Scottish 500 – Day 3

Applecross and beyond………

The sun is pouring through our motorhome windows and it’s looking good. It’s so good that we both scare the other campers and put our shorts on!

The Dog spots more deer, but this time behind deer proof fencing. The deer are unfazed by our dog and she’s now pretty non plus about them too. We do our morning routine – we’ve got our own little jobs to do and then wander back down to the quayside for breakfast. Alas we are 15 minutes early and so loiter on the Loch edge and get our feet and paws wet. The Junction cafe opens at 9am and our plan of eating al fresco on their balcony is soon rejected as it’s rather cool here. So we go inside with The Dog and ordered bacon and sausage butties, with a sausage on the side for The Dog. Yes, we get food for our hound. It’s all very pleasant and very trendy considering we’re in a small hamlet on an isolated coast. A real little gem.

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

We head back and get ready to leave Applecross. Unbelievably, it has a little petrol station too. It’s basically a pump in a little purpose built lay-by opposite the Junction and you stick your credit card in and fill up! A little sign informs us that the local community got together, raised funds and got the site up and running. How amazing is that? I just loved it that everyone joined together – though I can see why they did it. I think the next station was some 20 miles away at least and not very easy to do. It was well worth it, though I pity the poor tanker driver having to deliver the stuff……..

To our delight, we realised that we didn’t have to go over Applecross Pass again and could follow the coastal road north. Phew. It was far easier along the single track road. I looked out for otters as this looked the perfect place for them to be playing on the foreshore. It was rugged, rocky and covered in heather and grass. It was a hard country to eke out a living, but we kept coming across isolated hamlets and houses huddled together. It was strangely beautiful with rocky inlets and pretty little bays as the road undulated and twisted and turned, with white buildings periodically dotted around. What did people do here? Where did they do their shopping? I had a lot of questions and no answers! One thing I knew, you obviously liked your own company here!

We finally found civilisation again in the shape of the village of Sheildaig and stopped at Nanny’s cafe, overlooking a Loch. The wind is quite cool, but the shorts have stayed on, albeit accompanied now by woolly jumpers. Here we enjoy coffee and scones and watch other tourists rock up. It seems that we’re munching our way through Scotland!The sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in the sky. We wander along the front to walk off our snack. We spot a seal bobbing in the water. Later we’re told that there was an otter too, who had been malnourished. The local smokehouse offered him the fish scraps and fed him back to health – he got quite tame apparently, but now had headed off and not seen for 5 days. We stroll up to the smokehouse where we buy some smoked trout and cream cheese. Further along, one of the houses had a little box outside their door, with cakes and bread and a honesty box. We purchase a loaf, drop the coins in the box and wander back to the van. This is what I love about Britain – homeowners trust you to pay for homemade goods outside their homes. I for one, always support them.

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

We meander on, through Torridon and to Kinlochewe. We follow the edge of Loch Maree (its a proper road with two carriageways, white lines and no badly repaired potholes – we have been thoroughly shaken on this journey so far). We stop at Gairloch which has a beach which we have been promising The Dog one since Tuesday. It’s a beautiful wide beach with fantastic soft sand. The shoes come off and we walk barefoot as we watch our dog gamble across to the waters edge. She has a huge grin on her face! We just believe our luck being able to walk on a Scottish beach in full sun with just t-shirts and shorts in the middle of May!

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

We have a can of pop at the adjacent golf course and continue through the communities of Poolewe, Aultbea, (fascinating story involving Gruinard island, anthrax and the stupidity of governments), Laide and along Little Loch Broom, through Dundonnell and down to Braemore. Finally after miles of single track roads with passing places, we hit the main drag to Ullapool, our stop for the night. We rock up at the Broomfield campsite, right in the centre of town, but abutting Loch Broom. We choose a pitch overlooking the water, hook up the electric, get the chairs and wine out and settle down.

