Featured Scottish Highland Motorhome Adventures

Discussion in 'Epic Drives and Places to Stay' started by Spuffington, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Spuffington
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    Spuffington Moderator WARLORD Site Supporter

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    I love the Highlands, as a “regular” visitor over the last ten years due to family living between Oban and Fort William, I have been used to driving up and down from Essex / Cambs border. But it’s since my first motorhoming trip in March 2017 that I fell in love with the freedom that motorhoming in the area affords you and quite how relaxing and restorative time spent in the great outdoors and wilderness is. My last trip was in October 2017 together with my Partner, M. We’d been dating for 2.5months when we planned the trip and although it was one of the most wonderful holidays of my life, being limited to the southern Highlands was my only regret given that six months earlier I had covered the NW up to Durness and really discovered my spiritual home.

    Now, with a little under two weeks between leaving my old job and embarking on a new one and various family commitments constraining the time available, I decided with the usual unwavering support from M that the best way to rid my system of the previous job and prepare myself for the new, was to return to my “happy place” and this time show M the spectacular places I had explored in my previous van “Harry” whilst on my own journey of self discovery 2.5yrs ago. With us both having endured a decent amount of work stress and the usual challenges of normal life, it was just what we needed. Unfortunately, due to said work commitments, M could only join for four days. Not sure “work commitments” was true or whether she just didn’t fancy the thousand mile round trip to Inverness and back! (note: she did actually have work commitments, but I wouldn’t have blamed her for wanting to miss travel up and down!).

    I do hope you enjoy reading (and for those who find my prose a little boring, I’ve included some snaps!).

    Although the journey practically starts on 25th November, I had a head start! Due to problems with the fridge, a week or so previous, I had taken our faithful “Carrie the Concorde” to Premium Motorhomes in Doncaster for remedial work. This 130miles having given me a head start. Prior to the trip, not to be shamed by the much newer vehicles in their parking lot, Carrie got a good wash and some well deserved TLC....

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    Monday 25th November 2019

    Daughter dropped off at school, I “ran” for the train - well as best as you can with two suitcases. Not my usual style when I have a motorhome in which most things are normally packed. But we hadn’t actually planned this trip until last week, so Carrie being up in Doncaster meant packing suitcases full of clothes, walking boots, towels, sheets.......and most importantly........the Nespresso machine and capsules!

    Trains from Cambridge to Peterborough, Peterborough to Doncaster and a short £15 cab ride to Premium, I was delighted to arrive a full hour earlier than anticipated, which was going to give me a head start on the trip north. Following a quick handover - fridge evidently working perfectly - I filled with water, went to set off, before being waved down by one of their Tech’s.

    Your offside taillight is out, mate” came the cry....

    B*gger. Just what I didn’t need. A bit of fiddling, a new bulb and a quick check and it was working again. Phew!

    A quick WhatsApp to M to let her know I was en route North (she was in Frankfurt on a work trip) and I set off. My joy at leaving at 1400 quickly dissipating with the realisation as I joined the A1M that I hadn’t eaten! Eeek. I had been in such a rush to get going that the last time I ate was with little one before the school run at 0730. Darn.

    I pushed North but eventually had to give in just 90mins into the journey by stopping at Wetherby services and filling both my stomach, fridge (which actually wasn’t fixed as it was now at 11degs C!) with food and the gas tank with 50l of LPG. Myself and vehicle brimmed, it was time to make up for lost time. As I returned to the vehicle, I noticed the rear taillight was out again. Never mind, don’t have the time now and I have the top marker, so all good (fingers crossed).

    A1M North to Scotch Corner, A66 west, M6, A74M North - a well trodden route for me and thankfully reasonably easy today. Rain battering the van all the way, but the traffic mercilessly light save for the usual heaviness around Carlisle. With Carrie set to 60mph on the cruise against the GPS satnav, we both fell into an almost meditative state as the miles ticked by. With an ETA of 2030 showing for Port Appin, all was going swimmingly until just south of Glasgow. A big accident had blocked two lanes and lost me over 40mins. Then, as I was driving the M8 through Glasgow, I overtook a cop........would the missing taillight provoke a pull? I winced as I drove past. Nothing. Phew!

    Running short of fuel and needing a wee, I finally stopped just short of Loch Lomond at Dunbarton and lifted 70 odd litres of fuel for the 270miles since leaving Doncaster. At this point my ETA had pushed out and I was feeling seriously weary. The drive ahead was only 90miles or so and some of the most wonderful driving roads which at this point I would be itching to get stuck into if I were in my Porsche, but the thought of the next two hours or so left me cold. However at this stage it was time to dig deep and make the last push. It would be such a shame not to see my Aunt & Uncle this evening after all the hard work getting this far.

