Since we got home from America, it’s been full on with work as we’ve had a show production as well as our normal teaching routine. As soon as the show was over I was itching to get out for some fresh air, and luckily my lovely husband had preempted this and prebooked some tickets to nearby Anglesey Abbey for their winter lights event.
Anglesey Abbey is a National Trust owned country house that was formerly a priory and is set within acres of woodland. A perfect canvas for a magical winter wonderland trail.
We met Keith’s Dad and Stepmum for a late Sunday dinner at the nearby Red Lion in Swaffham Prior, before driving the couple of miles to Anglesey Abby for our 7pm entrance ticket. Our meal was gorgeous, one of the best Sunday lunches we’ve had in ages and really great value.
We had a few minutes to spare at Anglesey Abbey so had a hot chocolate and a browse of the gift shop; I just love the National trust gift shops and left laden with goodies! At 7pm we were called through and began our winter trail. The lights were extremely pretty and atmospheric, and although completely different to Kew Gardens winter lights which we visited last year, it was equally as lovely.
The trail is about 1.75 miles long, and there are a couple of rest areas with hot food, coffee and mulled wine of course. There were also some entertainers at each rest point- a fire eater and country band in one section and a brass band in the other.
We carried on along the trail admiring the huge silver birch trees all lit up beautifully and our favourite section was the stretch along near the mill.
The Abbey itself was pretty with multicoloured lights that you could control using devices on the path, which was unique.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and was the perfect outing to get us starting to think about Christmas. Tickets for this year have sold out already, however you can get tickets through the National trust website here – we booked in September.
We didn’t stay as we were local and it was a Sunday night, however you could easily combine this trip with a stay on:
Anglesey Abbey also is very proud to host one of the best displays of snowdrops in the country and is well worth a visit in February too.
The following weekend, hailed the return of the ever popular Bury Christmas Fayre. Each year this 4 day Christmas fayre becomes even more popular- we’ve been making a point of visiting every year that we’ve lived here. Despite us only being 30 mins from Bury St Edmunds we always camp overnight as we are partial to a drop of Greene King Abbotts Reserve, but at 6.5% I only need to sniff it and be over the limit!
In Bury St Edmunds there is an official motor home overnight parking area in the main car park, where we can park legally for 24 hrs at only £2.50. We are so lucky to have this, if only more councils supported motorhome owners on this way but that’s a different story.
Despite this wonderful facility being available, we rarely get to use it during the Xmas market weekend as there are only 5 spaces and they are always full, so we tend to discreetly park up outside of town for the night. This year however due to a wedding on the Saturday, we ended up at Bury on Friday and i’ll be blowed, we got a space in the Aire!
We wasted no time and headed straight for the Abbot reserve tent!
The market is centred around the picturesque Abbey gardens and Angel hill and is full of stalls offering lovely gifts and food and drink galore.
This year, we did less shopping and more drinking hehe, but we stocked up on cheeses! The Greene King tent is right opposite the stage and so we enjoyed watching the commitments tribute band.
It really is a lovely Christmassy event, and we look forward to it every year. It’s also dog friendly.
We can’t go to Bury St Edmunds without a drink in the Nutshell, claimed to the smallest pub in the UK and this trip was no exception. It’s also dog friendly. 🐾
Sunday Continued – on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides.
After disembarkation we pulled into the Isle of Harris distillery carpark to meet Rodney from Surf Lewis. We had hired some wetsuits and snorkelling equipment for the duration of our stay, and he very kindly agreed to meet us off the ferry to give us the equipment. Wetsuits, fins, snorkels etc in hand, we waved bye to Rodney – we are meeting him again on Wednesday as we have booked a Stand Up Paddleboarding session with him. Next stop was Huishnish Beach. I was worried about this as our ETA was 5pm – when we visited in 2012 it was very quiet and we stayed here fore two days and barely saw another soul. Now though, toruism has well and truly hit, and I knew Huishnish was a popular spot. To get there you drive for 40 mins over a mountain pass for 14 miles and Huishnish is the dead end. If we got there and there was no space, I’d have been very disappointed and we’d have to retrace our steps.
