Grange-over-Sands, a South Lakes Gem

Night shifts were ahead and with a few days off after it seemed silly to not take advantage of them doesn’t it, even if that means only grabbing a few hours sleep so our batteries doesn’t run totally flat once we get there.

So, decision was made and we booked a 3 night stop at Meathop Fell C&M site with the plan in mind of once Pod was set up, we’d relax, feet up and nod off if needed, at least we’d be away in Pod.

We were just under 1 ½ hours away from the site so those precious few hours sleep were grabbed before we set off. Pod was collected from storage and we arrived at the site just before 2.

Once booked in, with site map in hand we began the trawl of the site looking for a pitch which allowed an awning. This proved to be harder than we expected as there seemed to be far fewer awning pitches and of those left they appeared to be mainly all grass. So much so, we decided to go awningless and as the weather wasn’t the best this didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Within an hour we were fully set up, the pup tent was sited near the door and stuffed full with our outdoor gear, slow cooker and anything else we didn’t want to clutter Pod with.

That done, we went for a stroll round the site and checked out the facilities on site. These had been updated and were of the standard Caravan &Motorhome type, spotlessly clean and well maintain, grounds too were well cared for, although quite a few of the pitches were at a jaunty angle and may require blocks for levelling.

During this we caught up with one of the site wardens and queried the low number of awning pitches, we were informed that due to the increase in 8ft wide ‘vans, plus large awnings the pitches no longer met regulation distances and all the pitches had to be re-measured and allocated accordingly, this ultimately resulted in less pitches for awnings. The reasoning was understandable but not best and it looks like some major restructuring on sites may be necessary if they are to accommodate big ‘vans and health/safety regs.

Our tour of the site done we headed back to Pod for tea and biscuits, which was subsequently followed by a well deserved afternoon snooze. To be honest, the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chilling in Pod, all cosy, listening to the radio and enjoying the heating which kicked in every now and then whilst it was blowing an absolute hooley outside.

Woke the following morning feeling refreshed and body clocks now felt they were the right side of wrong, the weather was still a bit hit and miss but we made the decision to drive into Grange-over-Sands and see what was on offer.

The distance from the site to GoS was walkable but the rain at times became torrential and there wouldn’t of been much fun in doing any sight seeing soaked through. Parking was £3.20 for 3 hours and if need be we could return to top it up.

First stop was the legendary pie shop ‘Higginsons of Grange’, where we went slightly mad. You should never visit any food stall hungry, needless to say we came away with a wonderful selection; pork, apple and black pudding, beef pie, Polish sausage, cheese and onion pasty, egg custard and a mint slice.

Once devoured, the rain seemed to clear and a stroll along the Promanade seemed in order, it was also possibly a vain and guilty attempt to wear off some of our lunchtime delights.

A light breeze was blowing in from the coast and as we walked along we could see from Arnside on our left to Morecambe on our far right side. The Prom was a spotlessly clean wide walkway, walled with an amazing array of colourful flowers one side and the beach and its grassy meadow the other. It seemed the perfect place for those who fancied a constitutional walk, cycle or run.

On reaching Holme Island we turned and began our walk back up the Prom. As we turned the loud noise of rushing water made us look out to over the estuary and we were amazed to see the sea racing inwards and along the shoreline. It looked dark and fierce as it travelled along with some speed, so much so the seagulls who were trying to out run it had no choice to be take off and fly to safety.

Within 10 metres the stretch of sand between the mainland and the Island had totally gone and again looked as serene as when we’d set off. If nothing else it made us fully understand why this particular coastline was known to be very treacherous with mud flats and quicksand.

After a play on the outside gym we eventually reached the Lido. A beautiful outdoor swimming pool build in 1932 and unused since 1993, in its day it looked incredible and we could only hope that funding was obtained to bring this amazing Grade II listed building back to full life again, even better if they managed to keep some of its original features.

Our stroll continued along the Prom and at its end we reached the kids play area, all well maintained, no litter or graffiti to be seen.

On our return walk the obligatory ice cream was bought and we ventured up onto the main road and headed in the direction of the park. Again, a beautifully maintained area with a variety of birdlife and their wooden lake houses dotted all over, plus a central fountain overlooked by the villages Cenotaph.

Once out of the park we crossed the road at the roundabout and began our walk back up the main road. The Poetry Post caught our eye, here we found a beautiful poem about the seasons hung on a small notice board and presumed it was changed on a regular basis, we thought this was a brilliant little bit of local community spirit and something that made GoS very special.

