One week til we’re off…..

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

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

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

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Then onto Glen Coe, for some walking and incredible views

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

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

Scotland 2011part 1

Scotland 2011- Part 2

Scotland 2012 – The Hebrides and beyond

Scotland 2013- part 1

Scotland 2013- Part 2

Scotland 2013- Part 3

Scotland 2013- Part 4

Scotland 2013- Part 5

Scotland 2013 – Part 6

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

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REVIEW- Folding Solar Panel

When we first got Bluebell, the thing that most excited us aside from the Rear lounge, was the good leisure battery set up, which was going to allow us to wild camp more (stay off campsites more) 

We started off by doing a campsite every other day to maintain a charge ready for our night of wild camping- but soon our adventurous sides wanted to stretch the days between campsites. This, and our plans for our 3 weeks Europe tour, where we REALLY didn’t want to stay at a €40 pn campsite when the Europeans cater well for Motorhomes away from sites, saw us looking into options for fitting a solar panel to Bluebell’s roof!! We were both a bit anxious about drilling into Bluebell’s outer skin to affix the solar panel, so started looking  at other options. Luckily for us, the leisure battery is under the drivers seat, therefore this folding solar panel kit was the ideal option for us:

40W 12V Photonic Universe folding solar panel kit 40 watt 12 volt battery charger for camping, caravan, motorhome, boat or any other 12V system

When in use, it sits neatly on the front dashboard and attaches to the leisure battery with crocodile clips. When not in use, it folds easily in half and goes behind the seat in a sturdy briefcase style case. It’s very quick and easy to get out and attach- we get it out when we’ve parked up for the day and it has an indicator on to show how the battery is doing. We managed three weeks in Italy without a single night of electric- therefore we are very happy with it! What is also nice, is that it still charges even if it’s not brilliantly sunny (like most British days….haha) 

For example- last week, we toured the Peak District (in Feb so not long days…) We managed 7 nights away, with only one night of electric on night 3. Not once did our 12v battery go and seeing as we only drove 5-10 miles per day, we put this down to the good ol solar panel! 

 

 

Feb Half term- The Peak District, Pt 2: Edges and Ales

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up on a lovely hard standing pitch with panoramic views on…..wait for it…. A………CAMPSITE!

We are pitched up for the night on the very pretty, and extremely good value Beech Croft Farm Caravan and Campsite

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During winter months, we can manage 2-3 nights without hookup/ water/ loos, then we need a night on site to empty, re fill, charge etc. So, here we are, and first impressions are very good! Especially for just £18 for the night.

So yesterday, we made an early start and drove the 5 miles from our Britstop to another pub, The Robin Hood Inn which was the starting point of the walk we were doing and where we had pre booked a table for dinner, and during the process of booking asked if we could stay overnight in the car park, to which they obliged.

We set off on our “Edges and Ales” walk and couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather!

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It was a lovely walk which took in Bircham Edge, Chatsworth Estate and then Dobb Edge although we both found it tough as we are out of practice with the ol hill walking! Mind you, my homemade sloe gin helped!

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When we got to the Chatsworth House estate there was a big trail hunt about to start, and we were offered mulled wine and cake! Which was very welcome by that point I can tell you!

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We carried on the walk and got back to Bluebell feeling a bit like this…..

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One advantage to parking our motorhome in the pub car park was that we could both shower and change before dinner! We went in early for dinner and enjoyed a couple of pints of Pedigree before. The menu was lovely and we both were near enough foaming at the mouth by the time our parsnip and honey soup came out! I followed the soup with Sirloin of Roast beef and Keefy had homemade fish and chips and we both had homemade treacle tart with whiskey cream and ice cream for pud. The meal was gorgeous and the ale slipped down very well indeed!!

After “one for the road” we stumbled back to our room for the night and fell into a deep snooze! Must have been all that fresh air!!

We had a chilled and quiet evening and managed to escape hangover thankfully!

This morning the weather wasn’t so bright, so we decided to have a drive and then check in to the site at the earliest opportunity, in this case 12pm.

