Saturday, 26 May 2012

107 A sad time and more Western Isles

Saturday 19th May
We packed up a bit sharpish in order to make the 1130 ferry to Kilchoan. Having plenty of time on arrival we decided to have a wander around the village of Tobermory. We then jumped into Gromit and drove to the slipway. It was deserted at 5 past 11 then sadly we saw that the ferry had left 5 minites ago. Karen, bless her cotton socks had read the winter timetable and we had to wait until 1pm. This of course did not phase Karen in the slightest. She was able to go shopping for another hour and a half !    
The ferry arrived and took us across to Kilchoan as per the summer timetable.

On arrival on the main land we set off intending to camp at Fort William. Not far from the ferry terminal we saw a small heard of deer on a ridge near the road.
Deer just looking at us

Bonnie prince Charlies Monument
Further along the road we came upon this. It is a statue of ‘Bonny Prince Charlie’, or Prince Charles Edward, at the spot where he first came ashore. He led the Jacobite uprising which ended in defeat at the battle of Culloden. Where incidentally my ancestors on my mothers side, namely 'Bowman', fought under the Farquarson Clan against the English and that is where I get my tartan from. They were in the center of the battlefield.
 The Loch leading to Fort William delighted us with this:
As we approached Fort William we could see that the Ben Nevis range of mountains behind the town was still covered in recent snow.
Ben Nevis range still covered in snow
We booked into a campsite in the shadow of Ben Nevis and the good lady set about feeding us. We had a visit from the warden who complained about letting Leon run free and crapping all over the campsite. He was soon put in his place but it left us feeling a bit like we were not welcome. A chat with the campsite owner put us back on track.
A happy camper
Sunday 20th May
Another lovely day with bright sunshine and little wind. We jumped on our push bikes and cycled the 2 miles or so into town. What a disappointment. Whilst we appreciate that it was a Sunday, more than half of the shops were either permanently closed or closing. The town was dying on its feet. We stayed around for a short while and did some window shopping (such as it was) and managed to fit in a couple of beers in the main street bars. We then had a sort of race back to the campsite, which was won by Karen but she did cheat somewhat. I had to visit the petrol station en-route and she rode on.
Monday 21st May
We decided to have a chill day and whilst Karen read her Kindle and sunbathed, I cleaned and oiled the bikes. At about midday we had a phone call from Karen’s Mum to inform us that Karen’s uncle Sammy, who had been in hospital for some weeks had taken a turn for the worse. We immediately stuck camp and set off back to Dumfries.
On arrival at Dumfries hospital we got to see Sammy, unfortunately he passed away the next day. We stayed un Dumfries for the next 12 days to attend his funeral and help out where we could. RIP Sammy Henderson.

One of the lighter moments was watching the Red Squirrel at Mums bird feeder.
A small Red Squirrel, a UK native, being overrun by the more familiar American Grey Squirrel.

Saturday 2nd June
Today we set off for the Outer Hebrides, a long group of islands off the North West coast of Scotland. Heading for Oban to catch the boat we came across this church called ‘St Conans Kirk’. In it is a bone fragment of ‘Robert the Bruce’. One of the kings of Scotland and recently bought back to light in the film ‘Braveheart’.
St Conans Kirk
A statue of Robert The Bruce
We wildcamped that night in a forest near Oban.

Sunday 3rd June
At about 3:30 it was on the ferry for the 5 hour trip to Barra, the southernmost island in the Hebrides. On arrival, it was getting late and we needed to find somewhere to wildcamp as there were no campsites in the area. Whilst looking we came across this:
Beauty in the cold wind

This place is incredibly beautiful. We found a disused quarry and set up camp in the lee of the quarry out of the wind.
Monday 4th June
We set off for a ride around the island (it is very small) and then for the ferry to the next one, South Uist. Unfortunately the ferry was full and we had to wait another 4 hours for the next one. More exploring and more pictures.

Gromit admiring the view
More white deserted beaches

A Beadlet anenome

Beaches, Islands, desolation.

