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.

Williamson Park, Lancaster.

With an errand to run in Lancaster, I combined it with a dog walk and decided to head to Williamson Park on the edge of Lancaster.

I had been here years ago with the family and had a wander around. It was time for a revisit. Following the satnav, the route took us through country lanes, trees over hanging the road with beautiful dappled sunshine – the sky was bright blue with not a cloud in the sky. The perfect September day.

Somehow I missed the turning into the park and briefly became lost in the nearby backstreets trying to do a U turn. There seemed to be a myriad of temporary road signs dictating that roads were closed and with traffic calming measures, other motorists and parked cars everywhere, I was heading deeper into chaos. Finally, I was able to turn around and headed back through the tiny narrow streets, back to the main road and turned into a rather grand gateway and into the park.

Still recovering from my sortie, I followed the road, not entirely convinced that I was doing this quite right and I was actually driving down a private road. I think it was the long line of parked cars back on the main road that set off this line of thinking, but this stretch of tarmac had speed bumps and limits, so I continued round the bends, along a tree lined avenue hoping for a car park. What seemed like an eternity, I found the car park with a sprinkling of cars parked in a line and pulled into a space. It was quite a tiny one too. We got ourselves sorted and I paid for the parking ticket – £2.00 all day (and finally figured about the cars on the main road – cheapskates who didn’t want to pay for parking).

http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/sites/williamson-park

We waddled uphill for about 100 yards and came upon the café, shop and butterfly house and just beyond that, the impressive Ashton Memorial high on the hill, with fantastic views across Morecambe Bay and the Lake District beyond.

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.

Scarborough

We decided to spend a couple of days at Scarborough on the east coast, just for a change of scenery and catch up with family.

We drove over late Sunday afternoon as the weather was suppose to be foul (it wasn’t in the end – typical) and found our campsite, at Scalby north of Scarborough. We literally found our spot, stuck a stake in the ground to claim it and drove off, down towards Cayton Bay where we were due to meet both our daughters and where dogs were allowed on the beach.

https://www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com/coastal-villages/cayton-bay

We had to drive through Scarborough to get to Cayton Bay. Handsome houses lined the road as we followed the road in. Scarborough’s suburbs seemed full of well maintained, smart houses but as we entered the centre, it went all awry. For the town planners, some fifty years ago, decided that the 1960’s fashion for square, squat and downright ugly concrete buildings was the way to go. Now, they were a jarring footnote and need a stick of dynamite. Thankfully, it only affected some 200 yards of prime real estate, but took the edge off the lovely Art Deco Stephen Joseph theatre on the corner. Peering down the side streets, someone had obviously had a quiet word in several ears, as the main shopping street remained untouched and it’s Georgian and Victorian architecture looked inviting. A little further along, a small square of tall Georgian houses had been converted into cheap nasty flats, with grubby torn net curtains and a certain weariness about them. It was sad to see.

We carried on along the A165 and found a surf club down a side road with a small grassy car park (£3 all day) and waited for the daughters to arrive. Once assembled, greetings and small chat and the dogs acquainted, we headed down a steep slope to the beach, into a wide arc of bay. One of the daughters has a big boisterous 2 year old Labrador which she unleashed. He immediately launched himself down the beach and straight into the surf. Our Dog just had a big smile on her face and got as giddy as a 13 year old hound can. We walked along the golden sands, the sun out but with a cool north wind. A case of shorts with thick woolly jumpers (typical British summer wear). Large waves crashed onto the beach as we wandered along, away from the crowded entrance where everybody had seemed to have stopped. The cliffs all the way along had eroded and slipped, spreading debris over the sand. Nearby, a beautiful house with a glass balcony and tall picture windows perched high on the cliff, staring out to sea. What a fantastic view. It seemed to be part of a renovated old industrial building that now could be a holiday rental or someone’s fabulous home. What a great spot.

