travels this year took us to the most northerly points
of Great Britain. Time was limited due to major alterations to our
bungalow starting in June so a carefully planned route was organised to
take in all the things we
wanted to see and we set off for the first leg of our journey from Stratford. Here follows a diary account of our travels.
Wednesday 4th May.
Beautiful morning. Drove down along the Crinan Canal to
Crinan Harbour/Crinan Basin. Very pretty but narrow roads and difficult
to park the van but well worth a visit.
Not that long ago, the more remote settlements along the west coast of
Scotland were all supplied from the sea by small steamers
as ‘puffers’. These were grimy little steamships which stocked up in
Glasgow then delivered their cargoes to the outlying settlements on the
west coast. It was a long and perilous trip
around Kintyre from Glasgow so a canal was built across the narrow neck
of land separating
Lochgilphead from the open sea and the Sound of Jura. The canal meets
the sea at Crinan where a small dock was built to hold the puffers
state of tide was right for the sea loch to be opened. The ‘Vital
for its role in the TV series ‘Parahandy’ used to be in the basin but
is now under renovation in the boatyard.
Then followed a scenic but bumpy ride to Oban where we managed to find
and a Tesco where we stocked up with supplies and fuel before boarding
the 1pm CalMac Ferry to Castlebay
on the Isle of Barra, The Outer Hebrides. It was a glorious day calm
sea and very
clear, perfect for the 5 hour crossing. We were able to take Midge with
on deck and also into a dedicated dog lounge area.
We had looked at
all the options for buying ferry tickets.
Many people choose the Island Hopper option but for us it was cheaper
to book each ferry crossing separately. If you are considering a trip
to the Islands it is well
worth taking some time to consider all the options on offer. It is
best to book ahead as the ferries can get very busy especially in the
Spring/Summer months- May is a very busy month.
May. Left Stratford. Easy
drive to Penrith. Exit Junct. 41 to CL Town End Cottage Laithes.
Excellent small level site. Very quiet. Scenic . Free
range hens on site. £7.50 incl elec.
Lovely morning. Coffee stop Johnstone Bridge. Dedicated
caravan stopover £10 for 24hrs. Lunch stop at Loch Lomond picnic area.
Overnight Camping signs everywhere and this was to continue throughout
our tour of mainland Scotland.
Stopped at Tarbert, easy to park, right by Loch Lomond, Boat Trips.
Carried on A6 but stopped at the top of Rest and Be Thankful to
have a look at the old Hillclimb Venue with beautiful views back down
Glen. Arrived at Inverary but No Caravan signs everywhere so did not
stop! Carried on to Lochgilphead. Good campsite in small town. Lovely
so got the bikes out and cycled part of the Crinan Canal which
was very interesting. £14.50 incl elec.
Arrived Castlebay at 6pm. There are no official campsites on Barra so
wildcamping is allowed
BUT there are very few places to do so. Until last year motorhomers
made for Barra
Airport and a stretch of grassland but this is no longer allowed due to
in the number of campers and the damage done to the very fragile
environment.We decided to head straight to Vatersay for the night.
Vatersay is a small island reached
by a causeway on the SW
tip of Barra. This was our first taste of driving on the Islands narrow twisty single
track roads, however there
are plenty of passing places and throughout our tour of the Islands we
found most other drivers considerate of our large motorhome, pulling in
to let us pass.
These days most people live in the little village behind the dunes
where they farm sheep, cattle and fish. There are two flat camping
spots one next
to the Community Hall, the other a 100 yds away where a sign and a
refers to a £4 per night charge Both
are ideally situated to enjoy a gorgeous curve of white sandy beach.
The Community Hall toilets and fresh water
are open 24 hours. After securing our
pitch we took a walk along the beach (no dog restrictions) and up to a
headland covered in dainty Hebridean primroses and where
there is an obelisk remembering the 350 emigrants who perished when the
sank on a wild night in 1853.
Raining! This was the end of the lovely weather which Scotland and the
Isles had been enjoying during April. After coffee the rain eased so we
returned to Barra to
make the 14 mile tour around the island. The road mostly hugs the coast
so fine views
are to be had of the stunning beaches, seabirds and if you are lucky an
saw signs of wildfires due to the recent prolonged dry spell and
the golden gorse was stunning in full bloom. We made our way out to
view Barra Airport where we could have camped up until this
year. We just caught a glimpse of a plane coming into land on the beach
before returning to Castlebay to view Kisimul Castle home to
the MacNeil’s. After a walk around Castlebay, which has interesting
little shops and a couple of small
restaurants, we returned to Aird Mhor ferry terminal to camp for the
Showers, Toilet and emptying point.
It is worth noting that since the closure of
the Airport beach camping area the Islanders have opened up their homes
to take one or two vans for overnight stays. A list of these can be
from the Tourist Office at Castlebay. Charges vary according to what is
available. (We did speak to a couple who had paid £20 a night to park
in a sloping
Sunny/Windy 9.25am Ferry to Eriskay made famous by Compton Mackenzie’s
‘whisky Galore’ a hilarious tale of the SS
demise off the island.
