Heading South … 15/10

Leaving Bagnoles De L’Orne fully loaded with apples we headed south to the Loire to a little place called Avoine where we stopped on a tranquil Aire by the side of a lake (4 euros for 24 hours, plus 2 euros for each electric and water. GPS n.47,21292 e.0,17702). After a walk round the town and an impromptu investment in a bit of local wine we settled back at the motorhome to finish the last phase of our apple production line….. Spiced Apple Muffins which we hadn’t made before but were delicious – thank you Delia) Not too sweet and enough apple chunks for the texture and flavour to come through. The silicon muffin tray was a good investment last year …. we will definitely be doing those again as they appear to have evaporated!

Talking of which – recipes, not evaporation – as everyone knows we are doing our best to eat our way round Europe, I have decided to add a new ‘Recipe’ page to our Blog as several people have asked for recipes. I plan to add some of our frequently used recipes over the next few days and then going forwards, each time we make something that I haven’t added the recipe for I will update it and add the link to the blog … nothing fancy I am afraid but quick and easy and hopefully full of flavour!

After a tranquil night in Avoine we headed off walking through the vineyards into Chinon a pretty town which is on river Vienne, just 10km from where it joins the Loire.

Chinon is apparently known as the ‘Garden of France’ not only for its food but also for its red ‘Cabernet Franc’ wine. It is a historic town dating back to prehistoric times. The castle, which is quite imposing, has a lot of history itself. It was home to Henry II who was crowned King of England in 1154, but was later lost in 1205 to King Philip II Augustus of France, later serving as a prison….. it certainly holds quite an impression on Chinon itself.

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After our trip to Chinon and as the weather was looking nice (that means dry in our language) we decided to stay another night in Avoine and take the bikes along the Loire. We did a nice 2hr30min route of about 50km, cycling to a pretty little town called Langeais and back. Contrary to the forecast, the weather was a bit ‘moody’ although it still enabled us to remember why we like the Loire so much … there is something about a wide shallow river with all the contours, shapes and colours.

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We woke to rain which wasn’t part of the plan but as we had both been kept awake by a noisy mosquito we dozed a while longer than planned and as if by magic, 45 minutes later the rain had stopped…. perfect and just enough time for a quick round of hiit, shower and breakfast before hitting the road to Cognac where we had found a nice little Aire 5km North in a little town called Cherves-Richemont (GPS n.45,74032 e.0,35594) After parking up we had a nice little walk to admire the views over the valley before settling down for the night.

How is it that with seven high level cupboards in the motorhome we have only ever had one hinge go … twice? I wouldn’t say that we use that cupboard much more than all the others and before you ask, yes – it was replaced with a new one from the manufacturer last time ….. just odd, but yes we are grateful that only one has ever gone in nearly four years – we shouldn’t really complain!

The following morning, with no sunrise to mention, I had a rather fresh run through the misty vineyards. Thankfully there were some good rolling hills which helped get a bit of a sweat up as I needed a bowl of porridge to help me warm up by the time I got back … who said that it was going to be 25 degrees this week????

Warmed up but still no sign of the sun, we set off on a lovely walk through the vineyards into Cognac which I hate to say it, was a little disappointing. It has a lovely park in the centre with the ‘Hotel de Ville’ and a beautiful walk along the river, but as neither of us are fans of Cognac and the old town was a bit average there isn’t a huge pull for us to come back.

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With nothing else to do on a hot afternoon (or perhaps just because we had run out of snacks),  I set about making some Chocolate Sienna cake, a recipe that my mum dug out while we were home over the summer. It is a bit of a weird one and you need to like nuts and dried fruit but we think it is really tasty, not too sweet but with a nice chocolate hint …. its like a protein bar I guess although it wouldn’t have ever been made as one originally. It was the first attempt in the motorhome and despite looking slightly darker round the edges than I had hoped, it tastes the good, although Keith has cut fairly good sized portions so it won’t last long!

In the morning we both set off on our Saturday morning run’s in different directions; Keith got the ‘Morning Mist’ and I got ‘Burning Cognac’ as the sky behind Cognac looked like it was on fire, absolutely stunning sunrise….. I still love my morning runs!

