Tomorrow we set out for Scotland. Our aim is to spend most of the next five weeks in the Outer Hebrides. On the way up and on the way back we have various campsite assessments to complete for Alan Rogers and we have one or two friends and relatives to visit. Will we get there? Well that's a bit weather dependant. We do have a plan B and C however and have packed other OS maps.
Day One May 1st. Well it is a lovely day and the plan is to do one campsite about thirty miles away, then one that is above Manchester, by the way its better that I don't dwell on the sites we are assessing so I'll just mention their general area so you can follow the route. Just for once we are not travelling with our water tank full. Someone once worked out how little extra cost there was in carrying an extra 100Kg of water around so thats not the reason we are travelling empty. Its just that filling up at home is awkward and I emptied the tank out after our first trips away this year. Still we will be at a campsite tonight and have bottled water for any other needs (including flushing the loo).
It was an uneventful journey and we completed two of our assessments so the evening was spent writing them up. The site that we are staying at is situated in a country park so we all had a good walk after dinner. One other feature of the first few days is that we bring some meals with us which lessens the house keeping chores early on.
Day Two. Again the plan is to do a couple of campsites whilst wending our way North. When I was planning the assessments, doing them in the order North to South (or vice-versa) meant we were doing lots of mileage, criss-crossing the country, so rather than do the obvious thing and go on the M6 to start our Scotland trip we crossed the pennines and did sites near Ripon and Barnard Castle with one to follow at Hexham on our way up country, this shaved 150 miles off our driving between campsites which would repay us on the trip back. The weather wasn't so good today but it remained dry and fine.
The last site we did, and the one we stayed at overnight, had the advantage of selling their home baked cakes we bought scones and had lemon drizzle cake to look forward to the next day.
Day 3 Getting wetter. We started the day, after purchasing cake, by trying to find Hanna Hauxwell's meadow. You may remember that they found this lady living a life of drudgery in a remote cottage with no services at all. They made some TV programmes about her and her life and it turns out she was (and still is) a very intelligent woman, now living out her days in a much more modern cottage in Cotherstone nearby. Well we turned down the correct lane but the road got too poor for our motorhome so we turned back. In all probability we had already passed it! We had seen it before in 1995 in mid summer with all the wild flowers in bloom and rationised that it wouldn't look as good in early May.
We had only one site assessment planned, near Hexham, and after that we went for tea at a friends house in Haydon Bridge. As we left it started to rain properly and continued more or less until we found a CS in small village just off the A76 above Dumfries.
Day 4 A dry start. All the Alan Rogers stuff was stowed away and we started our Scottish holiday by having a walk around the village in the morning sunshine. Eventually we realised that we had strayed from the route advised by the owners and wisely we retraced our steps to the farm. We then left, first of all going to my Aunt and Uncle who live in Prestwick, Ayrshire and then on to some friends of ours for the night near Bridge of Weir. Nancy and Alan entertained us royally as we have come to expect. After the dry start it rained on and off for the rest of the day.
Day 5 'Proper' Scotland. After leaving Alan and Nancy there was just time to drive across the Erskine Bridge to be in time for lunch with Jan and Brian at Balfron, who we only 'knew' from having mutual friends on Facebook. Say what you like about social media it has certainly brought us in touch with some very nice people. All too soon it was time to leave them and head further North. Our intention was just to get a bit closer to Kyle of Lochalsh that night. We headed North via Lochearnhead and then West to Crianlarich, which looks a huge dogleg but starting from Balfron it was probably just as easy as retracing our steps and going on the A82 up the west side of Loch Lomond. It was also a route that, if we needed to stop early, had several wild camping spots that we knew of from our 2011 trip in the area. However we pushed on past tea time (which we spent in a parking spot just before Crianlarich) and headed for Rannoch Moor. Almost as soon as we got there it started raining heavily with windy squalls so we found a parking spot near the top of Glencoe to spend the night. Before we closed up for the night two groups of red deer passed close by. This was our first wild encounter and our first wild camp on the trip. It wasn't to be our last of either.
View from our window, Glencoe
Day 6 On to Skye. We needed some stores before going to the Hebrides so, after admiring the view some more, we drove to Morrisons at Fort William. By the time our shopping was done and we left Fort William it was getting awfu' dreich as the following photo taken on the shores of Loch Lochy shows. To be honest the day didn't get much better than that, except that it was sunny for a short while when we first arrived at Uig and then stayed dry, if overcast for the evening.
