Country Summary – Scotland, the most beautiful place in the world?

We have managed 6 weeks and 2 days in Scotland on this trip, covering only a small part of the country and even then managing only a small sample of what is available in each area we have visited.

While we were here Scotland was proclaimed the most beautiful country in the world. Is this correct? Well we haven’t been everywhere, but Scotland is the place we keep coming back to again and again; without ever getting bored and despite the sometimes awful weather. In fact the occasional prolonged period of rain just makes any respite feel full of possibilities.

With the sequence of low pressure systems working their way over the UK we certainly had our fair share of bad weather on this trip and that modified our plans with less kayaking, fishing and mountain walking and more cycling, coastal walks and tourist attractions. Sadly we didn’t see the Northern Lights, despite two solar activity spikes while we were there; the weather was too cloudy where we were.

A few stats

Number of nights spent in Scotland: 44

Number of different overnight locations: 32 (of which 5 were campsites and the rest were parking spots, most of which were free but 4 were paid)

Average ‘camping’ cost per night: £3.22

Average total spend per day: £20.48. This seems very little compared to our costs while in Wales, but just happens to reflect that we did not have to buy any Motorhome stuff while we were in Scotland.

Number of miles driven: 1450 miles in Scotland. Our average fuel (in)efficiency was 23.01 MPG which we were pretty happy with given the roads we were driving on. Our cost per mile was 23.4 pence, which reflects the high cost of fuel in the highlands as well as our fuel efficiency.

Finding overnight locations in Scotland

For overnight locations we mostly used the information available through the fantastic Scottish Motorhome Wildcampers facebook forum, we also used http://searchforsites.co.uk, and our OS maps to identify possible locations. For campsites we used UKCampsite.

You should not get confused between motorhome parking and the right to ‘wild camp’ via the Land Reform Act. Access to land in motorised transport is not covered by this legislation and so you are subject to parking byelaws or landowner’s demands. Having said that, there are a multitude of publicly accessible parking spots as well as parking locations on private land (National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, Forestry Commission and Scottish Heritage are a few of the bigger landowners who have been known to tolerate motorhome parking – often on an informal basis and not consistently at all locations). 

You can find the map of the parking locations we have used here.

While in Scotland we became increasingly aware of the pressure that some believe is being exerted by the volume of motorhomes on the road using (or abusing) facilities. There was a fair amount of content in the Scottish press on the subject, it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Driving in Scotland

Scottish highland roads may be single track but they are also blessed with a multitude of passing places that are well signposted, usually with white squares or diamonds on top of posts. The majority of road users know how to use passing places not just for passing people coming in the opposite direction but also to allow overtaking. We found our reversing camera invaluable for keeping an eye on vehicles approaching from behind (as well as helping us reverse into the passing places) and our only caution was to avoid being forced into passing places that were too soft to take Bertie.

We had half a dozen ferry crossings on the CalMac ferries, all of which were very easy and there are always plenty of helpful staff around if you have any questions. Different ferries have different rules, some ask you to pay on board and some ask you to pay in advance at the ticket office, some accept bookings for specific crossings and some operate on a first come first served basis. All the relevant information can be found on their website where you can also buy tickets and book crossings (where it’s possible for that particular service). The CalMac ferries operate a Road Equivalent Tarrif (RET) which is meant to make the fares equivalent to driving the same distance, it means the crossings are very reasonably priced. Motorhome prices vary according to motorhome length – under 6 meters, between 6 and 8 meters and over 8 meters (including bike racks/boxes etc) – height does not make any difference. We did need help to avoid grounding on one ferry crossing (Tobermory to Kilchoan), but the staff are very practised at placing boards under wheels. If you want to avoid grounding then choose a crossing as close to high tide as possible, but if you cant then don’t worry, you’ll get help.  

Best Bits

It’s always difficult to pick the best bits of any trip to Scotland, any visit is made up of every experience not just a hand picked selection. But if forced to pick out some of the best moments.

Dumfries and Galloway: One of our unwritten rules for our adventure is that we should go to places we’ve never been before. Dumfries and Galloway was a revelation, only just north of the Lake District but so much quieter with beautiful coastline, high rounded hills, mossy forests, castles and abbeys (oh and a lot of bogs, don’t forget the bogs).    

Seafood: No trip to the west coast would be the same without a good sample of seafood; fish and shellfish are plentiful and scrumptious whether as part of a fish supper eaten with your fingers or a more upmarket seafood platter.

Falkirk: Falkirk gets the prize for the best all round day out with the Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel and mountain biking, all in an industrial town.

Otters and Sea Eagles: We saw numerous otters in Scotland, probably the best day was when we saw both an otter and a sea eagle in close proximity on the isle of Mull.

Torrisdale Bay: In a country full of scenic places this was one of our favourite spots to sit in the van and watch the sea.  

The standing stones on Arran: In a dramatic setting of moorland backed by jagged mountains this collection of standing stones just kept going (and we could have walked further and found more).

Other stuff

We visited a fair few castles and other historical locations. Historic Scotland has plenty of free attractions but if you want to see the bigger places then it is worth buying a membership or a tourist pass. An annual membership is £47.25 and depending on where you go could pay you back in half a dozen visits.

Although Ordnance Survey maps cover Scotland, because of the difference between Scottish and English land access rights the approach to marking paths is different. This means that there are a lot of paths which just aren’t shown on the map. There is an amazing resource online at walkhighlands.co.uk, which has many walks of all different grades across the whole of Scotland (not just the highlands).

 

Final Days in Scotland

28/09/17-28/09/17

Over the last week we have started to feel a little unsettled as we realised our time in Scotland was coming to a close – what should we do for our last few days to make the most of our remaining time? How would we feel to leave the land of square sausage and well fired breakfast rolls?

We toyed with a trip into Edinburgh but I wasn’t too keen, much as I love the city I also spent plenty of time there with work and couldn’t quite separate the city from the memories of clip clopping up and down the hilly streets in my work clobber dragging my little wheely suitcase with me. 

So the answer was that we would spend a couple of days on the ‘golf coast’ seeing a very small selection of what this south eastern stretch of Scotland had to offer.

We started in North Berwick, a gentrified town on the coast within commuting distance of Edinburgh with a long seafront beach and a skyline dominated by two ancient steep sided volcanic plugs; out to sea is Bass rock, home to the largest gannet colony in the world, inland is Berwick Law, topped with a (now replica) whale’s jaw bone.

Bertie’s parking spot in North Berwick

In North Berwick we spent the night in a popular spot on the eastern end of the seafront, with several other motorhomes and campervans. The following morning we walked along the coast to Tantallon castle, an interesting ruined castle with a large curtain wall protecting it’s inland side and sea cliffs forming the main defence around it’s other three sides. The coastal walk was tough going as the paths slowly petered out and we had to fight our way through scrub to finish the walk. On the way back we mainly walked along the road!

