I have not written any blogs for a long while as we moved house, and I’ve just not found the time, but our recent trip to Mersea, a small island on the south Essex coast, deserved a blog, so I’m back.
With moving house, most of the trips Connie the van made this year were to carry large purchases, like sheds, green houses and wardrobes. The bulk of her trips were to Ikea, so having got most of the big jobs out of the way, and with a new grandson to visit, we needed a holiday.
We wanted to combine a final campervan trip of the year with a visit to my son and family. A browse of available sites found Waldergraves on West Mersea, somewhere neither of us had previously visited.
The forecasts had been dire the previous week, but improved day by day, and in the end we had lovely weather for mid October.
Mersea has a causeway that floods at high tides, and the day we arrived was such a tide, but we got there shortly after the sea had subsided, and settled in for a G&T before checking out the beach.
It was only a short walk from our plot on the edge of the large site to the beach.
The sun was dropping as we walked towards the town of West Mersea.
If you google West Mersea you will find lots of photos of the beach huts, and they didn’t disappoint. There are around 400, and a large section are identical huts painted in soft pastel shades.
The beach has very large tidal ranges, so can be very narrow, or stretch away into the distance.
While the background was not the most scenic, with a disused Nuclear power station, and many wind turbines, the sun on the water, and the groynes and seabirds was very pleasant.
The following day we ventured further along the beach, which the Puligans enjoyed.
As we approached the town, the huts became random, many different styles and paint palets.
I could have spent all day taking photos!
A few yachts were enjoying the fine weather
As we rounded the end of the island, there were many houseboats, all appearing stranded but on closer inspection each had a channel in the shore.
A boardwalk took us into the small town, and then a slow walk back to camp.
As it was Ians birthday we later walked to a local pub with the dogs for a mid week roast.
On Thursday the weather was forecast to be rainy, so we only took a short walk then, finding the weather was actually very warm and sunny, spent the rest of the day sitting in the sun and reading and relaxing.
On Friday we decided to walk the other direction towards East Mersea, but the coastal path has eroded making it unpassable. So we took the diversion inland and found ourselves at a vinyard, which we had to visit for morning cake and drink.
Our route then took us past the back of the site and onto a neighbouring campsite, where we dined on fish and chips, our holiday tradition.
It was then time to continue on to Dartford, but we will probably return as we thoroughly enjoyed our autumn break here.
We first booked a trip to Greece, to sail the Faraway Islands, north of Corfu, for spring 2020.
Of course, Covid-19 scuppered those plans, so we rearranged the trip for spring 2021. Then we realised a May holiday could clash with my sons’ rearranged wedding, leaving us no time to isolate if that was the current rules, so we moved it forward a couple of weeks.
Then COVID came back with a vengeance and we asked Sailing Holidays to just find us a sailing trip in Greece for October. We had to avoid the 13th as that was Barbara’s 90th birthday party, so we booked the delivery trip from Nidri to Gouvie for the following weekend.
As the pandemic is still very much with us, we had to be tested, and fill in lots of forms.
Eventually it was time, and off we flew, after an early departure from Pete’s on Sunday, we arrived mid afternoon at the Hotel Iris and were shown our yacht, Elara, a Beneteau 331.
After welcomes, and more testing and forms, we settled on the boat and dined in the restaurant. The weather was a bit glum, but we had a rainbow to give us hope.
The following day, after briefing and shopping, we left Nidri for Spartakhori.
We were delighted to get our sails up, and as we headed into a bay for a swim, we spotted a few dolphins a short distance away.
We have visited Spartakhori a few times before, and as it was a team meal, I forgot to take any new photos.
Next day we set off for Kamalos. the sun was shining but not much wind. We had hoped to meet up with Mary-Ann and Colin, as they were also sailing in the area, but our plans didn’t match up, so we motored down the Meganissi chanel and stopped in Port Leone for a swim.
We anchored just outside the old windmill, before setting off up to Kalamos.