We carried on, pleased we had donned jumpers and coats. The Lab bounced in and out of the water before hurtling headlong towards us and somehow at the last minute, either swerving around us or doing a handbrake turn and charging off again. He was exhausting to watch. The bay curved around until we reached rocks covered in slippery and slimy seaweed, blocking our way any further. We looked around us at the tall unstable cliffs, sweeping majestically around, with the wide sandy beach and cold dark North Sea. We retraced our steps, investigating the old military pillboxes that once had stood on top of the cliff, looking out to sea for the enemy in World War Two, now lying in a crumbled concrete heap after slithering down the cliff as the earth gave way underneath them. They were surprisingly still intact, despite lying at quirky angles, the Dogs and Daughters going inside the murky dark interior and poking their heads through the window slits. What an awful job that must of been, sitting in them for hours on end looking for enemy ships or bombers, all dark and poky. We left them poking out of the sand and carried on our walk.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillbox_(military)

The kids peered in rock pools, looking for crabs and other sea creatures like they used to when they were small, reminiscing when we left them at Filey on a wildlife weekend, allegedly abandoned by us. We walked up the other end of the bay, until we were again stopped by rocks. High above us, the cliffs were steeper and guillemots swooped as they tended to their nests in little dips and crannies high up the face. It was getting late and we found our path and hauled ourselves up the steep path back to the cars.

We agreed to head into Scarborough itself for tea, voting on fish and chips. We drove in convoy along the main road, dropping into the town centre, under the splendid green Victorian bridge that spans the valley and past the splendid Grand Hotel, perched high up, dominating the town. I think it’s being renovated, but not sure if the project has ground to a halt. We swooped around the corner onto the front, the buildings with their red pantile roofs cascading down the hillside in a chaotic, but pretty jumble. It was quite picturesque with Scarborough Castle at the other end, keeping guard. But alas, the allusion was quickly quashed as amusement arcades, icecream parlours, purveyors of all things seasidey and tacky and numerous cafes and other fast food vendors jostled each other down the entire front, their gawdy frontages competing with each other. Music, disjointed announcements and the mechanical clunkings of the slot machines added to the atmosphere. It was classic British seaside scene.

We parked the cars on a jetty area and walked a few minutes to Papa’s Fish and Chip shop. With no functioning indoor restaurant due to Covid, we ordered and ate our fare at the tables and chairs spread outside. It was a good spot to people watch. The Dog barked at pigeons that dared to come too near, making everyone jump. Seagulls swooped low, looking for easy pickings. Signs were everywhere warning the public not to feed the gulls – there’s many a story of unsuspecting visitors losing their fish and chips to a hungry passing gull. Luckily the gulls didn’t bother us and we ate our food without being bothered.

After tea, with the sun starting to drop and bathing Scarborough and the cliffs in a gorgeous light, we wandered back to the cars and said our goodbyes. We drove back to the campsite at Scalby, did some nesting, walked The Dog around the campsite having a good look at other campers and enjoyed the evening sun. The weather forecast was completely wrong, thank goodness! Finally we retreated to bed and fell into a deep sleep.

Lord’s Lot Woods, Capernwray, Lancashire

It’s been a wood that I drive past fairly regularly and often wondered if it was open to the public. Recently, I’ve passed when there has been a few cars parked on the one or two gravel layby’s and thought I would check it out.

So, one sunny spring afternoon, I parked up on the first layby I came to – there was already a car there. Lords Lot Wood is owned and managed by Forestry Commission. I let The Dog out of the boot and she bounded down an earth path into the woods. I followed her. The path weaved its way between the trees, alongside a trench full of muddy water. Here and there, the path turned a little boggy – softened mud squashed gently underfoot. There were all sorts of trees – sometimes it got quite dense, the trees close together and then it would widen out, so you could see a carpet of brown autumnal leaves covering the ground against a backdrop of silver birch trees.

