Motorhome trip No3 : Scotland - May 29th – June 11th 2012
NOTTS->ALNWICK->FIFE->ANGUS->KINCARDINE->ABERDEEN->BANFF->MORAY->NAIRN->INVERNESS->ROSS & CROMARTY->SUTHERLAND->CAITHNESS->SUTHERLAND->WESTER ROSS->SKYE&LOCALSH->INVERNESS->ARGYLL&BUTE->NOTTS 1675 miles
Oh and we loved every moment of it. Scotland is such a fabulous place , breath taking views, lochs, castles to die for, interesting history and of course the deep fried mars bar. Sadly I still haven’t had the chance yet to sample this delicacy but scotch pies , white pud etc etc were yummy!
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Basically keeping to the coast we travelled up the east, across top and then back down the west.
As we have been to most of the islands already and the cost of taking the van over was not included in our budget we just had our memories and the views from the mainland. Maybe they are for another trip depending upon how much CalMac have ramped up the price for the multi-island passes, must check when I’ve finished this blog!
So we left home and spent the night with our lovely friends Chris and Allyson in Alnwick, what a great Madar Jaffrey curry , thanks Chris. Part of this trip is inspired by a trip Chris & I did over 40 years ago when we were about 18 and we both hiked & hitched around Scotland, not been back to some of these places since and part so that Annie can get to John O’Groats as well as Landsend, I kept telling her she hadn’t missed anything and that proved to be true *smile*. Plus thanks to George & Emma for allowing us to park in Green Batt , George suggested his Auto Sleeper Executive and ours may well breed if they got a little closer. Haha – maybe an Eriba. Anyhow after a bit of shopping in Alnwick we set off for the borders.
Then over the impressive Forth Road Bridge and into Fife. Did you know that Dunfermline (home of Annie’s ancestors) was once the capital of Scotland. We stopped at the Royal Burgh of Culross to visit the palace there, but sadly it was closed (something to do with a wedding and a corporate ‘do’ for the National Trust of Scotland). This didn’t stop us though and we still looked around the outside, gardens and interesting cobbled back streets. A real nice place. Give it a whirl sometime. No probs with parking the van either, 2 very big car parks that were hardly full. We discover Scotland has a lot of Royal Burgh’s an award which seems to have been bestowed the moment a Scottish King or Queen visited but I could be wrong!
Then we drove onto St Andrews for the night, the home of golf, it hardly ever stopped raining. The site was a little expensive at £24 a night but they justified it by having a new indoor heated swimming pool and bar / games room. We went over for a swim but sadly it was a woman only eve, felt a bit conned. Still had a nice evening meal and some wine instead!
Next day we visited Falkland and Falkland Palace, a very impressive castle. The Scots sure know how to do castles. It is also the home of real tennis, the very knowledgeable guide told us there had been a world championship there recently with the team from Ballarat , Vic, Aus represented. Blimey, we have been to Ballarat and it is the most unlikely setting for real tennis. *surprise*. It is still effectively owned by the Queen jointly with the NTS (Nat Trust for Scotland) and previously the kings of Scotland.
We then left Fife and travelled into Angus staying at a lovely campsite in Carnoustie, you will need your satnav, it isn’t straight forward but Annie thought facilities wise it was the best we stayed in throughout Scotland, and it isn’t a Caravan club site.
Having left there we went on through Arbroath & Montrose and visited a bird sanctuary /nature reserve in river basin with great views of Montrose. Never been in this area before but really nice, we would go back again. Whilst in the area we visited the famous House of Dun (NTS), it was owned by Lady Augusta FitzClarence, the illegitimate daughter of William IV (Queen Victoria’s dad) and his ‘actress’ mistress Mrs Johnson with whom he had 10 kids, she had over 20 in total with about 8 different partners, scandal, love it…. She never married any of them but apparently was great on the stage (or was that bed). The other things we remember were the last working damask linen handloom, big sequoias in the garden, the house had many doors that don’t open, they were just for symmetrical structure, each side was a mirror image of the other throughout, and joy of joy it had the best 1960’s stereo system I have ever seen, I want one. Mick Jagger bought the 1st apparently.