Goerge, who owns the tavern on the quay, is renown for getting any boats into his harbour, even if it seems full. Luckily it was fairly quiet as this was approaching the end of season.
Wednesday we set off to Sivota, with a bit of early wind, and we were delighted to see 3 dolphins swim past our yacht. We kept sailing all the way across the top of Meganissi and downto Sivota.
There is a beach near to the marina so todays swim was sorted on arrival. We also had a punch party on the beach as dusk set.
Sailing this late in the year means we were up before dawn most mornings, and we had some spectacular sunrises.
Thursday started with little wind so we motored most of the way to Little Vathi on Meganissi, only getting the sails up after a stop in Abeliki bay, where a flash new house was being built. This was a feature of the holiday we had not seen before, lots of modern buildings arising everywhere.
We did mange a short stretch sailing Goose wing, which is always a delight.
After an evening briefing, we slept ready for an early start.
The next trip was through the Lefkas Canal, all the way to Gaios, so we had to set off at 07:30.
Another sunrise rose behind us as we set off north to Lefkas.
The morning had a surreal feel to it, as it was so calm and still, with only our 2 flotillas out on the water.
A bit of chaos ensued at the canal, as first one boat had rushed across under full speed and had overheated their engine, then another boat ran aground in the mud in the canal. Then a third yacht had its anchor drop mid canal, meaning the lead crews had to haul it back up while we dodged the obstruction.
So when the horn blasted for the bridge to open, for 5 minutes, it was a crazy dash to get through, and the horn to signal its closing blasted as we motored past. Our lead crew failed to get past and had to wait an hour for the next opening.
We motor sailed part of the way, then dropped the sails and carried on under engine. It’s a long trip, with Paxos only becoming visible after a couple of hours, but luckily the weather was good and not too much swell, as this is my least favourite part of the trip.
After that long trip, we only had to get to Lakka the next day. The wind was stronger and we reefed our sails and had a good play, with more goosewinging.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner at NioNios of Pork Hock, then we wandered round the town, finding a children’s clothes shop that had to be visited. That’s 2 Christmas presents sorted.
Next we returned to the mainland, to Sivota Mourtos, stopping on the pontoon in the next bay. Our yacht was moored nearest to the land, and I had my best swim yet along the rocky shore, with many different types of fish.
There is a fancy new taverna in the bay, but other people weren’t impressed, so we dined on board, then as dusk started we walked into town, which is a steep 1. We do werer arround 5km walk. we treated ourselves to a great ice-cream and walked back in the dark.
Monday we sailed up to Plataria, having a good tack with reefed sails before mooring uplowed them orarouhalfnd h on the town quay.
We dined in Olgas fish restaurant and I shared the fish platter with Phil, yum.
A new port for us the next day, Sayiadha. It sits behind mud flats which are very shallow, and we were lucky to spot a turtle just before it disappeared, then some dolphins came swimming nearby, with one of them coming within a couple of meters of us. We were able to follow them for about half an hour.
The tavernas here specialise in local caught prawn, which I had with spaghetti.
A few pelicans were floating just outside the harbour the next morning, and another turtle passed us on our way out.
We finally reach Corfu on Wednesday, stopping in Petitri.
Due to a river entering behind the marina, this bay is very atmospheric.
On a previous trip here I had photographed the dawn, and this year we had a similar experience, with thick mist rolling out from the bay.
Thursday was a trip up the coast, stopping in a bay enroute for a lovely swim, and into Corfu Yacht Club. We were lucky to get a spot on the quay side, but it proved a rocky night.
We walked into town late afternoon, and smelt a great curry cooking in the Yacht Club taverna, so rather than return to town, we dined there.
I found this amazing fruit on the quay.
We still had a couple of days before returning to base, so we now venture to a new area, visiting Kassiopi, which is very close to the Albanian shores.
We had a lot of spare time today, so had a swim and sat and read for a while.
Our last day was a gentle trip back round to Gouvia, with a bay stop for my last swim.