After a bit of deliberating we decided that we would head over the boarder this weekend. Initially it was due to the rain but the forecast appears to have changed for the better and we have decided to continue with the plan anyway. We wanted to cross through the Western Pyrenees this time – hence wanting the weather to be clear if at all possible – so our last stop in France was Camping Vieux Plantain in Dax (10 euros plus 2 euros electricity GPS n.43,70161 w.1,01443). A lovely quiet campsite 3km outside Dax with excellent facilities. The only downside was that we had additional guests who decided to join us for our Bar B Q – whoop whoop …. so, nice to be able to cook outdoors – the uninvited guests however were tiger mosquitos …. the little buggers. The Bar B Q was tasty and apparently so was I….. 😦

Thankfully we either managed to kill any remaining mosquitos before we went to bed or they were so fat on my blood that they didn’t stir during the night as there wasn’t any buzzing…. nor any additional bites.

Despite a mildew on the ground it was far warmer this morning so we took the call to start the day in shorts ….. the right choice! As we headed towards the Pyrenees the temperature rose and even as we climbed up it didn’t really fall below about 20. A beautiful and easy journey enabling us to stop briefly just before we entered the Sompard Tunnel leaving France to admire the view.

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Once through the tunnel and into Spain we headed to Jaca where we had stayed previously. Unfortunately as it is a warm weekend it appears that many a Spaniard had had the same idea and the Aire was full. Although we know many Spanish leave after lunch on a Sunday …. that could mean waiting for four or five hours (Spanish Sunday lunch can go on into early evening!) and rather than risk it, we stopped, ate our lunch and moved on to Sabinanigo 24kms further along the road.

Upon arriving at Sabinanigo we found that the Aire which is alongside the police station is closed for Firework preparation – just not our day today, so we moved onto Huesca which was another 60km away with continued beautiful montaineaous scenary.

Despite thinking that we haven’t been here before we worked out en route that we had, roughly 18 months ago but they have added a service area since we were here last time and unsurprisingly there were quite a few motorhomes here. (GPS n.42,1353 e.0,420295)

Last time we were here I went for a lovely run out into the countryside which was a designated walking/cycle route …. quite unusual for Spain so we set off to explore a bit more and walk the 10km circular route to stretch the legs a bit on Spanish soil.

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On the road again….. 8/10/17

After just over fourteen months back in the UK, six months living in a flat in Slough and eight months on and off in Mika in a field in Holyport with our friendly cows, we are off again.

We had an incredibly mild winter which made those morning runs and exercise routines not so bad and don’t tell them, but there is a lot to be said for being close to family and it isn’t just about having the washing done without having to go look for a launderette!

As I am sure that you will have gathered from the lack of blog over the last couple of months, my father unfortunately passed away in mid-August. He was a fighter and did his best to make the most of everything right up until the end. He hated the thought that he was holding us back from our travels, mainly because he was jealous and would have liked to be doing it himself but probably also because he loved the stories when we came back from our short trips away over the summer.

So, having celebrated his life and said our goodbyes to him we set off again on Tuesday taking Mika on the Eurotunnel for the first time.

It’s amazing how each year you focus your approach when leaving the UK … this year we have stocked up with two 500g jars of Marmite, two pots of 1kg Peanut butter (we got rid of the electric hand held mixer so we can’t make our own now!) and lots of lovely Waitrose bread flour … yep, I know that is going to run out soon but we may as well enjoy it for a bit!!!

The plan – as we always start with one – has already changed and we are less than a week in – so there is no hope. Keith has decided he would like to go to Cognac (why not?) but apart from that it will be a little bit of a ‘suck it and see’ trip, although we need to be in Alicante at the beginning of November which if nothing else gives us a target to work to.

As before, we will be logging the trip on Travelerspoint so if you like to visualise the route – and don’t get too dizzy when we end up going round and round in circles -please keep an eye on the Map

Having left Holyport with plenty of time for a train we ended up parked up at the Eurotunnel for nearly three hours due to an ‘incident’ in the tunnel and over ‘keen-ness’. Ninety minutes after our departure time (that serves us right for getting there 90 minutes early) Mika slowly got onto the train and thirty five minutes later we were in France working our way towards St Valery sur Somme (GPS n.50,18211 e.1,62896) to spend our first night.