Loch Lochy and Uig Bay
The ferry that goes between Uig and the Outer Hebrides alternates between Tarbert on Harris and LochMaddy on N Uist. Each day the Calmac timetable is different and it isn't the easiest to read, the two different destinations for the same ferry aren't even on the same page, also it was bank holiday Monday and I thought that meant a different timetable but it didn't. So plenty of chances for me to misread the timetable and I did. When we arrived at Uig we could have gone straight to Tarbert but we had planned on going to the southern islands first so that left us choosing between an evening sailing to Lochmaddy or waiting at Uig overnight and going at 14.00 the next day. Not wanting to arrive at a strange place in the dark we elected to spend 24hrs at Uig! After we were committed to stay in the campsite I reread the timetable and the Monday evening sailing got to Lochmaddy before 8pm, hardly dark in these latitudes.
At the campsite that afternoon another Chausson Flash 02 pulled up beside us, apart from a coincidence, it was also a surprise because it was a brand new one and as far as we knew the model was discontinued in favour of the S2 in 2009. It was a hire van and the owners had trouble with the truma boiler not working. I offered to help which gave me a chance to look around it. It was on a Fiat chassis rather than in our view the better Ford one, the Nordelettronica electric bits had been replaced by a Chausson branded system of unknown provenance and the shower room has had a modern makeover. They have redesigned the front section of the roof and hopefully that has removed the tendency for leaks there. The rest of the van was the same as mine. I reckon customers thought the idea of the S2's 3/4 of a fixed bed as silly as I did. I couldn't help them with the boiler, but they were taking it back in a few days so they weren't too bothered
Day 6 North Uist. The morning at Uig was sunny so we had a walk around the port which included coffee and scones at the small tearoom before boarding our ferry.
We have two cameras with us plus the ipad and a smart phone. At some point we noticed that the smaller camera had a dirty lens which we duly cleaned however now that we are back we can see that the photographs taken with it before we cleaned it are very badly affected with a blurred centre part. Unfortunately we tend to only use one camera at a time preferring the smaller one for ferry trips and walking. Hence the blurring on three out of four:
Campsite at Uig, Ferry and arrival Lochmaddy
At Lochmaddy we drove around the northern edge of North Uist, having spent sometime at a small beach parking spot at Greinetobht we ventured inland and found our nights wild camp near Beinn a Charra. We did look at staying high up near some aerial masts and a lookout post for St Kilda but it was outside an MOD fence with CCTV so we didn't feel comfortable with it.
Day 8 A rainy day. It was to be the pattern that every couple of days we would get a sunny day with at least one overcast or rainy day in between. Near our nightcamp there was a Britstop Pub. It was very small but our guide said that they served food there so we earmarked it as a possible place for a stay on Doreen's birthday in a few days time. Before we left N Uist we went down a little lane that was marked as a sculpture trail, at the end we found this, in our eyes more like a seat than a sculpture, perhaps they thought so too and labelled it to make sure we knew we had arrived.
We then drove across Benbecula by the western coastal road. There was a museum at a college and we thought we would get a flavour of the islands there. Unfortunately we were told that it was entered through the library which was closed for lunch. So we went back to the van and had our lunch and returned an hour later to find the library open but the museum closed. We left Benbecula and went on to South Uist. The rain eased and then stopped giving us a dry evening and we found a wild spot to stay at the end of a lane near Loch Sgiopoirt. I took the dogs for a walk along the path towards Hecla, a mountain in the distance. To give you a flavour of the day here were our afternoon companions and part of our walk:
We went to bed with it dull and still, were woken up in the middle of the night (4am) by the wind rocking the van and rain lashing down, and woke up again at 7 to sunshine!
Day 9 Otters and more. Before leaving our wild spot we decided to walk down to the Loch in the sunshine.
Doreen was first to notice it, thinking it was a seal. It broke surface several more times and by now we could clearly see it was an otter and a big one, about 4ft long. Luckily we had our big camera and took the one reasonable shot of it swimming.
Then just when we thought we weren't going to see it again it popped out of the water for just long enough to get another shot of it.
I've seen otters in zoos and just the merest hint of them in the water but this was the best yet. On this bright sunny morning we repeated some of the walk that I did the previous day in the murk.
From here we carried on south eventually reaching Eriskay after visiting a museum (open!) near Flora MacDonald's birthplace where we bought a present for the lady mowing our lawn. Like North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist, Eriskay is connected by a causeway to the other islands. There is a nice beach there and we spent the afternoon in the sun giving the dogs their beach run and a little sea swim. It wasn't warm but eventually I got down to a T shirt and Doreen removed one layer (her waterproof coat).
