A meander across the northlands
July & August 2012
Driving north, A later start than planned
We had planned to leave home for Scotland on Sunday 22nd July but Kate had an infection in her leg where she had had some minor surgery. She had to return to the practice nurse on Monday afternoon to have it redressed and inspected and, fortunately the nurse gave the all clear to go away. We them booked sites for the first few days of the trip and made arrangements to visit RoadPro at Daventry to sort out and update our satellite system. We shopped and loaded the motorhome on Tuesday and left home on Wednesday morning.
An early start at 7:45 as we headed along the A14, A428, A421 then M1 to Daventry. We arrived earlier than planned at 10:30 and had to wait a while before Olly could come and sort us out. He did a fine job, making some adjustments to the auto skew and changing a spring on the dish and re-programming the controller.
We then made our way back towards the M1 with a stop for lunch before we hit 60 odd miles of motorway.
An easy drive north to our overnight stop at the Poolsbrook Country Park Caravan Club Site just a mile off the M1 at Staveley, south of Sheffield. (GPS N53°15’30.14″ W1°21’03.20″)
This was a fairly new site next to a country park with lakes that was a redeveloped coal mine. Very nicely laid out and in beautiful condition, it made a very pleasant stop over and one we would willingly come to again.
It had been a hot and steamy day so we finished it off with a BBQ, a couple of cold beers for me and a nice bottle of wine.
The Yorkshire Dales
A leisurely start to Thursday as we had a fairly easy drive to our next site. We made a detour from the A1 along the M18 through Doncaster to drop off a pack of Guinness and some Jaffa Cakes for Sam, one of the Vulcan engineering team, at Finningley. Then north on the M18 and M62 to join the A1(M) leaving the motorway at Leeming Bar and on to the A684 for the winding but lovely drive into Wensleydale.
We arrived at Bainbridge Ings campsite, just outside of Hawes, (GPS N54°18’03.56″ W2°11’09.84″ www.bainbridge–ings.co.uk ) at around 2pm on a murky damp day. This just has to be one of our favourite sites as it is the third time we have stayed. The views of the dale are glorious and when (or if) the evening sun lights up the stone walls and old field barns the ever changing colours are a glory to behold.
Friday morning and at last some sun and blue sky. The cloud built up during the morning but the stiff breeze kept them moving so we had some sunshine to brighten up the views. The swallows, who seem to nest in one of the sheds, were skimming the field, the sheep grazing contentedly and it is all a picture of rural calm.
Friday evening was the opening ceremony of the London Olympics so we watched it after supper. Wow! What a show. One reason for coming away at this time was to get away from the razzmatazz of all that sport but we thought the Danny Boyle production was fantastic. Just hope our athletes live up to the opening.
Saturday was cloudy and very windy with the odd patch of sun. We watched the only bit of the Olympics we were really looking forward to, the cycle road race. The whole race was on TV and we watched from start to disappointing finish. Cav, Wiggo and co couldn’t catch the breakaway group and were left behind despite their best efforts.
Onwards to Scotland
Sunday 29th July
We were booked on to a Camping and Caravan Club site at Rosemarkie, near Inverness, on Sunday night which meant a long drive on roads we didn’t know. I was keen to watch the Hungarian Grand Prix highlights which were on at 5pm so with 300 miles plus to cover we needed to be away sharpish in the morning. We also needed to refuel and get some food and found there was a Morrisons in Kendal.
Up early and away from Bainbridge Ings at 8.15 amid cloud and showers. The clear roads meant that I could take liberties by cutting corners and keeping well clear of the stone walls on the winding, narrow road across the dales towards the west. Over the moor and down into Garsdale the countryside in the narrow valleys seemed dark and brooding because of the clouds and rain. Onwards through Sedbergh and into Kendal just after 9am. I paid at the pump for the fuel and it was when the tank was nearly full that I remembered the reason for choosing Morrisons was because we had a discount voucher from our shopping in Ipswich. Too late to change so had to pay full price……’you stupid boy Pike’. After a quick whiz round the supermarket we were back on the road.
Driving north on the old A6 we climbed up to Shap reaching 439 metres high at one point. It wasn’t difficult to imaging lorries grinding their way up there in the ice and snow of the bleak winters before the motorway was opened. Onto the M6 and a nice comfortable cruise in light traffic past Penrith and Gretna where the road became the A74(M). Past Lockerbie and on towards Glasgow where we joined the M73, M80 and the M9 which morphed into the A9 at Dunblane.
All the time I was conscious of our arrival time on site but Garmin was telling me we would be there before 5pm. We had stopped at a motorway service area for a coffee on the M6 and we needed a stop for lunch. It would be tight.
One of the things that keeps us amused in France is counting the enormous number of roundabouts we have to go round so imagine my delight when the sat nav showed the next A9 junction to be a roundabout in 106 miles. What an amazing road the A9 is! Mile after mile of wide sweeping bends interspersed with stretches of dual carriageway or overtaking lanes, mostly with a good smooth surface. Add to that the wonderfully scenery and light traffic and you have a terrific drive. We made excellent time despite a few crawlers (is it the Scots notorious care with money that makes so many of them eek out their petrol by driving slowly?) by keeping up a high cruising speed, probably a little faster than we should.