St Valery sur Somme is a lovely town with an excellent aire and lots of walking/cycling close by, however as we have stayed here a couple of times before we only stopped for the night. We woke to a dark chilly morning and I set off for a run around the bay and along the canal whilst Keith did some Hiit training being watched closely by some of the neighbours… we forget how amusing this can be!

Still unsure whether we needed to go back to Bagnoles De L’Orne (to see the Notaire relating to my father) we thought we would do a short hop along the coast to Fecamp (GPS n.49,76108 e.0,37398) as we hadn’t ever been there before.

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Apart from the impressive cliffs, Fecamp is quite an industrial seaside town known only for Benedictine which was developed by the Monks as a medicinal aromatic herbal beverage, it was discovered by a local businessman who sold it into pharmacies for medicinal benefit, eventually mass producing it in probably the only beautiful building that remains in Fecamp before it was bought out by Martini Rossi and later by Bacardi!

After a good nights sleep we woke to really high winds and grey clouds closing in on us. Both closely watched by our neighbours we did our morning workout despite the winds – it was quite nice to be on nice flat concrete rather than a muddy field…. a pleasant change!

As the wind brought the rain we set off on another short hop to Honfleur, looking for somewhere ‘pretty’ to stay for a night or two. As the weather wasn’t great we decided to stop and do our shopping at Le Clerk on route …. still haven’t quite got over the excitement of the first couple of shops in a foreign country! (despite the fact that we were actually only in France two weeks ago). I am sure it isn’t just us that get carried away buying more than we need….. all those lovely cheeses!!

We hadn’t ever stayed at the aire in Honfleur before as when we were here three and a half years ago we were very new to the motorhome and booked into the flooded campsite….yes, in June it was mostly under water. This time the campsite was closed – it really can’t want to make any money, but we probably would have gone straight to the aire anyway. The Aire (GPS n.49,41924 e.0,24154) is enormous, not underwater, central, amazingly quiet, has good services and has enough space for 200+ motorhomes – it must be a great money earner for the town.

As it was still raining Keith made some Chilli and Squash muffins and we sorted out some admin, putting a little bit of thought into the next few days travels. Miraculously, although I hadn’t believed the BBC website, ahead of the said time of 5pm the rain stopped, clouds cleared and the sun shone down on us so we headed out for a walk around town and then back to the motorhome to enjoy the sun going down with a nice Gin and Tonic (me) Whiskey (Keith) ….. very pleasant!

After a quiet night we woke to the sun shining but a cool chill in the air, bounced out of bed (errr…not!) and I set off on a run whilst Keith kept the neighbours amused …. apparently one of the Spanish motorhomes has converted the area at the back which could either be a garage or bunk beds into a home for a Great Dane ….. how cool is that? Although I am not sure that I could cope with that much slobber in a confined space – I am talking about the Great Dane, not Keith!

As the weather was looking dry, after a shower and breakfast we decided to stay a couple of nights and walk up into the forest towards Deauville. Thankfully the route was lined with trees along the quiet lane and then we ended up in a fairly dense forest which was beautifully autumnal, all the way the trees protected us from the views out over Le Havre (You have to have been here to appreciate what I am saying the bay isn’t particularly scenic) – a really lovely walk.

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Back at the motorhome we set about making muesli, rolls and tortillas for our Fajitas … quite a productive evening!

Saturday morning as the sun came up the air was even fresher than yesterday. Keith is now insisting on running with me once a month and Saturday was the day … yep, I know that I am sounding negative and ungrateful, but I am pretty happy running on my own!! Anyway, we ran up the hill and into the lovely tree lined lane we walked down at the beginning of the route yesterday…. a hard climb but tranquil and refreshing…. it is nice having him there to encourage me along!

Before leaving Honfleur we went to check out their Saturday market which this weekend had an additional ‘Flavour’ theme, with stalls selling everything from Goats cheese through to Calvados flavoured sea salt …. needless to say despite the wonderful array of seafood and alike, having been shopping yesterday we only bought some Semi-fresh Goats cheese before heading on our way to Bagnoles De L’Orne…. we will plan better next time.