Loch Sgiopoirt and Eriskay
We had noticed several wild camp possibilities so retraced our path back to Gearraidh me Monadh but as we did an owl swooped down over a grassy field alongside the road it was only a short glimpse but a quick check in a wildlife book we carry confirmed it as a short eared owl which was another first for us and made our day complete.
Day 10 Barra. I woke up and suggested to Doreen that we should go to Barra for her Birthday. Why hadn't we been going there anyway? Well ferry fares to and from the Outer Hebrides are covered by RET which I think stands for Road Equivalent Tariff and is a subsidised scheme keeping the fares down. Inter island ferries such as Eriskay to Barra are not covered by it so we get the situation that a 40 minute each way trip to Barra would cost £80 whereas the 1 hour 45 minute trip each way between Outer Hebrides and Uig would cost only £69. So cheapskates that we are we had decided not to go. Anyway Birthdays are a different budget and nothing is too good or expensive for Doreen. So a little later we were at the ferry terminal at Eriskay looking at a very wet ferry boat - well it had been nice yesterday.
As we parted with a goodly sum of money for out trip I noticed that there was a notice in the on board office with codes for delays, there were 56 different ones and the last one was 'All others' most of them seemed to be a way of blaming external influences from weather to late traffic to abnormal tides, various livestock difficulties and if those didn't cover it there was some to cover engineering department failures at least there wasn't a code for 'Captain drunk', but crew incapacitated could have covered it. These codes should be read alongside the rules for getting money back or services if the ferry was delayed. Basically short of the ferry sinking because of an incompetent rock you wouldn't get the price of a cup of tea.
First stop on Barra was to visit the airport whose runways are a must see, thats because its a beach. Back to the small blurry camera.
After failing to find a couple of camp sites shown on our map we found a small campsite on top of a small cliff overlooking the sea on the western side of the Island, quickly checking out the loos we found them to be excellent so booked a couple of nights. When we subsequently found others we realised that we had chosen wisely.
The sea state stayed around the same the whole time we were there, well occasionally it got worse
Day 11 Doreen's birthday Barra. We started out by going as far south as its possible to go on Barra, which is actually on to another island, Vatersay, which is connected by a short causeway. There is a beautiful beach there and we got out of the van to explore it, but it rained and it blew and it might have briefly hailed as well. So we cut short our visit.
We drove back to Castlebay the 'capital' of Barra, and sought out a birthday lunch spot. Now we had seen good reviews of a most unlikely place called Cafe Kisimal which from the outside looks like a leanto shed and isn't a lot better inside but clean at least. Also it serves Indian and Italian food which is not a combination I have ever met before. When we got the menu you could see it had pedigree and although we were spoilt for choice both had a salmon carbonara pasta dish. We were both delighted with our meals and the service. www.cafekisimul.co.uk/
The only thing spoiling it was that Jake and Lottie in the van parked just outside our window started barking and howling very early on in our meal. That is why they are seldom left alone now, its an age thing.
We drove up to the airport again, we never saw a plane all the time we were there, and went on to the extensive beach beyond the airport at Sgurabhal and guess what the sun came out to play again so with a lovely meal inside us we attempted to walk it off on the sands. Doreen enjoyed all the seasons of her birthday.
Day 12 Leaving Barra. It rained overnight again we were going to shop some more in Barra but being Sunday it was closed. So we completed a tour of the Island and went back to the beach again at Sgurabhal. I have to say we were disappointed in Barra. It is so untidy. Now I fully realise that when crofting or subsistance farming there has to be utility and we didn't expect twee cottages but it was a tip. Rusting vehicles everywhere, gas cylinders, broken pallets and generally just heaps of decay. For an island that expects to earn some revenue from tourism its just too depressing; the other islands were so much better. So after our walk on the sunny beach we were quite happy to see our ferry back to S Uist.
We drove back up through S Uist and just onto to Benbecula taking a right turn towards Port Pheadair. At one point on the road which went from islet to islet we found a suitable place to stop just off the road, the photo seems to show us in a passing place but there were three passing places as well as this longer layby.
Day 13 On to Harris. It hailed in the night and the van rocked and rolled. We feared for the two gulls that were nesting on nearby rocks but when we got up they were still okay and there was bright sunshine again. However black clouds would never be far away today.
