Edinburgh

We arrived a bit late to do anything on the first day.  We elected to go for a walk before we left Falkirk, so it was a post 1PM departure from Falkirk and then the campsite is a few KM outside the city.

We are at a Caravan and Motorhome club site so there are rules – the motorhome has to be parked a specific way around in the space.  There are bike lockers that we need to use thanks to a spate of recent thefts. We have a spot of late lunch and get the bikes down. Then it’s a few km each way down the Firth of Forth.

Day two and we grab a bus (the campsite is 7 km outside the city) to the royal yacht Britannia and that ends up being the while day gone.  Fabulous boat. They get a massive amount of tourist traffic so we cannot get quite as hands on as some of the boats we have visited over our trip, but it was amazing.

Lunch was on-board the boat, but the queen was not in attendance.  All the food is cooked in the on-board kitchens and we grabbed some fudge to take away for later 😉  A superb meal!

The evening was spent catching up on emails and laundry plus bakeoff. We have still not quite got used to having UK TV in the mothership again.

Back to town on the bus the following day and the National Museum of Scotland.  It’s free to get in and has just about everything that you can imagine as long as it has a Scottish link: Science, technology, natural sciences, architecture and even art.  The museum is built around an old iron framed victorian building which is amazingly light and spacious. Think Ally Pally meets Kew gardens and you will not go far wrong.

The Tower Restaurant was our lunch venue and it was superb.  Two days in a row we have felt like royalty at lunchtime. Late afternoon and it was over to Mary King’s Close for a look at a preserved close.

On the third day in town, we went to the Surgeons’ Hall Museum.  This place is amazing and frightening in equal measure!  Time for a walk down to Hollyrood Palace and see the Scottish Parliament buildings, then check out the New Calton Burying Ground and walk up onto Calton Hill to see the Burns Monument and the Nelson Monument.  The Cemetery is really interesting. It dates from the time of Burke and Hare and their notorious killing spree in 1828 – grave robbing was so common that many of the graves had full cages around them and the ground has it’s own lookout tower.

Fast and Furious number 73 or whatever is at Edinburgh filming at the moment, so we had to fit in around various streets being shut for the movie people.

This is our last day in Scotland – tomorrow takes us back into England and land of the Xenophobes. Toby has to forget he is a Munro and start being a Seaman again!

Falkirk Wheel and Kelpies

We picked the Falkirk Wheel as the overnight stopover.  Our app told us that it was £10 a night without services and with a great view of the wheel.  In the end, it was actually priced at £15 for 24 hours. No great problem – parked at the top of the hill with a view of the landscape and the wheel was a million dollar view, never-mind £15!

We parked us and had a spot of lunch then down the hill to the wheel itself.  Very impressive both form an artistic, engineering and architectural point of view. We had the normal conversation that we always have when we see a system like this, for example Strépy-Thieu boat lifts: namely Archimedes.  Both the canal sections on the wheel weigh exactly the same regardless of what boat(s) are in them. Takes a little thinking about, but yep, it’s true. The wheel is so well balanced that it runs with a 2KW motor. Just a few quid a day to run it.  Pretty cool!

We went on the tourist boat trip – it is a 45 minute trip on the wheel and through the tunnel section at the top.

After the Wheel, we got the bikes down and cycles along the Forth and Clyde Canal canal along to the Kelpies.  It was a great 5 km cycle. Great to be back on the bikes again.

On the cycle ride back from the Kelpies, we stopped to help some cyclists in distress: Donald and Fiona were recently reborn to cycling after a couple of years gap and had managed to get a chain well and truly jammed in one of their bikes. Our tools were not perfect for what was needed but we managed to make do and between the four of us, got the bike running again.  In the process discovering that they were fellow motorhomers and had visited a few of the places that we have been over the last year. Donald and Fiona, we wish you all the best!

Mothership and a few beers for dinner.  Next morning, the parking ticket machine was not working.  The visitor centre validated it for us and when we told them we had stayed overnight in a camper it ended up a freebie – awesome!  Next stop is Edinburgh proper.