Without the need to see the Notaire we are only here for a couple of nights, parked up by the tennis club (GPS n.48,55559 w.0,40950) which is lovely and quiet if you ignore the occasional Acorn that falls from a great height…. hopefully not doing any damage as they hit with some force.

The last day and a half has flown by and has been lovely having spent last night eating a lovely French tapas type meal in front of the fire at Tom and Monique’s and then walking out to Geneslay today to taste some of the delights that the Auberge de la Corbonniere cooked up – we definitely needed a bit of a walk on the way back to help the food go down!

To finish off a lovely couple of days Tom and Monique popped back round later this afternoon while we were peeling our cooked horse chestnuts – what a faff – with a box of apples and despite my initial hesitation I think that we have just about done them justice ….. I forgot to take a photo at the beginning so this was how much was left after we cooked up the first wok full….

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Finally having cooked up more apples than we have places to put them (and holding three back to make some apple and cinnamon muffins tomorrow) we finally donated the last eight (generous or what….) to the neighbours who were very grateful once I stopped speaking French and realised they were English!!

Making the most of it….. 26/7

It has been a strange few weeks, hence a little bit of radio silence. My dad had a fall just over three weeks ago and has unfortunately gone downhill since then, spending a couple of weeks in hospital and is now under 24 hour care. Although we all knew it was going to happen at some point, it was still a shock to all of us how quickly he went from walking with a frame and having an incredibly healthy appetite, to needing help to stand – let alone walk – and eat. I am not the kind of person who would normally share this kind of information as we are a very close family but I wanted to take a moment to share and how important it is to make the most out of every day and create those memories as you just don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

Although it is a little unsettled at the moment we did manage a few days in Bath catching up with some friends and we have just got back from three days in a little CL just outside Tring, Hertfordshire. (Ballers, Vicarage Road, Wigginton, Tring. £6 a night).

With the exception of a caravan that looked like it had to come to the field to die, we were the first to arrive – however by about 6pm the field was full of its five caravans and motorhomes of various sizes.

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Keith picked the CL in Tring as it was close to the Ridgeway which is a path that goes from Ivinghoe to West Kenner in Wiltshire – roughly 87 miles, little did he know that my dad used to have offices in Tring in the late 80’s, so it was quite nice to have a trip down memory lane!

Despite the weather being a bit changeable we popped into Tring on Sunday afternoon which is a half an hour walk down (…. and I do mean down for those who aren’t keen on hills) through Tring park. The reminiscent tour was reasonably quick – it isn’t a big place – ending at the overflow of the natural history museum which is – and always was -situated just across the road from my dads old office. Tring is a small, commuter town which hasn’t changed much over the years, unfortunately being left behind where places like Berkhempstead have profited…although it did still have the ever important hardware store to keep it going!

After a wet night, Monday morning was still a bit soggy although I still set off for a run along the ridgeway but thankfully missed the turning and ended up on a small, winding, hilly road … a nice way to start the day! We later set off cladded in wet gear to walk the Ridgeway in the same direction so Keith kindly pointed out where I had gone wrong …. it was muddy – I was happy with my running route!

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The walk was lovely and actually, although wet under foot, it didn’t rain. We changed the route slightly and ended up in Wendover, finding a beautiful house at the end of the Ridgeway path with fruit trees galore in the garden which would happily keep us fed for a while, just a shame that they weren’t quite ready for the picking!

Tuesday was drier, so after the morning exercise routine we set off Eastwards to Ivinghoe a slightly rougher trail but equally as beautiful.

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As it was drier under foot we did a circular route coming back through Aldbury park – a lovely 23km round trip…. with some fantastic Blackberry bushes, more wild raspberries and fields upon fields of peas which we are guessing had been left to dry out as they hadn’t been cultivated yet and were past their due date!

Surprisingly we arrived back to find that the caravan that looked like it had been left to die had disappeared. As we hadn’t witnessed the event we can’t be sure as to whether it was towed, lifted or spontaneously combusted…. but it kindly left space for a new motorhome to join us!