We drove first of all to Lochmaddy to visit a arty exhibition and get some wifi. We had very little 3mobile on the Hebrides and so had some catching up to do. Then we carried on across the causeway to Bernaray to catch the ferry across the Sound of Harris. Whilst we were there we saw seals
It was blowing half a gale when we got on the ferry but it was a very smooth ride. If you look at the Ordnance map the ferry route is more or less due East then due North but the reality is that you are turning this way and that, following buoyed channels between isolated rocks and islets for the first half of the journey. We spent the whole journey talking to a lady, our dogs are people magnets, so I never got to take the photos I wanted. Again an inter island trip is not covered by RET so it would have been an expensive £61 for 60 minutes but this time it was covered by the Hopscotch 14 ticket that we bought at Uig so there was some saving on the fare. We arrived on Harris about 3pm and headed for the Coop at Leverburgh. Then we went exploring the southwest of Harris with half an eye on finding a camping spot for the night.
It was dull and damp and we saw several places to stop. There is something called the West Harris Trust which invites you to stay on what are more or less laybys on the single track roads, probably they are just beefed up passing places, anyway they also invite you to send them £5 for their use. By the time we got there most of them were occupied. We tried one or two other places in the Losgaintir area but then pushed on thinking we would find something better. We should have stayed, because after exploring the roads around Cliuthar we eventually parked for the night in a manky littered area on the main road a few miles south of Tarbert.
Day 14 to The Butt of Lewis. There is a mountain pass between Tarbert and Stornoway, its a very good road and was great in the early morning sunshine, it is probably magnificent in really good weather but by the time we got to Stornoway the fine weather had been replaced by showers. After shopping at the coop we parked up and walked around town a bit then refuelled and carried on to the Butt of Lewis, which is for the most part a long and boring straight road, well 27 miles and one major right turn. Still by eary afternoon we were at the Lighthouse marking the northerly extremity of the Outer Hebrides after being at the southern extremity three days before.
Note for anyone wildcamping here, it can be blowy, make sure you park so your door wont be blown off its hinges. We had plenty of time between showers to walk around the headland. There was another suitable wild camping spot half a mile before the lighthouse, when we were on a walk we saw that it was now occupied by the same Chausson Flash 02 that we saw at Uig. New people though, I wonder if the Truma boiler was fixed for them. On a similar subject we were very glad about having our Webasto heater for several of the nights on the Hebrides especially this coming night and early morning.
On and around Butt of Lewis
Day 15 On towards West Lewis. Again after dark clouds yesterday and a storm in the night we awoke to bright sunshine so we walked some more on the headland, at one time seeing some lambs that didn't seem to be moving. We moved closer their heads popped up and soon mum was telling us off.
So we retraced our path down the A857 for 15 miles then instead of heading towards Stornoway kept on the coast (A858), we were heading for the Black House Village, before we got there we were distracted by signs to the Black House Museum, having established that it was the wrong place we continued to the village.
We realised as soon as we arrived that we were following a tour bus full of trippers from the US of A, apart from the accents its the clothes that you notice first, no matter what else they wear they finish off their ensemble with a pair of sneakers. The first words I heard from them was one woman saying is this the place where we eat? Luckily it wasn't and even more luckily they were overdue back on their coach so we were left in peace to contemplate what living in a black house was like. This one was only abandoned in the 1950's. Apart from anything else the house we went in was on a slope. Now I don't bother getting the levellers out for every pitch that we stay at, so am used to not being exactly level but the slope in this house was extreme you had to hold on going downhill. Having watched a film about Harris tweed weaving we left for the most famous Hebridean tourist attraction the Doune Broch.
Its on the pages, if not the front cover, of just about every Hebridean tour guide. A broch is a sort of iron age castle, it has hollow walls and presumably used to have a roof. We were able to climb around inside and it was quite an impressive structure compared with the broch we had seen on Orkney. If your Hebridean guidebook doesn't have the Doune Broch on its front cover, then it certainly has the Calanais standing stones which were a few miles away and where we headed next.
Our hearts sank, the tour bus was in the car park but rose again when we saw that the trippers were in the cafe. So we were able to see the stones without being accompanied by too many others. As the trippers started to exit the cafe for the stones, we were able to clear up an important question about 'stones' with one of the staff there. All over the Hebrides we had seen brown concrete structures by the side of the road, about eight foot tall, they had four chamfered vertical 'walls' arranged in a cruciform and balanced on top was a circular or square pad of concrete perhaps eight to twelve foot in diameter, looking like a rocket fins supporting a plate. We asked what they were and we were asked what our best guess was, I said 'bus shelter' and was shaken by the hand and congratulated for being correct. They were made like that so that from whatever direction the wind came there would be shelter. Sorry I took no photos of them but here is an image from the web.
