The Big Stone

It was one of those beautiful autumnal afternoons without a cloud in the sky. After working all day, I just wanted to be out in it.

I grabbed The Dog as soon as I could, startling her from her slumber on the sofa and we just headed off in the late afternoon, following our noses. Ingleborough rose majestically from the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, it’s summit clear of cloud and profiled against a clear blue sky. We drove towards the edge of the Forest of Bowland, The Dog hanging her head out of the window, her ears flapping. We pulled up onto a lay-by on the moor, not far from from the Great Stone of Fourstones, a local landmark near the market town of Bentham. It’s known locally as the Big Stone and looks like it’s been dumped in the middle of the grassland, from a great height.

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

After a short stroll across the moorland, we reached its base. There are steps carved into the side so you can go up and stand on its top. It has the most amazing views and this afternoon, it was beyond gorgeous. Towards the west, the Lake District hills and fells looked a purple blue in the far distance. As I panned eastwards, the Yorkshire Dales gently rose with two of the Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent – hoving into view. With the late afternoon sun making long shadows, the landscape was of rolling green fields, woods, little villages and farms. I had a stunning 180 degree view and after our visit to the Big Stone, The Dog and I sat in the boot of the car and admired the view for many minutes.

I didn’t want to go home yet, so we decided to go on a drive and follow our noses to see what we came across. We headed towards the little hamlet of Lowgill, nestling in a valley, but got distracted by a side road. The sign said church and village school. The lane was single track with grass down the middle and I hoped not to meet a tractor or some other huge farm vehicle. We found the little church just as a sign declared the road “unsuitable for motor vehicles” and another declaring a 25% descent. I parked up and The Dog and I went through the double iron gates and through an avenue of trees to the main porch. It was here that I realised I had left my camera phone in the car! Grrr. The church was small and squat with a cockerel weather vane on its stumpy tower. It was a charming little building and evidently in use. The gravestones were marked with recent deaths in the graveyard and I was surprised by how many for such a little house of worship in such an isolated spot. I wandered past up to the old schoolhouse which seemed to be used as the village hall with chairs and tables, posters and notices on the noticeboards inside. Delightfully, it had two outside toilets thoughtfully marked “gentlemen” and “ladies”.

I meandered back to the car, the sun glinting through the beautiful browns, greens and yellows of early autumn. It is a stunning evening. We retraced our steps back to the main lane and followed the road to Wray, stopping every now and then to admire the long distance views and fantastic scenery.

We stopped at Wray in Lancashire where I know a little river walk. The Dog is not impressed by this itinerary. First a short walk to the Big Stone and back into the car. Another short walk through a graveyard and back to the car. Now a diversion to Lowgill and back (not even a sniff of a short walk here) and now she was getting impatient and starting to vocalise her disapproval by pathetic whimpering. She got really excited when I finally parked, and dashed off when I let her off lead. There’s only one destination in The Dog’s head – the river.

She’s looking very pleased with herself standing knee deep in the water, ears pricked. She was in heaven. We had a pleasant walk through the fields, with The Dog dashing ahead, running in and out of the water.

With our tummies starting to rumble for tea, we wandered back to the car and enjoyed a lovely drive back with beautiful colours, a cloudless blue sky, green hills, woods, long shadows and the peaks of Yorkshire as a stunning backdrop. Once home, I looked at my photos from my phone and cursed that they didn’t reflect the views I had seen with my own eyes. Photos never do, do they? They never do the scenery justice.

Never mind, there will always be plenty more days like this.

Hornby Castle, Hornby, Lancashire

It was one of those horrible rainy days when all you want to do is put a blazing wood fire on, pull up the settee and watch a good war film like Dambusters or The Great Escape and basically not move.

