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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Sun Sep 25, 2016 11:23 am

Hooray :applause :applause More adventures from the intrepid chums :-D
Whose first adventure you can read here .... viewtopic.php?f=26&t=1463 :mz
................................

Before I start on writing up my blog with my latest travels for your delectation, I feel that I must inform you that there has been an addition to my tiny travel group. This is 'Sapper'.
Sapper.png
Sapper

Now, Sapper is a VERY special little 'VDub dog'. He was knitted for my father by his brother Graeme (sadly, no longer with us – he was such a lovely, fun guy who died far too young), when Dad went out to Malaya in the course of his National Service. Sapper is 64 (human) years old!!
Quite apart from his initial journey to the Far East, he has travelled, with me (mostly) to many European Countries, to several US States, to the Middle East and to Australia. He has been darned, re-stitched and glued several times, poor chap, but he's still ready for many more journeys, so I asked Dad if I could 'adopt' him and take him with me on my adventures. Luckily, he said, 'Yes, of course!' So now he hangs from his teeny-weeny harness in my campervan, looking out at the views and adding to his total mileage every day.
He also has several good points: He doesn't cost anything to feed, he doesn't need to be walked, he doesn't need to go out for a 'pee' in the middle of the night and he isn't a 'backseat driver' – hahaha.
Not absolutely sure that he'll make much of a guard dog, but I love him. :heart
..............
5 weeks away – Another major Road Trip: Scotland (mostly!)

So - five weeks away, 1,973.80 miles driven, five ferry journeys, two countries and goodness knows how many counties journeyed through, lots of brilliant memories and meetings with family, my lovely friends and strangers (some of whom are now friends). I think it's going to take me quite a while to write up all of my experiences in this blog.

Apologies that I STILL can't blog 'on the go' – obstacles are: a) very little data coverage on the West Coast of Scotland, b) my ancient camera will not link to my tab and c) in general, after a day of driving, walking, setting up, cooking and, just maybe, having a glass of something, I'm too cream-crackered to sit down and write the day's events up!! But … I do make copious notes and reading them back whilst I'm doing these updates brings all of the experiences flooding back!

Plans are already being made for the next trip – hahaha.

My journeys, as usual, started with an 8-hour drive up to Cumbria (Ellie slightly sick on the last part from Sedburgh to Dent (very winding road after the turn-off from the M6, but see later posts). Whilst I was sitting in a queue on the M40, watching red kites riding the thermals overhead, it occurred to me that although I often praise the beautiful village of Dent, I haven't really shown you anything of the place.

So whilst I was there, I took a few photos so that you can see why I love it so much (although photos can't impart the warm welcome you will receive and the marvellous live music you'll hear (if you arrive when the Mini Music festivals are on (March and October) and the main (free) Music and Beer Festival (happens every year, last full weekend of June)!!).
Mary 1.png
Lovely B&W photo from a couple of years ago of a relatively small gathering for a 'session'. Left to right: Mick Hodgkinson (owner of Conder Farm campsite); Dusty Spencer (mandolin/banjo and vocals); Vicky Allen (vocals); Matthew Kaunz (on floor – guitar, vocals (and almost any other instrument you can think of!)); Me (guitar, vocals); Roger Mac (rhythm guitar, vocals); Jo Martin (concertina).
Credit: Shell Sedgwick

Conder Farm Campsite. I'm lucky – I get to park in the 'Mary Space', rather than on the field -).png
Conder Farm Campsite. I'm lucky – I get to park in the 'Mary Space', rather than on the field -)

Cobbled streets …..png
Cobbled streets ….

…… leading up to the Sun Inn (where the music happens.png
…… leading up to the Sun Inn (where the music happens :-D

Dent church. There is a strange grave slab, just outside the main door into the church, with a hole in it. Legend has it that a vampire was buried there. Ask the locals – they'll tell you all about it!.png
Dent church. There is a strange grave slab, just outside the main door into the church, with a hole in it. Legend has it that a vampire was buried there. Ask the locals – they'll tell you all about it!

Wonderful 'Green Man', outside Dingle Cottage.png
Wonderful 'Green Man', outside Dingle Cottage

Looking down the cobbles to the George and Dragon pub..png
Looking down the cobbles to the George and Dragon pub.

One of the many reasons for visiting Dent this time was to celebrate my friend, Matt's, 40th birthday party - a total surprise to him (and that's amazing that he knew nothing about it in such a small village!) Matt and his wife Charlotte hold a very special place in my heart, as I was the 'officiant' at their handfasting five years ago. They now have two gorgeous little kiddie-winks.
The inevitable music sessions took place in the Sun Inn - all was well.
Just another fantastic session in the Sun Inn. .png
Just another fantastic session in the Sun Inn. Left to right: Matt (playing the dobro, using one of his birthday presents – a dobro strap commissioned by us, his friends, and made by our super skilled friend, Rod Boyes of Pinegrove Leather (http://www.pinegroveleather.co.uk/)); Blanty (extraordinarily talented musician (the Human Jukebox) and me (plopping in a few harmonies!).

From Dent, again as usual, I headed off to see my cousin, Jan Walker, in Fletchertown, Cumbria. Ellie sick again after leaving the M6. Sigh. However …. THIS WAS THE LAST TIME SHE WAS SICK FOR THE REST OF OUR TRAVELS!!!! Result :-)

One of the highlights for me whilst with Jan, was a 'walk-over' of a part of Caldbeck Common - looking for archaeological 'features' with the West Cumbrian Archaeological Society. It was a scorching hot day, the heather was in full bloom (my nostrils were stuffed with the heavenly scent of it – goodness knows what it did to the dogs' noses!) and I was fascinated by the things we saw – no actual proof of what's really there without digging!!
Setting off, the heather all amongst the blooming heather, up on Caldbeck Common.png
Setting off, the heather all amongst the blooming heather, up on Caldbeck Common

The view out, once we'd reached the highest point.png
The view out, once we'd reached the highest point

One of the huge swallets (or swallow hole or sinkhole) spotted during our walk.png
One of the huge swallets (or swallow hole or sinkhole) spotted during our walk. These things are freckin' dangerous. Doesn't look it? Down in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo there is a really deep drop down into the earth. You'd be crazy to go down there. I kept Ellie and Kaz (Jan's dog) on short leads, I can assure you.

We also saw pits where there had been surface coal-mining, ancient field 'markers', very old walls and ruins and (possibly?) grave slabs. A fantastic day out!
Both dogs were pretty much tuckered out by the end of the day :-)

Other highlights: Popped to the local stable to get some manure for Jan's veg patch (forgot to take my wellies. Trainers washed in her machine when we got back - hehehe), another of her famous BBQs, me stacking more logs for her for winter and a visit to Keswick (which I will nominate as the most dog-friendly town in the UK – any others you can suggest?):
How many dogs can you spot.png
How many dogs can you spot? :-)

Keswick .png
Keswick – touristy? Yep! Beautiful? Yep! Welcoming to all? YES!!

Before I finish this 'pre-wilding/campervanning' update I give you a couple of Lessons Learned:

Lessons Learned:

- It's always worth popping into charity shops whilst you're away. I picked up LOADS of second-hand OS maps, at a fraction of the RRP for new ones, whilst I was away. It doesn't matter if they're older versions (after all, footpaths rarely change very much (having said that, I've been caught out in that respect on more than one occasion – nothing major, if you have a decent sense of direction you can easily find your way)).

- I was give a small fire-pit by Jan. Didn't get an opportunity to use it this time, but I'm going to invest in a flint and a small hand-axe for future travel :-D


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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:46 am

Off we go, wild camping :-)

Laden with goodies from Jan's vegetable garden and well stocked with provisions, I bid a fond farewell to her and her dogs and, on the recommendation of a mutual friend, Chris, headed for Rockville. It's a pretty seaside village along the stretch of the north shore of the Solway Firth known as the Colvend Coast.
Parking in the village itself was either forbidden or time-limited and I wanted to walk. However, I found a free car park on the left-hand side just before you enter the village.
Looking out from Rockcliffe, with Rough Island nearest to the shore and Hestan Island the the distance.png
Looking out from Rockcliffe, with Rough Island nearest to the shore and Hestan Island in the the distance

Rough Island is a bird sanctuary, accessible at low tide, but unfortunately for me the tide was in (and still coming in), so I wasn't able to get there. Hestan Island was one of many sites used by smugglers to stow contraband and has copper mines (which were mined in the 1840s). I struck out inland to visit the Mote of Mark.
Mote of Mark.png
Mote of Mark

The Mote of Mark was an important Dark Age trading post. A stronghold stood at the top of the rocky mound and was occupied from C5th to C7th. A number of interesting finds have been made there, including fragments of pottery from France, fragments of glass from Germany and bangles made from Yorkshire jet. It was somewhat overcast when we set off, walking up the Mote itself on the Woodpecker Walk and then onto the Muckle Trail (total 4 miles) but the weather soon cleared to quite a sunny day.
Guess which trail I was on .png
Guess which trail I was on? ;-)

The views from the Mote and the Muckle Trail were spectacular!
Looking out over Auchencairn Bay from the Mote of Mark.png
Looking out over Auchencairn Bay from the Mote of Mark

View from higher up on the Muckle Trail - glorious.png
View from higher up on the Muckle Trail - glorious

A little leg-weary after the partly steep and very undulating walk, I drove off vaguely Westwards, looking for an overnight spot. None to be found! So I wended my way to Wigtown, which I've visited on a couple of occasions previously, and parked up for the night by the main church.
Wild camping, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway – all safely set up for the night .png
Wild camping, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway – all safely set up for the night :-)

Seen: Newt and weasel/stoat crossing the road in front of the van, peacock and fritillary butterflies in the wildflower meadows at the Mote of Mark.