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

The Dog gets an off lead, deer free walk in the field next door before we head off into town on the hunt for fish and chips. We eat them out of the bag sitting by the harbour watching a hapless fisherman trying to get his truculent engine to start on his tiny boat. Behind us is the modern ferry terminal for the boats to Stornaway, though it is a modest building and doesn’t dominate the town. The Dog gets her second sausage of the day.

With the daylight fading, we wander around the town for a bit and head back to the motorhome. We get chatting to a fellow camper with an artificial leg which our dog took objection to and kept barking at him. He’s been on the pebble beach watching six seals playing in the Loch for the past two hours. Just typical. Earlier today, I spotted a large bird which looked like an eagle, sitting on a post. We stopped, thinking he would fly off, but hubby managed to get out with his camera and lined up the shot. Unfortunately he forgot to turn the camera on and the eagle took flight over the hill. Damn! Just not our day to spot wildlife.

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

The sun is setting on the horizon but it’s 10.30 at night. We have fallen asleep without seeing true darkness yet.

Tomorrow we head further north………

p.s. should of taken more photos of the landscape, but it’s so vast, you just wouldn’t catch it in a photo. Or it wouldn’t look as spectacular. It just needs a visit!

Scottish 500 – Day 2

Inverness to wherever……..

We wake up to glorious sunshine, but it’s still cool. As we drove up yesterday, it clouded up and rained, but after our visit to Culloden Battlefield, the clouds parted and offered us a pleasant evening. The great part about being up this far north is the evenings are longer. It’s was still reasonably light at 10.30 last night.

So we were delighted at the clear glorious views across the Moray Firth and distant mountains which still had patches of snow on them. It was lovely. We were awake stupidly early, so have tea and biscuits in bed and relaxed. Then up, dismantle the bed and store things away. We learnt quite early last year when we hired this vehicle, that everything must be locked down – we had carelessly left coats, books, cushions around on the back seating area and after a couple of corners, most of it had slid on the floor and on The Dog who was not impressed. It looked like a seismic event had occurred in our van.

So we put everything in cupboards or stuffed away securely, did our air steward bit making sure the overhead cupboards were closed and shut properly (another one of our failings) and we were off at 8.30am.

The Scottish 500 starts at Inverness and then tracks west. We skirted Inverness via its ring road and headed towards the little town of Beauly, happy with the sunshine and the gorgeous scenery along the Beauly Firth. Beauly itself was charming enough to make us stop and have a wander around. A pleasant little town with a lovely array of independent shops and a little priory with beautiful ancient yew trees. We found a lovely little deli shop with tables and chairs outside and had breakfast – coffee with ginger and rhubarb scones. This was an excellent start to our travels and we just couldn’t believe our luck with the weather as we sunned ourselves on the pavement, watching the world go by.

We continued our travels via Muir of Ord (got slightly lost), Contin and across to Achnasheen. After pleasant fields and gentle hills, the valley widened considerably and the mountains a bit wilder, with snow upon their flanks. We stopped in a lay-by to admire – a little single gauge railway line meanders through and little 2 carriage sprinter rattled through, much to The Dog’s delight as she’s an avid barker of trains. End up chatting to a Swedish guy and fail to get the kettle boiling so forsake a cuppa.

The roads here are quite appalling – potholed, patched and of general poor condition, the whole motorhome rattled and shook. We stopped at Coulags, basically a lay-by in the middle of nowhere, as there was a footpath leading to Torridon some 9 miles away. We needed to stretch our legs (not all the way to Torridon) and wandered along the gravel path, next to a bubbling stream. We had put on light coats, but we’re soon shedding them and the jumpers as the temperature here was very warm. We spend time here with our cameras, chatting to fellow walkers and admiring the scenery. A pleasant diversion.

We jumped back into our little home on wheels and continued west. Hubby knows this area well and we drive down single track roads with passing places (these are main roads in this part of Scotland) to a scenic harbour village called Plockton. It’s quite delightful and we wander along the harbour front seeking a cafe. We find food and a great spot overlooking the Loch. It couldn’t be more perfect.