But move we did. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a flyer advertising an Open Day at Hornby Castle. For the last couple of years, we’ve been meaning to go to the Open Day in May (they only open to the public two or three times a year) and every time, there’s some other important distraction that occupies us. So we made the effort.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornby_Castle,_Lancashire

http://www.hornbycastle.com/

The rain was coming down in steady stair rods, so we donned woolly jumpers, cagoules, waterproof trousers and sturdy boots. It was odd having so much clothing on after our fantastic UK summer where having shorts and t-shirt seemed overdressed. Now we were padded out like sumo wrestlers and had trouble moving.

We parked on the street, not sure if we could park inside – there’s signs saying “private grounds”, as Hornby Castle is a private residence. So we played it safe, not wanting to do an excruciating many point turn in their driveway, crushing prized plants as we did so. We wandered down the path to be met by a lovely, but rather damp lady sheltering under a gazebo, who took our money, and gave us a quick run down of what was on offer.

We set off and dropped onto the woodland path to let The Dog have a good sniff and check for squirrels. She was firmly on lead. She wasn’t impressed with the weather either and regularly shook off the excessive, giving us brief showers. We wandered around the grounds, lamenting it would be beautiful in the sunshine. We came across the walled garden and the nursery, got chatting to the gardener who was retiring and huddled under his gazebo too. It seemed to be getting darker.

The gardener was selling off his tools to any one who made him an offer. Hubby picked up something suitably sharp and dangerous, carrying it around under his arm. We hoped we wouldn’t get challenged for carrying an offensive weapon, but as we were the only fools out in this weather, the chances were pretty low.

We also found a ceramic workshop in the grounds and a chance to get out of the rain. There was an Aladdin’s cave of ceramic pots, bowls, dishes and many other designs. We dropped into conversation with the owner as we perused and saw a beautiful dark blue bowl with an inscription inside for a stupidly low price. On enquiring, we were told that it was a reject as the edges weren’t straight or some other defect. To me, it was perfect and quirky. I like things slightly off centre, so we bought that too along with an incense bowl which was also a reject. The chap wrapped them well in bubble wrap and into a large paper bag, whereupon we asked him to look after them and we would pick up later. The sky had just got blacker, the rain heavier and I had images of the bag disintegrating within minutes and my quirky purchases either smashing or rolling off down the hill.

We found the riverside path alongside the River Wenning and followed that until the “private” sign barred us. We retraced our steps, stood agog at a recently fallen beech tree which had ripped its way through the surrounding woodland, crashing across the path. It had been chopped up, but you could see its trajectory from high up and surviving trees still standing, but boughs and branches cruelly ripped off. The remains of the strickened tree lay by the path, huge slabs that would made beautiful table tops and other pieces of furniture. I love wood and this was in its purest form, with beautiful markings and lines. We stood there for awhile, quite amazed by the beauty of nature.

We headed up and came across the castle proper. It’s not really a castle now, more of a rather large grand house with a terrace looking down the Lune Valley, a pretty vista through the trees and rainy mist. We realised there was a historical talk here at 3pm, so a brief walk back to collect my bowls and we arrived at the imposing front doors.

It was here we had dilemmas. Where to put the tool and what to do with our rather wet and unimpressed dog. The first was solved by hiding the tool in the adjacent shrubbery and the second, by hubby opening the huge oak door to be met by a small friendly lady. Yes, the dog was welcome she thought. So we walked into a large tiled hallway, and stripped off our wet outdoor clothing and The Dog had a couple of extravagant shakes to disperse her collection of water. Then a man appeared and seemed to baulk at the idea of The Dog dripping on his carpets. After a little debate, one of which was to leave our dog in the hallway – not an option on our dog’s part, a large and very hairy dog bed was produced as we all went into another room and sat down. The Dog was not impressed to having to sit on another dog’s smelly, hairy bed and had to be forcefully coaxed on to it. We were the only people here.