Strange thing seen: In the car park at Rockcliffe, a man waked into the car park, opened his car door, took off his trousers and drove away in his shirt and underpants!! How very odd.

Supper: Gammon steak with fresh runner beans from Jan's garden – YUM!

Bad experience (the only one of the whole trip): I was woken by drunken louts walking back from the pub after closing time. The idiots decided that it would be 'fun' to throw stones at the 'van windows. I checked the following morning and, fortunately, no damage done. Pillocks :thumbsdown
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Fri Sep 30, 2016 2:59 pm

North and North again.

I was rudely awoken, rather early, by the crashing of bins …. it was refuse and recycling collection day in Wigtown! Looking out of the window of the van at steady drizzle and hundreds of swallows swooping low to scoop up insects, I cooked myself a hearty breakfast (bacon, eggs, toast with marmalade and several cups of tea). With the weather improving (and after a quick visit to the excellent butcher in the town for fresh meat for Ellie), I drove up-country to the last of the Visitors centres in the Galloway Forest Park I had yet to visit, at Kirroughtree.

Here there are five trails to walk, and many separate mountain bike trails (I saw one chap in lots of different areas – quite amusing – I'd come round a corner and he's be crossing the trail ahead of me, or I'd be walking on the trail and he'd be cycling on a parallel bike trail. We laughed and waved to each other every time :-) ) The facilities there are excellent (bike hire, showers, bike cleaning area, orienteering courses, etc).
At  Kirroughtree, where one of the mountain bike trails passes over one of the walking routes.png
At Kirroughtree, where one of the mountain bike trails passes over one of the walking routes

Ellie and I walked the majority of 4 of the 5 trails (approximately 6 miles). Some lovely (if a tad cloudy) views, especially out from the Larg Hill Trail.
View out from Larg Hill Trail..png
View out from Larg Hill Trail.

Finally, we trod down to lower levels and skirted round Little Bruntis and Bruntis Loch.
Lille Bruntis (in the rain).png
Lille Bruntis (in the rain)

Ellie at Little Bruntis.png
Ellie at Little Bruntis

Calm and peaceful Bruntis Loch (after the rain).png
Calm and peaceful Bruntis Loch (after the rain)

Seen: Buzzard, Red Kite, LOTS of fungi in the wooded areas (I can only identify half a dozen mushrooms, but my friend Michael Stewart would have been in seventh heaven!). From here, I drove to the Cairnsmore of Fleet Nature Reserve.
(https://www.visitscotland.com/info/see- ... ve-p334041)
There is a small information centre (where I met a lovely family, picnicing indoors!), toilets and parking. And, of course, the walk to the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct!
the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct.png
The Big Water of Fleet Viaduct

The Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint Railway, often known as the Port Road, linked Stranraer to Castle Douglas where it made an end-on connection with a line to Dumfries. The route spanned the Big Water of Fleet by means of a 300-yard viaduct. Each of its 20 segmental arches comprise six courses of brick whilst the spandrels are in stone. 1940 saw the piers strengthened with brick encasings and the two sides of the structure tied together using bullhead rail and connecting rods beneath the arches. In 1935, it reputedly appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's film version of John Buchan's thriller 'The 39 Steps'.

Leaving the Viaduct, I went looking for a wild camping site. To my horror, my usual spot had been taken by a 4x4 with caravan – how very dare they!!
My alternative parking spot (finally found after quite a search and the sun had gone down) will, henceforth, be known as 'Midge City'!! I'd been told by a chap in Wigtown that, 'The midge season is nearly over', but – pah! - was it? No, it was NOT. I slathered myself in home-made repellent (Jan's recipe), lit citronella candles and bunged up every 'ventilation hole' that I could find (I'm actually itching now whilst typing this!). Venturing outside was only done because it HAD to be done and even then for as short a time as possible, with as little of my skin exposed as possible.

Midge 'pome'

When the midges bite
In the middle of the night -
Get out the citronella!
Dig those candles out
And set them all alight -
Bring out the citronella!
No need to frown
As the sun goes down -
Praise to the citronella!
Make up a spray and
Squirt it all around -
Hooray, for citronella!

Jan's midge repelling recipe:
10 drops of each, essential oils: citronella/lemon, lavender and cedar, mix with a small amount of water. Sloosh around to get an emulsion – SPRAY!!!!

Morning. And only half a dozen 'major' bites – which I count as a success, considering that the little blighters just love to bite me normally. There were still swarms of them about, so it was 'up and off' early – but what a view to wake up to on a sunny morning :-)
View out from Midge City, Galloway Forest Park.png
View out from Midge City, Galloway Forest Park

Set off up the A713 'Tourist Route' with very few cars on the road, which enabled me to gawp at the scenery as much as I liked. Scanning the map, I spotted a likely overnight place, so off we went to Lochwinnock and thence on to Muirshiel Country Park. What a lucky find! Great walking trails, toilets, hot water, showers, barbecue area (even an Electric Vehicle Charging Point!). There are only two things missing here – electric hook-up (ehu) and a fee – hahaha.
Lovely, flat car park – happy me!.png
Lovely, flat car park – happy me!

And happy Ellie, too!.png
And happy Ellie, too!

I spoke with the warden and asked if it would be ok for me to overnight there. She looked me, the van and Ellie over and told me that it wasn't normally permitted but that it would be fine for me to stay. How kind. I wandered off along the lower-level paths and along the River Calder. So tranquil.
One of the BBQ areas at Muirshiel Country Park.png
One of the BBQ areas at Muirshiel Country Park

River Calder in the late afternoon sunshine.png
River Calder in the late afternoon sunshine

Supper: Cumberland sausage, onions, garlic, mushrooms, eggs and the last of Jan's runner beans. Delicious! There were midges here too, but not as many as the previous night. Another chap arrived in a tiny campervan. We spoke. He had a springer spaniel with him, which he had rescued and brought back from Hong Kong!
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:54 am

Muirshiel to Toward

Forgot to mention that this place (Muirshiel Country Park) is very popular in the evenings with runners, walkers and dog-walkers. Also – a group of young adults turned up, with pizzas and soft drinks, and headed down to the BBQ area, but they were no trouble at all – no noise, no screeching round the car park in their cars.

Also – a car turned up at about 9.30 pm, with L(earner)-plates on it. A swap of drivers and then a full 1.5 hours of driving practice – 3-point turns, reversing, driving up and down the single-track road – all very quietly. What a great way of getting experience of driving, especially on the sometimes-rather-scary local roads!!

Come the morning, the only thing I could 'complain' about was that one of the youngsters had tried to 'post' a pizza box into the doggie 'do' bin. I had to remove it and put it next to the (full) 'normal' bins and tell the warden when she turned up. She laughed and told me not to worry – all of the bins are emptied at least once a day.

More information for the whole of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park may be found at:

http://www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk/

There were still a few midges about as it was early, but I ignored them, made myself a cuppa and headed off to walk two of the higher level trails (Windy Hill and the Mine Track – total 8 miles – the last 3 of which were done in just under 40 minutes – it takes me a while to get my 'walking legs' back and it was so misty, nothing much to see, on the return trip that I just 'yomped' along.).
Walking up Windy Hill, Muirshiel Country Park. This photo (taken on my tablet) doesn't do justice to the brilliant hue of the heather. Wish I'd taken it with my camera..png
Walking up Windy Hill, Muirshiel Country Park. This photo (taken on my tablet) doesn't do justice to the brilliant hue of the heather. Wish I'd taken it with my camera.

Looking up to Windy Hill (and yes, I did get right to the top ).png
Looking up to Windy Hill (and yes, I did get right to the top :-) )

Walking along the Mine Track..png
Walking along the Mine Track.

