Scotland trip, episode 2

Go west young man

Wednesday 8th August 2012

At sunset the previous night the sky had been clearing with large gaps in the cloud and we decided that we might stay for an extra day or two. On Wednesday morning it was grey again and although the visibility was very good across to the islands we changed the decision we had made the previous night and decided to move on towards the west.

Back along the A386 to Thurso where we stopped to top up the food store and the fuel tank and then west along the north coast to Tongue where we stopped for lunch in a great spot for wild camping, overlooking the Kyle of Tongue. (GPS N58°29’31.72″ W4°26’08.29″)

Tongue, a lovely spot for lunch or wild camping

Tongue, a lovely spot for lunch or wild camping

We were now on the A838 which threaded it’s way across moors and round lochs to Durness before turning south west to Loch Inchard. Keeping right on to the A894 we went through Scourie and ended the day at Kylesku Bridge where a huge parking area overlooked  Loch Glenghu and seemed a good place to spend the night. (GPS N58°15’28.04″ W5°01’35.39″)

Kylesku bridge

This must have been the most spectacular drive ever with wonderful views at every turn of the road. What a road it was; long stretches of single track with frequent passing places then suddenly a wide and open carriageway that one could hum along in sixth gear and just as suddenly it would deteriorate into little more than a country lane. On the whole the surface was excellent with hardly a pot hole to be seen and the traffic was light. We did 130 miles for the day but with all the twists and turns it seemed much further. This trip total was now 990 miles.

As we sat watching the loch a fishing boat came past on his way home. There were the usual gulls following when I spotted a larger, darker bird close to them. I grabbed the bins and saw one of the fishermen standing with his arm stretched above him, presumably holding up a fish. The large bird swooped in and grabbing  the fish in its talons settled on the water to eat its supper. From the markings it could have been a young golden eagle but to settle on the water with a fish it could have been an osprey. After we got home I checked our bird book and found out it was a white tailed eagle, quite a rare bird in the UK and only here after a re-introduction project in that part of  Scotland. We kept the fly screens closed all evening as there were loads of midges swirling around outside. No radio or mobile signals up there in the hills and I couldn’t even get a satellite signal because of the mountains so after supper it was an early night.

Bringing home the catch

Bringing home the catch

Thursday 9th August

We spent a very peaceful night in our glorified lay-by and didn’t hear a single vehicle during the night, only the owls calling. That had been our first experience of wild camping.

We set off on our scenic tour towards Skye but took the longer and twistier route round the coast. We joined the A837 then the A835 through Ullapool, where we topped up the fuel tank, then turned right on to the A832 which took us in a huge loop through the Wester Ross to Poolewe. At Kinlochewe we took the A896 in another loop through the magnificent Glen Torridon then across to Kishorn to join the A890 to Kyle of Lochalsh. We expected the Skye bridge to have a toll so were delighted to drive straight over and on to the last leg.

The Skye roads were first class and we made good time to our camp site at Dunvegan. (GPS 57°25’53.56″ W6°34’40.98″ www.kinloch-campsite.co.uk )The site was recommended by people we had met at a couple of sites because of the lovely views over the village and loch. When we arrived the site was quite full but we found a pleasant pitch, although there was no EHU available.

We had done 209 miles @ 24mpg. Quite good considering that many of the roads were single track which meant a lot of stopping and starting and were very hilly, down to second gear a couple of times. Once again the scenery had been magnificent and we even had some sunshine although it was only for a few minutes.

Friday 10th August

The site at Dunvegan was pleasant enough with nice views up the loch but it all seemed a bit haphazard and liking things neat and tidy we decided to move ten miles east to the CCC site on Loch Greshornish. (GPS N57°29’08.63″ W6°25’49.08″) I phoned ahead before we left our site and booked a pitch with EHU for three nights just in case they were full. We are a large unit and so had to be put on a pitch towards the back of the site where the views of the loch were blocked by other caravans but, even so, it was a lovely peaceful spot with lots of space. The best thing though, was that after almost two weeks of cloud the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.