Tantallon Castle curtain wall

 

During our walk we watched the many seabirds, mostly gulls and gannets, that were flying backwards and forwards along the coast and out to sea. Through our binoculars we could see the castle and lighthouse on Bass Rock clinging to the sides of the guano draped island. It was difficult to imagine anyone being able to land on the island with it’s steep sides, let alone making their way up the cliffs to the buildings. The island sports no greenery and very few flat surfaces so anyone in those buildings would have been trapped until a boat could come out to collect them, a grim place to get stuck!

After North Berwick we moved onto Eyemouth, a contrast to North Berwick, Eyemouth is a working fishing town with ship building, fisheries and a fish market. We took a walk round the harbour and watched as boats left on the rising tide and then stopped at The Contented Sole for a couple of drinks. Near our parking spot was a memorial to the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster of 1881, where 189 fishermen lost their lives, including 129 from the town itself, an event that must have overshadowed the town for many years after it happened with so many wives and children left to grieve.

We’d had a couple of pleasant days, but the following morning dawned grey and gloomy and our moods were the same as we realised we would be leaving Scotland.

 

Fabulous Falkirk

27/09/17-28/09/17

I would never have thought about visiting Falkirk if it wasn’t for Facebook.

I will admit I have a bit of a Facebook addiction, accessing it far more than is healthy and habitually swiping and refreshing every time I pick up my phone. In an attempt to channel that addiction in a useful direction I have joined a number of forums, including several devoted to motorhoming. The Scottish Motorhome Wildcampers forum has been a great help on our travels round Scotland and I kept seeing pictures of the Kelpies coming up on the feed. As I’m a sucker for anything that is illuminated I immediately wanted to go and visit them, and as luck would have it that fitted in nicely with our plans to finish our tour of Scotland down it’s south eastern side. Also in it’s favour, there are two car parks and both will allow motorhomes to stay overnight.

During the day you can see the huge steel plates that make up the Kelpies

The Kelpies are two huge steel sculptures of horses heads which were installed as part of the Helix project, a regeneration project based around the Forth and Clyde canal. We turned up in the afternoon and popped down to visit them which it was still daylight, and then we went down after sunset to view them in all of their illuminated glory. Through their Wikipedia entry I found an article from the Guardian’s art critic that scathingly referred to the Kelpie’s as misbegotten, bland and stale; obviously not a fan of popular municipal art then! I thought they were fantastic, maybe not thought provoking or ground breaking but definitely awe inspiring and such a great success story for the local tourism economy.

 

The Kelpies slowly change colour during the evening

And Falkirk is about more than just the Kelpies. The following day we took a bike ride along the canal to the Falkirk Wheel, this was built as part of the millemium project to re-connect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Back in the days when the canals were being used in anger the 35 meter height difference was managed through a series of locks that took the best part of a day to navigate. These locks were dismantled and the two canals have been separate since the 1930s. The project to re-link the canals was looking for an imaginative way to allow traffic to pass through and so the Falkirk Wheel was born – a huge rotating lift that will transport boats up or down between the canals. We sat and watched in fascination as the tourist boat and some other canal boats used the lift.

Watching two canal boats slowly being lowered from the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal

 

The Union Canal hovers over the Forth and Clyde canal basin
Looking through the eye of the needle – the Union Canal disappears into infinity

When we could finally tear ourselves away from the wheel we moved on into Callendar Park and the mountain biking centre at Craigburn Woods. This is one of three mountain biking areas in the park and had a short blue trail and a slightly longer red trail. Both were very easy for their grades, but highly enjoyable and we whizzed round them a couple of times getting muddy in the process.

Finally we made our way back along to the Union Canal and across town back to the carpark at the Kelpies. We were asked for directions to the Falkirk Wheel by a Canadian who was cycling in the opposite direction and was a bit concerned after seeing us that it might be muddy en-route. 

It had been a fantastic day and we felt there was plenty more to keep us occupied if we had the time to stay for longer. But we couldn’t stay, so off we went to our next stop, by-passing Edinburgh on our way to North Berwick where we parked up at the end of the beach alongside a few other motorhomes and campervans.

 

 

A Tale of Two Bike Rides

26/09/17-27/09/17

We left Kilvrecht to head east along the string of lochs, all with hydro schemes for electricity generation, until we hit the A9 where we were able to start heading south again.

We didn’t go far though as we were tempted by the Ordnance Survey map’s promise of bike rides just outside Dunkeld. Disappointingly there weren’t any waymarked routes, but we did manage a very strenuous couple of hours on tracks in Craigvinean Forest. It was still cloudy and we only got occasional hazy views of the Tay river valley. The forest tracks were steep in places and there was a lot of claggy clay which made them hard going. We found markers for the McRae memorial rally as we were going through the forest, as well of evidence of the substantial track maintenance that they must have undertaken to allow the rally to take place, we’d only missed it by a few days. When we got back to Bertie we were exhausted despite only covering 12 miles and didn’t have the energy for sightseeing in Dunkeld. We considered remaining parked up where we were, but it was gloomy and oppressive under the closely packed trees so we decided to move on.

Driving further south we reached motorway! This must have been our first motorway since we arrived in Scotland back in mid August. Bertie trundled along happily in the wake of a lorry until we reached Kinross where we decided to stop for the night. There were a number of car parks around Loch Leven and we opted to park in the most northerly one. When we got out for a little wander that evening we found information boards indicating that there was a bike ride around the loch. A lovely, flat, nicely surfaced bike ride. Just the antidote to our forest ride. It sounded ideal for the following morning.

Views across Loch Leven to the Lomond Hills (not to be confused with Loch Lomond or Ben Lomond further west)

The bike ride was everything we had hoped for, a chance to un-knot muscles and enjoy lakeside views and level forest paths. We stopped at a couple of bird hides on the way around, less for bird watching and more to allow us to relax, and we took a detour to Burleigh Castle on the way around. At about the same length as the previous day’s ride it took less than half the time which meant we were done before lunch and were able to move on to our next destination.

Burleigh Castle

 

More Drizzly Days

24/09/17-25/09/17

As mentioned in the previous post, we had run out of water. We’d staved off the inevitable by one day, using the showers at the mountain biking area, but we really needed to get some water on board and dispose of our waste. We also needed to head south. We had a look to see whether we could avail ourselves of any free or cheap services, but couldn’t find anything so opted for a campsite instead.