When I got back to the Visitor Centre, there was a work party there, planting new trees, cleaning out the gutters on the buildings and generally tidying the place up (sensibly, they all had full midge-proof gear on – Ellie wasn't at all sure about them in such garb, but quickly realised that they WERE humans and that there were plenty of hands to give her a stroke and a fuss). The majority of the work party were local young adults with learning disabilities – great to see the local community involved with projects like that.

The warden asked me if I would like some fresh water (the water in the toilet/shower block is not considered 'safe to drink'). They had connected up a hose to the drinking water in their office, so I filled every container that I had! Again – such kindness. I must say that all of the staff were really nice here. If I'm in the area again I will definitely pop back for another visit. I'd been told by the other chap in a camper that another area of the park, Castle Semple, was also good for overnighting, so took a quick side-trip to see what it was like. 
I parked just a few spaces away from this beauty!!  A very nice French couple, with their dog..png
I parked just a few spaces away from this beauty!! A very nice French couple, with their dog.

The Visitor Centre here looks out over Castle Semple Loch, with walking trails and many water-based activities (also got good Internet connection with my myfi gadget), but I was intent on moving further North so that I could take the ferry from Gourock to Hunter's Quay, just North of Dunnon and into Argyll).
Now, this was my first time taking the campervan on a ferry and I was somewhat apprehensive. But – people do it every day, so I just got on with it.
Waiting to board at Gourock. I met a lady with a Sheltie in the queue – the only other Sheltie I saw in the whole of the trip!!.png
Waiting to board at Gourock. I met a lady with a Sheltie in the queue – the only other Sheltie I saw in the whole of the trip!!

Off we go! Ellie wasn't at all phased by the ferry crossing .png
Off we go! Ellie wasn't at all phased by the ferry crossing :-)

Hunter's Quay, here we come..png
Hunter's Quay, here we come.

Arriving, I found fuel and then headed down the East coast towards Toward. After a bit of a search, I found a spot to wild camp. There, I met an elderly lady walking her dog and asked her if it would be ok to stay there. She said it would and asked me if I had enough water. If not, she lived just up the road and I'd be welcome to fill up at her house. Again – such kindness the Scots showed me.
A nice walk of a couple of miles along the beach at Toward. .png
A nice walk of a couple of miles along the beach at Toward.

The overnight spot was close to the Toward Sailing Club and I sat in the twilight, watching the sailing boats and sea kayaks going out and marvelled at the precision of the boats coming back in to their buoys.
Looking toward Toward Point..png
Looking toward Toward Point.

Suddenly, it seemed as though I just blinked once and all of the lights along the opposite shore came on, twinkling!
The pretty lights of Wemyss Bay, from Toward..png
The pretty lights of Wemyss Bay, from Toward.

Slept to the sound of curlews (a sound I know well, as it was out family 'whistle/call' when my brother and I were young – Mum and Dad didn't like to have to shout our names, so they curlew-whistled and we knew it was time to come back from wherever we were :-) )

Lesson learned: No midges on the coast – hahaha

Seen: Grouse, Sparrow Hawk (on a telephone wire), Curlews, Oystercatchers, Kittiwakes
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby Nevis » Wed Oct 05, 2016 12:47 pm

From Toward to Inverary

I woke at 12.45 am. My sleep patterns change dramatically when I'm campervanning (especially when I'm wild camping). I seem to sleep in 4-5 hour 'chunks'. I remembered that I'd seen an article called 'The myth of the eight-hour sleep'. Having researched it, I found that a scientist, Roger Ekirch, had carried out experiments that showed that his subjects eventually settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.
His book At Day's Close: Night in Times Past unearthed more than 500 references to this segmented sleeping pattern - in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer's Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria. Interesting – eh? Anyway, when I awoke, the sky was clear – full of stars – with the Milky Way standing out clearly. Woke again later, to the sound of pouring rain hitting the roof of the van and then again at 07.15, to a clear, bright day.
Sandbank.png

Set off Northwards towards Sandbank and then took the scenic route Westwards on the B836. By this time, single-track roads were becoming the 'norm' :-)
Heading South once more, I stopped at the breathtaking Tighnabruaich Viewpoint, with far-reaching views out over Loch Riddon!
Loch Riddon.png

Here, a very nice couple of gentlemen offered to take a photo of me, with this view behind me. Having been wild camping for several days, I thanked them but declined – :lol: Down to Tighnabruaich we went and had a lovely walk along the seafront. This is a very 'arty' village, with several galleries. Oh – and some rather 'scary' 'mannequins' dotted around.
Understandably, Ellie didn't want to hang around too long near this one!!.png
Understandably, Ellie didn't want to hang around too long near this one!!

Carrying on along the coast road, we took a side-trip to Portavadie. Which is basically all modern - a marina with spa, hotel etc. Not my thing at all – oh, how the 'other half' lives!
Portavadie Marina – a few bobs worth here!!.png
Portavadie Marina – a few bobs worth here!!

Up the Eastern side of Loch Fyne, now, to Otter Ferry – the best part of the day so far :-)
Here there is a lovely pub, the Oystercatcher. It has two large car parks, in one of which an overnight stay is permitted on the condition that a) at least one drink is bought and b) a small donation is made towards the RNLI and the upkeep of the local moorings/buoys.

http://www.theoystercatcher.co.uk/

The staff were very friendly. I noticed that they had live music on occasionally and proposed that if I returned, I'd play for my supper and a free overnight stay. I expected the lady behind the bar to laugh at the joke but, no, she said that would be great and just to let them know when to expect me so that they could publicise it!! Wow!
The Oystercatcher, Otter Ferry. Lovely. The two chaps under the tree were French – and fascinated by Ellie! Perhaps they don't have Shelties in France.png
The Oystercatcher, Otter Ferry. Lovely. The two chaps under the tree were French – and fascinated by Ellie! Perhaps they don't have Shelties in France??

Continuing up Loch Fyne, I paid a brief visit to Castle Lachlan – a delightful ruined castle with a wooden walkway enabling people to get to it.
Old Castle Lachlan.png
Old Castle Lachlan

'No overnight parking' here and the seafood restaurant was closed, so moved on. The heavens opened and the rain hissed down. Hoping for a delicious seafood supper (and maybe asking if I could overnight in the car park), I stopped at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Cairndow. It was packed. And NO DOGS allowed. So onwards again. Time was ticking on and I wanted to find somewhere to bed down and, with no obvious wild camping places along the A83 I found myself in Inverary. The seafront/harbour parking areas had large signs: 'No overnight parking', 'No sleeping in vehicles between 11 pm and 7 am' etc., but I parked up anyway and went to take a wander round the town.
Inverary.png
Inverary

I think I can best describe Inverary as a 'shadow' town. On the seafront, there are plenty of touristy shops, but behind that 'façade' is a town of many derelict buildings. I was a little concerned about leaving the van in the car park, but as I was walking back towards it I spotted an elderly chap in a wheelchair in a small alleyway between two pubs, so I stopped to chat with him for half an hour or so. When I told him of my worries about overnighting in the car park, he laughed and told me, “Och, there's only one traffic warden for the whole of Argyll and he's not due until (thinks for a short while) – Tuesday week!” I laughed too and told him that if I did get a fine I'd be after him for the money ;-)

After fixing something to eat, I took another wander – this time to one of the pubs, The George Hotel, for a pint. Splendid place – beams, nooks and a bar with (I imagine) every type of whisky available!!
The lovely George Hotel bar. VERY busy for food – bookings essential, I reckon..png
The lovely George Hotel bar. VERY busy for food – bookings essential, I reckon.

Oh – and I saw these and just HAD to try them (I wasn't overly impressed – to me, they just tasted of a lot of pepper and a vague hint of some type of meat!):
Yuck. The seagulls had most of them.png
Yuck. The seagulls had most of them :-(

Back at the 'van, I was visited by a chap (who had parked his self-build camper a little further up the car park (away from the main road)), who asked if he could look at the conversion of my 'van, as he'd wanted the same but couldn't find one available! As he left, he said that if I had any bother at all during the night from drunks or boy racers, just to lean on the horn and he'd come over straight away. Kindness again – seems as though wild campers look out for and stick up for one another :-D

Seen: Herons, Sea Eagle (flying near Castle Lachlan), Grouse, Partridge (sadly, no otters at Otter Ferry :-( )
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Fri Oct 07, 2016 10:59 am

South now – to Tarbert and Southend

Up early (@ 06.30), and pleasantly surprised to find the public lavatories already open :-)
Low cloud was hanging over Loch Fyne – quiet eerie, especially as there was nobody else around.
Loch Fyne .png

Set off, southwards again, though Lochgilphead and on to Tarbert.
Fish farming on Loch Fyne.png
Fish farming on Loch Fyne

Tarbert couldn't be more different from Inverary – what a charming fishing village! However, the wet-fish shop was closed and there were no dog-friendly seafood restaurants and I was getting rather disappointed that I couldn't buy any of the fresh catch :cry
Stacks of lobster pots in Tarbert – nowhere to buy any.png
Stacks of lobster pots in Tarbert – nowhere to buy any

Bought provisions and then carried on to Campbeltown, on the main road (intending to drive back up the coast road in due course).
Here, there was good data reception, so caught up with e-mail and had lunch. Whilst I was sitting in the 'van, I saw a trio of older folk walking towards me. One of them fell heavily, ending up sprawled in the gutter, so I rushed out to see if she was ok and to offer her assistance. She said she was fine and declined my offer of a glass of water. We got chatting. She was Jessie (82) with her sister, Mary (80) and Mary's husband, Tom (age unknown ;-) ). They told me of a basic campsite in their home village of Southend, right at the end of the peninsular, overlooking Brunerican Bay, Sheep Island and Sanda Island. Mary also mentioned that her daughter ran the hotel/pub in the village.