We had a team cocktail party and prize giving, we got the ‘David Attenborough’ award for our wildlife spotting.
The following day we didn’t have to leave the marina until 16:00. The staff had already started work on readying the yachts for winter, opening up the genoas to dry.
They make a spectacular sight against a blue sky.
That sadly is the end of a wonderful trip, lots of sunshine, wildlife, swimming, great food and company, but short of good wind.
‘the sea had just scattered the remains across the beach’
2020 has been a very strange year, and sometimes we just needed to escape, and for me that means the seaside.
Our campervan has not been used much this year, so we decided on a few days trip mid September. Our normal breaks take us westward, so for a change we opted to go North Easterly to the Yorkshire coast, to places we had not been to before.
As we were booking late, and due to Coronavirus, many more people were holidaying in the UK, we couldn’t get the first night where we wanted, and opted to stop in Snaith, on the way there. The site was small, and we were the only guests when we arrived, sharing the field with some chickens who soon departed once the dogs were let out.
The site had caught my eye as the pillars from an old bridge remained in the river behind the site. So we went to have a look, but as the banks were overgrown and fenced off, we only got distant views.
This used to be a toll bridge, charging an awful lot of money to cross when it was built. The 2 small church like building across the river are the toll booths.
We carried on our walk with a visit to Snaith town. To get to the town we passed underneath the road bridge, and a Barn Owl flew out, too quick for a photo.
We found a wonderful cake shop, so took a couple of huge yummy cakes back with us for afternoon tea.
The next morning we continued on to Spurn Head, and the Yorkshire coast.
Our campsite was a small tidy site with around 8 other vans. We quickly realised that Spurn Head is a great venue for Bird Watching, as everyone else there seemed to be in Camouflaged clothing carrying huge binoculars and cameras.
A quick check of Google told us that a rare sighting of a Rosy Starling was todays excitement, but as we only had small binoculars with us, we left that to the twitchers.
If you don’t know the area, Spurn Head is the long strip of sand and dunes the curves around the end of the Humber estuary, and is one of the most easterly points on this part of the coast, which is why random birds appear here, having been blown across the North Sea.
As we had arrived early, we set of for a stroll by the sea, after all, that’s why we were here. Dogs are not allowed on the main Headland as it is a nature reserve, but we stopped at the cafe for a quick drink, no ice-creams! Then we set off along the beach.
The sea is constantly eroding this part of the coast, moving it ever Westwards. As a result, the beach is now scattered with the ruins of war time lookout building, and the static caravan park is slowly being reclaimed by the sea.
The dogs were glad to be free on the beach, with Rita making sure she collected lots of sand to take back to the van.
Lookin gout to sea there is a large Wind farm, gently spinning turbines making pretty patterns as they lined up.
I never imaged lumps of old brickwork could be so beautiful, eroded by sea and sand.
The large concrete blocks are part of the sea defenses. Further along we came to the ruins of WW2 gun turrets.
The first sight of them has a shape that resembles a huge bird, until you venture closer.
These make for a very dystopian lands scape, and truly show the power of the sea. They were very solidly built to withstand bombing, but the sea had just scattered the remains across the beach, at crazy angles.
It is an almost alien scene, with crooked staircases going nowhere, and weird round shapes like UFOs.
Eventually I was dragged away to continue our walk, knowing we would return the next day for more photo opportunities.
We booked ourselves a meal at the nearby pub, which overlooks the Estuary, facing West, towards Grimsby .
The meal was delicious, and we were treated to their ‘cabaret’ – the sun setting into the water. As I have usually visited the west coast, this feel right – I’m never comfortable with the sun sinking behind me as I look out to sea.
The next day, still hot and sunny, we set off from where we left off along the beach.
There is a Sound mirror inland a short way, but we didnt find the footpath to it, so only got a distant shot.
The signs of erosion are everywhere, the caravan site had lost a row of plots, and the road hangs over the edge.
On the dunes we found a ‘sculpture’ of several lobster pots and some rubbish, with a poem written on.