    When you think about the word “hustle” in motoring terms, you’d be forgiven for your mind drifting to a spirited Sunday morning drive along well-sighted, sweeping corners, undulating, favourite roads in, say, a hot hatch, little sports cabrio, or perhaps even a junior super car. It’s not however really synonymous with driving a 9m long, 2.4m wide and six tonne vehicle along the challenging (unlit) road that runs along the waters edge of Loch Lomond between Tarbet and Crianlarich! Notoriously tricky even in daylight in a normal saloon, it is my least favourite section of the drive to the Highlands on the west side. I admit that its widening at certain sections in the last ten years has helped avoid wing mirror scrapes, but its width is far from generous and corners tricky to judge. As luck would have it, at 2030 on a Monday evening, I met only six vehicles. The downside being, four of these were HGV’s! That said, at least HGV drivers understand the challenge of driving this route and slow down to avoid unpleasant comings together - unlike the majority of Toyota Aygo drivers, who I am sure think their vehicles are both invincible AND 3m wide.....driving as they do down the centre line of the road.

    Nevertheless, in spite of all the challenges, “hustle” is exactly what I did. Guiding Carrie almost telepathically along the winding roads from Tarbet through Glencoe and finally on to Port Appin, where I finally arrived, bewildered, exhausted and very happy to a wonderful welcome from my Uncle and Aunt as well as a (quite frankly) mental Labrador; reminding me that she has never forgotten who was her first Master. After an hour or so of chats over a couple of tins of ale, bed was calling (in the van) and I settled down to a wonderful night sleep.

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    Tuesday 26th November 2019

    The plan had been to set off for a mini adventure to towards Skye before picking up my better half from Inverness on Thursday evening. I was, however, talked into staying another night at my Uncle & Aunt’s place. In fairness, it didn’t take much to persuade me. I was tired after the drive and it is great spending time with them. On top of that, being at their gloriously cosy house with stunning views. This decision turned out to be spectacularly good and bad in equal measure.


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    The benefit of staying put and not having anything on was the chance to address a few bits on Carrie which have bugged me for a while. Firstly, we set to to sort out that pesky offside rear taillight. With a bit of fiddling with the bulb holder, my Uncle had it working. Next job - the ancient (and broken) plastic door catch for one of the locker doors. I’ve had a replacement for this since week one of owning Carrie (now well over two years!), but never seem to have the time. Today I managed to remove the old broken clips, clean the surfaces, inject a little waterproof mastic into the holes and around the new clips and fit the replacements.

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    Next up, the shower rail in the bathroom which has been duck taped to the shower wall since a ski trip earlier in the year where it broke away. Out with the Silkaflex and shower head rail bonded to the wall again. Job done! A bit of a vacuum inside and a general tidy and I was very happy with what we’d done.

    At this point it was time for a nap and then later on, dinner. I was treated to a truly delicious venison steak at the local pub followed by a quick nightcap to put the world to rights before my departure for the hills the following morning. What a lovely way to start my hols. Hit the hay at 23:30. So much for the bad decision to stay......

    Wednesday 27th November 2019

    Oh, I spoke to soon. My day started unexpectedly early; waking suddenly, fumbling for the light switch. It was obvious at exactly this moment that my world was about to go catastrophically wrong. That unmistakable feeling of your body hating you. Not two minutes later was the washing up bowl the recipient of my (previously wonderful) venison steak. The time: 0020. It was to be a very long night; my hourly reminder of dinner continuing well into the early hours of the morning. Eventually, battered, bruised and exhausted, I drifted into an uninterrupted sleep at 0800. It was clear, my plans for travelling were as wrecked as my body. If only I’d left yesterday as planned!

    Thursday 28th November 2019

    More or less recovered (or so I thought), I set course for Aviemore. Not really sure what I was going to do there, I figured it was (sort of) in the direction of Inverness and not having visited before, I thought I’d do so whilst waiting childishly excited for M, who wasn’t due to arrive until 2035 at Inverness Airport. The day was essentially spent with me aimlessly driving in order to find a suitably lovely spot to eat lunch and chill out.

    First stop though, a campsite. With one toilet cassette brimmed, I wanted to start the travels with two empties. I also needed some water. I headed over to Craegan Station - a little campsite east of Appin where I’d been reliably informed the owner was a pleasant and helpful chap. As I turned up, he was on site and we negotiated £5 for me to drop my toilet and grey waste and top up with fresh water. Not only a really friendly guy, a stunningly beautiful site which I’d have no hesitation in recommending or staying at in future.