We drove up through Froggart, then to Bakewell, where we nearly stopped, but it was packed busy and we’ve both been before, so carried on to the quieter but equally as pretty Ashford in the Water

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then Monsal Head viewpoint

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We’re now all settled on our campsite, re charging and chilling – after all the weathers a bit gloomy and we are on holiday so are quite happy to have a day of doing not much!! 🙂 ***

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*** edit 5:30pm***

Us being us, got bored of chilling by roughly 2pm, so decided to see what walks were around from the site. We knew were close to the famous Monsal trail but didn’t realise we were within walking distance. A quick cross reference on streetmap and the memory map and a donning of the waterproofs and we were off.

We did a 3.5 mile circuit in 1.5 hrs- it took us across the moor

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Down into the gauge and onto the Monsal trail

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Along the trail and through some cool tunnels

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And back up a hill to the campsite!

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Not forgetting past the campsites very own dog and muddy boot wash! (Much to the disapproval of Jazz!)

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The sun has now set, and it’s most certainly time for a beer!

Until next time

Lx

Feb Half term- The Peak District, Pt 1: The Crooked Spire of Chesterfield

Bluebell the motorhome is parked up in the car park at BritStop 518 (2914 book) overlooking the Derbyshire Dales and the town of Chesterfield.

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We didn’t leave Norfolkshire til lunchtime as we’d had a busy day yesterday moving Keefy’s mum. We weren’t in a major rush, as all we wanted to do was see the Crooked Spire of Chesterfield, and then chill and have a couple of beers in the pub.

It was a very blustery journey across the fens, but we still made good time, despite us rarely going about 50mph. We passed through rain and sun then rain again, but by the time we reached Chesterfield we had a break in the rain so found a car park right by the church and so set off for a quick explore.

The spire really is worth a visit to see, the crook in it is believed to becau sed by untreated timber being used when it was built 700 yrs ago- it’s very Tim Burton like.

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After a good circuit round the church ( there wasn’t much else to see in town) we drove the 4 miles or so out of town to our rural retreat of a pub which is on a hill so overlooks the valley. We had a good chill, watched a film, napped, went for a couple of beers and watched the International Space Station pass overhead, then turned in for the night.

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It was so peaceful during the night, and this morning we were treated to a gorgeous sunrise over the valley. We are feeling chilled to the max, and are looking forward to driving up to near to a Chatsworth house today for a good walk – and weathers looking promising so hurrah!

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In other news, I’m somehow picking up 4G from here which is a first for me, and although we weren’t able to pick up wifi from this site, my 4G on my phone is tethered to my ipad and Keith’s ipad and seems to be powering it very impressively. Currently I’m online uploading photos and writing this blog post, and Keith is online streaming music from Spotify, and enjoying his new Bluetooth speakers, which are fab btw (more on those another time). I will just have to keep an eye on my data allowance! :-/

Have a great Sunday folks, and happy half term to fellow teachers out there!

Until next time

Lx

Yorkshire Dales- The final Chapter

Bluebell the motorhome is currently hurtling down the A1 Southbound, somewhere between Doncaster and Newark! We’ve decided to head homewards today as we both fancy going to the village fireworks event tonight, but my gosh, we are heading home fully relaxed, well fed, watered and a little stiff round the knees from the walks we’ve enjoyed!

We had a fantastic 2 nights at Brit Stop no 713 (near the viaduct 😉 ). We asked them if we could do 2 nights, as there were two walks that we fancied trying out and they were more than happy for us to stay. It was win win- we must have spent £70+ on their legendary a Station ale the first day alone, and day 2 we drank them out of the Ale (whoops!) and enjoyed a hearty 3 course meal off their huge menu! For us, it was really nice to not have to drive, and we found that even after a rather immense walk we totally chilled down and felt tons better for it (if not slightly hungover!!)