The campsite we decided on was Kilvrecht, a forestry commission campsite with limited facilities near the shore of Loch Rannoch. We’d gained some inspiration for the area by watching Paul Murton’s Scottish Loch’s programme, although we didn’t think we’d emulate his wild swim in Loch Ba.

The campsite covers a large area of grass, as well as water and chemical waste disposal there is a toilet block, but no showers and no hot water. They do have cubicles you can use for a stand-up wash, rather cleverly designed so that you can stand in a shower tray and avoid getting water everywhere, you just have to take a kettle of hot water in with you – unless you are a masochist who likes to wash in freezing water. Of course we didn’t need this as we have heating and hot water in Bertie, the luxury of motorhome living compared with a tent.

On site they also had Midgeeaters, these machines attract midges and then trap them, by all accounts the midges here are particularly bad but they weren’t too bad while we were there.

The Midgeeater

We chose where to park with care – we could see how boggy it was and there were deep tyre tracks where cars and motorhomes had obviously had difficulty getting off the grass. We parked just off the track facing slightly downhill so that we could roll forward back onto the track when we left. We were ok although another motorhome that arrived just after us needed to be towed off the grass.

Covered bridge at Kilvrecht and starting point for our walk

While here we ventured out in the miserable weather for a walk through the forest following the gorge of the Allt na Bogair and then descending through ancient woodlands back down to Loch Rannoch. This took us through the Dall estate, once a boarding school this is now on the market as the owner couldn’t get planning permission to convert it to a luxury hotel complex – at £6 million we didn’t think we could afford it.

We opted to stay for two nights here. We felt it was really good value and it’s a shame there aren’t more of these basic campsites around for us cheapskates

The Shepherd’s Hill

23/09/17

The move eastwards to the Cairngorms gifted us with a day of sunshine, but it wasn’t going to last. We toyed with a long strenuous walk up Cairngorm and Ben Macdui but cloud was still lingering on the summits and it was pretty windy, so in the end opted for something a little less difficult with more chance of sun.

Meall a’Bhuachaille means ‘Hill of the Shepherd’ in Gaelic and is a popular walk in the Glenmore area. As it was a Saturday and good weather we thought we had better start early. We set off from our parking area walking along pleasant level paths through the Glenmore forest for the first couple of miles until we reached An Lochan Uaine (The Green Lake) which, true to it’s name, had a verdigris tint. Until this point we had been alone, but as we sat here for a short break we were caught up by a group of mountain bikers and a couple of walkers.

The Green Lake

Shortly after the loch we reached the bothy at Ryvoan, by now we were out of the forest and we could see the path zigzagging up the slopes of the mountain. Rather incredulously we realised that the mountain bikers were planning to take this path; we watched as they set off, some riding and some pushing up the steep uphill path. We followed them up and then overtook them as the hard work of pushing the extra weight up a mountain started to take it’s toll.

The path was unrelentingly uphill, but only just over a mile to the summit. We had no incentive to stop on the way as the wind was ferocious, but at the summit there was a large cairn/shelter that we could use to prtect us from the wind. We quickly nabbed the most sheltered spot before other walkers and the mountain bikers arrived and settled down for some lunch and our hot drinks from our flasks. We were in sunshine but there was still cloud across the tops of the higher mountains so we were glad we’d chosen this route. 

Views from the top of Meall a’Bhuachaille

When the mountain bikers reached the top we got chatting to one of them, they were a club who were on a guided mountain biking weekend. Their guides had taken them to Ben Macdui the previous day which had been hard work and this ride was the ‘easy’ day. Apart from the guides it really didn’t look like anyone was finding it easy. They had had two people drop out already. Despite being a fan of outdoor activities I had no desire to emulate their adventures.

We set off down the western slopes of the mountain into the bealach (the name for a low point between two hills) from where we were going to descend back to the forest. As we walked down we heard the sound of bikes coming down the hill and stepped aside to let them past. The path was well constructed for walkers, which mean it comprised of large stone cobbles, not quite steps. The thought of cycling down these paths gave me butterflies in my stomach and it was evidently doing the same for those on mountain bikes as they cautiously descended with their brakes on (or just dismounted and walked their bikes downhill). Obviously the guides whizzed down making it look easy. They stopped at the bottom of the section of path for a breather (and to get their nerve up I expect) where we overtook them and we played leapfrog down the hill for about a mile until two of them got punctures and they were left behind us.

Mountain bikers on the downhill slopes

We descended back through forest and across the road to Loch Morlich where we sat on a sandy beach and watched the many day-trippers enjoying a day out.

The beach at the eastern end of Loch Morlich

Finally we followed the path alongside the river before we crossed the road again and made our way back to our parking spot. It had been a really nice walk with varying scenery and although the mountains of the Cairngorms don’t inspire me in the same way as those of the west coast I could see why they were popular.

Riverside walk

We thought we would pop up to the Cairngorm Mountain Railway carpark, a recommended overnight parking spot. We knew it would probably be too windy for us to stay there but wanted to check out the views. It was pretty spectacular, although the mountain tops were still under a localised blanket of cloud, but it was also spectacularly windy and there was no way we would be able to sleep there.

Bertie at 600 meters – his highest point so far at the Cairngorm Mountain Railway car park

We had already decided that we would probably head back to a mountain biking area at Laggan, so off we toddled. The advantage of this spot was that the mountain biking centre had showers. For £1 we could get a decent hot shower, and as we had nearly run out of water this was ideal. It also had free wifi which we used that evening by driving as close as we could get to the centre in order to pick up it’s weak signal.

      

 

Neptune’s Staircase

21/09/17 – 22/09/17

Fort William is a fairly unprepossessing town, more utilitarian than picturesque, particularly in poor weather when the views of Ben Nevis cannot be seen. However it is a central hub for tourism so has plenty of facilities.

On our drive east we stopped here overnight as I wanted to take a look in some outdoor shops for a new waterproof – mine is fifteen years old now and with my birthday coming up I thought it might be an idea to treat myself to a more modern jacket – technology has changed with waterproof zips and more flexible fabrics giving a more streamlined fit. Actually the shops were not that inspiring and so I didn’t buy anything, after all my current jacket is still working I can afford to wait till I see something I really like.

We stayed in the car park at Banavie right by Neptune’s Staircase, a series of  eight locks that carry vessels up the 20 meters from sea level at Fort William to the level of the Great Glen and it’s lochs (including Loch Ness) that make up the central portion of the Caledonian Canal (another Thomas Telford project). There were no boats traversing the locks while we were there but previously we’ve sat enthralled by the progress of boats descending the staircase.    