We arrived at Rosemarkie (GPS N57°34’59.69″ W4°06’33.05″) at about 4.25 to check in and be shown to our pitch. No EHU for us as all those pitches were taken but as consolation the pitches without hook up are on the ‘front row’ with uninterrupted views across the Moray Firth. After a bit of shunting we got level on the uneven grass and put the front wheels up on levelling ramps. I filled the water tank and went inside to try tuning in the digital TV. It tuned in and stored just as ‘The Chain’ opened the GP highlights.
After 330 miles how was that for timing?
Monday 30th July
After our long drive the previous day we had just sat and savoured the lovely view although I did stretch my legs with a walk along to the village. A pleasant supper and a nightcap while we looked out at the winking lights on the buoys,then to bed where we both slept like logs.
It was bright and sunny in the morning and we sat in the van watching dolphins leaping and hunting in the bay. A lazy day just looking at the sea but at the morning wore on the clouds built up and we had numerous showers. After lunch we walked along the footpath beside the golf course and towards the lighthouse until Kate thought she had walked enough and we turned round and went back to the ‘ranch’ for tea and medals.
Tuesday 31st July
Another bright and sunny morning with clouds over the hills to either side but clear overhead with the sun making the sea really twinkle. We spent the morning doing nothing, as usual, although I did finally get round to a couple of chores. The wind got up into a stiff breeze and shifted round to the north east. Despite that there were lots of families on the beach near the village and after lunch we walked along for a look round. We found the excellent butcher/green grocer/deli where we bought pasties, a venison and haggis pie and some tomatoes to go with our bacon for a BBQ breakfast. We were very impressed with the shop which had an excellent selection of tempting food.
Wednesday 1st August
It was our 42nd Wedding Anniversary that day so there was a bottle of bubbly in the fridge for that night.
It was the Olympic cycling time trial and so we watched as Wiggo won the gold medal with Chris Froome getting bronze. Great!
Another day of showers and cloud but in a clear patch during the afternoon I decided that I was going to walk along for a look at the lighthouse and the view across to Inverness. A brisk walk beside the golf course and just started to take some photos when it started to rain. It was an even brisker walk back along the beach with the rain beating against the hood of my jacket.
A nice supper, helped by our bottle of fizz and we watched a seal keep popping his head above the surface to peer at us.
Thursday 2nd August
We were heading north again to the very top of Scotland at Dunnet Bay CC Site. (GPS N58°36’55.70″ W3°20’42.64″) A quick stop to fuel the beast and to Morrisons to fuel us plus an LPG top up and we were on our way in cloud, mist, drizzle and rain. It was a spectacular drive in places but we couldn’t see a lot because we were in cloud quite often. We arrived at our site in thick mist and could just about see the other side of the site, let alone the view of the sea. By the evening it was raining but the mist had lifted a little.
We had covered about 120 miles for the day.
Friday 3rd August
At least we could see the sea that morning although there was still cloud and mist shrouding the hills on either side of us. Slowly the cloud cleared during the morning and the sun came out to brighten up the view and our spirits. Chairs and awning out and for almost the first time we sat outside. Hooray!
It was a lovely afternoon sitting out in the warm sun. The air was quite cool so the warmth of the sun didn’t make it uncomfortably hot, just very pleasant to sit out in. Before supper we sat out with a glass of chilled rosé to round off a very pleasant day.
Saturday & Sunday 4th-5th August
The sea mist (haar) was back and just kept rolling in and out all day. First you could see the hills to one side then the mist would cover them and you could see the other side of the bay. We went for a walk on the beach late in the afternoon and shortly after we got back the rain started.
Spent the evening watching the Olympics which we were really getting into by then. The enthusiasm and excitement just seemed to sweep everybody along and it was a great evening for Team GB.
Sunday was a wet start and stayed murky all day so we sat and watched more sport. The mist and fog made it cold enough for me to put the heating on.
Monday 6th August
More mist but it was moving around a lot so we left the site for the first time to drive the short distance to John O’Groats. We had been warned that there wasn’t much there and they were right, except that the caravan site has amazing views across the sea to the Orkney’s. After a look round we returned towards Dunnet but took a detour to visit Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the UK mainland. The fog beat us again. It was so thick at the top that we couldn’t even see the lighthouse, which is only yards from the car park. We gave up and drove on to Thurso to get some food and other essentials like beer and wine and a curry for supper.
Tuesday 7th August
The five nights we had booked and paid for at Dunnet Bay were over and we had decided we would have a night at John O’Groats. After rain for most of the night the fog had cleared so we tried Dunnet Head again. This time we could actually watch the sea birds on the cliffs and see across to the islands. The 360° view from the top of the hill was superb.
On to JO’G and the site with fantastic views. (GPS N58°38’36.77″ W3°04’05.40″) There is just a hint of haze but the Orkney’s are very clear. A cruise ship, cargo ships, fishing boats and ferries keep us watching the sea. As the sun starts to get low in the sky the reflection and light on the sea is beautiful and as darkness falls the lighthouses start to flicker and flash across the islands.
Just click on any picture below to see it full size.