Thankfully the luck of the Irish was on our side and there was a small space for Ruby to squeeze in to. As we turned the corner and saw Huishnish for the first time in 6 years, it literally took my breath away. It is absolutely BREATHTAKING. The beach is just stunning.We wasted no time and got straight into the wetsuits – this is our first time in wetsuits and I’m sure we caused a lot of amusement to our fellow campers. It was honestly like trying to truss a chicken!
Our first experience in a 5mm wetsuit in the Hebrides was just amazing! Rodney had sorted us with the whole kit- hood, gloves, shoes, fins etc. I adored being in the sea, it looked so inviting and now we were able to enjoy a swim. We got our snorkels on and had a little look around the rocks.
After our swim the prime spot had become available! We wasted no time, so still in wetsuits, we moved Ruby and vowed to stay there for at least 2 nights. We used the shower facilities (£1) and got on with dinner, overlooking the beach and sea – a salmon and prawn risotto washed down with a lovely white wine.
We didn’t get the chairs out because our side door was facing the view and to embrace the view from our pitch meant we struggled to open the boot with the bikes on- so we used Ruby’s step for seating which worked really well! We felt like proper Veedubbers now!
Monday dawned another beautiful sunny and hot day. We couldn’t believe our luck! We enjoyed sausage sandwiches before donning the wetsuits and snorkelling gear and trying some snorkelling out on the other side of the bay (the right hand side) As it was so uncharacteristically hot, we couldn’t leave Jazz in the van – it was mid 20s and just way too hot to leave a dog in a vehicle, so he came down to the beach with us and we took it in turns to snorkel.
I’m not sure what Jazz made of the wetsuits! Exploring the underwater world was really fun – we saw lots of colourful sea-weed and plants, sand eels, pollock, crabs etc. We used following underwater camera
After ham and cheese paninis for lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach on our inflatable sofas, chilling. I don’t think I can remember such a relaxing campervan trip. It felt like we were on a beach holiday!
For dinner, Keith knocked up an amazing bbq, we’d picked up some venison steaks from the Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Stable shop that you pass on the road to Huishnish. This along with some sausages and chicken and a rice salad was yummy.
We walked up the hill to the 5 campervan with electric spaces to watch the sun go down and I tried to use my drone but it didn’t have enough battery (we were off grid and with the heat and the coolbox, the battery was struggling a touch so we didn’t want to charge anything non essential) That was a shame cos I bet it would have been a good view.
Our solar panel is doing well, Keith’s placed it on the roof and it’s soaking up the sun from 7am to 9pm!
With a bit of a lump in our throats we bid Huishnish a fond farewell. Before leaving we used the motorhome service point to empty the loo and refill the water tank for just £3. Considering the parking was free, and showers available for just £1 this is excellent value. We actually shoved a fiver in a donation box to say thanks. Up the hill is a 5 space campervan site with electric for £5 a night but you have to time it well to get a space during peak sunshine I imagine!
On the way we stopped and watched a golden eagle through the binoculars- what a special moment that was, neither of us has seen one in the wild.
We popped into Tarbet to pick up some local gin. On the way we tried to stop off at two more snorkel trail locations but sadly we could not for the life of us find the correct place. In our opinion – North Harris Wildlife trust could probably do with signposts at the locations and visible parking as at one point we drove 2 miles down a farm track trying to find the place and could not find it!
During this period of time, my phone went nuts (without me realising) and decided to emergency call 112. I had no idea about this and because there is absolutely no phone signal I was blissfully unaware that my phone had not only rang 112, but had also text my dad, my mum and Keith (who also had no phone signal!) to tell them I was sending an emergency SOS message and where my location was.
Once buying the gin, we carried on towards Luskentyre beach – which is regarded as one of the best beaches in the world. Again we’ve been before, but it still doesn’t fail to impress.
The size of the beach is just overwhelming! We managed to get a great spot overnight spot overlooking part of the beach – provided by the West Harris trust and only £5 a night.