It’s time to look for a campsite for our overnight stay and retrace our steps back to Lochcarron and the one and only campsite for miles around. Sadly, they are full, though they did offer to squeeze us in, but it was a bit too cosy for our liking. We headed off to Applecross on the west coast itself, but with small, badly maintained roads it is slow going and distances on a map are much longer in real time. We also failed to realise is to get to Applecross, you have to travel over a mountain pass. Eleven miles of wild barren mountain road, with added extras: narrow strip of tarmac with passing places, hairpin bends and sheer drops on one side and drainage ditches on the other. We hoped to not meet other road users, but of course there were cars, vans and a couple of large minibuses where we had a knack of meeting at inappropriate points. It was a bit daunting to say the least and we were glad to make the summit unscathed, though then we had the downhill to contend with. But what stunning views to be had when we were brave enough to look and it was truly beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

We arrived at Applecross, a tiny village of houses overlooking the Loch and towards the Isle of Skye. I think the campsite was bigger. In celebration of surviving the tortuous journey over, we sat outside our dinky home and sipped wine taking in the glorious view. Then we wandered down to the front, finding a cafe that wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of a big city! It’s quite delightful and there’s quite a few people doing the same. The Dog is delighted to find water and have a wade.

We sauntered back to the campsite and suddenly our off lead dog takes off. Squirrels? A cat? To our horror, there are deer grazing in the trees and our dog needs to round them up. We yell to her, the deer lift their heads up to look at the kerfuffle and start to trot away before realising that they’re quite safe and resume their munching. This baffles The Dog who has slithered to a halt unsure what to do next and looks at us for advice. This isn’t in the manual – they’re suppose to run so I can chase them. Common sense takes over and she casually saunters back where she’s put on the lead. Never expected that one so close to civilisation. They’re obviously very used to humans and their four legged friends.

We decided to call it a night, but leave our curtains open. With ample space from other campers, it’s a pleasant, relaxed and attractive little site. And with the sun setting behind distance mountains, we watched her journey as we fall gently into slumber.

Tomorrow, we’re on the road again, continuing our journey north and hoping to make it to Ullapool before nightfall.

Scottish 500

Sorry to seemingly disappeared and not posted for awhile, but I’ve been on adventures further afield. For the past 10 days I’ve been touring the northern Scotland coastline in a motorhome on the North Coast 500 – a 516 mile scenic route starting and ending at Inverness. The NC500 was launched in 2015.

https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/tours/driving-road-trips/north-coast-500/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Coast_500

We picked up our dinky little motorhome from Skipton in Yorkshire, mid morning and despite a brief scare, when the motorhome owner failed to meet us at the appointed time (luckily he appeared, looking slightly stressed some 30 minutes later, full of apologies and we sighed a huge sigh of relief) we headed north onto the M6 motorway to Inverness, some 344 miles or nearly 6 hours away. We gritted our teeth and put our foot down, well as much as the motorhome would let us.

We didn’t get very far. At Shap, a long straggly village just off the M6 in Cumbria, is a fantastic little cafe called Abbey Coffee Shop on the main road through, that does a stonking full English breakfast. As it was lunchtime, we settled for a chicken and mushroom pie with mushy peas and gravy, a slice of flapjack for pudding and a steaming mug of coffee. Just what we needed and would sustain us for the next few hours of endless and monotonous motorway driving ahead of us. We just can’t pass Shap without calling in and it’s so much better than the overpriced and overcrowded motorway services.

We continued up, crossing the Scottish border at Gretna Green and the motorway changing its name from the M6 to M74. I like this route. The rolling countryside gives way to wild moorland and high fells as the motorway snakes it’s way through the valley. It’s a classic geography lesson with railway line, river and power lines chasing each other through the wild landscape, mankind’s mucky handprint firmly felt. Huge wind turbines gather on top of the fells, turning lazily, standing above acres and acres of managed pine woodlands that cling to the sides. Little farms and scattered houses look isolated and bleak, despite the thundering motorway. It’s a fascinating landscape that never fails to get me thinking.