Once all lives were saved, the cargo (28,000 cases of fine malt whisky
destined for Jamaica and America was liberated from the briny – and the
clutches of customs officials. On
Eriskay there’s another glorious beach and a cairn marks the spot where
Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) first set foot on British soil in 1745.
is linked to South Uist by a mile long causeway with a sign saying
Otters Crossing’ but we didn’t see any when we crossed!. South Uist is
a stunningly beautiful island
of cystal clear waters with white powder beaches to the west deep lochs
and heather uplands dominated by Beinn Mhor to the east. The 20 miles
of ‘Machair’ that runs alongside the
dunes is a birdwatchers paradise and we saw many different species of
birds here including a short eared owl.
headed for Lochboisdale to the Visitor Centre. There are showers,
toilets and a dedicated emptying point. We were given a list of
emptying points and
informed that wild camping was permitted. Drove to Kildonan birthplace
of Flora Macdonald and this area is one of the best places to see
traditional Hebridean crofts in states from total
dereliction to restored glory. One of the cottages is a youth hostel
which administers motorhome parking where we spent the night. There are
of the ancient Howmore Abbey. During the evening we were entertained by
corncrakes calling but did not get to see the elusive birds!
Drove to Lochskipport a now deserted fishing quay in the hope of
seeing golden eagles/otters but nothing to be seen it was still very
windy so they must have all been hiding. Back to ‘main road’ and
causeway onto Benbecula where we stopped at the excellent Co-op for
supplies. Drove over 2nd
causeway to North Uist and down a twisty but scenic road to Loch
Euphort but again no
luck with otters/eagles. Booked into Moorcroft Campsite (last pitch)
excellent facilities. £19 inc elec. Huge thunderstorm in evening.
Heavy rain until 11.30 left camp and drove to RSPB Reserve at Balranald
||After a very windy walk out to the dunes where we spotted
turnstones, ringed plovers, sanderlings, corn buntings, redshanks,
and dotterels< we actually saw, photographed and filmed the
lunch drove to Lochmaddy, North Uist’s ferry port, here we met some
motorhomers whom we had previously chatted
to and they told us they had spent the morning watching a golden eagle!
Continued on through much more
rugged scenery and then crossed the causeway to Berneray. Absolutely
fabulous! Lots of grey and common seals basking on the rocks.
Huge pure white shell sand beaches, wonderful grassy headland for wild
camping but as we had an early start the next day we headed back to the
ferry terminal at Ardmaree where we spent a very windy van rocking n
Boarded ferry 7.15am crossing the Sound of Harris interesting sail
through a myriad of small islands and reefs. Arrived Leverburgh, Isle
of Harris. Harris has a wide
range of landscapes. On the west coast lie some of the most spectacular
of Britain with soft startling white sand, lapped by turquoise water,
reminiscent of the Caribbean. In the north, the terrain is rugged,
has a lunar feel to it, with huge boulders littered around. To the east
the Golden Road, a great drive that hugs the crenellated east coast
visiting a picturesque series of villages, bays
and harbours this is a road best explored by car or bike although we
problems in our large van. After stopping for breakfast we
drove around the west coast to Tarbert a small township with 2 grocery
vintage hardware store and a post office. It also has a garage (of
sorts) where we
bought some fuel £1.55 per litre! We made the tortuous drive out to see
lighthouse at Eilean Glas on the island of Scalpay but
there was nowhere to park! However we did see a magnificent sea eagle
gliding along the Loch. Back to Tarbert to drive on towards the
Isle of Lewis (Lewis and Harris are actually one and the same island).
Lewis is dominated by
flattish peat moorland with most of the population living in or around
Stornaway. We headed East for Uig and the campsite at Cnip (pronounced
Cneep). This small site was once a
popular wild camp spot but is now managed by the local community. There
number of small caravans all occupying the prime sites (none occupied
there) there are no marked pitches, the ground is undulating but we
find a spot to park. There are toilets and showers water and emptying.
The lack of smart
facilities is easily compensated by the outstanding scenery and
glorious beach. During the evening a local
villager arrived to collect the £9 overnight fee.
