Sunday, 24 April 2016

Highland 500 April 2016 day 5, 6 & 7

Day 5 Friday 22nd April

We took a walk on to the beautiful sandy beach this morning, Steve dipped his hand into the water, it was freezing. So no swimming today.

We moved on to the Smoo caves at Durness, the main cave and waterfall cave were open but theP1060163 guide didn’t start tours into the other caves which could only be accessed by boat until 10:30 . So instead we walked upP1060156 the many steps and out to the headland. The inlet from the sea to the caves was really sheltered, no wonder the Vikings found it to use as a safe haven and to repair their boats.

Driving on from the caves the scenery became more dramatic and we were glad we took others advice to drive the route anti-clockwise, half the drive south from Durness was on single track which was not a problem at all as the road was fairly wide and there were many passing places. The glimpses we got of the bays along the route were amazing golden sands which would not be out of place in a Mediteranian setting, except for the temperature, we even had a glorious sunny day. Just after Kylesku the route turned off right (west) to loop round to Lochinver. Narrow single track with many twisty bends and steep hairpins. At one point we met a long “A” class motor home followed by a smaller “C” class, a very tight passing. When we reached the top of the hill where we had first spotted them there was loads of room, if they had hooted to beckon us to come on! anyway the route was challenging but completely doable in a wide “A” class like ours and great fun to drive.

While reading various travel books Judy had marked Achmelvich as having the highest water falls so when we saw the turning off to the right we took it, a sign said “Not suitable for Caravans or Coaches” so we thought it should be ok for us. She must have marked the wrong place because there were no water falls but there was the most glorious beach yet, with not golden sands but pure white silver sand so fine it was almost dust. The road was a dead end with just the beach, a youth hostel and a camp site. On our way out we ran in to the school bus, quite a big vehicle to be using the road, he reversed back a bit and we were able to just get past.

We didn’t stop at Lochinver but were told later that it has a fantastic pie shop, we were heading for a car park near Inchnadamph where we hoped we could park for the night so as to walk up to the “Bone Caves”, ice age caves where they had found Polar Bear remains and evidence of Stone Age occupation. The car park was there level and no “No Overnight Parking” signs so we settled down for the night.

Some guys came walking down the path to a Transit van in the car park and Judy got chatting and it turned out they were Archeologists searching for new caves.

132 km today N58.11556 W4.96671

Day 5 Saturday 23rd April

We woke to rain on the roof which turned to sleet then snow so we sat and read for a bit till about P106023611:30 when the sun came out so we decided to try the hike up to theP1060229 caves. But as a precaution we phoned our son Nik to tell him we were heading up to the caves and would phone again when we returned. We felt quite safe as a Mountain Rescue van had parked about an hour earlier and three people had set off walking without gear so probably a social walk rather than a rescue. The 3km hike to the caves was a bit challenging as we had not been walking for some months but worth it to see the caves. Just a look with our high power torch though, because a full explore would have needed a boiler suit, possibly ropes and quite a bit of crawling through small spaces.

Back at the van and preparing to leave and the Transit appeared again with the Archeologists so we had a good chat with them about the caves.

We headed off south towards Ullapool where we hoped to fill up with LPG and if possible some water as we thought we must be getting low but the tank gauge had stopped working yesterday.

Unfortunately the MOT station with an LPG pump was closed but we filled up with fuel farther along the road but could not get to use their tap as it was next to the car wash which was in use.

The road from Ullapool to Gairloch was pretty but a lot of forest with the occasional glimpse of another fantastic beach. Our wild camping database was showing lots of roadside places toP1060282 overnight but we suddenly spotted an off road picnic spot so pulled off and found it went way off road to the shore of Loch Maree where there was good flat parking with a few motor homes and tents already there. There were also very clean toilets with mains water so we could get some to tide us over.

141 km today N57.68887, W45.54428

Day 6 Sunday 24th April

We woke to a fine morning but decided to have a slow day so watched the London Marathon on P1060255P1060267TV, filled up with a bit more water then had a really nice challenging hike along the lake shore for three hours then a few chores in the van before continuing our trip tomorrow.



No travel today same coordinates.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Highland 500 April 2016 day 3 & 4

Day 3 Wednesday 20th April

We left our nice parking spot at Loch Fleet for a short drive along to John O’Groats stopping for a20160420_125022 photo of Dunrobin Castle on the way. The iconic John O’ Groats had been transformed since the last time we visited about 5 years ago when it was a dreary run-down place. The council had erected a signpost for photographs, and the run down hotel had been transformed. Unfortunately the lady at the Tourist Information knew nothing about the HL500 and had no maps and unfortunately we find out later, failed to point out the nearby sea stacks which we should have visited.

After lunch and collecting emails from a good Fon WiFi  network nearby we drove just a few miles20160420_175334P1060026 to Dunnet Head which is the most northerly point of mainland Britain where we hoped to get a good sunset and possibly a sight of the Northern Lights, although the cloud cover didn’t bode well for either.P1060017 We did a bit of bird watching, laughing at the pour things trying to land on their nests but being lifted by the up draught at the cliff face. It was bitterly cold with total cloud cover but the UV is really high as you can see from my photochromic glasses which are completely black.
Only 48km travelled today.    N58.67062, W4.67684


Day 4 Thursday 21st April

A really nice night by the lighthouse at Dunnet Head with the wind rocking us to sleep, we didn’t stay up till 2am just in case the Northern Lights decided to appear so a holiday in Iceland is probably on the cards, don’t think we can drive though!