Neptune’s Staircase

The weather wasn’t good enough to enjoy a mountain walk, but had dried up enough to induce us to cycle along the Caledonian Way. We’ve always fancied doing the whole thing but this outing was just to the end of Loch Lochy and back. It was a pleasant bike ride with a nice easy section on the canal tow path, a section of road past some very palatial houses and then a lung-testing off road track above the shores of Loch Lochy. We stopped at Laggan Locks to eat our sandwiches and got talking to a couple who had rented a canal boat as one of their ‘bucket list’ activities.

  1. Loch Lochy

As we cycled back to Banavie the skies started to clear and we soaked up some late afternoon sunshine which put us in the mood for a couple of drinks at the local pub before our tea. That evening Ben Nevis was finally visible over the pebble dashed estate houses of Banavie.

Evening view of Ben Nevis

After a cold night the following morning dawned damp and drizzly, we pushed further east to end up in the northern Cairngorm mountains on the road through Glenmore to the Cairngorm ski area. The forestry commission parking alongside the banks of Loch Morlich all had No Overnight Parking signs, but motorhomes and campervans were directed to a parking area slightly higher up the valley at Allt Mor. The mountain forecast was giving us a high probability of cloud free summits over these mountains on the following day so we wanted to make the most of it. The parking was actually very convenient for our planned walk, although not as picturesque as a lakeside spot. 

Dashing Across Ardnamurchan

20/09/17

We were sorry to be leaving Mull, but with several days of poor weather forecast and a looming deadline to get to Aaron’s graduation we just couldn’t hang around and wait for things to improve.

Our plans to spend a few days on the Ardnamurchan peninsular were also in jeopardy. We still took the ferry over to Kilchoan but now we were just going to drive through rather than stopping over. Even though our plans are not set in stone there is a feeling of disappointment when we can’t do something that we had talked about and looked forward to. We know we need to let go and make the most of what we can do rather than dwelling on missed opportunities, Paul’s much better at taking it in his stride than I am.  

We got on the ferry around midday after a quick grocery shop, the tide was pretty low so we needed to get some help to avoid grounding at both ends of the journey. Luckily the staff at Calmac are used to helping motorhomes on and off their services. Maybe too used to it – there are some people who think that there are too many motorhomes travelling on Scotland’s ferries and putting pressure on Scotland’s roads. The press have reported that the number of motorhomes using some services in 2016 is more than ten times the numbers recorded in 2008. It’s difficult to tell whether this is significantly higher increase than other vehicles without seeing the full statistics, but anecdotally there has been a significant increase in motorhome ownership and hire. It’s even been debated in the Scottish Parliament; should an additional tax be levied on motorhomes to help support the infrastructure required? It will be interesting to see the outcome. 

Once safely off the ferry we were driving through the Ardnamurchan peninsular, this area feels more remote than that islands we have visited and we are looking forward to tackling it on a future visit. As we drove through we marvelled at the vibrant colours that framed the roads, autumn was really starting to show with the russets and golds of the trees, the dull blonde of the autumnal grasses and even the seaweed on the rocky shore contributing to the auburn hues.

We ended up driving as far as Glenfinnian that evening, this is the location of the viaduct that carries the West Highland Railway and has featured on TV and film. Most recently (as far as I know) it was used in the Harry Potter film when they depict the train on it’s way to Hogwarts. We parked near the viaduct but didn’t go to see it that evening as it was too wet. Instead I popped up the following morning to take a look. Sadly there were no trains running at the time, but even so it’s an impressive structure.

Glenfinnian viaduct on a misty morning

Surprisingly, considering how often his name turns up related to engineering projects, it had nothing to do with Thomas Telford (he was long dead before it was constructed); this was a MacAlpine project, which reminds me of a Dubliner’s song:

As down the glen came McAlpines men with their shovels slung behind them
‘Twas in the pub that they drank the sup and up in the spike you’ll find them
They sweated blood and they washed down mud with pints and quarts of beer
And now we’re on the road again with McAlpine’s Fusiliers 

The Road to Carsaig

19/09/17

Unintentionally we made a poor decision today – we had to choose between another day lazing at Fidden Farm and maybe popping over on the ferry to Iona, or moving on to do one of the longer walks on our wish list. We chose to move on as we knew the weather was then going to be pretty poor for three or four days and I was twitchy about wasting the sunshine.

So we chose to drive part way back down the Ross of Mull and then over to Carsaig to do the Carsaig arches walk. Probably we should have been warned when we saw the signs at the start of the road to Carsaig; ‘weak road’, it said, max weight 13 tonnes (and then another sign which said max weight 3 tonnes with the 1 added using a black marker, we assumed it wasn’t just graffiti). We are just under 4 tonnes so in theory we would be fine, and we’d read reports of other motorhomes going down to Carsaig, so we went for it.

The road ran uphill through woodland until it crossed a cattle grid and we were out in the open, following the contours halfway up the side of the valley. The road had a tenuous hold on the side of the hill, slumping in sections as if it just couldn’t be bothered to stay in place. Bertie sat precariously on the tarmac straddling the grass running along it’s centre, we hoped we wouldn’t have to use any of the passing places which just looked as if someone had tipped a truck load of hardcore off the side of the road. It had the look of a road that was approaching it’s old age, one day it would be a road no more, just a track, and eventually it would disappear from maps and atlases completely. 

As we approached the coast the road got steeper, running through woodland and over a couple of streams which were further contributing to it’s decline. Finally we got a glimpse of the parking spot – another motorhome was there so we weren’t the only nutters. We rounded the corner into the parking spot and it was FULL. Yes, we had come all this way only to find there was no space for us (full was one motorhome and three cars) in this gravelled potholed parking spot on a steep downward incline.

Paul insisted on a cup of coffee at this point to calm his nerves. As he stepped out for a cigarette I put the kettle on – and had to hold it in place to stop it sliding off the burner. We walked around Bertie with our hot drinks trying to work out whether there was some miraculous way we would be able to park without blocking everyone in. Then we walked around Bertie again figuring out how we would reverse out of here without burning out the clutch or catching our undercarriage on the lip of a pothole.

As we started to back out of the car park a 4×4 was coming down the road towards us with a trailer full of logs – that was all we needed – but he pulled over onto the mud to keep out of our way as we backed out with only a slight smell of hot clutch.

The return drive wasn’t too bad, conducted in silence – the best policy when both of us are tense. In fact the whole drive would probably have been a bit of a fun adventure if we had managed to get parked, but driving all that way only to have to turn around made it highly frustrating and exacerbated our stress levels.

We didn’t have a backup plan for the day so once we were back on properly maintained tarmac we talked about what we would do next. With a long spell of poor weather predicted, and on a bit of a downer because of our day so far, we decided that we would leave Mull the next day and so drove up to Tobermory. There were a number of forestry commission parking places along the road that runs to Tobermory, but these all had ‘no overnight parking’ signs in them and were very close to the road. We stopped in one of them and saw our first seals on Mull. Eventually we parked just outside Tobermory in the large forestry commission area of Aros Park.