Raining Low cloud! Aborted our planned visit to the Uig Peninsular and
made our way to the site of the Callanish Standing Stones one of the
significant and important megalithic complexes in Europe. It consists
of rows of Lewisian rock arranged in circles
and a cross with a small chambered cairn. The weather improved as we
continued on to the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. This unique group of
restored thatched cottages was last occupied in the
1970’s. For a small charge its possible to take a step back in time to
experience the way of life in a typical crofting township of the last
including the weaving of the famous Harris Tweed. After lunch we
continued our journey North with the peat
more and more desolate as we made our way to the Butt of Lewis about as
far as you can go in the
||It achieves a mention in the Guiness
Records for being the windiest place in the UK and it
was certainly living up to its reputation whilst we were there! The
Butt of Lewis Lighthouse stands 121ft high and was built by David and
Thomas Stevenson. A short drive took us
to Port Nis a picturesque fishing village and then back to the main
road with a quick
photo stop at the Whalebone Arch the jawbone of a blue whale washed up
on a nearby beach in the 1920’s. Then on to our chosen wild camp spot
the night, the lower carpark (toilet & water) at Dail Mor
popular with surfers who come here to ride the long rollers coming in
from the Atlantic.
Lovely morning after a good walk on the beach we took the scenic route
across bleak peat moor to Stornaway passing peatcutters on the way. At
Stornaway there is an excellent Co-op and a fuel station. We parked by
the fishing Quay
and walked around the town calling in at the library to use the free
internet to pick up our emails. After a fish n chip lunch we drove up
Castle once owned by Lord Leverhulme (famous for sunlight soap and
bought the castle and the island in 1918 with aspirations of building a
fishing port at Leverburgh, unfortunately the herrings diminished and
with them and in 1923 he gave the Island back to the people of Lewis.
We had read about a good
wild camp spot at Huishinish on the SW tip of N Harris so we set off to
ourselves. Huishinish is at the end of a 14mile single track road and
and turns like a corkscrew and up and down like a helter skelter. At
one point it passes through the gardens of
Huishinish Castle before terminating at the small croft township. Wild
Camping is allowed at the
Community Hall (toilet & water) but spaces are limited – we had
the last space and others that arrived had to turn around and face the
miles back. At one time it was possible to
park up on the grassy headlands but this is now all fenced off. Had a
good walk along the beach and over the headland and spotted a golden
soaring above. Very cold evening!
May. Lovely Morning. Drove back
to do a section of the Golden Road before boarding
the ferry to Uig on Isle of Skye at
11.50. Very smooth crossing but as we
approached Uig the weather deteriorated and became misty and wet. Well
they do call it the “Misty Isle”! Arrived Skye and
headed north stopping at the Memorial to Flora Macdonald, the Jacobite
heroin, who brought Bonnie
Prince Charlie to Skye – in the flight after Culloden, disguised as her
maid. Next we passed Duntulm Castle ruins with its bloodthirsty history
hoards of tourists!) At Kilt Rock viewpoint we dodged the coach loads
of tourists to view the Kilt Rock
Waterfall as it plunges down to the sea. The Trotternish Peninsular has
ridge of rocks and the road hugs the coastline with fine views on a
Inland there are wild rock formations, the most famous being the Old
Storr and at Staffin the pinnacles of the Quiraing. However with the
still poor we headed for the excellent campsite at Torvaig nr Portree.
Better morning. Drove down to Portree lovely small town popular with
visiting cruise ships. Decided to go on a Sea Eagle spotting boat trip
aboard the MV Stardust. This was most enjoyable and although we did not
the eagles flying we did see them on their nest
with their young. Next on the agenda was a trip to Dunvegan Castle home
of the Chiefs of Clan Macleod for 800 years. The castle is situated on
rocky headland at the head of a Loch is Skye’s most historical sight,
and well worth a visit. We
continued our tour to the Ardmore Peninsula where we found a small
carpark at Trumpan
Head where we could spend the night. It was a dramatic evening with the
wind howling, the rain lashing down
and the sea boiling over the rocks at the foot of the cliffs.
||Saturday 14thMay. Rain cleared and we were able
to get out to view the memorial and the ruins of Trumpan Church, site
of a fierce battle between the Clan Macleods and the Clan Macdonalds.
Then on to Neist Head and
its lighthouse, It’s a narrow tortuous road to Neist Point, there is no
road to the
lighthouse and all supplies have to be winched down a cable car. There
series of very steep steps down on to the point but it is well worth
as the views of the cliffs and the outlying islands of the Western
amazing. There were also lots of nesting seabirds and we spent some
watching a pair of nesting Great Skuas. We returned to Dunvegan to the
campsite at the
head of the Loch. £16 incl elec.
Dismal morning wet & misty Late start. Went to the Aros Visitor
Centre near Portree well worth a visit and lots to see. We watched a
all about Skye, its history, culture and wildlife. After lunch drove
over the Skye Bridge past
the Gavin Maxwell Museum to the Kyle of Lochaish to the little village
of Plockton made
famous by the Hamish Macbeth TV series. Still dismal so headed for the
nearest campsite at Balmacara. Watched Countryfile for week's weather
decided to abandon our planned route up the West Coast of Scotland and
for better weather.
Still wet & misty. Heading East! Arrived at Rosemarkie on the
Black Isle. Booked in to C&C Club site. Very busy all h/ups
weeks ahead. We loved this site its quiet, unspoilt and well managed.