We did two walks near Ribblehead, one at took us under the viaduct and another that took on some of the Ribble Way. The latter was really adventurous! We found ourselves having to try out some survival skills fresh off the tele- on finding ourselves at a river that needed to be crossed, with no sign of a bridge, we remembered a tip from one tv prog, take off your boots and socks before wading through- it keeps them dry. So off came our boots and socks, Keefy lobbed them across the river (thankfully he’s got a good aim!) and off we went! It. Was. Freezing! Luckily we got through despite a near miss with Jazz where the current dragged him off and he almost slipped out of his harness! And we were very pleased to have dry socks and boots to put on the other side!

After our two nights at 713 we travelled south to Malham and parked up at the tarn. We had a walk that took in all the main sites, the Tarn, the Cove- a huge natural limestone pavement on the top of a big gorge, the pretty village, Janet’s floss waterfall, and Gordale Scar crag. At 6.5 miles (and a lot of challenging paths) it was a great walk but very tiring, although we were really lucky with the weather! After the walk we headed for our final BritStop of the week, a farm shop about 2.5 miles away from Malham. We enjoyed looking round the shop, and stocking up on the essentials; bacon, beef steaks for tea, local cheese and some veg! All the ingredients for a hearty local tea, beef in reed wine stew from my new campervan recipe book- thanks Sam! 🙂

We had a lovely evening chilling and enjoyed listening to the tawny owl that was on the tree above us. Sadly we couldn’t see it, but it was a lovely sound to hear.

So now we are on the home run, having had a brilliant week of eating drinking sleeping and chilling! We are so glad we chose to do the Dales, we’ve seen so many awesome things here and it’s been nice doing a smaller scale tour with less driving.

BritStops once again has been beyond Marvellous. We’ve managed to centre our tour around a small area taking in local pubs and farm shops and we cannot recommend it enough to anyone.

Holiday highlights are Ribblehead, Fountains Abby and Malham 🙂

Until next time

Lx

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This post is fuelled by the Station inn ale!! ;-)

Bluebell the motorhome is parked in the car park of our 4th Brit Stop of the week! We are high up in the Dales, where it is clear but blustery, that sort of weather where after a long walk, it only seems right to take advantage of the log fire in the pub!

We’ve had a brill couple of days, departing Harrogate yesterday morning and visiting Fountains Abby, which was stunning with the autumn colours in the trees. We spent a great couple of hours there (I actually think the £9.50 each entrance was more than reasonable with the Abby, the hall, the mill plus miles of beautifully landscaped gardens to explore- plus Jazz was welcomed in too!)

After our visit to NT Fountains Abby we stopped at Ripon to visit the cathedral to see the 6th Century crypt, very cool! And the prison museum, very creepy! We then carried on to Masham, home to Theakstons brewery and the MAsham sausage- both of which we sampled extensively 😉

We then headed to our stop for the night, an old Brit Stop hotel/bar in the heart of Wensleydale. It had a fantastic roaring fire and we were able to continue our Theakstons and Masham sausage tasting into the evening as I cooked us a sausage stew from some local Marsham sausages, which we washed down with a couple of bottles of Old Peculiar… Hic 🙂

Today, we got up bright and early, and tackled Buttertubs- a high pass that links Hawes to Thwaite. On the summit you can see these marvellous limestone stones that have been caused by years of acidic rain falling onto the limescale rocks to cause these 100 ft deep gorges. It got its name Buttertubs as legend says that in the olden days men used to store their butter there between market days, to prevent having to carry it down the hill then back up the next day.

We then made our way to Ribblehead, which is where we are now. There is this fantastic viaduct here which with the backdrop of the rolling dales, it’s very atmospheric. We’ve had a lovely walk this afternoon, and then a good session in the pub where we are staying tonight and tomorrow. It’s got some brill ales on, wine, whiskeys and food. What more could we want!!!