Bertie all alone at Aros Park

Although there were also ‘no overnight parking’ signs here we considered there was a low chance of being moved on, the car park was empty and out of sight of residential areas and roads; no one was going to see us and it was unlikely that the ranger would do night time rounds just to oust us. Aros Park was once an estate which was bequeathed to the forestry commission, the car park was the site of the house which was demolished in the 60’s. There were lakes and paths and picnic areas and a small pier with views over the bay to Tobermory. It was really quite pleasant, not the dramatic walk we had been hoping for, but not a bad place to spend our last afternoon on Mull.

The old pier at Aros Park

We walked into Tobermory late that afternoon and treated ourselves to posh fish and chips from the van on the harbour. I had scallops and Paul had calamari. It was yummy and warming and we ate it sitting on a bench looking over the harbour. We washed this down with a couple of pints before heading back to Bertie in the twilight feeling more relaxed.

Colourful harbour view of Tobermory

A Day of Rest

18/09/17

When we were parked under the shadow of Ben More we got talking to the occupants of one of the campervans and they recommended Fidden Farm campsite. They waxed lyrical about the beauty of the location and strongly recommended that we visit. So when Paul woke up the following morning with achy legs and a desire to chill out we decided we might as well give it a go.
Fidden Farm is located at the end of the Ross of Mull – the southernmost peninsular of Mull that terminates at Fionnport, the staging point for the island of Iona. It was quite a drive to get there, the road that runs under the steep cliffs of Creag Mhor is spectacular, from a distance it looks precarious with one point where cars seem to be driving across a deep chasm, but when you are on it it’s well constructed with good passing places so we could relax(ish) and enjoy the view.
Yet again we had planned a leisurely trip with some stops along the way and yet again we were mostly thwarted by a lack of parking. The scenery was beautiful but we didn’t have much chance to view it up close. We stopped at Pennyghael and Bunessan for a bit of grocery shopping which gave us a chance to get out and stretch our legs. Paul’s legs were still achy but unusually I didn’t have any tight muscles; maybe all this exercise is having a positive effect.
We finally made it to Fidden Farm. The campsite is relatively basic – no hardstanding or electricity, but there is a new toilet and shower block by the farmhouse as well as portaloos in the camping area. Pitches are not marked, but there is a huge expanse of grass and dunes dotted with outcrops of the pink granite that mark this area. There were plenty of places to park with a view across the bay of beautiful white sand beaches and pink granite islets. It really was as beautiful as we had been told, and the sun was still shining which made it even more special.

Looking over the bay at Fidden Farm

We didn’t do much else all day apart from wander around the beaches and rocks, paddle in the sea and sit in Bertie watching the tide come in and the sun set.

Bertie contemplates the sunset

At £8 per adult the campsite was reasonable value. There were notices in the toilets warning of a price increase in 2018 to £10 per adult. Without electricity this starts to feel a bit steep, especially for families who would then have to pay £5 per child on top and jostle for prime beachfront locations in high season. Will they price themselves out of the market or does the location make the price worthwhile? As a couple we’d be happy to go back, if we were going as a family I would be considering elsewhere.

More, Otters and Eagles

16/09/17-17/09/17

After a lovely day at Calgary Bay, the weather turned a little gloomy again, but when we had last seen the forecast it was just the one day of glooms we planned the following day to climb Ben More, something on our wish list while we were in Mull.

We used the dreary morning to make our way around the narrow coast road, heading south from Calgary. On the way we stopped at the Eas Fors waterfalls where we made a fried breakfast to cheer us up. The falls were pretty but lots of people don’t realise that it’s the waterfall down to the beach that is the most spectacular. You can walk to the bottom to view it from the beach, but it was too damp to tempt us so we just viewed it from the top of the cliff.

Looking down on Eas Fors lowest falls

Apart from Eas Fors there weren’t many parking spots along this road, something that I’ve noticed in general in Mull; long stretches of scenic coast with nary a parking spot to appreciate it. After the falls the one parking space we saw had a height barrier – how rude! It made me quite grumpy, it’s no wonder that people stop in passing places.

We finally reached the stretch of road where we wanted to park up. We had a short  pause to let a herd of cattle past us before we got to our first choice of spot – the main parking area for people climbing Ben More – but it looked too boggy and we retraced our steps back to the firmer parking at Rubha na Moine.

Bertie’s parking spot – when the sun finally came out

We were sitting comfortably alone in this parking spot looking out to sea when Paul spotted an otter on the rocks rolling around in the seaweed looking like it was having a whale of a time. Another campervan drove up after fifteen minutes of this and the otter scarpered only to be replaced a few minutes later by a sea eagle swooping down on a couple of small seabirds that were bobbing on the water (it missed). Suddenly the day seemed a lot more exciting. When we popped out for a chat with the people in the campervan it transpired that they didn’t see the otter because they were busy watching two sea eagles ‘talon grabbing’ above Bertie – something we’d been completely unaware of.

The evening did literally get brighter. Ben More had been mist bound when we arrived but by sundown only the summit had a cap of cloud. We could clearly see our route up the mountain. Firstly up the slopes of Beinn Fadha and then along the ridge of A’ Chioch before continuing onto the ridge of Ben More, then a leisurely descent via the usual route up Ben More.

Eying up our route for the next day

 

A sunset at last – whenever we are facing west it seems to get cloudy

The following morning we were up and out by 8:30. We wanted to make it to the summit before any cloud came in. The first 500 meters of ascent were admittedly a bit tiresome, with boggy stretches and no clear path, plus I hadn’t realised that the sun would rise in the gap between the hills and shine directly into our faces on the way up – and I had left my sunhat behind. When we hit the upper slopes of Beinn Fhada things started to pick up, and the ridge ahead of us was looking both inviting and challenging. 

The ridge of A’ Chioch

We kept to the ridge line as much as possible, but it was obviously not a well trodden route and the rocks were slippery with moss and the morning dew that hadn’t yet evaporated. When we reached the most difficult section of the ridge – a small rock tower with a north facing scramble to it’s top – I chickened out. I couldn’t get purchase on the rocks and it was pretty exposed so I took the path round the base of the tower and climbed up a drier set of rocks on the south side of the ridge a few yards later. We had been completely alone on this walk so far, only the crampon scratches on the rocks indicating that people had been there before us, so when we finally emerged at the summit of Ben More it was a shock to see half a dozen other people who had walked up the other route. 

Amazing views – we could see as far as the Cuillin Ridge on Skye and Ben Nevis

 

As we started to make our way down from the summit we felt relieved we hadn’t come up this way, there was a very dull initial section of zig zags through scree before it dropped low enough that the path was on rock and grass. It was at this point that I realised I had lost something – we hadn’t had any internet for three days and so we had taken our mifi device to the top of the mountain so that we could get the weather forecast and drop friends and family a message. We stopped for a bite to eat on the way down and I thought I would check whether we still had any signal…no mifi device…my heart dropped. I left Paul with the rucksacks as I made my way back uphill expecting to have to go two miles to the summit. On the way back up I thought I would ask the other people on the decsent whether they had found it and luck would have it that the first couple I asked – who we’d overtaken some time before – had found it. The relief fuelled the remainder of the walk and not even Paul’s jibes could upset me.

The carpark at the bottom of Ben More was really busy when we got down – that’s what happens on a rare sunny Sunday. Even our parking spot was  getting full with another motorhome and campervan and a couple of cars. It was so beautiful we decided to stay for another night and spent the evening chilling out and watching an otter swimming around.   

 

White Sands of Calgary

15/09/17

Calgary is a city in Canada, it’s airport is often used as a gateway to the Rockies. Calgary is also a small village on the North West corner of Mull with a wonderful white sand beach at Calgary Bay, a car park and an official wild camping area. We moved to Calgary early that morning and were very glad that we’d decided to move on so early as the car park filled up pretty quickly, the sun was shining and the perfect white sands were a magnet for walkers, sightseers and photographers. We gave the official wild camping area a miss because the grass was quite soft underfoot and although it had the lure of public toilets the water supply was not on and so they were quite disgustingly blocked.   

Looking towards Calgary Bay from the start of our walk

We walked from the car park around the headland, an 8.5 mile walk that started along the coast following indistinct paths. Walking in Scotland can be interesting because although you have the ‘right to roam’ the number of marked public footpaths on OS maps is actually quite small compare to England, many walks are guess work where you have to either follow a path that you hope leads where you are going, find an internet report of a walk that someone else has done or interpret the contours on the map to determine a reasonable route; occasionally all three. We knew that people had walked around the headland before, but didn’t know what route they had taken.

There was a clear path towards an abandoned jetty, but after this it was difficult to make out whether the paths were man made or sheep trails and we wended our way sometimes close to the shore and sometimes along narrow tracks just underneath the cliffs, making sure that we were never committing ourselves to something that we couldn’t retrace later and keeping as low as possible.

Jetty at Calgary Bay

The coast here was made up of slumped volcanic cliffs with grassy terraces and we didn’t really want to get caught in a dead end and make the walk longer.

Coasts and cliffs around the Caliach headland

We were aiming to ascend from the coast onto the top of the cliffs at the ancient fort where it looked like there was a causeway up through the cliffs. Thankfully this was an easy way up, but at this point we were subjected to the full force of the wind. We hadn’t realised how sheltered we were in the bay. So when we reached a convenient spot on the cliffs with some shelter from the wind we took the opportunity to have our lunch. It was here that we saw our first sea eagle, it swooped down in front of us and perched on a rock, surrounded by the sea. There was great excitement, what an ideal situation for a photo. I fumbled my phone out only for the eagle to take flight as it was splashed by a wave. Oh expletive! Well at least this time we were sure of what it was with it’s white tail clearly distinguishable when it came in to land.

Rock towers as we walk up to the fort on the Caliach headland

We made our way further round the cliffs towards Caliach Point. We were trying to keep as close to the coast as possible but there were frequent deep clefts in the coast which we had to make our way around. At the trig point we stopped for a short while to look at the views but the wind didn’t encourage us to stay, and we quickly walked down to the farm where we picked up the minor road and walked on tarmac back to Bertie.

When we got back we popped down to the beach, I was tempted to swim but the clouds came in just as we walked down and a dip without the sunshine didn’t have the same appeal. Instead we walked along the beach enjoying the views and the feeling of soft sands underfoot. Here at Calgary there has been a concerted effort by the local population to preserve the machair, a rare coastal grassland habitat that has been traditionally used as common land for grazing. Where once the wild camping spread across all of the bay there is now a significant fenced off area that is protected. I wonder whether the lack of water at the toilets is an additional tactic to try and put all but he most hardy off using the wild camping area.          

On the Move on Mull

14/09/17

On Mull the roads are in the highland style i.e. single track with passing places. The classification of the road does not tell you how wide it is, but it does give some indication of the size of the passing places, presumably to cope with the larger vehicles that will use them. The main A road that runs all the way from Fionnport on the south west corner of Mull up to Tobermory in the north east has a few short sections with two lanes, but is mostly single track. Paul has plenty of experience driving on highland roads, but mostly as a car driver where his driving behaviour involves hunting down the car in front so they have to pull over and let him pass. In Bertie he has to be the one to pull over. I wondered if his masculine pride would be dented with this role reversal, but he seems to have taken it in his stride. The reversing camera came into it’s own as we left it on all the time so we could see what was coming behind us and choose our spots for pulling over, rather a nice wide tarmac passing place than a rutted earth and grass one.

As well as being the first place with a significant proportion of single track roads, this is also the first place I have ever seen Otter Crossing signs, including one sign with the ‘Number of Otter Fatalities’. We didn’t get a picture of these but you can see plenty of examples on the Mull Otter Group website. 

We drove from Craignure up to Tobermory, we will then make our way back down south before going back up to Tobermory to get the ferry off of Mull. The key reason for this is that there are a couple of walks in the south that rely on a low tide, and it would be a few days before low tides were at a reasonable time of day to make it practical.

Our first spot for overnight parking was the Forestry Commission parking at the north end of Loch Frisa.

Bertie’s parking spot at the north end of Loch Frisa

We cycled from here down to the other end of the Loch and then took a short circuit through Glen Aros before retracing our steps up to the north. On the way we were keeping our eye out for eagles. Mull is well know for the white tailed sea eagle which was reintroduced in Western Scotland in 1975, golden eagles can also be seen, so we were hopeful for a sighting at some point while we were on Mull. We saw a number of large birds from a distance, which could have been eagles, and one up close which was probably a buzzard but could have been a juvenile sea eagle (it didn’t have the distinctive white tail). Buzzards and sea eagles have very similar silhouettes, golden eagles are quite different, but it’s difficult for amateurs like us to tell the difference unless they fly very close or all conveniently fly past at the same time so that we can tell the difference. So nothing conclusive on this bike ride, but looking very hopeful.

Moody view over Loch Frisa

We settled down for the night in the forestry commission car park with a couple of other campervans joining us. We were really starting to notice the shorter days now; it’s pretty dark by the time we’re eating dinner, a sure sign that we’re getting into Autumn and no signs of an Indian Summer in this part of the country.

