Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 9

Another starry night, this time here in Glenshiel. Another good night’s sleep, though it was cool this morning in the Van so we put the heater on. It makes quite a hum and blows out hot air which spooks The Dog. She’s trapped in the Pit of Doom under the front seat, unwilling to have a waft of heat up her tail. Wuss.

We sorted ourselves out. The sun peered over the mountains and the little campsite lit up, surrounded by tall hills. It was quite lovely, almost like a hidden enclave. We were going to shower today, but the showers here are not appealing. Fingers crossed for nicer ones tonight.

While The Dog took herself over by the wall and soaked up the early morning sun, we decided what to do. Stay here or move on? We decided on the latter and jumped in the Van, heading to Gairlochy and the Caledonian Canal for a walk. It was a lovely drive through Munro Central – there’s quite a number to be bagged around here. The mountains were covered in green grass that looked like a velvet coat. It’s very autumnal too, the trees definitely turning colour. The sun is battling the clouds now and is struggling to break through. It might win. We passed a place with fuel pumps that were advertising diesel at £1.70 when the average is £1.40 – that was blatant ripping off people. Only if I was on fumes, I’d only top up to the minimum and drive to the next garage (hoping they weren’t stupidly expensive). Makes us so cross.

We dropped down into Invergarry and picked up the main road to Fort William, stopping at the Commando Memorial perched on a viewpoint. A fantastic statue of soldiers lost in warfare overlooks the valley. It’s a bit of a tourist attraction with a large car park with a couple of coaches burping out tourists who waddled over and took lots of photos before re-boarding. We read the inscription and then headed off to another corner where there was a stone semi circle with lots of personally inscribed plaques, messages, photos and flowers. It covered all the wars and conflicts of the past 100 years – many were casualties of Afghanistan and it struck a chord. Many of the fallen were the same age as our own kids which really brought you up. A terrible waste of life especially as we’ve now all withdrawn. There were a lot of people silently looking and reading the words, quietly commenting to their companion. It was all very quiet and respectful, but you just felt that there should of been only one or two of you there. We still came away in deep thought of how futile wars are and how many lives were lost.

Driving through the valley, we noticed a lot more cute stone cottages which reaffirmed our theory of wealth and climate dictating the housing stock in different areas. Just up from Fort William, there is a lot of money here, being the heart of the tourism industry. Obviously before tourism, there were other factors – Fort William is a major conurbation in this area. Also the climate, they’re up a sheltered valley away from the more serious wind and rain. It’s been quite enlightening working it all out. But I still can’t forgive that school in Ardroil………

We drove down a narrow lane to the Caledonian Canal and parked up. The Dog is so eager for a good long walk after yesterday. The canal path is a wide track and we let The Dog off lead which she rejoices – free at last. There are other walkers and a fair share of cyclists too. We caught up with a husband and wife and their two Jack Russell terriers eating their sandwiches. Turns out that she’s walking the canal to raise money for the Scottish RSPCA. We have a lovely long chat with them and want to donate, but we’ve left our wallets in the car. Only afterwards do we realise we could of asked her for her GoFundMe page. Doh!

The sun has won its battle with the clouds, though there are mackerel shaped clouds which signify bad weather. It’s now lovely and warm – a beautiful day. The canal is like a millpond – totally still and with perfect reflections of the nearby mountains and trees. Wonderful. We walked 2.5 miles exactly (I know, anal isn’t it?) and turned around and retraced our steps. The lock at the beginning of the walk was broken and boats can’t get through. How frustrating and what a bummer if you’re on a boating holiday trying to get up to either Inverness or Fort William, especially if it’s your last day and you need to get the boat back.

We get back to the car – we haven’t had any lunch and it’s gone 2pm. So we drove back along the lane and found the little parking area we spotted on the way in. Thankfully it was empty, apart from a lorry driver opposite. After some manoeuvring, we had the side door facing a favourable sunny aspect and put the kettle on. It was a lovely view to the mountains in the distance, if you ignored the long line of glinting pylons slap bang in the middle, heading off into the distance. We had a cuppa and a couple of Scottish shortbread biscuits, The Dog lying on her mat by the fence, sunbathing. When it was time to go, she was very reluctant to vacate, despite our enthusiastic encouragement, so we just grabbed all four corners of her bed and hoisted her into the Van. Let’s say she wasn’t very impressed with the indignity of it all.

We had googled “caravan sites near Spean Bridge” earlier and one Bunroy Caravan Park took our fancy, in the village of Roy Bridge, just east of Spean Bridge. After a quick stock up of essential items at the local Spar shop, we headed down to Roy Bridge to check it out. We are also toying with staying two nights and the idea of a train trip to Tyndrum tomorrow – a day without the Van. We turned right down this tiny lane, full of potholes and speed bumps, leading to private houses. At the end, it opened up into the campsite. To our delight, it’s a Caravan and Camping certified site and we are members! This will be a nice place to stay. So we checked in and spent many minutes choosing the best spot in the sun before setting up. The only downside is that the proposed pub meal we had promised ourselves tonight is thwarted as they don’t allow dogs. Pah! We need a rethink.

The first priority was to have a shower and Hubby goes first. The sun disappeared behind mounting clouds and it cooled off considerably. I stopped being an ablution block snob and actually enjoyed a lovely hot shower. I did a little laundry too and when I got back, Hubby was getting tea together – pasta and vegetables in a sauce. The wine bottle is opened which is a good sign too, though it was our last bottle and we’ve still got 4 nights to go. Afterwards I retrieved the laundry from the dryer and washed up the pots. The light was starting to go, but The Dog was getting a bit grumpy. She’s still got energy after the 5 mile walk. So we headed down to the river and along a wooded path in the gloom – it starts to rain. We walked as far as we could go and then turned around. It was now seriously raining. We headed back to the Van and settled down. It’s 7pm and it’s dark. Autumn is definitely here – in three weeks the clocks change. It is very October.

So we curl up in the Van, listening to the rain pattering on the roof. It is the first period of rain we have had on this trip – we have been very lucky and to be honest, it was only a matter of time before it caught up with us. And now it has.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 8

When we finally turned the lights out last night, we were plunged into total darkness. No light at all. It was made even more special by the millions of stars that shone in the sky. Such a clear night. We just laid there with the blinds up and watched them. This was perfection. A little while later, The Dog wanted a wee, so Hubby took her out and came back somewhat alarmed. He had turned his torch on and just over the fence, like a ghost, was a huge Highland cow, stood in the middle of the road staring back at him! You don’t expect that when you take your dog out late at night!

We woke about 7.15 to a milky dawn and peered out of the back window. A gang of Highland cows and their calves were on the bank opposite, watching us. Where had they come from?

Morning!

We had our usual cuppa and biscuits, then tidied away. We had to get to Tarbert for the ferry. We drove down to the ablution block area to get rid of rubbish and sort the toilet out – we were going to live on the edge and not book any campsites – just turn up and fingers crossed we can get in. If not, we’re wild camping and need everything ready!

Rush hour chaos again!

Afterwards, after doing our checks – doors locked, gas off, electrics off etc, we headed back along this thin coastal road. There are showers and rainbows on the horizon. We got level with our campsite again and came to a grinding halt. The Highland cows are now on the road, causing a small traffic jam and are not for moving. Finally after a couple of toots of the horn and almost nudging them, they conceded and wandered slowly off onto the verge with all the time in the world, while a young calf, slightly spooked, clonked his hoof against the Van. We may have a badge of honour. The trip back seemed a lot easier than last night and the views equally stunning. We past a little tiny school, built out of wood and painted a dark red, in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the sea. It was a lovely dinky building. What a great place to be educated. Further along, a proper tennis court surrounded by wire fencing sat in a dip, again miles from any housing. Why there? Who’s decision? I had a lot of unanswered questions!

We made Tarbert with plenty of time for the ferry to Skye and hunted down a coffee and food. We sat in the car park to eat it and afterwards I walked The Dog around the perimeter of the car park, before realising that the ferry was coming in. Passengers watched it arrive – it looked like it was about to do a Speed 2 and crash into the jetty. It was fascinating to watch it dock as it came in on an angle to the dock and used its bow thrusters to glide towards the slipway. The crew can park this thing better than I can park my car!