Within a short distance we found something else that continued in this vain, the community orchard, grown for those that live in GoS and its visitors. A large selection of dessert and cooking apples were growing in abundance from a wonderful variety trees. Each tree was named with its variety and needless to say we had to take a few dessert ones for our after dinner snack.

We eventually headed back to the car and drove the short distance to the site, think we can safely say GoS had become a very special place to us, unique in the fact it had its own charm and in someways seemed unaffected by the greater outside world.

Back at Pod dinner was cooked whilst torrential rain drummed down with some force on the roof. Have to say, we still haven’t gotten used to the space, heating and large cooking area, so at the moment making meals are an absolute pleasure.

It rained through the night and we slept so well we weren’t in a rush to leave our cosy bed.

Eventually we dragged ourselves up and a fry up breakfast was had whilst we made plans for the day, Sizergh seemed like a good idea so off we set with our National Trust cards.

Once through the doors we took our time wandering from room to room where we discovered the huge wood panelled bedroom with a hidden water closet and the extravagant banquet hall with its overhead balcony.

We eventually worked our way out to the grounds and toured the gardens, passing the beautiful lake full of lilies with the odd dragonfly passing over.

Next we headed to Lakeland Motor Museum. £8.50 for an adult to get in but worth every penny, so many different vehicles and all with a story to tell.

We were taken through a time tunnel and we both had special memories of the cars on display, plus a few of the very small ones.

For one of us it was the trusty Triumph, full of childhood memories and day trips away.

We were inevitably drawn to the small things such as the Peel 350 and would love to still be able to see them on the roads.

The TVR 7 litre V12 even ventured out with its owner from time to time.

From here we walked over to the Bluebird Exhibition and on the way we came across a 1.5 ton Burlington Langdale Caravan and managed to peek through its leaded windows for a shot of the inside, looked great inside and even had a small dinette.

The Campbell Bluebird Exhibition was as moving as ever, his incredible story told from floor to ceiling with a few replicas on display too.

Time came to head back to Pod, our last evening was spent pottering around Pod and chatting to the odd visitor who took great interest in our Specialised front cover. We even had the odd person approach us with a concerned look on their faces and questioned us about our little pup tent, they seemed to have come to the conclusion we were keeping a dog in it. Finding this a little shocking but amusing we corrected them on this, if we did have the pleasure of any four legged companion we can confirm it would undoubtedly be the centre of attention and probably our bed, never outside in a diddy pup tent.

Morning arrived and the sun made a timely appearance which allowed us to pack up and remain dry whilst doing so. Once done we were back on the road again, but we can definitely say we’ll be back as we’d found another short distance bolt hole, ideal for a weekend or midweek escape.

Posted in Accessories, Architecture, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Lake District, Lakes, Mountains, national trust, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking, woodland | Leave a comment

Trains, Caravans and Automobiles in Bury

Love a midweek break and to cut down on travelling time one not too far from home, so Burrs Country Park C&M site was perfect for us. Plus, there’s a couple of additions to this break too. First, and most importantly, Mr.Bs birthday and the other being we had train tickets for the Flying Scotsman which would be passing by the site over the next few days on the East Lancs Railway. Tickets also allowed us all day travel on the other trains too, so it couldn’t get any better.

As the site was only 40 minutes away we collected Pod from storage and were soon on the M60. We rolled into the site just before 2pm and expected it to be busy with the Flying Scotsman visiting but we were told this wasn’t the case. Also, we were given the option of pointing into, or out of our chosen pitch.

Through the gate we went and managed to find one that suited, we pitched nose outwards and this gave us a bird’s eye view of the railway track which was no more than 20m away. Think we have our set up sussed now so it didn’t take us long to set up, rain was expected over the next few days so the small canopy and pup tent went up too.

Darker nights seem to be crawling in so we hunkered down inside Pod instead of taking the short walk to the local pub. Think we can safely say we’re slightly obsessed with Pod, she’s so cosy, with the heating kicking in every now and then and the soft warm lighting from the reading lights covering the sofa, we couldn’t have wished to be anywhere else. Perfect for looking at the timetable for the steam trains over the next few days and to check out the Transport Museums opening times.

Woke with the sunlight seeping through the skylight and as we peeped out from under the blind on the big front window we were met with a blue sky and no sign of clouds on the horizon.