We drove along the coast road to Thurso and looked for the Tourist Information where we watched a very interesting film about the Western Highlands and learned about the hand cut flag stones which were marking out the boundaries of many of the fields.

After Thurso the scenery started to change and become more dramatic and long sweeping beaches and azure blue seas started to appear which could have easily been round the Mediterranean except for the temperature!

A few miles later after we passed Doonray power station we turned off towards Strathy point parked and  had a nice walk for a few miles to the lighthouse and back, bracing I think is the polite description. It’s alright for the Scots who seem to live in shirt sleeves in all weathers, but when you live in the South of France, Bracing weather takes a little getting used to. but at least the sun is shining most of the time.P1060092

As we passed from Caithness into Sutherland the buildings were fewer and the countryside changed slightly to more rolling hills but with a backdrop of mountains. Beautiful views of Loch all the way, before our stop for the night just before the Smoo Caves which we will walk to  tomorrow.P1060129

Our parking for the night is beside a small but stunning bay with a clean golden sandy beach. Not swimming weather for us though!

147 km today   N58.54843, W4.67684

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

April 2016 UK Trip

Monday 4th April.

We left Najac finally after a hurried packing spree trying to think what we needed after the unavoidable delay as a result of the sad death of Steve's  brother Fred. We intended to leave Sunday evening but managed Monday lunch time instead.

The trip was good trying the western route via Clement Ferand and left of Paris. We have been going via Paris for years but in recent years have had very bad traffic jams even in the middle of the night.We decided to park for the night before the ferry, at City Europe as the ferry car park was probably going to be a no-go area with the new security and the reality was what we had expected.with massive fences from a few miles out of the  docks, We had a quiet night after a bit of shopping at City Europe and parked with a few other motorhomes. We filled up with diesel and emptied our waste tank at the ultra-modern fuel station there, before heading for the ferry.

Steve had arranged to pickup some specialist kit for the Motorhome satellite system at Johns Cross so we arrived at our son’s house near Eastbourne at midday and got a great welcome from two really excited granddaughters then had a few great days with Kerry & Cheryl’s and the girls. Steve also managed to get the satellite internet working with the new control box.

We then headed along the coast to stay with Steve's cousin and  meet up with a few old friends before turning northwards towards Peterborough. We spent he night before the show with more friends who had moved from Kent to near Peterborough then headed for the show,

The weekend was very wet and very, very muddy but all the traders we talked to had a good weekend trade and we had a great time wandering around and buying “stuff” and meeting with fellow motor homers. A strange pastime only understandable to the initiated.

Monday 18th April 1st day of HL500

After filling up and emptying down we left the show ground at about 11am and managed to get off the wet grass without being towed which was a bonus and had a really great run doing 608 km to arrive at Loch Lomond at 20:40 and parked up beside the Loch for supper and a catch-up with emails and this blog. The new bits for the satellite system have worked well and we now have satellite TV and simultaneous satellite internet wherever we are, so no more searching for a rare open Wi-Fi or using a different mobile sim  for each country. Expensive but the OldAgeTravellers are now spending their kids inheritance. Recent events have showed us just how fragile life at our age now is.

Tomorrow we head for Inverness to start the Highlands 500 which is a 500 mile route round the far north west of Scotland reputed to be one of the top 10 drives in the world. We have done the Pacific Highway and the bear Tooth Pass in the USA and were very underwhelmed but are expecting much more of Scotland.


Parked beside Loch Lomond First night in Scotland for Highland 500 tour

Tuesday 19th Day 2

We left Loch Lomond towards Inverness, passing through Fort William and made a stop at the P1050949Memorial to the British Commandos who trained for their WW2 missions in sight of Ben Nevis.

Travelling along the northern shore of Loch Ness with its deep dark waters we finally arrived at Inverness where we attempted to find some LPG to top up so as to ensure` we had heating during our trip. But the places in our database were no longer there so we headed north towards Wick to another place in the database but they were waiting for a new pump to be installed. On to the next place en-route and success, we managed to fill up so we should be ok for another ten days. As we headed on the snow capped mountains ahead of us suggested that we may be needing the heating.

We continued driving for about an hour till we found a good spot to stop for the night, just off theP1050986 A9 beside Loch Fleet.

For those that haven’t followed our escapades before, we travel with a computer on the dash, running a live map controlled by a GPS receiver and tracking our every movement on the map. The map also has thousands of “Points of interest” POI’s which show on the map as we travel. Some of which are Wild Camping Spots so with only a very minor detour we  can find a pleasant place to stop. We also have poi collections for Supermarket Fuel Stations, Weatherspoon's restaurants, Public water taps and Toilets and many many more which we are` adding to all the time. This map also has a very accurate speedo which can show KPH or MPH.