Loch Greshornish C&CC site

Loch Greshornish C&CC site

We spent the afternoon sitting in the sun and reading or just watching the world go by. Supper was cooked on the BBQ, chicken for Kate and steak for me. We were a bit concerned about midges so ate inside but there didn’t seem to be many about so we could have stayed outside. We watched a bit of TV news and a little Olympics but I was soon dozing so it was another early night. I left the screens off the roof light over our bed so that we could look out for shooting stars, this being the season for them and the first clear sky’s since leaving home. The few times I woke and looked out during the night the sky was still too light to see any stars, let alone the shooting variety.

Saturday 11th August

Mo burnt my bangers

Awoke to sunshine and blue skies after a very peaceful night. Bacon and tomatoes cooked on the barbie for breakfast with the table outside for the first time this holiday.  Kate took advantage of the fine weather to do a mammoth washing session and swop the bed sheets around. At least we should be odour free again.

Quite a lot of cloud and a cool breeze for much of the day but in the afternoon the breeze dropped and it became rather warm, so warm that at one stage we both retreated inside and into the shade for a while. Barbequed bangers, beans and roast tatties for supper, eaten outside which, despite the still air, was mercifully lacking in midges. The bangers got a touch burnt because we had the Olympics on the TV and Mo Farah was running in the 5000 mtrs. Kate was getting quite excited and I just had to watch as well at nipping outside to turn the sausages over. It is safe to say that during the last two laps there was quite a bit of shouting and jumping up and down in the motorhome as Mo won the gold medal. By the time it was over there was a bit of smoke rising from the bangers but Mo got the blame.

View from our site

View from our site

Sunday 12th August

Quite a breeze and more cloud on Sunday morning but there was soon some hazy sun. Cooked bacon on the barbie to go with the fried eggs in a bread roll. Yum yum!

Deployed the windbreak as the wind got up, the cloud broke up and there was plenty of sun to enjoy. A glass of chilled wine with our lunch and the afternoon was spent on our loungers. By the evening the wind had dropped and there was a more humid feel to the air, the midges started to come out in force. We retreated inside for supper but I cooked steak and chicken outside, well covered up and anointed with midge deterrent.

We watched the Olympic closing ceremony which was superb with Queen, Pink Floyd and The Who. Bed after midnight.

Monday 13th August

We left Skye with some reluctance as we had enjoyed our stay on the CCC site. We might not have had the best of views of the loch but the place had a relaxed and friendly feel and we enjoyed it.

Another very scenic drive south and off the island with the Cuillin hills looking moody in the rain. Once out of the mountains the rain stopped until we climbed up and through Glen Shiel. Through Invergarry and along the length of Loch Lochy, past the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge and into Fort William where we stopped to stock up on food and fuel. Our chosen site was to be Bunree CC site (GPS N56°42’49.23″ W5°14’06.41″) where we had last stopped over thirty years ago. Then we had a 10ft Piper, our first caravan, which was towed by our Triumph Spitfire 1500 sports car. The van lighting was gas mantles, the water pumped by a floor foot pump, there was no battery on board and no heating. How times change!

Bunree seemed much bigger and more organised and regimented than last time with many more pitches. This time we were stuck right at the back with patchy views of the loch and a sloping pitch that was impossible to get level on. We had thought we might stay for two or three days if they had space but we were not impressed so decided to go on in the morning.

Tuesday 14th August

On the road again, still heading south, this time to Kintyre. Shock, horror, we got  snarled up in a traffic jam in Oban. Well, not really a traffic jam more like just a small queue but the first one we had seen in three weeks. The rest of the drive was uneventful with little traffic again and some lovely scenery, particularly down the west side of Kintyre. Right down to Campbeltown then north along the B842 to Carradale where we were staying on the CC site at Carradale estate. (GPS N55°35’13.23″ W5°29’28.13″ www.carradalebay.com )

Our pitch is right by the beach which is a crescent of sand facing south and with lovely views out to sea and across to the hills of Arran. The whole place has a good feel and the site is split up into small bays separated by hedges with only five or six pitches in each bay. First class mobile, TV and satellite reception.

From Skye to Carradale we did 266 miles @ 23.7mpg.

Carradale Bay from our window

Carradale Bay from our window

Wednesday 15th August

This was such a lovely site that we decided we would stay at Carradale Bay until Saturday then make a dash for home over two days. Fortunately we could stay on our pitch with a bit of juggling around by Colin, the very helpful site owner.

