Category Archives: Our 4th Year

Bretagne and back – Day 7

Mont-St-Michel – 29th June
Setting off early (well early for us) and away by 9:15am we thought we would get to Mont-St-Michel, have 2 or 3 hours there and head off to a small 3 van Aire for our last overnight stop before the ferry tomorrow. As usual the best laid plans can go awry (I say as usual, but I shouldn’t as sometimes things go as planned) and our timings were a little askew. That takes me neatly into philosophy, no you can’t read this blog and not have some, trust me it’s worth thinking about. Heraclitus (c535 BCE) stated that “No man ever steps in the same river twice” – what did he mean? (by the way I am not a philosopher, so don’t challenge me on this, I just read about them) – well what he is saying is that we live in ever present change and we must accept that things are never the same and no matter what we plan things can (and will) change. Not necessarily ground breaking but bear it in mind next time your plans go awry – think of yourself as a dog on a long lead tied to a cart – you can fight it all you like but you are going with the cart, or you can accept it and go along for the ride and enjoy it.

Which is what we did today. Arriving at Mont St Michel we were later than we wanted after an episode with our cards at a petrol station (nothing new there then) – I think we’ll be ditching the Post Office Euro cards. Trying to get into the right car park at MSM was interesting – no idea which one until after trying 3 a helpful girl eventually said numero 8 (the last car park in the line).
Buses take you over the causeway and drop you off at the ideal photo opportunity. Nothing really prepares you for the magnificence of the structure. It made me just want to stand and take it all in for a good 10 mins and that’s what we did. Amazing.

The magnificent Mont-St-Michel – an awe inspiring view from the walkway

Beautiful

The next 3 hours we spent wandering the ramparts, the lanes and the abbey itself. The abbey was the best part and thoroughly recommended, I think I’ve mentioned before how these monolithic buildings never fail to impress me and the light inside sometimes takes your breath away with the beauty.

Beautiful light in the Abbey

The abbey windows in the chancel

The abbey cloisters – a very peaceful part of the building

The abbey refectory – the monks would eat in silence while one of the monks reads religious instruction from a pulpit (right).

Getting out of the car park was just as interesting, once again the Post Office Euro mastercard failed us at the pay point so we had to revert to our bank credit card before Mont St Michel would release us on our way.
Route Barée – anyone traveling in France using a SatNav or map (or hopefully both) will understand these two words can strike panic into many an English driver and navigator. For the first time (and there have been a few this holiday) we ignored it and took a chance – maybe because it was the weekend there were no workers around, but we sailed through! We were too late to make the 3 van aire higher up towards Cherbourg which isn’t too much of an ordeal as there are plenty around. We got the last space at Agon-Coutanville at 5:45pm, settled in for barbecued pork chops and rosé wine to reflect on the magnificent views of Mont St Michel.
Back home tomorrow with a late ferry at 5:00pm so no hurry to get up and get going.

The people below looking like busy little ants – there were guided walks across the sand and mud – but in 32 degrees in the shade this was not a day to be doing that.

Bretagne and back – Day 6

Leaving Landeda
Au revoir to Les Abers – 28th June 2019

We left Camping Les Abers with smiles on our faces. Was 3 days enough, I think so, we could have stretched another day or two given the weather had changed for the better but inevitably when one is still working there are timetables to keep, a ferry to catch and ultimately the drive home on UK soil. But we are not thinking of that right now- tomorrow we want to get a little closer to Mont-St-Michel and see if we can get a visit in. We were thwarted by the weather last time (or rather we just did not fancy walking around in the rain) so we are looking forward to seeing it close up not from a distance when we first arrived.
Erquy is a small port on the north Brittany coast – we had found the Aire in our ‘go to’ book – ‘All the Aires France – North by Vicarious books. Ours is a little out of date (2015) but we figure still good for another year if you have Plan A, B & C just in case one is closed. This one was not closed – €6 for a secure sight taking 40 vans and right next to the beach with toilets was in our opinion worth it. We arrived early (1:00pm) but by 6:00pm it was getting full – my philosophy on getting to Aires is try and arrive before 5:00pm – no guarantee of a spot but you should have half a chance.
A stroll along the beach (probably a mile long) and I decide it was time for my first swim of 2019 (and maybe my last?) – I don’t do budgie smugglers so my traditional British trunks with a draw string would have to suffice – the problem was the elastic had gone so I had to rely on the drawstring not failing (perhaps I should invest in some budgie smugglers after all). Anyway, the string held so blushes all round were saved.