Well after three nights wild camping we felt that a camp site would be nice, we knew of one back a bit on the road but it didn't look great and thought we would carry on and see what we could find but we were about to fall off our Ordnance maps! There is a large overlap of OS 13 by OS 8 and 14 and on our road atlas could see only two roads in the area so when I ordered my maps (from Dash4it) I left off OS13. I knew there was a campsite at Cnip but that didn't figure on our maps so on we went blind. After noting a couple of wild camp possibilities in this new area called Uig (like on Skye) we found the camp site at Cnip. Its set amongst the dunes boardering a lovely open beach so we duly camped there to enjoy a shower for £1.
Day 16 Uig. We spent some of the morning on the beach blue skies but it was still chilly though.
After the beach we drove up to the Uig Heritage Centre then on to the Community Shop, which was a sort of Coop, we left our washing there for a service wash and spent the day on the nearby beach (Traigh Uige) after buying an explorer map of the area. We are definitely spoiling the dogs with the beaches
At this beach they had really good showers and loos designed to service the hardstanding day parking (free), there was a place to camp nearby which we earmarked for later, but no indication of charges. A wild camp with showers, awesome! After our day on the beach we got our dried washing and headed back down the very pretty Glen Bhaltois to Loch Sgailleir for our wild camp, such a lovely place.
Day 17 Uig. Just to celebrate how nice our night spot was here are some more photos, it was cold in the night though, good old Webasto.
I had decided to walk up Glen Bhaltois, so Doreen dropped me at the bottom and headed up to the Heritage Centre again, (blurry camera again). It's only a three km walk, very pretty with slight bends opening up new vistas every so often, towards the end I saw what I thought to be an Eagle, it was being mobbed by some small back birds - these turned out to be large Ravens (I checked later and locals told me there were no buzzards in the Glen and an Eagle or two had been seen there). The community centre wasn't open by the time I reached Doreen so she carried on driving up to Aird Uig.
There used to be an RAF station there but now its a hotel and tourist accomodation, nothing much else to see apart from the glorious views so after looking around so we drove back to the heritage centre which houses a cafe and museum. Excellent coarse smoked salmon pate on oatbreads and cake and coffee to follow. After a drive down the west side of Uig to Breinis and then back up to the radio station at Mhangarstaide we went back to Traigh Uige to camp for the night once the day visitors had left.
It was windy and cold by bedtime. Lottie was allowed on our bed for a brief warm up under my jacket before the heater warmed the van up.
Day 18 Bearnaraigh and back to Skye. We woke to a windy grey day, after another trip down the Bhaltois glen and around and past Cnip we left Uig thinking to spend the night on Great Bernera. Well we drove around there but couldn't see anything suitable. So after a while went back towards Stornaway. It was by then quite miserable and very windy so we decided to go back to Skye. We booked the 8pm Ferry from Tarbert but shortly after got a text saying there were delays. What were we thinking, it had been windy off and on for days and was building up to a wild night. In the event the boat was 90 minutes late and we went back to Uig on Skye in a full gale. Having said that, it wasn't an unpleasant crossing and we arrived at Uig around 11pm. We parked up next to the sign that said 'no overnight parking' and went to sleep.
Day 19 Skye. After an early start we had breakfast at Treaslane overlooking L Snizort Beag. Then we drove past Dunvegan castle to Claigan and walked to the coral beaches beyond, it was a beautiful day as the photos show and at the end we got to see some common seals. Common Seals which are the more common worldwide are rarer than grey seals which are the more common here... Kapish?.
After our beach walk we drove to Neist point with the idea of parking overnight in the lighthouse car park, unfortunately the rest of Scotland seemed to have the same idea so we didn't linger there. In the photo the lighthouse is hidden by the headland so we have given you the obligitory cute lamb picture instead. We camped nearby.
Jake wanted to be in a cute picture as well. We carry a dog bed with us which generally Jake sleeps in during our travels. When we stop it prevents access to the fridge so we move Jake out and it gets put either outside (normally underneath at night), or on the bed. On this occasion we only wanted milk for our drinks from the fridge so it was dumped on the table. Jake saw this as a challenge so scrambled up there.
