Manchester via John O’Groats – Part 3

Saturday and day 12, where was the time going. Only had 1 wet day so far so we’ve been kind of holding our breath and not checking any weather forecasts in the hope that this keeps the remainder of our Scottish tour dry.

Just over 3 hours to our next site, Portnadoran Caravan and Camping Site, this little stretch includes a ferry from Armadale on the Isle of Skye to Mallaig, otherwise it would have meant a huge detour towards Inverness, we wanted to stay on the coastline.

Our stop at Portnadoran was for 3 nights due to it being a Bank Holiday, the site wasn’t for letting us have only 2 nights, which was fair enough, it just meant our next stop at Oban would be for 1 night only.

On the road again and as we travelled along under the glorious sunshine we passed through the mountains which were covered in an early morning haze, a lone cloud was slowly crawling over one of the ridges of Beinn Eighe.

Wasn’t long before we passed the sign for Applecross, along with heather covered fields and deer roaming casually amongst it.

We arrived at Armadale with half an hour to spare, it’s only a small port and we had fun trying to find a spot for Pod and the car whilst we waited for the ferry to return. With a little negotiation with the staff they permitted us to sit in the bus lay-by until it was time for us to move.

Didn’t take long once we were on the move, we were directed to our lane and within half an hour we were onboard and on the move.

It was an absolutely lovely ride over to Mallaig, flat calm and the sun was blazing down, we were even treated to at least two pods of dolphins on either side of the ferry.

The port of Mallaig soon appeared in front of us and within 15 minutes we rolled into Portnadoran Caravan site, much more fun than a drive inland and a great way to see the coastline.

We were given the choice of two pitches and we didn’t have to think about it too long, the one we chose gave the most wonderful view down to the tiny sandbank of a beach and a totally unobstructed view to the Isle of Eigg.

Once set up we nipped into Arisaig, which was only a 10 minute drive away. Here we found the local Spar which was extremely well stocked, even for a veggie. Up to now finding petrol stations hadn’t been an issue, there had always been one within a mile or so of the site, but after speaking to locals we discovered this wasn’t the case for here. Our nearest petrol station was in Mallaig and closed at 5pm, it was now nearly 4 and we decided we’d be okay till the next site as we’d topped up when at each site.

Back to Pod we went and once dinner was out of the way we noticed the sky was looking good for a spectacular sunset.

Bit of scouting along the coast line and a lovely wild grass covered hill was found, perfect for perching ourselves on as we watched the sun go down.

To say it was spectacular is an understatement, the array of colours that stretched the length of the sky as it slowly moved across the sky and behind low lying cloud was astounding, even when the sun disappeared from sight the red and yellows stretched further out, slowly fading to darkness, it was beautiful.

A wonderful keepsake of a so far fantastic holiday.

Off to the showers we went, these consisted of one block, ladies and gents at either end. Clean but showers, of which there were 1 each, had to be paid for 20p for either 2 or 3 minutes. The ladies seemed to be 3. Pot washing facilities were behind a small separate shower block, again 1 shower each for male and female and again needed paying for. These shower units were larger and appeared to be used by families but were available for anyone to use, there were no restrictions.

Water for washing dishes also had to be paid for, this was 10p for 1 minute of constant hot running water, so make sure you either take a bowl or that the one placed there by the site is actually there. None of this was an issue, just a little different to what some people may expect.

Day 13 and what a scorcher, we decided to try and find Larachmhor Gardens, this turned into a bit of a too and froing exercise along the A830 but we were so pleased when we found which lay-by we needed to stop at.

Out of the car and we walked a very short distance to the gated entrance, once down the gravel path we were hit by the absolutely fantastic smell of numerous types of rhododendrons, the various colours were spectacular and the tall grasses were also emerged in wild flowers of which we could only identify the buttercups and bluebells.

The path lead us past a magical little garden cottage which appeared to be a property that could be rented out, it must be wonderful to spend an evening on the small veranda, knowing that once all the visitors had gone you had the whole place to yourself.

This garden was magical and just how we would love to have a garden, should we ever be lucky enough to find our forever home.

We eventually pulled ourselves away and from the shade of the towering trees that protected the garden and walked back to the car, the garden had a profoundly calming experience and a place we will remember for a long time.

Back at Pod the sea was out so we took the opportunity for a walk along the beach, once we’d negotiated the rocky outcrop at the front of Pod we were walking on very soft white sand and a light breeze was making its way along the beach. There was an easier path to use, up near the main house, but we wanted the more direct use, not easy, or advisable, in flip-flops.

As we walked along there were the usual families making sand castles and playing ball games. In the distance across the water we would see the Isles of Eigg and Rum and along the shore line people were swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding, it was the perfect spot for any kind of water activity.

Night time arrived and before we knew it we were heading into day 14.

Beautiful sunny morning greeted us and we decided those Islands needed exploring, we didn’t have the time to visit them all so we decided on a mini non landing cruise of 3 of them, those being Eigg, Rum and Canna.

We drove into Mallaig and found one of the free parking spots, there were plenty of them around and didn’t have many restrictions. No cars were allowed on the islands, so you either walked to your chosen destination, organised a lift from a resident or stayed on board.

Tickets were bought for £11.00 each and before we knew it we were on board and out to sea. Eigg was our first stop and as we could clearly see her from the camp site it wasn’t long before we floated into the small bay. Clear blue skies gave us an unbelievable view of An Sgurr and the rocky coastline reminded us a little of Ireland.

Once people disembarked we were on our way again, some were there to stay, others were there for a few hours to walk the coastline, bathe or climb the spectacle that looked down on us.

Back in open water we passed through the Islands we had our eyes peeled for any movement in the water and for a split second we think we saw a porpoise, hard to say as it didn’t hang around for long.

The coastline was spectacular, we could see Isle of Skye and when looking back the dark outline of the mainland.

Next stop was Rum with its nature reserve and elegant castle waiting to greet us, the castle wasn’t far from the pier and it looked quite walkable, again people were on and off, then we were off again.

Canna was next, we couldn’t believe how calm the waters had been so far, little bit chilly stood at the front as the boat cut through the air, but if you go prepared, you’ll be fine.

Another beautiful little port awaited us with a lovely little church stood proudly at the entrance, Canna appeared lower, flatter even, not as mountainous as the other islands, but just as pretty.

The boat was more or less empty at this point and a few people from the island joined us as we set off back to Rum, then to Eigg to collect those that had spent the day there, we used this opportunity to grab a comfy seat inside the boat and tucked into our picnic.

After a very leisurely 6 hours or so we glided back into Mallaig and with slightly heavy hearts we left the boat, it had been a fantastic experience, yes, we’d love to have had the time to visit them all but we were on the move again tomorrow, lots more to see. If nothing else it gave us plenty of ideas for a return visit.

Day 15 has arrived, don’t like counting any more though, but we had again been blessed with extraordinary weather. Oban was on the cards today and just over a 2 hour drive. Good road conditions again, the odd pot hole but nothing that caused any concern and to be honest a rarity.

Booked into North Ledaig Caravan Park which is around a 20 minute drive from Oban. We were here for only 1 night and we honestly thought our luck had run out concerning perfect pitches, but we were so wrong, a front row pitch, better than any we had had there before.

A flat calm view of Ardmuchnish Bay and hardly a breeze blowing in, it was perfect.

We were running low on supplies so a visit to Oban was next, plus we wanted to visit Castle Dunollie and catch up with fellow Podder Robin.

Castle was first on the list, £6.00 paid for entry and we had a wonderful look round the Castle, we eventually found Robin and once we’d had a good old natter we walked to the Willow Hall and up to the Castle remains.

Robin and his team had done so much since our last visit, it was great to see all his hard work, a very inspirational conservationist.

Next a whisky shop, yes we could have bough a bottle of Oban but we fancied something different so an exceptional bottle of Talisker Port Ruighe was bought, peaty but not a heavy tipple.

Supplies were bought along with a top up of diesel and back to Pod we went to enjoy the sunshine. In fact, once back at the site it was that warm we were fighting for shade, which was hard to do, we both ended up at the front of Pod, one lying on the floor and the other in a chair doing their best to move with the shade.