Leaving Landeda

Bretagne and back – Days 4 & 5

Landeda – Camping les Abers
Nous sommes arrivons – 26th June 2019

Having driven through rain, into sunshine, arrived at our 3-night campsite and settled in with a beautiful sunset the night before – the rain then followed us. I’m not a superstitious bloke but I can’t help the holiday gods have got it in for us this year (see Bonnie Scotland posts). We would not be deterred though and decided that the forecast was looking good for the afternoon and decided on a walk around the peninsula. Heading north out of the campsite we were on the coastal path – the GR34 which runs all around the Brittany coastline. The wind was blowing a hoolly coming from the north, so it was a real struggle. We marvelled at the kite surfers in the shallow Brittany waters thinking what a rush of adrenalin it must be, Janette was convinced she would drown if she tried it even in only 2 feet of water. Janette does not do water anything above ankle level. I love it, but for kite surfing I reckon your arms must be like Arnie Schwarzenegger to hold on to it – there seems to be a harness around the waist which takes a lot of the strain, but I bet the arms still ache. Moving on to the next water sport featured today – wind surfing. Heck those boys and girls can do some serious speed, imagine if they could get a car on board, you’d be over in Brittany before you could say ‘Merci monsieur’ and scoffing those croissants in a jiffy! Needless to say the scenery was magnificent and by the time we turned the corner at the top the wind was behind us.

Deserted beaches on our windy day walk

Some great flora (looks like sea holly – Echinops, but not sure) seen on our walk today

The Breton flag – like the Cornish the Bretons are proud of their heritage and like to show it.


Inevitably at some point during a motor homers blog the talk turns to toilets. Not this time the distress that can sometimes happen when emptying them but about some French toilets on the GR walk. I had mistimed my lunch and coffee and was desperate for number two’s when we came across a wooden shed next to a car park, upon closer inspection it was a loo – saved. On even closer inspection it was a wood shavings loo, never heard of one, never seen one before and without going into too much detail, once your ablutions are complete, you cover the necessary with wood shavings – and you know what? All you could smell was wood, I suggested we change to this method of toiletry for Hilma to Janette – she carried on walking.

Cycling the old rail track to Lannilas – 27th June
Today started dull, windy, misty with a spot or two of rain. We decided on an early walk and lunch before setting off on the bikes to Lannilas about 8-9km away. I had been told the there was an old railway line that had been turned into a Velo Route – so a bit of googling and checking cycling websites I was able to create a GPX route and downloaded it into the Garmin. Off we went looking forward to a flat ride but as usual around the coast you must climb out from the sea first. We wondered when the nice flat bit was going to appear however as ever when cycling in France there is plenty to distract one and it was not long before we were on the old railroad. Into Lannilas just after lunch and it was a sleepy little town, not much happening, so we headed straight to the patisserie and cheered ourselves up with some apple pastries thinking how virtuous we were cycling and wasting all those calories (if only).
Our last day at Camping les Abers and we wandered off to the beach each with our own thoughts of the wonderful spot we were in. I would definitely come back at some point – but there is still so much of Europe to explore we might never make it back here so it’s important to hold those memories in the head.
Next stop – we are heading to Erquy not far from Mont-St-Michel. We want to visit the Abbey rock which we didn’t on the way here as the rain dampened our enthusiasm and we thought we needed some decent weather to appreciate it fully.

We don’t slum it in Hilma – hats off to Janette for being such a wonderful cook xx

Bretagne and back – Day 3

Dramatic coast, mist and a moustached bale.
Brittany in our grasp – 25th June 2019

Leaving Treguier was a little sad as it was such a lovely spot – we could easily have stayed another day or two and explored further, but we had an appointment to keep at Camping les Abers near Landeda. Once again, the coastline was dramatic and the views tremendous as we trundled (we can’t say ‘sped’ or ‘zoomed’ in Hilma because she just doesn’t do that) along the D786 stopping at St Michel en Greve, a huge bay, to watch some tractors and diggers performing what can only be described as mesmerising to-ing and fro-ing, scraping or digging up mud and depositing it further out in the sea by the low tide mark. It’s one of those moments where one has a little inkling of why something is happening but don’t really know the full picture – a bit like life really.
Moving on the weather was slowly improving and we stopped for mid-morning Kuoign Amman cakes – speciality of the region, meant to be the fattiest cakes in Europe – lovely.