  

 

A Moist Start on Mull

12/09/17-13/09/17

In Oban the following morning we did some supermarket shopping to stock up on a few essentials before going over to Mull. Our plans were going to take us to the western side of Mull where we knew that shops would be small and sparsely scattered.

The ferry to Mull was pretty uneventful and the weather was dull and rainy still.

Bertie in pole position on the way to Mull

As soon as we got off the ferry at Craignure we turned left and in a couple of hundred yards we were at our campsite for the night. The Shielings campsite offers touring pitches and also self-catering ‘Shielings’ which were constructed from a heavy duty white waterproof canvas. In fact this fabric was also used in the construction of some of the toilet blocks, the laundry room and the washing up area as well as being used for smaller items such as pockets to hold your shower gel/shampoo. It seemed very versatile stuff but made the campsite look a bit like an army camp in a very scenic war zone.

View from The Shielings campsite

The Shielings did have good industrial sized washers and driers, and we were able to get all of our laundry cleaned and dried. I also re-proof our supposedly waterproof trousers. Hopefully they really are waterproof now.

We used the time to investigate a problem with our roof light. This is an electrically operated RemiSTAR roof light which uses a gear mechanism to lift and drop the Perspex ‘lid’. The last couple of times we had used it the gears had been making awful crunching sounds and our online investigations has revealed that ‘gear stripping’ was a common fault with them due to the way that the cable was made. We took a look and sure enough the gears were stripped. Replacement gears have been ordered and we’ll hopefully pick them up from Mum and Dad when we see them in October. A good thing then that the weather is getting cooler and we’re not requiring the roof ventilation quite so much.

We didn’t do much else while we were here apart from a short cycle ride up the road and lots of wandering around the shore in between the rainy spells.  

Highland cattle – looking pretty

A Bit of Nostalgia

11/09/17

Barnluasgan is near to the Crinan Canal which was built to allow boats to pass across the Kintyre peninsular without having to take the significantly longer journey around it’s perimeter. These days the boats that use it are mainly pleasure craft; yachts and motor cruisers make their way through it’s locks to access the islands of the Hebrides.
I’d last been here nearly 30 years ago when we came on a family holiday to the area. It’s remembered well by the whole family because we had our first seafood platter – one between the 5 of us, we didn’t have a lot of money but plenty of pretension – from the Seafood Bar at the Crinan Hotel. It would be no effort for Paul and I to cycle down to the Canal and have a little jaunt up and down it’s length and then maybe a seafood platter at the hotel, just for old time’s sake.
The weather was a definite improvement, a bit blustery and showery but with the occasional sunny spell. We cycled to Ardrishaig at one end where we stopped by the memorial to John Smith – leader of the Labour Party for a short while until his untimely death, and born in this town – for a cuppa.

View from the harbour at Ardrishaig

Then we cycled back towards Crinan, the wind was blowing in our faces in this direction making it much heavier going and we felt that we would definitely deserve a treat when we got to the other end of the Canal. We had a look at the Seafood bar which was serving a lot of seafood dishes but no platters, and anyway our tastes were veering more towards sugary carbohydrates by this point so we went into the café for tea and cake instead.

Crinan sea lock

The Crinan end of the canal is definitely the more picturesque as the canal cuts through cliffs on one side and sits above the wide sandy bay of Loch Crinan and the tidal reaches of the River Add on the other side. Crinan itself is a pretty village with a very yachty feel. The café served excellent cake and proper pots of tea – you know, enough for three of four cups and with extra hot water.
After refreshments we cycled back to Bertie, stopping at the bird hide for a quick look, not much of any interest today just a few geese and oyster catchers, a family of swans and probably a number of small brown birds that I’m hopeless at distinguishing.

The River Add estuary

Because we were enjoying the day we went a bit further through the Knapdale forest roads before making it back to Bertie.

Exploring abandoned villages in the Knapdale forest

It was still fairly early and we debated what to do next. Ideally we wanted to research our trip to Mull, but we couldn’t get online where we were so we thought we would move on. We stopped first at the parking area for Carnasserie Castle, but still no internet access here so we popped up to the castle for a look around before moving on further.

Carnasserie Castle

In the end we moved on a lot further than we had expected, ending up parked alongside the A816 just south of Oban in a layby where we were able to get some signal.

Driving through the end of a rainbow in search of the internet

We booked ourselves on the ferry to Mull for the following day and did some research into possible places to stay and things to do. We had quite a long list and crossed our fingers for fine weather. We also booked into a campsite for a couple of nights when we got there as we had a lot of dirty laundry and wanted to do some washing.
Once we were sorted we felt more relaxed and sat watching the waters of Loch Feochan for the remainder of the evening.

On the Beaver Trail

10/09/17

The day on Gigha had been a brief respite from the rain. The following morning it was tipping down again and difficult to believe we’d been chilling on the beach the previous day. We drove further North to the Knapdale forest where we parked at the Barnluasgan Forestry Commission parking area. There is a small information centre here displaying a few items about the beavers that have been re-introduced to the area.
We were feeling a little guilty for missing so many places out on our very quick journey up the west coast of the Kintyre peninsular, but we just didn’t see the value of trying to wait out the rain. We do have a fixed deadline with Aaron’s passing out in early October.
IN order to avoid being cooped up all day we donned our full waterproofs and set off to follow the beaver trail around the loch. We knew we wouldn’t see beavers as they don’t tend to be out in the daylight hours, but we thought we might see some sign of them. It wasn’t an unpleasant walk to start with as we made our way through the woodlands looking at the attractive flora and the lake. As we progressed, however, my trousers began to let in water. This reduced the appeal of the walk and we spent less time looking around us and more time trying to finish the walk and get back to Bertie where I could dry out.
That evening the rain didn’t let up, so any plans to try a twilight beaver watch were put on hold. I’ll have to wait till I’m home again and stake out the beavers on the River Otter.

Dead trees festooned with lichen

Gigha Island

08/09/17-09/09/17

It was still raining when we left Machrihanish Campsite, but we knew that the following day would be good so we made our way up the west coast of the Kintyre peninsular stopping a few times to take in what view there was and finally coming to rest for the evening at the ferry terminal for Gigha island. Ferry terminals are good for motorhomers, they often have toilets, water and free CalMac wifi as well as other services.

Gigha is a small island on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsular, there is not much on the island but it was meant to be pretty and sounded like a good place to while away a few hours in good weather.

The following morning dawned as sunny as promised and we left Bertie in the car park happily charging his batteries while we took our bikes across as foot passengers on the small CalMac ferry.