We started to enter Glasgow’s outer suburbs and changed motorways, veering eastwards and northwards, passing Stirling, Perth and Aviemore on the A9 trunk road. The landscape has changed again, more rolling hills and arable farmland, then bleak, wide moorland around Aviemore and finally dropping to the outskirts of Inverness and the campsite for the night. We had done it, with brief stops for fuel and letting The Dog have a wee and a stretch of legs. The Ardtower campsite overlooks the Moray Firth and we enjoyed splendid views.

We had a quick tea, and decide to walk out towards the Culloden Battlefield, along the main road and through a small woodland. Culloden was a battle between the Jacobites and the Government in 1745 resulting in high casualties to the Jacobites. The site was closed, but we were able to access the battlefield, with red and blue flags highlighting the respective front lines, a small towers commemorating the battle and stumpy gravestones engraved with the names of the clansmen. It was fascinating to wander around and we would of stayed longer, but the light was fading and we needed to negotiate the country lane again. Anyway, bedtime was calling too.

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

We made up our bed by converting the seating area into a double bed, ushered the dog under the dashboard (not impressed). You have to be incredibly organised and tidy in a motorhome (as we learnt from last year’s expedition to Devon and Cornwall) and once we had nested, we crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillows. A good start to the holiday.

Tomorrow, our first miles of the Scottish 500 proper, heading west from Inverness towards Applecross on the west coast.

Chester

We spent the weekend in the beautiful city of Chester. It was May Day weekend which usually means cold, rain and pretty grotty weather here in Britain, but the sun gods were in our side and our little island enjoyed three days of above normal temperatures.

Chester is full of Tudor buildings, as well as other historic dwellings. It’s one of those places where you need to ignore the 21st Century shop fronts, look up and take in the architecture.

The main thoroughfare and shopping area of Chester.

The beautiful cathedral in the centre of Chester. The spring sun was just gorgeous. We didn’t have time to check it out thoroughly, which was a shame. Perhaps on another trip.

Visitors to the city can walk along the ancient city wall that surrounds the centre of Chester. It passes by the canal, the cathedral and eventually drops down to the River Dee. There are fantastic views from the wall and you can see the different buildings through history. Tiny little terraced cottages snuggle next to office buildings, the new bus station sits next door to mid 20th Century houses, ghastly 1960’s carbuncles that should of never left the architects drawing boards, plonked and jar against surrounding buildings. A typical British scene, a mosh mash of architecture telling the history of the town – good and bad. It’s all very interesting.

The lovely River Dee. The sun was out and was hot. The boats were taking people on river tours, the ice cream kiosks doing a brisk trade and people were just sitting enjoying this unusually warm spring. Us Brits have learnt to make the most of it – after all, this could be our summer!

A few hours later after this photo was taken, the heavens opened and it rained solidly for several hours. Our good old fickle British weather!

Chester is a lovely place to explore and we hardly touched it. Well worth another visit!

Zip Wiring in Bethesda, North Wales.

A couple of close associates decided at the New Year that their New Year Resolution for 2018 was “to do things that scare me” and so booked to go down the world’s longest zipwire based in Wales……..

So we spend the weekend in deepest Snowdonia to watch them throw themselves voluntary down a mountainside.

It look terrifying. Near the summit of the mountain in this picture above is a small building where you are launched and you whizz down the wires for over a mile.

We arrived early and looked in awe. They had two runs – a small run (you can see the wires for that one in the picture above) and if that doesn’t put you off, you are taken by truck to the main zipwire.

Here are some random people on the training run which looked quite sedate and despite my insistence of staying on terra firma, a brief thought passes through my brain – “that doesn’t look too bad, maybe I should of booked……….”

Some brilliant marketing guy obviously looked at this disused slate quarry and thought “Hey, let’s turn this into the worlds biggest zipwire and a huge tourist attraction” There were loads of people happily whizzing down. How do these people have such great ideas?