The pitches are a
bit uneven. The facilities are good. The site is set right on the edge
of beach with
the delightful small village of Rosemarkie a short walk away it has two
shops, a pub, cafe and a museum. After dinner we left the van to walk
the mile to Chanonry Point.
The weather was much improved but still very windy and we had quite a
battle to stay on our feet. The purpose of our
visit was to see bottle-nosed dolphins. There was already a group of
people on the spit of land at the point and this is the place to see
the dolphins. The dolphins drive
the fish into the shallows so that they are trapped and easy to catch.
We saw a pod
of at least a dozen, some with young, some with large salmon in their
splashing and jumping out of the water, and all within a few feet of
where we were standing. It was a very magical experience, and difficult
Lovely morning! Took Midge for walk on beach and in evening returned to
point for more dolphin watching. Lots of seals in sea.
May. Nice morning. Drove to
Cromarty and parked by small harbour. There is a small 2 car ferry that
runs from Cromarty to Nigg and we knew that a new 4 car ferry was being
launched on the 18th
so we were hoping to watch
the event. Cromarty is a delightful little town and the locals, school
local digniteries, local TV etc had turned out for the launch. The
that run the ferry had invited Penelope Keith to do the Honours as she
is a staunch
supporter of the Ferry.
||At 11am we were all in place for the grand
launch and Penelope arrived dressed very
nautically and duly christened the new ferry in the traditional manner.
all then invited on board for a short trip down the Cromarty Firth with
champagne and canapés and accompanying fire tender vessel spraying us
with water! It
was all great fun. We also discovered that the
town welcomes motorhomes to free park on the playing field adjacent to
the beach. Several motorhomes were parked up and all said it was good
After lunch carried on heading
up the east coast to Brora and CClub site at Dalcham where we had the
last pitch. This is a very nice but busy site
adjacent to a huge sand beach backed by sand dunes and an impressive
golf course. It was so windy that we could hardly walk on the beach
Midge because of the flying sand getting in her eyes.
May. Sunny/windy. Continued on A9
Very scenic coastal road passing through or near some
delightful small towns and villages. Stopped at Badbea near Helmsdale.
Badbea Highland Clearance Village and Memorial is just a
couple of miles north of
Helmsdale, on the A9. There’s a road sign on the left and a small car
park on the right, with a storyboard and a gate. It’s easy to reach,
and the village is only a few minutes walk away although a little steep
in places and stout shoes recommended. Badbea is the haunting site
of a now abandoned settlement. In the 1840s a whole community was
ejected from the fertile glens to make way for the Landowners sheep.
With nowhere to go they found a piece of ground they could settle on.
It was on a steep hillside above sheer cliffs and open to
the North Sea weather, so windy they had to secure their animals
and children with tethers to stop them from blowing away over the steep
cliffs. More than 60 people formed the original community in the 1840s.
They farmed a few animals, some of the men took to fishing. Within 60
they’d all left – mostly emigrated to the
new world. The son of one of them returned from New Zealand to build
the monument which today tells us the names of the families, and in
some cases what happened to them. The
memorial and the boards tell the story but all we can see today is
piles of stones which were once walls to their cottages . The final
scene is the Memorial Park in Helmsdale built so we wouldn’t forget the
the Highland Clearances.
for lunch at Wick. An interesting town with a large harbour, Heritage
Centre and the Old Pulteney Distillery.In
the 1900’s there was a huge herring fishing industry which was very
and thirsty work! Carried on along gorse clad hills until we reached
Groats. Drove out to Duncansby Head (no overnight parking) and walked
along the cliffs to view the stacks and
nesting seabirds. The lighthouse is at the tip of the most NE point of
Great Britain At 6pm returned to
John O Groats (by this time all the tourists had gone – no overnight
parking) and decided to stay the night
in the JOG campsite overlooking the Pentland Firth. £15 no
elec. and poor facilities. But a wonderful view and very quiet.
Wandered around the now
deserted area at John O Groats and watched the arrival of the passenger
ferry between JOG and The
Orkneys and decided to book a day trip for the following day.
May. Boarded the
ferry Pentland Venture
for our Maxi Day Tour of Orkney (£49 each no charge for Midge) It took
40 minutes to
cross the Pentland Firth a notoriously rough and wild stretch of water,
indeed it was, our little boat tossing and shuddering in huge waves.
