Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Memories of Scotland 2009

I know this blog has only recently been created, but I stumbled upon a few  old holiday diaries that I had on my hard drive, and have done a copy and paste tastic effort to include them as Blog posts on here.

As the kids were growing up we holidayed in Cornwall quite a bit in the summer months.  It has everything we needed.  Big commercial sites to keep the boys entertained, fantastic beaches and many day time tourist attractions, and all within a days towing from where we live in South Wales.

The boys grew older and we became less reliant on all singing and all dancing sites, and we decided to spread our wings a bit and tour a little further afield.

Summer 2009 we set off on a 3 week tour of the north of England and the Highlands of Scotland.

July 18th

It was jnr#1s 16th birthday today.  He had some friends over for a drink in the evening, and we set off on our long journey North just after mid night.  We are really loaded up for this trip and the Shogun’s going to have to work for it’s living to haul 4 adult sized humans, 2 large dogs, a roof box, 2 man canoe, 2 mountain bikes and 1500kg of caravan all the way to The Scottish Highlands and back over the next 3 weeks.

We were not due to set off until the morning, but as always I got itchy feet, so in the pissing down rain we made our way along the M4 through South Wales and up the A449 and M50 into the Midlands and onto the M5.

I am not at my best when night driving, and by around 3am, having gotten past Birmingham we stopped in a services to get some shut eye.

July 19th

By 6am we’d given up in the idea.  The service area was just too busy, so we wound up the legs and moved on.  By 7am the lack of sleep is telling and I am falling asleep at the wheel ……. Not good!

We pull into the next services heading North and doze off in the car. At around 11am we wake up, and the place is in full swing.  What a sight I must have been, on my chin straps and dribbling a waterfall down my tee shirt!

We hit the road and are struck by how dreary the M6 is, that is until you get close to The Lakes where the scenery improves beyond recognition.

As we take the exit at junction 40 my fuel light comes on.  I’ve not worked out the MPG but am please that we have done the 330 miles on one tank, considering the way we are loaded up.

We arrive at our base for the next few days, Troutbeck Head CC Site, get booked in and start setting up on the pitch.  Horror of horrors, we appear to have left behind the awning quick lock pads!  Not good.  I traipse off to reception and ask where the nearest accessory shop is. Turns out it’s 35 bloody miles away!  With no choice, and knackered after the tow, we leave the boys and the dogs at the van and head off.  70 miles later we  return with new quicklock pads, open up the awning bag and herself spots our old quicklock pads hiding themselves in plain view on top of the awning!  Oh how we laughed about that!

We spend the next few days driving around the lakes, over the Hardknott Pass a few times, and sitting in the sunshine lakeside whist the boys do battle in the canoe with all the paddle steamers.

July 23rd

Time to move on.  The lakes are lovely, but we do not really want to be here.  In hind sight we should have just had an overnighter and made our way straight to Scotland.

After reading loads of stuff on Internet forums, I was a bit concerned about being able to cover any sort of distance once off the motorways in Scotland, so have an overnighter booked at Maragowan CC Site to break up the journey some 175 miles away.

Some excitement at crossing the border quickly evaporated as we soon realise that the lower half of Scotland is just miles and miles of nothing.

We pass road signs with names of places we had only seen or heard of on the news, such as Dunblane and Lockerbie.  The latter appears to sit on its own in the middle of miles and miles of open space.  It is quite unbelievable that when that Pan-Am jet was blown out of the sky all those years ago it actually managed to land on a town!

Once past Stirling, the Scotland we were expecting opened up to us.  We towed through a lovely little town called Callander and promised ourselves we would stop off on our way back home.

We'd not been outside the air conditioned comfort of the 4x4 and as it was gone lunch time we looked for somewhere to pull in.  A lay by looked promising, we come to a halt, switch off the engine and get ready to inhale a few lung fulls of clean Scottish air.  We opened the door and the stench of stale urine was somewhat overpowering ........ this must be a regular stop for the logging truckers we see everywhere!