After making sure that Jessie really was ok, I decided to take the 3-km walk to the causeway across the bay (which can only be crossed at low tide) to Davaar Island. The tide was perfect for the walk across – still going out, so there would be plenty of time for me to walk across, have a look around and get back before the tide came back in.

There are a number of sea caves on the island, including one with a famous crucifixion painting, and a lighthouse at the northern most point.
Perfect timing to walk out to Davaar Island, but …..png
Perfect timing to walk out to Davaar Island, but ….

When I got to the causeway, and to my dismay, I saw a big sign which (as well as warning about how swift the incoming tide is), stated that NO DOGS were allowed on the island, as the inhabitants were goats. Groan. Oh well. We walked back to Campbeltown. It was a lovely walk, though.

Arriving at Southend, I found the campsite, but was mystified as to how to pay! No reception, not even a little hut with somebody collecting money. Most peculiar. So I asked one of the chaps who was already pitched. He told me, “Oh, you have to go up to the farmhouse and pay and get a key for the toilets (£5 deposit). Wait a minute,” he looked over the fence towards the farmhouse, “oh no – there's no point in going up there at the moment. The cows are in, so they're doing the milking. Leave it a couple of hours before you go. Oh – and don't let your dog out up there, the farm dogs are a 'bit vicious'!”

Ok. Only one thing to do – head for the pub/hotel (which I'd passed on the way to the campsite). The Argyll Arms – nice place (being renovated when I was there, but still open for business), run by the really friendly Lynn (who I realised a couple of days later must have been Mary's daughter!!!).
Ellie and I retired to the Beer Garden and I supped a nice pint. Lynn brought water out for Ellie and we talked for a while. I was just considering whether to have another, when a couple came out into the garden (Diane and Tim). We introduced ourselves and settled down for a good ol' chin-wag. You know that (rare) feeling when you meet people and it feels like you've known them for years and years? Well – THAT!!

Rather than risk driving over the limit (Warning: the 'limit' is a lot lower in Scotland!!) I asked Lynn if it would be ok for me to overnight in the hotel/pub car park. She said, “Of course!” and when I offered her payment, refused point-blank.

So, Diane, Tim and I settled down for more drinks and they told me that it was their last night there – they were off in the morning. Suddenly, Diane asked me if I'd like to join them back at their rented cottage to help finish off the remaining food and drink. I accepted like a shot and, having taken my guitar out of the 'van, we set off. Down the road, along a lane, over the golf course (stopping to chat to a man and his two sons who were fishing) to a really sweet little cottage. What followed was a hilarious evening :-) Sitting out in the mild air, food was eaten, drinks were drunk, tales and jokes were told and I played them a few songs.
Diane and I (yep – the photo is a bit 'fuzzy', but then so were we by the time this was taken – hehehe).png
Diane and I (yep – the photo is a bit 'fuzzy', but then so were we by the time this was taken – hehehe). Credit. Diane Darlington

As the light was draining from the sky, a little boat came to the small slipway in front of the cottage. Two fishermen jumped out, unloading their catch of pollock. Dianne offered them a beer. They declined. She asked them if they could spare one of the fish. They said they could and handed over a HUGE one.

Back in the cottage kitchen, Diane (extremely pleased with her gift) searched for a suitable knife to 'deal' with it. Knives? – yep. Sharp knives suitable for de-heading a de-scaling a large (and very slippery) fish? - nope! Sadly, the fish had to be given to the owner of the cottage (he took it with glee).
Eventually, I bid farewell to Diane and Tim walked me back to the road. What wonderful people! I'll be visiting them in the future (and they'd be most welcome here if they come down this way).

Back at the pub (and well gone 'English' closing time!), I heard music coming from the pub. Looking in, I saw the room full of people – it was karaoke night!!
So, in I went (with guitar still on back), joined in with a few harmonies with the 'King of Karaoke' and played a bit for them. One of the customers asked me to play again – saying that they'd rather hear me than karaoke, but I could see the disappointment on the face of the KoK, so politely declined.
More (excellent) beer was drunk and I finally flopped into bed in the 'van at 01.46!!

A cracker of a day!!

Seen: More herons, gulls (various, many), and cormorants. Two of the cormorants seemed, to me, to be competing to see who could hold their breath for the longest. Whilst I was watching, the one on the left was winning :wink
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:37 am

Southend and Carradale

Despite the previous late night, I was up at 08.15, drank tea and then moved the 'van a short way to a layby looking out over Brunerican Bay where I made breakfast. There I met an elderly, local man, who told me of some of the things to see in the area.
Looking out over Brunerican Bay, with Sanda Island in the background.png
Looking out over Brunerican Bay, with Sanda Island in the background

I became aware of two people walking along the beach in my direction – it was Diane and Tim, coming to say 'Goodbye' to me again – hahaha!
Diane & Tim.png

From Southend, I drove the single-track coastal road Westwards. Along this stretch of coast there is a fairly large seal colony (although there weren't many there to greet me).
Seals at Southend .png
Seals at Southend (again, no otter sighting/s – I was very envious of Diane and Tim, who had seen them on the beach right outside their cottage!)

Further along the road, I parked in a layby and walked to up see St Columba's Footprints and St Columba's Well.
St Columba's Footprints.png
St Columba's Footprints

At the top of a flight of steps, at the top of a stony outcrop, there are two carved 'footprints'. The more southerly is laid parallel to the shore, while the other is at 90 degrees to it. Each print is a little less than a third of a metre in length, and between them is carved the number '564'. Columba landed here in 563 – it's believed that the second footprint was carved at a later date and the stone mason got the date wrong – tehehe.

Footprints carved into stones are found in a number of places in Ireland and Scotland, and are usually associated with king-making ceremonies.
A short distance away is St Columba's Well - a rocky bowl, carved into the slope, where water collects from a spring.
St Columba's Well.png
St Columba's Well

A short walk to the West of these features are the Keil Caves. There are several of them, the following photo is of the Great Cave.
The Great Cave at Keil..png
The Great Cave at Keil.

Excavations of the caves suggest that they have seen human occupation during many different periods, ranging from prehistoric residents (tidy enough to bury the shells from the shellfish they ate in a pit), into the age of Dalriada (late 6th–early 7th centuries) and more recently, too. The 1881 Census reports that Keil Cave was home to John McFee, a 22 year old tinsmith, his 21 year old wife Margaret, and their young son Andrew, together with John's cousin Alex McCallum, a 45 year old basket-maker, his wife Mary and their daughter Bella.
cormorant.png
I'm pretty sure that this is a cormorant (although it might be a juvenile shag (no tittering at the back, please :-) ), in typical pose with outstretched wings.

From High Keil, I continued along the switch-back, steep and single-track road to the lighthouse overlooking the Mull of Kintyre (“oh mist rolling in from the sea” - have I given you an ear-worm now?). Quite a stressful road to drive, but at least I got used to using the Tiptronic transmission on the 'van!
Looking out over the Mull of Kintyre.png
Looking out over the Mull of Kintyre, with the lighthouse below. The black specks in the photo aren't caused by a dirty lens – there were thousands of black, long-legged flies here (St Mark’s Fly, totally harmless!)

Walking down to the lighthouse.png
Walking down to the lighthouse (the Earth's curve is obvious from up here!)

The lighthouse, first lit on 1 November 1788, is set 240 feet above the sea near the rocks known as 'The Merchants of Three Pedlars'. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1821 and, as the area is frequently shrouded in mist, it was equipped with a fog signal in 1876, sounded by steam or compressed air.
The lighthouse fog horn..png
The lighthouse fog horn.