Blair Atholl & Pitlochry

It’s back through Grantown and further along the Spey, so we add a few distilleries to those we’ve already spotted: Grants, Aviemore & Dalwhinnie.

A quick visit to Blair Atholl, just to walk the town – it’s where Toby always used to go on holiday as a child, and then down the road to Pitlochry for the dam, salmon ladder and distillery.

It’s the wrong time of year to see any Salmon, but it was interesting to see the hydroelectric plant.  Pitlochry dates to the 1950’s. There are two 7.5 megawatt turbines that both seemed to be running. There was a wonderful hum as we walked over the dam.  There are quite a number of plants along the path of the river Tummel, so these 15 megawatt stations soon add up. Although obviously controversial at the time, the lakes behind the dams are picturesque and are good for fishing so they help the economy in a number of ways.

Aberlour

We are now on the whisky trail proper and as we wind our way along the Spey from Grantown to Aberlour, we pass distillery after distillery – it seems like every turning is to a distillery: Cragganmore, Tamdhu,   Knockando, Dalmunach, Dailuaine and finally Aberlour itself. 

Our stop for the night was intended to be a lovely campsite on the edge of Aberlour, but the campsite neglected to mention the height limited bridge just before the entrance to the campsite.  Seriously, they didn’t bother to note this anywhere on the website. Argh!

So we parked in town and then found a carpark down by the river that allows overnight parking.  So in the end, it worked out great – a freebie and a stay by the river, perfect.

No distillery tours were available at Aberlour, but we were allowed to wander around the outside of the distillery buildings which was a close second!

We also paid a visit to the Walker shortbread factory, where a few kilos of xmas presents were procured.  Plus some factory rejects for the mothership!

A big vat of chilli which will last a couple of days and TV rather than a movie in the van.  Tomorrow it’s back through Grantown on Spey and down to Blair Atholl and Pitlochry.

Culloden, Brodie and Grantown on Spey

From Inverness, it’s up to Culloden to remind ourselves of the Jacobite uprising or the ‘45. No problem with parking – there is a large visitors centre. It seems sort of fitting that we are here the same day as the SNP (assisted by labour and the rest of the opposition benches, not to mention a few soon-to-not-be Conservatives) sticks it to Johnson on No-Deal-Brexit. We walk out onto the battlefield for an hour or so – quite sobering.

From Culloden, a quick visit to Balloch were T grandparents used to live and then along to Brodie castle, their final resting place!  A tour of the castle (sorry, photos not allowed) and a visit to the Smith Memorial bench.

Time was getting on and we decided to just sit tight in the NTS car park and see if we were moved on.  Nope. It ended up a quiet (but rainy) night.

The next morning, we visit the Brodie Country Fare and top up on regional products.  From there, about 35km south to Grantown on Spey. Our neighbour in Horley moved here about fifteen years ago and we wanted to catch up – we have not seen her for ten years.

We got settled in the campsite – a lovely place called Grantown on Spey Caravan Park.  Becky came and picked us up after lunch and took us to see her house. She and her farmer husband Graham are just completing a self build of a wonderful house on the hills overlooking the Spey.   They are rightfully very proud of their place but it was hard not to be just as entranced by the view across the valley taking in the Spey. Back to Grantown and then Graham and Becky took us to a pub on a backstreet in the town that serves amazing pie and chips – the Craig Bar.  Beer, farming, politics and pies.  A great evening. We vowed not to leave it a decade before we next meet up!

Urquhart castle and Inverness

Urquhart castle on a Sunday didn’t work out.  Although there is a reasonable sized car park, it was almost full when we arrived.  The couple of available spaces would not accommodate MS2. Coaches get their own area, but jobsworth would not let us in even though the coach park was nearly empty.  So we had to give Urquhart a miss and carry on to Inverness. 

No drone flying permitted around Urquhart, but at a lay-by up the road we had a cheese and biscuits lunch and a brief flight of the Mavic.  It was short-lived though – Airmap suggested the airspace was fine, but it was only a couple of minutes after takeoff that the DJI app warned of an airspace issue, so the flight was curtailed.  We have a still of the mothership on the banks of Ness and that’s about it!