Hubby sat in a high backed chair, me on the floor next to the Dog almost nailing her down and hoping she wouldn’t have another shake. This room was straight off from the hallway and I presume would of been a reception room. It was full of mismatched, saggy sofas and chairs that these houses always seem to specialise in. Numerous paintings hung off the walls, a huge fireplace dominated a wall, while floor to ceiling windows, partly stained glassed, took another wall. It was a pleasant room and evidently part of the living quarters of the current owners.

The lady turned out to be the matriarch of the family that made Hornby Castle their home, and once the seating and dog had been sorted, she sat opposite on one of the baggy settees and set about talking about the history of Hornby Castle. And how fascinating it was. She started with William The Conqueror and the castle being a fortified placement, and carried through to the present day, cataloguing the numerous calamities and owners through its chequered history, how it was fought over, taken over, nearly demolished several times, left derelict, saved, owned by feckless landowners, loved and rebuilt by eccentric wealthy industrialists. Richard III, Oliver Cromwell, Henry VIII, and other historical characters had touched this place, tucked as it was in a remote corner of the NorthWest of England. We were amazed by its chequered past. The Castle had been changed and altered throughout its life, it’s castle exterior eradicated when it was styled more into a Georgian house for more permanent living rather than for defensive purposes. Victorian additions were soon added, but in the 20th century, those extensions were removed and it now retains a Georgian gothic look and is more house than castle in that sense.The lady was amazing and her talk so detailed. Even The Dog finally relaxed and slept on the dog bed, despite another couple appearing during the talk, with their little white hound. Our Dog was not impressed by this invasion and told the other dog, by a series of low level growls and a brief bearing of teeth that this dog bed, despite probably been the property of many boisterous Labradors was now firmly hers and to Back Off. We have a strange dog.

As the talk continued, we became aware of the sun shining through the windows and as we left through the impressive front door, the full vista and views of the Lune Valley finally showed themselves to us and it’s was amazing. We gathered up our stuff, lamenting how sad it was that the good old British weather had scuppered the Open Day, noting just two cars parked on the field. We had only met about three other people for the two hours we were there. It was such a shame.

We headed home after reclaiming the tool from it’s hiding place. Despite the brightening evening, we lit a blazing wood fire, pulled up the sofa and put a good war film on telly…………

A Path to Nowhere

Took my more lively dog for a walk this morning and decided to combine it with a trip to the shops in the nearby town.

I decided to take a shortcut across fields to town and The Dog was off lead and enjoying her freedom. As we entered a small field to walk across to a nearby stile, I was a little perturbed to see a solitary cow, calmly scratching its head on the wooden post of the stile – usually where there’s only sheep grazing. As far as I could see, the cow was on its own, so with a bit of shooing and extravagant arm waving, I thought he would trot off. So The Dog and I were confident as we strolled towards the stile, though The Dog did her “I’m a big black dog” and barked at it and lunged towards the cow, though mercifully stopped by her leash which I had quickly attached. (She’s part collie and loves rounding things up).

The cow, somewhat startled staggered back and gave us a thoughtful stare. He was indeed a young bull (so I will stop calling him a cow) and after some consideration, galloped off to our left into an adjoining field. Phew. We came up to the stile and The Dog had efficiently jumped over it, when I heard a noise to my left. It sounded very much the thundering of many hooves and not waiting to actually see visual evidence, hauled The Dog back quickly to my side of the stile.

The original brown bull skidded to a halt back into the field, with a look of surprised bravado. Hot on his heels was about 15 of his mates, intrigued by the brown bull’s excited intrusion into their lives. You can imagine the panted conversation.

“Here, come and have a look. There’s a human and a dog thinking of coming in our field. Maybe we could follow them – it will liven up our day. I don’t know about you but I’m fed up grazing – this will be a great little diversion”.