We set our stall out and enjoyed steak and stilton wraps for lunch before taking a walk on the beach with our wetsuits and trying some more snorkelling.
This time we snorkelled in with the tide all the way back to Ruby, taking it in turns again to stay with Jazz and always keeping one step ahead of the tide. We saw lots of crabs and had a lovely time. It’s just so nice to be underwater where you wouldn’t normally be as the water despite being crystal clear is blooming cold!
We both had a solar shower to wash the salt water off when we returned to Ruby and enjoyed some gins, before cooking with meat another wonderful seaview, chicken fajitas.
Wednesday arrived and it was time to set an alarm as we had to leave at 9am to get to Scalpay for our 10am Stand up Paddleboarding Lesson (SUP) I have fancied giving this a whirl since we saw people giving lessons on the Norfolk Broads. Just as we arrived on Scalplay i received many worried messages from Dad and Jenny asking if we were ok. It was at this point we realised what had happened with my phone – they had received an emergency message from us and then couldn’t get hold of us for almost 24hurs due to no phone signal. Quite understandably they were going out of their minds with worry!! Sorry Dad and Jenny! Mum on the other hand, had replied – “glad your having a good time!” It turns out that Apple to Apple (which is what our emergency SOS message was to mums phone) just sends a map link to your location. Apple to Samsung which is what it was me to Dad sends an upscaled “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SOS MESSAGE”! Whoops! A quick phone call to say we are fine cleared the air and put Dad and jenny’s mind at rest!
Back to the paddle boarding . The weather couldn’t have been any better. We met Rodney again at the designated place and along with 6 others donned our wetsuits, and took our boards to the water. Luckily the wife of someone also taking a lesson wasn’t taking part, and had her own dog, so offered to look after Jazz too, as the heat (which was totally not expected when we booked it) was too intense to leave him. God knows what we would have done had Ruth not been there to Jazz sit!
The SUP lesson was FAB!!! We are complete beginners and have no balance, so our hopes were not high that we would achieve the end result of standing up. However, we both managed it and it was exhilarating, exciting and quite hard work. I can’t think of a more lovely way to experience the coast line of this stunning island.
Lessons are £40 and Rodney was just a brilliant and patient teacher. I can’t recommend the experience enough! See our video highlights here
Feeling completely exhilarated and little sad that our Hebridean adventure was nearly over we handed our wetsuits back to Rodney and waved goodbye.
We made use of the spotlessly clean and FREE showers at Scalpay Community Centre before booking a table for evening meal at the Anchorage Restaurant, Leverburgh, the opposite end of the island. If we had any criticism of the Isle of Harris it would be that despite fishing being a huge part of life here, we found it impossible to find some fresh seafood to buy and cook. We were both craving a seafood meal so decided to splash out on an evening meal. We visited the Anchorage when we last visited and had a fab meal, so table booked, we jumped in Ruby and made our way to the south of the Island.
The restaurant were happy for us to stay overnight in their carpark, right next to the ferry to North Uist, so we made use of the time before our reservation by having a HUGE tidy – wetsuits and snorkelling equipment had put a serious strain on our storage – we managed, but we had half of Luskentyre beach gathered on the floor!As the weather has been so good we haven’t packed Ruby’s bed away since Saturday so we’ve effectively had a fixed bed which has been nice.
Ruby soon was sparkling clean and organised again, so we went for a couple of drinks in the restaurant garden – I enjoyed the Barra Gin, before dinner. We even managed a celebrity spot – we only sat next to THE Billy Connelly! Amazing – such a gent (sorry no pic as I didn’t fully realise it was him – I said to Keefy he looks and sounds like Billy Connelly, then later on instagram I saw someone down the road at an art studio had posted a pic of him!)
We had a brilliant meal, it really is a spot to visit if you like fresh fish and seafood. We both had identical meals – hand dived scallops to start, fresh cod with chive mash and pak choi, and chocolate fondue. It was FABULOUS.
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.
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!
Bluebell the motorhome is still parked up on New Dover Rd P&R- we had a wonderfully quiet night last night and would really recommend you pay this place a visit!