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    Once serviced - two empty toilet cassettes and 250litres of fresh water on board, I headed up to Fort William. An uneventful drive until about two miles south of town, when a logging truck came around the corner..........on my side of the road! Ordinarily, in a car I’d have had enough room to swerve without incident. The problem with Carrie’s long wheel base is that as I turned deeper into the apex to avoid a coming together with said lorry, there was a terrifying screech of rubber and jolt of the body - Carrie’s nearside rear axle had mounted the pavement and then dropped down with a thud in the blink of an eye. Cursing the lorry and shaken, I cautiously steered the next few miles into Morrison’s car park to check for damage. Thankfully nothing more than a scuff to the face of the tyre and the suspension was all intact. (Phew).

    Loaded with shopping my meandering drive took me out through Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge, Aviemore, Carrbridge (for more fuel!) and out to Tomintoul; no offence to the inhabitants, but this truly is a sh*t hole! By the time I stopped for lunch, it was getting dark and I’d found just a normal lay-by in the Cairngorms; nothing special and with hindsight a clear sign my heart wasn’t in it and I probably wasn’t quite well enough yet. Anyway, with evening approaching and being a couple of hours from the airport, I set course on some hilariously dark, wet and wild roads to meet my beloved.

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    Upon M’s arrival, I swung around the back of the Courtyard Marriott hotel (no parking for oversized buses!) and we set course for a little parking spot I’d found on Google Maps which showed promise. However, prior to that, an important stop at the petrol station.

    Much as I often encourage a “safety wee” from my daughter before a long journey, the same goes for Carrie prior to a trip into the Highlands; or rather a “safety splash” (refuelling) such are the relative paucity of fuel stops beyond the major towns and Carrie’s consumption of diesel, which on a regular day would’ve made George Best look like a moderate drinker, let alone when hauling her six tonne body up 15% gradients!

    Two and a half hours later, we find ourselves 15miles North of Ullapool at a little parking spot for Kockan Crag Natural Reserve. Two other motorhomes are parked up, giving us the usual feeling of “safety in numbers” which is always nice to get when turning up somewhere at 2300 without being able to get a feel for the suitability / safety of an overnight stop which you can judge in daylight. Exhausted from our travels (and no doubt my food poisoning still), we hit the sack and enjoy a wonderfully restful sleep.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  2. Spuffington
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    Spuffington Moderator WARLORD Site Supporter

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    Friday 29th November 2019

    I’m used to early starts on holiday - M has an amazing (read: slightly annoying) habit when on holiday. No, it’s not picking her nose in bed. It’s getting up early. In itself, in the grand scheme of things, I understand that it’s at the minor end of scale. However, if it told you I spend the rest of our “normal” life coercing, negotiating and downright pushing her out of bed after constant resets of the “snooze” button, you’d have been as surprised as me to find on our first (and all subsequent) holiday(s) together, her alarm gets set for 40mins before sunrise and not even one snooze button is pressed!!!! Her “thing” is sunrises. And in fairness, it’s not a bad “addiction” to have and one which, although I take the mickey, she has indoctrinated me with and, frankly, for which I am very grateful.

    However, although the alarm is set for early, I can’t blame M for the wake up call this morning. Instead, the local gritter lorry driver has decided to have a 6am cuppa next to our Motorhome whilst leaving his engine running, presumably due to the rather chilly minus 4 degs C temps outside.

    Eventually, just as I’d given up all hope of getting back to sleep, at 7am he drives off just as the alarm goes off. M - like some kind of pop-up clown from a box - springs out of bed to check out the sunrise. Me, bleary eyed (I’m normally the morning person out of the two of us), opened the blind next to the bed and peered out to see how spectacular the sunrise is. “Not very” I proclaim, as I look across the car park to the toilet block. M appears as disappointed as me, wraps herself back up in the duvet for a quiet moments of contemplation. Then, not two minutes later, adamant there must be a view - jumps out of bed and opens the blind the other side of the bedroom. “my goodness gracious!” or words to that effect (she is a very well spoken Irish lady!). Actually, I lied. She is Irish, but I can’t type what she exclaimed upon opening the blind................and in fairness, she nailed it. THIS is what greeted us from the bedroom window:

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    And that was it - the next two hours were spent in a mixture of wandering around in the freezing cold almost breathing in the view, or sitting in Carrie, warming our hands around a cup of coffee whilst staring, agog, out of the window. I’d nailed it. Through a mixture of chance and very good Google Mapping (obviously not a word, but I think you know what I mean!), I’d selected our perfect overnight spot. Obviously, mine was the own goal in looking out of the wrong window, but you can’t win them all! The main thing is, in that moment, if I wasn’t already, I was M’s hero and had started her holiday off by exceeding her expectations and rocking her world. I had indeed set the bar high, but absolutely confident this could be repeated, I gently encouraged her that we should eat breakfast and mosey on somewhere near the sea.