We followed our noses – there is no way marks or posts, but the earth path was clearly visible and we tracked it until we hit the other side of the wood and a dry stone wall. We followed the side of the wall, with a vast panorama of the Forest of Bowland fells before us, wind turbines turning lazily. (despite it’s name, there are no forests, just moorland – I believe Forest is an old name for royal hunting). Again we came across patches of bogginess, The Dog tripping over them lightly, while I hesitated, looking for the best route across – the feet sunk a little deeper, but all was good.

https://www.visitlancashire.com/explore/forest-of-bowland-aonb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_forest

The wood was a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees – beech, red oak and Scot’s pine amongst others. Fallen trees lay everywhere, slowly rotting and returning to the earth – a few times, The Dog and I had to negotiate them as they lay across our paths. It seemed a proper wood, left to its own devices, but quietly overseen.

I was thankful that I had the trusted Ordnance Survey map app on my phone as I tracked our way around. Thinking it was a simple case of following the wall, a couple of times I discovered that I was heading in the wrong direction and had to correct ourselves. Another time, I turned and the path disappeared so we started to hack our way through twigs and branches. We didn’t get far before I gave up and The Dog had actually held back, looking at me puzzled. She has special looks for me when she knows that I doing something stupid – despite my calling and cajoling, she stood fast and finally, realising the folly of my endeavour, we went back to the path we had just left. It was little further down that the path become truly boggy and I changed tack, putting my feet in other footprints, in the misguided belief that I wouldn’t get stuck. Alas, I trod on one section, which not only squirted gloopy mud up my leg with a viguorous fart, but swallowed my trainer so that the gloop overflowed into my boot and soaked my foot. I think I swore. The Dog stopped in her tracks and swivelled her head – her own paws covered in sticky mud -and gave me a despairing Gromit the dog stare. She can so make you feel small.

Shaking my foot, we carried on, up gentle slopes. We passed an open grassy area, an obvious bog full of grasses and flowers, a little savannah surrounded by trees.We kept the wall in sight and finally dropped onto a track outside the wood and followed that up and round. Sheep and their lambs gambolled in their fields, mothers calling their offspring to their sides as we popped out. In the distance, the purple hazy contours of the Lake District fells could be seen. We carried on walking up the gravelly path as it turned right, an open vista on one side and woodland on the other. Vehicles had been up here and as the gravel track ended and turned back into an earth path, the tyres had dug deep and mashed the track into a muddy mess, so there was a lot of picking and skipping my way around the miniature lakes and soggy bits.

As we walked, I noticed that Spring was still reluctant to arrive with the odd bush starting to bud. Hawthorn with its vivid green leaves, bright yellow gorse brightening up the path and clumps of primrose. The trees stood stock still, bare of leaves still thinking it was winter. We have had lots of sunshine, but it’s hardly rained for weeks and we still get cold frosty mornings. Perhaps the trees knew something we didn’t. Perhaps it was self preservation. I love Spring. You’re on the edge of a precipice of new beginnings and it’s lovely to see everything burst into life. We’ve been in lockdown too long and wanting summer. It’s so near!

The muddy churned up bit finished by an outbuilding and we branched slightly right. The path smooth and dry. We climbed a slight incline, where the trees spaced themselves more widely allowing you to peek between their trunks and see open fields and gentle hills. It opened the woodland up again, allowing the milky sun to warm us up. Again there were allsorts of trees here, a real mixture.

The first bluebells are starting to make an appearance.

We came across a small plantation of randomly planted Christmas trees, just growing happily. Short and stumpy, a small clump left to grow on their own accord. We wondered why, before wandering along the track, listening to birdsong.

We decided to check out Syphon Well and headed up towards that, hoping to find a well or something of interest. We passed by an area of those horrible conifers, that huddle so closely together that you can’t see more than 10 foot into their interior – totally black and devoid of any vegetation. And to spook you further, the trees gently groan in the wind. The Dog and I picked up speed and scuttled by quickly. They are so creepy.