So he had called his mates to have a look or maybe he was just a wimp and wanted safety in numbers. Nevertheless it had changed my perspective of the situation considerably. These were large year old male stirks (hope I’ve got that detail right), all frisky and skittish. Every time The Dog barked, they all took a step back and jostled each other, but also egging each other to go and check us out. “Go on, Dave, go and have a closer look” they seemed to be saying, nudging one of their larger colleagues who dug his heels in and refused. Finally, one of the braver bulls rolled his eyes with impatience and strode purposefully towards us – it was our turn to take several steps back and jostle each other. Of course, this was the signal for them all to stride en masses towards the stile, all snorting, shaking their heads and looking rather intimidating.

I looked at The Dog and she looked at me. “Well, don’t think we’re going this way” I told her. She was all for rounding them up and coralling them to a corner of the field. Denying my dog her inner Collie, I turned on my heels and retraced our steps. It meant walking all the way back to the lane and then do the mile trip on the main road. I sighed, cursing the farmer for putting his bulls in a field with a public footpath across it. Cattle have been known for trampling and killing people especially ones with dogs, so I wasn’t keen to test this theory and be mashed to a pulp.

It also denied you, dear reader, of a detailed commentary of this short but pleasant walk, with stunning autumnal views through meadows and fields and a half decent blog. I will return in a few weeks back along this route hoping a) the farmer had put them in another field or b) they are so far in the distance that I have a sporting chance of outrunning them if they are inclined to check me out again………..

Clapham, North Yorkshire

I needed to take The Dog for a walk, but wanted something different for our usual haunts.

After pouring over some maps, I chose to visit Clapham, a small village on the edge of the Dales and just off the A65 road. The plan was to walk out of the village and up onto the surrounding fells.

I had done my ablutions, eaten breakfast, washed up and prepared myself for the walk, when I noticed The Dog was still curled up in a tight ball on one of the armchairs. Technically, she’s not supposed to do this, but over the years she has taken advantage of the house’s open plan design by stealth. At the beginning, as you got out of bed, you heard a thud as four paws landed on the carpet and by the time you got down, an innocent looking dog lying on her dog bed as if she had been there all night. A still warm cushion gave the game away. Then she got bolder and as we came downstairs, she was in the process of getting off the sofa with a luxurious yawn and extravagant stretch. The next stage was watching you come down the stairs and watching you go into the kitchen with a sleepy eye and the beginnings of rousing. Now it’s a blatant “don’t you disturb me” look as she remains curled up, refusing to move at all and only getting up when she’s ready.

I was ready with her lead before she decided to get up today – I think she would of stayed there longer – and we jumped into the car. We parked up on the road in the centre of the village and headed off. We walked up past the church and started up a steady incline, under two bridges, one quite dark and gloomy. I had a steady pace, The Dog was off lead and the sun shining. Then I noticed The Dog wasn’t running ahead and checking out smells as her usual habit. I turned to find The Dog stopped and looking at me quizzically. I called her and carried on, but she remained unmoved. A couple more encouragements failed to get her bounding up. Like most dog owners, I started firing questions at her as if she would give a full blown answer of her reluctance, but her face spoke “a walk up there? Really?” I started to walk back down and she leapt up delightedly and legged it down the hill……….

Realising I had neglected this Blog for awhile, I decided that I should start posting again, albeit a small one and start at Clapham. We walked to the pretty little church of St James and was delighted to find it open. English churches are often open and unattended, which allows you to wander in and admire the majesty of the building. The tower is Norman but the rest of the building dates from the 19th century. This was lovely with whitewashed walls and ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows and wooden pews. Outside I wandered about the gravestones, reading them and appalled at the devastation families suffered. One large stone, listed at least four children passing away between the ages of 5 and 20 years. How awful is that? But then the parents lived to 75! I just love these stones, with the elaborate font and detailed information – “here lies George, son of John and Gertrude Smith, born 25th September 1850, died 20th January 1857aged 6 years and 4 mos. Also his sister, Mabel, second daughter, born 8th July……….. ” and so it goes on listing all the family deaths, on a huge engraved stone. Today you would get “George Smith, 25.9.1850 – 20.1.1857. RIP” on a little black plaque.

