I suspect this combination of establishments will aid our recovery, and so we can set off tomorrow feeling normal again
We drove down the 16 mile long minor road that wound through Glen Etive, finishing in a small carpark on the banks of Loch Etive. The drive was stunning and followed a picture perfect river all the way through the Glen. I would certainly recommend heading off the A82 down this road, signposted Glen Etive, as it was stunning and well off the beaten track. About 4 miles down, we stopped at the point where Daniel Craig posed as James Bond in Skyfall and reinacted the moment with my own James Bond, aka Keefy 😉 Once at the bottom, we parked up on the shores of the Loch. Despite it being a very small cut off road we weren’t the only ones down there- there were some very hard core wild campers in tents sharing the spot with us. We went to say hi and got the distinct impression they weren’t impressed with us being there! Oh well we thought, and retreated back to Bluebell for lunch- eggy bread and baked beans- a new firm favourite of ours thanks to the VW Camper Cookbook I got last year off Sam (thanks)! As the weather was rainy we had another day of chilling, apart from a short stroll along the banks in a window of dryness after lunch.
Around 7pm, and after several dodgy things happening over at the tents which we are fairly sure involved drugs, we decided that neither of us were comfortable being that isolated with some randoms that were starting to give us the eeby jeebies. So we decided to pack up and head back towards the main road. About half way back along the road we encountered two further strange folk that looked like they were up to no good, so we stepped on the gas and departed a beautiful area, sharpish! I’m sure it was all innocent, and it’s more than likely that we over reacted based on watching too many films and getting wrong ideas, but we both felt uncomfortable and our golden rule is always to move on if we feel like that. One advantage to moving on was that we saw loads of red deer and half a dozen or so stags grazing in the dusk. Gorgeous.
So we arrived at the main viewpoint in the middle of Glen Coe at 8pm and were relieved that the no overnight signs that we saw on a previous trip had been removed. Unfortunately it was blowing a GALE, so much so that I was scared we would topple over – the gas kept being blown out on the fridge and the heating – but equally I didn’t fancy hitting the road anymore as it was definitely unsafe. It was nerve racking to say the least, and I may or may or have had a minor meltdown (il leave it up to you to decide that one!) but we battened down and sat it out with the help of Criminal Minds series 2 on Sky Go (no wonder we get the eebie jeebies!) and after 6 hours of spectacular Scottish storm with two eye of the storms passing through, all went calm and we could finally go to sleep without panicking!
All was calm when we awoke in Glen Coe, and I was relieved to see no damage to the van. The views were spectacular so it more than made up for the stress of the night before. We planned a chilled day of visiting the Glen Coe visitors centre, the village, then Loch Leven, which is where we were staying, at the Brit Stop number 820. It was nice to revisit the visitors centre at Glen Coe, last time we came in Aug 2010 it was peeing down and we couldn’t see past the end of our noses- today was overcast but dry, and definitely we could see the mountains. We did a little mile walk from the visitors centre to take in where the Glen Coe Massacre happened in 1692. 38 people were murdered here in cold blood by troops carrying out government orders (again, no wonder we get scared!) After the walk we then nipped into the village for supplies.
We took the road around Loch Leven towards Kinlochleven, at the head of the Loch. It was another pretty journey, and I’m fairly sure I saw a Golden Eagle too! We did a little walk to look at the Grey Mares Waterfall, which we saw signposted off the main road through Kinlochleven. It was a great waterfall, with some really cool boards to walk on to get close. A really nice treat, we always like to take in a waterfall!
After our walk, we stopped at a gorgeous layby overlooking the loch for lunch (more eggy bread!!) and took in the views. We then made our final 6 mile journey to our pitch for the night, and we are now once again parked overlooking the Loch, with the restaurant behind us, where we are to eat tonight! We’ve just been in to reserve our table (a window seat- hurrah) and are now about to have a nap, then a cuppa and get our glad rags on for dinner!
Tomorrow is Fort William for supplies, then on to Glenfinnan Viaduct and Arasaig, taking in two more movie locations, Harry Potter and Local Hero.