HANDS OFF – it’s mine. The wonderful Kouign Amman – burp!

The sea mist was rolling in on this beautiful bay (Baie de Kernic) creating a real ethereal view with white sand and turquoise water.

The mist was rolling and changing the view every 5 mins – Baie de Kernic

There was a strange ‘farmers’ type construction advertising goodness knows what which was quite amusing – not sure about the moustache – perhaps it was a local barber’s advert? Perhaps it was to ward off those holiday makers like us so we don’t spoil their landscape! Whatever it was for – it certainly made us laugh.

What the heck is all this about? Strange moustached bales warding off the incomers? A barber shop advert or the young farmers messing about?


The Kouign Amman (pronounced Queen Amman) was delicious and I think the calories will hang around for a few days. When fitness programs talk about burning calories off, well I reckon this one cake would need a firestorm before they were gone.
Camping de Abers is a wonderful site, small compact hedged off areas taking 3 to 4 caravans or motorhomes, gives each section an air of privacy. We have a fantastic view over looking the bay and Hilma is literally 50 yds from the beach – heaven.
The weather was warmer, the sun was shining, the wine had been cooled, life was good.

Shoes off and away we go – the beach goes for a long way when the tide is out.

This was taken at about 22:30hrs – beautiful

Bretagne and back – Day 2

Onions & Hooped shirts
Breton beckons – 24th June 2019

Heck it was hot last night – 24°C in Hilma at one point. Now I’ve heard all these stories about not sleeping with the windows open on the continent just in case someone inserts a gas tube to knock you out while they rob you. Utter rubbish and nonsense, they would have to be some sophisticated low lives to access that kind of equipment, so I put two fingers up to the urban myth and get a decent night’s sleep with the windows open.
Westwards ho we went heading along the north Brittany coast roads avoiding the major roads which does make for some interesting (and slower) driving. We only take the major N or E roads when we need to make haste or avoid large town centres. The weather had dropped about 10°C by the morning so felt chilly (but still warm quite a few degrees warmer than our recent trip to Scotland) so a good day for traveling. We had an overnight stop in mind at Treguier (N48°47.402’ W003°13.863’) – the road along the north coast is a wonderful drive with plenty of great views to enjoy a coffee or a lunch break. Arriving at the aire about 4:00pm (we try and arrive around this time in the afternoon at most aires to hopefully secure a place) there were plenty of spaces – about 10 motorhomes there already with plenty of space for more. Parking overlooked a tidal river with plenty of shade (should you have the fortune of good weather – unlike today’s drive).

Treguier Aire – Hilma’s overnight stop – FREE

Treguier – a picturesque French town.


Wandering into Treguier we found a picturesque small town with plenty of medieval buildings that reminded us of our time in the Alsace. A quick look around the cathedral – I am not religious but these monolithic structures always impress me in respect of the architecture and craftmanship of days gone by.

An interesting ‘ring’ sculpture suitable for a giant – just inside the arched entrance to Treguier

Architectural splendour in Treguier Cathedral

We decide as the aire was free we would treat ourselves to a meal out later and we were not disappointed – Moules a la Crème in a small restaurant (La Dentelliere) with about 20 covers.

Le Dentellire Restaurant – Treguier. Muscles a la Creme €13.50 – a bargain!

I must say that I have never had muscles so tender and sweet before, a meal to store in the memory banks if I can. Returning to Hilma the spaces had quickly filled up with 21 motorhomes parked up with a few places still left.
It rained heavily in the night, under the trees the drips were doubly large – earplugs were a must for me being a light sleeper and Janette (who usually sleeps through earthquakes and anything else the world can throw at her) also had a bad night’s sleep. Still the aire is a definite recommendation and should you be in the area looking for spot don’t hesitate. When we left the next day, we did see some motorhomes parked in the port car park, so this is obviously a popular destination.
Still no Breton shirts!