Arriving at Burwick on South Ronaldsay we found our
coach waiting for us together with our driver/guide for the day. It
take a whole newsletter to write about the delights of the Orkneys so I
will have to be brief! From Burwick we made our way over the Churchill
Barriers built to protect the Atlantic Fleet in WW2 after the
disastrous sinking of
the British battleship Royal Oak by a German submarine which had
manoeuvre its way through the sunken blockade ships. In Scapa Flow
the sunken blockade ships can be still be seen. Our tour stopped at the
pretty town of Stromness once
the last port of call for sailing ships on their way to the Americas.
wandered around the narrow streets and came across the ‘Kyber Pass’
notorious red light district. After a delicious fish n chip lunch we
were off again this time to the Bay of Skaill where
stone age man chose to build the village of Skara Brae. Rediscovered
only 160 years ago, the village had been hidden under sand dunes,
for almost 5,000 years, until a violent storm in 1850.
||Our Tour then
travelled along the lochs of
Harray and Stennes with a photo stop at the mystical Ring of Brodgar
and the Standing Stones of Stenness. On to Kirkwall and an
opportunity to see the magnificent cathedral of St. Magnus where the
tomb of John Rae lies, the discoverer of the North West Passage. Also
the ships bell from the Royal Oak, a poignant
reminder of the atrocities of war. Returning to our homebound ferry we
once more cross the Churchill Barriers stopping this time to view the
small Italian Chapel constructed inside two Nissen huts and most
decorated, using simple tools and raw materials, by the Italian P.O.W.
brought there to build the Churchill Barriers. Our ferry arrived back
at John O Groats at
The day out had been perfect. Lovely weather, excellent and
entertaining commentary from our
driver/guide and good company from other passengers. Two of whom we
spent some time with (Joe and
Jim)and received an invitation to camp for the night at the home of Joe
who lived near Thurso. We had a
wonderful entertaining evening in Joe’s beautiful wooden Swiss Chalet
finally getting to bed at sometime past midnight.
May. Drove to Dunnet Head the most
Northerly Point of mainland Britain – No overnight parking. No
Puffins! We had last visited here in 1986, then
there were hundreds of them nesting on the slopes of the steep cliffs,
with other seabirds, now none. We carried on to visit the Castle of
formerly the holiday home of the late Queen Mother. This small homely
castle is well worth a visit, it gives a very intimate insight to the
Family and it’s not difficult to imagine the happy times the late Queen
spent there. Driving along the north coast the
scenery was everchanging and with some of the most famous surfing
beaches in Europe. We arrived at Durness and the Sango Sands Caravan
Site situated overlooking
a glorious beach. Gale force winds were forecast so we were not
too disappointed to find all the ‘seaview’ pitches already taken.
£15.60 incl elec.
May. After a very windy night we set
the short drive to Keodale to catch the small ferry across the Kyle of
Durness to Cape Wrath, a
longtime ambition for Arthur to visit this most NW point of the British
mainland. The cape can only be reached by the small passenger ferry
from Keodale and then by
mini bus or by a very long walk from the South as there are no roads.
We were unsure whether we
would be able to make the crossing as the wind was still very strong
and the water very
choppy. After parking up the van in the large carpark at the head of
the Loch we
walked down to the small jetty where the ferry went from. There were a
few others all wondering if it would be possible to do the crossing.
The ferry man arrived and
stated that he would be willing to take us but could not guarantee a
time to get us
back if the wind increased. As the Cape is virtually
uninhabited this was not good news for some however the driver of the
mini bus, we and
8 others decided to take a chance. On the other side we climbed aboard
bus to make the 11 miles (18 km) journey to the lighthouse along a
narrow track through desolate rocks and moor. This area is used as a
bombardment range by the Royal Navy and the Royal Airforce hence travel
to the Cape is
restricted at certain times of year. It is the only place in the
Northern Hemisphere where Nato forces combine
land, air, and sea capabilities in assault mode for training
maneouvres, deploying ordnance up to 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs.
the way we
came across a herd of red deer
sheltering from the wind. The 45 minute bus drive is an experience to
remember (it also comes with a witty commentary from the driver). We
fortunate to see the spectacular Cape Wrath at
its most dramatic with howling wind and waves crashing against the
rocks 400ft below. The lighthouse built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson was
until 1998 when it was converted to automatic operation. The block of
white houses next to the lighthouse are mostly currently disused,
one has been renovated over the past ten years, and another is home to
with information about George Stephenson.