It was then on into Aberdeenshire and Stonehaven which has a heated art deco pool plus we visited Dunnotair castle, are you getting it yet? castles and deep fried Mars bars with the odd Belhaven 80/- beer thrown in and a few lovely single malts and wine. Our ideal hols, hic! We avoided the city of Aberdeen as we had been there before when we went to the Shetland Isles.
The onto the Feughside caravan park in Strachan Banchory Deeside, nice views, mostly a static caravan site though and a very nice pub / restaurant on the riverside less than 2 mins from the van. On this occasion we didn’t eat there however as we had fresh food to use but it looked lovely and many of the other ‘vanners’ were going there. Strachan pronounced “strawn” must be the origins of its sister town in Tasmania, Oz. The river Dee is lovely and looked like a heavily used fly- fishing area, trout apparently.
Got up early the next day as much to see and big distances to travel. Visted Crathes castle & gardens nr Banchory and the craft village. There were many germans, dutch, french, italians with motorbikes, caravans & motorhomes and this repeated itself throughout our 2+ weeks in Scotland especially in the highlands, great to see! Crathes castle gardens had a floral tribute to the Queens 60th jubilee.
By the time we had finished at Crathes it was getting on so I rang the Culloden Moor Caravan Club (CC) site to warn them we would be late. As long as you let them know you can arrive anytime up to 8pm in the eve.
Then it was onto Cruden bay, fish & chips and Viking ships. Lovely quiet harbour and a beach to die for. Highly recommended! Then onto buller o’buchan just down the road. Similar to Pancake Rocks blow holes in NZ but not so dramatic and only one, maybe Scotland’s answer to Durdle Door in Dorset but with a wave pool. We did go thru / stop at Peterhead & Fraserburgh but not much to recommend them unless you are into industry and oil, sorry!
Then turned the coastal corner into Banffshire – Macduff, don’t mention the Scottish play – did WillS really travel this far?,Banff with its own version of the Banff Springs hotel (haha – not surprisingly missing out slightly in the class / cost stakes, Then Morayshire including Portsoy,Cullen where Cullen skink comes from (a haddock soup) and thru Nairn onto Invernesshire for the 1st time this holiday.
We stayed at Culloden Moor CC site for 2 days, nice setting and facilities, but v busy. From here we were able to visit Culloden Battlefield , one of the best historical presentations we have ever seen anywhere in the world and great use of technology to deliver the story. Well done them, do visit you will learn loads, we did. All about bonnie prince charlie,duke of Cumberland and what a disaster the dukes 25th b’day party was for the Jacobite clansmen. There long march and hoped for surprise (haha) just didn’t work and after 1 hour they had lost many many body. Interesting Charlie saw the writing on the wall and ran off after 10 mins (over the sea to Skye and never ever to return). The battle field is rather poignantly a war grave. In the afternoon we went in search of the Thane of Cawdor (oh no not the Scottish play again) by going to Cawdor castle, just down the road from the campsite, so all in all a great choice of site for the closeness of stuff to see nearby.
The next day we called into Inverness to get fuel etc but didn’t stay long as we have been there a few times in the past. Then it was up the A9, across the Cromarty bridge and into Rosshire, Alness (nice) and Invergordon (not so nice, oil platform restorations) there was a German cruise ship in presumably so they could visit Culloden etc, surely not Invergordon itself? Then onto Tain (brill) where there was diamond jubilee celebrations for the bank hol including Capercaille playing for free, alas we couldn’t stay on as they weren’t playing until late in the evening but they are great and were on previously in Culross for £25. Had my 1st warmed scotch pie here *hungry*
Then a visit to the Glenmorangie distillery where I bought a glass. Annie stayed in the van as she said no interest in whiskey. I bought 2 bottles of single malt whilst away, Old Pultenay & The Dalwhine, nice flavour both.
Then it was onto Sutherland and many town / villages / hamlets the best of which was possibly Dornoch, nice old town and great architecture plus a good beach with the East Sutherland lifeboat station. There are also some nice lovely old towns at golspie,brora & helmsdale.
Then we were into Caithness where we stayed at the Wick riverside site, quiet and cheap if somewhat antiquated facilities. The couple running it were very helpful. The SatNav guides you to the entrance under a railway bridge, watch out it is very low, We rang them and the guy came out and guided us round through the other entrance. Enjoyed our stay at the site. Found out that Caithness glass closed sadly 2006, became dartington crystal then closed in perth, may now be in crieff? Shame some great glass pieces were produced by them, real works of art! After visiting the Old Pultenay distillery in Wick (2012 whiskey of the year) and the old harbour and heritage area we set off for John o groats. There had been a fire on the heather moors the previous day that had shut the A99 but today it was open but the smoke, fire and smell still raged filling the van with an acrid stench that was fun to get rid of.
We got great views of the Orkney & Stroma and did the usual tourist stuff but the craft area is not as active / busy as Landsend. We also visited Duncansby head and The Queen mums castle of Mey (v interesting) and stayed at Dunnet bay (view of dunnet head) caravan club site which has a great beach which we went for a walk on, we had it to ourselves and oh so sunny, best weather in the country.
The next day onto Thurso & rain & shopping then to scrabster to revisit the ferry we used in 1987-ish for our holiday to the Orkneys when the boys were v young. Then on back into Sutherland again. Thru Coldbackie, Tongue & the youth hostel (Chris do you remember this, chores using a toothbrush before we could go to catch the one bus that left every 2nd Tuesday, Royal Mail with veg and livestock?) then round loch eriboll (wow – the best) single track with passing places and very busy then onto Sango sands campsite at Durness where we stayed for 2 days. It was windy, remote but brill views, loved it! On the 2nd day we drove down to the Durness quayside about 2 miles from site and went on a truly memorable trip to the great cape wrath (see pix – loved it) and came back to the craft village at balnakeil and visited its beach/ house/ cathedral ruins…. Walk to faraid head is rated as a must but we didn’t have time to do it so walked some of the beach, you need to be careful as families have been cut off here by the returning tide which circles round the back of the sand. Our Cape Wrath guide warned us of this.
Then it was the roads to Ullapool, into Rosshire again and first Armaid and then to our Broomfield caravan park site next to Broom loch, conveniently places minutes from town and ferry terminal at Ullapool. Indeed the ferry runs past the campsite which I remember from when we went on it early 90s to Lewis & Harris. Would you believe it we couldn’t get a high tea in Ullapool although there appears to be a good Indian restaurant next to the campsite now!
The next day it was the Wester ross coastline a real highlight including the Corrieshalloch gorge & suspension bridge, a lovely valley, little Gruinard beach, loch ewe (home of war time exercises),loch torridon, the brilliant Inverewe gardens nts, some of the best in Scotland based on location and plantsmanship. Then loch maree, the wonderful road to shieldaig, gairloch, loch carron and then into Skye & lochalsh.
Here we saw a weird heather burn possibly that joined the smoke to the clouds, before reaching the famous road to the isles, which we have travelled many a time. Love it. We alighted at Dornie to see the most photographed Eilean doran castle, indeed Annie’s Canadian cousin Janet had this as her Facebook background pic. We stayed at Morvich CC site, very nice, for 1 night, superb beinn / mountains on all 4 sides.
We left the next day to return to Fort Augustus (too touristy for us) and the wonderful Loch ness although not surprisingly Nessie was not “out to play” that day!
From here it was to Fort William where the world Mountain bike champs were on that weekend at Beinn Nevis so very busy and wet *sigh*. We booked into Brumlee CC site at South Onich nearby for 2 nights overlooking Loch Linnhe. Great site great views great midges, don’t forget the spray folks!
We were planning to go up Beinn Nevis on the Monday by cable car as never having been up there but sadly we had a big leak in the van overnight which mean the duvet acted as a wick and woke up wet. So rang the van people who asked us to bring it back. So sadly but sensibly we left early. Wouldn’t have been good if it had happened in Europe. We want it fixed before our next trips!
So it was 400 miles back thru Argyll & Bute, loch leven , the truly wonderful glencoe, crianlarich, loch Lomond, trossachs, bypass Glasgow, Carlisle, M6 home… 6.5 hrs tired but ready to get the van into workshop the next day. UPDATE 15/6 they have found a seal leak around one of the windows so hopefully it will now be fixed. Currently undertaking serious soak test and leaving it out in heavy rain.
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