A meal at the Oyster Catcher was had, only a 5 minute drive from the site and it was extremely busy, but who wants to cook in this weather we thought. Delicious food and not expensive, just a bit of a wait and we don’t mind waiting for good quality food.

Back at Pod the midges were out in force and we had to make a mad dash to the facilities, all in the hope that we wouldn’t be eaten alive. Slightly annoying thing about the facilities though, the lights go off after 11.30 so having a shower in the dark is not much fun, especially when you mistake your body moisturiser for shower gel. Needless to say the process took longer than it should of.

Day 16 arrived, it looked to be another superb day and concerning the midges, we failed miserably, at least one of us did, woke to bite marks all over. No time for complaining though we had to pack up to move onto Culzean Castle Camping and Caravan Site, our last stop and just over a 3 hour drive.

As we’ve been going round on our wonderful little tour lots of people have asked about the route and when we’ve mentioned Culzean Castle it was always met with ‘Oo’s’ and ‘ahh’s’ along with how lovely it is. We were really pleased we’d picked the location and couldn’t wait to see how wonderful it was.

A few winding roads were ahead and roadworks which caused about a 40 minute delay, but nothing too bad, it just turned a comfortable 3 hour drive into a slightly annoying 4.

Prior to leaving on our epic little adventure the SatNav had been downloaded with all the sites co-ordinates, we didn’t want to follow those provided by the sites as we had learnt our lesson when touring Ireland, they weren’t always accurate and we either missed the turning or found ourselves in a local supermarket carpark.

So on this occasion, we followed this wonderful little device and found ourselves doing a right turn into the grounds of the castle, we were convinced we’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, but no. As we stretched our necks to see over the hedge lined road we spotted a few caravans and motorhomes neatly lined up, this had to be it.

We turned right once into the grounds and low and behold we were met with the Camping and Caravan club sign, we really didn’t expect it to be this close to the castle, but were extremely pleased it was.

Booked in for our one night stop and were guided by a cycle warden to a pitch which looked over the fields and down to the coast, beautiful, our last pitch on our holiday was again, to us, one of the best.

Now, whilst we’ve been away many of our Facebook follows have very kindly provided us with locations to visit, things to do and restaurants to try, they have all been very gratefully received and when time has allowed we’ve always tried to do at least one of them.

As this was our last full day we were determined to do as many as we possibly could and it turned into a bit of a ‘Challenge Anneka’ moment. (One for those of a certain age who remember the programme.)

Those on the list of ‘to-dos’ were; visit the castle and look for the Lego figures, walk round the grounds, find Camellia and house and try out the Electric Brae a local phenomenon.

We had Pod set up in the fastest time ever, 30 minutes and once done we walked out of the site, turned right and walked the very short distance to the information box at the gate of the castle grounds.

Here, we were really pleased to discover our National Trust cards would allow us entry so we were given a map of the estate and we walked to half mile to the castle itself. Easy little down hill route with one way traffic, so pretty safe to do.

Into the castle we went, from the 18th century and it has to be one of the best National Trust properties we’ve seen.

The staff were very knowledgable and on entering we couldn’t help but hear two children being enlisted into the Lego hunt, needless to say we had to give it a go too. It was great fun kids and adults alike, we didn’t find them all but we didn’t do too bad.

The armoury display looked amazing and dread to think who had the job of cleaning these on a regular basis.

From here we moved from room to room, each were elaborately decorated with incredible views of the coastline.

Into the grounds we went, lovely lawned area which looked like it was being prepped for an up-coming wedding and colourful flower beads around the perimeter wall.

Our little map came out and we followed the route provided to Camellia House, an extraordinary glass walled building which had been intended as an Orangery, easily missed and maybe something you wouldn’t think to find but it was well worth the search.

After a stroll through the grounds we eventually walked back to the site and that easy little down hill route wasn’t as bad up hill as we thought.

From here we jumped in the car and headed to Ayr for fuel and a bite to eat, beautiful seaside town where we ended up with a delicious chippy tea which was eaten in Wellington Square.

Next stop was the Electric Brae but first we had to find it, google gave us a location, a generic postcode and this was easy enough to find. Sign posts began to appear warning people of slow moving traffic so we thought we must be near and we eventually caught sight of a stone plaque which gave full details of its existence.

Whilst parked reading this and trying to figure out the exact location a car approached and stopped in the middle of the road with their hazards on, with great anticipation we watched the car and low and behold it slowly began to roll up hill backwards.. or were they doing it ? Only way to find out was to do it ourselves.

The car was turned round, hazards went on and once we found the sweet spot the engine went off and we rolled, up hill, backwards. The weirdest sensation ever because as we looked out of the front window you could clearly see the road going downwards as we rolled upwards, still plays with our heads today.

Reluctantly we returned to Pod and headed for the showers, these were spotlessly clean, nice and hot and very welcome.

Day 17 arrived, Pod was packed up and we began our 4 hour drive home. We have had the most wonderful time in Scotland, 1532 miles covered and 9 sites in 16 days. All being pulled by our trusty Dacia Duster which gave on average 40.6 miles to the gallon.

Many who’ve followed us have given us kind words, offered ideas and supported us on our adventure. Thank you to you all and we hope you join us again on our next adventure, wether it be for two nights or two weeks.

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Manchester via John O’Groats – Part 2

11am on Sunday, day 6 of our Scottish tour and we were on the road again after leaving Brora Caravan and Motorhome site. Our last site on the east coast as we head up to Scotlands northern ridge to Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome site.

Satnav gave us two options, one across the beautiful open countryside or via Wick, we opted for the countryside route to get our fill of the changing landscape.

Drove through Helmsdale with the sun again beaming above us, looking back we stopped for a quick picture of Pod and the Duster and whilst doing so our heads were filled with the fabulous smell of coconut floating down from the beautiful yellow Gorse growing along the roadside. Apparently, ‘When gorse is in bloom, kissing is in season’.

Arrived on site without any hassle, roads had been good again, no issues at all. Rolled up and booked in as usual, we couldn’t help but see people on the dunes with cameras of every shape and conceivable size, wardens said it could be anything; orcas, dolphins or surfers.

Couldn’t believe our luck either, the site was quite busy but we managed to nab one of the front pitches. Gave a lovely view through the sand dunes down to the beach.

Didn’t take long to set up, just needed a couple of blocks to level out, the tarp and pup tent were working a treat so far too and after a bite to eat were down on that beautiful beach.

Decision was made to make the most of the day that remained so off we went to John O’Groats, about half an hour from the site and easy enough to find. The obligatory picture was taken at the well known sign and we had a walk round the small selection of shops set in a rectangular position facing the sign. Other options seemed a little limited so we decided to head for Dunnet Head as we had been reliably informed this was actually the most northern location in Scotland.

After a little research we discovered that both places had a claim to fame, John O’Groats claimed to be the furthest north inhabited location and Dunnet Head the furthest north location on mainland Britain.

Dunnet Head can be found between the caravan site and O’Groats and it takes you on a winding single track road through what looks like open moor land. We eventually reached a sizeable carpark with the Lighthouse peeping over the ridge.

After a very short walk to the small platform we walked past the Lighthouse and up to the viewing point, brilliant 360deg views were to be had and also some very interesting information about those that served during WW2. ‘Twas a very lonely place to be stationed it seemed.

Back at Pod we availed ourselves of the onsite facilities, this was a new development, spotlessly clean and good hot showers.

Day 7 and we woke to rain, it had rained through the night too and we kind of hoped it would have cleared, but no. It was that really fine stuff that drenched you too, horrible stuff.

A walk had been planned but the weather seemed to be doing its best to cancel that one so we looked at other options.

Castle and Gardens of Mey were about 20 minutes away and a gin distillery was just round the corner from the site. We decided to hit the castle first and call in on the distillery on the way back.

£11.75 ea was handed over and as the next tour wasn’t due for half an hour we ate lunch in the café. Very nice it was too.

We eventually entered the summer home of the late HRH The Queen Mother, no photos were permitted but it was a guided tour and our guide Hazel was a local lass who knew her stuff.

It was lovely to walk through the house and discover her quirky but strong feisty nature. She may have been tiny but she was a force not to be reconnected with.

There’s also a small walled garden and a farm animal petting zoo, should this interest you.