A quick check of the time showed we didn’t have long before the Flying Scotsman came steaming by, so up we got, demolished breakfast and took our position outside Pod with camera in hand in order to catch the moment.

The train was due to leave Bury at 9.05am so a few minutes after its departure the Flying Scotsman was heard tooting its way round the corner, she eventually appeared, followed by a huge plume of white smoke trailing along the sky line. As she glided past us the many people who had crawled out of their ‘van beds early to greet her were waving vigorously, this went on in both directions and all done with lots of laughter, smiles and cameras of every shape and size clicking.

She soon disappeared round the corner and we had just over 1 ½ hrs to go before she came back. In the meantime we were treated to another steam train ‘Witherslack Hall’ and a diesel train, the latter was a trusty old looking tug of a machine which growled its way along as it left the small station at Burrs. All brilliant to see and we thought lots of fun.

Transport seemed to be the thing on this trip as we decided to go to Bury’s Transport Museum, it would also give us the opportunity to check out the parking situation for our tickets on the Flying Scotsman the following day.

There were a couple of car parks, we opted for the one next to the train station, this was a maximum of £5.00 and covered anything over 3 hours. The car park across the road, nearest the Museum was more at £10.00 for anything over 3 hours, no brainier really, as long as we could get a spot.

From the outside you wouldn’t think the Transport Museum would be anything special but it was and we loved every minute of it. Entry was free but a worthy donation was sought and once you passed the entry point you entered a huge warehouse holding numerous buses, trams and cars.

Ground floor held all the transport and along either side were platforms from where you could look down on them or indulge yourself in dressing up, playing various engineering games, or watch a very informative short film about bygone times within the locomotion industry.

We’d definitely recommend it, everything was immaculate, there’s a lift between levels should it be needed and the staff were very informative and helpful.

Back at Pod we spend the rest of the afternoon watching the trains trundle up and down the track, all the waving from both sides was done automatically. It was great to see lots of smiling, happy faces as they rolled past the front of Pod, without hesitation everybody stopped what they were doIng and joined in the frantic waving.

Thursday arrived and it was our turn to do the waving from the train and hopefully catch a picture of Pod too. Our tickets were for the 9.05am train so we were up and out by 8am. Early you might think but we had no idea what the traffic and parking would be like at that time in the morning. We needn’t have worried, we arrived 20 minutes later and this gave us the opportunity to have a good mooch along the platforms. No sign of the Flying Scotsman so we waited with baited breath for the sound of her steam engine and for her to appear from either directions of the track.

We heard her ‘toot-toot’ first, then once we knew which direction she was coming from we scanned the rail lines and caught a glimpse of a white plume of steam rising into the sky a short distance up the track. The highly identifiable sound of steam motion got louder as she slowly huffed and chuffed up the track to the platform. Awesome sight to see and goodness knows how long it had taken to get her up to temperature.

Once hooked up to the train she idled for a short while as the steam surrounded her reminding many of us of childhood memories and giving that feeling of a time gone by.

With tickets in hand we waited patiently for the passenger doors to open and as soon as we saw other members of the public heading for the carriage doors we entered our carriage and found our seats.

The carriages looked worn but well maintained, in keeping with the era and feel of a steam train. Large wooden sliding doors and windows, plus springy red velour high backed seating with metal luggage racks above.

You could almost image the ghostly images of those who’d travelled before us, ladies dressed up in their Sunday best and the gentleman with their hats, curled moustaches’ and thick woollen coats, all full of excitement for possibly their once a year trip out.

With a ‘toot’ off the Flying Scotsman we felt the shunt of the engine as she began to pull all 8 carriages, we were soon in motion with her steam flowing overhead. Within 10 minutes of setting off we passed the Burrs caravan site to see Pod looking fabulous on her pitch and we couldn’t resist waving at all and sundry.

This continued at all the level crossings, bridges and hedgerows and it was brilliant to see the enjoyment people we getting from both inside and outside the Scotsman. Without any hesitation people of all ages responded, there seems to be something about a steam train, guess for many it’s memories and for others films such as the Railway Children and Harry Potter.

Once we reached Rawtenstall the Scotsman changed ends and within 15 minutes we were on our return trip to Bury. As the carriage was more or less empty we swapped sides for a different view, we sat back and enjoyed the wonderful rhythmic role along the railway track through the open countryside. Kind of wished it could of continued for just a little longer.