We wandered down towards Clapham Beck that runs through the village, allowing The Dog to have a paddle and a good drink. Then we followed our noses. We found a waterfall further up and then the entrance of the Ingleborough Nature Trail. There’s a small charge of £1 from an ugly car park style machine and a lengthy notice board which allows you to follow the trail up towards Ingleborough Cave where another large chunk of money is extracted to enter the said cave. There’s plenty of other footpaths around, so I declined and carried on our exploration of the village.

Clapham is the home of the Farrer family whose Ingleborough estate was established in the 19th century. One of the family, one Reginald Farrer was a notable botanist and the family has maintained much of the beauty and charm of the village.

The Dog and I wandered down footpaths and ginnels, found the lovely little primary school, noted how close Clapham is to the busy A65, admired the Clapham Cave Rescue headquarters, a jarring modern building which could of been a bit more sympathetic to its surroundings, but nonetheless very important, saving hapless souls off the nearby fells, peaks and caves.

Wandering back to the car, we found a little vintage shop, stuffed full of antiquities and other bric and brac. Surprisingly, she was happy to allow The Dog in considering the amount of china and glass in the vicinity of swishing tails. Luckily The Dog is brilliant in shops and developed a suitable “I’m bored” look as I studied the merchandise. I made a mental note to do either two things – my sister in law loves vintage meccas like this and I had a dilemma. Not to tell her of its existence or bring her here for the day while I go off for a lengthy coffee and iced bun in the cafe next door and pick her up when she’s bought up the whole shop and the owners can go for a round the world cruise for six months. (Actually she would probably run it while they’re away!). Joking apart, it was very well stocked and needed a good rummage through – if I didn’t have The Dog (who had now spotted the resident cat) I would of lingered a lot longer.

The cat gave The Dog one of those sneering looks that cats specialise in – “Bring it on, mutt. You’re on a lead and can’t get me so I’ll just really wind you up by sitting here and licking my bum”. Which it did.

By now, we had exhausted the possibilities that Clapham could offer us. If you want to avoid the masses in other more popular Dales places, this is perfect this time of year. I wandered around the sleepy streets, the tidy little houses and bungalows and the few little shops – the little village store run by community volunteers (just love that), the tiny little cafes, a tiny wool shop and the aforementioned vintage shop. The pretty beck and the whole genteel, very quiet and gentle atmosphere. I think it gets busy in the summer months and the weekends as walkers park up to walk up nearby Ingleborough and the cave systems while the less energetic head up the Ingleborough Nature Trail (there’s a Yorkshire Dales National Park carpark, so Clapham does entertain quite a few visitors who soon disperse into the surrounding countryside for the day, leaving the village to carry on with life).

Just a lovely little gem worth a couple of hours for a bit of downtime.

Scottish 500 – the final day.

Homeward bound.

Our last morning of tea and biscuits in bed, before getting up and starting to get organised. We need to pack our stuff that we’ve spread all over the motorhome, back into bags, do a quick clean of the inside and do the final chemical toilet, fill up with water and getting it ready to take back.

The sun is shining and it’s glorious as we set off and say goodbye to Moffat. We pick up the A6, preferring that to the motorway. We trundle down back into England, taking it easy. Clouds are gathering and the sun disappears behind them. We follow the A6 to Kendal and then back to Skipton. It starts to spit with rain and by the time we return the little motorhome to its home, it’s pouring.

We empty our stuff, pat our faithful mobile home on the bonnet and bid it farewell -for the time being. Then it’s off into the drizzle to unpack, sort out 10 days worth of dirty laundry and back to reality.

Welcome back.

Scottish 500 – Day 9

What’s this bright light and glowing orb………

Bright light is pouring into the motorhome when we wake up and pulling back the curtains reveals blue sky. At long last.