Today we’ve done a massive bike ride- from our pitch here at the park and ride to Whitstable and back, a return journey of 20 miles, many of those up a gradual ascent!! Having said that, we have thoroughly enjoyed it, although I have no doubt we will be hobbling around tomorrow!!
We cycled to the other side of Canterbury (nr to Canterbury West train station) where we picked up the old disused railway line, now turned into cycle and foot path. It was a massive hill out of Canterbury but it is totally off road and you go through the campus of Kent Uni, which looks a lovely place to study by the way.
The Crab and Winkle Way is a lovely off road route that take you past ancient vineyards, through some pretty woodland and then down into the very picturesque bay of Whitstable.
We loved Whitstable, it reminded us of Aldborough and Southwold on the Suffolk coast. There is a lovely pretty working harbour andromeda nice shops and a handful of pubs to explore.
As you walk around the harbour there are lots of stalls selling fresh oysters straight off the boats- sadly neither Keith or I are fans of uncooked oysters otherwise we definitely would have purchased some!
There was an interesting looking fish market/ restaurant though which we eyed up for some fresh mussels for tea, and cod and chips to get us back to Canterbury, washed down with some local ale! We sat outside in the terrace overlooking the harbour. What a fab location!
Seeing as it took us about 2 hrs to get to Whitstable from the motorhome we decided to set back about 3pm, stopping briefly at Tescos to get a French baguette to accompany our mussels for tea!
The journey out of Whitstable was HARD! About 2 miles uphill!! But then as we aprrocahed Canterbury it became 2 miles downhill so it cancelled it out I suppose!
All in all a Brill day, and cannot wait to eat our mussels later!
Friday: Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up on the coast behind a large sand dune on a free aire in France. But the question is, what coast are we on?! When we booked this trip, back in February, we booked with the intention of driving to the Mediterranean for a few beach days in the sun. But, given the fact the weather forcast was grim for pretty much the whole of France, and we are currently saving for our wedding day (exactly one year today to go!) we made the decision on our drive down to The Tunnel not to venture the 700 odd miles each way to the Med! This would save us at least £500 quid in fuel for the wedding fund, and with it being the 70th anniversary year of D Day, we thought Normandy would be a good place (and significantly cheaper!!) to head for, without feeling like we’ve compromised.
So, back to my opening statement: Bluebell the Motorhome is parked up in the blazing sunshine (not forecasted!!) on the Free aire at Stella Plage; just south of Le Touquet.
We arrived in France smoothly, quickly, (thanks Eurotunnel) and less stressed at the promise of saving some dosh, late last night and made the 2 minutes drive from train to Cite Europe aire, along with 10 or so other motorhomes for some serious shut eye. We must have needed it as we didn’t wake up til gone 10am!! Feeling heaps more positive, less knackered, and encouraged by the bright blue sky perking through our roof vents, we doned our shorts and picked a beach aire in our “All The Aires France” that was an hours drive away.
Our mission this week is to travel this stretch of coast without using toll roads, and we enjoyed our journey leaving the motorway at Bologne on the Route Nationale road towards Stella Plage. When we arrived, we were pleased to see there were plenty of spaces free, and enjoyed a walk over the sand dune and on to the beach. We narrowly averted a storm with a lunch break in Bluebell before off loading the bikes and cycling the 30 mins journey to ale Touquet. Most of the journey was on a special cycle path resulting in an enjoyable 10kms or so round trip.
We enjoyed visiting Le Touquet, it’s got lots of character, and has some interesting Art Deco buildings, some tasty looking fancy chocolatiers, designer clothing shops and a lovely stretch of sandy beach and promenade. The town of Stella Plage, where we are staying is also really nice- it’s got a handful of bars, cafés, patisseries, shops and a small supermarket where we stocked up on Camembert, wine, cider, and sausisson- which we then consumed whilst happily sat outside the van in the sun, reading, chilling and marvelling at how something as simple as wine, cheese and fresh bread can taste so damn fine!!!