We got to Syphon Well but could not find any evidence of a long list well or anything. It was all covered in leaf litter, broken branches and twigs. It also alternated between hard ground and bogginess. We wandered down the path a little further and came across a series of oversized protruding manholes set across the path in a line. Puzzled by their presence, I did a quick Google and found out that they were part of a Manchester Corporation Water Works pipeline from the Lake District to the city of Manchester. What a long way for water to travel to feed a city. It’s the same in the Yorkshire Dales, reservoirs in the middle of nowhere, miles from anywhere, built to deliver water to the cities of Leeds and Bradford. Most of them are Victorian, that busy age of invention and advancement. But to think that many men with just picks and shovels dug the trenches and lowered the pipes, with none of the machinery and technology of today, working for hours in end in atrocious conditions. I just love the J Blakeborough and Sons, the valve makers of Brighouse stamped on the cover for prosperity too.

We headed back to the car. The Dog was growing weary and was dawdling behind me. At one time she dawdled because she didn’t want to go home, but nearing 13 years of age, she just wants short walks and her mat. The only energy she expends these days is to beat you to a gate or a stile, a habit so deep rooted, she can’t help herself.

But we had one final hurdle – we came up to a stream, too wide to jump across and steep sided. The Dog leapt across easily and patiently waited while I dithered and dallied. I think she leapt it three times until I found a place where the sides dropped and I was able to step across with my dignity still intact. I always have a fear that one day I’ll misjudge things like that and end up flat on my back, legs up in the air and soaking wet.

We found the car easily and The Dog leapt in the back. And there was this lovely display of roadside daffodils.

Burton Pottery Walk

I was scrolling through Facebook whilst drinking a cup of coffee the other day, when a post caught my eye. It was a chap who has written a book about the potters and their potteries of Burton In Lonsdale in North Yorkshire which has also been known as “Black Burton”. He described a walk around the village taking in all the pottery sites and I thought “I need to check this out”.

The village of Burton In Lonsdale

We parked at a convenient layby near the river and followed the instructions to Greta Wood. We have walked along this route before to the woods so The Dog can chase squirrels so we know it quite well, so we followed the road alongside the River Greta and dropped onto a path/driveway on the right as the road began to rise. Reading the guide, we immediately noted where the clay had been dug to such an extent, that it got close to the road we had just left and threatened the foundations. Looking at the dense undergrowth, you could see where the digging had been. We carried on, this time with our noses to the ground looking for more evidence, but this part of the path had been covered with hardcore, but as the track turned into a path and into the woods, we spotted the terracotta clay the book mentioned and picked up the larger bits to have a closer look, looking for fingerprints. We didn’t see any obvious signs, but it was still fascinating.

The lane leading to Greta Wood
The little bits of terracotta

We came up to the little bridge and turned left, much to The Dog’s surprise as we usually carry on up the hill. We walked up a little narrow track, a bubbling little stream gurgling down the bottom of a steep bank on the right. On our left, fallen trees and undergrowth dominated, but again, you could clearly see where the ground had been cleared and excavated, a sloping cliff as a backdrop. We stopped at the spot shown in the guide’s photograph and imagined how the potters worked hard to get the clay out of the ground. There is also evidence of coal mining in the area too. We retraced our steps and went off the guide slightly to check out a fenced off area high up the hill. It was extremely muddy and we looked like a pair of Bambi’s, but got up there. It’s just a very deep hole, hidden under grass, brambles and woodland debris – no wonder they had closed it off. There’s no signs pronouncing what it is, so we presumed it was a ventilation shaft of some description and slithered back down the hill again.

We walked back to the car and the bridge, admiring the cottages opposite which were formerly a pottery. At one end, there’s a little side room with a sloping roof which apparently has a sloping floor inside, where the waste water from the pottery making flowed to the outside. Genius. The cottages are in private hands, but what a great little piece of local working history to have in your home. We walked past these cottages, up to the little concrete cap covering a mine ventilation shaft – it’s kind of hidden in a fenced off area near the picnic site and a bit overgrown. There’s a utilitarian company sign unceremoniously attached to the fence, and the cap is unremarkable, but it’s nice to have it noted and not just filled in and lost forever.

