Category: Travels in Hilma

Scotland 2023 – Days 11-13 Dumfries & Galloway

We are now on the return part of our journey for the last few days of our Scottish trip. We keep returning to this wonderful country and why not, there is so much to like about it. I feel as though I’ve lost my ‘mojo’ for writing the blog, not as amusing or descriptive as I have been in the past. I’m trying to put my finger on it and there are a couple of thoughts that creep into my head. One is the heat, the past two weeks have been extraordinarily hot and with this comes a jaded lethargy invading the body and mind – basically it’s called being lazy (but I have to admit to having enjoyed it!). Second is the mindset of of the time it takes to do this, often during the evening after a day of traveling or activity and my wish to get this down digitally before it all fades away is, at the moment, feeling like a chore. I don’t want it to because this is a record for Janette and I to look back on in our dotage and enjoy, for those future moments I want it to be light, airy and happy. I’ll try my best next time.
Meanwhile back on the road we are traveling from New England Bay to New Abbey for a 2 night stopover. Along the way we stop for lunch at Clattershaw Loch for lunch and then on to the Ken-Dee Marshes RSPB reserve for a spot of birding.

View of a Scottish Loch - Clattershaw

Driving the ‘B’ roads in Dumfries & Galloway has its advantages.

Hilma the Hymer

Once again we venture down the ‘B’ roads and found an amazing place to park for lunch.

Boy it was hot, we were glad of the shade in the trees walking down to the reserve. Highlight of my birding calendar was spotting an Osprey flying over Loch Ken looking for food. That was a first for me, only ever seen one on camera at Loch Garten or watching ‘Springwatch’ on television. A not to be forgotten experience albeit briefly.
Landis Farm CL site is a real gem, a beautiful 5 van site sitting above New Abbey which is only a 15 minute walk from the site. The ruins of the Cistercian Abbey were closed to the public due to safety inspections on the stonework. Probably a wise move as you would need more than a prayer to help you if one of the high stones fell on your head!

Cistercian Abbey

Unfortunately we could not access the site as safety inspection work was being carried out and so a pretty uninteresting picture!

Our afternoon was taken up with a visit to New Abbey’s 13th Century Corn Mill – apparently one of 7 mills that used to supply all the local area with all their needs. A fascinating tour and a glimpse into a bygone age, the corn miller held a very important role in the community as the law said that all the surrounding farmers had to use him, the owner of the mill, the local laird, took his cut from the miller and the miller took his cut from the farmers.

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill

The lifting mechanism to raise 56lb sacks to the top floor

Inside a 14th Century Corn Mill

This machine was for ‘rough’ milling cattle feed from the Oats

Leaving New Abbey we wound our way through Dumfries and Gretna sticking our noses up at the M6 motorway and went across the North Pennines through some bleak yet wonderfully uplifting countryside. Mrs Garmin is definitely playing up and I need to get used to plotting routes better. We came across the South Tynesdale Railway – a heritage narrow gauge railway which used to be a fairly large standard gauge railway in the heyday of coal as our main energy supply.

Signal Box at Alston Station

Now a narrow gauge heritage railway

A busy day in Alston as there was also a sheepdog trial on the local playing fields. We have noticed where there is no pressure on home building a lot of small towns and villages have large open spaces for the community to use, and long may it stay that way! I digress, the sheepdog trials were a marvel of communication between man and beast. These working dogs love their work and you can see it in the way they move, they are bred with the instinct of gathering stock, however the stock always have other ideas!

Sheepdog trials

One of the few ladies’ we saw working a dog today.

Our final leg of the day took us to The Crown at Mickleton in Teesdale where we ate and then wandered into a folk concert in the local village hall. Not your ordinary festival, it was celebrating the life of John Martyn a Scottish singer songwriter, a serious gathering of very, very talented singer-songwriters and guitarists. Met an interesting fellow called Will Fox from York, a poet descended from Keats. The whole evening was one of those surprises we have found often raise the level of our tour to something special and not just writing about pretty pictures and museums. That’s what I’ve been missing – talking about events and people!! The headline act was a Scott Matthews who heralded from Wolverhampton and has had success all over the world.

Scotland 2023 – Days 8-10 New England Bay

Day 8 – to New England Bay 11th June
We head off from the Bonnybridge and drive towards a long-awaited visit to a site we had seen 7 years ago on our first visit to Dumfries and Galloway in Hilma – New England Bay, it’s taken a while, but we are finally going there. The trouble was over the years we always wanted to see new places and so it was low priority on our list to go back to the same area. We are glad we did, of course the weather makes a huge difference, we are parked only 50 yards from the beach!