At one point the dogs started barking when they were close to the sea defenses, and I soon realized they had come across a young seal.
It wasn’t too concerned by them, as I called them away, and it flopped back into the sea.
I grabbed a shot of the starlings on the telegraph wires, one of them might be a rosy Starling, but I doubt it.
After another good night, despite me finding a wasp in my cider, and getting stung on my lip, we set off to our next stay. I was for once glad to wear a mask, as my lip and cheek swelled from the sting.
First we called in at Bridlington, a very typical seaside town, all rocks shops, arcades and tacky souvernirs.
We just had to stop on the prom for fish’n’chips, and took a stroll around town. It was busy due to the lovely weather, but the breeze was a bit brisk.
Our final site was on Flamborough Head, just round the coast.
The next day we walked from our site to the lighthouse on the Head, passing the old Chalk tower, which was the first lighthouse here. But the charges for this service were voluntary, so it quickly fell into disrepair.
The Greenwich Meridian crosses the head and is marked by a plaque. This can be confusing, as many maps of Britain are tilted, so you would imagine it passed further inland than this.
The modern lighthouse is now a popular destination for more bird watchers and has a small cafe. It also has a shop where I found a souvenir pencil for my collection and a badge for my camera bag – result.
From here we set off round the Southern side of the head, where we could sea bird strewn cliffs.
Part of the route passed through a Sculpture park, but is seems most of the sculptures have gone, leaving only a totem pole and a wonderful Whale Bone bridge
The final part of the walk we dropped down to the beach below the chalk cliffs, and then back to the campsite, warmed by the sun, and tired from our great walks.
We were so glad we decided on tis trip, adding new locations to our travels.
After a tranquil nights sleep, we were woken by the sounds of the jungle, and some cheeky white faced Capuchin monkeys crawling around the site.
Any food we took into our cabin had to be shut away in the lockable cupboard, as these monkeys happily climb in and raid the cabins.
Todays activity was a Nature walk, and boy, did we see nature!
The scarlet macaws are very noisy, but you wouldn’t believe how well they hide in trees.
After all that adventure, Ian decided to try the sloth way of life
And another sunset to end day 2 here
Day 3 activity was snorkeling on the reef, one of my favourite activities, but Ian is not a great swimmer, so was not as excited.
Off we set in a small boat to the island of Cano would could see from camp.
En-route, our guide spotted a sea snake swimming along – these are deadly, and can jump from the water, so after a quick look we moved on
A few other boats were visiting the reef, but it was very organised, and I was soon enjoying the sea life
Eventually I had to end this adventure and head back to the lodge.
This was our last night here, but we ended with a night nature walk – no photos, as it really was dark, but very interesting – we saw a tarantula hiding in a log, and narrowly avoided a venomous Fer-de-lance snake resting in a branch we crept under.
We left Corcavado Lodge by boat again, and picked up our van for the rest of the trip, plus the remainder of our luggage, as the small plane couldn’t take it all, they had arranged for some bags to be left behind.
First stop was at Canta De Ballenas Hotel, in Bahia, a short distance from the Marina Bellina National park.
I don’t seem to have many photos of this park – I think I might have forgotten to take the camera. The park is shaped like a whales tail, jutting out into the ocean.
This park has a split personallity – it has stupendous wildlife all through it, but it also hosts some of the worlds best beaches. In order to maintain the park, there is a limit on the number of people in the park at any time. Despite this, I felt some resentment to people there just to sunbathe, with no interest in the scenery or wildlife.
As soon as we walked into the park, we saw sloths, weird insects, tree frogs and spiders.
However, when we took a rest on the beach, the raccoons soon appeared, and more monkeys, all very cheeky and unafraid of the people.
You can see why the beach is so popular – Ian even had a swim – this is almost unheard of, but the water was bath temperature.
One animal we hoped to see in the park was the squirrel monkey, but none appeared. But at breakfast at our hotel Manuel Antonio the next morning, this pair turned up, sat on the kitchen roof, so we didn’t leave disappointed.