The water in the quarry was the most gorgeous coloured blue and the slate glittered in the sunshine. It was very beautiful despite it being an area of devastating industry. I bet it’s a different story when it’s lashing down with rain. I’ve spent time in atrocious Welsh weather and it’s not pretty, believe me.

I look at these people in awe and admire them. It does look great fun and amazing, but I am one of the world’s true wimps.

Some of the interesting facts about the zip wire. Not sure whether you should read this before you throw yourself off the edge of a mountain……….

Just about be launched……….

You put on a huge harness, and then you have to lay on the bench while they hook you up. Then the bench is lowered and you hang there, swinging gently. Safety is paramount, so you hang there for ages while final checks are made. Then 3,2,1 and you’re off whether you like it or not…….

A video of the run.

Coming into land.

We had to deal with two very bouncy, adrenaline fuelled humans who, if allowed to, would of gone again. I was starting to wish I had done it. It was a really great day out for everyone and a fantastic experience.

We drove back and stopped off at Swallow Falls below for something a little more sedate and calming. It was very beautiful in the sun.

Swallow Falls near Betws-y-coed, Wales. A pretty cascading waterfall off the main road. A small £1.50 entrance fee and a flight of steps lead to a viewing platform and further steps take you further upstream. A lovely little diversion for half an hour and it would be amazing in full flow after heavy rains.

Thoroughly recommend the zipwire if you’re mad enough to try and just to drive around this beautiful corner of North Wales is a bonus. Enjoy!

Jenny Brown’s Point, Silverdale

It was pouring with rain this morning. Stair rodding actually. Yesterday had been 20 degrees and wall to wall sunshine. In fact I was considering putting shorts on, it was that warm. Today it plummets 10 degrees, got a blanket of dull cloud limply hanging over us and I’m back in woolly jumpers, coat and wellies!

Despite the rain, The Dog and I headed west and by the time we reached Silverdale on the coast, it had stopped. Silverdale is between Hest Bank and Arnside and full of footpaths. There’s woodland and coastal paths to follow and it’s a case of follow your nose and see what you discover.

I parked up by Fleagarth Wood (isn’t that a great name?), in a little lay-by on the road and followed the path through a lovely woodland where suddenly you pop out onto this view. This is looking across down towards Hest Bank and Morecambe.

It opens up onto a flood plain which leads into Morecambe Bay. Here seaweed is snagged in fencing which is quite high up from the plain. It’s obviously been a very high tide………..

It’s riddled with muddy channels like this above and sheep graze on the grassland. This is part of the Lancashire Coastal Way.

We are coming up to the Bay here with the sands becoming more prevalent.

Trying to get a bit more arty with the photos. Actually remembered to bring the proper camera today!!!

This area is known as Jenny Brown’s Point. It is thought that a lady called Jenny Brown lived in the isolated cottage near to the chimney, back in the 18th century, but there’s little information to go on.

This building is a bit of a mystery. It could be a lime kiln, a type of beacon or the remnants of a copper smelting works. Believe it is Grade 2 listed and therefore protected. It stands alone on the edge at the end of Brown’s Point. Not a lot is known about this area, but there are volunteers delving into the history to find out more. Sadly this and the surrounding salt marshes are in danger of being eroded by the sea and there’s a desperate attempt to save this area.

https://citizan.org.uk/resources/key-zones/north/jenny-browns-point-silverdale/

These have been revealed recently due to the erosion of the area. There is a lot of old jetties and structures poking their way back after being buried for many years. There seems to be a lot of intervention by man here. Very interesting.

This looks like part of a pier or jetty that has collapsed years ago and slowly rotting in the sandy mud. Another example of man’s handprint.

Take care around this point.

This is apparently the remnants of an old sea wall, an ambitious project to reclaim Silverdale Sands from the sea, constructed in 1874. But it was abandoned after it became excessively expensive and ineffective. The sea kept pinching the sands back….

I like this photo – it’s A Path To Somewhere. Or maybe nowhere.