The wind had got up from the east but was warm and the BBC were forecasting heavy rain and strong winds later in the day. We had noticed a wind surf sail down by the beach but really hadn’t taken much notice until we were aware of Colin racing through the site and down onto the beach in his Range Rover. Kate had seen that the wind surfer was out near the rocks and off his board in the water. I grabbed the camera and headed for the beach where a small group, including Colin, were trying to launch a Rib. The windsurfer was swimming, having abandoned his board, and once they got the boat and engine sorted Colin and the chaps wife dashed out to pick him up. It was all over in a few minutes and the chap, who seemed well equipped with wet suit and buoyancy aids, appeared unharmed. His wife though, had been in a state of panic and had almost overturned the rib in her efforts to drag him aboard.

Launching for the rescue

Launching for the rescue

Heading for the casualty

Heading for the casualty

Alongside

Alongside

Safely back to shore

Safely back to shore

The rain and high winds turned up exactly as forecast and we had a noisy night with the wind shaking the van and something close to our heads rattling in the strongest gusts. In the morning I discovered it was the ladder which had just a slight movement in it.

Thursday & Friday 16-17th August

Still windy on Thursday morning but not as bad as it had been during the night. The low cloud gradually cleared and we had some sun although the sea was quite rough.

On Thursday night it rained for most of the night and Friday morning was misty and damp. It stayed like that for most of the day, only improving late in the afternoon when we had a little sunshine.

Saturday 18th August

We were heading home with plans to stop overnight at the C&CC site at Moffat. I had tried to book a nights stopover on-line but they will not accept bookings for less than two nights. As a club member that infuriated me, what is the benefit of being a member if you can’t get some sort of priority over non members?

So, I had started the day by feeling grumpy about one thing but things soon deteriorated. First the Garmin refused to switch on. The battery was low on Friday evening when I wanted to programme it and it cut out after I had finished. I assumed it would just switch on when the power was on but no, it was dead and refused all efforts to start it. The inboard sat-nav couldn’t detect any satellites either so I had to grab the map to make sure we went the right way as we left the site. After a couple of miles the on board unit woke up but Garmin was dead.

Several miles of narrow and bumpy single track road until we hit the A83 which is quite a decent road. We were making good time although the road was winding we were able to cruise at around 50mph most of the time. Then a Discovery came belting along in the opposite direction well over the white line and BANG! he clipped our mirror. We were both going quite fast and there didn’t seem to be any visible damage so there was not much point in stopping, in any case the Disco was long gone. When I finally stopped in a lay by I found that the mirror casing was split and the indicator lens smashed. So that will be another £280 up the shute. Not happy!

The rest of the drive went well and we made a small detour in Dumbarton to go to Morrisons for fuel and a couple of food items. Back on to the A82 then the motorways around Glasgow and on to the M74 south. We pulled into a service area for some lunch and decided to pass Moffat and carry on to Carlisle and the CC site   at Englethwaite Hall. (GPS N54°50’46.07″ W2°47’59.53″) A very pleasant site in trees with hints of views of the distant moors through the trees. We had a very warm welcome from the temporary wardens and were pitched and sitting in the sun within minutes.

We covered miles 227 miles @ 23.7 mpg.

Sunday 19th August

Back on to the M6 then a glorious drive across the Pennines on the A66 to Scotch Corner and the A1.

XH558 was due to fly to a private event that day so we decided on a little detour to see her take off from Finningly. I put a post on the Vulcan to the Sky Club forum asking if anyone would be bucket rattling that day as there had not been the usual chatter. When we arrIved there was a whole bunch of friends there; Jane & Malcolm, Sean and his dad, Jakspeed, Jocelyn, Stevew, plus a crowd of locals. It was a fantastic take off with the longest howl I’ve ever heard. We were going to leave as we had a long drive but then heard that she would be back earlier than we had thought so stayed to watch her land. It was a fine end to our holiday and good to meet up with friends.

Vulcan XH558 takes off from Finningly

Vulcan XH558 takes off from Finningly

The rest of our journey home was uneventful and as usual we returned to a pile of post on the door mat.

We covered  320 miles @ 24.2 mpg that day and 2020 miles total for the trip @ 23.7 mpg. We had also spent 69 nights in the motorhome so far this year.

Just click on any picture below to see it full size.

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