The sole inhabitants are now
John Ure and his
family, who leased the main building, converted it into a
three-bedroomed home, and who have opened what is claimed to be Britain's
most remote cafe, the Ozone Cafe was opened in 2009 by the Princess
Royal, and seats eight people. It is open all hours of the day and
throughout the year. Whilst we were there we were lucky to see the
supplies ship and
helicopter bringing in fuel for the Lighthouse – quite a spectacle in
the wind. Back at the quay the ferryman informs us that as the wind is
force he cannot take us back to the mainland! However after a while he
would try to take some of us but we would have to land in a small bay
Keodale. So a young couple, us and two lady hikers agreed to give it a
It was a very rough ride across the choppy water. We could not land in
so had disembark on rocks, climb up a small cliff and then battle our
against the wind back to Keodale. The remaining passengers were to
spend another 4
hours on the desolate quay until it was safe to cross. We spent a wet
night in the car park. Good for bird watching. Lots of waders also
May. Still wet/windy 70mph winds
travelling south. First stop Kinlochverbie a large but deserted
industrial port. Further on is
fine beach at Oldshore. Beyond Rhiconich
we enter into a much more rocky and mountainous region. Following the
A894 we pass through Laxford Bridge and Scourie (Spar Shop and
We had planned to stay here to take a boat
trip to Handa Island for birdwatching but the weather god was against
us and we carried on to Kylesku for lunch stopping at the ruined
Ardvreck Castle, a 16c Macleod stronghold,
backed by the massive Quinag mountain. We abandoned the coastal route
to Lochniver in
favour of the A837 along Loch Assyant. What we did not know was that we
to encounter huge lorries tearing along in the atrocious conditions to
the Port of Lochniver one
nearly put us off the road and we saw one on its side. The attractive
and fishing port of Lochniver is a
popular holiday centre, within the outstanding beauty of the Stoer
with its many charming crofting communities and sandy coves. It
hill walkers as this is the starting point for the ascent of Assyant’s
amazing peak, Suilven. With the weather deteriorating we had to make do
photographs, maps and models in the excellent Assyant Visitor Centre.
the A837 and past the two Munros Ben More Assynt and Conival, dark and
in mist. There is a series of extraordinary mountains along this
road – all of them tempting to the hill walker. We eventually arrived
Ardmore Campsite situated on a small headland overlooking Loch Kanaird
£19 incl elec. At 10.30pm the
gale was so severe we had to move pitch to hide behind a high hedge!
May. Wet morning. Drove to Ullapool
to Corrieshalloch Gorge.
Walked across the 150ft high suspension bridge over the Falls of
very impressive waterfall. Continued on
the A832 the coastal route. The weather had improved and the road took
us pass Loch Broom, below the powerful An Teallach highest of the
Torridon Peaks. Next Gruinard Bay
,with its coves of pink sand although it holds a dark secret. In 1942
Gruinard Island ¾
mile offshore was used as an experiment in germ warfare by the MOD and
up until 1986 was still contaminated with the deadly Anthrax spores.
determined decontamination programme the Island was
declared safe in 1990. We decided against a paddle even though it
looked very inviting! At Aultbea on Loch Ewe we stopped to view the
posts. Loch Ewe was also one of the main convoy assembly lochs during
a string of disused fortifications can be seen along the lochside. We
across a large pier with “Strictly No Admittance” which is a NATO
base. At the village of Poolewe we managed to secure the last pitch on
C&CC site. We had planned to visit the National Trust Inverewe
Gardens but it was too late.
May. Weather still windy and unsettled and
news tells us that we
are going to be covered in volcanic ash! We had planned to take the
road to Applecross and the old drove road over the Bealach Na Ba (Pass
Cattle). It has several tight hairpins and from the summit on a clear
possible to see the Western Isles. We decided that as the weather was
it would be better to head East again and leave the Applecross
another trip. Leaving Poolewe the road crosses a moorland plateau
climbing to Gairloch the main centre of Western Ross. After Gairloch
enters Beinn Eighe National Reserve. Ancient Scots Pines cover the
and the road follows the shore of Loch Maree, one of the
lochs in the Highlands dominated by the mass of Slioch filling most of
the skyline on the Eastern shore. A visit to the Aultroy
Visitor Centre is
recommended, there are trail marked walks for all abilities and a
exhibition which explains the natural history of the region. Two miles
road we came to Kinlochewe a popular base for walking and climbing in
area. There is a lovely view of Glen Docherty as the A832 climbs
Achnasheen. After a pleasant drive we reached the RSPB Reserve at Loch
They have a camera on an osprey nest and we watched as EJ and Odin the
and male ospreys carefully fed their tiny chicks (they were only a few
old) there was also a camera on a
goldeneye duck sitting on a clutch of eggs. We also saw red squirrels,
birds including siskins and woodpeckers.
Stayed the night at a CClub site at Newtownbridge.
May. Our next planned stop was
Edinburgh and we
had booked ahead for two nights at the CClub site. We stopped at the
Asda at Perth for
shopping and fuel before stopping at Queensferry to view the Forth
Historic South Queensferry has
cobbled streets, distinctive Scottish architecture and the Hawes Inn,
features in the novel “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson. The
Bridge when opened, on
4 September 1964 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was the largest
suspension bridge in Europe,
and, together with the approach viaducts is over
2½ km. (over 1½ miles) long.
Bridge, the world’s
first major steel bridge, with its
gigantic girder spans of 521m. (1710 ft.) ranks as one of the great
civilization. It was begun in 1883 and formally completed on 4 March
when HRH Edward Prince of Wales tapped into place a ‘golden’ rivet.
the bridge, Scotland’s
biggest ‘listed’ building, continues to
form a vital artery in Network Rail's East Coast railway system; it
carries 180 - 200 train movements per day. After booking
to the very
busy Edinburgh CClub Site we went for a good walk along the esplanade
overlooking the Firth of Forth.