Back in the car we went and yes, it was still raining. We pulled into the carpark of the gin distillery to see most of the cars driving out, it was just after 3pm and we feared we’d missed our chance to look round. After a quick chat with the staff we discovered we had indeed missed our chance, last tour was at 2pm, so for those who would love this, make sure you check the tour timetable.

Feeling a bit miffed we drove back to Pod and the Scrabble board and Glayva came out, not all bad you see.

We whiled away a few hours and after dinner Mat just happened to clock the red sky seeping through the sand dunes.

A mad dash then ensued to get down onto the beach in the hope of a sunset, like two giddy teenagers we ran out of Pod (as best as you can you understand), pulled on coats and were on the beach in seconds.

We just managed to catch it as it disappeared behind Dunnet Head, this didn’t stop us from jogging along the beach though in the hope of that all important shot.

We eventually turned to find the beach to ourselves and we strolled along as the remaining reds and yellows finally dipped below the horizon.

Day 8 arrived, it didn’t look brilliant to start with but it promised to be a dry day, we were on the move again so we hoped the dry weather would be moving with us. Sango Sands was waiting for us, just over 2 hours away.

The scenery was as you’d expect, breathtaking, no doubt the weather helped as the sun was out in all her glory. We could have stopped many times to take pictures but we wanted to get to the site.

The roads were again in good condition, some single track roads but plenty of passing places, some were bigger than others but all doable with a little bit of patience on both sides.

We pulled into Sango Sands Oasis and checked in easy enough, all names of those arriving were displayed on the door with your relevant pitch. We’d been given 13 and were pointed in its general direction.

Couldn’t believe our luck again, rolling along the path we saw 13 and a small yellow reserved sign with our name on. Pod was unhitched and pulled into place at which point we took the few steps to the back to see that we were on the cliff edge, looking down onto the wonderful beach below.

We were now half way round our Scottish trip and were slowly running out of clothes, the sun was out with a breeze blowing in from the sea so a decision was made to make it an ‘admin day’, get our clothes washed and smelling fresh as daisies again, we’d then spend the rest of the day absorbing the beautiful location we had found ourselves in.

Shower blocks were interesting, there are two blocks, one on the right as you enter the site and one on the left, set back into the landscape. We opted for the one set back as it was the nearest and this was the newly built block.

Toilets were set at the front in a separate block, pot washing and campers cooking area set to its right, with washing machines set into the rear of the toilet block.

The new shower block was set behind the toilet block and consisted of unisex showers with two separate family rooms on the left of it. The shower units within the block were very modern, each had a sink and the shower area was large, separated from the sink by a glass barrier. Clothes were washed using the onsite facilities and each cycle of washer and dryer was £2.00ea.

Spar was just off the main road, past the site and within easy walking distance, well stocked but didn’t seem to cater for vegetarians very well, but we bought enough to get us through the next few days and at some point we planned to eat at the sites bar/restaurant.

Once all admin was done and dinner was eaten we walked out of the gate to the left of Pod and down to the bay which had been teasing us all day. A beautiful clean beach surround by the high walls of the bay, idillic, reminded us somewhat of Barricane beach in Devon.

The sun began to set as we walked along the waters edge, out of the sea breeze we clambered along the rock edge doing our best not to get stranded as the tide came in.

Bed time called and the shower block was used, well laid out facilities, worked a treat.

Wednesday morning and day 9. The sun was out and the temperatures were slowly rising, awesome and long may it stay.

Smoo Cave was about 10 minutes away so off we went to explore, the cave is a combined sea and freshwater cave and depending on weather conditions a boat ride is available which takes you to the inner chambers and past the waterfall.

We managed to squeeze onto the small carpark, which also had a toilet block to hand. No charge for parking or entry so on down the well marked path we went.

Once down on the beach entry is gained to the cave via a small wooden bridge, here you get to see the wonderful colours of the rock face and you can hear the waterfall through another smaller entrance which is reached by a small wooden roofed platform.

Water levels were high due to the recent weather so no boat ride today, still a spectacular sight to see.

Once out we walked up the path on the other side of the cave and worked our way to the headland. No breeze blowing and the sun was beating down, no one else was around and the peacefulness was only broken by the occasional call from a pair of arguing seagulls, we could easily of lain on the grassy bank and stayed for the day, totally undisturbed.

We eventually worked our way back to the car and back to Pod, lunch was eaten and we decided to explore the other side of the coastline, so out we went through that gate and turned left up the coastline.

Through the farmers field we went and after scaling a few styles we found ourselves on another unspoilt beach, here we sat and did our best to take it all in. Behind us we could hear the farmer on her quad back as she called her sheepdog back and forth, we couldn’t believe our good fortune with the site and the weather.

Dinner was eaten at the bar/restaurant next to the caravan site, it appears to be affiliated to the site and open to all. Food was good, nothing extra special, the staff were extremely courteous and very polite and helpful, to us that meant more than any fancy meal.

Day 10 arrived with the sun appearing over the headland, it was already heating up and we would soon be on the move, this time we had a 3 hour journey to Gairlock and Sands Caravan and Camping Site. Breakfast was had from the on site butty wagon and within an hour we were on the road again.

The countryside was passed to was amazing, so beautiful. The bright blue sky above, the varying shades of green and brown from the rolling hills to the deep blue of the loch were incredible and add the wildlife to the picture its unbelievable.

A badger made a mad dash across the road in front of us, a weasel did a quick U-turn in the road and to top it all, deer were crossing one of the lochs as they were watched by a young stag way up in the hills.

We eventually reached the site and once booked in we were told we could go anywhere to the right of the site and as long as we were 6m away from any other van we were ok, suited us, so with map in hand on the hunt for a pitch we went.

Down to the huge sand dunes we went and found a sweet little spot backing onto them, great pitch but it meant walking all the way back up to the main area to use any of the facilities, this was okay with us and a worthy price to pay for the location.

Pitched up and beach towels in hand, onto the beach we went, another breathtaking view to be had, sprawling sands in front of us and mountains off in the distance, here we sat until the wind picked up and stomachs called for some attention.

So far we’d spent the holiday sight seeing and we were in need of a few ‘chill days’, this seemed like the perfect location so the decision was made to make our stay at Sands a beach only one and why not.

No Wifi to be had though, with either 3, O2 or EE, for a few pounds we eventually resorted to Highland Wifi, but even this was a bit hit and miss.

Site facilities were spotlessly clean of which there were three areas, two was sited near the caravans and the other in the middle of the camping and motorhome area.

We didn’t venture to two of them, but can say the block near us consisted of toilets and wash basins but only one shower unit, which also included a toilet. On the outside of the block there was a unit for those with mobility issues and a family unit. During our stay here we never experienced an issue getting access to the shower, either people used their ‘vans or we were just lucky with our timing.

Day 11 and we treated ourselves to a wonderful cooked breakfast at the on site café/restaurant, the veggie option wasn’t particularly inspiring so pancakes were ordered instead, we also had access to the cafés Wifi which enabled us to catch up on a few things.

Bank Holiday weekend was soon to be upon us and on leaving the café the population of the site had increased some what, but everyone respected the rules and no one appeared to be encroached upon, including us.

The day was spent on the beach, this was great until the wind changed direction and we then spent a few hours hunting down that warm hidden spot amongst the dunes, soon found one that gave a spectacular view across the cove towards the mountains.

Day 12, on the move again and for a change a ferry is involved …. Part 3.

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Manchester via John O’Groats – Part 1

Our Scotland adventure has arrived ! Research of locations, sites, timescales and ferries were about to be put to the test. Our version of the Scottish North Coast 500 from Manchester, 16 nights at 9 sites.

Decision had been made to just use the tarp on this occasion and hope the weather wasn’t too bad and prevent us from cooking under the tarp. Also made it easier to move on every 1 or 2 days, the awning is great but a lot of faff when you have limited time. Sites had been booked which had facilities and we planned to make full use of those, a very minimalistic approach, don’t you think?

With a three hour journey ahead of us Pod had been packed the previous night and after breakfast a few more items were added to the boot of the car. The sun was out and 9am rolled round pretty fast, we said our goodbyes to those left behind, including the dog, who looked less than impressed. Think she knows that once Pod comes out, we’re disappearing again.