We eventually got on the ferry and after the 40 minute trip we again went looking for cheap ( digs. We found a spot by the beach in a small depression with a view of the sun setting on the Atlantic Ocean. The next piece of land West of us was Canada. We also set up the Satellite to watch Game of Thrones – do you think we may have too many toys ??
A hole in the ground out of the wind

The beach was white and gorgeous especially with a little ‘Ringed Plover’ playing in the surf.

Tuesday 5th June
A sunlit but cold day. We headed North through South Uist, through Benbecula and then on through North Uist. We came across peat being farmed for heating fuel. The last time I saw this was 30 years ago in the Falkland Islands. They cut slices of peat, stand it up to dry in the sun and then stack it away for their winter fires. We stopped for some shopping, lunch and a pint at Lochmaddy. Here was the ferry office for another route but we decided to buy tickets and book crossings to eventually get us off the islands next week. We did not want to get caught with a full ferry again. Unfortunately, the only available crossing over to Harris, the next northern island was at 7:15 am ....eeek. we are normally still asleep then.
We set off for another terminal in Breneray in anticipation of an early start and came across a ‘circle of stones’, some sort of pagan ritual site and also an ancient house made solely of rocks.
I struggled to see the circle.

Again, beautiful but cold and windy

A stone house

We found another wildcamp site near the ferry terminal and again, on a beach. Again, beautiful but windy. Just like the Falklands. This was nearby:
Seals swimming and sun bathing in the bay.

Friday, 18 May 2012

106 The Scottish Western Isles.

Saturday 12th May
We had a mediocre breakfast at the hotel and then set off for the ferry 1/2 mile away. We bought our tickets and drove Gromit  down the ramp and onto yet another ferry over to Arran. We arrived quite early at the campsite and decided to go out for a long walk to visit a large waterfall.
To get there we we wanted to get on a bus to take us there and walk back to the campsite. We got onto a local bus and as we entered we were pushed aside by a young woman in a pink T shirt holding a handful of vomit in a tissue. We had run into a hen party and the bride had had a drink or two too many and the nice bus driver would not let her off to be sick. After our short trip to the intended path we could see why the poor girl had been sick in the first place, the driver was a dork.
Following our bilious escape from the bus we set off for about 3/4 of an hour up a steep forest trail and were rewarded with this:
Glashendale Falls, Arran

We then set about making our way, cross country  back to the campsite. Not an easy task in the dense forest that had been seriously modified since the map was made.
Whiting Bay, Arran

We set off along the only available track which as luck would have it, did not go anywhere near where we wanted to go. Anyway, 3 hours later we finally spied the campsite about a mile away. Yippee. Shame about the dozen or so barbed wire fences in the way.
Following this encounter I have now gained a boy scout badge in 'how to ruin new trousers on barbed wire fences'.
We eventually fell into Gromit and then the local hotel (read pub) and went to bed.after a nice meal and a few sherbets we went to bed.
That night all hell broke loose and the weather changed...for the sublime.

 Sunday 13th May

The weather had turned real nasty. High winds and horizontal rain all day and all night. It was a batten down the hatches kind of day.The tent (and Gromit) were rocking like mad and the flaps were aflappin. We decided to have a chill day, having tried valiantly to walk along the beach and being driven back by the gales  and whilst waiting in the campsite 'day room' a couple of Scottish ladies came in and I assisted them in inflating their air bed. It was their first night camping and One I am sure they will not forget. Anyway, we met them again in the pub and they insisted in buying us a beer. We got talking and had an absolutely fabulous evening bantering with these two completely mad women.  Both had been in the TA and one was now a paramedic,Lisa, and the other Sam, worked for a bank.  She was originally from Dumfries too, so a good rapport soon followed. Despite the weather again we still had a good nights sleep !