May. Decided against taking
the motorhome into Edinburgh, the
bus stop was a mile away so went on the camp mini bus £5 per person
return, (no charge for Midge). On arrival we first made our way through
the park up to the Castle (no dogs
inside) so had a look around the outside walls, parade ground and
watched the changing of the guard. At the Royal Mile we caught a city
tour bus and had an
enjoyable time discovering the history and architecture of Edinburgh
lots of walking!
||We stopped to have lunch in The Halfway House which
claims to be the smallest pub, neeps and haggis was on the menu, but we
stuck to the Lasagne.
We enjoyed our day out but it was the Bank Holiday Weekend and very
Left site and drove to Ocean Terminal to see the Royal Yacht Brittania.
Over 250,000 people visit every year, one of the UK’s top
evening venues. Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall recently celebrated
their forthcoming wedding with a cocktail
party aboard the yacht. The racing yacht Bloodhound
once owned by the Queen is
berthed alongside Brittania.
the coastal route we reached the delightful town of North Berwick. It
spotlessly clean beaches divided by the Scottish Seabird Centre and the
|Standing behind the town is North Berwick Law, an 800ft
extinct volcano seen like a beacon for miles. The east beach had a
area, suitable for motorhomes, overlooking the beach. We were told by a
that it is ok for us to stay the night – so we did! We had a lovely
the headland looking out to sea at the spectacular Bass Rock, home to
80,000 nesting gannets, hence its ‘whitewash’ appearance. It’s a sight
not to be missed if you are in
the area. The lighthouse was installed
in 1902 on the remains of a prison.
After a magical evening watching the sun go down over the beach we woke
drizzle! Continued along the coastal
route passing the
ruined TantallonCastle perched
over a high cliff guarding the Firth of
Forth and Bass Rock. We next made for Dunbar to join
the A1 and then a detour to St Abbs Head. However this proved to be too
walk for the time we had and the tiny village of St Abbs is a no go for
motorhomes so we carried on to
Eyemouth where there was easy parking on the seafront. The weather
improved as we crossed the border
back in to England and
approached Berwick-Upon-Tweed< another
delightful town with three bridges and a castle. Historic Berwick is
the most northerly town on the Northumberland Coast and is
considered to be one of the most picturesque. This is mainly because of
attractive red-roofed houses, pinkish grey elegant Georgian buildings
location at the mouth of the River Tweed. Midge met many of her
Northumberland, being the birthplace of the Border Terrier! The sun was
as we turned off the A1 to take the coastal road. Soon the magnificent
spectacle of Bamburgh Castle came
into view, and so did all the tourists! It was Bank Holiday Sunday,
definitely not a good time to visit this area, it was heaving with
people. We carried on to Seahouses for more of the same so only stayed
enough to collect details of the boat trips out to the Farne Islands.
up the road we came across a Caravan & Camping Club Holiday
Site and booked
in for 2 nights £6 per night.
Dull & Drizzle. We had decided to ride the bikes into
Seahouses not able to take
Midge so before we left took her for a nice long walk over the sand
dunes and along the beach opposite
Our boat trip was the first of the day at 12.00pm and was to last
2-3 hours so packed a
sandwich and a drink and set off on our bikes. We boarded the M.V. Glad
leaving the calm of the harbour to head out to the open sea, after the
winds we had been experiencing it was relatively calm making bird
easier. For me, I was at last fulfilling one of my dreams, to visit The
and I was not to be disappointed. As we got closer to the Islands more
and more birds were to be seen bobbing about on the sea, and there was
excitement on the boat when the first Puffin was spotted.
the rocky islets to see the seals the boat made for Staple Island where
it squeezed in between gullies in the rocky stacks so that we could
see, photograph and hear at
close-hand the amazing scene of thousands of nesting birds. It was
truly wonderful, there was hardly room for blade of grass so closely
were the colonies of birds. The Kittiwakes had chicks, delightful balls
fluff, the Puffins had their
own special area where
they were lined up perched on the tops of the stacks like rows of
parrots, taking a break from fishing for sand eels. During the nesting
there are twenty different species of breeding sea birds on the
including Guillemots, Razorbills, Eiderducks, Terns and a staggering
thousand Puffins. |
Next our boat took us to Inner Farne the largest of
the Farne Islands and owned by the National Trust. There is a
charge for landing on Inner Farne (free for N.T. Members) and is a
complete contrast to Staple Island. Its
paths are a mixture of boardwalks and grassy slopes, and its birdlife
is surprisingly different.
|The first bird encounter is the Arctic Tern,
they nest on the slope leading from the landing stage and attack
mercilessly for approaching their nests. (its advisable to wear a hat)
The path leads
past nesting sandwich and roseate terns and brings you nose to beak
with nesting eiders
adjacent to the path.