Not bad for another little field with lots of blackberries and many a route to walk… there was even a nice little pub about half a mile down the road so we may just be back soon!

Gin, Rye and a spot of rain – 30/6

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As we had such a lovely time in the New Forest a couple of weeks ago we thought we would come back for a few days this week, this time venturing to the East, closer to Brockenhurst.

With a quest to sniff out all the interesting/unusual little CL’s this one (Setley Ridge Vineyard, Lymington Rd, Brockenhurst, SO42 7UF, £16 per night) looked promising, set in a vineyard, unsuitable for children, farm shop, a mile outside Brockenhurst and lots of walking…. unfortunately it forgot to tell us that it was going to rain this week…but I guess we can’t really blame them for that!

When we arrived on Monday, memories of all the vineyards we have stayed in across Europe came flooding back …. Mika was very happy in her surroundings and despite the increasingly grey clouds as the week progressed, we could have been anywhere!

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The location was good but interestingly we preferred where we stayed a couple of weeks ago as it was far more tranquil with more small villages and wildlife rather than large houses and slightly bigger towns.  That said, we still managed to explore and get some good walking in.

We have bought a new toy (Satmap Active 20) and are doing our best to see whether it is worth keeping so putting it to its paces, on Tuesday we headed off cross country ….. literally through the nettles, thorns and overgrown hedges to Lymington which is a beautiful seaside town on the edge of the New Forest.  Once we got to the outskirts of Lymington we happened to pass a sign to the local Dancing Cows Gin Distillery, so we took a little detour to find out more….. three gins and a rye later we purchased a bottle of the Gin to add to the collection and set off, weaving our way along the coastal path into Lymington rather than our previous route.  Naturally, as we had opted for the slightly longer route the skies opened and the views of the Isle of Wight became a distant blur …. it was still quite pretty though!

Lymington was lovely, but after a quick refreshment and catching up on email, ordering a new fridge freezer ….. for those of you who believe that we don’t do any work at all…. we set off back through the woods to be enchanted.

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Trees are such beautiful things and walking through the New Forest it is so easy to see where the idea came for the Ents in the Lord of the Rings … so much character and personality.  The forest is far denser this side of the New Forest than it was closer to Ringwood with a huge variety of trees, young, old and very old!

Still wanting to put the toy through its paces, after a very wet run on Wednesday morning while Keith did his exercises inside we set off to find Lyndhurst in the rain.  We stuck to main bridlepaths instead of footpaths as it was pretty wet and the walk took us winding through the dense forest, arriving at Lyndhurst just in time for the clouds to lift for us to have a cuppa before they opened again for the walk home….. very timely!!

With everything smelling a little bit damp (mostly my sports clothes and shoes to be fair to Keith), thankfully on Thursday morning the rain stopped and enabled us to dry out and get some walking in without having to be enclosed inside waterproofs! We did a circular walk through the forest in a different direction, again sticking to the main bridlepaths and happened to come across a group of young deer who were very inquisitive before we came back through Brockenhust on the way home.

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A good few days away, a lot of miles under the belt, a bottle of gin heavier and a year older, now we have to work out where to next….

 

Little donkey……. 17/6/17

After returning from our short trip round Scotland we managed to persuade my father (along with my mother….but that was an easier task!) to come with us to their house in Normandy for a week.  So two weeks ago we set off into the Channel Tunnel to take in some of the beautiful French countryside, enjoy lots of lovely French food, catch up with some good friends and naturally stock up on a bit of wine!  The weather in Bagnoles de l’Orne was kind to us and we were able to sit out on the terrace and enjoy the garden without it being too hot – all in all a nice, albeit a little short trip.

Back home and after a week in Holyport we set off down to explore the New Forest, staying in a lovely CL (Furzehill Farm, £15 per night) 5 miles outside Ringwood to get some walking in.

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We arrived in the New Forest on Tuesday lunchtime and after patiently working our way round some of the wild horses that were happily wandering down the middle of the road we found our field, parked up and set up our table and chairs to enjoy a bit of the sunshine…..the forecast was good for the next few days.