This is a throwback special. A friend has said they have booked flights to Costa Rica, and wanted to know if I had blogged my trip. This was before my blogging days, so lets do one now!
The trip was Ian and my main honeymoon, we got married the year before, but wanted to miss the rainy season, so chose February 2011 for our trip.
We had no idea where we wanted to go, and I didn’t know where Costa Rica was exactly, but this trip stood out in the travel brochures. It was also an activity trip, whereas we wanted to see the wildlife, but it turned out the best option.
Our holiday began with flights into San José, the capital, and an overnight stay at the Rosa Del Paseo Hotel on the main road through the city. It is a quaint Victorian building, within easy walking of the centre, and here we met the rest of our party and our tour guide.
The second day began with a flight from San José out to Palma Sur airport in a tiny plane, where they had to weigh us as well as our luggage, and they decided that our bags had to follow on the next plane out.
The flight was not going high, so was not pressurized – this meant it could have huge windows, giving us a great view of the scenery as we travelled.
Soon we reached a Palma Sur airport, and transferred to a coach, and then travelled down to the river Sierpe, where we were loaded onto a barge like boat, and set off towards the sea.
However, we had noticed that this boat had rather impressive outboard engines, and once out of the town, the gentle trip turned into a white water ride! Wheee.
After an hour we reached the sea, and then went down the coast to reach our next stay – the Danta Corcavoda Eco Lodge, on the Pacific Coast of the Corcadavo National Park.
There are few roads in the park, so boat is the best way to arrive, even if this meant paddling ashore from the dingy to the beach.
We carried our bags up the hill to find our lodge, a wooden building with mesh windows, and a balcony facing the ocean.
The view from our balcony.
We still had some daylight left so wandered down to the exquisite beach.
The beach was covered in tiny hermit crabs, making it appear as if the sand was alive.
Back to the lodges for dinner, and then time to relax on our balcony. My one ‘must see’ on this trip were Macaws, and on our first evening we saw several fly across the jungle between us and the sea – Wow.
Sunset across this peaceful corner of our planet – bliss.
So with the wedding celebrations over, we leave Sturbridge and head towards Boston.
As we couldn’t book another night at the lodges, we had arranged an Airbnb in Westborough, not too far from either end.
When I mentioned this to Jenn, she asked ‘Why?’.
We had told the host we thought we would arrive around 17:00, so she had got painters in. But we arrived earlier, so stopped in town for lunch. And as Ian put it ‘You can’t even watch the traffic lights change, as there aren’t any’.
But we had a pleasant pizza and lasagna, and then stopped at a nearby reservoir for a while.
Our Airbnb was a huge rambling old house, full of lovely furniture and decor. Our host, Geraldine was very welcoming, explaining she was going out for that night. Then she mentioned that there was a lodger who had been in the loft for 4.5 years. Oh, not up there all the time, he did come down sometimes!
After some card games to end Ian’s birthday, we all needed some sleep so had an early night.
As we only had the hire car until the afternoon, Kirsty requested we visit Boston Zoo, as zoos are a bit of a family hobby. When we arrived at the zoo there was a marathon being run though the zoo, but a policeman guided us the wrong way up a street and to some parking, and we set off into the zoo.
The first animals we saw were red pandas, a favourite of us all, and they were very active, we we stayed here for a long time.
While this is a fairly small zoo, and some enclosures were rather mean, overall it was good, and we had a good visit. I won’t bore you with yet more animal photos, as I know I have posted a lot before.
One exhibit we got excited about was a kiwi, which Kelsey said must have got lost on it’s way to their wedding.
With car return time looming, we got permission to enter our Boston Airbnb a bit early, so once the cleaners had left, we settled in and Jason returned the car.
We then walked along part of the greenway to Back Bay Fens before deciding we were hungry.
Kirsty and Jason chose The Cheesecake Factory, and as reviews suggested it could be busy we headed there early.