The journey turned into a nice easy drive and we soon rolled into Lidalia Caravan Park in Newcastleton. Small site with two ponds, some pitches were around them, others looked out onto trees.

Turns out the site is built on the remains of an old railway station which used to run along the Waverley Line. The grounds were immaculate and the pitches were in great condition, the odd one were a little short in length but all were very good for Pod.

Facilities were good too, separate blocks for ladies and gents, spotlessly clean and each unit had 4 complete washrooms which contained shower, toilet and sink. Good facilities for those that struggled with mobility. The mirrors were funny though, all safety glass and we felt like we had walked into a fairgrounds hall of mirrors.

We were only here for one night and once Pod was set up we went for a walk along the riverbank and if we found a pub during the walk we’d have to call in, of course.

The path for the river walk was easy enough to find and we soon found the Newcastleton Bridge over Liddel Water. Looked like great mountain bike trails were on offer and the trails suggested rides of 10k and 24k in length.

After a very peaceful and relaxing walk we sat on a large wooden bench overlooking the river and listened to the water as it babbled past and under the stone bridge, the only thing that broke the silence was the occasion car that drove through the centre of the village.

We eventually made the decision to move and once on the stone bridge we walked back into the village and found the Grapes Hotel. Funny little layout inside, hotel at the front with a dinning area which looked out the large front window and the bar was eventually found in the middle.

Two pints were ordered and we sat at one of the benches at the front, we love watching the world go by and to us the village gave off an air of sleepiness, as if it was waiting to be woken up for something.

Back to Pod we went for dinner and to put our feet up and relax as the next day we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Braemar.

Day 2 arrived, breakfast was had and sandwiches were made for either a stop on the way up or when we arrived, all depended on how the journey went. Do love our little door bin, works perfectly for this trip and especially when cooking, just scrape it all off the chopping board and into the bin, easy.

With the aim to arrive around 1pm we set off just before 9am, we had good road conditions and little traffic so we stopped at Stirling Services for our little picnic.

Once demolished we hit the road again and drove through the Cairngorms, has to be one of our favourite places, spectacular scenery surrounded us along with a blue sky. Some snow remained in high spots and as we drove through we spotted the empty ski lifts going up and down. Plan to see this in the winter.. one day.

We arrived at Braemer Caravan Park just after one and were given our designate pitch, two nights were to be had here.

As we rolled along through the sight we met up with a few other Podders, and a few who had swapped their Pods for motorhomes and bigger caravans. People we’ve met during our travels and ownership of Pod seem to have become good friendships of a ‘vanning kind, no matter what they travel in.

Once set up we discovered we had no mobile signal and our mobile Wifi wasn’t working, not the end of the world you’d think but we like to have contact with the outside world, just in case a family member needs to make contact.

We’d brought data top up cards for EE and 3 as research lead us to believe these would be the best, but no, neither worked, we were fortunate enough to have Mat’s phone on O2 and this worked perfectly. Wifi could be bought from the site so we spent £4.00 on it for 3 days use, this cost applies to each device so only the IPad was connected.

Rumours were floating round the site that midges were out in the evening, so the home made midge door net was put in place, seemed to work well and good use was made of our tired old Khyam awning.

Time came to catch up with our fellow ‘vanners and arrangements were made for us all to trundle down to the local pub, in this case the Invercauld Arms Hotel. We kind of took over the bar area and soon rearranged tables for maximum grouping, needless to say it was fabulous catching up with everyone and listening to their adventures which were ahead of them in the holiday season.

Back at Pod we used the site facilities and these were as expected, clean and well laid out, day 3 was on the horizon so off to bed we went.

Woke to a frost but looked like a good dry day ahead, a walk was planned but no destination decided upon.

Breakfast was eaten and whilst checking good old Facebook one of our followers suggest a walk around Lock Muick, after a little research we took up their suggestion and rucksacks were packed for the day ahead.

45 minute drive took us through the beautiful countryside and for £4.00 we payed parking for the day. A short walk to the information hut highlighted the 8 mile route and of the deer who were in the area, it also informed us that the deer were to be steered clear of as they had had a very hard winter. On speaking to a local we discovered that after a ‘head count’ they were down by 30% on the previous year, the Beast from the East meant many had paid for it due to lack of food.

The sun was out and with hardly a cloud in the sky we began the well marked walk around the loch.

Words can not describe how spectacular this was, not a single sound could be heard, so peaceful.

When the wind dropped to nothingness the loch became a mirror image of the hills and grounds in the distance, totally mesmerising, so much so, we couldn’t help but stop every 100m or so as the scenery changed with every step.

For us it was one of those places you want to burn into your memory for ever.

The drive back to Pod was a slow one, we didn’t feel the need to rush, too much to see and take in, wonderful scenery.

Dinner was made using the slow cooker and eaten under the tarp, the temperature had dropped somewhat and if you were in the shade coats were needed, no midges though, so all good.

After our amazing walk during the day our bed was calling, with tired feet and aching legs it felt really good to climb under that duvet.

Day 4 and off the pitch for 9.30am as we had a 3 hour drive in front of us to Brora Caravan and Motorhome site.

Journey went well until we hit a road diversion which added half an hour, but the scenery continued to be glorious along the Highland Tourist Route, the roads were good too, so no complaints here. We were even treated to a low flyover from a giant Hercules and once back on the right road it took us partially along the Malt Whisky Trail, another idea for a future adventure.

We turned off the main road and within minutes we were at the site, we had to cross a single track bridge to get to the site, so anything like an 8ft wide twin axel may find it to be a ‘heart in the mouth’ moment.

Booked in and pitch found, sand dunes were just in front of us and we were itching to see what was over the other side, so we didn’t hang around setting up.

Cup of tea downed and off we went over hill to discover a golf course between us and the beach, easy enough to cross, just had to look left and right before doing so.

Beach was spectacular, long sprawling spotlessly clean sandy beach, best thing being, we seemed to have it all to ourselves. After a mini stroll we headed back to the car and drove into Brora for a few supplies, we could only find a Co-Op but this was well stocked.

Back to Pod we went and after dinner we headed back to the beach, do love the sea, always torn between mountains and the sea, we want both, or is that greedy.

Again we had the place to ourselves, the sea had gone out to leave sand untouched by any human, dog or any other species that might find its way to the beach. A gentle breeze blew in from the sea but we knew this wouldn’t be an issue for us in Pod as the golf course and sand dunes were a perfect barrier.

Shower block was standard Caravan Club fare, clean and hot showers, what more do you need.

Saturday, day 5 arrived and as we looked out of Pods window we were greeted with the sun rising over the beach into a lovely red/blue sky.

Bit of site seeing on the cards today as we headed out in the car for a 10 minute drive to Dunrobin Castle. A spectacular building still owned by the 24th Countess of Sutherland and built in the Scottish baronial/French renaissance style. For us the epitome of a fairy tale castle, just like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

£11.50ea paid and in we went, we wandered through opulently dressed rooms in wonderful colours and eventually found ourselves outside in the gardens.

Falconry display was ongoing in the back ground and the beautifully maintained formal garden lay between. A walk down the steps to the garden lead us through areas full of colour and which had been left to grow wild, always think this is a great touch to any garden.

We then walked towards the museum, just before entry a sign informed us we would see archeological finds, intrigued we went through the door. This came as bit of a shock, as neither of us were prepared, the main open area was full to the brim with stuffed animals, including the head of a small elephant on the wall and the neck and head of a giraffe which was securely planted in the middle of the room.

Once over the shock the collection included various finds during the previous Count and Countess’ safari adventures, along with the stuffed animals they had collected items from Central Africa and even fishing equipment from Eskimos. It also gave a detailed history of Pictish stones found within the area.

Once back at the site we headed across the golf course and back to that beautiful beach, dinner was eaten later, after which a follower on Facebook informed us we had the chance to go fossil hunting should we want to and their was a nudist beach just up the coast. This, could also be an option for another trip north with Pod, not too sure about the nudist beach though.

Bed time was calling and we were on the move again in the morning, as this was our last site on the east coast we made the mad decision to wake at 4.30am in an attempt to catch a sunrise, this bearing in mind we were also on the move again to Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome site, but it was only 1 ½ hours away so we thought it was worth the risk.