Until next time

Lx

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This post is fuelled by Theakstons ;-)

Bluebell the motorhome is out and about for half term, despite the weather warnings! We were supposed to go to Kent this week, but yesterday when we were due to leave we (luckily) caught sky news and learnt about this storm that was supposedly heading Kent way. Needless to say, after a few hours of umming and ahhing, we departed East Harling and rather than heading south, we decided to had north. To be fair, it doesn’t take much for me to consider visiting Yorkshire, it’s a well known fact I love it here, and any opportunity for me to carry on showing Keith that it’s not all grim up here, il gladly take.

3 hours later and a very very good journey traffic wise ( perhaps everyone else was taking the advice plastered on the tv- only make necessary journeys….) we rocked up into a rather large car park of the BritStop we had set the sat nav for- a 14th century village pub, promising log fires, real ale, and good grub. Perfect, just what we were after (who isn’t?!) We had a lovely night sampling their local ales, chatting to the very friendly staff and of course, being a Sunday night, catching up on Strictly! That’s right- the pub had strictly on their bar tv- can’t remember watching it in such a brill location- beer on tap, fire… yes I was in heaven.

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After a very good, long sleep we had a fry up, and set the motorhome towards Knaresborough. We’d read about its famous viaduct and knew that Mother Shipton, the prophet was born here. Nothing had prepared us for how beautiful it was. The viaduct and river was so pretty, and the old houses stuck out of the rock reminding me of Dinan and to some extent the Dordogne. It was lovely. The weather certainly helped- we kept hearing on the radio about the chaos in the south of England, but here we were in our sunglasses enjoying the autumn leaves and breeze. Lovely

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We visited Mother Shipton’s cave and the petrifying well. It was a great place to visit- we liked the fact that our pampered pooch Jazz could also enjoy it with us. The petrifying well was particularly amazing- basically anything that was hung there turned into stone by the minerals in the water after 3 months, and there were examples of teddy bears hanging, turned into stone, hats, gloves and even a lobster shell.

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We also enjoyed the Halloween figures dotted around the site…. Creepy or what?!

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After a really enjoyable day we headed towards Harrogate, where we found our next Brit Stop pitch within walking distance of Harrogate centre. It’s a not a pub, it’s a shop, but the owner was very friendly and also a motorhome owner. We enjoyed an evening stroll into Harrogate, which is where the Old Peculiar came in… Great night, great day! It’s good to back touring 🙂

Until next time x

France- May half term 2013 (6) Guerande – Honfleur – Whissant – home

Bluebell the motorhome is parked back up outside home, she’s all unpacked, clean, and is having a major rest after driving us around the whole of Brittany, covering over 1600 miles!

We had a long journey from Guerande to Honfleur, we had been unlucky with roadworks on this entire trip, but this journey in particular was road closed after road closed. We just got to Honfleur in time for our 13:30 vets appointment- despite leaving ourselves an extra hour and a half. When we arrived, we were in the horrors, the vets was totally empty, other than workmen! After a sickening moment, we realised we were at the wrong one! 5 mins later, we’d found the right one, and had parked up and were knocking on the door. A very French vet opened up, let us in and made us feel extremely welcome. 10 mins and €40 later, Jazz had had a full check up, some tablets (hidden in cream cheese!) and his passport was all stamped and up to date.

We had to find the back way into the aire as the bride was elevated so you couldn’t drive in the normal way. It was ok for us, as Honfleur was beginning to feel like our second home, we knew the back entrance in but during the afternoon we saw many motorhomes driving around looking lost and stressed trying to follow the non existent French diversion!

We had a great seafood meal overlooking the harbour and an earlyish night- although we made use of our electric hook up- we were able to dig our Keefy’s spare blu ray player out that we carry and watch RV. I love that film, its so so funny!

Next morning, after a lie in, we hit the road to Calais. It took just over 3 hours. We heard for Cite Europe, the massive hypermarket next to the tunnel, to stock up on wine and cheese to bring home. Somehow, we totally underestimated how much wine to bring home, we bought about 10 bottles of red home – we picks done €1 Bordeaux and cotes de Rhone. Shopping done, we headed to find the wire in Wissant. It was very easy to find, it’s just as you enter the town. We took the last space, pitched up for free, and wandered into town. Jazz loved the beach and we had a good hour or so wandering. We used our last few euros on some wine which we happily drank whilst watching the world go by.