We needn’t have worried, we were seated right away, and presented with a HUGE menu, including dozens of cheesecake options.
I decided to be sensible and leave lots of room for dessert, so chose a delectable small beetroot and avocado salad, but Jason opted for a chicken sandwich – there were two huge battered chicken breasts topped with a bun and chips, and Kirsty chose the burrito – about a foot long. Of course, I helped them out when they couldn’t finish their meals.
I had Key Lime, and we all decided they were heavenly, and were pleasantly surprised by the low cost of the meal, given the huge mouth-watering portions.
So fully fed, we headed back to the apartment, which sadly only had comfortable seating for three, and our bed creaked every time we moved, and the second bed just had a futon mattress. For some odd reason it also only had 1 fork, and 3 knives?
On Monday Kirsty and Jason had a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery, while Ian and I decided to follow the Freedom Trail through Boston, a walk recommended by our guide book. The route is marked by red bricks along the pavements, and takes you to the prominent places in American Independence history.
We started in Boston Public Gardens, where a children’s fun run was taking place – this was Columbus day weekend, so a holiday.
Massachusetts State House
Not the real Cheers
It was a very interesting walk, with lots to see. We stopped in the Haymarket for a bagel for lunch, which we ate in the Rose Kennedy Greenway, then continued over the bridge to USS Constitution museum.
From here we caught the inner harbour ferry across to near the Aquarium.
and continued around the Harborwalk
until we reached the Tea Party Museum.
We then strolled back along the Greenway
and through China town. As Kirsty and Jason were not very hungry, we walked round to Frenchie restaurant, for a light meal, delectable mussels for me and a succulent beef bourguignon for Ian.
And so we reach our final day, but as our flight was early evening, we dropped our bags at a Bagbnb, and caught the ‘T’ railway to Macy’s, where we had to buy some beautiful clothes for my future granddaughter.
Ian and I then followed the South Side walk in our guide book, through the stately houses and elegant streets,
look at the number
then back to the park to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue
We met Kirsty and Jason again, they pointed out that we had seen the fake Cheers bar, the real one was next to the park.
With a couple of hours left, we asked to visit the Mapparium, a huge stained glass globe created in 1935 of the world as it was then, that you can walk through. We were just in time for the next tour, and found it fascinating, noting changes in ‘ownership’ of the planet. Sadly, they don’t allow photos.
Oh, did I mention, we popped into The Cheesecake Factory again, well, it was scrumptious?
And so our time in Boston, and USA came to an end, picked up our bags and set off on the T to the airport, meeting Pete and Jess there.
Thank you to Andy and Kelsey for giving us a wonderful reason to visit, and choosing the best time of year, and to New England for putting on a grand show for us.
Our favourite places were Wilmington (in Part 2) and Boston.
Our Saturday night was spent at Ullapool. where the site is right next to the town, on the shoreline. There is a walk down to the shore where the Puils had a great time running through the dunes.
The views from the site are spectacular, especially under the clear blue skies.
We ate fish and chips on the shore in the sunshine.
Ullapool Broomfield Camp site
The road from here goes inland, and is more moors, but when you reach Loch Assynt you find Ardvreck Castle.
Can there be a more typical ruin? And with a waterfall across the road for added interest.
The coast road then follows a B road around the next part, and rejoins the A road near Unapool. For the past few days we had been kept company by drivers following the ‘Knights of the Islands 2019’ road trip, with their vehicles all over 20 years old.
We met some on various site and view points.
Finally we reached the North Coast, and stayed at Sango Sands, again, right on the coast, with a walk down to the beach.
This had to be my favourite beach, with wild waves crashing on looming rock, and 2 crazy beasts dashing around like loons.
No wonder the van is full of sand! But I declared this our Happy Place and would happily have stayed all day/week.
After a morning bacon buttie, and another visit to the beach, we took the short trip to a nearby beach where enterprising souls had set up a Zip wire across the bay.
We had to have a go!
A girl zipping across before us
The landing site
It was a peaceful glide, enjoying the views across the bay.