New England Bay

Glorious beach only 50 metres from Hilma’s front door!


New England Bay

The Caravan Club site right on the edge of New England Bay.

We decided (as usual) to keep to the B roads where possible and so glad we did. Getting out of the Edinburgh / Glasgow gap is always best to use the motorways though. Today we heard that Glasgow has punitive clean air zone fines if you ‘wander’ into them, Hilma is not good at ‘clean air’ being 22 years old (bless).

Day 9 – rest day – 12th June

A nothing day. Chillaxing. Boy it is hot.

Day 10 – Logan Botanical Garden – Port Logan – 13th June
Up early and on the bikes to Port Logan and the botanical garden. Amazing plants and trees from all over the Southern Hemisphere, the climate here is like that of Tasmania, never really exceeding 24 deg C and hardly ever below -9 Deg C which means this unique microclimate can support some unusual plants for the UK.

Tall blue flowers - Echium

Echium flowers at least 7 feet tall

New Zealand tree ferns

A swathe of Dicksonia ferns, commonly know as New Zealand tree ferns

A truly sub-tropical environ thanks to the Gulf Stream all looked after by 6 full time gardeners and a couple of interns. A good couple of hours can be spent wandering the various garden sections followed by a lunch in the shade with their café offering some decent salads.

A huge Gunnera

A huge Gunnera leaf towering above me, part of the ‘Gunnera bog’ in the Port Logan Botanical Garden

It’s a matter of scale

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Scotland 2023 – Days 6-7 ‘The Kelpies’ & The Falkirk Wheel

Day 6 – 9th June – ‘The Kelpies’
Today we left Yellowcraig and started moving west, but only a short way as we are off to see The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel. The Kelpies are two huge (each 30 metres tall) stainless steel ‘Kelpie’ heads. Kelpie? Well, it’s a mythological water creature often taking the form of horses (think Nessie) that lure us humans to meet, greet and stroke them, and if you do it’s the end for you! The works are the vision of Andy Scott a renowned sculpture artist and he based the idea of the heads of the Kelpies rearing out of the water to get you, using Clydesdale horses as his models.

Kelpies at Falkirk

Janette taking on the might of a Kelpie – all 300 tons (The Kelpie – before you say it, cheeky).



Kelpie head at Falkirk

Kelpie head in fantastic light

The sculptures are truly breath-taking and no number of pictures I took can really do them justice. It is a must place to visit if you are in the locale, however you can touch these, even pay to go inside to see the structure and the bonus is you won’t get eaten!

Day 7 – 10th June – The Falkirk Wheel
Cycling on the Forth and Clyde canal path was a real joy and straight out the back of our 2-night stopover, Underwood Farm. The air was filled with swallows feeding, the water clear and bright (yes, I know our canals in general are brown, so this was a real surprise to me) the sun was shining, and a light breeze washed over us en-route, bliss. This was another day of marvelling at our industrial heritage of the canals combined with a modern, practical piece of engineering that for all the world looked like another piece of sculpture. This marvel connected two canals at differing heights of around 30 metres, the Forth and Clyde which we cycled along and the Union Canal towering above it.

Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel – approx. half way rotating to raise the far ‘bath’ up to the Union Canal

The Falkirk Wheel

An amazing feat of engineering built in 2001

Immediately surrounding the area were huge public spaces for the benefit of the community, cycle paths and grassy football areas, playgrounds and patches left for wildflowers to flourish, one must assume these were part of the whole build project in 2001 to benefit all, not just the visitors.
And so, 2 days of sightseeing tourist hot spots ended, Janette and I agreed both were well worth the time and effort.

The Falkirk Wheel

Looking more like a sculpture than an engineering marvel.

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Scotland 2023 – Days 4-5 Archerfield, Dirleton & Gullane

Day 4 & 5 – Archerfield Estate and Gullane
Bikes off Hilma and we set off down the road for a short ride to the Archerfield Estate, Janette had read about an acre of walled garden to view. Upon arrival it was clear that this is a big operation, regenerative farming practice, farm shop, gift shop, restaurant (good local food), golf course (yet another), spa and accommodation. It not only looked expensive, it was, but quality and luxury.
Some great flowering spaces for wildlife in the walled garden all looked after by 2 gardeners and 7 volunteers. My question is; “why use volunteers when the whole place smacks of money?”. With all respect to the volunteers of course because they will enjoy it (and probably get some free coffee and meals).