We get organised, noting that The Dog isn’t exactly enthusiastic about getting up as we are. She’s not one for leaping up as soon as we move and usually watches us with one sleepy eye from under the dashboard. Would of thought she would of wanted to get out ASAP, and have some space, but evidently not.

Stepping out into the sunshine, the failure of acquiring accommodation in Fort Augustus last night is actually a blessing in disguise. This place is a stunningly beautiful location, set in the woodland clearing, with purple mountains surrounding us, little pockets of snow refusing to melt on their sides. With the mist gone, it’s showing it’s true beauty with all the colours bright with the sunshine. We could stay here longer.

We pore over the map, wandering what to do with today. We don’t want to be heading south to England just yet. We decide to head to the Isle of Mull and Tobermory. We follow the A82 to Fort William. We have two choices – catch the ferry at Corran, south of Fort William and short hop or drive the long way round. It’s such a glorious day, we do the long version.

We drive towards Mallaig, past Neptune’s Staircase (a series of locks on the Caledonian canal), and Corpach before turning left at Kinlocheil and doubling back on ourselves. We’re facing Ben Nevis now, but it has thick cloud on its summit and the position of the sun makes it difficult to appreciate its profile. We’re on a little single track road which is beautifully tarmacked and the best road yet. Great views across the water to Fort William, though I sigh heavily when I spot two ugly square blocks (either flats or offices) built high up the hill and dominating the view and completely out of keeping with the rest of the town. How do town planners get away with plonking such obnoxious buildings in prime areas?

The road we’re following is treelined on one side and Loch Linnhe on the other. I’m on otter watch yet again. You never know! It’s so gorgeous. We meander along the road, passing cyclists and again wondering how isolated the houses are. Finally we drop spectacularly towards Loch Sunart and into the little village of Strontian, a very pretty village, probably the best we’ve seen. We stop as it’s nearly lunch and find a scruffy little cafe with fantastic food. I had haggis with jacket potato and it was delicious. We have a wander for provisions, cash and a couple of little gifts from the tiny little gift shop with a grumpy Spaniel. There’s a great sense of community and listening to conversations, there’s pride in the area. I could live here, I thought. It’s just a lovely place with trees on the green, a river (though we couldn’t find a way down there for The Dog to paddle her feet – not impressed). In the dappled sunshine, it was clean, tidy and quiet. Then I thought, in the pouring rain in the middle of winter, it’s a completely different story.

Charmed by Strontian, we headed up high over the pass with fantastic views of Loch Sunart. It’s a gem of a place, scenery wise. We drop down to Lochaline to catch the ferry across to Mull. Basically you pull up on the dock, wait, get ushered on and then go and pay for your ticket. It’s like catching a bus but you’ve got a vehicle. No big terminals or offices. Just a small concrete area and that’s it. Brilliant. We went on the top deck and admired the scenery. It is definitely a fabulous day.

We roll off the ferry with the other half dozen or so vehicles at Fishnish (what a great name) and follow the Loch towards Tobermory. We spot a sea eagle – we stop to await its return, but it didn’t obliged. It’s a great little drive. We find our campsite high above Tobermory – it’s not a patch on last night’s little treasure, but it will do. We celebrate with a cuppa. It’s got really hot now and there’s not a cloud in the sky, such a difference from yesterday when we were in 4 layers of clothing. We walk down back to Tobermory, a 20 minute stroll on the road where we nose around the harbour and have a drink at the pub overlooking the Loch. Then we stroll along the front with all the brightly coloured houses. Many years ago, the kids used to watch a children’s TV programme called “Balamory” and this place was the fictional town featured because of its different coloured buildings. Sadly, the pink castle of one of the characters was filmed elsewhere in England, so can’t be seen. The song and characters are seared into our brains after many hours of watching it with the kids and we find ourselves sadly humming the theme tune and expecting to bump into Edie McCreadie.