Adrenaline fix over, we continued along the top of Scotland, with wilder scenery but still many great beaches.
Our site for the night was Thurso, but as we had made good time, we headed first for John O’Groats, a tacky touristy place with a quaint harbour, for ice cream, and Signpost selfies.
Then we continued to the real top of Scotland, to Duncansby head, with its lighthouse, and true end of the country feel.
There were many people looking out for Dolphins and whales, but we didn’t see any. However, 2 Orca were spotted from the ferry here the very next day.
Thurso Bay site was yet another shore site, this time with steep cliffs down to the beach, and a short walk into town. We also found that the nearby Lidl was open on a Sunday evening, so restocked our cupboards.
From here, everything goes downhill, or South anyway.
The coastline down the east of Scotland Highlands is more about the fishing industry, with Herring harbours and fish farms.
One delight was Dunrobin Castle, this one is not a ruin, but a fairytale castle.
The road crosses some spectacular bridges, and the scenery changes constantly. However, drizzle was starting to arrive after a quick visit to Inverness.
Our next 2 nights were in Glenmore near Aviemore. I was expecting a small quiet site in the Forest, as this is run by Camping in the Forest, a joint venture between Forestry Commision and the Camping and Caravanning Club, but this was the largest site we visited,and we were close to a shop and bar. It was also raining, and our pitch was a puddle. The site was quiet and the staff very friendly and helpful.
To cheer us up, we spotted a red squirrel a few feet from the van, but he scuttered off before I could grab my camera.
Determined not to let this weather stop us, we cooked a hearty meal onboard Connie, and the next morning the rain stopped for long enough for us to walk around the Loch, and after lunch at the non-dog friendly visitor centre, we walked up to the green loch, An Lochan Uaine, despite the shower that turned into rain.
A quick visit into Aviemore before we set off, and the weather brightened as we headed south.
We crossed the new Forth bridge, but panels along the bridge prevented any reasonable photos.
In bright warm sunlight we reached Dunbar. The site is high on hills past the town, with great views across. We quickly emptied the wet awning and dogs beds, towels etc. out onto the bank and with a stiff breeze, soon had everything dry again, while a skylark sang away just above our heads.
The site has its own small castle
and a walk from the back of the site takes you to the lighthouse.
As the site was not in town, we went into Dunbar the next morning, and I love the place.
It has a great little castle, very cleverly upgraded with information and gardens, and a small amphitheater where they hold concerts, a working harbour, and other interesting shops and buildings.
Next stop was St Abbs, with the intention of another lighthouse visit, but we decided against the walk round, and just visited the harbour and shops instead.
Lunch at the cafe near the car park, and off on the road again.
We followed the coast road down past the wonderful Northumberland castle of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Alnwick, and views across to the Farne Islands and Holy island. A leg stretch and run on Seahouses beach refreshed us all.
view across to the farne Islands
Our last night was at a small working farm site in Gibside, Rowlands Gill, with views across the green farmland, and horses and sheep in the nearby fields.
From there it was a walk on Seaham beach, where I had stiff competition for my sea glass collecting, but still managed a few very pretty items. Ian said most people on the beach had their heads down.
Further research says this is one of the worlds best sea glass beaches, as a glass factory used to sit at the top of the cliff and multicoloured waste scraps were thrown away into the sea. I didn’t find any of these wonderful, prices, but I will return to this beach whenever I can.
And then through the Yorkshire moors and home. Two happy sunwashed humans and 2 sandy happy tired Pulik, with loads of great memories and many photos.
One thing I failed to mention is that at almost every site and pit stop we heard cuckoos calling, and skylarks were everywhere.
But we must start planning our next trip with Connie already, once we have removed the sand from inside Connie and the dead flies from the windscreen.
We found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted
With the weather forecast for Scotland looking warm and sunny, yes, that’s right, we decided to make our desired trip to Scotland in May, when the midges are not yet in their thousands.