The 1.5-mile walk down was lovely, but the walk back up was REALLY hard going – even Ellie was 'dragging' by the time we got to the top again. After driving back along the steep road, I headed for Campbeltown again, for another 'hit' of Internet connection.
Highly scented heather along the road to the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse..png
Highly scented heather along the road to the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse.

Amazingly, in Campbeltown I met Diane and Tim again! They went off to catch their ferry, only to return a short while later to ask if they could use my 'net connection to confirm their booking. Then they hurtled off again (I found out later that the confirmation didn't come through in time, but they paid for another ticket and made the 'booked' sailing).

I'd already decided that I would drive up the Eastern side of the peninsular and found myself in Carradale. After wild camping so far, I allowed myself the luxury of booking into a 'proper' campsite – Carradale Bay Caravan Park (http://www.carradalebay.com/). The welcome was warm, the facilities were excellent and my pitch was almost on the beach.

Whilst walking Ellie along the beach, I met a man who had been fishing and he told me about the feral Carradale goats (he showed me a photo on his mobile), so I walked further to see if I could catch a glimpse of them. To no avail – they had moved round the headland :(
The beautiful Carradale goats.png
The beautiful Carradale goats
Credit: Carradale Harbour on Kintyre

On the beach, I saw thousands upon thousands of weird-looking shells/egg cases. I took one home but I still haven't been able to identify what they are :(

Funny thing: Driving along the road back from the lighthouse, I saw what appeared to be a dead dog lying in the middle of the road. I drove slowly towards it. It didn't move. Really concerned by now, I carefully advanced. It still didn't move. Thoughts of having to go to the nearby farmhouse to report the tragedy ran through my head. Eventually, I shouted out of the window at it, “Hey – get up!” and the dog gradually lifted its head, stared at me for a while and then heaved itself up and wandered to the grass verge. I guess that was its favourite sunbathing spot!!


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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Sun Oct 16, 2016 3:02 pm

Gatehouse Lodge, Skipness Castle.png
Gatehouse Lodge, Skipness Castle
Carradale to Skipness to Kilberry to Loch Caolisport to Crinan to Loch Sween

Awoke to a beautiful sunrise and another glorious morning.
sunrise.png

Carradale morning.png
Carradale morning

An 'easy' day today – lovely hot shower, washing done and a long walk with Ellie along the beach. I saw the goats in the distance, but couldn't get close enough to take a photo.

Packed up and headed up along the East Coast road of Kintyre to Skipness and then to Skipness Castle. What a lucky find I had there! Tucked away behind a hedgerow here is the wonderful Seafood Cabin.
Seafood Cabin, Skipness.png
Seafood Cabin, Skipness

As well as excellent food, there are ponies, dogs and chickens for kids to pet .png
As well as excellent food, there are ponies, dogs and chickens for kids to pet – oh, and a red deer doe just wanders about, eating with the other diners (grass for her, of course)!!

At last, my craving for fresh, local seafood was satisfied ….
seafood.png

…. and I spent a happy couple of hours eating, admiring the views and chatting to other diners. This place is a MUST if you're in the area and like seafood!!

Stuffed to the gills, I wandered around Skipness Castle for a while and then back to Tarbert for supplies before taking a quiet B Road into Knapdale.
Skipness Castle.png
Skipness Castle

Gatehouse Lodge, Skipness Castle.png
Gatehouse Lodge, Skipness Castle

Again taking the coastal road, I ventured to see the Sculptured Stones at Kilberry. Under a purpose-built display area, there are 26 sculptured stones from the Campbell family mausoleum, near the castle, and around the Kilberry estate. The stones cover a range of styles and eras, from early Christian grave-slabs to late-medieval cross fragments.
Medieval grave slabs, Kilberry.png
Medieval grave slabs, Kilberry

A little further on, I found a large layby looking out of Loch Caolisport, where I parked up for the night. Still feeling full from the excellent (late) lunch, my supper was just fresh fruit and nuts. Sat watching the tide finish going out and start to come in again – more like 'Sitting on the bay of a loch' than 'Sitting on the dock of the bay' :wink

Seen: Golden Eagle.

Lesson learned: Go with your gut instinct – I had been told that there was a very good seafood restaurant in Skipness and found it by following my nose.

The following morning was dull and overcast, but no rain – certainly no reason not to walk Ellie on the loch beach, where we saw some MASSIVE stranded jellyfish (kept Ellie well away from them).
Loch Caolisport.png
Loch Caolisport

Once again, as I was packing up, the sun came out and stayed out as we ventured even further Northwards to Lochgilpead. The Crinan Canal runs through the town on its way up to the village of Crinan. I love canals. So, we set off from the centre of the town (free parking, as in most of the Scots towns :-) ), scrambled up a bank and strode along the towpath (6.75 miles in total).
Sailing boat motoring 'down' the Crinan Canal towards Lochgilphead.png
Sailing boat motoring 'down' the Crinan Canal towards Lochgilphead

The Crinan Canal was completed in 1801, to provide a navigable route between the Clyde and the Inner Hebrides, without the need for a long diversion around the Kintyre peninsula, and in particular the exposed, and dangerous, Mull of Kintyre. Between 1930 and 1932, new sea locks were built at either end, making the canal accessible at any state of tide.

The Crinan Canal for me
I don't like the wild raging sea
Them big foamin' breakers
Wad gie ye the shakers
The Crinan Canal for me.
Dan MacPhail - The Vital Spark
Walking up to locks 5-8 at Cairnbaan.png
Walking up to locks 5-8 at Cairnbaan

Fairy doors at Cairnbaan – how lovely .png
Fairy doors at Cairnbaan – how lovely :-)

Water-waster on the Crinan Canal – used to help to maintain the water level in the canal at a constant depth.png
Water-waster on the Crinan Canal – used to help to maintain the water level in the canal at a constant depth

Eventually, we arrived at Crinan.
Looking out over Loch Crinan.png
Looking out over Loch Crinan

Hungry and thirsty, I quenched thirst and banished hunger in the Seafood Bistro there (yep – more seafood, this time in the form of a fish/seafood stew, which was delicious) and met a lovely couple, Kirsty and Fergus (with their dog Cooper). We chatted. They were driving back to Lochgilphead and insisted on giving Ellie and I a lift back there – very nice of them :-)

They also recommended a nice woodland walk in the local area, so off I set.

The Blarbuie woodland, recently renovated, forms part of the sanctuary of Lochgilphead's Argyll and Bute Hospital grounds. It has all-abilities access, outdoor exercise facilities, sculptures and other artworks, is open to all and is planted with a mix of native and exotic trees.
Users of the mental health services and volunteers from all walks of life carry out the woodland restoration and ongoing maintenance, offering people an opportunity to learn new skills and providing meaningful, supported employment. There is also an area where patients can grow vegetables and flowers and sell plants. A lovely, peaceful, relaxing walk here.

More information here: http://www.blarbuiewoodland.org/

From here, I decided to head to the Scottish Beaver Trial site on Loch Coille-Bharr, but arrived quite late in the day and didn't have time to walk the full trail – so just a short 1.5-miler (I reckoned, also, that nearly 10 miles in one day was probably enough :wink ).

Having driven all the way down the peninsular (almost to Keillmore) without finding a 'wild' spot, I eventually parked at Scotnish, Loch Sween. Ellie was fed in the twighlight, amongst ancient oaks, with the gentle sound of wavelets on rocks to lull us to sleep.

Seen: Swallows over the canal (but gathering to go and lining up on the telephone lines), fish eagle (with a fish in its talons – it flew right over my head!) and a red squirrel (crossing the road).





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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Tue Oct 18, 2016 1:54 pm

Loch Sween to Oban

Slept fitfully, beneath 'old forest' trees which bent and groaned in the strong wind. But hey – they've been there for hundreds of years, clothed in rare lichens and mosses, withstanding winds much stronger than during that night!! So – up early o'clock and back down the road to the Beaver Trial Area (arriving before 7.30 am).

More information may be found at: http://scottishbeavers.org.uk/visit-knapdale/

Set off on the 3-mile walk, in the hope of seeing them, but, as they're nocturnal, I wasn't TOO disappointed to not see any :(

It was a lovely walk, though – sunshine and light showers - and I did see beaver 'evidence' :-)
Beavers change the landscape in a very dramatic way.png
Beavers change the landscape in a very dramatic way! This is a flooded area behind one of their dams – dead/drowned trees festooned with lichen.

Caution – beavers at work.png
Caution – beavers at work (wish it was in focus!)

Along the walk are the remains of the township called Kilmory Oib, a community of fishermen and farmers – not too surprising with the wealth of rich pickings, both in the sea and on the land in this area. It consists of at least 17 buildings, including houses and byres for animals. There are also two sub-circular piles of rubble, which may be the remains of corn drying kilns.

