For a couple of years we have been intending to return to Scotland, having really enjoyed our last trip there four or five years ago.
I thought the ideal time would be June when the days are long and the weather should be good.
Plans (of a very rough sort) were drawn and a few stops pencilled in with the intention of leaving home on Monday 5th June.
Celine, our Carthago motorhome, needed to go to the dealers in Staffordshire to have one last warranty job completed after a part had to be ordered from Germany and my new bike needed to go to the importers in Loughborough to have a check and adjustment session. Both jobs were arranged for the Monday so they could be done in a rather roundabout en-route fashion.
First night stop was booked at the C&MHC Poolsbrook site, just off the M1 south of Sheffield and then another two nights at the Old Hartley site just north of Newcastle.
We left home bright and early to join the Monday morning fun on the A14 and M6. After driving for less that two hours we ran into rain which didn’t stop for another forty five hours.
With both maintenance jobs quickly done we spent a damp night at Poolsbrook where our intended walk around the park was abandoned. Next day, still in the gentle rain, we continued north until just south of Durham, when the rain became torrential reducing the A1M to a crawl. We reached Old Hartley site in drizzle but the torrent was following close behind.
Early on Wednesday morning the rain finally stopped and the sun appeared, although there was a strong wind from the north.
For some years I’ve fancied staying at Old Hartley with its lovely views over the sea and the lighthouse on St Mary’s Island. Despite the weather the site was full and although it’s difficult to get completely level with a long MoHo, it does mean that all pitches get a good sea view.
Despite the sun that day the Met Office long range weather forecast was looking more and more grim for the north of Scotland, so a decision needed to be taken.
Do we press on regardless or give the weather best and turn around and head south?
We are not the intrepid hill walker types who will don their wet weather gear and enjoy whatever is thrown at them. We are southern softies who enjoy the sun and warmth.
No contest! On Thursday morning we turned tail and headed for home to collect passports.
One nil to the weather!
Give me Sunshine.
After our dash home the passports, currency and papers were collected, thick sweaters, coats and boots unloaded and more shorts, tee shirts and sun goo loaded.
With a new Frequent Traveller package booked on-line with Eurotunnel, at lunchtime Friday we set off to Folkestone for the shuttle to France.
With no clear plan for a destination we stopped for our first night at Escalles, just south of Calais. For €11 Camping les Erables (GPS 50.91224º 1.72058º) is good value for a safe and peaceful night stop with lovely views across the channel to Dover.
Our original thoughts were to head south and make for the Lac de Pareloup in the hills of southern France. We also had friends at Lake Annecy and since it was somewhere we had never visited we decided to head for there.
Saturday morning saw us heading north to Dunkerque, then south east on the A25, past Lille, Valenciennes, Laon, Reims to our night stop at an aire beside Lac du Der Chantecoq (Camper Contact 1176). Except that the aire wasn’t there when we arrived. The aire is being redeveloped with pay barriers being installed and all re-landscaped. However, tucked away behind trees just across the road, is a car park that had now been taken over by motorhomes as a temporary aire. Very pleasant it was too, with nice views over the farmland with its resident cows.
After a quiet night we continued south east through St-Dizier, Chaumont, Vessel and Besançon to the small village of Mesnay in the foothills of the Jura.
Another free aire on the village edge, (Camper Contact 15889. GPS 46.89790º 5.80066º) this time outside an old cardboard factory that is now a museum. It was a peaceful spot with just the sound of rushing water from the stream that must have once provided the motive power for the factory.
Leaving the next morning we had a choice of retracing our route through two villages with their narrow streets and parked cars or taking a shorter but more twisty route back to the main road.
The twisty route proved to be just that, as well as extremely narrow and steep. Had anything wider than a wheelbarrow come the other way we would have had fun trying to pass. Fortune was on our side and nothing else was venturing down that few kilometres of road and we emerged safely on to the main road. I call it the ‘main road’ as, compared to the track we emerged from it was much wider, but it was still rather narrow and very twisty with sheer rock walls on our side, a narrow rock arch, trucks tearing round the blind bends in the opposite direction making me hug the rock face and, just to add to the fun, a team of workers cutting trees down above the road.
We were now following the route of the upcoming Tour de France so there was much patching of road surfaces going on and as we arrived at Champagnole the route was sent off in a great long diversion to avoid a road closure ahead.
Eventually we returned to our planned route and ran beside the Swiss border for a while, up over the Jura mountains before the steep plunge down to Annecy and its lake. Had it not been for the thick haze some of the views from the top of the Jura would have been spectacular. Lake Geneva could just about be seen through the murk but it really wasn’t worth stopping to try and take photos.
After a long hot and twisty drive we arrived safely at Camping Le Solitaire du Lac (GPS 45.84063º 6.16468º) and parked beside John and Jenny and their smart new Coachman caravan. (https://jennyandjohngocaravanning.wordpress.com/)