Scotland NC500 and more, Week 2

We went into Dunbar the next morning, and I love the place

I trust you have read the first part of this blog Scotland NC500 and more, week 1, and you pick up our trip as we leave Inverewe gardens.

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.

The road from here goes inland, and is more moors, but when you reach Loch Assynt you find Ardvreck Castle.

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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!

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Looking across the bay

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.

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Reggie at the signpost
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John O’Groats harbour

 

Then we continued to the real top of Scotland, to Duncansby head, with its lighthouse, and true end of the country feel.

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Duncansby Lighthouse
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Stacks

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.

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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.

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and a walk from the back of the site takes you to the lighthouse.

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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.

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St Abbs church
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Gate with St Abbs head
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St Abbs harbour
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2 Puli waiting for us outside the visitor centre

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.

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.

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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.

Scotland NC500 and more, week 1

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.

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.

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.

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.

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The obligatory Loch Ness selfie

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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 .

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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.

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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.

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The pulis has a wonderful time, and we even caught a glimpse of a seal in the bay.

 

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.

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Showing how close people were passing the deer
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deer and more wild deer

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.

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.