The road continued up to the Waterside Potterys down a long driveway. Again, these are in private ownership so you would look highly suspicious loitering down there. It’s a cluster of private housing, converted from the pottery and there’s no real evidence of there being a thriving pottery industry there, so we trotted back to the crossroads and the car. From this point, we marked where two other potteries were, one completely gone and replaced by detached modern housing and the other, converted into homes. It looked too modern to be a former pottery, but the photos were there to prove it

We wandered up the steep hill until we got to another small crossroads half way up and turned left into Leeming Lane, a charming street of cosy cottages with splendid views across the river. The road curved right and we faced the towering preseince of Burton’s beautiful parish church. Situated on top of the hill, it can be seen for miles around and is a lovely building. We peered into the graveyard where most of the potters are buried, but didn’t go in. A few years ago, the spire of the church was refurbished with cedar and for many months, it had a beautiful deep copper colour that shone in the sunlight. Now weathered into a grey, it’s lost that wonderful lustre which is a bit of a shame.

We carried on past the church and got burped out onto the High Street. We strolled along, looking at the mixture of charming stone cottages, tall elegant houses and village hall. Burton in Lonsdale has a lovely little village shop run by the community and staffed by volunteers, crammed with all sorts even a little cafe. At the end of the High Street, the road curves to the left where we found a little indent at the foot of the wall – either a plague bowl to wash your hands in before entering the village or a mortar and pestle from yet another pottery that existed just around the corner. Again, it’s disappeared and replaced by modern bungalows. Opposite, down a driveway, we spotted a footpath sign and plunged down towards a little stream – it was quite steep and muddy, so there was a lot of slithering and yelps. The Dog looked at us in bemusement and with a look “you useless bipedals, you need four paw drive” as she patiently waited for us by the dinky little bridge at the bottom.

We popped out by a stile and as instructed, kept left of an old barn and strolled across the fields. They would afforded us some great views if the weather had not closed in and we now walked in a steady drizzle. We clambered through stiles, across fields of sheep who watched us warily and stopped to admire the scenery and the little valley below us. Trying to work out where the river was, we pulled out our phone which has a handy Ordnance Survey app and realised we were slightly off course! Turning around, we saw a finger post by the wall and trotted over to it and onto the road. We followed the lane down and around to the right, passing farms and cottages, tucked down this little road. It was very pleasant with high hedges and walls. Eventually we came to a dead end. To our left was a very fancy house, set well back from the road, slightly elevated. In front of us, the track ran out by a gate. At one time, you could walk down to the river here and cross a bridge, but as the guide mentions, the locals found a seam of free coal and gladly helped themselves to it. Unfortunately, they were a little bit too keen and undermined the riverbank and bridge, which collapsed into the river and never rebuilt. It sounds like it also took away the income from the toll house that was there too.

We started to feel a bit uncomfortable standing there, pointing, thinking that the people in the house were watching us and wondering what we were up to – potential burglars casing the joint? We turned around and walked back along the road back into the village. We took a different route back to the car, down a little back lane full of lovely terraced cottages and read more about where the potters lived. We passed the Punch Bowl pub and licked our lips. Oh for a Sunday dinner, meat and vegs, stuffing, a Yorkshire pudding on top and lashings of thick gravy together with a pint of the landlord’s best brew, but alas it was to be a pipe dream. It was firmly shut, a victim of the current Covid restrictions and we were denied. So we waddled back down the hill, slightly damp from the drizzle and headed home for a warming cuppa and a large slab of cake.

Here’s the link to the Burton Pottery Walk.

https://www.burton-in-lonsdale.net/

Kendal Castle

Hubby had an appointment in Kendal and so me and The Dog decided to join him for a change of scenery and the chance of a different walk.

We headed out in glorious sunshine, albeit still very cold. Spring has sort of stalled here in the UK, the leaves starting to come out, but thought better of it. We had a run of mornings recently, waking up to hard frosts, the ground glistening white and the nearby hills covered with snow.