The Dog loves it here as she’s able to run with abandon. It’s very flat and she gallops across the gloop with ease. There’s me, sinking gently and having to pull each welly out with each step. Then she’s on the rocks, leaping effortlessly like a gazelle, while her mistress is wobbling, slipping, sliding, being very indecisive and threatening to fall over in a heap. She gives me such looks – “you useless bipedal creature”and I have to agree with her. Oh for 4 paw drive.

We head up from the beach and come across the National Trust land of Jack Scout. I can’t find out why it’s called Jack Scout.

The sun had been fighting with the cloud and kept making brief, weak appearances. This is one occasion – a quick photo before the clouds swallowed it again. The temperature suddenly shot up too.

The paths in Jack Scout can take you to the edge of the cliffs here. The Dog takes in the view of the Lake District and the Bay.

You have been warned! In the far distance is the Power Station at Heysham.

The lime kiln at Jack Scout. A shame about the fencing around it. Read the links below to find out more about lime kilns.

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

http://geolancashire.org.uk/publications-and-interpretation/the-manufacture-of-quicklime-in-lime-kilns/

An information board next door giving more information about the Jack Scout limekiln. Needs a little TLC, but from the picture you can see what it looked like in its heyday.

We left the National Trust land and walked along the single track road that runs between Jenny Brown’s Point and Gibraltar Farm. Here we found the Wolf House Gallery and cafe for a welcome cuppa and a sausage sarnie. The Dog sits staring at me, looking neglected, pathetic and underfed. Finally I give in to the boring eyes and slip her a couple of bits of sausage. She looked very happy.

Suitably refresh, we retraced our steps the way we came.

I took these photos of these items which were in and around the Wolf House Gallery. I just love the chicken and the old milk urns sitting on a wall.

We walk back through the woods which are full of wild garlic, covering every inch of floor space. The smell is gorgeous, but they’re not quite ready to flower. Another couple of weeks and it will be a carpet of white flowers. This past week, the trees and bushes have finally woken up and their leaves are that bright verdant green which I absolutely love. It’s so fresh and new – spring is well under way!

This photo should of been at the beginning of the blog rather than the end. It’s where I’ve parked the car and the start of the walk for me and The Dog.

This is a lovely walk – a real mixture of woodland, flood plains, coastal and National Trust with the added incentive of a cafe at the half way point. Not too long, but make sure you wear sturdy shoes as some parts of the walk are a little tricky to negotiate. Enjoy.

River Wenning, Bentham

Just a short post today. The Dog and I found the footpath from Low Bentham and High Bentham that runs alongside the River Wenning. A beautiful stretch of waterway, with sheep and their lambs across the field and views across to Ingleborough.

It’s a really pretty river that gurgles across rocks and boulders, with some deep pools of water so The Dog can either have a paddle or swim after a stick. She thoroughly enjoyed herself for over an hour jumping into the water.

By the weir, we saw this chappie fishing for his tea. We thought he might fly off and he thought about it, as he bent down as if he was going to take off. But the lure of a fish supper saw him stay, so I got my photo. He stayed quite close by considering I was throwing a stick into the water and The Dog was barking impatiently at me to throw back it in almost immediately. He seemed to be quite successful as every time I looked at him, he was glugging a fish in his mouth.

I also cursed as I missed two fantastic photos. A railway line runs close to the footpath and I heard a train coming. Looking up, there was smoke, so I galloped up the riverbank to catch the sight of a beautiful dark green steam locomotive pulling a single carriage along the track. Fumbling for my phone camera, by the time I got it to camera mode, I had missed a golden opportunity.

Then half an hour later, there was a low rumble. Again I looked up and a huge military transport plane was banking and flying extremely low. I was fascinated as it lumbered across the sky. Then I realised I needed a photo of this. My fingers were hopelessly useless at stabbing at the correct buttons and all I got was it’s rear end on the horizon. As my family would say – fail.

Apparently the train and military aircraft are regular visitors to this area, so I will keep my eyes peeled and try and get a picture. Enjoy.