Alarm went off on day 6 and up we got, clothes were put on in a blurry haze and we flip-flopped over the golf course to the beach to be met by cloud, gutted. Still fabulous though, a little eery as the low light crawled across the beach and the wind scuttled through the reeds along the bank.

One last long look at the beach and we said our goodbyes as we scuttled back over the golf course and back to bed for a few hours.

Woke again a few hours later and once breakfast was eaten and pots washed it didn’t take long to get Pod loaded and we were on our way again to the top most point of Scotland……. Part 2.

Posted in Architecture, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Coast, Conservation, Glamping, Highlands, Lakes, Lochs, Mountains, Photography, Scotland, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking | Leave a comment

Isle of Arran : Wildlife, Walks and Wishes made.

5.15am and the alarm goes off ! Normally this could be mistaken for a work alarm, but not today as we’re off to the Isle of Arran. Awesome.

Out of bed we jump and the first thing to be done was to look out of the window to check the weather. All looked good, it wasn’t raining, nor blowing a gale and to be honest we couldn’t ask for anything more.

Pod had been loaded the night before, so once breakfast was eaten we pulled her out and tyre pressures were checked. An all important task easily and quickly completed.

By 6.30 we were on the road and starting our 4hr journey up the M6. Clear roads so no issues and we stopped once at Gretna to use the facilities. Once off the Motorway we veered left to Ardrossan, the roads took a little to be desired, pot hole hell sprung to mind.

At 11.30 we rolled into the Ardrossan Port and were soon followed by three other ‘vans, two of which were Royale T125s, built in 1969. Immaculate condition after being lovingly restored.

12 o’clock arrived and we all rolled onto the CalMac Ferry and began our journey across The Firth of Clyde. Once we’d eaten our packed lunch loving prepared by one of us we ventured outside to the front of the ship to find the pleasant light wind had turned into a very powerful beast. From here neither of us could move with any great agility, if we moved too fast we were in danger of sliding into the railing and who knows what there after. Needless to say we gingerly edged our way along the railings with a very tight grip.

Cloud was now shrouding Arran and we could see nothing of Goatfell or the islands extending coastline, we received the call over the tanoy to return to our cars and this we did with some eagerness as we couldn’t wait to settle in at the site.

Once on the road we noticed the legendary pot holes dotted along the winding narrow road and with some careful manoeuvring we eventually arrived on the south side of the island, Sealshore Camping and Caravan site and it looked like we were one of the first to arrive.

No rain but the wind was still strong, the sea was beating itself all the way along and up the shore line, the lighthouse out to sea looked stark against the dark sky and the smell of the sea brought in off the cresting waves was incredible, we could just feel the worries of the world drop off our shoulders, fantastic.

Pod and the awning were soon up and running. We even put the thermal wrap round the pop top roof as we knew the temperature could drop over night, especially on the coast.

The sea eventually made its way out and we went for a mooch along the beach, eyes peeled for otters and seals, but didn’t spot a thing on this occasion.

So back to Pod we went, with a beer in hand we settled in to the recliners as the sun slowly disappeared behind the Arran coastline. What a great way to start our few days away.

Woke to a dry day, a little overcast but rain wasn’t on the agenda. As we pushed Pods door wide we were met with a fabulous view of the beach and the salty seaweed smell of the sea.

A drive of the coastal route was decided upon and we went clockwise. Looking at a map it almost looks like two separate parts, the lower half more green, lush and arable, the top half more rugged and mountainous. We didn’t really get to see much of it though, as a very low cloud had descended upon us and anything more than 100m in front of us was obscured by it.

First stop for us today was the Whisky Distillery, way up on the north side of the island, sounds along way doesn’t it, but no, less than an hour away. Easy enough to find as there aren’t too many roads to choose from, plus we soon discovered there were no round-abouts and except those being used by the roadworks, there weren’t any traffic lights either.

We found plenty of parking and once in through the door we paid £8.00 ea for the tour. First off, we sat and watched a short film about the history of the distillery and then we were whisked off through a door and were shown the lengthy process of whisky making, not forgetting the wee share for the Angels.

By the end of the tour we had partaken of 3 fabulously different whiskies and as one of us was driving the other had more than a fare share. On leaving the tour we walked through the well stocked shop, there was a fabulous collection of local produce on sale, ranging from delicious cheeses to brilliant artwork. Could easily have spent a fortune and needless to say a bottle of whisky had to be bought, a peaty one was chosen, the Machrie Moor.

Once outside we discovered the sky had cleared a little and we continued our tour round the island.

Something else we discovered whilst doing this too, no well known branded fast food outlets, not a McDonald or Pizzahut to be seen anywhere. A small selection of cafes and restaurants but that was your lot. The only food store on the island was Co-Op, not a Tesco or Sainsbury’s to be seen either, very refreshing we thought.

Back at Pod dinner was eaten and the evening was spent mesmerised by the view in front of us, wide open sea with a lighthouse in the distance, bliss.

Next day was slightly hard to read, we hoped for blue skies at some point but pinpointing it was proving difficult, so the decision was made to walk Goatfell, if we didn’t see anything from the top we’d be disappointed yes, but were desperate to do it either way, plus it gave us a reason for a return visit.

Goatfell is the highest point on the island and stands at 874 metres, it promised some spectacular views so as we set off from the carpark we had our fingers crossed that we would walk through a thin layer of cloud to see its spectacular summit in the distance.

Onward we went, through the dense tall forest and the wide open moorland before reaching the rocky path that lead upwards, but the thin layer of cloud didn’t appear and then disappear, no, it got thicker. Still, we continued with map in hand, but the path was very well laid so there wasn’t a real chance of loosing our way. Gradient increased and the cloud along with it, it was a great pity but still an enjoyable walk.

Within 50 metre of the top we came across a large area of snow, slowly melting but doing its’ best to hang on in there, once past it we came across more and a group of people who’s path was blocked by a wide spans of it. The snow wasn’t compact and the path had totally disappeared, as none of us knew what lay beneath the decision was made to turn back, gutted was an understatement, we knew we were less than 20 metres from the summit.

The small group began their track down and we decided to eat lunch before doing the same.

More people arrived, some turned and went back and the odd one went past and upwards, these we soon discovered were locals and had trod this route many times. With great observation on our part and words of encouragement on theirs we found a second route up and the much wanted summit.

Yes, no views were to be had but we were so pleased we’d continued, that said, if we hadn’t befallen the locals we would have turned back, Goatfell wasn’t going anywhere and no summit was worth the risk of injury.

The long trek down began and a short journey back to Pod was had, needless to say, by the time we reached the site the sun was out, we were treated to a clear blue sky and more spectacular scenery.

Following morning was glorious, beautiful coastline lay all around us and the sea was out, giving us the chance to walk out onto the rocks in the hope of spotting the local otters and seals. The lighthouse on Pladda looked within walking distance and the mysterious island of Alisa Craig could be seen way in the background.

A day pottering around the site was decided upon and low and behold, with patience, we were treated to the sight of 2 Otters playing on the rocks and swimming between boulders. Incredible to see and an ever better sight was to be had when they swam from one outreach to the other which just happened to be on either side of Pod.

The day soon flashed by and before turning in we went for a stroll along the beach, a perfect end to a great day too as we were treated to the site of a Common Seal basking in the evening sun.

The coastline on Arran is breathtaking there is no doubting that at all, an incredible place, still hanging onto values from a bygone era and for this we loved it even more.

So during this walk we decided to do our own version of a beach clean and were shocked to discovered the amount of plastic debris washed up on its beautiful beaches. Within the space of 1 metre square we had no trouble in picking up 4 blue cotton bud sticks. With this find we continued, as our eyes became accustomed to the search we found ourselves falling over many others, not just bud sticks. Broke our hearts a little and if nothing else made us more determined to rid our lives of single use plastic.

End of the day arrived and once back at Pod a wee dram of something very special finished the day off perfectly.

Our final day arrived and we were yet again blessed with a wonderful blue sky, we wanted to see more of island so a drive was decided upon. A short journey from the site brought us to the coastal path which travels all the way round the island, that wasn’t planned today, we just wanted to see more seals, so camera in hand off we went on foot.