Our Inverness campsite is about 2 km outside the town behind a motorhome dealer.  It is expensive at £28 per night, but this seems to be the new normal for us. A good day exploring the town and a walk by the river in the afternoon. A trip to A&E for T due to ‘hurty-finger’.  We explored the Tomnahurich cemetery and walked the canal to the Inverness locks. Tourist trap of the castle viewing platform (although it was only a fiver) and a visit to the museum rounded off the day.

Fort William & Fort Augustus

A stop-off for lunch at Fort William and a quick lap of the town grabbing some shopping and supplies. We now have a Haggis on board so some of our nerves have calmed down.  We got to see Ben Nevis at about 2km away. Sadly the weather is not ideal for us to make an attempt today! Then it’s onward to Fort Augustus, where our campsite awaits.

The campsite is just a few hundred meters from the town, but as we have had a full day, it’s pretty much dinner, beer, qualifying highlights, movie, beer, brandy, snore, bed. The campsite is interesting, it’s a big oval with hard standing pitches around the edge and grass pitches in the middle. Plenty of manoeuvring space, which is a luxury so far in Scotland!  Nice one, Loch Ness Highland Resort! An expensive site, but we save a few Scottish pounds by not having electric.

In the morning, we have time for a quick view of the lock staircase and then it’s onwards.

Oban, Scotland

The campsite is about 5km outside Oban alongside the Sound of Kerrera. As we travelled towards the site from Oban town we were apprehensive because the road got narrower and narrower, but it was all fine, there were passing spaces every couple of hundred meters and there is nothing down the road except for the campsite and a few waterside businesses and private dwellings. The campsite is set in terraces up the side of the valley.  There are hardstanding pitches, grass pitches and large fields for groups. We helped Richard and Lorraine set up their awning and set up the bongo, then relaxed with quite a few beers.

The next day and it was a brief taxi ride  into Oban, and, obviously, a distillery tour.  Kyle was our guide and for the next hour was a brilliant orator, telling us not only the Oban distillery history, but fitting in a lot of Scottish history and language too! Our best distillery tour – and there have been a few.  The distillery is pretty much as old as the town itself and has been in the Diageo group since the day the company was formed. We found it interesting that they fit in the mammoth plants like the Caol Ila distillery and still keep the small distilleries like Oban alive. 

Our spiritual base for the day was the Oban Inn overlooking the harbour and ferry terminal. We managed a wander around the town and a walk up the steep hill to McCaigs Tower overlooking the town. 

Toby visited the ferry terminal for some pictures of ferries and we also insisted on a quality check of the Wetherspoons. Our ‘tea’ was cod and chips in the local ‘fashy’ and a taxi ride back to the campsite

Next day we said goodbye to Richard and Lorraine, who have gone back South because of commitments, whatever that means 😉 We have a reminder of them – they bought us a (very expensive) bottle of Oban Distillers Edition and we also have some of the running club camping gear to deliver back to them in a few days!  It seems they took the weather back with them, the fine weather has ended now and we have rain, rain and more rain. 

We repositioned the van to try and get some Internet and then spent the rest of the day looking at the loch and the rain through the windows and getting some planning done for the next part of our brief Scottish adventure.  A fantastic three days at Oban Caravan and Camping Park.

As we prepared to pack up (which for the mothership just means to remove the electric cable!) and type up this post, Facebook reminded us that one year ago we set off across the channel for the big trip *sniffle*

Duck Bay, Loch Lomond

Richard and Lorraine’s Bongo is faster and lighter than we are so, we took a look at the map and agreed to meet up on the shores of Loch Lomond rather than Richard and Lorraine be stuck behind us for a hundred km. Our arbitrary pin on the donkey was great – Duck Bay permits overnight stopping and we were literally on the edge of the loch, but nicely away from the road.  Our evening meal was at the Duck Bay Hotel and Restaurant and was an amazing meal. Great food and great company! Next day and we had time to get the kayak out for a brief paddle around and Richard even went for a swim. Brrrr. Then it’s off up the loch towards Oban.