Bretagne and back – Day 1

Onions & Hooped shirts
Breton beckons – 23rd June 2019

So, we are off to our Cornish neighbours – the Bretons. Now I’m no history teacher or aficionado but I recently read that Brittany did not really become part of France until 1532. Now I’m not about to delve into the history books and see if this is correct but at least it saved me having to go through another passport control to get into the place.
We sailed from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in a little over 3 hours – imagine if that could have been done in 1532 – where would we be today? Mars at the very least. I digress.
A pleasant crossing and this is our third trip to France in Hilma. We have done the Dover – Calais route twice and I swore never again, one is swayed by the cheapness of the ferries and the speed of getting across, but that drive around the M25 just seems to go on forever and I always feel like chewed cardboard afterwards. Non, non, et non, I have spent a little more and going via Portsmouth, a mere 3 hours drive away.
The night before we did a small Certified Location (CL) site opposite a pub – ha, well organised I thought. Also not too early a start as the Ferry was at 9:00 – they made me try Hilmas new reversing camera – so good it was that I was told to slow down getting on the ferry. Reversing on gave me hope we would be the first off- we very nearly were – 5th to be precise. Mrs. Garmin was fed with the necessary co-ordinates and she was very polite in instructing us.
We were aiming for one of two Aires – we would decide when we arrived which one to use. The first Aire we looked at (St. Pair sur Mer) was a barriered affair and looked uninviting so we moved on to St. Jean le Thomas – a lovely little site that had about 17 spaces (€8). The day was really hot so an evening walk along the beach afforded us fantastic views of Mont St. Michel which we intend to visit tomorrow.

Normandy coastline at St. Jean le Thomas

Game of Thrones star Ian F – with his own dragons shadow from high in the sky (oh and Mont St. Michel in the background – or is it Casterly Rock?)


So day 1 is over – no dramas, plenty of onions to look at in the fields but I await my first view of the Bretagne hooped shirt (not likely as we are still in Normandy!).

Bonnie Scotland – Day 9

Monday 27th May
We left Altnaharra today looking forward to a wonderful drive to Helmsdale. The road follows the railway route we took from Helmsdale to Forsinard, we visited the RSPB reserve there in 2017 during our North Coast 500 trip. We were not disappointed despite the intermittent rain – to be honest intermittent rain was like being in the Carribean to us after having 36 hours rain non-stop – still, that’s what happens in the Highlands. Loch Naver, which is nearly 10km long and average 0.5km, rose about 200mm (8″ in old money) over that period, we were on a loch side pitch but the scuba gear was not required. Previous trips to Scotland had provided us with days of glorious weather, the spell was sure to break at some point. We are not complaining, my literary ineptitude cannot describe the beauty of this wonderful country, rain or shine the visual impact is stunning.

Loch Naver – early morning after the deluge

Loch Naver – the sight from Hilma


The drive from Altnaharra to Helmsdale is approximately 40 miles along single track roads with passing places which took us about 2hrs (and we only had a short coffee break in the middle). Serious concentration is required on these roads with our wheels being only about 12″ from either side of the road (and the sides are very soft and boggy!).

Our coffee stop on the road to Helmsdale saw thes Greylag and goslings


Dornoch was our lunch stop – our good friend Peter in the village at home had put a request in for a bottle of Glen Goyne highland whisky – we were advised the Old Courthouse was the place to go – sure enough they had enough whisky there to satisfy the taste any whisky buff. Ironically the link to our village did not stop there, we noticed some bottle bags that were supplied by our neighbour (they probably won’t order any more now they’ve seen the quality of the neighbourhood he comes from!).
Our target was to get to Loch Ruthven to try and see the elusive Slavonian Grebe. There are only around 20 pairs breeding in the UK and limited to an area around Loch Ness region. We arrived around 5:00pm and were not disappointed, a little bit of a wait but we managed to see 2 on separate parts of the Loch and eventually saw a pair trying out their Olympic synchronised diving skills.

Slavonian Grebe – NOT MY PHOTO t courtesy of Steve Knell


Our overnight stay was a last minute booking as after a long drive I didn’t fancy spending another hour trying to find a wild camp spot so we opted to stay on a handy CL site about 1 mile down the road – The Trout & Grouse at The Steadings (a Johannsson hotel with 5 caravan / motorhome pitches – Luxury). A trip to the bar was in order after our supper and a most convivial chat with our hosts and a couple of Americans who thought Hilma was ‘cute’ when compared to their 28ft RV back home with pull out sides, automatic levellers and an on board ‘hoovering’ system! Close your ears Hilma, you are not getting one!

Bonnie Scotland – Day 8

Sunday 26th May
Raining sheep and deer today. Imagine that.
Off out to lunch today as there seems to be a huge low (or two I suspect) hanging over Scotland and it is not moving away (I don’t really know as we have no way of finding out apart from the printed day’s weather on the warden’s door – no wi-fi, no radio, no phone data). I did buy a spare 4G data card but it was Three – maybe EE would have worked – I’ll never know unless I come back and try (not necessarily a valid excuse to come back here but we don’t need one, at some point we will be back to Scotland again).
Lunch today was at the Crask Inn – somewhere else in the middle of nowhere (look it up on t’internet and you’ll find out where). This inn doubles up as an Episcopal Church so I thought I would kneel and pray for some better weather but that would surely be seen as rude in the bar. A fire that is kept in all year around, a small dog to greet us, a great chat with the landlady about fishing, life in the highlands, the history of the inn (someone bought it as a hideaway a few years back but were unsuccessful) – although it is in the middle of nowhere it is the only inn on the road for goodness knows how many miles – not a good idea to try and hide when it’s on every road map.

We’re on the road to nowhere………. actually it is the road to The Crask Inn

They are completely off-grid, we started chatting about the wind farm that is being put there (but not overlooked by anyone) the right or wrongs of clearing some of the forestry land and other environmental issues around the ‘flow country’ (see write up on Forsinard – North Coast 500 trip) which is where the inn is located. A great couple of hours talking to all and sundry that came in from all over the country, warm and toasty by the log burner I could have stayed a while longer. Considering it’s location, during those 2 hours we spent in the cosiness about 10 people came and ate, so whilst not jammed to the gunnels it is a welcome stop for many a traveller.

Bonnie Scotland – Day 7

Saturday 25th May
Raining cats & dogs. Wouldn’t that be a thing – imagine walking down the street and a St.Bernard fell on your head! You might just come round after a few minutes then down comes a Persian Blue to whack you on the ear. You’d quickly take cover – which is precisely what we did today. Both of us hate being cooped up for too long and getting a little stir crazy we decided to up sticks and go for a drive to the North Coast. ‘Upping sticks’ – where does that come from? – must be a northern thing. Talk to a caravanner and they’ll swear that the flexibility of having a car overrides the ease of which to ‘u p sticks’ – talk to a motorhomer and they’ll swear how much easier it is to go from place to place without a lot of palaver. I digress (again) – I do have a habit of that when a thought pops into the head.
We decided to drive up to Skerray on a small promontory a few miles off the main North Coast 500 road.
Winding our way down the narrowest of lanes wasn’t too bad as the view was open and had plenty of time to move over for any oncoming traffic. Traffic what traffic? This road goes down to a small harbour, a post office and a telephone box – a few houses and not much else.

Skerray Harbour

Skerray seaweed – me trying to be ‘arty’ with the camera

We did find an interesting open air art gallery – we thought maybe it would be an interesting project for us if we ever stopped traveling!

Our next move?

Ironically we found a CL (Certified Location 5 van site) overlooking the harbour with a single caravan on it. Maybe we’ll visit again and stay for a day or two. The next thing we had to do was find some fuel – we could easily make it back to Altnaharra but needed enough to get out of their (it is a long way from anywhere if your low on fuel).
Putting ‘fuel’ into the satnav it told us there was fuel at Bettyhill – about 8 miles away. Driving along the road we came to a beautiful estuary (Torrisdale Bay) – a little bit of sunshine so we stopped for lunch and were amazed to see about 50 Ringed Plovers and 20+ Golden Plovers (also having their lunch) – got the scope out to see them close up – Beautiful.

View across Torrisdale Bay – lunch with the Plovers

The fuel station at Bettyhill turned out to be 2 pumps outside the local shop – a queue of motorbikes and the postmen were in front of us waiting to be served. The lady serving was also serving in the shop so a little wait was in order – no worries we were not in any hurry. After filling up the fuel and a few groceries (ice cream & beer) we headed into the local car park to catch up with some 4G wi-fi to upload a few days of blogging that wasn’t blogged. That done we headed back to Altnaharra via a different route (I told you all roads lead to Altnaharra), our stir craziness cured for a day or two.

Our third trip to Bonnie Scotland

Sunday May 19th, 2019 – Day 1
Today we set off on our third trip to Scotland in Hilma. This time we are taking 4 days to get there. Many people have asked why 4 days, believe me when you are driving a 4 ton 8ft wide and 18ft long vehicle you have to concentrate that little bit more. Motorway lanes suddenly become narrower, you can’t just park where you want (unless your’e in France), ‘B’ roads suddenly take on that country lane feel and everything slows down, which is the way it should be when you are motor-homing. Don’t hurry, you’ll miss things, don’t stress, you’ll get there eventually.
Since our trip to France last year with minimal planning regarding where we were going to stop we have learnt that around 150 – 180 miles in a day is our max, much less when on smaller roads and only that far if we NEED to be somewhere by a certain time. In the UK of course it is different, you can’t just pull in to an ‘aire’ and stop for the night so you do need to plan a little more – so that’s why were taking 4 days to get to Altnaharra – right in the middle of the upper section in Scotland – 26 miles from the North Coast. Whilst on our North Coast 500 trip we kept passing signs to Altnaharra – we thought all roads lead to Altnaharra so we must go and see why they do. There is a Caravan & Motorhome Club site which takes about 24 vans right on the side of Loch Naver – so that is where we are headed, via Englethwaite in Cumbria, Blairgowrie in Perthshire and Culloden Moor near Inverness.
No hurry.

And we are off again….

March – in like a lion and out like a lamb – is that the saying? Anyway this time last year we were at the same site we are at now – Aberbran and we caught in the Beast from the East (part II). It’s a short hop of about 1.5hrs from home so easy to get a weekend away – and boy do we need it! Hectic work and lots of other social gatherings getting in the way – but we are now out in Hilma and enjoying the relaxation. Collapsing on arrival we soon found we needed to ‘take the Welsh air’ (despite them beating us at rugby) and found a delightful little 2 miler close to the River Usk. Hell, it does the soul good to walk in the countryside (makes mental note to do more of it this year).

Sweet little bridge near the site

Tomorrow we will do a longer walk but keep in mind we are here to relax – it’s great to be out in Hilma again 🙂

March 24th, 2019 – today we are going to finish a walk we tried here last time and we unfortunately ran out of time to complete it. A 7 miler along high open moorland. The morning dawned with the sun blazing into Hilma at 6:15am – I was tempted to get up, but that didn’t last long as I drifted off to a well deserved sleep for the next 2 hrs!
Breakfast done and off we set – the site here is an old railway station – long and narrow, probably takes about 20 vans at the most and at this time of the year there are only 4 of us on the site – bliss (the weather helps).
Climbing up the gentle slopes on our way to the heathland we look back and are rewarded with a fantastic view of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du in the distance – somewhat hazy but with the binoculars trained on the tops we could see people already there.

Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du in a haze

As we climbed higher we were rewarded with views of Buzzards and Red Kite’s galore, a Yellowhammer, Skylarks, Meadow Pippits and a recent arrival – the beautiful Wheatear (female). The heathland is a perfect habitat for all these birds – it makes the heart sing! As we had lunch we were greeted by some of the more inquisitive sheep that perhaps had not had their lambs yet or are barren.

What? – never seen a human take a pee before?

We went a little off piste after lunch and decided to head down into the valley towards a hamlet called Soar – and we are glad we did. Picking our way through an old farm full of the usual muck we were rewarded by entering a fantastic old oak wood – these were very tall and thin so must be a particular species (need to find out) – Nuthatch territory and we son found one.
Moving out of our enchanted wood full of thin ‘Ents’ we crossed an old ford, up to a lane to take us back to the road through Soar. A pretty little hamlet with about 6 or 7 houses (not all occupied) – one could easily see the appeal of a holiday home or somewhere to retire.

Unusual fungi – yet to be identified


Beautiful oak wood on our way down into the valley (approaching the hamlet of Soar)


And so our 7 mile walk ended the same way it started – in sunshine – feet up with a coffee and whisky me thinks! (maybe a snooze as well).