Hubby found his destination in Kendal and parked up. We were in suburbia in the north of the town and a quick glance at the OS map on the phone, showed no immediate greenery. The Dog ain’t one for pounding the streets. On further investigation, I realised that Kendal Castle was in walking distance and with a hour to kill, we set off.

We walked down a busy A road, heading to the town centre, a mixture of shop fronts and housing. We passed a little row of cottages, all their windows covered by curtains and blinds to stop people having a nose before turning down a peaceful side road. We followed the map, the small cottages turning into slightly bigger residences and as we approached the Castle, elegant Victorian villas with little front gardens.

We found the entrance to the grounds of the Castle and squeezed through the kissing gate. The path went straight up a hill. After a brief read of the information board, we set off up the path as joggers ran down the hill and then promptly turned around and jogged back up. I admire people who have the get up and go to run and jog, wishing I had the determination, but the memories of PE at school, staggering around the track vowing never to run (unless for necessity like after a bus) have stayed and a brisk walk suits me fine. So I let the joggers pant up the hill, while The Dog and I took in the scenery.

We were steadily rising above the town of Kendal, the houses, roads and industry surrounding the vast eminence we were climbing. It was a huge parkland with clumps of trees and the odd bench to rest on. I kept stopping to admire the expanding views. Finally, the Castle appeared at the top – a complete ruin with only a couple of corners left. I visit Kendal probably two or three times a year, usually on a shopping trip and had never visited the castle. There were several information boards and seats cut out of stone in front of it, people sat on benches admiring the views over into the Lakeland hills while others stood and took photos. It was rather splendid.

We decided to investigate further, crossing the empty moat of the Castle and into the middle. To our right, was the remains of a tower with a stairway, so we sauntered over. The stairway was constructed of metal with the actual steps with a grate like surface. The Dog followed me, though not impressed. She wasn’t entirely comfortable, going up very gingerly with her back legs looking like she’d had weed herself. The grating must of been horrible for her paws and she could see through the stairs. She wasn’t too happy with me with my brief and cursory look once we had reached the top – it was a cylindrical construction with a window overlooking Kendal town centre and that was that. So we turned around and went back down the steps. Halfway down I waited for The Dog, who was even more unhappy, carefully steeping down each step. I thought I might have to carry her down, but she saw the end was in sight and with a wag of her tail, she skipped down to the grass and bounced away in relief.

We walked around the perimeter, inside the castle and read the information boards. There were two cellars that we checked out, spooking a couple of birds who in turn spooked us. There were another set of steps that were a proper set of stairs, albeit metal. The Dog, just recovering from the last steps, decided to stay put at the bottom to watch me waddle up to take photos and have a look around. Reunited at the bottom, we headed off back into parkland and found a high spot to have a good look at the town surrounding the hill. You could see why it was built up here, you could see the marauding mobs heading your way at all angles – it had a 360 degree vista. The Dog and I just stopped and stared – the sun was shining in a practically cloudless sky, admiring at the Lakeland fells in the not too far distance, looking inviting. Nestling in the valley, the town of Kendal – I was looking out for familiar landmarks, working out where the town centre was, the roads and other features. Kendal looked a lot smaller from up here – almost snug and cosy. We found a gravel path and walked along the edge of the moat until the path plunged down into a thin slice of woodland towards a residential side road. We continued onto the grass as the hill gradually fell away towards a cemetery at the bottom. Checking both watch and map, we decided to retrace our steps back to hubby. We head back to the Castle and down the wide grassy track, towards the kissing gate. The sun was strong and warm, but there was a chill in the air – a winter coat and scarf was still required, though there were braver souls in lesser clothing.

We reached the kissing gate, I put The Dog back on the lead and wander down the sunny side of the streets, admiring the houses. This time, I start to notice that quite a few properties have flood gates on their doorways and even on their windows! The River Kent flows through the centre of town and isn’t very far from these houses – it was startling to think it would rise above their downstairs windowsills. We re-join the busy A road and waddle back to the car.