Geranium

A purple geranium in the walled garden at Archerfield

We cycled back along the John Muir way along rough tracks and on our way stopped off at Dirleton Kirk then through fields and trees and even got stuck in some sand. A good test for Janette’s new electric Dutch style back with a 500W Bosch motor assist. Now she beats me to the top of the hills!

Dirleton Kirk - modern stain glass

Dirleton Kirk – modern stain glass – so unusual it deserved an image

Dirleton Kirk - reclaimed stain glass window

Dirleton Kirk – reclaimed stain glass window – I thought the colours are amazing and so took the picture

Gullane was a very different ride, all along quiet back roads and eventually into the town staying off the main drag. Dropping down to the beach area we were hungry and could only see an ice cream van, not very sustaining after a bike ride! Cycling back up the small hill into town we came across a fantastic Italian gelato ice cream shop. One panini, a cannelloni and 2 superb Italian ice creams later we were sated. More golf courses in Gullane and more Americans. I decide to find out how much a round would be. So if you have plenty of dosh to spend for 4 hours it is £220 (£250 at weekends), I asked if that included a caddy, I received a strange look and was told a caddy was extra at £55 per round PLUS (emphasised) gratuities. Basically if you played at the weekend with a caddy in tow you could kiss goodbye to the better part of £350 if you throw in some food and drinks. Now any golfers reading this (probably very few) might raise an eyebrow at my intended surprise, but I am mean by nature (read as: tight git). When I played golf some years back at Cradoc nr Brecon (lovely course) £350 was my annual membership! Hey ho.

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The Liquorice Allsorts are back – Scotland 2023 – Days 1-3

The liquorice allsorts are back! – 4th June, 2023
Our 5th trip to Scotland and the allsorts are lining up on the dashboard again.
This trip is a cathartic journey for both Janette and me. The second half of 2023 was ‘anus horribilus’ for both of us. I won’t go into too many details, but we lost a daughter to cancer in August, and I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in October resulting in partial amputation of my left thumb. We had various trips planned for this year but ended up cancelling a trip to France due to my diagnosis. I just was not prepared to pay an exorbitant insurance fee for 14 days abroad on the back of what has happened to me. Still, their loss as we are now on another Scotland trip and we’ll defer France until after my treatment has finished (February 2024 – fingers crossed). Oh, and by the way, I am feeling marvellous.

A little treat for Ian as he is driving.

Day 1 – Longtown, Carlisle
Traveling from home we got off (for us) to an early start before 9:00am, miraculous! Never heard of before when going away in Hilma. Retirement means we have more ‘preparation’ time, ha, there’s always a last minute, “oh I forgot the thingammyjig from upstairs, I won’t be a minute” – 20 mins later and we are off. Setting off is always an exciting time, wondering what adventures are heading our way, for our last few trips we never really plan a precise itinerary only where we are heading. Once we reach our destination(s), we then look at what is around and invariably decide what will be between walking, cycling, birdwatching, train travels or simply a game or two in Hilma (all weather dependent). I digress, our first day on a long trip is usually getting to a partway point and so it is today. A CL site (Caravan and Motorhome Club small site that only allows 5 vans) on the edge of Carlisle is our rest point for the night.

Day 2 – Carlisle to North Berwick – 5th June, 2023
We generally regard this as our true first day of the holiday and look to make it as interesting as possible whilst still travelling to our first 4 day stopover. I decide that the best way is to travel to North Berwick was to motor mostly on B roads, which in Scotland can sometimes mean an interesting time when confronted with the odd timber lorry!
I was trying to get to grips with our new Avtex Garmin Camper Satnav system. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right way of using it yet to Janette’s satisfaction – must try harder and not do the ‘man’ thing and think I can use it without reading the manual. Still we had some great views and came across Whitrope Heritage Centre, a museum run by the Waverley Route Heritage Association celebrating the previous train line from Edinburgh to Carlisle. Things don’t look too pristine, but their website indicates open days for the summer of 2023.

Hilma at the Whitrope Heritage Centre on the old Waverley route Edinburgh to Carlisle. Coffee time.

Diesels and a brake van in need of a paint job

The rest of our journey was punctuated with stunning scenery we have come to expect in Scotland, this is an area we have not visited before so it’s all new to us. The journey was also punctuated with the occasional ‘u turn’ due to my lack of Satnav programming skills (yet to be acquired on this new system).
After arriving at Yellowcraig a short walk along the beach with the binoculars we felt rejuvenated after our somewhat twisty journey, steak and salad with red wine followed and so the day ends with me signing off.