Day 20 Skye Glen Eynort. It was misty but very mild as we came down from our rather lofty wildcamp. First we drove to Portree for food shopping and also to look for some presents. We went there via Bracadale and the B885 over the hills which is a nice way to go if the road is quiet, otherwise the passing places might be too far apart. From Portree its down to Sligachan back to Carbost and on to Glen Brittle. We stopped for lunch in a forestry parking place where we wild camped in 2009 then went down to the campsite at Loch Brittle. The site was quite expensive anyway and wanted to charge a £1 each for the dogs and £6 for electricity, now we didn't want electricity but I'm not paying for dogs if they don't make any effort for them, dog walk etc, by my reckoning its just a fine for having dogs so we left and went to the next glen, Glen Eynort where we found a nice wild camp in the forest.
That afternoon we went for a walk and saw some roe deer. As we came back to our van we met the lady who lived in the nearest house, we were a little afraid that she was going to ask us to move on, which of course we would have done even though the van was ready for the night, but no she just wanted to tell us about the deer and warn us about her dog who might come visiting, he was very friendly but rather large. (the next morning a big black lab came sniffing around). This was one day we didn't take photos we get days like that. Although we both swear blind that the other had a camera with them!
Day 21 More Skye. After another walk in the forest we drove up the glen and stopped at the 'Wee Tea Room', If there is room for you, we recommend stopping, it had a really nice selection of home made cake, they sell stunning photos of wildlife mainly birds and if its birds you want to see the feeders out side the picture window are full. Siskins and chaffinches at the time we were there. We drove to end of L Harcourt just to see what was there... a wheelie bin lorry, and then went back to Carbost where we parked up at the Talisker distillery. Doreen stayed in the van knitting while I did the distillery tour.
I dont know how much you know about whisky, but it seems to me that the label 'single malt' is being stretched by the likes of Diageo, who own Talisker. All the spirit is distilled at Carbost but then it is put in tankers and taken to their depot somewhere on the mainland where it is diluted and then put into barrels, they don't use Skye water for the dilution. Even the barley comes from the Black Isle near Inverness and arrives ready malted and peated. Some barrels are brought back to Carbost to mature. When the whisky is bottled, again on the mainland, whisky from different barrels and ages is blended to acheive a similar product. You know thats a very similar to a blended whisky the only difference is that that is blended from the output of several distilleries and may or may not also include grain whisky. Don't get me wrong I like Talisker but I think like many products the requirements of supermarkets and other business interests prevail.
After Carbost we made our way back towards Braccadale and rediscovered our cameras.
Loch Harcourt and Lambs
We then went to the camp site at L Sligachan and somewhere today the van passed 20,000 miles which isn't bad since we haven't had it three years yet and it only came with 2,400 on the clock. tommorrow promises better weather than we have had for the last two days, but snow is forecast as well.
Day 22 to Applecross. Sure enough there were breaks in the cloud as we packed up to leave Skye and the day promised much, first the drive to Broadford for fuel and provisions at the coop then off Skye and headed up to Plockton.
Plockton has never disappointed us and today it was sunny as usual, over the years we have taken the same photo: the telephone box with the cottages behind with varying amounts of blue sky this is this year's effort.
So shall we go to Applecross over the Bealach na Ba (pass of the cattle) - no no we have been saying, vans too wide, its too narrow, steep, bendy we won't do it, its too dangerous oh ok then the pass it is. So around 16.30 I guess we are on the summit having got up without too much difficulty. we then decided we would stay overnight there and teated suitable spots in the car park to move to once the 'tourists' had gone home. Before that had happened it snowed and we were worried for some of the people who had left their cars here and had gone wandering, some to the summit by the radio mast. They came back ok but then it hailed and snowed some more and we had to consider our position. What if we got snowed in and they closed the snow gates did we really want to be marooned 550m above sea level, and what if it put others at risk checking we were ok. It was the latter that finally persuaded us to carry on once the road was clear. We would have been ok for a week or more with our diesel heating solar panel, and freshly refuelled and reprovisioned. One thing we noticed as we looked out across the sound to Skye was a submarine going northward with its fin showing, where had that come from? There would have been no room for it to go through the sound of Sleat, ah one of life's little mysteries.
So we carried on to Applecross and to the other side of the Bay, when we parked up we found we had no phone or internet but we had told people that we were on top of the Bealach na Ba what if it got really bad and people worried about us so we drove about for an hour or so until we could send texts. We then settled down for the night near Sand in a different spot to where we had wildcamped before (2009).