Once back at Bury station we hunted down the timetable and discovered the smaller steam train, Witherslack Hall was due in within the hour and would be going to and from Heywood. Just enough time to grab an egg and bacon barm from ‘Trackside’ the platforms café. The decorations and old signs they had on display inside made for some interesting reading too.

Witherslack Hall arrived on time and as it rolled in we managed to spot one of the carriages consisted of separate seating compartments with a corridor running along the entire length. We’re sure they have a specific name, but no amount of trawling the internet as enlightened us, but hope you know what we mean.

Anyway, on we got and walked through two carriages with fingers crossed that we would find an empty compartment, thankfully we did and once in we slid the door closed and entered our own little Harry Potter world. You have to have seen the films to understand.

On leaving the station this time we were on a slight incline and Witherslack Hall chugged away with all her heart, steam bursting from the top with every rotation of her wheels. She eventually levelled out and took us on a leisurely ride to Heywood and back, all done within 45 minutes but still brilliant.

Back at Bury lunch time was beckoning so we walked the short distance into the centre of Bury to find Racconto Lounge who dished up a perfectly delicious burger for one and toasted panini for the other.

Friday arrived, it might have been time to head home but not before we had the chance to celebrate Mr.Bs birthday with a scrummy steak fry-up and watch the Flying Scotsman for the last time.

We’d had a great time and it just goes to show, you don’t really need to far from your own doorstep to discover something new.

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Anglesey rediscovered

Time has finally arrived for out next adventure and to Xplore (excuse the pun) Anglesey.  Been many times in the past but we believe there’s always something or somewhere new to discover.

Pod was collected the night before from storage and hooked up to the mains on the drive, thrice locked too and blocked in by one of our cars.  This baby wasn’t going anywhere.

Following morning, fridge was loaded and wardrobe stacked with clothing, didn’t take long before we were on the road and on our way to Penrhos Caravan and Motorhome Club site.

Sun was shining as we hit the motorway and we eventually joined the stop/start traffic along the A55.  Our expected arrival time disappeared, along with the sunshine which had now turned to dark clouds, threatening rain.

But no matter we eventually arrived, an hour later than planned and once a pitch was found on the quite side of the site we soon had the kettle on, butties made and the chance to catch our breath before we set off out the door to meet family for an evening catch up.  We’d also use the opportunity to invite them to a tour of Pod, had to be done, didn’t it.

Rain had by now made a proper appearance and once back at Pod we settled in with big grins on our faces as the rain bounced off the roof with some force. We didn’t mind one bit though, just loved that fab sound of rain on the roof, taking us back to being kids again and for one of us memories of granddads caravan in Rhyll; gas lights, only the radio to listen to, cold brick showers, earwigs.. ah .. memories.

Sites have moved on a lot since then though, and this was no different.  Caravan and Motorhome facilities have a standard layout and these were spotlessly clean and well maintained, as expected.

The site itself has two areas, one large main area facing the toilet block and a smaller section, sited behind the office and shop.  We’d opted for the smaller section which the wardens had stated was usually quiet, with less comings and goings.

Rained through the night and woke to a real mixed bag, heavy, dark cloud and rain with gusts one minute and blue skies with the odd white fluffy cloud the next. We had planned to do a fair bit of walking but it looked like this might have to go on hold today, we don’t mind being caught in it one out, but to head out into it seemed a bit fool hardy, even though we had the gear to cope.

So, a leisurely breakfast was had at the dinette with our radio playing in the background, still grinning of course because at this particular moment the rain had stopped, the sun was above and we had the stable door in use with a light breeze blowing through.

Breakfast out of the way we awaited the arrival of family, 6 were expected and with us 2 it was going to be very cosy.  We thought it was doable, as they arrived and slowly poured in through the door, they were given a highlighted guided tour of Pod, each in turn had a good mooch about and eventually found a seat to park bottoms on, including the toilet.

Lunch time was calling, after much debate we headed into Benllech and headed for The Coast Restaurant, just off the main road running through the centre.  Bit hard to spot from the outside as the fish and chip shop runs along the ground floor and the restaurant is accessed through a side door, upstairs.   For those less able there’s a lift in the lobby.

The owner welcomed us through the door with open arms and a big grin, then into a small open planned dining area fitted out with a modern, tasteful décor which looked out over the bay.  Free wifi was also on offer and this was soon snapped up by all those with phones, including us.