So we sat down and planned a route, as since the North Coast Road has been turned into a must-do drive, the campsites can be busy.
After spending our first night at Lytham St Annes for a family visit, our next site was Hoddom castle a beautiful site near Lockerbie, set in the grounds of the castle, and with facilities inside the castle. It was special to take a shower inside a castle.
doorway at Repentance Tower
View from tower looking down at castle and site
bridge over the river
where the Salmon go
under the castle arch
view from the field behind
There are also lovely walks around, including up to Repentance Tower, and along the river. They also have cute pods if you don’t have your own accommodation.
After a lovely quiet night and a morning walk along the river we set off north, stopping briefly at Lochmaben Castle, very much a ruin, and most of it closed off due to crumbling masonry.
Rita getting delusions of grandeur
This part of the journey took us past Glasgow on mainly motorways, but there were still lovely sights to see.
Our next night was spent near Oban at a site set within a walled garden. You can walk down to the loch shore, but there is a Fish farm factory alongside. However from the back of the site there is the delightful balcadine walk through the woods, with fascinating iron railing down steps to an enchanting chasm.
Wrought iron gate looking through walls to site
sun dropping through the trees
the chasm pool
ooh, that looks a bit scarey
The shore near the site
tree growing in fence post
From here we stopped in Fort William, a fairly drab town, for some supplies, then detoured a little off our track to visit Fort Augustus and the bottom of Loch Ness.
While the town is small and mainly filled with tourists, it is charming and the locks on the canal are worth a walk up, and then walk down to Loch Ness. Of course, everywhere we go Reggie and Rita create a stir.
We set off on the A87, enjoying the mountains and lochs, and crossed the bridge to the Isle of Skye. However, we didn’t find Skye as enchanting or picturesque as other places, and our site, though lochside, was a bit bleak, but did provide a colourful sunset and a bright start to Thursday .
Our next stop was Applecross, the the faithful among you will travel the famous Bealach na Ba road, with hairpin bends and steep hills, but we decided Connie was a bit big for the road, so we took the alternate road up to Sheildaig.
En route we stopped by a loch for lunch, and I walked down with the Puli to the lochside, started taking photos, when 3 deer appeared and calmly walked towards us.
The road from here becomes single lane, but with plenty of passing places. The road is popular with not only campervans, but motorcyclists and flash cars, but was not too busy to enjoy the drive.
Shortly before arriving in Applecross, as we were early, we stopped at a small car park, and found one of the most incredible beaches, almost deserted, with a vast stretch of clean soft sand.
The pulis has a wonderful time, and we even caught a glimpse of a seal in the bay.
the perfect beach for hide and seek
Rita came for a paddle
shaking off after a paddle
The site at Applecross had been in a list of top 10 site on NC500, but as they were building a new shower block, the existing facilities were very poor, with insufficient showers, and the field we were on did not have much view. Hopefully this will improve later this year.
For dinner we walked down into Applecross and had a delicious meal at The Junction, where they allowed the dogs upstairs, and there was a great view across the shore to Skye.
As we had 2 nights here, on Friday we took the walk to Applecross walled garden and beyond, a lovely walk with forest, rivers, hills, and the sweet gardens where we also stopped for lunch and both had Haggis and Cheese melts – mmm.
On our way there we met 10 red deer, just standing by the public footpath that goes along the roadside. They didn’t care about Reggie barking at them, and just stood grazing and watching us pass within a few metres of them.
On Saturday, after revisiting the wonderful beach just up the road to gather more sand into the van, we swapped driver and set off towards Ullapool, passing many pretty fishing towns and lochs.
One pit-stop was to Inverewe Gardens, a lovely sub tropical garden, kept warm by the Gulf Stream. The azaleas were in bloom, and the lovely handkerchief tree.
Wrought iron gateway
Walk along the terraces
Office with a view to die for
Luckily, the weather had stayed warm and sunny, reaching 22 degrees some days, and not too many midges had found us.
Stay tuned for week 2, as we head further North and around the top of Scotland.