Scottish landscape

Our first view of the Firth of Forth looking towards North Berwick

Day 3 – Yellowcraig – 6th June, 2023
Today we walked along the John Muir way from the Yellowcraig Caravan site into North Berwick. Janette was hankering after a Lobster for lunch (expensive tastes!), she had done her research and identified the ‘Lobster Shack’ on the harbour was the place to go. Before that we had to negotiate the route too town along the dunes, roads and golf club links. Golf is big business here; Americans could be heard on the greens as we passed by and many of them had caddies. Perhaps they need help on the Scottish links courses which are famous for hosting our British Open Championship and are a far cry from many of the manicured US courses seen on our television screens.

Golfers on the North Berwick links course

US Golfers on the North Berwick links course

North Berwick Harbour Bay

North Berwick Harbour Bay

Onward we go slavering at the chops for our Lobster. North Berwick is a lovely harbour town with a fantastic beach meaning it is a tourist trap, and why not, all the old industries are a thing of the past. The lobster shack did not disappoint, in addition to half a lobster we had dressed crab, salad and a portion of chips and sat on the harbour in a make do clear tent with tables. Evidence below.

Dressed Crab

Dressed Crab on North Berwick Harbour

A fantastic walk back along the beach all the way to the caravan site and after that lunch it was toast for supper!

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Scotland – Island Hopping 2022 – Days 14-15

Isle of Arran – Kildonnan – 19th May
One of our gas bottles gave up the ghost this morning and we were not sure how much left in the other. Whiting Bay had the nearest garage and we were able to collect a bottle which meant showers all round again. Our next adventure was around the south of the island, nothing planned just see what was there. We came across a delightful village, Kildonnan. Stopping on a high point overlooking the bay it begged for another beach walk, something we had been doing plenty of this holiday, and loving it. Parts of the bay were roped off for nesting birds presumably Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, the Kildonnan Hotel provided some light refreshment. The proprietor keeps the hotel open all year around and we were pleased to hear that their were enough locals too frequent it and make it worth staying open (live music, quizzes and a pool league helps).

Kildonann – Pladda lighthouse and Ailsa Craig in the distance.

Kldonnan rock pool – it never ceases to amaze me the amount of species a small 1 metre rock pool can hold (and the colours are always a surprise).

A very strange piece of architecture in the middle of the village harking back to what might appear to be a colonial style house.

Isle of Arran – Off with a ‘Bang’ – 20th May
Our last day on the beautiful Isle of Arran. On reflection we could have stayed here a little longer vowing to return one day. But will we? The enjoyment we receive from exploring new places means there is so much to see we may not fulfil that vow to return. Maybe we will slow down in a few years and put our feet down in places for longer visits rather than getting itchy feet to see what is around the corner to surprise us.
We made our way to Brodick for the ferry back to the mainland, surprised by how large the vessel was and just how many foot and car passengers there were, we were the last to board. The 55-minute journey passed very quickly and before we knew we were back in Hilma waiting to disembark. That is when things took a turn for the worse on this holiday. An ‘incident’ resulted in our solar panel parting company with Hilma! I say incident because at present it is unresolved, and I am unable to make further comment, suffice to say we had to get a ladder and remove the solar panel for safety reasons – we did not want that flying off at 50mph down the dual carriageway.

What remains of the panel after removing from the roof of Hilma. No way could we travel with it ‘flapping’ around up there.

What remains of the front spoiler that held the panel in place. Not good! Needed a good clean anyway.

An hour at the port delayed our journey but we made good time and were at our CL site ‘The Brough’ in Dumfries and Galloway and on our blocks by 6:15pm.
Beer time for me and a white wine for Janette to relax.

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Scotland – Island Hopping 2022 – Days 12-13

Kintyre to Isle of Arran – 17th May 2022
We leave today for Clonaig to catch the ferry to Lochranza and our final island – Arran. Weather a little dreek for the crossing alongside a coach of pensioners on a day trip out. One chap decided he would prefer to travel in Hilma and tried to alight via our steps, either he was upset with all the others on the coach, or he mistook our steps for the coaches! I’ll leave it to your imagination whichever you prefer.
A short trip from the ferry port we visited our first distillery, usually we are only a couple of days in before getting our first visit to one, so we were looking forward to getting our hands on a bottle (sounds desperate). I bought my mate Peter a 10 year matured bottle as he is a single malt connoisseur, whilst we went for an upmarket oak and sherry cask finished job.
Lunch at the distillery and we were off to find a wild camp site, using Park4night app again it looked like there were plenty of options, we were not disappointed. The weather was deteriorating, strong winds and heavy rain would be the norm for the next 18hrs. We parked at Imachar Point on the west coast of Arran, the weather was deteriorating rapidly with strong winds and heavy, heavy rain (thoughts of Altnaharra crept into my head – see Bonnie Scotland trip). Although foul weather, the Otter feeding on the rocks about 50 yards away was oblivious to it and us!

An Otter oblivious to the weather tucking into something tasty.

Whilst staying, we were oblivious to a road traffic accident not 200yds away, we saw a few people walking up and down the road to a nearby motorhome. Later on we understood a young driver had misjudged the bend and gone off the road, his baby banging it’s head and so an Ambulance was in attendance to check out mother and baby. Apparently, all was well but mother and baby went off to hospital for a check-up. We gave the young lad and his in laws a cup of tea and biscuits whilst waiting for the breakdown truck (which did not turn up until the next day). He was clearly shaken by the experience. It was a reminder to me that driving in Scotland on single track or narrow roads needs full concentration (all driving does to be honest) but you cannot let your mind (or eyes) wander off the road. Being a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has really given my driving a different dimension in terms of advanced observation – if that is the one item of training that I have taken it will not be in vain.

Sunset on motorhomes wild camping at Imachar Point – Arran.

And looking West to the setting sun.

Isle of Arran – day after our ‘wild’ camp night -18th May
A fitful night’s sleep with the rain and wind but we awoke to a wonderfully sunny morning. A quick walk along the stony beach blew the cobwebs away and certainly made us feel alive again.

We think there were some Oystercatchers nesting nearby as we often saw a pair with one on lookout duty.

Ringed Plovers showing how well camouflaged they are, even more difficult to spot their eggs and so one has to tread vey carefully and move on with minimal disturbance. Needless to say I use a 300mm lens to capture these bird images and so I am not too near (plus some judicial cropping afterwards brings them closer to you).

The morning after – glorious sunshine and spray.

And something a little more ‘arty’

We needed provisions so we continued south to Blackwaterfoot and was surprised to find independent provision shops, a butcher, a grocery store, and a baker with an honesty cabinet – fantastic bread reminding us of the ‘paysant’ style baguettes we buy when in France.
Leaving Blackwaterfoot we head across the centre of the island through Brodick and Lamlash to arrive at our 3 night stop CL site ‘Ardlui’. A fantastic site with a prime view of Holy Island across the water which has a Buddhist retreat.

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Scotland – Island Hopping 2022 – Days 9-11

Machrihanish to Carradale 14th May 2022.
Waking to that wonderful view made me reflect on why we like the wild camping. It’s the solitude (relative as there are houses nearby) and the complete autonomy we enjoy without rules and regulations but as I’ve said before remembering to be respectful of others. We could divert into a whole psychology introspection here but maybe another time. I’ve been reading a book by Gregory David Roberts called ‘Shantaram’ – a story based on his interesting life involved with the Bombay mafia – there is plenty of psychology and complicated morals in the book to get your head around, read it.
Moving on again we went right to the south of the Mull of Kintyre and came across another car park with 2 camper spots, we wouldn’t be staying here tonight as we are booked into a site at Carradale but it would be a wonderful spot to wild camp.

Carskey Bay car park has two camper spots – a great picnic spot on a sunny day.

During our short stay here for a walk and spot of lunch some of the runners of the 50K run that started that morning in Machrihanish went past, we clapped everyone that passed and were rewarded with some smiles although I don’t think some were smiling ‘inside’ as it was rather warm for them.

One of the 50K runners at Carskey Bay down on the Mull of Kintyre. A warm day for the run, cut off time at Southend (about 10 mins away for the runners) was 1:30pm – a few we saw would miss it.

The spot overlooks Carskey Bay, deserted golden sands with some old fisherman’s cottages at one end which would surely be a glorious place to stay if you were not a motorhomer! We walked the whole length of the bay and saw the usual Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and was rewarded with a Dunlin in summer plumage, Turns were squawking and diving into the gentle surf for sand eels with groups of Gannets traveling north along the coast with an occasional straggler taking an opportunist dive for fish.

Yet another wonderful view – Carskey Bay on the Mull of Kintyre

The dodgy duo – 1 week after retiring and enjoying the (momentary) good weather.

Carradale Bay 15th May 2022.
We had booked 3 nights here and we were not disappointed. The site has the feel of a typical site in Brittany with small hedges (in this case Gorse bushes) separating areas housing the caravans, campers and motorhomes. A chance for us to kick back again with no traveling until Tuesday. Our arrival on Saturday was Eurovision night and with no television we imagined the spectacles that must be happening in Turin by listening to old Ken Bruce on radio 2. We were just as shocked (as I think most people in the Great Britain were) not receive ‘nil points’ for a change, even more shocked when our French neighbours gave us ‘douze points’! We must get over there next year and thank them personally.

Carradale Bay – evening rainbow (with a pot of gold at the end!).

We realised that since arriving in Scotland from our first night at Largs Yacht Haven to now, every site or wild camp spot we have stayed at for the last 9 nights we have had a sea view, there is something powerful, sometimes frightening, when confronted with a wall of water that has a will of its own. King Canute (c995 – 1035) should have realised that when he tried to stop the tide from coming in, I wonder if his socks got wet, I bet they didn’t have ‘Crocs’ in those days, perhaps leather sandals but they would have been ruined with all that salt water, silly man.

Mmmmmm……. looks like supper is sorted then!

Carradale Bay 16th May 2022.
Two walks today trying to dodge the showers. A morning walk in the sunshine along the beach and a slightly longer one this afternoon with views of our next destination, the Isle of Arran. Along the way we were surprised to see around 30 wild goats inhabiting the Carradale Point peninsula – very strange to see them roaming free and they look like Saanen Goats from Switzerland (like I’m an expert – NOT). Walking further round we found the local 9 hole golf course and Port Righ, not much going on here with the weather being inclement (and it was a Sunday).

Saanen Goats on the Carradale Point peninsula

We don’t slum it in Hilma!

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Scotland – Island Hopping 2022 – Days 6-8

Clachan– 11th May 2022
Waking to the quarry workings next to the site was a bit of a shame at 7am but the sun was shining, and life was good. After our marathon drive and late arrival yesterday, we wanted a gentle day and so walked along the shoreline into Clachan village. Occasional padlocked gate meant some clambering over, muddy track with cattle also diverted our perambulation (good word) closer to the shore, we always marvel at what we come across during our peripatetic (another good word) wanderings and again we were not disappointed. Sand Martins were skittering across our path as we followed a beautiful river shrouded with trees and Bluebells nodding in the breeze as we made our way into the village. Although not religious we are drawn to churches and found some very strange tall stones at Clachan with Celtic and sword markings, no idea what they were – perhaps someone can enlighten us?
Through the village, up the hill and veering off onto an old drover’s path from the village to an old ferry crossing we were struck by how ancient the route must have been. On the left were three ‘Duns’ (ancient or medieval forts) which we unable to visit as it was getting a little late in the day.

Strange markings on vertical stones – Clachan Churchyard.

Clachan to Westport – 12th May 2022
We are on the move again, itchy feet. We will look back on this adventure and say we were meant to kick back and decompress; the truth is we like moving on and seeing what is around the next corner. We drove down the west coast of the peninsula to Westport and parked in a large car park with 2 spaces marked for campers, an encouraging sign. The beach is around 6km long, we walked about halfway along once again watching Sand Martins skimming the rocks and sand, their acrobatic manoeuvring reminding me of the Cirque Du Soleil trapeze artists. We decided to stay overnight despite the car park being close to the road it wasn’t too noisy.

Moody skies over Westport Bay

Westport to Machrihanish – 13th May 2022
A short seashore walk in the opposite direction rewarded us with a great view of Turnstones, a Wheatear and the usual Ringed Plovers which always look like little clockwork toys, short fast runs stopping to look where the next threat might be and starting off again with intent. Another birding highlight was seeing a couple of Great Northern Divers – their plumage makes you realise the complexity and beauty that nature provides.

Well camouflaged amongst the rotting seaweed - Turnstones

Well camouflaged amongst the rotting seaweed – Turnstones

Provisions were required so we drove into Campbeltown on the opposite coastline. Janette just can’t find decent wholegrain bread, but then maybe supermarkets are not the right place and we should be looking for those small independent bakers, but we always want to be on the move rather than wasting time ‘shopping’.
Moving to Machrihanish we had previously looked at the Park4night app and identified a wild camp spot just outside the village, not in front of any houses and we felt a respectful distance from the nearest property. A fantastic view out towards the Atlantic with Gannets often crossing our view and a Hooded Crow (native to Scotland) flying very close to Hilma’s windscreen giving us the once over to see if there was any free food. We walked to a seabird observatory which unfortunately was locked but the blue of Spring Squill (Scilla) against the close cropped verdant green grass was refreshing on the eye.