There is also an early Christian cross-marked stone, which stands beside a small well. It's thought that the stone dates to the C8th or C9th. I couldn’t see it – must have been hidden in the undergrowth.
Part of the long-abandoned township, Kilmory Oib.png
Part of the long-abandoned township, Kilmory Oib

During my walk, I met an older man who had parked up for wild camping in a secluded spot in the forest (away from midges). He and his wife were almost full-time campervanners (or, rather, motorhomers) and he made me laugh when we were discussing how infrequently we actually paid to stay on a site. “Lass”, he told me, “we only go to a campsite for a shower when people start to cross the road when we approach them!!” Gotta love his attitude (mine also *ahem*!) They were both working as University lecturers and decided that the changes in the education system weren't for them, so they left, took other jobs, saved for their motorhome and have been travelling ever since. They wanted to do it whilst they were still physically able. Nice folk.

After tea and toast in the 'van, I took a side-turning to visit Castle Sween (on the opposite (Eastern) shore of Loch Sween). Quite a long, single-track road, and no parking at the castle itself (it's now in the grounds of a HUGE holiday park), but worth the drive and walk.
The East Tower of Castle Sween.png
The East Tower of Castle Sween

The castle is thought to be one of the earliest stone castles constructed in Scotland, having been built sometime in the late C12th. It was the stronghold of Suibhne ‘the Red’ and the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. Archaeological excavation of part of the east range in 1989-90 uncovered evidence of industrial use, including a forge and kilns.
Interior of the main castle, with the castle well at bottom left..png
Interior of the main castle, with the castle well at bottom left.

There are some marvellous features here, including a bread oven, a water spout in the kitchen area and a 'Latrine tower', with the latrine chute still in good condition (NO – I didn't mean that I used it!!!!).

Link for further information: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/c ... stlesween/

Going back North again, I crossed the Crinan Canal at Bellanoch and drove the straight, single-track road across the stark, but beautiful, peat moors of Moine Mhor.
Part of the vast area of mossy hummocks and open pools on the shallow, peaty dome that is Moine Mhor.png
Part of the vast area of mossy hummocks and open pools on the shallow, peaty dome that is Moine Mhor

I pressed onwards (ever onwards), through Kilmartin (which I will return to on a future trip, as it has an abundance of archaeological features) to my destinations for the night – Oban.

Booked into a very nice Camping and Caravan Club site (North Ledaig Caravan Park), which was a tad expensive by my standards, but I got a lovely pitch on my own (in a block of 6 at the far end of the site, close to the dog walks).

The warden who showed me to my pitch was a chatty and helpful guy. He'd previously been an HGV driver, but got so stressed with the demands of the job that he decided to persuade his wife to return to his home-town and was very happy in his new job as Warden, despite his drop in salary. Another example of my thinking that money isn't everything :-)

Cooking supper (a fusion of beef chilli with some Asian spices and rice), I pondered and mulled over whether to jump the ferry to Mull the next morning.

Nipped to the toilet block for pre-slumber ablutions and when I returned, I discovered that my wooden cooking spoon was missing. Where was it? A hunt ensued (didn't take long, after all the 'van isn't very big!) and I eventually discovered it 'hidden' under the fleece. Partly eaten. Bad, BAD Ellie!!! Fortunately, there weren't any repercussions from this (had horrid thoughts of having to find a vet to do x-rays if things weren't 'normal' the next day. They were, thank goodness.) Of course, I did have to buy a new spoon.

Popped a note up on Facebook about the 'Mull' dilemma and snuggled down for the night.

Rudely awoken next morning, very early, by the sound of a foghorn.

The weather wasn't looking great, so I decided to stay one more night. When I went to pay for the extra night, I discovered that I'd been overcharged for the previous night and got a refund. Result.

The day was spent totally 'chilling' - catching up on FB, e-mail, snoozing, reading, stitching and walking Ellie. If I had but known it, my brother had been to the site and knew that there was a 'you can buy anything here' shop just half a mile away, which sold a large variety of local beers, including heather beer. Darn it.

It was actually really nice to just 'slob' for a day.

Took time in the evening to cook a really nice vegetable risotto. And have a glass (or two) of a rather delicious wine.

Heaven!

Decided I WOULD go to Mull the next day :)


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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:29 pm

Oban to Mull

Up to sunshine and showers. I was intending to get the 10.50 ferry to Mull, but got talking to 'neighbours' on the site – a much better use of time than driving to Oban in a hurry!
Billy No Mates – top popped up, right by the beach and near the dog walk..png
Billy No Mates – top popped up, right by the beach and near the dog walk.

Having arrived and parked up (again, for free by the harbour-side) I discovered that the next ferry (12.30) was fully booked, and that the first available place was on the 17.05 boat. What to do? The very helpful lady at the Calmac Ticket Office suggested that I park in the 'stand-by' lane and to make sure that I was back in the 'van half an hour before every sailing, just in case there was space.

So, I walked back to the 'van and did just that (having misheard directions from the guy at the entrance boot and driven into the wrong lane at first :( ).

There was a while to wait until the 12.30 departure, so I wandered off to have a look around the town (and to find the lavatories).

I rather liked Oban. Climbing up the narrow streets to explore, I was struck by how interesting the skyline profiles were. Lots of turrets and crenelations.
Oban skyline, with the CalMac terminal just visible..png
Oban skyline, with the CalMac terminal just visible.

My goal was to reach, and look around, McCaig's Tower on Battery Hill
McCaig's Tower, Oban.png
McCaig's Tower, Oban

Built of Bonawe granite, the tower has a circumference of about 200 metres with two-tiers of 94 lancet arches (44 on the bottom and 50 on top). It was built between 1897 June 1902, commissioned and designed by John Stuart McCaig as a lasting monument to his family and to provide work for the local stonemasons during the winter months.

Although McCaig has even grander plans for the tower, including a museum and art gallery with a central tower, his death brought an end to construction with only the outer walls completed.
The view out from McCaig's Tower, with Mull a dark smudge on the horizon..png
The view out from McCaig's Tower, with Mull a dark smudge on the horizon.

On the walk back down to the ferry terminal, I passed several nice art galleries. These pieces of guerilla/urban knitting made me laugh :)
missing pic.jpg

Back at the ferry waiting area, I discovered this gem, 'hiding' behind Terminal 1:
With its own smokehouse.png
With its own smokehouse, this little shack serves the freshest local seafood. A HUGE smoked salmon sandwich (more filling than bread) and a whole dressed crab set me back less than £10 – bargain!!

Ellie was given a 'taster' of the smoked salmon, by one of the serving ladies. She enjoyed (as did I). Here for sale were live crabs, lobsters, mussels, crab claws etc. etc. – all at very reasonable prices. Lots of people stopped to eat.

Back to the queue I waited (with no expectations of getting on) to see if the 12.30 sailing had any spaces. Much to my amazement, there were plenty, so on we drove.

The boat allows dogs to come out of the vehicles – either in any outside space or in a special 'pet' area. Good news.
Goodbye, mainland.png
Goodbye, mainland – hello, Mull!

On the crossing, I met a lovely couple from Connecticut. I was astonished to discover that they had come all the way from the US just for one week in Scotland!!

Ellie was totally at ease on the boat. Several people asked if they could take photos of her (maybe I should start charging?).

Arriving on Mull, I noticed that most of the vehicles were turning left and heading South, but I decided to go North and then round the island in on an anti-clockwise routes.

When on Mull, it seems to be compulsory to go to Tobermory, so I did :-D
Tobermory in the sunshine.png
Tobermory in the sunshine. Yep – it’s just as picturesque as in the brochures/promotional material.

The Mishnish.png
The Mishnish (pub/restaurant/bistro/hotel), first opened in 1869, overlooks the harbour and serves a mean Cullen Skink * drool *.

Fresh provisions obtained, and on the recommendation of my friend Matt, I headed for Calgary Bay. Wow!! It's stunning! And …. it has an 'official' wildcamping area, with 24-hour toilets just across the road (as a Pay-it-Forward gift, I left a loo roll in the ladies before I left), picnic table, BBQ facilities, firepits and large rubbish bins. Perfect!
Rainbow over Calgary Bay, Mull.png
Rainbow over Calgary Bay, Mull

Set up for the night in the official wildcamping area, Calgary Bay, Mull..png
Set up for the night in the official wildcamping area, Calgary Bay, Mull.

Strangely, most of these vehicles didn't stay overnight (there is a campsite just along the road, but why pay when you can stay for free?).
Looking out of the 'van in the twilight, watching the tide come up the little estuary and the weird play of sea versus river water..png
Looking out of the 'van in the twilight, watching the tide come up the little estuary and the weird play of sea versus river water.

Sitting in the gathering gloom, eating crab salad, I saw a car come into the site. The doors flew open and a lady with two small boys hurtled out, carrying their tent which they than proceeded to put up in double-quick time! It was almost like a military operation – I was impressed. As Mum transferred sleeping bags etc. from the car to the tent, the boys gathered firewood and in what seemed like no time at all, they were settled round their campfire.
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:50 am

More of Mull (including Ben More)

(Before I move onwards, I thought I'd set out some more major Lessons Learned/adhered to:

1. We all take water for granted. I take 1 x 5 litre container, 1 x 2.5 litre container and 3 x 1 litre bottles of drinking water, but I'm ALWAYS on the lookout for fresh water. When I come home from a trip, it always strikes me just how easy it is to turn on a tap and get as much clean water as I want, but when I'm away it's one of my priorities to find it on a regular basis.

2. I don't worry much about things – I reckon I'm a pretty 'chilled' and easygoing sort of person, but I do have two other concerns/priorities when I'm away: fuel (you never know where the next petrol station will be in the more remote areas, so I try never to let the tank drop below half full) and safety. Regarding the latter, when on campsites I generally don't lock the 'van, but if I'm wild camping I ALWAYS lock myself in at night. Let's face it, it's unlikely that a murderous villain will be wandering around such wild places, but it's better to be safe than sorry!

3. Camera. Always take it with you – you never know when a gorgeous view will reveal itself round a corner. I could have filled the camera's memory cards many times over – just had to try to judge which shots were the more interesting. On the other hand, my brain's 'memory card' holds millions of 'shots' – hahaha.

Right – back to the travels now.)

The following morning, I had the pleasure of actually meeting and speaking with the Mum and boys whose efficiency I'd admired the previous evening. Maggie and her two boys, Michal and Martin. I was amazed to discover that they had been wild camping for quite a while on several islands and were just about to head for Staffa and then home.
Wild kids are happy kids. Michal and Martin by the last campfire of their trip..png
Wild kids are happy kids. Michal and Martin by the last campfire of their trip.
Credit: Maggie Moreira

They all made a real fuss of Ellie (she liked them greatly) and Michal spent a long time getting a knot out from behind one of Ellie's ears for me. Lovely people.
Ellie being.png
Ellie being thoroughly spoilt by the boys!
Credit: Maggie Moreira

I also spent time talking to a father-son team of South African 'twitchers', who told me that they'd seen a pair of Golden Eagles further down the coast and the location of a good overnight spot near Ben More, a lovely couple of lads from the US and a couple from Devon.

Of course, Ellie had a nice walk along the beach and round to Caliach Point.
Beautiful Calgary Bay.png
Beautiful Calgary Bay

Beach art.png
Beach Art (Copyright: MF Webb – ha ha ha)

From the footpath out to Treshnish Point and Caliach Point..png
From the footpath out to Treshnish Point and Caliach Point.

I was quite late leaving the bay, but that didn't matter as I was only going a little further than Knock.

Drove slowly along, partly because the coast road (B8073) is fairly 'hairy' driving and partly because I was watching the scenery and looking out for the pair of Golden Eagles, which I saw, circling overhead!! Nowhere to stop to take photos, though :(

Just before Knock, I took a side-road to visit the Macquarie Mausoleum.
Macquarie Mausoleum.png
Macquarie Mausoleum

Lachlan Macquarie was born in 1761 on the Isle of Ulva. He later became one of the most recognisable characters of Colonial Australia and was described as 'The Father of Australia', due to his good works as Governor of New South Wales from 1810-1821.

Continuing on down the coast, I had no trouble in finding the place to overnight – an 'unofficial' carpark on the sward (or machair (in Scotland, especially the Western Isles): low-lying arable or grazing land formed near the coast by the deposition of sand and shell fragments by the wind).

There were a couple of cars already there and a short while after I'd set up a couple came down the footpath from the top of Ben More. I asked about the walk. They told me that it had taken them 5.5 hours, so no time for me to walk it that day. They advised me that the weather was looking fair for the next day. I realised I'd have to make an early start!

Sitting quietly, eating the last of the crab with rice, I became aware of animals approaching. I hastily got Ellie into the 'van and shut the door – cows with calves can sometimes be unpredictable :(
Here come the girls.png
Here come the girls!

The calves were most interested in the 'van, one rubbed itself on the front bumper whilst a second made good use of one of my wing mirrors as a scratching post!! Yikes!! The group stood around the 'van for ages, mums grooming the calves and letting them feed. Eventually, they moved off (much to my relief) and hunkered down for the night a couple of hundred metres along the road. This was a very good thing indeed, as I needed to find a 'Ladies Bush' and the fact that I couldn't leave the 'van whilst they were there made the need all the more urgent – hehehe.

Seen: A most amusing warning sign on the B8073, 'Free Range Children' and LOTS of bird-watchers.

Next day: woken at just before 07.30 by a strange sound. Looked out, but couldn't see anything. Opened the sliding window and poked my head out – it was a lamb rubbing its horns against the near-side front hub cap!! Seeing me (more likely, seeing Ellie!), it (l)ambled off.

Kettle on, I waited to see what the day would bring weather-wise.

The sun was struggling to break through the clouds, but I decided to walk up Ben More (the only 'Munroe' on Mull) anyway.
Looking down from part way up Ben More, to Ulva.png
Looking down from part way up Ben More, to Ulva

About half way up, I crested a rise and saw that the mountain had its head in cloud – no point in going any further. A pity.

On the way down, I met a few more walkers going up. One of them told me a little story, as we were discussing the terrible midges in-land.

A visitor to Scotland was in a pub, chatting to the barman about the midges. From a corner, an old farmer piped up, “I can tell you what to do about the midges!”. Intrigued, the visitor asked what that was. “Get 500 gms of sugar, add water to make a thick paste and slosh it on every part of your body,” he replied. “Will that stop them biting?” asked the tourist. “No,” said the farmer, “but it will rot their feckin' teeth!!”. (Sweet revenge, maybe? ;-) )

A little disheartened not to get to the top of Ben More, I drove to Fionnphort on the beautiful single-track road. My – but Mull certainly is a picturesque island!

A ferry ride to Iona was a MUST. It's mostly a foot-passenger ferry (with a few delivery vehicles and residents allowed to take their vehicles on it), so boarding was via a ramp resting on the slipway.

Even with the grinding noise of the ramp, the 'slooshing' of the water and the rocking of the boat, Ellie was totally chilled. She walked up the ramp as if she'd been doing it all of her life. Good girl, Ellie.
Waiting for the ferry to Iona to dock..png
Waiting for the ferry to Iona to dock.

I have to say that Iona has a very relaxing feel to it, peaceful and tranquil, despite being quite crowded with tourists.

The Isle of Iona has deep significance for Christians. In 563, Columba (yes, he of the 'footprints') and twelve companions arrived by coracle on Iona, at that time part of a colony on mainland Britain occupied by fellow Scots from his part of Ireland. For the next 34 years, Columba and his monks, from their base on Iona, pursued an active missionary 'outreach', of what has come to be known as Celtic Christianity, throughout the Western Isle and up into the north eastern parts of what is now Scotland.

I didn't have very much time on the island, but did get to see the Nunnery (ruined) and the outside of the Abbey and had a wander round Baile Mòr. There are plenty more sites to see and white sand beaches, so I will probably return at some time in the future.
The Nunnery, Iona.png
The Nunnery, Iona

The Abbey in silhouette.png
The Abbey in silhouette. But wait – 'photo-bombed' by a dragon???? Actually, on reflection, I think it might be one of those long-legged St Marks flies – hahaha.

I had a while to wait for the ferry back, so off to the local pub for a half.
The view back to Mull from the patio outside the Martyrs Bay Restaurant & Bar..png
The view back to Mull from the patio outside the Martyrs Bay Restaurant & Bar.

Back on Mull, I was wondering where to camp for the night when I noticed a small sign pointing along a narrow track, marked 'Campsite'. Quite a long track, which led to Fidden Farm Campsite.

Another beaut of a site. A huge site, with masses of space, I found a pitch overlooking the beaches – and what wonderful beaches they are!!
One of the lovely sandy beaches at Fidden..png
One of the lovely sandy beaches at Fidden.

The site is described as 'basic', but apart from the fact that there are no power or electric hook-up facilities, the rest of them are great. The shower/toilet block has recently been refurbished (to a very high standard) and all of the other usual stuff was there – washing-up area, chemical/waste disposal point, drinking water etc.

At £8.00- per night, I thought it a bargain.

I was told by other campers that it can get VERY busy during high season, with some (selfish) people setting up 'small villages' (tents, vans, cars, windbreaks, gazebos) to reserve their 'favourite spots' and leaving campervans/motorhomes/tents on-site for the whole of the summer season. Plenty of room when I was there, though :-)
Ellie doing one of the things she does best – having a 'wee nap'..png
Ellie doing one of the things she does best – having a 'wee nap'.

The tide.png
Tide nearly in and night nearly here.

A family day out.png
A family day out, gone horribly wrong! “Baaaaabara, Baaaabara – I told you the tide was coming in!!”

Seen: Otter (in the distance and gone before I could get the binoculars out for a better look) :(
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:03 am

Fidden to Loch Sunart

Wow – it was windy that night!! I was woken several times by the 'van rocking and then by the 'tick, tick, tick,' of the 'fridge. The pilot light had been blown out and it was trying to re-light itself. Turned it off. In hindsight, what I should have done was to get up and put the top down, but I didn't think it would get worse. No real damage to the 'van in the morning, just a small amount of water ingress through the folding joint at the back of the pop-up roof, where the wind was hitting it with full force.

It was cold, so I had to turn the heater on for the first time in my travels. It's a diesel-powered heater and works really well. I was soon warm and toasty in the 'van. The wind was still a howler and I couldn't get the gas hob to light, so no tea (disaster!!!). I didn't know if it was because I'd run out of gas or because the wind was blowing into the hob's exhaust vent. I was quite surprised to see that none of the tents on the site had been blown away.

I spoke with a very nice girl, who had a tent pitched near to me, and she told me that the pub in Fionnphort had wifi, so off I went for a late breakfast/early lunch. Nice pub, pleasant staff, good food. I was really glad that it had rained during the night – it meant that I had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of waterfalls on the drive up to Fishnish.
Waterfalls along the beautiful A849.png
Waterfalls along the beautiful A849

Waterfalls.png

Waterfalls everywhere, like shining white ribbons and threads, flecked with silver, pouring and splashing down over black or slick grey rocks. Thundering into lochans and rivers which boiled and raced and tumbled to the sea. To lush bays with an abundance of sea animals and seaweeds. Otter heaven! Fresh water for grooming, mating, raising cubs; sea water for fish and molluscs and crabs and FUN!!

There is a road sign which warns of 'Otters for the next 6 miles!', but not a one did I see :(

Ferry crossing Number 4 was Fishnish to Lochaline (short and sweet) and from the latter my route wound up through Morven to Strontian, with the weather clearing and the mountains getting higher and higher – definitely into the Highlands now.

Found a nice campsite overlooking Loch Sunart (Resipole Farm Holiday Park) - £19 for the 'van and me for the night – no charge for Ellie (the site is VERY dog-friendly, too). All the usual facilities and very helpful staff (and if you get to Reception early enough in the morning, they have freshly baked soda bread for sale (baked by a local lady - yum, yum, yum!).

http://www.resipole.co.uk/

The receptionist told me that they had gas bottles if I needed on, but once I'd set up both the 'fridge and the hob worked fine, so it must have been the wind earlier in the day that had stopped them both working – phew!

After the HUGE burger that I'd eaten in Fionnphort (and not having walked far), supper was just soup, bread and fruit.

Walking Ellie, I met a very helpful older couple, who told me of a nice, quite local walk and a couple of wild camping spots nearby.
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Ellie and Me - T5 travels, Scotland ... (mostly)

Postby mzawf » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:53 pm

.... Whose first adventure you can read here .... HERE :mz
Plus Hooray :applause :applause More adventures from the intrepid chums :-D
....


After the last three 'travels', I've finally discovered the 'perfect' shower technique:
1. Remove outdoor shoes and put on flip-flops/crocs etc;
2. Walk into cubicle and place shampoo, shower gel etc. in appropriate place (i.e. IN REACH!);
3. Remove clothes, hanging them so that they are in order of whatever you put on first at the front;
4. Hang towel WITHIN REACH;
5. Shower;
6. Grab towel, dry as much as possible;
7. Dress top half;
8. Wobble about on one leg, whilst drying the other, lifted leg/foot, WITHOUT a) dangling towel on wet floor, b) falling over, c) putting foot down before inserting foot/leg in shorts/trousers, etc. (and therefore having to start again);
9. Repeat the process above for the other leg/foot;
10. Leave cubicle;
11. Grab mop etc. and clean cubicle for next person;
12. Remove flip flops/crocs and put on outdoor shoes;
13. Realise you have left shampoo, shower gel etc. in cubicle;
14. Remove outdoor shoes, put on flip flops/crocs etc.;
15. Enter cubicle;
16. Retrieve left objects;
17. As 10;
18. As 11;
19. As 12;
20. Leave shower block.

See - simple!! :wink

Before 'movin' on up' towards Mallaig, I had a chat with more 'neighbours', who had refurbished an old school on the Isle of Skye and run it as a Bed and Breakfast place. We were discussing the fact that the water in the locality was a lovely 'peaty' colour (think of weak tea) and how nice it tasted. They told me that when they ran the B&B they had a party from the US staying for a weekend. One of the guests asked, “Why is the water such a funny colour? Is it safe to drink?”. To which the host replied, “Oh yes, it's safe to drink – it's that colour because it comes with whisky pre-added!” - hehehe.

As recommended the previous evening, I took a quick trip to Kentra Bay and then the rough track to the ruins of Castle Tioram.
Castle Tioram – access via a causeway at most times, except on spring tides.png
Castle Tioram – access via a causeway at most times, except on spring tides

Here, I walked the 'Silver Walk' (6.5 km). It's described as 'exceptionally rocky and often boggy with unprotected, dangerous drops in places; the return walk over the hill is bleak and very boggy'. I can confirm that all of this is true. If you are a vertigo sufferer, as am I, it's quite 'challenging'. The trail is extremely narrow in places and a real roller-coaster, with steep stone 'steps'. Stout walking boots are a must.

However, the fear was worth it – splendid views out across Loch Moidart.
Looking out over Loch Moidart from the Silver Trail..png
Looking out over Loch Moidart from the Silver Trail.

The Silver Trail – one of the less narrow parts .png
The Silver Trail – one of the less narrow parts !!

I got a bit lost towards the end of the trail, but met a nice young Dutch couple who were in the same predicament. So, together, we forged our way ahead – EU collaboration :-)

On the way back, they took the High Road and I walked back the same way I'd come. I beat them back to the carpark :thumbsup

Back down the bumpy track and then towards Mallaig, via the 'Alternative Coastal Route' – beautiful beaches between Arisiag and Morar, but all of the sites along the road were full. Eventually, I found a carpark at the Silver Sands of Morar, where some kind soul had hacksawed off the 'No Overnight Parking' signs and there were 24-hour toilets.

A lovely walk along the glorious white sands there.
Silver Sands of Morar ('Local Hero' and 'Highlander' were filmed here)..png
Silver Sands of Morar ('Local Hero' and 'Highlander' were filmed here).

There were lots of nice people camping down on the beach and quite a few more turned up at the carpark, asking if I was going to go down for the night. Wish I'd taken a tent with me. If I had, I would have gone. A real broad spectrum of people and all ages – would have been fun.
Ellie was rather tired, after the strenuous walk near Castle Tioram, plus a long walk on the beach..png
Ellie was rather tired, after the strenuous walk near Castle Tioram, plus a long walk on the beach.

Seen: Lots of (screeching) herons, kingfisher (?), sheep warning signs that had been altered with black marker into rhino warning signs :-), seaplane

The following morning, I woke and suddenly thought, “It's time to go home!!”. It was a strong feeling and quite surprised me.

Packed up and headed for home, via cousin Jan's place again.
Final ferry journey, the Corran Ferry.png
Final ferry journey, the Corran Ferry

Whilst back at Fletchertown, I helped out at the 'dig' at Holme Cultram (not digging for me – I was in charge of washing tile faragments, bones etc.).

The West Cumbria Archaeological Society (WCAS) had found three large, almost complete, medieval jugs/pot a few days before I got there, and Jan was in charge of putting them back together.
Jugs.png
One of three medieval jugs/pots found at the latest (and probably last) dig at Holm Cultram.

WCAS has a Facebook page and welcomes new members, especially those who are willing to volunteer to 'dig'!!

https://www.facebook.com/West-Cumbria-A ... 5/?fref=ts
The 'soggy end' of archaeology – but a very interesting trench in which, eventually, the remains of a stone jetty and wooden pilings were found. .png
The 'soggy end' of archaeology – but a very interesting trench in which, eventually, the remains of a stone jetty and wooden pilings were found.

So – back home and journey's end. There is still so much more for me to explore on the West Coast of Scotland and I'm very much looking forward to returning next year (I'm hoping to do some 'island-hopping').

But … my NEXT 'travel' starts very soon.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for reading :-D


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