This stop was just a journey breaker, so we did not see much of Killan, picturesque as it is with the river running through the town.  Herself took the opportunity to do some laundry, and a trip to the local co-op was an eye opener.  The accent on the locals was a bit of a shock as were the prices, and there are lots of ginger people around here!

July 24th

Time to hit the road again and tow the short 55 miles to Bunree CC Site on the shores of Loch Linnie in the Scottish Highlands.

In reality we could have done this yesterday, but were glad that we didn’t.  Being fresh, we were able to fully appreciate the scenery as we towed over the mountains and Glencoe.

I sometimes wonder whether people should be towing caravans or even be on the road at all.  The scare stories about towing on narrow Scottish roads once north of the central belt are totally unfounded.  If 2 lane A and B roads frighten you then you should reconsider your mode of transport!

Arriving at Bunree we are knocked out by the vista.

We were here for 9 nights in total and spent our time on the loch, took in a few highland games and did a lot of touring around.

It’s hard to appreciate how big Scotland is.  Going anywhere involves a significant amount of driving.  Spent a fortune on travelling while up there, but do not regret it.

Took a spin over to Loch Ness one day, and was more than a little disappointed.  You cannot get any where near the loch, and the various visitor centres and little more than a rip off.  Still it’s one place to see ticked off the list and the day was not a total loss as we stumbled across the Commando Monument on the way there.

Due to the topography of the land there are many civil engineering wonders to see.  We took in Neptune’s Staircase, which is a series of Locks on the canal. 

The Glenfriddan Viaduct (of Harry Potter fame) was also viewed.  There are a lot of Harry Potter connections up here and we popped over to Glen Nevis which formed the backdrop for the Quiddich scenes in the films.

We also took a lovely day trip out to The Silver Sands of Morar.

As we dropped down towards them (it really is remote out here) we were greeted to a scene more reminiscent of the Med.  White sands and a boat anchored out in the turquoise sea, with families frolicking on the sand.  Any thoughts of the Med were quickly dispensed with on dipping ones pinkies into said turquoise water!  The Atlantic Ocean is very cold this far north.

We took a cable car ride up onto the Nevis Range one day.  Shorts and tee shirts at the bottom, but winter coat weather at the top station. We took a walk over a few ridges and marvelled at the panorama below, watching the weather moving up the Glen towards us, then realising that we were about a mile from shelter!

We got wet and cold.

It rarely gets dark up there in the summer season, and many evenings were taken up with a late night walk (in daylight) up to the local Inchree Falls.

2nd August

Sadly it as time to leave the highlands and head south to our next site, Witches Craig near Stirling (86 miles).

After setting up we head off out to explore.  After spending so much time in a desolate location it was a bit of a culture shock to be so close to civilisation once more.

We spent 2 days taking in the Falkirk Wheel, going Go Karting and getting in some retail therapy, before realising we were missing the Scotland we left behind.

On our last day here we back tracked to Collander and then out into the country side to take in some Lochs.  Herself is more than impressed with an all year round Christmas Shop in the village and buys some trinkets as gifts.

5th August

The time has come to leave Scotland and hit the road to make some serious mileage back down south.  Our destination is the Blackpool south CC Site (213 miles).

After Scotland, Blackpool is completely different.  We were tempted to forget it and head straight home, but were all glad that we didn’t.

We took in a show and spend the day at The Pleasure Beach.  It was a blast and a great way to end our holiday.

8th August
Long tow home today (280 miles).  The traffic is a nightmare all the way down the M6 and M5 until we hit the M50.  A clear run as far as Newport and then welcome to the M4 rush-hour bedlam.

Would we go back to Scotland?  YES
What would we change?  We would tour in with the caravan a bit more.  The roads really aren’t that bad, and with the distances involved it would be more cost effective than day tripping everywhere.

An observation.  There is no hiding from the fact that there are a load if ginger people in Scotland.  I have this theory.  I think it's because of all the Iron Bru they drink up there.  When you go into a shop down south the cold drinks fridges are generally dominated by Fanta and Coke.  Up there it's Iron Bru, shelves upon shelves of the stuff everywhere you look!

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