Hubby treats me to scallop and chips, bought from a quayside kiosk and we sit on the base of a memorial with other like minded people and watch the world go by. It’s simple things like this that make holidays so memorable. We wander around a bit more, then get an ice cream each and look over to the Loch. It’s really quite charming.

Gathering our strength, we start the long haul back up the steep hill back to the site – a steady march upwards. The poor dog is truly worn out – she’s not getting her daytime beauty sleep as the rattling van keeps her awake and it’s taking its toll on her. So when we get back, she crashes out on her mat, soaking up the evening sun rays and we do the same, but in chairs.

We have a fellow motorhomer, who is rather noisy and with windows open, we can hear every word. We hope that they quieten down, but they are quite fascinating to watch as we sip our wine at 8pm. We’ve pulled down our midge screens, but open our windows. The motorhome is quite warm inside. Thankfully, we’ve not come across any midges at all this holiday, but we play it safe. Finally, with sleep beckoning, we set up our little bed and fall gently to sleep.

We’ve devised a little scoring chart for our campsites we’ve stayed at – location, facilities and general ambience. The Dunbeath one was winning with its little site, fantastic little shower block and it’s pleasant surroundings. But Invergarry is now a clear leader, but we have one more campsite after tonight, so things could change.

Tomorrow, we have no choice, but to move closer back to England and reality. I hate the end of great holidays, but there’s still a day and a half to go.

Scottish 500 – Day 10

Heading south today.

We’re on a schedule today. We’ve got a ferry to catch.

We googled the ferry times last night and aimed to catch the 9.45am back to the mainland. Of course, we woke ridiculously early. We laid in, then packed up and headed off.

We arrived at Craigurn where you catch the ferry. It’s a little village strung along the Loch edge and in the centre, there’s a large concrete apron and a pier for the ferry. It’s a bit of a bigger operation here as this runs to Oban. They even have a ticket office. A lady perched on a stool ushers us into lane 5 and we nip in to get a ticket. Outstanding prices too. £20 for our motorhome, us and the dog for a 50 minute trip. Bargain.

And boy, isn’t it busy. The ferry is just disgorging it’s load from Oban and there’s coaches, large delivery lorries, cars, motorhomes, bikes and pedestrians pouring off. It’s positively teeming. We’ve rocked up in time for the 8.40 Crossing (so rubbish at timing) which gives us more time travelling.

We head on to the top deck, but there’s a brisk cool wind. The day is again glorious with not a cloud in the sky and the early morning colours are wonderful. The shorts have made a re-appearance, but the jacket is on while we’re on the ferry. The deck is swarming with Americans on a coach tour of Scotland and heading back to the mainland. The Dog happily sits and watches, seemingly unfazed by this new experience. She has been on ferries before, but it’s been a while. She’s a strange dog, as if a cushion falls on her or a door bangs, she freaks out and almost leaps into your arms. A smelly clanking ferry and that’s fine.

The crossing is smooth. We pass a cruise ship anchored out in the Loch, ferrying its own passengers to Oban. We are soon docking too and head back into the bright sunlight and Oban. Oban looks a charming little town, but we don’t linger. To avoid the tortuous winding road from Crianlarich to Tarbet, down the side of Loch Lomond we take a different route, heading to Loch Awe and then turn down towards Inveraray. We’re seeing Scotland at it’s glorious best with the sun glinting off the mountains and just bringing out the colours, especially the vivid yellows of the gorse. Just spectacular.

We stop at Inveraray for elevenses and a walk. It’s a pretty place, but a tourist hotspot. We have a wander and find a little cafe we’ve eaten in before. Hubby asks for beans on toast with an egg, expecting it to arrive on one plate on top of one another, but it’s all served separately – a bowl of beans, toast on a side plate and just the egg looking forlorn on another. Mmm. He’s not impressed having to construct his own breakfast. Then a large well built middle aged man walks in with two American lady acquaintances dressed in a kilt, socks with the little dagger tucked in and a sporran, spoiling the look with a rugby shirt of some description. He’s certainly eye catching. Has he done it to impress the good ladies? I kind of admired him to have the confidence to wander about like that as kilts are usually reserved for weddings, evening wear and other occasions, and not first thing in the morning.

We continue our journey, dropping down to Tarbet on the edge of Loch Lomond, to a proper two lane road, the first one in 10 days. It’s all quite novel. At Dumbarton, traffic queues were forming northbound as a Bank Holiday weekend was looming – glad we weren’t in that. We were now in the suburbs of Glasgow, back in the land of petrol stations, retail parks, housing estates, queues, traffic lights and other 21st century paraphernalia. We managed to miss the turn off for the Erskine Bridge (overgrown trees covering vital road signs – it’s getting more and more common and one of my bugbears when navigating), so a slight detour and a 360 soon sees us back on the M8 and scooting through the centre of Glasgow. Once south of Glasgow, we get off the motorway and follow a little B road, through countryside and little communities. We finally reach Moffat which we had earmarked as a stopover. It’s a delightful little town built in sandstone and has some lovely old buildings. We discover the site is a Caravanning and Camping Club site which has members, but they do let in waif and strays like us. Staff jumped on bikes to escort us to our pitch, which was quite quirky – they make sure that we’re happy and cycle off to find another camper needing guidance. One of the Club’s policies is to ensure that pitches are so many metres apart from each other which is a nice feature – you know you’re not going to get an idiot setting up on top of you and invading your space.

We settle down in our little corner and catch the late afternoons rays. Hubby manages to get invited into another campervan and gets a tour. I track him down and poke my head in. It’s a 2 year old vehicle and it’s all black and white, immaculate, very modern and has its own bed. The owner is very proud of it and we’re very jealous. We don’t invite him to admire our 13 year old hired home, but hey, it’s done us proud yet again and it’s ticked a lot of boxes.

The dog exercising area here might be adequate for Chihuahuas, but totally inadequate for my hound. We head off to find the river, but cannot get to it. So we go for a walk into town and mooch into the little independent shops and admire the town generally. Then we walk to the Co-op for pizzas for tea before heading back to the van to consume them and the last of the wine. It’s a glorious evening to sit outside and we people watch, while munching our food.

How do you explain camping to an alien? People voluntary abandon their nice comfortable homes to spend a fortnight in a box on wheels, have to deal with emptying chemical toilets, share your ablutions with total strangers in a communal shower block which can be a bit to be desired at times and basically live in a field. No wonder aliens take one look at this crazy planet and fly past.

The Caravanning Club do attract a certain breed of camper though and tonight was no exception. The people around us looked like the types who wash and buff their Ford Mondeos in the drive every Saturday morning regardless. They would shop in Marks and Spencer’s and always rock up at the same cashier in the supermarket. People of habit. One of our fellow campers had dragged out a small satellite dish, positioned it outside his caravan and tuned into Highlands TV. Another was washing and buffing his car windows, though it wasn’t Saturday. The man across the way was checking doors, fittings and the general well being of his caravan before erecting a large stripey windbreak outside his door, staking out his little bit of hired Scotland. Two couples had got together and were happily enjoying a bottle of wine, before suddenly and abruptly parting, taking their respective chairs back and heading indoors. It was 8pm. Perhaps their favourite TV soap was on. Another husband and wife were enjoying the outdoors but were inexplicably facing the side of their van. We were thoroughly enjoying watching our fellow humans and their camping habits.

The evening was glorious, very warm and we were content. It was our last night in our little home on wheels, back home tomorrow and we had mixed emotions. We loved this little vehicle and the adventures we had been on, the places we had seen, the gorgeous scenery. Our motorhome has done a grand job pulling us around Scotland, not missed a beat and catered for our every need. We enjoyed every single minute of it and we celebrated. We celebrate a great holiday and the fact that tonight is the very last flipping night of wrestling to put up our bed before we can crash into it!