Our chosen campsite (that T has stayed at before) was full, so it’s a 8km drive out of town to a small campsite in Ancroft. Despite the Scottish sounding name, Berwick Upon Tweed is definitely in England. In fact, it’s 6km south of the border.
It’s a great hilltop town – it still has Elizabethan town walls, a great viaduct across the Tweed (and a yeuchy concrete bridge too).
We arrived at the backup campsite late afternoon on Friday and the weather this side of the border is amazing – bright sunshine. So we broke out shorts and beers for the rest of the evening.
The following morning and it was blowing a hooley. We had a failed bus attempt, then a failed Uber attempt and then finally a local cab company that got us from the campsite into the town.
The cab driver told us that it was the annual Honda Goldwing meetup that day, so it would have been rude not to check it out!
We checked out the remains of the castle and then did a lap of the city walls and ramparts. We took in the Honda meetup and had an absolutely fab hog roast roll for lunch. If you came to the going away party last year, you will already know how much we like a hog roast!
After the city walls we mooched around the town for an hour or so. Lots of charity shops is a good summary of the town. It was a heritage day, so lots of normally closed buildings were open including the old gaol in the top of the town hall. Then we grabbed a bus back to the campsite and did a little planning for the three days trip back to Horley *sniff sniff*.
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.
A great stop-off and only a couple of hundred km from the channel now and we visited the Strépy-Thieu boat lift. Doesn’t sound that exciting, right? Wrong! This enormous twin lift, completed in the 1980’s raises huge canal boats (and we are talking up to 100 m long and 12 m wide) 70 meters between the upper and lower canals. For a decade or so it held the world record for the highest boat lift. It’s bloody huge.
We’ve seen many of the big canal boats around europe – the standard dates back to the 1950s when a new 1350 ton standard was devised. It’s extended from there right up to 280 m long by 35 m wide. So if you ever wondered why Europe can still make canals commercially viable and in the UK it’s cheaper to move boats by road, never mind bulk goods, there’s your answer: infrastructure investment and scale!
The lift replaced a series of four lifts built in the 1900’s. The old lifts are still in situ and are a UNESCO world heritage site.
Anyway, it was a wonderful 25 km cycle around the old and new lifts. Parking here is pretty idyllic – it’s free as in speech and beer and is on the banks of the canal. It would have been an awesome drone shot of the mothership, the canal and the lift, but in Belgium, unless you have taken and exam and have a registered drone, you have a 10 m height limit and must be over private ground. So it was not to be…