Day 23 Glen Torridon and Glen Carron. It was a very wet start to the day with squally showers hitting us from time to time. I think the road around the top to Shieldaig is in places as difficult as Bealach na Ba and so it proved for a motorbiker as he came towards us. There were three in convoy and they met us near the bottom of a narrow dip and bend in the road but there was room enough to pass. The first on a Harley got past us ok the second braked hard but got by ok the third braked too late skidded, hit the second and fell under his bike just in front of us, we were stationary by now. Well there wasn't too much damage to bike or biker and once we had lifted the bike off him, given him a coffee and patched up his bike with duct tape he was able to continue. Could have been much worse, but I have to say there were very impressed with the tape repair.
Loch Torridon and incident site
We carried on into Shieldaig where we stopped for a newspaper, then carried on alongside Loch Torridon and Glen Torridon. As you go from OS map 24 to 25 the map doesn't align exactly and slides south by 10 km. My navigator became more and more exasperated as the features she was expecting from the map failed to materialise so eventually we had to stop to sort out where we were. I don't know if it was a coincidence but just about then she took over driving for the rest of the day. We drove to Kinlochewe and turned right to start up Glen Docherty on our inevitable return south. We took another right to delay things and explore Glen Carron eventually stopping at Craig to wild camp at a forestry park place there. That afternoon as the weather hovered between wet and dry we went for a walk over the railway line towards the Achnashellach forest.
Glen Docherty and our camp site
Dingwall to Kyle line and Fuar Thoil
Day 24 A railway experience. When you start the drive from Plockton you go for a while alongside the railway and we had remarked it would be nice to do that trip. Yesterday, seeing that the line goes down Glan Carron, that made it even more attractive. So what we decided to do was drive towards Dingwall until we arrived at a station on the line at a suitable time to catch the train to Kyle. So after leaving our wild camp we had breakfast alongside a loch in the glen and drove towards Dingwall. We had established the train times at various stations so made for Garve, we had enough spare time to get to another station if there was no easy parking there, but it was ok and so we caught the train to Kyle about 30 minutes later.
It was a lovely ride, persuading my camera to shoot through the glass proved difficult but I hope these give a flavour of our journey.
When we arrived at Kyle we walked around, got some fish and chips for lunch, then caught the train back to Garve, this time just enjoying the views, ok two more photos of the trip. We then headed for the Caravan and Camping site at Dingwall and decided to stay there for two days.
Day 25 Dingwall. We had wall to wall sunshine all day, so we did our laundry then walked around Dingwall more or less for the rest of the day. Dingwall has just one main shopping street but lots of interesting little shops. Plenty to keep us amused on a lazy day. I got a haircut. Then we had the barbeque out for only the second time this trip.
Day 26 on to Berwick on Tweed We had to do some sums we had thirteen more campsites to assess but it was a bank holiday weekend which can be difficult for assessments as everyone is so busy, we were also twelve days away from a hospital appointment for Doreen, we now weren't going to be able to meet up with our friend in Edinburgh. So what was it to be, meander slowly south and arrive at our first campsite after the the weekend and chance being rushed later or crack on. We decided to crack on because we could always take some time out on the trip down wild camping if campsites were too busy. Doreen shared the driving and we drove straight on Berwick on Tweed. We found the campsite and they found us a pitch for the night.
Day 27 and 28 Around and about Bamburgh and down to Morpeth. Today was the bank holiday Monday so were prepared to be turned away but the two we did in the morning weren't really too busy. We found a wildcamp just in case before going to the third who were full but they let us stay on their carpark. That evening we went for a walk around Seahouses. We were now well ahead of our plan but I had a serious amount of typing up to do, sometimes the previous site description just require some small details changing but unfortunately that often results in an awkward sentence or paragraph which may need extensive rewriting to make it read well. This was the case with three of the last four sites so I had to burn the midnight oil a bit.
Another two sites completed on the Tuesday and we were also able to spend the afternoon at Boulmer sands in the last of the sun, unfortunately one of the sites was well run down. Its actually more difficult to write honestly about a poorer site than a good one especially if due to a change in ownership or other consideration it might be about to be turned around.
Day 29 and 30 Durham We were offered a night's stay when we arrived at the first campsite in the Durham area that we had to do. Now normally we wouldn't stay at a site that we had arrived at before lunchtime but Doreen had been coughing in the night and was tired, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it wasn't a bad location for visting a friend nearby so we stayed. We were also well ahead of our plan. So we had a fairly lazy day Doreen recharged her batteries and I reveiwed the campsite assessments so far done. When we assess sites we never give firm scores in the categories that we mark until we've completed the trip but we put down our gradings in a separate spreadsheet, later we transfer these to our assessment sheets after doing some comparisons and adjustments. For example its easy to give better scores on some categories if it happened to be sunny when you walked around so we need to look objectively at our gradings once more. In Ireland last year we had seen lots of sites that were barely up to standard but our marks tended to be above our objective rating as we could see that they were good compared to others, then we had a run of very good sites so were able to mark the early ones back down to where we thought they should be.
So after visiting a friend that evening the next day we went on to do the other two sites that we had to do in the area it was a grotty misty day but both sites were up to par. These photos weren't from campsites but if you are going to put the union flag up perhaps you need to replace it once in a while and the seal was near the Tees barrage at Stockton, a long way from the sea.
Day 31 Bridlington and its sunny. After a couple of dulll days we had a sunny drive to Bridlington which took most of the day given that we didn't rush. Once we had pitched up we did the campsite assessment . Sometimes baby and child facilities are just a fold down changing board but sometimes you get a room with all this: Miniature wc, 3/4 bath with seat, low level sink etc etc.
Day 32 Sat 1st June Another longish set of drives today, two sites near York, but first shopping in Morrisons at Bridlington. We don't have one near us in Salisbury so tend to seek Morrisons out when on our travels, yesterday we had been disappointed when our sat nav route didn't take us past the one in Scarborough. By early afternoon we had finished the last two sites in the north east and our next site was near Southampton. We also had family camping near Winchester but only for one more night. We thought we would see how far we got. It was a warm and sunny day again and after two hours driving on the A1 and M1, I was ready to call it a day so we found a CS near Bosworth, off the M42, and settled down for the night, later we were to see and hear huge firework display a mile or so distant. The dogs weren't bothered.
Day 33 Hamble We did have a plan A, to get as far as Morn Hill and stay with family but they had packed up and gone long before we got near them, Plan B was to go to a campsite near Aldershot and for them to join us but they couldn't make it until after play school on Monday. So we just carried onto Plan C which was to do the last campsite at Hamble. This was done and we stayed Sunday night.
Day 34 Basingstoke Canal. We got here just after midday and shortly after we were settled Alix Sam and Toby arrived for an afternoon in the sun. Here you see them trying out the new table and chairs which we bought cheaply at a campsite because the fourth chair was missing.
Alix and Sam went home leaving Toby to spend the night. We didn't travel all around Scotland with the cushions to make up the childs bed so Alix had brought some bits and pieces along with Toby's new Duvet (he had just moved from a cot to a bed at home) We cobbled together a bed for him rearranged the doggy beds for them and got ourselves ready to go to bed and were reading him a bedtime story when a small voice said "I want to go home now" this was repeated with various degrees of urgency over the next half hour until Doreen relented and let him do a puzzle. He quickly fell asleep and order was restored. It would only have taken 20 mins to get home but we were locked in the campsite plus it would have taken ages to get the van driveable, we even had the awning pegged out.
Day 35 home and summary. Toby announced "I'm awake" but as this was after 8 o'clock on another sunny morning we didn't mind at all so soon we were all enjoying breakfast in the sun.
Mum joined us and left Sam with us whilst she did some child free shopping, we took the kids for a walk along the canal finding a play park in the woods and ending up back at the camp's vistor centre in time for lunch when Alix rejoined us.
Another friend joined us in the afternoon and by the time they all left and we were ready to go home we and the dogs were exhausted
We arrived home in the evening on our 35th day after travelling a total of just over 2,600 miles of which about 1,700 had been in Scotland. So some more facts:
Campsites assessed 18, taking nine days of our holiday
Number of free sites whilst assessing 9
Total spent on (8) campsites £119
Number of wild camps 16
Parked with friends 1 night
Wild animals recorded: Red Deer, Otter, Short Eared Owl, Common Seal, Grey seal, Great Northern Diver, Golden Eagle, Ravens, Roe Deer, Siskins.
OS Grid Refs of Wild Camps Outer Hebrides
S Uist NF 738165, NF 828386
Benbecula NF 842465
N Uist NF 785695 Approx
Harris NG 144974 Not recommended
Harris NG 078982 £5 to West Harris Trust
Lewis NB 520664, NB 084356, NB 048329
Photo Gallery: Scotland 2013
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