We set off up the road to the farm shop which we had seen as we drove in and found a couple of rescue donkeys, alpacas and lop eared pigs…. new breed to me, but I wondered if the bacon tasted any different 🙂  Continuing our walk we found our closest pub which apparently appeared to be a bit of a hit with the local donkeys and horses too …. a trend that we saw quite a bit over the few days we were in the New Forest, the all appear to be very keen on the public houses and schools….queuing up outside well before opening time!

 

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After an amazingly peaceful night we woke to the sound of chattering birds, I went for a run up into Hyde and found more donkeys and horses hanging around outside the watering holes, whilst Keith set to with his exercises before settling down to eat breakfast outside…..a novel experience in the UK and certainly one to take advantage of!

Feeling refreshed, we walked into Ringwood as it was Market day and found a lovely Sourdough bakery that has been set up by a young local baker – well worth a visit if you are close by.  Unfortunately the market was a bit disappointing but the walk was lovely and helped us appreciate the BBQ’d dinosaur steak that we had bought in Waitrose on Monday …. it was absolutely enormous and perfect medium rare!

On Thursday, after another lovely outdoor breakfast we set off on a long circular walk through the new forest passing Hyde, Frogham, Fritham and Linwood as well as many a cow, horse, donkey and pony arriving at a micro brewery /pub about 4 miles before the end for a quick refreshment to give us enough energy to get us back to the motorhome!  Although the pubs are remote they all appear to be very good and spaced at roughly 5 mile intervals …. great for walking!

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On Friday, after another tranquil night, morning run/exercise and breakfast al fresco we set off for a walk to Fordingbridge to explore a bit more of our ‘hood’ and find a few more friendly animals.  Ringwood is definitely prettier and has more to offer but the walk was nice.

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As neither Keith nor I had really spent much time in the New Forest before we didn’t really appreciate how many footpaths there were nor how quiet the small roads are – it is a dream location for walking and cycling for us, as where we were was close enough to civilization but far enough away to be completely tranquil….so much so we have booked to come back to different part in a couple of weeks time but back to Holyport for a week or so now….

And back to Base Camp…. 19/5/17

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We fell asleep listening to the waves lap at Mika’s wheels – ok, not literally but they weren’t far behind them – waking to the pitter patter of the rain accompanying the soft waves. Although it had been raining on and off most of the night, by the time we were up and breakfasted it had eased off and the sun had started to come out. We walked up the road into Lossiemouth to do some proper ‘local’ shopping, visiting the butchers to buy some Haggis and Black Pudding amongst other things, a local deli for some freshly smoked haddock and another where we finally found some local honey. It isn’t a particularly big or pretty place but it had the necessities (including several pubs and a fish and chippie!!)

As the weather is changing and we are expecting quite a bit of rain over the next week we thought it wise to do some research before we went out to the pub – a little more than a pin in a map which for us is impressive! – and decided that we would head for Loch Lomond for a couple of nights. So, we headed off into the hills, along the edge of the Cairngorms, whose peaks were covered in snow before they disappeared behind the clouds as the weather turned. Miraculously, the rain slowed and the clouds lifted briefly for us to stop in Pitlochry for lunch and a walk around, starting again as we got back on the road again.

As we weren’t in a hurry, we stopped at a farm shop for a coffee and then finally arrived at our little CL (Gartfairn Farm, Balmaha, Drymen, G63 0AQ, £12 inc.) late afternoon, amazed by the stunning views looking out onto Loch Lomond.

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The forecast was right thankfully and the sun had come out to make an appearance today, so after a run/exercise and some crepes for breakfast we set off for a lovely walk in a northerly direction along the side of the Loch, part of the West Highland Way, wiggling through the forest where the bluebells were still aplenty, stopping after a couple of hours for lunch before heading back to Mika.

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We managed to dodge most of the rain clouds thankfully but there were two points when it looked like we were going to be enveloped in the cloud but it just frisked us lightly before passing us by!

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We woke to the pitter patter of rain which was expected, I headed off for a run whilst Keith did his exercises inside Mika for the first time in ages and once sorted we set off on the long drive South.