Nesting in the centre of the island are large numbers of puffins, their
scattered liberally around the short grassland. |
The path continues to a
point over a huge colony of nesting Guillemots, Razorbills, and Shags.
to the fence were the Shags, sitting on their nests many with well
chicks, they were very approachable and being able to observe so
could see the Shag’s green eye and iridescent sheen to it’s oily
was almost too much to take in. All too soon it was time to return to
Tidings’ and Seahouses but not before we had motored past Longstone
on the outer group of the Farnes. It was made famous on the 7th
September 1838 by Grace Darling when she and her father rescued nine
survivors from the
Forfarshire, a paddle steamer which ran aground in stormy seas. After
cycling back we took Midge for a short walk and then sat outside with a
G&T and reflected on a perfect day.
Sunny morning! Early start to catch the tide right for the crossing to
Holy Island also
known by its celtic name, Lindisfarne, Holy Island is accessible
only at low tide, twice daily, by
a three mile long causeway, built in 1954. There is a large carpark,
mini bus service into the Village, it is also a very pleasant walk. We
took the mini bus out to
of the principle centres of Christianity during the Dark Ages and was
St Aidan in AD635 by the King of Northumbria.
Sitting atop Beblowe Crag is the most
prominent feature on the island, Holy
built as a defence in Tudor Times.
Purchased in 1901 by Edward Hudson, the founder of country Life
magazine, Hudson commissioned the archict Edward Lutyens to
transform the castle into a home, with much of the
original fabrics of the castle remaining
today. The Castle is now owned by the National Trust. The second main
attraction is the Priory which dates back to Norman times. It is built
on the site of an Anglo Saxon Monastery following the visit of St Aidan
in AD635, destroyed by the Vikings and rebuilt some 400 years later as
a Benedictine Priory.
It was then a quick drive back to catch the
causeway before it flooded. Back on the A1
we made the short
drive to Alnwick (pronounced Annick) and booked into the Rugby Club
the night. (£10 no h/up). After lunch we walked into the nice old town,
with an interesting cobbled market square and quaint shops, before
way to visit Alnwick Castle (of Harry Potter
fame) The castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in England
built as a medieval fortress and home to the Percy Family for 700
years. Before returning to the
Van we called in at
the listed Victorian Railway Station which is now home to Barter Books
one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. A must
for all bookworms !
June Sunny. Set off
early and had an
across scenic moor to
visit Cragside. Situated near Rothbury it
was the family home of Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor and
Cragside was the first building in the world to be lit by
a walk around the National Trust property reveals a wealth of ingenious
gadgetry including fire alarm buttons, telephones, a passenger lift and
Turkish bath suite. Outside Cragside is one of Europe’s
largest rock gardens sloping down to the
Debdon Burn. The Iron bridge over the burn is one of the oldest of its
type in the UK.
The estate has more than 30 miles of footpaths and lakeside walks
including a short walk down to the Power House and the Pump House.
a very enjoyable few hours we made our way to a CL on a farm at
Ridsdale near to Hadrians Wall. £6 no h/up.
June After a peaceful night, with just sheep for company, we made our
way to the B6318 to follow the route of Hadrian’s Wall. We
stopped at Housteads which is the most complete example of a Roman fort
It stands high on the
exposed Whin Sill
escarpment, commanding breathtaking views. Excavations at the fort have
revealed four double-portal gateways, the turreted curtain wall, three
blocks and of course the famous well-preserved latrines. At the centre
most important buildings, the commandant’s house, head-quarters
hospital. The fort lies uphill from the carpark (a ten minute walk) and
is managed by the National Trust.
plan to return to Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall to
explore more of this beautiful county and to visit more sites along the
wall. This marked the end of our Tour.
We had experienced everything that Scotland has to offer, majestic
mountains, beautiful beaches, enchanting islands, wild peat moors,
wildlife, very friendly locals and of course the weather!
that you have enjoyed reading this account of our Scottish
Adventure. I have tried to make it interesting and informative.
If you would like any further details on sites or places that we have
contact me on jennyvowden(at)hotmail(dot)com.
N.B. It may be of interest to some that ‘Wild Camping’ is no longer
encouraged in Scotland. There are plenty of places
to park a motorhome and in most places that we visited there was no
however even the smallest of lay-bys have the No Overnight Parking
signs. This has
had a knock-on effect and made campsites, especially those in popular
extremely busy. It would be wise to book ahead if you are going at a
busy time of
We did not have a problem wild camping in the Outer Hebrides, but again
campsites were very busy.
: At no
time did we
find a dog restriction on any of the beaches or attractions in The
Outer Hebrides or on any of the beaches that we visited in Scotland
from in the castles and Cragside House (permitted in the gardens).
did not encounter any of
the small wee beasties. We
decided that this was due to the strong winds and cold weather that we
throughout our tour.
text and photos
Copyright© 2011 J Vowden