Week 13: #oneyearlate – the tour continues: The Road to the Isles, Roy Bridge, Bunree and Oban.

Corran Ferry

Leaving our first UK off-grid stop, we continued along the A861 and the peninsula to the ferry port at Ardgour, where we chose to take the ferry to Corran and drive up to Fort William to fill up with diesel and groceries, rather than the longer return along the A830, before heading back along the A830, past the Glenfinnan Viaduct (a seen in Harry Potter) and the Locks at Banavie – Neptune’s Locks and on to Arisaig and the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Certified Location (CL) The Small Isles CL Caravan Site https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/certificated-locations/scotland/highlands/arisaig/small-isles-cl-caravan-site-arisaig/ I had been looking to find the campsite, we stayed at near here many years before and when I found it there was no availability! I looked on the CMC website and found this one, thinking it would be a good substitute! Well, on arrival, it was NEXT DOOR! What a find and perfect for Birthday Celebrations! Access to the white sandy beach is direct from the campsite and you can just see the steam of the Jacobite Train, a.k.a. Hogwarts Express. We did actually catch up with it on our journey back to the Mainland! This site is one we wouldn’t want to share but that is so unfair to the owners, who have made it lovely!

Returning back to the mainland, we saw the steam of the Jacobite Train (Hogwarts Express) https://westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/steam-train-trip and managed to get some photos (and a video of the afternoon train). We headed back up to Ben Nevis and on to Roy Bridge, where we had opted to stop at Bunroy Park https://www.bunroypark.co.uk/. There is a perfect river walk right along the edge of the campsite.

After Bunroy, we headed back to Fort William and the CMC Club Site at Bunree. On our way we stopped for lunch alongside the Loch Leven, before joining the ever increasing queue for the campsite. The prime pitches are lochside and not bookable, so there is a scramble to get them, but in our usual manner, we were hopeful but not expectant…. We got a great one – home for three nights and with differing weather (including a big gust of wind one early morning, which saw us and others, putting away our wind-out canopies! Despite arriving in sunshine, we were lucky over the next two days to get a break in the rain, but the views were spectacular when there was a break.

Moving on, in persistent rain, we headed south along the coast to Oban and Oban Caravan Park https://obancaravanpark.com/. Oban is a lively town and ferry port, the ferries from here go to a lot of the smaller Isles as well as the Outer Hebrides. The town has a slightly more cosmopolitan feel than many of the others, we’ve visited, probably due to the number of visitors it gets each day, along with the number of shops, restaurants and bars. Oban Caravan Park is located on a slight hill, with views down over the Loch and the countryside.

We’re heading south again tomorrow, find out how we got on soon! As ever, thank you for reading. Hoping you and your families are safe and well…

Week 12: Our #oneyearlate tour continues – Isle of Skye to Morvich, and our first Off-Grid Stop in the UK.

Mary Poppins and Bert, Fort Augustus

Leaving Staffin, we continued our clockwise tour of Skye down to Portree and over to Glenbrittle. The weather has not been with us this time around, we had hoped to visit the Man of Storr, but the rain and cloud prevented us from seeing it. We could barely make out the island of Raasay, just over the water (we visited there before on one of our visits, with it’s wild pigs and we were guided by a Golden Eagle along the road – it is well worth a trip if you haven’t been)! Portree is the main town on Skye but it’s not quite suited for motorhomes, the roads can be a little tight! Once through the town, with it’s coloured houses, we headed over to the left side and travelled anti-clockwise around the peninsula to our next night stop at Glenbrittle.

Glenbrittle Campsite https://www.dunvegancastle.com/glenbrittle/campsite/ is located on a black sanded beach and although no bookings, there is normally always space, that said, after nights on a few small sites, it was incredibly large. You can literally pick a spot if you don’t want electricity! The road to the campsite is another typical highland road, single track with passing places, but also a logging route and the logging lorries have PRIORITY! This was our last night on Skye, but needless to say we will be back! It makes such a difference being able to see and experience things whilst not worrying about the next stop or going back to work!

From Skye, we headed inland and up to Fort Augustus, where there is a motorhome stop. We visited Fort Augustus before when we travelled the Caledonian Canal on a boat and knew how lovely it was. We took a stroll into the town, about a 20 minute walk, looked at the flight of five locks and returned back. The motorhome stop, is also a short distance from the Golf Course, where you can pick up a footpath which will take you back to the Canal and down to the Locks, before continuing the loop back to the stopover.

From Fort Augustus, we headed back towards Skye and the charming villages of Ardelve and Dornie. We opted to stop for the night at the Ardelve Campsite http://www.ardelvecaravanandcampingpark.co.uk/ and were pleasantly surprised to discover a takeaway pizza place – Pizza Jo to Go https://www.pizzajo.co.uk/ – right opposite the campsite, that’s dinner sorted! Also, in the complex is a Bakery and a Gin Distillery in unique fairytale style buildings. A short stroll from the campsite, is the Eilean Donan Castle. The castle and grounds are open to the public and dogs can enter the grounds, we opted just to look and not enter! The village shop in Dornie, is a little Aladdin’s Cave, with proper pies, second hand books and general groceries, as well as a Post Office. Please have a visit if you’re passing.

Next, we opted to go to the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site at Morvich, although we arrived slightly early, we were welcomed and told about their, Premier Pitches. They have three pitches, which have great views of the Five Sisters of Kintail, a series of hills north of Glen Shiel, and where you can see the deer and stags! There was one of these pitches left, so we graciously grabbed it, pitched facing the hills and waited… The only things we saw where the clouds and rain which got lower and heavier, respectively! The Five Sisters of Kintail, Sgurr na Mòraich (876m), Sgurr nan Saighead (929m), Sgurr Fhuaran (1068m), Sgurr na Carnach (1002m) and Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (1027m) have a legend, which says that there were two Irish Princes who were shipwrecked and fell in love with two of the daughters of the King of Kintail. The two Princes married the two daughters, promising to send back their five brothers to marry the remaining five sisters, but, alas, they never returned. The sisters waited in vain and asked the Grey Magician of Coire Dhunnaid to extend their vigil beyond life itself, whereupon he turned them into mountains (as you do!).

We had a short walk from the site down to Loch Duich, along the A87 and back through the churchyard of St Dubhthach’s Church ruins, which was dedicated in 1050, to the Bishop of Ross, St. Duthac. The church was damages in gunfire during the battle of Glenshiel in 1719, and still in use until about 1855. Alongside the graveyard is the traditional burial ground of the Clan MacRae.

Our next stop was a bit of a novelty for us, we chose to off-grid for the night and found an ideal little suitable parking place, alongside the A861. We weren’t the only ones to stay there, either! and we had a lovely peaceful night with good views.

We’re heading off again, continuing our #oneyearlate trip around Scotland. As always, thank you for reading. We hope you’re still safe and well, and we’ll be back with more news…

Week 11: #oneyearlate – Scourie to the Isle of Skye…

This week sees us finish our NC500 trip and we head over to the Isle of Skye. Although, there is still more NC500 to go, we didn’t want to carry on back to Inverness, but instead continue our #oneyearlate road trip onto the accessible Islands and explore areas, we’ve never visited before.

Leaving Scourie, we headed up along the Drumbeg Loop to (believe it or not) Drumbeg and on to Lochinver, where we stopped for lunch over looking the fishing port, before heading on to our overnight stop at Ardmair Point Caravan and Camping Park https://www.ardmair.com/, outside Ullapool. We had a brief trip into Ullapool as there is a service station Loch Broom Garage Services, who sell LPG and can refill our cylinders. http://www.lochbroomgarageservices.co.uk/index2.htm Ardmair Point is perfect for the NC500, however don’t be disappointed by the lack of space, the views does make up for it, but you might need to find it – if you book far enough in advance you can get a pitch with good view (we didn’t!) but be aware of the midges – people we had spoken to had great views but couldn’t enjoy it due to the midges!

From Ardmair Point we headed back along the NC500 to Ullapool for groceries and then on to Kinlochewe, driving along the coast and along Loch Maree. We stayed at the Kinlochewe Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, with its great wardens, for whom nothing appeared too much effort, and who were still trying to catch up with the chores left by a year long lockdown. The village and campsite are located on the edge of the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve, with lovely flat gentle walks and more adventurous ones. It’s a lovely place and we’re sure we’ll return.

From Kinlochewe, we headed up for lunch overlooking Loch Clair, and on to Lochcarron, avoiding the Bealach na Ba, Cattle Road, partly because the advice is not to in a large motorhome, partly because we’ve done it before and partly because the weather spoilt the views! Lochcarron is located on, the aptly named, Loch Carron and the campsite we choose the Wee Campsite https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/markerMobile.php?id=28971, which is located on the road behind the main road and there are some footpaths back down to the main road, with it’s award winning Spar, pub and restaurants, as well as access to the Loch.

Leaving Lochcarron, we got to the Isle of Skye, crossing the Bridge and into Kyleakin, where we stopped for very tasty fish and chips from the Sea Food Shop, https://www.searchforsites.co.uk/markerMobile.php?id=28971 literally just after the bridge and took it to eat over looking the bay. Kyleakin is home to the Gavin Maxwell Museum (Ring of Bright Water and Otter man), with it’s otter statue outside, hopefully we’ll get to see one… We made our way up to Broadford and Camping Skye Campsite, a relatively new campsite, outside the town, easy to walk into and along the shore to the pier.

Heading up to our next stop at Staffin, we chose to take the route to Uig and clockwise along the headland. We stopped for lunch at the Museum of Island Life (which is currently closed due to COVID) and took a short stroll up to the Flora MacDonald Memorial. Flora MacDonald assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) to escape from the Government Troops after the Battle of Culloden from South Uist to Skye, disguised as her maid, Betty Burke. Her Memorial is at Kilmuir Cemetery, where the Designer, Lee Alexander McQueen is also laid to rest. We arrived at Staffin Campsite a little later in the day, but there is no phone signal, but the campsite does have free WiFi! A short walk from the campsite is An Corran Beach, where there are dinosaur footprints. We had been here before, but not seen them, this time though we were lucky and found one or two.

We’re heading off to the other side of Skye and we’ll keep you updated. Thank you for reading, we hope you and your families are safe and well, we’ll be back (WiFi permitting!) soon….

Week 10: #oneyearlate – Berriedale to Scourie, along the East and North Coast NC500

True Highland Coos

We left Berriedale and headed north along the NC500 to Wick, stopping at Lybster Harbour for lunch and then up to John o’Groats. We managed to get a photo of Nortia, lined up with the signpost, and a lot of other people, too! We had wanted to get a photo here, as we had taken Nortia to Lands End in 2019, when we did a whistle stop tour of the southwest.

John o’Groats is the most northerly inhabited point of the mainland of Britain, but not the most northerly point – that accolade belongs to Dunnet Head, which we went to next… The route to Dunnet Head is narrow, but there are several passing places so it’s relatively easy, when everyone collaborates. Located at Dunnet Head is a lighthouse, which was built in 1831 by Robert Stevenson, the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island. Originally manned, it is now automated and controlled from Edinburgh. Many years ago on our first trip to Scotland, we ventured up to Dunnet Head, but the weather was so bad, we couldn’t get out of the car, the wind was so strong and the doors closed as hard as you could open them! This time we arrived in bright sunshine and a gentle breeze, we had hoped to cycle up the next day, but in true Scottish tradition we didn’t have the weather, there was drizzle and low cloud, not much wind so midges in great supply! There is space to stop up here overnight, but we chose to check-in at the nearby Dunnet Bay Caravan Club Site.

The Club Site is very popular with NC500ers and families alike. The beach, literally through the gate is great for surfers, paddle boarders and swimmers, we saw a lot, along with the surf school, but didn’t venture in, too! The following weekend it hosted a junior surf championship. We walked along the beach to Mary-Ann’s House http://www.caithness.org/community/museums/maryanncottage/ Mary-Ann Calder moved out of here original family home, built by her grandfather in 1850, in 1990, just before her 94th birthday. Her cottage has been preserved, as the working practices used by the family (including her children) had been unchanged. Just for reference, Dunnet Bay is further north than Moscow.

From Dunnet Bay, we headed west continuing along the NC500 to Talmine on the Kyle of Tongue. Talmine is a small village, with a shop/ Post Office and a campsite. Bayview Campsite https://www.bayviewcampsite.co.uk/ is right on the beach (well separated by a road) with lovely level(ish) pitches and a great view. We were welcomed on site by the free-range cows wandering down the road. The lady who owns the site kept it immaculately clean and tidy, the bins were cleared with such regularity.

We continued our trip along the NC500 to the village to Scourie, having first travelled along the very northern edge to Durness, stopping overlooking the bay for lunch and a quick grocery shop. We passed the Cannonbawz Run 2021, you can read about the event here: https://www.northern-scot.co.uk/news/supercars-and-heroes-turn-out-for-liam-249798/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook&fbclid=IwAR3XFN_8Xmv6l1yEjhTMk_J0PGThRv217pCyWk7AuRSKnRs9RyZ2qoLbxnM Before heading up to the Cape Wrath Ferry.

Many years ago we had toyed with the idea of walking the Cape Wrath path, but these days, we’re a little more laid back so a trip to look at the peninsula was enough! Cape Wrath can only be accessed by foot or ferry and that also depends on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as the majority of the land is used for live firing and it is the only range in Europe, where forces from land, sea and air can carry out combined exercises and where the RAF can train using 1000 lb bombs. There is a sign at the ferry point informing you whether there are exercises being carried out. Training times are also available online https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scotland-firing-times

From the Cape Wrath Ferry point, we started to head south west along the NC500, through Laxford Bridge to Scourie. Our stop was at the Scourie Caravan and Camping Site, overlooking the bay and the harbour. https://www.scouriecampsitesutherland.com/ The village has a garage and outdoor store, family-run shop with Post Office, hotel and sculpture studio. We took a lovely stroll along the headland and upto the school, before returning down the Back Road.

We’re heading off again along the NC500. We’re trying to keep up to date, but we’ve had some bad WiFi / 4G connections up in these extreme places… We hope you and your families are safe and well, we’ll be back with more of our trip soon….

Week 9: #oneyearlate – Findhorn to Dornoch: Starting the NC500

Highland Coo?

Continuing our tour northwards, we made our way along the Aberdeenshire and Moray Coastlines to Findhorn, where we had found an overnight stop, similar to the aires in Europe. Right on the edge of the dunes, with facilities to empty and fill, we booked in for two nights. Walking along the beach, Reg loved the sand and the sea water. We followed the coastline around to the marina and through to the village. There is a fish and chip stand and a restaurant, as well as a village store and pottery. Local attractions also include the Heritage Museum and Ice Cave. Dolphins can be seen here in the sea, but we didn’t manage to see any. https://www.findhornparking.com/

Next, we drove to Inverness, the start of the NC500 is actually at the Castle so we headed up to find it. Afterwards we headed up to a Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Certified Location (CL) at the Brahan Estate https://brahan.com/ Originally the home to the Seaforths, heads of the Clan of MacKenzie, one of the first clans to surrender their arms and swear allegiance to the English Crown, in the Jacobite Uprising. There is plenty to do and see here. The campsite is located in the trees along the main roadway to the Arboretum, which was started in the late 17th Century. We met a lovely couple, with their two Border Terriers, Stan and Ted, who were there for the Sheep Mart, in Dingwall.

A walk through the Arboretum, will bring you to the Dog Memorial, where thirteen dogs are buried including an elaborate grave for Cruiser, for faithful friend and companion of Col. Stewart Mackenzie of Seaforth. He accompanied the 9th Lancers throughout the Afghan Campaign 1878 – 79 – 80, including the March from Kabul to Kandahar b.1878 d.1895.

Continuing to walk down towards the river, we saw people fly fishing with a Ghillie, all available to be booked from the Estate Office and following the River Walk, we met a lot of deer in the fields adjacent. Another route through the Estate, will take you to the village of Maryburgh. This is another little site we have on our list to return to.

Our next stop and Stage 2 of our NC500 route took us from Maryburgh to Dornoch. There is an actual marked NC500 route and although we will follow it as much as we can, we’re not planning to follow it exactly.

Following the Cromarty Firth, we travelled a route we had done many years before up to Tain and our camping site at Dornoch. Before we had stopped at the Royal Hotel Tain and the Dornoch Castle Hotel, and we drove up to find them! Nothing had changed they and the towns looked the same. The campsite at Dornoch, is located on the edge of the dunes and the Royal Dornoch Golf Course. Just behind you is the local airstrip and a short walk will take you to the town itself. We walked in to the town, before letting Reg have a run on another sandy beach, where again he chases and attacks the waves!

Stage 3 of our NC500 route took us from Dornoch to a CMC CL outside Helmsdale, at a small village called Berriedale Braes. The Kings Park, https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/certificated-locations/scotland/highlands/helmsdale/the-kings-park/ Our drive up took us along the North Sea, and at times the cloud was below the road, and stopping us from seeing the sea. When we arrived at the CL, we were met by the owners and directed to the site, through the field with a Donkey and Sheep. The views were amazing with mountains, countryside and the sea and the sun came out and the clouds disappeared.

We headed up to Wick for a drive and to clean the very dirty Nortia, we had seen a jet wash on our first trip up for shopping, but when we arrived we couldn’t find it and thought we had dreamt it’s location! We turned around and headed back, but then discovered it – visible southbound but not northbound! Having coated Nortia in a lovely mix of sorbet pink, yellow and green hot foam, and then cold rinsed, she was looking lovely again. Apologies if we made it rain for you, we were still in lovely sunshine!

We’re off on Stage 4 next… We’ll be back with another update, soon. Thank you for reading. We hope you’re safe and well and enjoying our tales.