We decided that as it was going to be a pretty grim day wherever we went that we would get some mileage under our belt, arriving at our little CL in a field (The Village Field, Ossington Road, Norwell, Newark on Trent, NG23 6JW £12 inc.) around 5:30pm, roughly 10 degrees warmer than it had been this morning.

It was a warm but tranquil night and we managed to get ourselves sorted and on the road again before the rain arrived, setting off to Melton Mowbray to stock up on Pork Pie and Stilton!!! …… not to mention the fully stuffed bacon and sausage cob, all in all a pretty satisfying lunch.

With the market closing around us we did a quick food shop and headed North again to an overnight stop to catch up for a nice pub meal with Keith’s mum, Liz who is away for the week with her sister and husband, Pat and Keith. Unfortunately their CL was fully booked but we found one not too far away tucked behind an old Wool Mill which is still used to make some of beautiful wool, Merino Wool and Cashmere clothing. (Splash Farm, Lea Bridge, Matlock, DE4 5AF, £12.50 inc.)

As it is on the edge of the Peak District the hills rolled around us and the views were stunning when the rain clouds lifted enough for us to see, unfortunately better for the naked eye than the camera again.

We woke and felt honoured as the rain held off until about 8:45am which enabled us to get a little bit of only slightly damp air before the skies opened again and remained that way for the rest of the day….if nothing else, the grass was getting a good watering which it desperately needed!

We set off on our short hop back to meet Kevin and Petra in their new home at Mercia Marina on their beautiful narrow boat. Having spent the penultimate couple of days with them before they sold up their motorhome it was lovely to share the first cosy stove session with a bit of a European influence …. Paella, Red wine and Cheese!

Leaving the blue skies and sunshine of Derbyshire yesterday lunchtime we travelled back to ‘Base Camp’ in Holyport to find that we have some new companions who were so young they still had their price tags on!

Three weeks away to do Scotland just isn’t enough to do it justice but it was an excellent taster so we will be back to do some more walking and try and get in more than a couple of distilleries next time!

In search of a Highland Cow…12/5/17

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After a beautiful sun set and a peaceful night we were woken by hungry sheep making quite a raucous around us. We welcomed the sunshine and beautiful blue skies yet again….. unfortunately this morning not only did we have the sheep as onlookers but lingering, waiting to attack were the midges….

My sweet blood had lured them in and they found it necessary to help (their words not mine) me out whilst during my morning exercises. Needless to say there are a few less midges in Sheildaig and unfortunately a few unwanted nibbles to my body!

Still smiling – how could you not be up here –  we made our sandwiches with the Scottish wood smoked salmon we bought on the way to the pub last night, left our donation in the box for such a beautiful spot and headed North to find our next spot for the night.

The journey was beautiful and after an initial part of single track through the national park the road widened and remained somewhere between an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ road for most of the journey to Ullapool. We parked up about a mile before the town to eat lunch and have a think about where we were going to stay, leaving the motorhome outside town to walk in and have a look around.

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Despite being a ferry port it is an incredibly picturesque setting but also a very pretty little town. We found a nicely equipped outdoors shop but unfortunately for them / fortunately for us they didn’t have anything that tempted us enough to part with our money, although as a compromise we did buy some Ullapool smoked salmon (obviously just so we can do a taste test!) and some local bacon, sausages and black pudding for breakfast later in the week.

Although we went to look at two different campsites we decided to stay where we were in our little parking place. It was fairly quiet and a young German couple had come and parked next to us, so we settled in for the night making some bread and dinner as the sun started to go down.

We were prepared for the worst but woke to low cloud and a slight dampness in the air although no rain or wind. So I set off on a quick run whilst Keith amused passers by with his headstands before we packed up and set off just as the rain started to dribble a little…. I say that, as despite the forecast which was set to be pretty heavy rain, that is pretty much all it did all day… dribble a little! ….. just to be clear, I am happy about a bit of dribble even when it is accompanied with wind.

The dribble just made the tones of the lochs and surrounding mountains look more enhanced and beautiful in my eyes, especially when covered partially by the low cloud.