We cycled up to the North end of the island where we scouted out the possible motorhome parking spots (you never know – we may be back) and sat and watched the sea for a while until a fishing boat disturbed the peace with some very loud rock music; you know, the type that they heavily advertise around Father’s day. Fair play, it’s probably quite difficult to listen to music over the sound of the sea and the noisy diesel engine of a fishing boat.

View across the bay from the North End of Gigha island

Next we tried to reach the twin beaches which link Gigha to a small tidal islet. We could see them from a distance, the shining white sand looking inviting, but as we set off down the track it got muddier and muddier until we could cycle no more. Undeterred at that point we continued on foot, but eventually we had to give up as the track became a muddy lake and our attempts to force a new path through brambles and bracken came to nothing.
Finally, after cycling the full length of Gigha we took a track down to a beach signposted for the beach at Port a’ Chinn Mhoir only to find a sturdy cream bull walking down the path ahead of us, swinging his testicles in a way that said ‘I own this path’. As the path was narrow there was no going past the bull, but we slowly urged it forwards until the path became wider and it headed off in a different direction to us.
We finally had a beach we could relax on, the weather was nice enough for me to go for a paddle in the shallow sands of the bay, which was also what the Bull was doing – heading for a group of cows that I’m sure had been on his mind all along.

Bull wading across the bay
White sand beach on Gigha – just right for a paddle

That evening we felt sun tired and couldn’t be bothered to cook, so we went to Big Jessie’s café for a fish and chip supper.
To help the (perfectly cooked) greasy stodge down we walked along the beach north of Tayinloan bay before spending a second night at the ferry terminal.

Shipwreck on the beach north of Tayinloan
Mysterious posts heading out to sea

 

Hair Today

10/09/17

We were in a campsite, stuck vegetating in Bertie due to rain. The biggest event of the day (and it’s a pretty big event as far as I’m concerned) was that I finally dyed my hair.
I’m not really a high maintenance woman, I don’t get my nails done or eyelashes extended or any of that sort of thing. Last time I went for a spa day I nearly laughed at the beautician when she asked me about my usual ‘routine’ – well I wash my face and apply moisturiser when I remember! It’s not that I have anything against such things, but I don’t want to spend my hard earned dosh on them. My one concession to the beauty industry, the thing that I was willing to spend money on, was a visit to the hairdressers every four weeks to get my hair coloured and hide my ‘sparkles’.
But we’d now been on the road for three months and I hadn’t dyed my hair in all that time. In addition I’d lightened my colour earlier this year and with the sun my hair was now looking a bit of an odd combination. Dark roots with grey patches and ginger ends. Something needed to be done!
I’d bought the home dying kit a few weeks before but wouldn’t countenance using it in Bertie’s bathroom. So this was an ideal opportunity. My hair is back to a uniform dark brown – for a few weeks at least.

Other exciting things that we did to pass the time? Well I also made use of the free wifi and watched the first episode of Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off (Paul was not keen and made me wear headphones), the jury is out on whether the pairing of Sandy and Noel works as well as Mel and Sue, but I like Pru Leith and found it pretty enjoyable. I’ll have to watch some more next time we have good wifi.

Oh and I experimented with frying stuff – well we are in Scotland, but I didn’t go as far as Mars Bars – we decided to try cooking fish and chips. It worked quite well with the fish in batter shallow fried in a frying pan while the chips were more like potato wedges in the oven. As I had batter left over I also made onion rings and courgette fritters, so it was an dinner consisting of the ‘golden’ foods. We added peas and tomato sauce for a bit of colour. I’m sure our arteries will recover at some point. Regardless of the success of this exercise it will be a rare treat as the cleaning up afterwards took some effort.

Continue reading “Hair Today”

Mull of Kintyre

06/09/17

More rain had set in. Our plans had been to visit Campbeltown, maybe to take a walk to Davaar island and then walk up to the lighthouse on the Mull of Kintyre. But the weather was too wet, the tides were wrong (Davaar island has a tidal causeway) and all in all we felt a bit miserable.
We drove to Campbeltown, an attractive town with a very Victorian feel to it’s buildings especially along the seafront. Here we did a bit of grocery shopping and had a wander around, but were driven back to the sanctuary of Bertie by the weather. We then drove down to the southern coast where we might have been tempted to continue up to the headland of the Mull of Kintyre but the mist had rolled in from the sea (sorry) and there wasn’t any point driving up into it. To mark the occasion Paul and I had a little sing song in the van – I woke up that night with the slightly inane lyrics ringing round in my head.
Finally we stopped in Machrihanish, it had taken most of one miserable day to get this far – it would have taken three or four nice days! We took a short walk up to the seabird observatory where we stopped to admire the fantastic photographs and talk to Eddie Maguire who is the very knowledgeable warden there and had taken the majority of the pictures. It made me wish, again, that I had both the skill and the equipment to share pictures of some of the birds and animals we have seen. We made a donation and took away a DVD of photos backed by traditional music.

Because the weather was forecast to remain pretty miserable we decided to check into the Machrihanish campsite for a couple of nights to do some chores.

No photos as it was too miserable to be inspiring.

Carradale Coastal Walk

05/09/17

We woke up to fine weather and so continued with our plan to walk around the coast to Carradale. The intention was to follow part of the Kintyre way to Carradale and through the woods behind the village, then we would head out to Carradale point. On the way back we would make a circuit of Carradale and walk along the beach, crossing the river using the stepping stones before retracing our steps for the final part of the walk.
We started by walking up the road from Torrisdale before joining the Kintyre way as it heads over to Dippen Bay. The route finding was interesting as one of the pale blue markers for the Kintyre way had been knocked over. This was the key marker for determining our route across the first bit of open land to the coast and we managed to take a couple of wrong paths into boggy declivities before we managed to get down onto the rocky shore. Once on the coast though we were good to go with the rest of the route pretty obvious and well marked. Here we saw another otter sitting on a rock having a good nibble on a crab, how lucky to see two otters in two days and an excuse for a rest after our wrong turns earlier.

Paul watching the Otter

At the western end of Carradale bay the route left the coast and walked alongside the river before heading along tracks through forestry commission land and then back down to Carradale where we could pick up the path to the point.
When we got to Carradale point we had hopes of seeing some more wildlife – but all we saw (and smelt) was a herd of feral goats and a few gulls.

Smelly goats on Carrdale point

We had a pleasant walk back along the sandy bay to the stepping stones but then much disappointment as half of the stones were underwater and there was no way I was going to attempt them. We had an extra mile or so to add to the route as we took a detour back up to the nearest bridge, but rather that than embarrassment or a soaking.

By the time we got back to Torrisdale we were quite tired, so decided to stop there for the night. It also had to rank as one of our favourite overnight spots for it’s beauty and peacefulness.

Rainbows over Torrisdale