Next day, we set off on the 10min journey to the euro tunnel terminal. We were sad to be leaving France, and were both a bit nervous about the pet passport terminal- would our stamps be the right thing? Had we done everything we needed to? Our fears were soon gone, as soon as you drive into the terminal in France, there is a big paw print you follow to a separate terminal. They checked Jazz’s microchip, his stamps in his passport and had a chuckle at his passport photo! 2 mins later, and with a special dashboard sticker, we were free to go. We had arrived over an hour early,in case of any problems, and the we were lucky enough to get on the next shuttle. We literally drove through customs, passport control and onto the train. We were the last vehicle on the train and within 5 mins we were on our way. Absolutely fantastic, we won’t ever use the ferry again.

We really enjoyed our time in Brittany, however I don’t think either of us are in a rush to go back to that part of France. We both had wanted to visit for a long time- and we saw some great places, but we had to work hard to find them. We were disappointed in the difficulties we faced in trying to park the van in some of the towns, as France has such a great reputation for being motorhome friendly.

Our highlights:
France Passion night at the orchard
Mont St Michel
Honfleur
Randomly finding the amazing castle round the corner from the France passion site near Vannes

Until next time
Lx

Our first taste of “Wild Camping” – North Norfolk Feb 2012

One of the things we were rather excited about when we picked up our new pride and joy (Bluebell) was the prospect of having a go at “wild camping” – since our leisure battery seemed to hold its charge more we figured we could occasionally last a night or so parked up somewhere other than a campsite.

Unfortunately England isn’t quite as geared up for Wild Camping as Scotland or even the Continent.. in fact technically it’s classed as not legal, but of course, there are all sorts of loopholes and as far as we were/are aware it is tolerated as long as you are not breaching any public order notices/traffic orders or similar, or blocking anyone’s view, on their land etc etc.

For us the appeal was to be able to park up where we like and when we like. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy staying on campsites, but sometimes we leave them thinking “flipping heck, that was a bit noisy for our liking” or “25 quid to stay for a night?!” We found ourselves sometimes paying up to £30 per night and then begrudging spending any more in the local pub for a meal or whatever, cos we aren’t made of money and if we’ve paid £30 to stay a night in an area it cuts into our holiday spends budget so are more likely not to spend as much money in that local area…

So after A LOT of research on the internet we found this website called http://www.wildcamping.co.uk. WHAT A FIND. We quickly joined for £15 and in return downloaded over 4000 gps coordinates of spots where you can park overnight to our trusty sat nav. We decided to give it a go one night at the end of February, and decided to head towards the North of the county. We visited Walsingham Abby to see the glorious snowdrops (my favourite!) and then headed north towards Wells Next to Sea. There was a spot in a little car park near to Wells that we had read about so headed straight there. When we arrived it was a fantastic location, right on the sea and in a harbour carpark. We spent the afternoon walking up to the main beach, chilling out and enjoying the view. It was glorious. But there was something niggling me. We had seen a small sign saying “no camping” and although we were fairly sure we would get away with it, we both decided that we would rather not risk it as we didn’t think we would be able to relax. So, we watched the sun set over the sea and decided to head into Wells Next to Sea. We found a quiet secluded road and parked up, then went for a walk around the town. We had a meal in the local pub and a few drinks around the town. We wandered back to Bluebell about 9pm and settled in for the night. We set the alarm for 7am and after a great nights sleep we just got straight up and left. We went and had bacon butties back at our spot from the day before and were thoroughly chilled out by the time we headed home to work that afternoon!

From our first experience, we took the following things..

1) If you don’t feel comfortable in a spot, don’t stay

2) Have more than one option of a spot to stay for each area you go.

3) We really enjoyed our wander around the Wells pubs, even though I didn’t have a drink “JUST IN CASE” we were moved on

All in all, we had a great time, and couldn’t wait until the next time.

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