Didn’t take long to find them and to be honest they were a little hard to miss, at least 50 of them scattered amongst the outcrops along the water line, all sprawled out enjoying the afternoon sun, brilliant. Time was moving on so we turned and once back at the car we continued our tour.

This drive was much nicer than our first day, no clouds or sea mists to obscure the coastline with swans in huge numbers gliding by along the shore line, nor its panoramic views across the wide open hedge lined fields

.

Lochranza was our next stop, pretty little village with the remains of a Castle still standing proud at the bays entrance.

We eventually found ourselves on the east side of the island and at the Lighthouse Restaurant, here we were treated to some fabulous food, good value too, with great sized portions. Venison was had by one of us and a mushroom and leek parcel the other, the desserts were incredible too, worth every penny.

Time soon came to head back to Pod and a slow journey back was had, the weather report was checked and it seemed that the weather was taking a turn for the worse tomorrow, so the awning came down and was neatly packed away, nice and dry.

Our last evening had arrived and with a blue sky slowly changing to a warm glowing sunset we decided to treat ourselves to supper on the beach, old romantics eh..

Little gas stove came with us, along with pieces of cod, prawns and a variety of BBQ vegetables, we even had a little fire going as we finished our last bottles of beer and sat cuddled together listening to the sea gently rolling in against the empty beach.

7am alarm woke us and discovered rain had indeed visited us, so much so, it continued all the way through breakfast, packing up and leaving the site. We were so pleased we’d packed the awning away the previous night, just one less job to do once home.

We arrived at Brodick Ferry in plenty of time and joined the queue of those returning to the mainland. Once on board it didn’t seem long before we were off the other end and on our way home.

5 fabulous nights had been had on Arran and you can bet your bottom dollar (ode to our many American readers) we will be back, who knows, retirement isn’t that long away and we can’t think of a better place to retire to… or set up our own Caravan Site.

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Manchester Easter ‘Staycation’

Now, you may think we’re bonkers anyway and we wouldn’t blame you, but wait till you find out what we had planned for Easter, it may just confirm your judgement.

It just so happened our days off all coincided with Easter and we wouldn’t need to use any of our leave, but because work can be a wee bit sneaky sometimes this meant we couldn’t really book a site, just in case our days off were cancelled. Hate paying deposits which had the potential of being lost through no fault of our own.

So, we came up with a devilish plan, a ‘staycation’ in Manchester. She’s in the papers a lot, usually through football and most recently due to the terrible terrorist attack but we wanted to try and look at her through tourists eyes and see what she had to offer.

Pod would be moved onto the driveway and days out would be had around Manchester, the best part being we would still be able to stick a travel pin in our map because every night would be spend in Pod.

Good Friday arrived and out Pod came, she was filthy from our last trip away and once the bed was made up she was treated to a bit of sponge bath. Some fabulous Aldi waterless wash/wax followed by a good coating of Auto Glym. Took some doing but she did shine after.

Next came a car ride into Stockport, somewhere we’ve passed through on many occasions but never given it much thought, but one museum had caught our eye and after a little research we discovered another not too far from it. After a 20 minute drive we arrived outside The Hat Museum, as it was a Bank Holiday parking was free and we even managed to snaffle a spot just outside the old entrance.

Once inside we discovered it was free entry, with a donation if willing, but if a guide was required it would be £5.00 ea. We opted to go for a walk at our leisure and a donation was made. We began downstairs, two floor down and this took you through the whole process, from the making of the fabric to the moulding and decoration of the hats. Machinery was everywhere and you could easily imagine the deafening noise, we doubt they would have had ear defenders so goodness knows how they coped. Health and Safety was unheard of.

Next we went up a floor the display area and here we found a huge variety of hats of all shapes and sizes. Some were very delicate and intricate in detail and others had a work purpose and made of sterner stuff, but the quality of all of them was impressive. There was also a brilliant play area in the middle, great for the kids to try on hats and play out their own little fantasies.

Up the stairs we went again and this brought us back to the exit and reception, we had a peak in the room off here and this turned out to be a café/eating area, but it wasn’t open today which was a shame. It was still a great experience, lots of history and stories to be told about so many different types of hats.

We gave our thanks and left, once outside phones came out of pockets and good old Google gave us direction to our next Museum, the Air Raid Shelter Museum. This worked out brilliantly as it was only a 5 minute walk.

Entry was gained and £5.00ea was handed over, this gave us access to hand held audible narrators which we were instructed to carry round and when a disc mounted on the wall was located, point the device at it and you would receive a variety of information covering the shelter and those that lived and worked in there. All seemed pretty good.

Off we went down the steps and into small brick lined room, here we received a small presentation on the beginnings of WWII and Air Raid Shelters. Once done we were directed through another door and left to take our time travelling along the tunnels using the hand held devices. As soon as we dropped into the tunnels there was a marked decrease in temperature and we were immediately hit by the workmanship that had gone into the making of them, each and every side held deep gouged out marks by either hand held tools or the pneumatic drill they were able to use. Also on display was a very detailed map of German bombing targets, which had been found on an airfield in Berlin after the war.

Onward we went, using our hand held devices to clock into each section and here we delved into the lives of many who spent their days down here. From children, the sick and the elderly, they spent many an hour entombed in the depths of Stockport and did their best to pass the time they had. Kitchen and Nurses station was also on offer, along with 74 toilets which had to serve all those down there, very simple design but must have worked like a treat.

Once back out into the sunshine we walked the short distance back to the car and as it was Good Friday we treated ourselves and stopped off at a local Fish and Chips Shop, delicious and a great end to a good day.

Back at Pod we used the site facilities and as bed time approached we tottled off to Pod and were soon snug under the duvet planning the next day ahead.

Woke to another dry day and we seemed to be faring better than many who had travelled to their Easter Holiday destinations. Today we had a bus trip planned to Manchester City Centre, On the menu we had the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry as Astronaut Major Tim Peake’s capsule was on display.

After a 3/4hr journey into the city we finally found ourselves walking in the direction of the Museum. School holidays were on the go but it didn’t seem too busy. In we went and it was free entry with donations of £3.00, it didn’t cost any extra to see the capsule either, so that was great news. They were however charging £8.00 each for those who wanted to go into the Robotics display.

The capsule was amazing, awe inspiring and very small, as was the Majors suit. It was hard to believed it had contained 3 people and landed them safely back on Earth. Incredible. So wanted to touch it, but it was securely sat behind a barrier, well out of reach.

We then strolled round the rest of the museum which took us through a Mill Factory and we were given the opportunity to play with the large screen display in the centre of the Museum. A cylindrical display of screens which projected images of those brave enough to have their picture taken, you can guess we had a go, but can you spot us ?

Next onto the steam trains, fantastic smell of oil and diesel when you entered and a huge selection of engines, steam trains and locomotives. There were some amazing feats of engineering. One of the smaller ones was in the process of being started up to the delight of those surrounding it.

Air and Space Hall next, this was fabulous, enormous planes with contra rotating propellers to small homemade gliders were on display. Whilst in here we had to have a go of the Virtual Experience, this was to be the re-entry of Major Peake’s Capsule and for £6.00 it was very educational and informative. It would have been 10 out of 10 if the chairs could have moved too, but guess it wouldn’t of been £6.00.

Back outside we headed towards one of our favourite Restaurants and passed through North Gate, Castlefield. Much to our surprise we discovered an old Roman Gateway and this was one of four which led a Roman road into the city centre.

As we walked through the city we passed numerous Mobikes, strategically placed by their previous riders and positioned in such a way that they teased passerby’s to give them ago. Not for us on this occasion, we wanted to walk around as we weren’t in any rush today. Onwards we went and passed the beautifully historic John Rylands Library and the new stark looking Armani building. Very different but in an odd way complemented each other.

Next stop was The Grill on The Alley, a steak heaven for one of us but it was lucky enough to serve the other extremely well too. Service and food in here is next to none and we were even treated to complimentary cocktails as they were currently training new staff.

Bus was eventually caught back to our home village but we had to stop off at a local bar on the way, here a few cask ales were had and these finished our day off before we caught a taxi home for the last few miles. Those bus passes definitely came in very handy.