    After her finishing off a couple of bits on her laptop so she could properly put work to bed for the rest of the weekend, we set off for our next stop. Conscious that we had limited time and our main goal was Durness, I was keen to get going. But a look at the weather forecast showed that the fine weather was set to continue further south and the northern coast would be overcast. Therefore, a quick rethink had me setting course for the coast. Almost due west from where we were.

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    One of the finest places I visited on my solo trip was Achnahaird Bay. I was so taken by this place - the size of it, but also the isolation and wilderness. However, my concern was that during my last visit I was sad, vulnerable and impressionable. Could it have been that Achnahaird was special to me due to a sentimentality or was it really such an amazing place?

    I needn’t have worried. The next 40mins of typical single track roads and the tight squeeze down the last mile to the beach had already won over M. The parking spot at the end of the narrow lane revealing the most spectacular beach; waves fit for the very best surfers, and but for the dog walker on the beach and parked in front of us, not a soul in sight! We parked up, our windscreen full of the bay, smiles on both our faces from ear to ear and a wonderful sense that this was ours, not just for tonight, but already it was in both our hearts forever.

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    After a spot of lunch, we pulled on a few layers and our boots and walked across the cliffs and down to the sandy bay below. After taking in the enormity of the place, we sat down on a rock out of the wind but with full view of the sea lapping the beach in front of us and spent an hour chatting. It had seemed, at least to me, that over the last few months with both our work getting in the way, we had coexisted rather than lived. As we talked, planned, laughed and held each other, a sense of calm came rushing over me. We finally had the space and time to catch up and to “be” with each other. Already the Highlands had started its restorative process on me. Achnahaird was just was it had been before - a space to allow you to think about everything and nothing. But above all, to wonder at Mother Nature.

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    That night, we hunkered down. Now with the whole bay to ourselves, the temperature dropped to minus 5degs C and we spent the evening chatting, peering out into the darkness at the sky full of stars and the Milky Way - all whilst tucked up in a warm and cosy 23 degs C. We went to sleep, alarm clock obviously set for sunrise(!), listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach below. Surely it can’t get better than this?
     
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  3. Spuffington
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    Spuffington Moderator WARLORD Site Supporter

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  4. zarnd
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    zarnd

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    Nice one. Enjoyed that.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  5. edthefed
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    edthefed Site Supporter

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    I was half expecting...

    So as we drove past .......I saw on the forecourt....and after a bit of negotiation I've bought....

    OR

    "She said yes"
     
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  6. Nic Bowler
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    Nic Bowler

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    I do enjoy reading about your adventures in your motor home, and relating to your personal challenges, even if this involves an upset stomach! Seriously though you write well!
     
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  7. Spuffington
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    Spuffington Moderator WARLORD Site Supporter

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    Thanks all. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoy writing it up and recounting the adventure.

    Currently working on the next five days. Have uploaded photos to Photobucket but need to finish writing.

    Might be a bit sporadic and piecemeal but I’ll keep going if you’re interested.
     
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  8. snrbrtsn
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    snrbrtsn WARLORD Site Supporter

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    Great write up and GOOD LUCK with the new job!
     
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  9. The CO
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    The CO Admin

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    Moby's on tour again! Great write up mate, enjoyed reading that and now wishing I was there myself.
     
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  10. Peter
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    Peter WARLORD Site Supporter

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    Well done Duncan... great review. (y) As you know you were traveling through my neck of the woods. You passed my lane. I note you stopped at Laggan Dam, not congested like it often is in summer.

    The buildings in the right of the picture, a small croft, a family we know. My grandsons go to school with the son. Interesting fact... although on the side of the A86, they live 'off grid', have to generate their own electricity. Wrong place for a connection to the grid.

    Look forward to reading as you post more.

    Peter
     
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  11. isleaiw
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    isleaiw

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    Great write up - making me fancy the NC500 this year (but using nice hotels and BnBs...)
     
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  12. slim_boy_fat
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    slim_boy_fat WARLORD Site Supporter

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    A word of warning, you'd better book in advance if possible, lots of "No vacancies" to be seen in the always busy tourist season now.
     
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