Bluebell the motorhome is safely parked up back home after an immense journey south from Dundee to Newark, then Newark to home.
Our last night in Scotland was spent happily parked up at a farm shop Brit Stop close to Dundee, where we were able to stock up on Aberdeen Angus burgers and sausages (we literally filled the fridge with meat!) and have a very quiet and relaxed evening enjoying the sunshine.
Bluebell parked outside the farm shop for the night
The next day dawned a sunny one, and not wanting to waste the sunshine we decided to stop at Tentsmuir Forest/Beach, just south of Dundee, for a walk in the sun, before hitting the road back south to near Newcastle.
Tentsmuir Beach is without a doubt the best beach we’ve been on in the UK, and that includes all those fantastic white sandy beaches on the Hebrides, the white sands of Morar- all of them are beaten by this magnificent stretch of golden, perfect sand which literally goes on for MILES. It must be a mile at least in depth, sea to sand dunes, and then it stretches round a headland for well over 2 miles I’m sure. Have a look at this aerial pic I’ve borrowed from Tentsmuir.org
We were literally the only ones on it, we saw not another single person on the entire beach. Incredible. The weather was gorgeous, the beach was amazing – we felt like we were in heaven!!
What is lovely about this amazing place is that there is the beach and dunes to explore, a pine forest nestled behind, and loads of way marked trails to follow, be it on bike or foot. Hidden in the forest was an 18th Century Ice House, and a World War 2 Pill box, that was actually only discovered recently as it was hidden beneath the sand!
18th Century Ice House,
WW2 Pill box
We had a brilliant time exploring this area, and couldn’t believe it was free (apart from £2.50 all day parking- bargain!) We reluctantly hit the road after lunch and had a smooth journey south, arriving just north of Newcastle around 6pm at a pub stop. Naturally we went in for a taste of the local ale, and after a pint of the 7.something % cider I nearly needed carrying back to the van! Keith however enjoyed a couple of pints of very reasonably priced local ale, coming in at UNDER £3 a pint- and half of that went to the local lifeboat charity. Great idea.
Next morning we were on the road before 9am, aiming for Newark for an Easter Sunday meal with Dad and Jenny which was lovely. Easter Monday, before leaving dad’s house, we borrowed his power washer, to get some of the sea salt we’d accumalated on our 1500 miles off!
Keefy with his hose, ahem
A nice and clean Bluebell, all ready for her next adventure!
Our final mileage was approximately 1600 miles, we filled with diesel 5 times, and are dead happy with the mpg we got (although we don’t know how to work the actual one out, we are pleased with our fuel bill!) we stayed on only one campsite during the 17 days away, and managed to fill with water/empty our loo every day!
We ate and drank some fine local produce and came back needing to shed a pound or two, that’s for sure.
Anyway, next trip is a mini break in Essex next weekend, the. We’ve got ten days in France to look forward to at the end of the month! Hurrah for school holidays
Bluebell the motorhome is parked at Brit Stop 810 not too far from the fairy tale Glamis Castle.
We set off from Brit Stop no 828 at 8am in the pouring rain with the intention of following the coast road east. Aberdeen council have very handily provided a brown sign tour of the coast road, which is well signposted and takes in many places of interest between Nairn and Aberdeen. This has proved to be the basis of our tour today, following the route through the extremely pretty fishing villages of Portgordon, Buckie, Findochty and onto Portknockie to see some interestingly shaped sea rocks named locally as the Bow and Fiddle.
We then carried on the coast road to Cullen, which is, as it’s name suggests, where the fish soup, Cullen Soup was devised. sadly as it was breakfast time we didn’t get to have any soup today but next time we will make a point to!
Viaduct and seaside at Cullen- a nice spot for breakfast
Next stop, 10 miles or so down the road was the charming 17th century fishing village of Portsoy, which we thought rivalled the picturesque fishing villages found in Cornwall and Devon. The tall warehouses that stand next to the waterside have been restored into quirky shops and cafés and we spent a happy hour wandering around here.
The old harbour at Portsoy surrounded by warehouses. You can see the newer harbour on the left.
It was then on through Whitehills, Banff and Macduff where although the housing wasn’t quite as pretty, the harbours were small and all had character. Gardenstown was the next stop, which was different to the other places we had visited today in that the village is built on a series of terraces which are set into the cliffs rising up behind the harbour. It was steep drive down into the village and in the end we couldn’t find the parking so turned round and came back up, stopping to admire the views half way up.
The terraced fishing village of Gardenstown
Next stop- our most anticipated of the day and tour- the small handsome village of Pennan. The hotel and telephone box were featured in the film local hero (you may remember we found the beaches last week on the west coast) and finding the village was every bit as exciting as we’d hoped! Again, it was a very steep drive down, with three hairpins and a tight negotiation round the hotel itself, but even this was exciting as the drive down also features in the film! The village is gorgeous and although the weather was changeable we loved our visit here! We didn’t go to the pub- mainly because dogs weren’t allowed, but the interior scenes were filmed elsewhere- this and the frosty welcome we received when nipping our heads through the door meant we didn’t mind missing a pint here.
After a quick lunch, and a careful drive back up the steep road to the main road, we headed to Fraserburgh- home to the first lighthouse, Kinnaird Head, that The Northern Lights society introduced in the 1700s. It’s unusual in that it’s built into the structure of 16th century Fraserburgh Castle. Although the original lighthouse is now “retired”- a new automatic one lights up the shores these days- there is an excellent visitors centre and lighthouse museum, plus you can have a tour of the old lighthouse. We absolutely loved it- for a very reasonable £6 each we spent almost an hour in the museum, and another 45 minute on a particularly interesting tour of the lighthouse.
Trying on the light keepers uniform!
Looking at the different methods in which the lights work.
Once on the tour (we were lucky to be the only ones as it was the last tour of the day) we were taken right up to the very top- and shown the light, how it worked and even allowed to go into the light room where the lens was. Unfortunately the high winds meant we couldn’t go on the roof (90mph gust had been recorded the hour before!!) but we were allowed on the balcony where we had a great view.
inside the lens! Amazing experience
The outside of the lighthouse- we were at the very top on the previous picture!!
It really was a brilliant tour, and we learnt some amazing things!
We are now at our BritStop for the night, which is perched up on a harbour wall of a town near Aberdeen. It’s got an amazing beach, but we are too snuggled on Bluebell to go out now, it’s been a long, but brill day exploring and sightseeing, we can’t believe how much we managed to fit in! Tomorrow we are heading for Glamis Castle.
Panoramic of the beach we were overlooking- truly spectacular
enjoying being on the beach in the sun!
The beautiful gardens at Glamis Castle: The walled garden, The Pineteum and The Italian Gardens
Bluebell the motorhome is tucked safely behind BritStop 824 whilst her owners enjoy the ale from the on site brewery!
We left Skye this morning via the bridge and headed to the pretty town of Plockton for coffee and a wander. Plockton enjoys a micro climate and is totally sheltered, therefore there are palm trees that line the sea front- it’s quite a sight to see!! The sea front is very pretty, and hosts a hotel, a small shop where we picked up some delicious highland blue cheese, and a number of b and bs. I should imagine in the summer it’s heaving! We enjoyed a coffee outside the Plockton hotel- it was a bit early for anything stronger and we’d got a long drive ahead of us.
Next stop was the Eileen Donan castle, for elevensees- a tradition of ours that started 5 trips ago on our maiden voyage in Daisy. We visited that year, and enjoyed it- but these days we just pop into the car park for the obligatory pic of the outside and a brew.
From here, we took the stunning road towards Inverness – which takes in some breathtaking scenery through the 5 sisters mountain range, with a brief stop to take in the battle site of Glen Shiel; and we were lucky with the weather today, resulting in a gorgeous drive.