Easter Sunday arrived and the weather was again dry and bright. A walk was on the cards today and Dunham Massey was chosen as it was only a 20 minute drive away. We thought we couldn’t go wrong with this as we presumed children and their parents would be ensconced within their own homes devouring mountains of chocolate. We were wrong.

Traffic queue began over a kilometre away but it did keep moving, even if it was at a crawl. We eventually entered the grounds and after showing National Trust Membership Cards we found it quite easy to find a parking space. We then joined another queue, this was a little frustrating as we were all stood in single file working our way to the main door. Once reaching the door Members and non-Members were eventually separated into two queues, just wish they’d done this from the beginning.

Once through we were in the grounds and decided to head for the Mansion, entering the main door we were greeted by staff who informed us they had several displays on offer. One of the rooms had been set up as the hospital as during WW1 the Mansion itself was used as a hospital for those returning from the war, a very moving experience. Other rooms were dedicated to ‘Year of the Woman’ and displayed clothing worn by the ladies of the house.

We eventually found ourselves in the grounds and strolled along the tree lined avenues, we couldn’t believe how lucky we had been with the weather, little cold, but if wrapped up not an issue.

Lunch time was calling so The Axe and Cleaver caught our attention on the way home. Very busy inside but they managed to find a table for us tucked away in a corner, perfect. Good pub fare and reasonably priced. Friendly service too which always adds to a good experience.

Bedtime beckoned and after checking the weather it seemed for the following day our luck was about to run out, it wasn’t going to stop us though as we had tickets booked for the Waxi, also known as the Water Taxi. Return tickets were bought at £8.00 each outward journey and £6.00 for the return.

Rain met us in the morning and it looked like it was going to be hit and miss for the day. Decision was made to drive to the Trafford Centre and walk the short distance to the Bridgewater Canal for a Waxi ride into Manchester city centre, quite exciting really and something new to us.

Car was parked and the rain had stopped, so our fingers were crossed we’d make it through the day. Waxi arrived on time and ourselves and 3 others were soon on board and heading in the direction of the city.

Brilliant experience and a very leisurely journey was had, we were passed by numerous barges and all their occupants waved and swapped pleasantries with a smile. Trees were still bare but we could imagine this being a wonderful experience in the summer when trees were in full bloom.

We landed not far from the Museum of Science and Industry and once off the Waxi we thanked our driver and discovered he would be the pilot of our return trip later in the evening, good to know, as we didn’t want to be stranded in the city centre later.

First stop was the John Ryland Library, absolutely incredible building and we couldn’t believe we had passed it so many times over the past 20 plus years. It was one of those buildings we were always curious about but just never found the time to explore. So glad we found the time today.

We walked through a new build extension and entered what felt like a ‘time tunnel’, stepping from a smooth plastered white stark stairway and onto a warn, warm yellow toned, stone lined corridor.

The corridor led from room to room and took us on a journey through time using the many books on display. The Historic Reading Room and the staircase that took you there were breathtaking, still open for those who wanted to use it to study and it was great to see the mix of books and electronic devices being used by the many students who were bent over their chosen medium in deep thought.

Next stop was the Cathedral and anything we found in between. It seemed rain had passed whilst we’d been in the Library so we began our walk up Deansgate and found ourselves in Barton Arcade.

Amazing glass roofed three tiered shopping arcade, beautiful tiled floor and wrought iron railing surrounding the balconies, the shops were home to cafes, shops and a brilliant old fashioned barbers. ‘Barber Barber ‘ treated its customers with that extra special care, no appointment system but a place where a beer could be ordered, then you could sit and relax until a spot became available in one of the chairs. Once thing that could grate on some though.. no women were allowed, a men only zone.

From here we arrived at Manchester Cathedral, free to enter but donations were welcomed, there was a charge of £1.00 should you want to take pictures. Another wonderful building, beautiful stone floor, incredibly ornate ceilings and colourful stain glassed windows, always look up because you never know what you might miss.

Looked like it was going to be a late lunch for us so walked in the direction of the Printworks, great building with a huge in door area catering for everyone’s taste buds, Chiquito caught our attention and with the App we were lucky enough to get it at half price. Great food and good value for money.

The clock was slowly edging it way towards our Waxi pick up time but we thought we might just squeeze a beer in if we timed it right. Off we set and once within shouting distance of the river we stopped off at Dukes 92 for a wee beverage, by now it was pouring down so we sat outside under the veranda and watched the world go by as the rain bounced off the floor and surrounding tables and slowly ran down the courtyard in the direction of the river.

Waxi time arrived, we hadn’t been waiting more than a minute when we saw our bright yellow Waxi appear from under the bridge, it crawled to a stop and was soon turned 360 deg and lined up against the river wall, very competent handling we thought.

Others stepped off the Waxi as our driver greeted us and we were told we were the only two passengers for the return trip, how cool, we had it to ourselves for the next 45 minutes. The journey back was as relaxing as our arrival and between the three of us we discussed the delights our waterways have to offer and adventures we’d had over the past years. A very pleasant trip back, despite the rain. Once back at the car it didn’t take long to get back to Pod, our last full day had come to an end but at least we had one more night in Pod to look forward to.

Woke to a dry day and with cup of tea in hand we relived our ‘staycation’. We’d only touched the surface of what Manchester had to offer, it’s a fabulous place with a lot going for it, from a diverse culture and history, wonderful dining experiences, a variety of bars and some beautiful countryside.

Now, as we’d stayed true to Pod and spent every night of our break in her we had earned the right to stick a pin in our travel map, so the time came to pack up and head for home … to the front door. It had been a great Easter break and we did our best to see Manchester with fresh eyes, we think we succeeded too.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Bridges, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Church, Conservation, Glamping, national trust, Photography, Science, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Trains, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterways, woodland | 2 Comments

Pod Powwow – York 2017

Caravans, so what’s the draw to the smaller end of the market, such as Micro Tourers. We can answer that for you, no problem and the answers all came from a recent get together of Pods which was held in October 2017.

It all happened through a bit of owner promotion, the Podpals page and using our Facebook page as a springboard. Within a few months the Pod Powwow was organised by Laurence Christie and 32 GoPods travelled from between Devon and Aberdeen to make their presence known in York at Naburn Lock Caravan Park where a field had been set aside for Podders use.

Claire and Mat aka ‘2B’s’ tried to met owners on their arrival at the site and they were then handed Pod pendants as a welcoming gift, questions posed were answered and they were directed to the relevant area, those that were missed received a visit soon after their arrival and were also given pendants, we didn’t want anyone to miss out on a memento of the event.

Within a few hours everyone was in possession of amazing cup cakes made by Donna and Julie aka ‘Penny-G’ and beautiful key rings and coasters made by Lee, owner of one of the more retro looking Pods.

Soon all Podders were on first name terms, taking notes of different set ups and quirky modifications.

People were then left to do their own thing but with the option of joining in on the evenings festivities, the first night was spent at the pub, way too many of us to fit inside so the outside became a mini Pod meet, dogs included. A right old giggle was had and it was great to put names to Pods before everyone made their way back to the site and their relevant Pods.. we hope.

We’d arranged for a daytime visit from Rob, the owner of Stratus Photography and the day he arrived turned out to be the driest of our time there. The wind was picking up but it didn’t deter Robs drone from capturing some great images.

Our second night was spent fending off Storm Brian, some fared better than others and a lot of time was spent in a scout tent kindly lent by another Pod owner. Brilliant idea and gave everyone the chance to mingle, dance and relax, whilst occasionally nipping out to check on Pods, awnings and anything else that wasn’t tied down.

Now.. a little about this wonderful group of people; the owners of these micro tourers have had varied travel experiences, from camping in 2 man tents to larger twin axle caravans, but they are a special breed and they don’t see their Micro Tourers as caravans.

It all comes down to no bathroom and relying totally on sites facilities, or for those a little more adventuress a bucket of hot water for daily ablutions and a shovel, which hopefully doesn’t need explaining. It’s described by most as a campervan without the front seats and engine, plus there’s a need to name them with decals, if you haven’t already noticed.