Monday 14th May
No change in the overnight weather and again we woke afresh to a grim day. We decided to pull the plug on Arran and drove around the island intending to get the ferry later that day. The the weather brightened a bit and we found a deserted beach so decided to take Gromit to the sea side. The wind was still blowing a gale however so we did not stop long.
Gromit on the beach at Kilmory, southern Arran

Before the ferry, we stopped at the Arran distillery to sample the Scotch whiskey. I laughed at the commercialism of the 'Robert Burns' flavour. I did not have the heart to tell them that their distillery only opened a hundred or so years after his death. I am sure they actually knew but many punters wouldn't.
Sannox Glen, northeast Arran

Then it was down the ramp and across  the Lock to Kintyre.
Me eager to get off Gromit.

We traveled about 50 miles around the southern end on the peninsular and the scenery was stunning.
Saddel Bay, East Kintyre

Westport, west Kintyre
The rocks you see here are at a beautiful little spot called Westport. Rock climbing to the start of the sea was one of the sports on offer and Ray led the way.  He jumped over a little culvert and then turned to assist me as he said it was quite slippy.  I fussed about looking for my safe route, all the time both of us oblivious to what the sea was doing behind us. The next thing we knew was that the sea came rushing in, and Ray was virtually up to his knees in water. I remained nice and dry well apart from the tears of laughter.  He was very brave about it though.

Sunset on our campsite. Noth of Tayinloan, west Kintyre. It was very cold and windy.

We eventually found a beach side campsite we liked which was run by the son of the Lord of the estate. He owned virtually all that could be seen.

Tuesday 15th May
The wind was still howling, the heavy rain was on and off and it was freezing. Our trip to Scotland was turning into a highland version of the Japanese game show 'Endurance'. It was really starting to get on our pips, (I wanted to use a similar word with 'T's in it instead of 'P's but Karen told me not to.)
We decided to visit a small island opposite to do some bird watching and look for a Perigrin Falcon which was on an island also owned my the Lord. The wind on the island was so strong that we pulled the plug on the birdwatching and sampled the local beer in the only pub on the island. We were joined in the pub by 3 German walkers and had a great thigh slapping time whilst conversing in both broken German and English.

Wednesday 16th May
Time to move on again, this time over to Mull via Oban. The 60 mile drive to Oban was again very picturesque and enjoyable. Once in Oban we did some shopping and popped into a Fish and Chip restaurant and found this on the menu.
These Jocks have some strange tastes

Once on Mull we booked into the campsite, set up both tents (Gromits and the 'room' tent). We then set up the satellite dish and the fellow campers looked on in amazement to see what was to be erected next. They even started taking photos of it all. We then retired to the local pub and watched the heavens open yet again.

Thursday 17th May
After a very wet, cold and windy night we woke afresh (no really - we have been sleeping like logs) but the rain was still a heavy as the night before. Undeterred we collapsed Gromits tent and leaving the room tent up, lest for a tour around the island.
Another bloody traffic jam. South Mull

Although not being too big, all the roads were single track and were very tiring. This was compensated for by the scenery despite the weather.
Eas Fors waterfalls, West Mull

We clocked up about 100 or so miles in all. The last 30 miles was during the rush hour where we passed only 6 cars. Bliss.

Friday 18th May
A slack day to get some laundry done and generally recharge our batteries. On the positive side, the weather is improving. Not good but better. Tonight we will drop the room tent and get ready for an early start for Tobermory and the ferry North.

Friday, 11 May 2012

105 On the move again..... at last

Wednesday 2nd May 2012.

Our three month sabbatical in Hoddesdon has come to an end.  It has been a hectic time over the last few days again getting the house ready for the new tenants but also meeting up with some of our friends before we set off again.  The diet has failed completely as we have been wining and dining with the best.

Our plans are quite loose.  We are staying in Britain for the foreseeable time.  We have tried this before but always end up getting fed up with the weather, however we are going to persevere this time.  We love this country and there is just so much we haven't seen.

We left the house in the morning, again with poor old Leon who has been quite poorly, the vet says his kidneys are packing up and it will only get worse, mainly because of his age.  We left him with the vet who wanted to do more blood tests and a urine sample.  Leon does not part with his urine in the vets, I think he is a bit shy, so we were expecting them to keep him in over night.
The Stow, now we are ready to rock and roll

We spent the day with Trula and then at about 4pm we were able to get Leon back.  He still hadn't given a sample, but 5 minutes in the Land rover and  we were able to give them a sample to test.   We then headed out to North Weald to spend the night with John and Jackie, Ray's cousin and his wife and had a lovely meal with them.

Thursday 3rd May 2012

We awoke full of excitement at the fact we are off on our travels again. We are heading to Gloucester to a Wetlands and Wildfowl site in Slimbridge.  Ray has found us a lovely campsite about a mile from the sanctuary and just because we could we went into Oxford and did our thing of getting on a hop on - hop off bus so we  could see the many universities and sites of learning and listen to the endless role call of famous names who have learned there.
Freezing but I could hop off if I could but  move!!!!!!

We had a bit of a debate,(that soon turned to fisty cuffs) as to whether it was Morse and Lewis that was set in Oxford or Frost.
Harry Potter, Morse, Lewis or is it Frost?

Learning centre

More seats of learning

Alice's naughty sweet shop, we've all heard about it!

 JRR Tolkien drank in this pub. The Hobbit started here. Lord of the rings rules okay

Having nursed our bruises we arrived at the campsite and set up for the night.  Leon has been the brightest we have seen him for days and settled back into life on the road brilliantly.  He was out doing his usual exploring as soon as we parked up and looks just like himself again.  After a meal and a wee nightcap we climbed the stairs to bed and all three of us had the best nights sleep we'd had in ages.  We are all really happy to be on the road again.

Friday 4th May.

We were packed up and ready to roll pretty early and on arriving at the WWT centre, Ray and I headed on in and Leon settled down for another catnap.  Slimbridge is amazing.  We were feeding Hawaiian geese , also known as Nene's, ducks, swans, pigeons and  amount of birds that they had at the Trust.
Flamingo's for my Mum

The saved from extinction Hawaiian Goose, the Nene.

My favorite the Grey Lag goose, oops sorry I meant Ray!

More Flamingo's for my mum

Extinction, no chance

 Five hours disappeared in a rush and soon it was time to hit the road again, this time to Bruce and Lyn's in Wales again.  We are staying there for about 4 days.

Bruce and Lyn have many other animals apart from their lovely husky dogs and one of our jobs was to hold their little Shetland pony whilst Bruce cut his toenails, sometimes I wonder how we get ourselves into these situations.  Despite their size, they have the strength of an ox, and they kick, bite and deliberately stand on your toes.

Tuesday 8th May
Then it was off towards another wildlife center, this time near to Liverpool, namely 'Martin Mere'. We found a campsite nearby and settled in early and got the barby out. Leon was in his element again and was totally chilled out and has obviously put his illness completely behind him. It was good to be back under canvas again and the campsite was small, neat and tidy, being part of a now redundant farm.

Wednesday 9th May
We packed up bright and early and set off towards Martin Mere. Luckily (not !) I had programmed in the wrong location for the center and we spent about half an hour winding the local farmers up by driving around their farms like a typical pair of grockels with a dodgy sat nav.
We eventually found the center and although it was good, it was not as good as the previous one at  Slimbridge.
These two nutters did make our day though.
At about 2pm we set our sights on Scotland and Karen's Mum and Dads farm. We got there after a brief stop at her aunties at about 8pm. We had a couple of chilled out days being spoiled rotten and on Friday the 11th, we set off in earnest for our UK tour.

Friday 11th May.

Today is Bruce's birthday and also, sadly the 30th anniversary of Karen's real fathers death. We wanted to visit the crematorium to acknowledge the day for private reflection. On arrival, the book of remembrance was open at the relevant day and we saw the entry relating to "Mr Donald P Wood BEM". One of the crematorium staff then took us to a pl;ace that we did not know existed, it was the area where Don had been laid to rest. It was a very private moment for us both and one that Karen needed.

After the crematorium, we set off in torrential rain towards Ardrossan where we stopped in a small hotel in anticipation of the ferry tomorrow morning towards the isle of Arran.
Gromit outside our hotel. The bay window is our room looking out onto a rare blue sky over the isle of Arran

What do you mean "No Pets", have I got to sit out here all night on my own ? We are not amused.