We got as far as Loch Ness, Brit Stop 824- a hotel and micro brewery. Let me tell you, the outside doesn’t look too much, but the food and beer is amazing. We’ve stocked up on bottled beer for the van, fed on haggis- Keith had a haggis pizza and I had haggis in the traditional form with neeps and tatties. Delicious! What’s more- if it hadn’t been for Brit Stops, we would never have found this place as it’s nested behind some houses, off the beaten track. For us, this is what we love most about this scheme. It takes us to places where we can have a true experience rather than a touristy/mass produced one.
Tomorrow we continue with our exploration of Brit Stops/ food tour- we’re heading to a cheese farm!! Sounds right up our street!
Bluebell the motorhome is parked at Brit Stop no: behind a cheese farm, near Inverness.
We couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome today, our hosts are lovely, and from the minute you pull in this is evident:
Our taste buds are going bonkers- we’ve been sampling (and buying) the cheese that is made here this afternoon, and it is delicious. The main cheddar they make here is voted in the top 10 in Britain, and I can see why. It’s creamy, but also mature- and as soon as I popped a taster in my mouth I knew it was a winner. We bought three variations in the end; the lady told us that the crumblier one was made from milk taken in the winter months, which then needed to be left to mature for longer. It was very interesting, and we can see why the shop/cafe have been awarded 5 stars from Visit Scotland. We especially enjoyed watching through the glass partition to watch cheese being handmade!
Other purchases that we picked up here were Scottish oatcakes with garlic and rosemary in, also lovely, and some ice cream from the nearby Black Isle dairy which was am.maz.ing!!! Keefy’s honeycomb flavour especially! And Jazz loved it!! Cheeky mutt!
Other than eating- which we started at Loch Ness this morning with a ginormous bacon baguette with this lovely view……
we did a little walk to a pretty village nearby, on the banks of the Moray Firth to try to spot some dolphins, as this stretch of water is popular with dolphins. Unfortunately despite a lovely hour sat waiting, we failed to see them this time, but will definitely return next year.
Whilst we were chilling tonight we saw 2 barn owls hunting for their tea and the beekeepers came to collect the honey from the nearby bee boxes. It’s been fantastic, and yet again another favourite spot has been born! Thanks Brit Stops 🙂
Bluebell the motorhome is perched on the seaside behind Brit Stop 828. Excitement is lingering in the air, as word in the van is that tonight is Fish and chip night! Yum yum.
We were on our way early (well… 9am) this morning, and just like the old saying goes- the early bird catches the worm- or in our case, lots of sightings of dolphins! We headed to Nairn harbour for our brekkie, and whilst cooking up eggy bread and beans (you can imagine the smell in our van this week!) Keefy exclaimed that he’d seen a dolphin! Eggs abandoned, I joined the search, and sure enough over the next hour we saw several sightings – one was pretty close too. I failed miserably on the photo taking- I was too busy squeeling every time it reappeared. However, that’s one thing to tick off the list, as it was an amazing sight to watch these beautiful creatures playing in the wild. Apparently bottle nosed dolphins are called this because their long snout is said to look like an old fashioned gin bottle. It made me smile- I wonder how much truth is in it.
From Nairn, we drove east to Burghead, where they celebrate two New Years- the 1st and 11th Jan under the Julian calender and to discover about the Clavie tradition and also see some Pictish stone engravings. The visitors centre (donation entry) is excellent and enjoys a panoramic view from the roof. There is also the remains of an Iron Age fort here, as well as the Burghead Well. It was a nice place to visit, and we are glad that we made the journey off the main road to get there.
We then took the coast road east, towards Lossiemouth, making one final surreal stop at the small fishing village of Hopeman. It’s got a pretty harbour here as well as an alladins cave type shop/gallery that we nipped into. Half an hour later we emerged £60 lighter but having gained this bad boy for our living room (at home not in the van!!) luckily we are traveling in a large vehicle as it’s got a few miles to cover before it’s installed with a couple of malts next to the sofa at home!!
So now it’s time for fish and chips after a great day exploring this lovely stretch of Scotland.
We found no problems whatsoever in finding places to park overnight whilst on the island. Some were nicer than others- but more often than not they had marvellous views. Most small car parks and laybys/viewpoints has at least one wheelie bin for your rubbish. Just make sure you follow the wild camping rules-
1) don’t overstay your welcome, most locals are happy for you to park for one or two nights.
2) leave no trace of your stay- don’t empty your waste water or loos and take away your litter unless there is a bin there
3) try to spend some money in the local community- most places are happy for you to stay as they thrive on income from tourists.
4) if there is a sign saying “no overnight parking” – don’t ignore it- it gives us a bad name!
5) try to avoid setting out excessive camping equipment when wild camping, especially if you’re near a community. Locals usually don’t want their area being made to look like a campsite- there are plenty of campsites dotted around if you want to set out chairs/awnings/BBQs etc
We found these spots:
1) small car park in Broadford
Not the main town car park, but opposite the chip shop (yum yum)
2) Staffin Beach Car park
Right next to Staffin Beach- a dead end road and very quiet. Fab views across to Applecross Bay. Dinosaur footprints can be seen on Staffin beach itself
This layby was slightly set back off the main road and we had a very quiet night here. Possibly aided by the drinks we had at the bar 1/2 mile down the road – the Sligachan Hotel, which is also a micro brewery and has a fine selection of ales and whiskeys
Finding water and emptying waste water/loo
There were 3 public loos that we were able to use to empty our toilet cassette etc (make sure you don’t use the chemicals though)
At Broadford and Dunvegan there is also an outside tap so we were able to use our hose to refill the water tank quickly. When we did this, we made sure we spent money in the local shop as a thankyou.
Food and Drink
We enjoyed lots of good drinks in various establishments on the Isle although we never got round to eating out this time. We’ve eyed up two restaurants we’d like to eat at next time though. There are Coops at Portree and Broadford and local groceries shops at Dunvegan, Staffin and Uig.
Here’s where we drank:
1) Bakur Bar, Uig
Situated next to the Isle of Skye Brewery, the ale here travels the 30odd metres from brewery to bar. We tried the Red Cuillin, and the Black Cuillin on draught, and both were delicious. No dogs allowed.
2) The Lodge Inn
This inn has a very warm welcome, both from the landlord and his wife, and the roaring fire in the bar. We enjoyed a couple of pints of their Lodge Ale, brewed specially for them by the Isle of Skye brewery. Dog friendly
3) The Old Inn, Carbost
This was by far our favourite inn we went visited. It had a cracking atmosphere, served ales brewed from nearby “The Cuillin microbrewery”, and was opposite the Tallisker distillery, so naturally we sampled a dram too! Food menu looked delicious, we nearly ate, but didn’t and regretted it. Very dog friendly.
4) The Sligachan Hotel
We purposely stayed local to this bar, as it’s home to the Cuillin microbrewery. The in house ale was wonderful especially washed down with a Tallisker in front of the fire. Mackenzie Bar- Dog friendly
Our favourite attractions
1) The Old Man of Storr
A tough walk if you want to get right to the top, but options to shorten walk whilst still enjoying the views
2) The Quaring
Again, a tough walk if you go right to the top, but a well trodden path leads you from the car park to the base where you can still enjoy the mysterious atmosphere
3) The Isle of a Skye Brewery
Located on the pier at Uig, a great shop full of local beer, whiskey, tablet, and other local treats. We loved stocking up in here, and the Tallisker flavoured tablet was to die for.
4) Fairy Glen
Another must to see- a miniature valley, where everything is green, and where legend has it that the fairies live! When you visit, you can easily see how this myth came about!
5) The Tallisker Distillery
Located in the pretty village of Carbost, although we didn’t get to visit, we most certainly will return. You can smell the whiskey in the air, and there is a lovely pub to visit too. (See above- The Old Inn)
The weather on a Skye when we were there wasn’t brilliant- we tended to have one good day and one bad day. Most nights were stormy. We were told however that Skye has had the worst winter/spring in a long time and that it’s usually nowhere near a bad as this. We don’t go to Scotland expecting sunshine, and as we were told by a couple of locals: “There’s no such thing as bad weather here on Skye, just the wrong clothes!”