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We found a local market which was being held in a community hall in one of the villages we past through so we thought we would stop to see if they had any interesting wares. Amongst the second hand books, hand painted silk scarves and cards there was a Charcuterie stall with home smoked items….although as most of you know, I don’t believe you can never have enough Smoked Salmon, we do still have one and a half packs, so we decided to buy some Smoked Cheddar which is delicious.

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We continued our route, briefly stopping at the Smoo caves for a walk, arriving at our little CL (94 Laid, Loch Eriboll, Lairg, IV27 4UN £14 a night) just after lunch.

The CL is right on Loch Eriboll, looking out onto Ben Hope (a mountain just in case you wanted to know) and has lots of walks… we settled for a quick (2.5hrs there and back) around the wheelhouse which takes you up to the peak enabling you to look out over the Loch and out to sea.  Unfortunately the photos in the mist didn’t do it justice but it was a pretty good view.

It was a beautifully tranquil night  – although my midge bites gave me hell… but apparently all par of the course in Scotland so I shouldn’t complain,  although there were a few waiting for me in the morning to do their morning exercise routine ☹️ … all I can say is ‘never knock the wind’…. it keeps those midges away!

Exercise quickly completed, Keith set up the Bar B Q for a cooked breakfast.   It wasn’t particularly warm but it is always nice to cook outside if possible especially when it comes to sausages, black pudding, bacon, tomatoes and egg. The bacon and black pudding were definite winners, but the sausages had room for improvement…. we are becoming experts now!

Pulling out of the drive we joined three beautiful old VW campers, a fourth mark IV and another motorhome to traverse the loch slowly, stopping at almost every passing point for a car, truck or strayed lamb! A slow but pretty journey initially which then switched onto a normal ‘A’ road for the last twenty miles with views onto the nuclear power station…. not quite as pretty as we have become accustomed to over the last few days!

Just before we arrived at our little overnight spot we passed through Dunnet Bay and Keith spotted a little distillery…. Gin – yay! So, after  parking up and being made to feel very welcome by Yvonne and her Chickens, Ducks and cows (Kittawake Cottage, Skarfskerry, Thurso, KV14 8XN – £6) we set off in search of the distillery! www.rockrosegin.com – a small place set up by a husband and wife three years ago. Not only are they making good gin but also investing time and money to ensure sustainability and protection of local wildlife habitats. What more can you ask for, a nice walk (3hr round trip), a bit of knowledge gained and a bottle of gin heavier!

The little CL was facing out onto the Orkney Islands … which we could just about make out through the mist and cloud last night although they were completely gone by this morning as although there was definitely more sun trying creep through, it was foggy out to sea.

We both battled the wind which was pretty special (gotta look on the bright side, at least their were no midges!) and went for a run, said goodbye to our feathered friends and set off to see John O Groats.

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Mika (and Keith and I) have now visited both John O Groats and Lands End…. a well travelled lass at a mere three and a half years old (and that’s not to mention Italy, France, Spain, Portugal….)

Despite the views not being too spectacular on the last part of our journey yesterday, as we started to head south from John O’Groats I would say the coast line was equally as stunning as the West – just different.  The East coast has far more trees and textures, whereas the West is a little more rugged and wild. Unfortunately it was very hazy but you could still make out the pancake rocks as the hills lined with the yellow gorse rolled along next to us at the side of the road.

We never really have plans, but even less so at the moment, so having seen an interesting looking pub on Scottish Wildcampers facebook a while back we decided to drop them a line and head over to it.  Arriving at Inverness we headed East and then up onto the coast to park up at ‘The Beach Bar’ in Lossiemouth, Once we had said hello and booked ourselves a table for later we then headed out for a little walk along the 3 mile beach / sand dunes.

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I was a little sceptical as we walked through the woods as I could see the midges lining up to attack but all was good and we made it out and back to the motorhome in one piece!

The Beach Bar is a buzzing place with a complete mix of clientele from young to old, a great selection of beer from the local brewery and the food was excellent …. we would definately recommend the Haggis Bon bons!

Needless to say I have still not managed to find a highland cow within a reasonable distance to take a photo.  We have seen many grazing in the fields as we have passed, including the little’uns, but I am still currently lacking a photo….