Machrihanish – Spring Squill (scilla) – a veritable sea of blue which pierces the eye and cannot fail to impress

Machrihanish – Gannets in flight – so elegant, and look at the head, made for those high speed dives at up to 60mph!

Machrihanish – Sea campion (silene)

Machrihanish – Rock Pipit – keeping an eye on us, a pair were probably nesting nearby as we saw them often.

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Scotland – island hopping 2022 – Days 4-5

Isle of Bute – 9th May 2022
Leaving Largs behind we had a short drive to Wemyss Bay (pronounced ‘weems’ as Janette kept reminding me) for our first ferry on CalMac to Rothesay. Weather was scudding with rain and the water across the Firth of Clyde looked choppy. Cost for Hilma and us was about £19 which I thought wasn’t too bad, although it jumps quite a bit with a longer vehicle. The ferry crossing was 35 mins and before we knew it we were on our first island with Hilma.

Caledonian MacBrae Ferry - Wemyss to Rothesay

Hilma’s first Scottish ferry – mainland Wemyss to Rothesay, Bute across the Firth of Clyde.

We had already decided we wanted to visit Mount Stuart Gardens and although pouring with rain we were well equipped with a couple of stoutly built umbrellas which kept the worst off (but only just).
We were not disappointed, some of the trees were planted over 300 years ago and many had been awarded the title of National Champion Tree status for either height, girth, age, or rarity. It’s the first time we had come across a ‘Pinetum’ which speaks for itself really.

Mount Stuart House - Isle of Bute

Mount Stuart house as seen from the rockery – a truly wonderful garden to visit.

Tropical house

Bird of Paradise plant (Strelitzia) in flower inside the hothouse at Mount Stuart.

Obligatory Earl Grey tea and scone with jam before we left lifted the dampness from our souls and off we went to find a wild camp site.
Scalpsie Bay beckoned us on the map, the Isle of Bute was kind to us, a free parking bay with footpath direct the beach with a view of the Isle of Arran in the background.

Isle of Bute to Kintyre – 10th May 2022
A brisk morning walk on Scalpsie Bay rewarded us views of Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Oystercatchers voicing their discontent with our presence.

Scalpsie Bay – our overnight parking spot with a view of Arran in the background.

Scalpsie Bay shore life – a myriad of nature in one small 200cm section. Imagine how many on a 500metre beach!

My packing of clothes prior to leaving meant I had to head to Rothesay and buy (yet another beanie hat and buff – I tell you I have so many at home now they take up I swear they take up a whole draw!). Back on the road and we drove across the centre of the Island to Ettrick Bay, parked for lunch and once again marvelled at the Scottish beach views, which I’m sure we will never tire of.

Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute – yet another stunning vista of sand, sea, land and cloud.

The next part of our journey is one to be forgotten, we moved off the Isle of Bute via the Rhubodach to Colintraive ferry.

Ferry from Bute to the Cowal Peninsula – very short trip, about 5 minutes.

I thought we had plenty of time to drive down the narrowest road in the world (I exaggerate) by the side of Loch Fyne and find another wild camp spot for the night – WRONG! It was a nerve-racking drive and although we did come across what we thought was a wonderful spot at Otter Ferry there was a sign stating ‘No Overnight Parking’ which, although was not official, was obviously put there by the locals and I felt I had to respect it. I was however disappointed as I can only assume there have been issues with less than respectful campers, those of us that have been doing it a few years really try hard to make no impact on where we have stayed. Planning and booking into a few sites every few days for a few nights means we can empty our grey and black waste in the appropriate places. So, to all you campers that don’t do it properly, shame on you for spoiling it for the rest of us (I’m sure the majority reading this are not in that category). Another rant over.
Moving on again we ended up moving off the Cowal peninsula and headed for the last ferry of the day at Portaverdie to get across to Kintyre a day early. Tiredness was getting the better of me by then and we had tried to do too much (again) – we were meant to be decompressing but the latter half of the day was anything but. We were not happy bunnies and decided to ring the small CL site to see if we could arrive a day early – “no problem” was the reply. Lesson learnt – have a couple of options up your sleeve (like we usually do when traveling in France).

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Scotland – island hopping 2022 – Day 3

Our 2nd day at Largs – 8th May, 2022.
A brisk walk 2km walk down the Ayrshire Coastal Path to the Kelburn Country Park on a gloriously warm day. This is a good half day out with a wide variety of walks for all abilities and plenty of activities for children to be entertained. As we walked up the long drive we noted the estate had several motorhomes, camper vans and caravans on what looked like around 10 pitches, this could be an alternative to where we stayed at the Yacht Haven. Amazingly we did not have to pay for walking in the park (although you do have to pay for parking) so we made a contribution for the upkeep.
The walk starts going past the family home part of which has been painted with graffiti by a local artist – the work is certainly bizarre and not what you imagine Scottish stately homes to be adorned with.

The bizarre yet captivating graffiti painted tower at Kelburn.

Our walk took us to the top of the Glen, the path winding ever upward through the canopy of trees reminding us of Muir woods in California (although of course the trees were not sequoias) which were glorious with spring green leaves and dappled sunlight and shade on the ground. It felt as though we were leaving the troubles of the world behind, we only saw 4 or 5 people on upper reaches of the walk which made it feel very special. The path was interspersed with bridges over the tumbling burn and viewpoints for waterfalls with plenty of information points. Kingfishers, Dippers and Grey Wagtails were seen en-route along with some strange painted wood carvings all added to the beauty and mystical ambience – if you ever get here it is a must.

A series of strange and ethereal painted wood carvings adorn part of the south path

After a light lunch (and must have ice cream) we wandered slowly back to the Yacht Haven to watch Largs Sailing Club racing. We had no idea who was winning but the skill level must be admired. Sitting on a bench overlooking the course we had the spotting scope out and a zoom lens on the camera for some close up views of the racers and photo opportunities. Unfortunately a couple of competitors capsized and along with broken masts ended their race early.

Dinghy racing at Largs on a warm afternoon

Hanging out on the side of a 2 person Dinghy – looks exciting!

A sad end to the day for one competitor with a broken mast.

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Scotland – island hopping 2022 – Days 1 – 2

Back in the old girl – 6th May, 2022
We are back in the old girl again (sorry Hilma but we must face facts – none of us are getting any younger). Boy it feels good, so much lost time in the past 24 months. Having said that we are in better place than many other people throughout the world, I think the impact of Covid-19 is still to take its full effect and now we have some mad Russian killing, maiming and bombing innocent civilians – and we call ourselves a civilised world – bollocks. Please excuse my language but it deserves strong words. Words of course do not help the Ukrainians or any other persecuted societies. Rant over, but I had to get it off my chest.
The future for Janette and I (and Hilma) is a real game changer, having both planned to retire 12mths ago there were various issues that blocked us from achieving it. Now though, we are relatively free. I say relatively, because we are both being retained on a consultancy basis, but we can see a clearer road ahead and many more ‘Adventures in a B544’ the A713
We decided that we would start our ‘retirement’ by traveling to our beloved Scotland. I say ‘our Scotland’, we are not Scots but we love the place, this is our 4th trip back and I’m sure it will not be our last.

Penrith – 6th May, 2022
We had decided this holiday would be a kind of decompression for us after the last 2 years of hoping to finish work earlier. Rather than driving all the way to Largs in Scotland (our next destination) we decide to split the journey and stop at Penrith. Pulling off the motorway to get some fuel we were immediately in a traffic jam due to a local fire. Eventually after navigating the queues successfully and after paying the most we ever paid to fill Hilma (£107.55 – thanks Putin!), we made our way to a lovely quiet site. Good stopping off point for those going way up into the highlands of Scotland.

Penrith to Largs – 7th May, 2022
Not ones for taking the motorway if we can help it (unless needing to get some miles under our belts) we took the cross-country route from Dumfries to Largs. Always a joy driving through the Scottish countryside, and we were not disappointed, the A713 from New Galloway to Ayr is a great road (especially for motorbikes). We arrived at Largs Yacht Haven – probably our most expensive CL site ever at £32 and promptly treated ourselves to spending more money at the bar – £7.50 for a pint and a half! Not really moaning as the facilities are second to none with water on tap next to each Motorhome spot (they do not take caravans) and immaculate washrooms and showers. A walk into Largs for fish and chips and ate them on a promenade bench. The evening was spent watching Gannets feed and a wonderful setting sun.

One of our favourite seabirds – the Gannet

Managed to capture a nice shot of a Gannet just after feeding

A glorious sunset from Largs Yacht Haven – the land in the distance is the Isle of Bute

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