After many years of camping, Lee and her 10 year old daughter Skye now own a Cockpit 2007, they love going to the festivals in the UK and are soon to cross and explore Europe, all this knowing it’s cheaper as they’ve saved on paying extortionate supplements for being a single parent. They’ve plans for a few modifications too, with the split screen their Pod will be transformed into a Star Wars Stormtrooper, although we though Spiderman is another option.

Then we have the loan Podders such as Laurence ‘Podfather’, Julie ‘Piglet Pod’, Dave his dog, and ‘Peg’, plus Ann with ‘Buster’. All keen to hit the roads when they can, there isn’t anywhere any of them are afraid to travel.

Julie says it’s easy to tow, Laurence loves storing it at home and Dave said it’s ideal for single carriage roads. Ann wouldn’t be without her motor mover, on a trip getting to know ‘Buster’ she took a wrong turn into what appeared to be a very exclusive Golf Club. The carpark contained the like of Jaguars and Bentleys, the owners of which stood opened mouthed as she rolled into the carpark. Reversing wasn’t a skill she had yet acquired and after 45 minutes of trying whilst her audience grew, she popped out of her car, head held high, unhitched ‘Buster’ and using her motor mover soon had ‘Buster’ and car reconnected. With a proud nod of achievement, Ann waved farewell and wished them all a great game of golf.

The majority of Podders like Julie and Rob ‘Penny-G’, agree with keeping their tourer at home as it negates storage costs and gives that added flexibility, allowing a trip to have a bit of spontaneity. Chris and Keri ‘Escape Pod’ make great use of their solar panel on their adventures up and down the country, ideal for when hook-up isn’t an option.

Not forgetting the attention you get once you do get yourself on the roads, most people are used to seeing the largest beasts and find it quite funny to see something so small.

In fact, people seem to make a point of saying something when the tourers are on the move. Russ and Christine with ‘Flamingo Pod’ were stopped at traffic lights in Chesterfield when an elderly gentleman had them jump out of their seats by knocking on the car door window, shouting, “wish they’d had these in the 70’s, I would have loved one”. Then we have ‘Wolfe’s’ owners, merrily driving along the M1 when their attention was caught by a passing vehicle which contained a man doing his best to ask questions on its set up.

It seems you can’t be a wall flower when owning a Micro Tourer.

The Powwow was a resounding success, Storm Brian did his best, but with the wine, music and laughter flowing freely many new friendships were made. The day to leave eventually arrived and with a bit of team spirit and brute force tourers were pushed off the now sodden field and on their way home, not before everyone exchanged details with future visits in mind.

So much so, Powwow events are springing up countrywide, with participants joining us from even further afield, including Ireland. So keep your eye out for us and come and say Hi.

Plus… Here’s the link to the ariel footage curtesy of Stratus Photography, who also has his own FB Page and YouTube channel.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Glamping, Lakes, Modifications, Photography, Sight seeing, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Waterways, woodland | Leave a comment

Clumber Park and a Major Oak Tree

Trip number four of the year arrived and off we went for a two night stay at Clumber Park Caravan and Motorhome Club, looked fabulous nestled in the grounds of 20 acres of National Trust parkland in Sherwood Forest. Sun was out and the roads were pretty clear too, so we couldn’t ask for more during our 3 hour journey.

Arrived just after 1pm and it was perfect timing, there were plenty of pitches to pick from so chose one that had woodland to its rear. Didn’t take long to set up as we hadn’t brought the awning, just the tarp, but we had a new addition to equipment and that was the small 2 man tent, our ‘pup tent’ or as MrB called it, the shed. This was a bit of a dry run for our 16 night tour of Scotlands 500, we would be just tarping it and if weather was poor we would need somewhere other than the car to store wet gear.

After lunch and cream cakes in Pod we went on a walk around the site and ventured onto the parkland, very strange situation to us, as the main road through the park grounds seemed to be a regular thoroughfare from one side to the other. We crossed this main road and walked up towards the village and the lake, beautiful tree lined walk which lead us to a small row of exquisite red brick terraced houses and a farm at the end of the junction. We eventually turned and strolled back past the path for the lake and back to Pod to discover the site 90% full and people, children and dogs milling about all over the place.

Time came to find somewhere for dinner but due to the poor reception on the site our wonderful portable wifi had let us down, we couldn’t believe it as it has been all over Scotland and Ireland and worked superbly without any issues. We could only blame it on a slight dip in which the site was situated. We were totally cut off, no wifi or phone signal for either of us. Only option left for us was to tag onto the Caravan Club for 24hrs for the cost of a few pounds, easy enough to do but just annoying.

Decision was made to head to The Alders Pub, no more than a couple of miles away and this was on the recommendation of the staff at the site. Situated on a large roundabout along with a Fish and Chip restaurant and McDonalds it was a fair old circular display of eateries.

Looked like a new building and the parking was ample, so off we went through the doors. It was busy but we were shown to a table and updated on how to order food, a carvery was on offer so that was definitely to be had by one of us and a large one too plus a very nice ‘shroom burger’ was had by the other. Needless to say the carvery was piled high but easily demolished, minus a Yorkshire pudding.

Desserts were next on the list, and what arrived for MrB could have fed a family of four, it was a huge slice of a Chocolate Éclair Cake, this was delivered by a waitress who with a bawdy pantomime villain laugh said ‘Enjoy’ and plonked the plate on the table. A valiant attempt to eat this delight was made but it turned into an epic fail and a small section remained to be disposed of.

We eventually wobbled out of the pub and poured ourselves into the car for the drive home, we had definitely been well fed.

Back at Pod and showers were had, these were of the usual Caravan/Motorhome Club standard, looked a little tired but did the job required.

Rained through the night, not heavily but just enough to remind you of caravanning as a child, you know, that gentle tapping of it on the roof as it slowly sent you to sleep. A great memory where you felt warm, safe and protected.

Breakfast was had and a day out in the area was planned, the day before we’d passed a sign for a Military Museum so we opted to head in that direction to start with. It wasn’t hard to find and not too far from the site either, easily found on entering the grounds of Thoresby Courtyard which was situated next to Thoresby Hall (Spa).

Free parking and entry were used and the fabulous little courtyard had lots on offer, from a small café to boutique shops selling a huge variety of items, clothing and woollen yarns to personal, handmade art work, all reasonably priced too. In the corner of the courtyard we found the entrance to the museum which was dedicated to the Queens Royal Lancers and Nottingham Yeomanry. A very moving experience that took you through their entire history and up to present times, lots of personal stories and an amazing record of many historical events.

Next stop was the ‘Major Oak’, believed to be the tree where Robin Hood and his men took shelter and slept. This again was only a short distance away and we paid £3 for parking. Once out of the car we followed the signs towards the Oak and the path wound through the woods which to us looked a little sparse, many trees seemed to have died and their stumps had been turned into little works of art resembling houses with delicate little windows and chimneys.

The ‘Major Oak’ appeared ahead and it was indeed a very impressive sight, with a recorded girth of 33 feet and a canopy of 92 feet, it was believed to weigh in the region of 23 tons and be between 800 a 1000 years old, it was huge. The thick long extending branches were being held up by various metal supports and it was also protected by a sturdy circular wooden fence. It’s a good job too, it’s one of those things you just have to touch, but not anymore it seems.

Tummys were rumbling so a late lunch was on the cards, off we set without any direction in mind. After a short drive along the country lanes we found ourselves back at the roundabout and low and behold the Fish and Chip restaurant beckoned us forth.

We treated ourselves to a proper portion of cod and chips, it was absolutely delicious, the fish was huge and cooked in a very nice light batter. Great environment too, little booths along the windows with the same set in the middle. Would highly recommend.

Feeling very satisfied we headed back to Pod to enjoy our last evening, after our fish treat we didn’t feel like eating too much, so cheese and biscuits were enjoyed with the last few bottle of ale we’d brought with us. Not a bad end to our two nights away and we thought we ‘d crammed quite a bit in too.

Morning arrived way too soon but it was dry which is always a blessing when packing up and the pup tent had worked a treat, perfect for putting the chairs and muddy boots in, a brilliant little buy. We felt we were pretty prepared for our jaunt in May round the Scottish coast, midges and weather permitting.

But before that we had our special Easter break planned and our April trip to Arran, all very exciting stuff, don’t you think.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, national trust, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking, woodland | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment