Motorhome News from Scotland I

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September 28th 2012
Published: September 28th 2012
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Teesdale Teesdale Teesdale

Looking over towards Middleton in Teesdale
Motorhome News from Scotland I

September 7th - September 16th 2012

Teesdale (Co Durham) - Scotland - Trossachs - Balmoral - Perthshire - Aberdeen -

It's just the way it happens sometimes. This travelling bug I mean. If you have a minute or two to spare I'll tell you how it goes. Sit over there, on the sofa by the window.

Somewhere around this time in September it's Penny's birthday. Penny is an old friend and we're about to discover just how old she is when we get to the celebration party at the remote home she shares with hubby, Roger, up on the moor in Teesdale, County Durham. The prospect of a four-hour-plus drive from home prompts us to take the motorhome and stay at the local farm with Steph, Richard, three or four magnificent rams, a few dozen sheep and the odd cow up on the hill. If we're going all the way to Teesdale it makes sense to make it a holiday, doesn't it?

Yes. That's the way it happens. "Another cup of tea?"

It was Penny's fifty-nine and eleven elevenths by
Loch KatrineLoch KatrineLoch Katrine

SS Sir Walter Scott at Trossachs Pier
the way, and a sort of nearly retirement party, washed down with earl grey, scones with clotted cream on Friday afternoon - and the finest brew with much hearty fodder on Saturday. Nothing ever half-measures with our Penny.

Thoughts of the Outer Hebrides: Harris, Lewis, Uist and Benbecula have been on our minds for many moons as the last remnants of Scotland to be added to our list of wild places in the UK to visit whilst we're still standing.Now we're half way up the UK we might as well keep going and get the job done.

By the time we reach the Trossachs to the north of Glasgow we've had enough driving for one day. This is a new route for us; up through the middle of Scotland to the east of Loch Lomond to Aberfoyle, plying the twisting roads around the lochs, a tinge of fresh heather, dusty purple, pillar-box-red rowan and the first signs of autumn as small copses of beech and bracken turn to gold on the delightful hills around us.

Then the mobile phone rang.

"Gale force winds and heavy rain are forecast for the next few days in the Western Isles," a kindly friend advised.

Change of plan!

"Would you like another biscuit while we check out the map?"

That's the nice thing about travelling in a motorhome. It looks like our trip to the Outer Hebrides is on hold for the time being.

Plan B: Take the scenic road east towards brighter skies and wait it out. Play a little golf and check the weather as we travel.

So we play a few rounds of golf on a discounted Perthshire Green Card: glorious Crief, pleasant Murrayshall and adequate, forgiving, Alyth Strathmore. Janice is still better than me. It's a daft game but we're fitter for it. The forecast for the Western Isles is still dire. We're beginning to think we might abandon the Islands completely on this trip.

Northwards we traipse through Perthshire, striped fields of golden stubble on rolling hills, bales of straw like liquerice allsorts, farmers ploughing gleaming furrows, gathering gulls in their wake like flurries of snow and tiny dots of white wool with black faces beyond long lines of undulating dry-stone walls.

The GrampiansThe GrampiansThe Grampians

... from the A93
new route takes us into the dramatic Grampian Mountains along the A93, north to Braemar and Balmoral; before us vast horizons and broad dark hills made for hiking sweeping ever upwards under a patchy sky; one moment white cumulus on a bright blue backdrop, the next angry and black, sweeping rain across the landscape beneath a bright arching rainbow - and beneath it a huge herd of red-deer, watching us watching them. It would be impossible not to stop, just to stare in amazement and absorb the enigmatic beauty.

And so to Braemar Castle, sombre under late afternoon grey skies - for stories of ghosts, Jacobites and warring Clans; the Mars and the Farquharsons. Give 'em independance I say and they'll all be at each other's throats once again before you can say 'awa the noo'. There's a room in the castle dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson who is said to have written Treasure Island whilst here on holiday using many local characters in some of the key roles. There is also a room where Queen Victoria once took afternoon tea.

"I'm sorry. How rude of me. Would you like another?"

There are lots of interesting castles along this route but I'm sorry to tell you that nearby Balmoral, The Queen's summer residence, is closed for the season. We're also missing the Braemar Games by a couple of weeks; those burly guys in swirling kilts tossing logs, hammers and stones amongst the reelers, the jiggers, the fiddlers, the Harris tweeders, the tammy-shanters, the bagpipe players and the Range Rovers with personalised plates. If every car was the same colour I guess it would make sense for everyone to have a personalised plate; at least it would help to find your car in the car park. Our preferred answer is the golf-ball-sized yellow plastic Pooh Bear we stick on the car aerial - a dollar at Disneyworld.

The A39 follows the River Dee, winding its way through rose-granite towns with fine Victorian houses, smart shops and stone-spired churches, neatly tended flower- bedecked gardens hiding behind hills from the wind and rain. There are indeed many mills on the River Dee, 'where once a jolly miller lived'. In nearby Ballater, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker all have the sign over the door; 'By appointment to Her Royal Majesty'.

'By appointment to Her Majesty'..... and the grey haired nomads
We succumed to the sausages and the bread rolls and the signs now read; '...and The Grey-haired Nomads' over the door. A short walk in the nature reserve at Muir of Dinnet delighted us with swathes of dusty-blue heather on rolling hills and fascinating grey-green lichen-clad birch.

Not strictly by choice, our SatNav brought us into North Aberdeenshire through the centre of Aberdeen, previously only another place on the map; a port and a centre of oil and gas from the North Sea on the estuary of the Dee. But its wide main-street sparkles with fine grey-stone buildings, turretted towers and bunting fluttering on the stiff morning breeze. We're aiming for the coast to catch the best of the day's weather, to the agricultural lowlands rising and falling towards the sea, tractors and combines busy in the fields, much of this year's cereal crop still ripening in the sparse sunlight of Scotland's autumn and dreams of a wee dram from the next flaggon of malt whisky.

Plan B, as you would expect, includes a small portion of birding to pass the time and focus the brain whilst we continue to wait out the weather
Loch of Strathbeg Nature reserveLoch of Strathbeg Nature reserveLoch of Strathbeg Nature reserve

Konik horses - doubtless from the farm of our dear friends, Marek and Hania, in Poland
in the west. This east-facing coast running north from Aberdeen welcomes wintering wildfowl and waders to the more sheltered waters of estuaries and lochs: hundreds of Redshank and Dunlin hunker down in the grass with the Black-headed gulls on the inlet at Newburgh. Guillimot, Black-throated divers, Curlew and Razorbills bob on the waves at Crudden Bay and Gadwall and thousands of Pinkfoot Geese are gathering on their wintering grounds at Loch of Strathbeg, where Konic horses also graze on the reserve. Turning west from Fraserburgh the Gannets of Troup Head stretch their wings above the waves as they head back to roost in the late afternoon and Rock Pipits scurry across the beach at delightful Pennan, that tiny fishing village of white joined-up cottages down the steep single-track spiral road at the base of the cliffs.

It pains me to relate that Janice has been deprived of her annual Puffin fix this year. It seems we have been in all the wrong places at the wrong times. These cheeky looking little birds leave their rabbit-burrow nests by late July and head out to sea to be lost somewhere amongst the stormy waves where they spend the winter. The best we can do on this occasion is to head out early one morning to see the Gannets at Troup Head, swirling over the waves on long black-tipped wiings in a flurry of confetti at a wedding. Many thousands nest on the cliffs here and even this late there are still a few fluffy chicks clinging on to the rock-face, dark immature birds flapping their wings before the first leap into the unknown whilst parents look on, forever bonding by rubbing beaks in a gannetuan kiss. We're spellbound in these situations.

West of Troup Head the drive sweeps down the steep winding road to the car park above Crovie, another picture-book fishing village with a long dramatic history. There is no road from the edge of the village, merely a narrow footpath divides the houses, end on to the waves, from the raging sea. A brief stop and it's on through the fishing port of Macduff into Banff. There are no Canadian Rockies here, in a stone town with its fair share of empty shops as it spirals into recession along with most high-streets here in the UK, as out-of-town, internet shopping and the current recession all take their toll.

The high cliffs and rolling hills of this north-facing coast tumble down to the cobbled streets of the picturesque fishing village of Portsoy, its grey-stone cottages and warehouses fronting the equally grey stone walls of the harbour, its fishing boats out on the tide for the day.

As many visitors will already know, it's a requisite when in Scotland to partake of a large portion of fish and chips at the first opportunity. In Nairn, where we camp overnight, 'Friar Tuck's' oblige with suitably-wrapped haddock and chips and we dine in style, parked in the motorhome overlooking the Moray Firth from the harbour as the sun sets across the open water to the west. An opportune moment to dream of sunsets off the Western Isles; or more specifically, The Outer Hebrides. Decision time.

"Let's do it," Janice suggested.

"Do what?" I replied.

"Let's go. Tomorrow. The wind is forecast to drop in a day or two and there's a window of brighter weather on the cards."

And tomorrow came as it invariably does.

We're heading west, out through Inverness and over the barren hills of Scotland's heartland, for the ferry from Uig on The Isle of Skye, to Tarbert, on Harris, for an encounter with The Outer Hebrides. Come and join us.

"Your tea has gone cold. Would you like me to make a fresh pot?"

Janice and David

The Grey haired nomads

(Motorhome News from Scotland 2 will follow in a few days).

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Additional photos below
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28th September 2012

Hi you two glad you're having a great time - have been thinking of you and all that 'weather' up there - pleased to hear you've been avoiding it. See you soon, keep having fun xxx
28th September 2012

Milk with one sugar please
Another grand tale, this one with a ring of "The Night Mail" (This is the night mail crossing the border, Bringing the cheque and the postal order,...) about it - but by trusty diesel motorhome instead of a steam train. Oh, and when the kettle's boiled make mine good old Yorkshire Tea, not that poncy Early Grey!
28th September 2012

Grand adventure!
How utterly fabulous to live in England and have a motor home for comfy adventures! Sipping a cup of your generous tea, I turned to googlemaps to follow you (with a slight detour at Findhorn--popular with us Californians). I love your shot of the tiny fishing village, Crovie, clinging to the cliffs and also your meandering way of traveling. A few years ago, I hitchhiked around the Isle of Skye and northern Scotland, gazing over at the Hebrides. I look forward to your tales from there!
29th September 2012

Grand adventure
Hello Tara, There are journeys and journeys. This one is quite minor for us - a local drive north so to speak, but there is great beauty in wilderness and not much of it left. Our fondest memories are of the US where we 'RV'd' for seventeen months - and blogged every moment. I'm sure you loved the islands as much as we do. Our favourites are Shetland and Newfoundland with fond memories! You'll see if that changes when we send you our next blog (WIP). Thanks for the contact. It's good to know someone is out there. David
29th September 2012

Just turned into Mrs Hulk!
Hello you two, Reading your blog and viewing your wonderful images has turned me totally green with envy. The photographs are totally marvellous. I love Scotland and you seem to have found all the best bits on journey journey onwards and upwards. The coastal scenes are to be drooled over...your signature image has got to be on your wall as a huge print. Amazing....I expect that Janice took the shot :-))) Looking forward to the next episode - yes I think I will have another cup Vicar. Hope the weather holds and that we will be treated to even more wondrous images Annie ...... And Aubrey of course. Xx
29th September 2012

Hi From Auatralia
Hi Janice and David, wow, what a trip you are on, we willbe following your blog from now on. All the best Kangaroojack
29th September 2012

Hi from Australia
It seems you have caught the bug. Welcome! This one is quite minor for us; a sort of local expedition north as you Brits will surely know. Keep on truckin'. David
30th September 2012

Salut les nomades--
Delighted to have the time to share a cuppa & a biscuit with you this time (my preference is peach blossom oolong!). I would have written more often, but it has been a crazy two-years for us. We have a friend touring north England/Scotland at the moment. If you meet a tall Yank named Steve tell him we said hello and happy wandering. It was fun to read your poetic prose and imagine the scenes you painted (I almost do not need photos); too bad you missed the Games. It is surely hard for you to imagine, but here it has been hot and dry all year, with many fires across the entire West, and more to come, no doubt, as the climate revs its engines. We spent a portion of every month traveling--almost as restless as you two--and so our veg garden was nothing to brag about. We have local grandkids to distract us as well, so our previously well-scheduled life is now a chaos. Do stay healthy and keep the updates ("blogs" -- are you texting now too?) coming. We thought of you as we did a pika-monitoring project at high altitude a week ago. RMNP in autumn was gorgeous. Hugs & bises, Linda (Jean-Pierre is on a Wildlands Restoration project)
30th September 2012

The journey begins
Hi David/Janis, Finally followed your example, Barbara and I, Graham and Julie (in a seprate motorhome), spent a week (w/c 17/9/12) touring Northumberland, it was an enjoyable experience and we will do it again next year (early June probably), but this time around Devon/Corwall, it was really good - and different. Keep enjoying yourselves.
9th August 2015

Hi We've just stumbled across your blog and it was great reading about your travels in Scotland as we're planning a 5 week tour of the UK in late April/May next year, in our motor home bertie. Not knowing anything about Scotland, it had given us lots of ideas. Thank you!
10th August 2015

Bonnie Scotland
Hi Bob and Doris - or is it Brenda? We have a Burstner called Bertie too! May and June are great months for visiting Scotland - before the midges and mossies get a taste for humans! Don't try to take on too much. You have lots of motorhoming life ahead. We've been going to Scotland for years and have yet to see it all. It's the remote corners we're fascinated by, but there's lots of interest everywhere. We finally got to Glasgow last year! Love every day of your travels. David and Janice
10th August 2015

Bonnie Scotland
Hi Bob and Doris - or is it Brenda? We have a Burstner called Bertie too! May and June are great months for visiting Scotland - before the midges and mossies get a taste for humans! Don't try to take on too much. You have lots of motorhoming life ahead. We've been going to Scotland for years and have yet to see it all. It's the remote corners we're fascinated by, but there's lots of interest everywhere. We finally got to Glasgow last year! Love every day of your travels. David and Janice

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