We are invited on board. We noticed with some alarm that a huge great lorry is parked next door to us, loaded with 50 or more tall propane gas cylinders. Hope these guys know what they’re doing or we might end up minus a Van. It’s a little bit unnerving to say the least. We headed upstairs and find seats for the crossing – then later, with the weather looking good, head outside on deck for some air. Skye hoved into view and soon we was back starting the Van up, ready to go. The propane lorry was first to go and we all followed him. We climbed out of Uig harbour and followed the main road down to Portree, the landscape just hilly and covered in grass and heather, interspersed with major tree plantations. There are parking lay-bys on this road, spaced at regular intervals, but we noted that all the signs in the run up to these bays read “450 yards”. Did someone over-order these signs by pressing the wrong buttons or was it intentional? Create the lay-by and then figure out 450 yards from there and plant your sign. Order 100 and get 10 free? It kept us amused for a couple of miles.

We don’t want to stay on Skye and wanted to be back on the mainland. It was busier and there was a feeling of a little bit of crass commercialism that irked us a bit after the isolation of the Outer Hebrides. We drove through the magnificent Munro’s huddled in the centre of Skye, brooding and dominating – how on the earth do you walk one of them? Hubby has walked quite a few Munros and was explaining the way up them. Mmmm. I’d be your support team and would be waiting in the pub with a pint for your return, mate.

We continued on, passing little communities and spread out villages. We passed a little white croft with a thatched roof! That’s what a Scottish croft cottage would of looked like! But thatched roofs are horrendously expensive to put up and maintain. There were several houses with corrugated tin roofs which was another alternative, but most had tiled roofs. It struck me earlier that in the early part of the 19th century there was the mass Scottish Clearances where tenants were forced out of their homes all over the Highlands and Islands for various reasons – agricultural, emigration, economic. The population plummeted. Abandoned homes fell into disrepair. So that kind of explains the modernity of the current homes, but it still shouldn’t give some council planning department a carte blanc to build horrendously out of context buildings, so lacking in imagination and forethought, that it’s verging on criminality!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances

We turned right after about an hour or so of driving, down this tiny single tracked road with some alarming potholes. Hubby wanted to do one last ferry trip – on the Glenelg. He really wanted to do this very short crossing – personally I was baffled by his eagerness, but it could be fun so I went along with it. The road climbed through high moorland heather and bracken, with tree plantations and into high hills. Then we went around a corner and a panorama opened up before us. Mountains, a loch and tiny hamlets. It was absolutely beautiful in the afternoon sun. The road dropped alarmingly, a steep descent – we won’t have any brakes left by the end of this trip – and followed the coast, before abruptly coming to a dead end and a tiny slipway. We had followed the four motorcyclists who had passed us while we let The Dog stretch her legs and now the six of us were on the jetty, taking photos, admiring the scenery, spotting otters and seals and watching the little ferry on the other side.

The ferry started to make its return journey across the tiny strip of water separating the island of Skye with the mainland. In the middle, the water was turbulent, tossing and turning, gushing through the gap. It’s tidal and with the rising waters, it’s squeezed between the two land masses, causing this watery frenzy. The ferry chugged diagonally across, then was caught in the turbulence and looked like it was going to be dragged out to sea, unable to escape. Suddenly, it powered its way through the other side and calmly chugged up to the side of the slipway, with one car onboard. The boat is tiny – it’s essentially a large platform with ramps at one end and it all sits on a pivot. The platform swung across the slipway at an angle, the ramps lowered and the solitary car drove off. We’re not sure where to look first – at this very unique boat or the numerous otters and seals having a field day, feasting on the fish caught up in the tide. It’s Otter Central – there’s at least six popping up their heads and then diving deep. At one point I’m filming the boat on my phone and watching the otters through the binoculars! It’s amazing and I can see why Hubby was so keen to come down here and show me this exquisite natural wonder. We only needed a Sea Eagle to fly past and a pod of porpoises and it would of been perfect!

We jumped into the Van as the motorcyclists boarded first. It’s so tiny this boat, that its only got room for the bikers, us and a Land Rover Discovery! As it’s not a roll on/roll off ferry and actually the bridge of the boat is in the way, the platform pivots around as the boat casts off so you end up facing the right way to exit the other end. It’s apparently the only boat of this type in Europe and one of only three in the world. It is open to the elements for us and the crew who come around asking for payment, accepting cash or card. You stay in your vehicle, so we just hung out of the windows, spotting the otters and seals, joking with the bikers. One of the bikes, a heavy touring one, was perilously close to our front wing and both us and the biker weren’t particularly comfortable, but that was the way we were loaded. We just hope the boat doesn’t lurch or we would have a motorbike shaped dent! Then when we docked, the poor biker had to manoeuvre it away, all under our watchful gaze before mounting and catching up with his mates. Poor chap. We are glad to report, though, that the cow didn’t leave a hoof like print on the side of the Van either. Cows, motorbikes and propane gas cylinders – what a day! Once on dry land, we drove some 400 yards up a steep hairpin and stopped at the cafe for two lattes, two Glenelg Ferry mugs and a t-shirt and sat on a bench overlooking this stretch of water, watching the little ferry go about its business in the afternoon sun. The otters still played in the tidal waters, the seals watched the otters and the ferry brought over two cars and an enormous tractor! We could of stayed all day.

It was with a tinge of reluctance to leave this little piece of glorious Scotland behind. We had already vowed to go back to Lewis and Harris – that needed serious checking out rather than the cursory attention we had given it. This was going to be the route back to those fabulous islands!

Home page

Very happy and still wowing about the ferry, we continued along the narrow really rough roads – they don’t believe in flattening any repairs to match the existing tarmac, so the poor Van, The Dog and us got rattled and shaken for quite a few miles. We were heading into Glenshiel and serious Munro country – Hubby explained about the Five Sisters, a brutal walk with only two access points, no escape routes, narrow ridges, drops of 6 foot to seal with and other walking impediments. He wasn’t selling it to me and he did admit that he declined to do that one with his walking mates and headed off with a friend to a convivial pub nearby and ate crab. The road dropped seriously down, through a tunnel of tall conifer trees, which gave way to the most expansive and stunning view. It was almost alpine. Surrounded by tall majestic mountains, a loch licked their bases with little white houses dotted along, hugging a sliver of shoreline. In the sunshine, it was outstandingly beautiful. What a stunning valley.

The photos just don’t do it justice.

We started to Google campsites as we had decided to be brave and not book sites in advance from now on. We discovered Glenshiel camping site, just off a main road and pulled in. While we were trying to figure out if it was open or shut or allowed campervans in, a young man bounced out of a car and came over to us. Yes, it was open and we could book and pay online which we did there and then and we were in. The lad was here to check on the ablution block apparently.

We parked on the far side, next to a dry stone wall and collapsed wire fencing where there was a horse chomping at the grass. Actually there were several horses who could easily get into the campsite if they really tried. It was a small site of about a dozen places and some four other campers in tents. We set up camp and tried to find if the nearby pub was doing food. A phone call proved futile, going straight to answer phone and with no call back, we settled with making beans on toast with an egg as a topping – our first time cooking a proper full meal on our little two burner hob and grill. We felt accomplished.

As darkness fell, Hubby and The Dog went for a walk. The poor hound hasn’t had a walk really today, enduring two ferry trips and a long drive. She was in a surprisingly good mood considering. The back seat is her default travelling position now. We settled down in our little home on wheels with a glass of wine and cheese and biscuits. We were doing well, the three of us – we hadn’t fallen out, there had been no arguments, we had an excellent system of setting up the Van and putting it all away. We were doing good.

So another day tomorrow. No plans, just a vague idea of doing a walk somewhere and whether to stay here another night. What a lovely feeling to have an empty head and no pressure to do anything. Making the most of this while it lasts.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 7

We woke at 7am after a slightly troubled night. The Dog got rather bad tempered and kept hogging the seats/bed and growling at us. Suffering from a bit of cabin fever, no doubt. She could not be moved easily. At 3am Hubby went to the loo only to return to find The Dog firmly on his side of the bed. Again she would not move, so it ended up as a game of musical beds with me shoving her to one side and moving to Hubby’s side of the bed so he could replace me. She knows not to mess with me. Ten minutes later, after all this kerfuffle, the Hound jumped off the bed with a harrumph and went back to her Pit of Doom in the passenger well for the rest of the night. Think we then did our own growling back at her!

The Dog getting some space.

The wind has died down and it has the beginnings of a lovely day in Ardroil. The sun finally rose over the mountains and we popped up the roof on the Van, fed up with clonking our heads on the low ceiling all the time. We made breakfast, suddenly realising The Dog had wandered off. We spotted her sitting in the long grass diagonally opposite us, enjoying being on her own. She does this a lot too, just taking herself off to contemplate, have some downtime or just to plot our downfall. She was happy and chilled so we left her. Perhaps we need to be more Dog.

After breakfast we decided to go for a walk to investigate the area, so dropped back down onto the beach and towards the estuary of a river. We headed towards a wooden bridge, walking across the vast empty sands. Nearer the bridge, which spanned the river channel, we discovered that the river spilled over the beach and was a little deep for trainers. Hubby had ankle Wellington boots and was fine. I had to take my shoes and socks and paddled barefoot through cold, but surprisingly refreshing water towards the bridge, before crossing it and drying my feet with my bandana. My feet were getting numb but I enjoyed that tingling feeling as they returned to life in the warmth of my boots.

We crossed a little headland of grass up to a stile. We had to manhandle The Dog over this as it was just a wire fence with a plank of wood through it – could see a paw easily caught and an injured dog. We followed the side of a field up to a dirt track and a gate. Built into the wall was an microwave with a large 1 painted on the front – we could only presume it was a makeshift post box for the house next door. Such ingenuity.

We were now on a single tracked road and perched on a low hill was a church-like building in somewhat disrepair, but with a good roof. Peering inside, there were cement mixers as if it was being renovated, but it seemed all activity had ceased some while back. Abandoned, given up on for the time being. Slightly further on the opposite side was a handsome square stone memorial with names of the war dead and a local shipping disaster. Each side was dedicated to the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, Royal Air Force and Army with a surprising list of names – a huge loss for such an area, though we think it covered quite a large area and several communities. There were a lot of McDonalds, Mackays and McIvers and I wondered if these men were all related or just part of the various clans. I wanted to know their story.

The seemingly heart of the area was a long line of bungalows, the nearest being quite new looking. They looked like they had been dropped from a height and left. No effort to landscape or blend them into the surroundings. There was no style to these buildings either – whoever had planned and designed hadn’t gone any further regarding aesthetics.. Who allowed this to happen? What did the local community think? Then we got to the village school, full of chattering children at playtime (again a surprising amount of young people considering. They obviously must come from far and wide). But these children were in the most appalling architectural building ever. It was a 1960’s concrete abomination of a sloping roofed rectangles stuck together. It was something you’d might just find in a run down inner city council estate, not on a Hebridean island. It was beyond awful and a rusting metal chimney just rubbed salt into the wound.

We walked to the end of the road, shaking our heads. Obviously economics played a big part here with the housing stock – it was not wealthy and buildings had to be built practically, but hell a little thought would of been appreciated. We came across the bus shelter and again sighed in despair – a neglected metal and glass structure with touches of corporate yellow plonked unceremoniously on the roadside. Surely a bus company could be more sympathetic, but it seemed not. We discussed this for a while until we came to the village shop and two pump petrol station.

We needed milk so I went inside and my black mood melted away. A large well stocked community shop, well laid out and with everything you could think of (it was better stocked than my local Co-op which is suffering the UK wide shortages). I was so impressed that I stood amazed. It even had a little laundry and a gift shop. I bought the milk and some other bits and even managed to purchased a box of caddy bags for our little waste bin in the Van!! My heart sang – this was just wonderful. I went outside and excitedly told Hubby who went inside to check it out. While I waited, I read all the notices and posters – there was a lot going on and noted that there were recycling facilities too. Blimey, it had more facilities than my home village!!

Hubby came out wearing a new woolly hat and a big smile on his face. He’s very much about supporting local communities like this and so asked how local the hat was. The lady who served him said it was very local as she had knitted it herself. How wonderful is that?

This little corner of Lewis seemed to cater for everyone and even had a charging point for electric cars! Loved the Caution, children crossing sign too – for the car that came every four hours!

Instead of walking the road, we went down a side lane, passing a Grand Design house which was fantastic, but didn’t quite fit – it had arched roofs and portholes, it stood out against all those little rectangle bungalows (I’m never happy am I?). A little way down was the perfect stone cottage with all the different coloured stones of the area and a lovely rotunda at one end. It was a rental cottage and we peered inside, it was gorgeous too. This is what I had expected all over the island. Happy, we picked up the little footpath again and came back to our bridge. The river was still too deep for me, so the shoes and socks came off again and I walked barefoot all the way back to the Van, my feet naturally exfoliated. We then made the decision not to stay here for the 2 nights as planned – we were due to catch the ferry early tomorrow and Lewis seemed to have more to offer. So we packed up and left money for both nights in a little envelope in the honesty box and retraced our steps from yesterday. With the sun out, we had a completely different perspective – far reaching views, the colours vibrant and even the white pebbled dashed homes complimented the scenery. They were a lovely contrast to the browns and greens. It was all very pleasing.

We finally joined the main road to Tarbert, the scenery just getting better and better by the mile. The mountains loomed up again, huge lochs and sea estuaries, straggly villages in the valleys – the houses all of a similar style. There were a few inhabited stone residences, but many were in a state of dilapidation.

I turned to check on The Dog to discover that she wasn’t on her mat on the floor anymore, but had managed to jump up onto the back seat and was happily watching the world go by. We harness her in, in case we’re in an accident, so she had sort of got herself on a very short leash. She just looked at me with a face that said “yeah, what?”. She never sits on the back seat. Talk about having more front than Brighton – this dog knows how to take the biscuit.

We stopped for lunch in a parking area, high above a sea loch, surrounded by stunning mountains and views. It was just amazing. The sun blazed down. We were now on Harris (though we hadn’t crossed islands, when you look on a map, there is a dividing line on the main island between Lewis and Harris). After an agreeable break, we continued on. Hubby had found out about a campsite down a coastal road, but we couldn’t book it. It only has 5 spaces. We hoped we could get in. We had a brief tour of Tarbert, a lovely little town dominated by the ferry terminal and then back to this coastal road. We had been doing a lot of “wow” “that’s stunning” “ how gorgeous”, general oohing and arring for the last couple of hours and now we went into overdrive. Every turn, there was an amazing view. Our neighbour back home had told us how stunning Lewis and Harris was and he was right. The road had signs mentioning the word “challenging” and it was. Narrow with steep drops, bends and blind summits, Hubby held onto the steering wheel and kept telling me “I daren’t look at the scenery, just the road!”. The scenery is jaw dropping. We travelled about 16 miles which takes 40 minutes along this road – we turned one corner and there’s this amazing castle! It’s full of surprises, this road!

Finally we dropped down to Hushinish, literally at the end of the road. On our right was an enclosed area with a campervan in it, on the other side, the sea. We pulled into the gate, followed by another VW which has followed us most of the way. We thought he was coming here and didn’t want to let him past in case he snucked the last spot. The camper already there informed us it was on a first come, first served basis. Luckily there was just the three of us – can you imagine driving all the way there and discover it full and having to go all the way back to Tarbert? Crushing.

You have to text the payment through for the night’s stay. It’s all based on honesty again which is wonderful. £15 – fantastic. The view across the sea was outstanding, the sun starting to set. We had about 3 hours before the sun really went down. So we walked down the road to a little bay of pure sand and again, shoes and socks off and walking in the surf. The Dog was so happy – two beaches in one day!!! We then walked over the hill to the other side – a short walk on a grassy path down to a pier with a couple of parked cars. Another bay with cliffs and coves. We walked up another hill and spotted a man on the edge fishing. Opposite was another island with houses. In the distance another sandy spot. It was endless.

We started to walk back to the Van, past another little parking area next door to a small building housing a loo block and a cafe. Campervans were parked here too, their roofs popped up. There was recycling bins, chemical toilets and drinking water too. Out in the middle of nowhere, but had everything you needed. It was just great. We took the long hill back up to the Van and set her up, before getting the chairs out and sat overlooking the sea, glass of wine in hand. A hired motorhome had parked next door and it’s occupants talking in a language I couldn’t pick up. They were unintentionally loud as a family, just slightly irritating when you just want to watch the sun set and be at peace with the world.

The sun finally slid down behind an island, the temperature dropping immediately. It had been a balmy 13 degrees today with the sun out. Flying insects hovered above us, thankfully not midges, but we hoped they didn’t join us inside. We put everything away and retreated indoors, having soup for tea. It had been a splendid day – our decision to move on was a good one and the discovery of this perfect corner of Harris.

Tomorrow an early start to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Our job tonight is to figure out where we go next for an adventure.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 6

Slept well again once The Dog had vacated our bed and we could get comfy. We woke up to broken cloud and sunshine and hardly any wind. We have tea and biscuits as we wake up and later treat ourselves to toast and tea. We get things ready – we have a ferry to catch!

We ended up talking to our fellow VW neighbour and got some good ideas off him about awnings which we are lacking at the moment. This made us a bit late, so we finalised the last Van ablutions and headed around the corner to the Ullapool ferry terminal. Steered into a parking spot by a jovial man in a hi-vis, we had a walk around town to kill time before we boarded the ship. We grabbed a coffee and get back to the Van just in time before a big black cloud dropped its contents on Ullapool. Soon we are invited to board the boat – we drive on and parked in neat rows as instructed before heading upstairs to the lounge. There are certain areas for dogs, so we end up at the back of the boat, overlooking the last of the cars and its rear gate. We can watch the mainland disappear!

The Dog watches the crew unhook the massive ropes and slowly we head out into Loch Broom. The sun is shining, but menacing clouds are in the wings. We have tall windows with splendid views. The Dog settles down – another mad adventure with her humans. As we head out into deeper waters, several car alarms go off as the boat’s engines vibrate the whole vessel and we think our Van joined in the cacophony. Ullapool soon disappears and it’s a smooth crossing. We can see big weather coming too – it’s so changeable. The Dog settled on our coats, growling at a Spaniel who got too close for comfort and every so often, I took her for a limited walk around the deck.

Finally after two and half hours we pulled into Stornaway on the island of Lewis – it’s raining heavily. This weather caught us halfway across, bringing a mist down and limited visibility. I didn’t really know what to expect of Stornaway – small quaint town of independent shops and traditional houses, but was alarmed to see a large Tesco’s by the harbour. Well, they have to shop somewhere, but just wasn’t expecting a national supermarket! Scotland still recognises Sundays as a day of rest, so everything closes which is a great. I love it. So much better than England’s 24/7, everything on tap culture. Though you have to be a little organised and have stuff in ready for a day of no shopping. The Scots also require people to wear face masks/social distance etc which is great too. At least you know where you stand rather than England’s current “well it’s up to you” approach to Covid.

We followed the satnav out of town – it’s actually reasonably large and like any other suburban area, but we are soon out in rather flat, slightly undulating monotonous miles of peat bog territory, the lashing rain not helping the picture. The good people of Lewis like a lot of “Caution” signs whether it be lorries turning, children crossing, concealed entrances or other impediments, but loved the idea that they had a cycle lane on this road too which is more than a lot of cities! We turned right and gradually the undulations turned into more substantial hills and it got wilder and wilder. Now this is more like it. It started to have a primitive beauty about it. The road started to become a single track road with passing places, then back to two lane and then back to single – it kept you on your toes. It had been well tarmacked too and gave us a smooth ride – probably one of the best roads in west Highland Scotland. The road signs were in Gaelic with the English underneath which took some getting use to.

We turned again, past this beautiful little bay and then down a spectacular steep valley – this was just wonderful. The new road ran parallel to the original single track – you could catch numerous glimpses of it. The new road had been created by blasting through the rock to create cuttings. It was pretty substantial as we kept noting these cuttings for several miles. It must of cost a fortune, but must of been cheaper than widening the original road which seemed to border bogs. It seemed all rather brutal. That rock had been there for millions of years until man had to touch it and kind of ruin it, but it wasn’t an eyesore at all. There were a few ugly road signs advertising sea trips and other diversions and an oddly oversized blue sign, several miles after it had gone into single track, declaring that the road was single track with passing places. It was almost that it was a spare that nobody knew what to do with, so it was plonked wherever so they didn’t have to take it back to the depot.

This road was full of surprises – we were half way to the west coast when in the middle of nowhere, there was a single low building (it was actually a converted shipping container) that was a pizza shack for takeaways. I looked for the bustling community nearby, but there was just a single house up the road. How did this business survive? There was obviously a demand for it, but just couldn’t see it. Perhaps they did Deliveroo. A little further on, we pulled up a by an isolated postbox opposite an equally isolated house to post our postcards that I had written on the boat. (Otherwise they’d never posted, come on tour with us and end up getting posted in my home village). Underneath, it informed me that there was a collection Monday to Friday at 4.15pm and one on Saturday at 12.15. It was just brilliant.

The scenery got better as we carried on – we went through a couple of little hamlets which had streetlights! What an abomination!!! In the middle of nowhere, a perfect place for dark skies and star gazing and you have to contend with bloody streetlights and the associated light pollution. For goodness sake, what madness!

Houses were scattered throughout the region, mainly bungalows chalets with the odd house. There were no traditional stone crofter cottages to be seen, though on closer inspection, a few looked like they had been updated with either pebble dash or render, and then painted white, but no actual stone showing. It struck us that they had probably been pebbledashed for insulation purposes – our own stone house could be cold and always has draughts – here with nothing to stop the Atlantic wind, a stone cottage would be a nightmare to keep warm. Some people hadn’t bothered with the white paint and left the pebbledash in its natural dull brown, which wasn’t particularly attractive. There were quite modern bungalows so we presumed that there was once a stone cottage, too expensive to renovate and so cheaper to put in a new build. A lot of them wouldn’t be out of place in a suburban setting to be honest and one or two were positively down right ugly with no thought into reconciling it with the local environment. There was the odd “Grand Design” property, all wood and high windows, but mainly it was these low bungalows shielded by conifers. The population, though seemingly sparse, was considerable for such an isolated spot down a dead end road – who set up home here, what did they do or was it all holiday homes?

The scattered community of Ardroil heralded the arrival to our destination and dispelled our worry about the lack of amenities. We came across a small shop (albeit shut) with a couple of petrol pumps outside and there was a board pointing down a track marked “restaurant”. A large mast nearby gave us 4G for our phones, the internet and the outside world. We were well and truly catered for. We turned right down a narrow track towards a scruffy little car park and a long low shed. This is our campsite for the next two nights. Through a gate, a gravelled area signified our parking area – enough room for 10 campervans. There was no electric hook ups so we were off grid. It started to rain again as we tried to work out the most favourable angle to park – it’s howling a hoolie too – to protect us from the elements but getting a view too. Finally we agreed and settled for the side door to face inland, the wind and rain battering us on the other side. We set up and decided to go for a walk and investigate the area as the rain had finally stopped – well for the time being. First we checked out the facilities. The long low building was the loo block with five doors, but only one is open. Inside is an utilitarian room of walled melamine, but bright, clean and tidy with a loo, shower and basin fitted out for disabled people to have access too. It was quite pleasant and I’m not one for ablution blocks, as you know. It was even better than the one last night, which personally needs a bit of a makeover. I was impressed. There was even a packet of wet wipes for you to wipe the toilet seat after use! There were bins for recycling and general rubbish, a chemical toilet, taps to fill up your van – everything you’d expect on a regular manned campsite. Okay, it was a bit higgedly piggedly, rough around the edges and a bit worn, but we hadn’t expected any of this at all – it was a bonus. It was all based on honesty with you posting your money in a box. No rules or regulations. No reception. No staff. Just rock up and camp and look after the place while you’re at it, thank you. It was just perfect.

The Dog was excited and eager to walk, so we clipped her on the lead and walked along a path through scrubby grass which fell away to reveal the most amazing sandy beach and waves crashing onto the sand. We let The Dog off the lead and she just ran in delight, like she was a puppy. The Dog had hit heaven. We stood and drunk it all in – a wide arc of golden sand, soft to walk on, with a rocky coastline and low mountains in the background. A squally shower swept through, making us wet, but the wind was so strong we soon dried. We strolled along, looking through our binoculars while The Dog gambolled along with a big happy face. This is worth two and a half hours stuck on a noisy boat. Another shower sends us back to the Van much to The Dog’s disgust, but we soon realise that it’s like turning a tap on and off. Rain, no rain, rain, no rain. So we donned our waterproof gear and go out again and investigate further. There’s nothing like standing on a deserted beach in autumn, watching waves crashing against rocks and the wind whistling. One of the best feelings ever.

We suddenly realised that the tide was coming and doing a bit of a pincer movement – on one side we watched as it insidiously crept over the sand and could easily cut somebody off. A deepening black cloud out west looked full of water, so we headed back to the Van. The sky seemed to have many layers of different clouds, some still, some scudding with little breaks revealing a little bit of blue. Back at the Van, more campers had arrived – there’s now five vans of various sizes including a motorhome. We kept our side door open and relaxed – it’s not really that cold out of the wind. The Dog watched the world from her vantage point on her mat. We decided not to pop the top up tonight – it’s quite breezy out there and didn’t want any damage, so we were slightly doubled up as we settled down with wine and nibbles. It gradually got dark, so we reluctantly closed our door and made some tea. It’s pitch black outside, but the rain has stopped. The wind gently rocked our Van from time to time. The Dog has taken over the back seat again and is dreaming vividly, paws twitching. Perhaps she’s chasing those sandpipers on the beach again. We turned out the light and plunged ourselves into pitch blackness. Boy it was dark.

Tomorrow the forecasters say it will be sunny all day and be very pleasant. Perfect timing. We’re planning a walk – where to we don’t know. Probably back on the beach and as far as we can go. Who knows. Roll on tomorrow.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 5

Was woken up rudely by a big paw in the mouth. The Dog was keen to check that I had survived the night and thought it fit to dig me out of bed. Thanks.

It was lovely to sleep in a proper bed for the night. We get up and bagged the shower before the others get up, sort the Van out as we had pulled out everything late last night without any finesse and it looks a tip. With everybody packing cars, we get ready first and keep well out of their way.

It was raining hard with a stiff breeze when we first woke up, but as we got organised, the sun broke through the clouds and Loch Torridon lit up. Silver rivulets ran down the mountainsides, the streams and waterfalls full of cascading water and the sun glinted off the wet rocky outcrops. It was a beautiful sight. Finally we were all ready to leave and we said our goodbyes to each other before heading off. Again, we have the long 10 mile stretch of road back to Kinlochewe to contend with, where we turn left to Gairloch and ultimately Ullapool. The satnav wants to take us right on the shorter route, but this way is far more scenic.

At Gairloch, we stopped at The Gale cafe, a community run establishment for elevenses of coffee and cake. We bagged a window seat overlooking the bay while we eat, then we have a look around, buying some postcards and then headed back to the Van and onto Ullapool. With the sun out between the clouds, the light is gorgeous. The scenery gets even better here with purply blue mountains in the far distance and huge craggy eminences looking like sleeping giants, the contrasting shadows and light playing across the vast expanse, making it just look spectacular. This is pure wilderness with nothing around for miles – not sure there’s any sheep here. There’s the odd cluster of dwellings, old and new and you wonder how they live – food, fuel, what do they do? We even come across a solitary phone mast far from anywhere and wonder its purpose. Then we dropped down to the coast – big wide bays with big blue skies – just an ever changing scene with such contrasts. Just fabulous. It doesn’t get much better.

We finally drove into Ullapool with a list on our minds. First fuel – as we were going to the island of Lewis we wanted to have a full tank so we didn’t have to worry about finding petrol stations. Second – get the ferry tickets for Lewis reprinted at the terminal and thirdly, stock up with food. Tomorrow’s campsite could be isolated and basic.

So imagine our dismay to see a queue on the road as we passed Ullapool’s one and only petrol station. Oh dear, a shortage of fuel? And which one? As we turned around to rejoin it, a fellow VW camper beat us to the queue. On closer inspection, we realised that a whopping great big motorhome had basically taken the entire centre of this dinky station, while another motorhome which had parked behind him, had blocked the rest of the garage off to everyone else, neither of them realising they were creating chaos behind them. The queue was getting longer until the VW guy in front managed to squeeze past the motorhome in front and we followed. The two of us filled up simultaneously while the second motorhome lumbered into position and again blocked off about 4 pumps due to his size. Filled up, we pulled away and two more vehicles took our spots and normal service resumed. Think a lot of motorists were cussing motorhomes as they waited to fill up their tanks……

We hunted down our campsite on the shores of Loch Broom and found a lovely spot looking up the Loch and out to sea. It was now raining and the wind was getting up – our blue skies having disappeared. The rain eased as we did some nesting – plugging in electrics, popping up the roof etc – and we headed into town a few minutes walk away. The ferry terminal wasn’t open til 4pm when the next ferry docked and the local convenience store was shut too. Mmm. So we had a wander around and found a lovely deli to get our provisions and an outdoor camping shop to get a plastic water container for our grey water waste and a tick remover. We discovered about four ticks on The Dog this morning and struggled with our existing one to remove them. Flushed with a little success, we headed back to the Van for a cuppa while we waited for everything to open. The shops in Ullapool seem to be splattered all over the place, down back streets and in between houses. There doesn’t seem to be one central street of shops. Perhaps it was done like that to make everybody walk the whole of Ullapool to see it properly.

Ullapool

After an hour or so, we donned our wet weather jackets as it was starting to rain again. We went back to the terminal and got the tickets sorted (you have to book pets separately and they don’t confirm immediately- in our case two weeks later, when we’re already on holiday and failed to pack a printer). The convenience store was still firmly shut (we only wanted milk) and so skipped across to the fish and chip shop for tea (and a sausage for The Dog) and did a quick walk back to the Van to eat it. It was delicious and huge. They did have a larger option so dread to think how big that was!!! We mixed the sausage into The Dog’s usual food. She last ate a proper meal on Thursday evening when our friends had some leftover chicken and rice which got wolfed down. She turned her nose up at her regular food and this morning, she picked out all the cheese we had added as an incentive and left the dog food. Albeit she had been scrounging and snacking on dog biscuits and bits of human food, but basically she hadn’t eaten for the last 36 hours. She does this quite often – not eat for a day. I wished I could do that. I can’t fast for 3.6 hours let alone 36. I need to more Dog.

With us all clearing our plates and bowls, tidying up and feeling a little bored by 6:30, we decided to go for a walk. The wind had dropped completely and the dark brooding rain clouds had dispersed and allowed the sun to set behind the opposite hills. Chunks of pale blue sky appeared as we wandered along the shoreline of Loch Broom, watching the Lewis ferry depart from the mainland, its lights bright in the darkening sky. We would be on that tomorrow morning, chugging out to the open sea.We found a large grassy field with a well worn path that we followed, taking us in a big round circle, alongside a fast flowing river. The Dog was off lead and enjoyed poking around in the undergrowth. We wandered back, peering into other vans and motorhomes seeing what the occupants were up too. We prepared ourselves for the evening, setting up the bed so we could watch catch up tv on the iPad and then relaxing.

Tomorrow was going to be an exciting day – a 2.5 hour ferry trip to the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Lewis, with a campsite right on the beach. Weather is looking good for the next few days and The Dog would have a beach to run on and be very very happy. Life was good.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 4

A good nights sleep in the Van. Got it sussed now with sleeping bag and blankets – it’s quite cosy now. It’s rained overnight and squalls of showers come through, the raindrops bouncing noisily off our roof.

We dozed until about 8:30, when we think it’s polite time (and at least somebody will be up) to enter the house for breakfast. The mountains on the other side of the loch are dark and scuffed by low cloud, but a little while later, it all lifts and the sun pokes its head out, albeit briefly and makes a rainbow. We have seen so many rainbows since arriving yesterday – really vibrant ones, full ones, half ones, double ones and faint ones. The full spectrum of rainbows and a wonder to watch. Three of the gang go off to bag another Munro (one of the team left early this morning to head home) and wrap up for bad weather walking. Our four other remaining friends decided to drive up towards Gairloch, so we bunged The Dog in the boot of their car and joined them. The sky is heavy with cloud, but high enough for us to admire the mountains and the jagged rocks, staring high up to their summits. We retrace the road back to Kinlochewe and turn left alongside Loch Maree. The clouds parted to let the sun out and to showcase this beautiful valley, the heathers dark brown and golds covering the mountainsides. White fluffy clouds and brilliant blue sky make a stunning backdrop as we drove to Victoria Falls and parked up. We walked up the rough track, then the little path leading to a wooden platform. A small, but impressive waterfall plunges down the rock into the pool below, bubbling and gurgling. After a few photos, we walked further up to an outcrop of rock where the river flows before channeling down towards the waterfall. The small window of fine weather soon disappears as a black cloud appears over the mountains and gently rains on us. We have a wander further up, admiring Loch Maree and the countryside beyond before the rain cloud catches it, making us retreat back to the cars.

We drove a few more miles further up towards Gairloch before we branched off left down a small road and to the Badachro Inn, nestling on the waters edge of a little pretty bay. Small boats tethered to buoys, bobbed in the choppy waters as we searched for otters and seals. We had to wait for the pub to open, so lurked on their wooden patio admiring the bay until the dark menacing cloud crept in from the west made us seek shelter under pub awning. Finally, the landlord let us in and we grabbed seats in the conservatory, ordered beer and six Cullen skink soups with a roll. Three beautiful little Spaniels bounded in and said hello to The Dog, who sniffed and greeted them without fuss. It’s now raining permanently, the background disappearing in mist. The skink is delicious and thoroughly enjoyed. We finished our beers and feeling satisfied, headed off for a brief visit to a little gift shop and a general wander before going back to the cars – think we’ve exhausted what Badachro has to offer. Not wanting to go into Gairloch, we decided to head back to the house. We have to take the same route back whether we like it or not – it’s the only road. The weather is closing in and deteriorating as we drive back – the winds are picking up and it’s raining constantly now.

Once back, we make a cuppa and have cake, settling in the sunroom. Hubby and The Dog go for a walk along the bay road in the rain, while I pulled down the pop up roof of the Van due to the gusty winds. We’re not quite sure of its tolerances and don’t fancy being open topped for the rest of the trip – it’s expected to be 45mph winds this afternoon – rather be safe than sorry. The Loch has white topped waves, the bushes are bent in the wind and the clouds are low and scudding. An afternoon of curling up, reading a good book and chilling. Hubby and The Dog return, slightly damp and we wonder how the Munro baggers are getting on.

The three walkers finally return looking happy if not slightly bedraggled. They hopped into hot showers while we get ourselves ready. About 6pm, we jumped into cars and headed to the Torridon Hotel, some 5 miles around the other side of the Loch, to the Bo and Muc restaurant where we’ve booked tables. For some reason, they have put us on two separate tables which isn’t very conducive for chatting and enjoying a good meal together, but it’s not a real problem. We order some excellent food and wine and enjoyed a convivial evening before driving, with stomachs like large beach balls, back in the dark along single track, unlit, potholed roads.

We relaxed back in the sunroom while others starting packing – their holidays finish tomorrow and they have a long drive home back to Leeds. So there’s a little activity, The Dog crashes in the middle of the carpet, making everyone step over her and gradually one by one, we hit the sack.

With one of the party left this morning, we bagged his now empty twin bedded room and take the opportunity to sleep in a proper bed for a night. We raid the Van for our sleeping bags, pillows and bottom sheet and set up in the bedroom – we’ve only brought in our bag of clothes, but the room looks a real mess – stuff everywhere. Perhaps because we have to be super tidy and organised in the Van, we’re making the most of the spare space while we can! It looks like we’ve been burgled. It’s also been bliss to have a shower albeit a dribbly one – isn’t the most powerful shower, but it’s hot and does its job. With The Dog on her bed in the corner, also appreciating being able to stretch out properly for the first time in days, we all settle down for the night.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day 3

We have a very grumpy dog. She has always been grumpy and soon lets us know of her feelings. Were we mad taking her with us on this trip?

We were conscious to give her as much space as we could in the Van, hence the separate sleeping arrangements on the first night. However, Madam has made herself truly at home, by curling up with us on the back seat of an evening and last night, actually jumping up on the bed with us, snuggling alongside me and having the cheek to actually lay her head on my pillow! She’s usually not this cuddly! I’m not in the most comfortable position, The Dog pinning me down and my arm stuck out of the sleeping bag, getting cold. Finally she got fed up with the wiggling, jumped off with a heavy this and slunked to her bed in the front well.

We had a good sleep after that and woke up to a milky morning. A cuppa and biscuit ensued and then we broke camp. We’re off to Torridon to meet up with friends, so we left Bunchrew and followed the flat coastal road with mountains in the distance to the pretty village of Beauly. Now a few of you might be yelling “hey, it’s like Groundhog Day” and you have every right, as we have visited this place twice before on our way to the Highlands and now it’s a habit. We pulled up to pop into the local supermarket for provisions for tonight (we’re in charge of dinner tonight) with the gang and then head off to The Corner in the Square, a lovely little deli and cafe for breakfast. We have to sit outside because of The Dog (it’s 10 degrees!!) and enjoyed pancakes and scrambled eggs with salmon, washed down with coffee. The Dog snuffles bacon from Hubby, turning her nose up at my offer of salmon. We have a wander around town – there are still strict Covid rules here and I keep inadvertently breaking them, before jumping in the Van and heading west. It now starts to rain, the clouds low. We chased a local sprinter train along the valley floor, getting ahead of it to be able to stop in a lay-by to let The Dog bark at it – re-enacting the same scene 3 years ago when we had stopped to admire the scenery at exactly the same spot and a train passed. Our dog is a bit of a train spotter and chaser, so we had a little bit of silliness to break up the trip for her.

We finally turned left into the single track road with passing places at Linlochewe and meet four of our friends on their cycles. They’re out on a cycling day out. It’s now starting to seriously rain after a reasonably pleasant morning. We waved furiously and managed a brief chat with them before continuing along the road. The cloud is low and obscuring the magnificent mountains that line this beautiful valley. Half way along, we spotted a large lorry at an jaunty angle and as we approached it, realised that its front wheel had come off the road and sunk in the soft ground beyond. It was well and truly stuck, leaning at a precarious angle. There was a recovery truck preparing to rescue it, the operator muffled against the horizontal rain. There was just enough room for us to squeeze past, wondering how the driver of the stranded truck was going to explain that one to the boss…..We stopped at the village of Torridon with its little village shop and cafe to get bread (we’ve had instructions) and considered a coffee and cake, but it’s chucking it down now and we can’t go inside. We decided to head the last few miles to Inveralligin and the cottage where our friends were staying.

We stayed here last year, just the two of us in a large 5 bedroomed holiday cottage, after our large group was whittled down to one household due to Covid regulations. It was great to be back. We dropped down the steep hill to the house and meet the other four friends hanging out in the sun room. They were all up on a week’s break to bag Munro’s, cycle, walk and enjoy the area, which was the big plan last year. After a cup of tea and cake, we all decided to drive up to Diabaig, a little hamlet four miles up a dead end road. It’s in this beautiful little bay and last year, when Hubby and I were up here for that week, we walked around the edge of the coast and rewarded ourselves with lunch at the Gillie Brigdhe. Alas today it was firmly shut due to staff shortages (it’s a running theme here in Britain – shortages). The six of us had a wander around, the weather having lifted and the mountains have come out in all their glory, the scenery stunning. The Dog dipped her paws into the waves and we just look out to sea with binoculars, hoping to see a seal/otter/porpoise/sea eagle. But all we see is another squall of bad weather approaching, enveloping the outlying little islands as we watched. The wind is quite strong and The Dog’s ears flapped wildly. We headed back to the cars and wind back along the single track road, avoiding the potholes and disintegrating edges. Once in a while, a length of road has been resurfaced – black and smooth, but only lasts a few hundred yards and you are back on the old rough stuff. It’s a challenge on these roads.

Diabaig
Diabaig

Once back at the house, Hubby and I took a shower and we all hung out in the sunroom, reading, writing, The Dog catching up with lost sleep and quietly recharging. The others returned from their cycling trip and we all caught up with each other. Hubby and I are in charge of making dinner tonight, so we get organised in the kitchen cooking vast vats of pasta and sauce, nachos and salad. Everybody mucked in, laying the table and helping out. Then we all sat at the vast dining table, ten of us in all, eating, drinking and chatting. The Dog is too tired to even scrounge food and could be found, sprawled on the carpet in the lounge, enjoying her own peace and quiet.

A bit wet…….

We all retire to the sunroom and relax, before we all gradually head to bed. We’re sleeping in the Van and made the error of not making our bed up, so we have that faff to contend with. Soon, we settle down, The Dog making an excellent hot water bottle. She has been a star so far, she can struggle in these situations, but she’s proving us wrong. So we snuggle down and curl up for a good nights sleep.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day Two

It was cold last night. We put the internal heater on which blows hot air and hums loudly which, in turn, spooked The Dog. She leapt on our bed and refused to move. We decided that hubby would sleep up in the pop-up and me on the downstairs with The Dog, to give her more space which was a good plan except she has decided to be up close and personal and I ended up laying at an awkward angle with dog having the majority of bed. During the night, we both woke up feeling cold and grabbed the extra blankets. Thank goodness we have a loo now and don’t have to make midnight flits to the ablution block down the other end of the site.

The sun rose in a clear crisp sky, lighting the hills with glorious autumnal colours. The grass is dripping in dew, almost verging on a frost. We have a cuppa and a chocolate digestive as we woke up slowly and watched the morning getting better by the minute. Decided to go for a walk into the nearby hills – a two and half hour circular walk. We have to walk up the road to a little car park, the Dun Coillich Community Land Trust with a little notice board and a little “pig pod” shaped public toilet.

There were painted marker posts which we followed up the hill, through deer proof fencing and gates. We finally reached a contouring path marked with red topped posts, through ferns and heather- it was a clearly marked grassy path and easy to follow. We looked down onto our campsite as well as the amazing scenery in the early morning sun. Made you feel good. The hill slowly curved and the Schiehallion Munro hoved into view, a towering eminence basking in the full sunshine. The path continued to curve until we turned a sharp right and up to connect with the green path taking us back parallel, between Dun Coillich and Dun Beag. It was a steady climb with a couple of sharp ascents before we walked over the pass and our valley spread out before us. Our little campervan was a mere speck as we enjoyed the descent through tall grass and rocky outcrops, back through the fences and gates, back to the car park. We were soon back at the site, meeting the owners for a nice chat, before breaking camp and heading to our next destination.

We let the satnav find its way to the A9 and towards Inverness and it took us on a fascinating route of narrow, single lane roads with passing places, through gorgeous ancient woodland and then up high on exposed summits with far reaching views. We discovered where all the pylons went to meet up – at a hydro electric plant in a deep wooded valley. A beautiful stone edifice of a power station, with tall windows and decorative exterior, it was the epicentre of all things electrically transmitted. There were several smaller plants and dams dotted around the area, interspersed with pretty hamlets and houses. All this beauty dominated by iron towers and all its paraphernalia. It seemed an insult and an unwelcome intrusion of the modern world – we could be in timeless wilderness here and it felt violated.

We carried on through another little hamlet nestling in a steep valley and as we drove down a rather bumpy steep little lane, we noticed with somewhat alarm, a policeman in a hi-vis and a speed gun. Instinctively Hubby braked as we both verbally tried to work out why a copper was there of all places and how unfair it would be to get a ticket. But as we passed him in astonishment, we realised he was a full sized cardboard cut out, strapped unceremoniously to the village sign. There was a huge sigh of embarrassed relief, before we chuckled. They must have quite a few fast drivers through the village and had thought up the ultimate deterrent. We had to agree the cardboard copper’s effectiveness certainly worked with us. Though if you’re a speeding local, it’s probably not so effective……….

So onto Inverness and the A9, the main arterial road on the east side of Scotland – a mixture of dual and single carriageway. A lovely 60mph road, but a shame it cuts through such stunning countryside – high hills covered in monotonous conifers and majestic Munro’s and Corbets. The bloody pylons are still following us until they finally lurch down a side valley and finally out of sight. The sun is shining, but dark rain clouds are gathering, releasing short sharp showers. It’s a cool 10 degrees. We started to look for lunch. Our first stop was a large basic cafe offering all things fried and do not allow dogs, so we crossed them off and carried on to the small village of Newtonmore, off the A9. We parked on the pretty little High Street and checked out the three cafes offering sustenance before choosing the Wild Flower, its menu offering a slightly different choice and letting the hound in. Inside it was quirky, cute and cosy with an airy conservatory at the rear. We ordered coffees and dinner. The Dog slumped under the table and barely moved, knackered from the walk this morning and being unable to sleep in the Van. It was a very pleasant stop and we enjoyed a lovely lunch. We jumped back into the Van, we had about another 30 miles to go and rejoined the A9. Soon we were dropping into Inverness and the Firth of Forth – it was weird to see a bustling conurbation again after endless wilderness. Our campsite was some 3 miles west of Inverness, so we drove through the city easily and found Bunchrew Caravan site on the coastal road. Down a pretty avenue of trees, it opened up to a variety of wood cladded static caravans in a variety of colours, all with their own little gardens, all at different angles. It was very rustic and had an intimate feel about it all. I liked it. After checking in, we headed down to the water front, overlooking the Beauly Firth and bagged a perfect spot in the late afternoon sun. It was warm enough for us to get the chairs out to sit and watched fellow motorhomers.

The Dog and I had a wander along the water’s edge and a little straggly stone beach up to the Bunchrew Hotel, before cutting back through the site. The Dog was very happy as there was water for her to get wet in and have a run. She still wasn’t fully charged. By the time we got back, the sun was disappearing behind the trees and a dampness could be felt in the air. We sorted out the Van – we are still tweaking where things go – and started to settle for the evening. By 7:30, it was dusk so we shut doors, put up blinds, opened a bottle of wine and settled down for the evening.

Another excellent day ticked off.

Scotland in a Campervan 2021 – Day One

The start of our long awaited tour of Scotland holiday – a whole two weeks of travelling around Scotland in our little campervan – big test for us too as we’ve never slept in it for more than two nights and we have The Dog, a temperamental hound at the best of times, let alone in the confines of a campervan. This could be fun.

So the morning after a Genesis concert (that incurred an hour to get out of the car park, another hour and half to get home, punctuated by coming across an accident in a darkened country lane at gone midnight), we awoke at 7am after crashing into bed at 1.30am. Are we too old for this sort of thing? We went straight into our holiday packing routine like a well oiled machine – letting hubby pack the Van, (men like to be in charge of packing vehicles for some reason) while I got the last things together and sorted out rubbish, windows and the many other last minute jobs. With a light rain following us, we headed off first towards a petrol station. We weren’t particularly low on fuel, but Britain has been gripped these last few days by a self inflicted fuel shortage spurred on by our media. It wasn’t even an issue until a petrol company mentioned that they had to close half a dozen outlets as there hasn’t been a delivery due to a shortage of HGV drivers, but the media had got hold of it, screamed on their front pages “fuel shortages, but don’t panic buy” and then gleefully reported the mass panic buying that ensued, actually causing a shortage. Honestly you can’t make it up. As we were going onto the motorway and at the mercy of severely overpriced outlets, possible long queues and no guarantee of being able to fill up, we tried out our nearest local one which thankfully had diesel and a small queue – we glad we did as other stations we passed had nothing.

We jumped onto the M6 and headed north. We hadn’t had breakfast and decided to chance our luck at Shap. As followers of this blog know, our favourite little breakfast cafe in this village suddenly shut its doors a couple of years ago and showed no signs of re-opening. However I spotted its imminent return on a road trip with eldest daughter a few months ago, so we were confident. Imagine our happiness as we pulled up and the new Abbey Kitchen cafe had its lights on – we almost galloped in, bagged a window seat and ordered a full English breakfast, coffee and enjoyed the moment.

info@theabbeykitchen.co.uk

Suitably refreshed we headed up the A6, rejoining the M6 at Penrith and headed towards Glasgow. Heavy rain showers chased us up the motorway. Just south of Glasgow, we pulled into a service station for toilets and a stretch of the legs for 15 minutes, appalled at the cost of fuel at the adjacent garage. We continued up past Glasgow, and onto the A9 and onto our overnight stop of Aberfeldy. The rain started to ease up after raining on us for most of the journey and it started to brighten up. Mountains started to rise up and the scenery was stunning. Autumn is definitely here with the trees full of golds, greens and oranges. It’s beautiful. We had a stop here and making a brew while The Dog wandered around, having a good sniff. We’re not far away now. As we set off again, we cursed as we came across even better stopping places – isn’t that just typical?

We dropped into Aberfeldy, a lovely little town that we have visited before and home to Dewars whisky distillery. We stopped to get some food for tea and to top up with diesel – there seems no urgency to fill your tank here at all – as petrol stations will be few and far between from now on. We drive out of town for about 10 miles north west to a little hamlet and the small Glengoulandie caravan and camping site. Mainly static caravans, there are some hard standing for touring vehicles and we snag one in the corner. We decided to go for a walk and get ready, but The Dog has found an interesting smell and has her head firmly under a fence, fascinated. She’s also spotted deer in an adjacent field and happily watches them.

https://www.visitaberfeldy.co.uk/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfeldy,_Perth_and_Kinross

We walked out of the caravan site and across the road to a gate. It’s a fenced area with grass and bushes with little streams. We followed a well worn path, The Dog happily sniffing and checking out. It’s very pretty with mountains and hills all around. The massive blot on the landscape is the marching electricity pylons, standing tall atop of the hills – we actually walk up to the base of one. It’s a total abomination in my book. Scotland seems to have an abundance of the damned things – they have not really been out of our sight since we crossed the border, either alongside the road or on the horizon. Spoils the feeling of wilderness and timelessness with these ugly iron structures dominating the scenery. Sighing, we retraced our steps back to the Van. The sun broke through the clouds and shone on the nearby mountains, turning them golden. Beautiful. Being late September, the evenings get dark by 7:30 so we made the most of the sunshine before we nested and set up the Van for the night, made tea and watched films on the iPad. The Dog has taken over the back seat and looks like she’s there for the evening despite having her own bed in the passenger well.

Our little evening walk circled

https://www.glengoulandie.net/

So the first night of our road trip of Scotland. A long day of driving, but well worth it. Tomorrow we continue north and head west of Inverness before heading to Torridon on the west coast to meet friends.

Scarborough Day Two

We awoke to overcast skies and a definite chill in the air. It’s only June and we’re in layers and thick jumpers. We weren’t particularly quick this morning, but finally we got organised and decided to walk into Scarborough.

Cleveland Way

Opposite the campsite, across a busy road, was a footpath down the side of a wheat field that led down to the Cleveland Way path on top of the cliffs. Pertinent signs warned of erosion and to keep away from the edge. We peered cautiously over – it didn’t exactly plunge, but it was a series of steep drops down grassy slopes. Basically you wouldn’t stop until you thudded down at the waters edge in a messy heap. We kept The Dog on her lead and followed the grassy path, well away from the edge. It was very windy up here and the cold northerly wind was biting. We even had our hoods up! The cliff path snaked its way along the cliff before branching off and heading down between a series of gorse bushes and a set of dirt steps edged with stones and seriously plunged downwards. At the bottom, we crossed a little bridge across a small river pouring into the sea and hit the concrete promenade of Scarborough’s northern end of the North Shore.

The tide was coming in. We passed the Sea Life Centre and a sad crazy golf course, gone to rack and ruin. The promenade was wide and was a pleasant stroll. We dropped down onto a small patch of beach and let The Dog off for a bit of a run, but it didn’t last long as a sign, about 100 yards away, informed us “No Dogs allowed beyond this point”. So we clipped The Dog back on her lead, she not being very impressed by this at all and climbed back onto the promenade, alongside a long row of very brightly coloured beach huts. They were quite a stunning sight – most were locked up, but a few brave souls had opened theirs up, sitting under blankets and clutching hot mugs of tea, determined to enjoy their time on a cold windy summers day. Wouldn’t it be fun to own a beach hut? But they are very much in demand and their prices reflect that. Some are eye wateringly expensive – more than an average house sometimes for a glorified shed. But they’re very cute, with little kitchens – I don’t think there’s room to sleep in them!

Further along, a new apartment block had been built, curving around the corner with balconies to match. Below were trendy cafes and shops. I could almost live there, sipping coffee in the morning with glorious views over Scarborough and the sea. It looked very nice.

And then right next door, a wall of boarding surrounded a derelict site, neglected for several years by the looks of things. Years ago, if my memory serves me right, it was a small amusement/aqua park, but was obviously earmarked for greater things that obviously haven’t come to fruition. It was a slight blot on the landscape. Opposite, was Peaseholm Park, an oriental themed public park which improved my mood immensely. A lovely municipal park lovingly looked after with a large boating lake weaving its way through the centre, surrounded by pagodas and Japanese styled buildings. Just totally unexpected in an English Northern seaside town – a lovely diversion. Brim full with trees, shrubs and plants, it’s really quite a treat with a cafe and seating everywhere. It was a lovely stroll around the park, with paths heading off at all angles. It was very tranquil and well cared for.

https://www..com/discover/things-to-do/peasholm-park-p1282751

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We finally waddled out and crossed back over the road towards the Open Air Theatre. We followed the path, heading back towards Scalby. On one side was a low building which housed a cafe and other amenities while on the other side was a small miniature railway (the North Bay Heritage Railway) with an steam engine tugging a line of small wooden open carriages. It looked fun. We stopped at the cafe for coffee and pondered whether to have a ride on the train, but a quick investigation of prices (£3.50 and £1.50 for The Dog one way) and the length of it (1.4km) put us off it somewhat. So we sunk our coffees and continued walking up past the Open Air Theatre – a vast stand of seats facing a covered stage opposite that attract international stars to perform. I don’t know why but it made me giggle, the thought of the likes of Lionel Richie travelling the world, playing at Scarborough. On one level, it was fantastic that they could attract such artists, but the idea of touring New York, London O2 and other major venues and then Scarborough’s little open air theatre seemed quite funny. But I also loved the idea that Scarborough could make it happen and I liked this little town even more.

We walked on, following the railway line and eventually dropped back down onto the promenade by the Sea Life Centre. From here we retraced our steps, back up the steep dirt steps and back onto the cliff tops. We were now heading into the wind and met a couple more walkers facing the bracing wind. The Dog started to lag as we walked down the side of the wheat field, unsure whether she was actually tired or she didn’t want the walk to end. We kept encouraging her, but she hung back behind us, pretending to sniff and grabbing the odd blade of grass to chew. She had done well walking all that way for her age – we had walked a good 6 miles.

Waiting for something – chips probably!

Later we decided to check out the Primrose Valley area and drove down through Scarborough and bypassed Filey. We drove down this dreadful road which was so riddled with badly repaired potholes that the original speed bumps weren’t really required. The road was full of detached properties set in big gardens, looking very upmarket and middle class and then around the corner was the infamous Primrose Valley caravan park, static caravan central, a sprawling metropolis of tin holiday homes as far as the eye could see. Owned by Haven Holidays, it’s like it’s own little self contained city. Such a contrast! We parked up on a large apron of tarmac overlooking the sea, a seemingly free car park which I thought was very generous really, considering. We walked along the path to a large meadow with paths mown through it which we followed until we did a little dog leg across a back road, down some steps and onto the path down to the beach. At the bottom, we were spat out onto another wonderful arc of cliffs, beach as far as the eye could see and crashing waves, throwing up a mist of sea spray. We walked towards Filey, The Dog enjoying yet another beach, amazed at the stunning scenery despite the cold overcast day. We wandered so far and then walked back, spotting a fantastic house sitting low in the cliffs, a tall Art Deco styled property painted white. It looked stunning. We had seen it before in a previous trip, but The Dog was wilting again and we trotted back up the path and across the meadow to the car. We drove slowly back to the campsite for tea and as the evening wore on, the sun finally broke up the clouds and we enjoyed a beautiful sunny end of the day.

It will an early start back home and reality tomorrow, but it was nice to revisit Scarborough again after several years of being distracted by other places.