Tables were pushed together and food was ordered.  Great sized portions followed and ranged from burgers to breaded mushrooms, the big slices of meat pie served with separate jug of gravy were delicious and we’d definitely recommend.

Thoroughly stuffed we said our goodbyes as the family headed back home across the Menai Straights and we took an evening stroll through Benllech and down onto the spotless, plastic free beach before heading back to Pod for a hot chocolate and bed.

Another rainy day seemed to be ahead, so out came google with ‘things to do’, plus, many of our followers also provided good indoor options.  One of those being Plas Newydd House and Gardens and as we were National Trust members this seemed ideal.

Half an hour drive brought us to the small car park and once we flashed our membership cards we were through the office and into the grounds of the house.  The path wound down towards the house and we passed the local beekeeping display, very interesting to see and to find out that the hive can actually live for many years and the keepers on Anglesey favour a locally adapted Welsh Black Honey Bee.

Into the house we went and wandered from room to room, the house felt lived in and there was no better example of this than the library.  Personal belongings were scattered amongst half read books and worn paper articles. Just as the late 7th Marquess had left it in.

From here we moved to what was the dining room, on display the 58ft long mural by the famous artist Whistler stretched the length of the wall.  With incredible detail and the use of his imagination he created a wonderful painting, especially with Whistler himself in the background portrayed as a gardener.

The rain was hit and miss but we decided to venture outside and into the gardens.  Once on the lawn and down to the wall that runs along the water’s edge, our eyes took us down the Straits towards the bridges and the Marques of Anglesey’s Column.

On a clear day we expect you would have been able to see the Snowdonia Park and Snowdon, but not today.

We turned back towards the house and walked up to the Italian terraced garden, beautiful lawned area with colourful flower beds either side.  The lawn was in such good condition and we were surprised the public were allowed access, no dogs though, for obvious reasons.

As we were in Llanfairpwll we had to find its famous train station, easy enough to do as only a 20 minute drive.  Busy place as there’s a huge touristy shop at the same location, but there’s parking and we just happened to time it right for a spot tucked away in a corner.

First off we went onto the train platform, to our surprise it wasn’t busy and the next train to Manchester would be through soon so the obligatory picture was snapped. You can see the name on the board and its translation is ‘St. Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave’.  Try saying either of them in one breath !

Next, we went for a mooch in the shop, huge displays of everything Welsh or otherwise, some lovely stuff covering all price ranges but we managed to escape without doing too much damage.

As we were doing well with time and rain seemed to be holding off, all be it for a bit of drizzle every now and then, we decided to drive into Beaumaris for a spot of lunch.

Plenty of parking, especially on the sea front and for £4.00 we could stay all day.  Lots to see but first food and we opted for a little Italian ‘Tredici’s’, the Restaurant was upstairs and on the ground floor we had Tredici Butchers and Deli, with fabulous pies, salads and local goods on offer.  Pizza for one and a salad for the other, absolutely delicious and if we’d planned it better we’d of stayed for puds.

What to do next we thought, we looked at what was on offer and decided to hunt down Beaumaris Gaol.  After following the street signs we finally located it off the main drag.  Very unassuming from the front, but in we went and paid £5.55 ea for the privilege.

Sadly, no photos were allowed and once we passed muster with the staff we entered the ground floor corridor of the gaol.

Many of the cells were in very good condition and depicted how prisoners lived, outside many hung name boards providing details of the prisoner and the offence committed, each cell had a hammock and surprisingly a toilet, wash basin and a window to the outside. In its time it had housed both male and female prisoners and only 2 men were sentence to death and hung.

If you wander outside to the small courtyard you’ll see the treadmill which used to manned by the prisoners 10hrs a day, each slot took 2 men and each took turns on a 10 minute rota.  Excruciating work but they must have had buns of steel by the end.  During the 2 world wars the prison was used to house prisoners of war and its final role was as a police station until they moved to a new building in 1952.

A very eerie place and its occupants stories were told in detail, it’s well worth a visit, on a rainy day or otherwise.

Once back out in the fresh air we headed for the pier, ice creams were bough and we were told to watch out for the Seagulls, legendary apparently and didn’t mind helping themselves, even if not invited.

Plenty of people were pottering around and more than a few were lined up along the side with buckets of water at their feet and bodies, small and tall, were leant over in precarious positions doing their best to snaffle a crab or two.  Seagulls were more interest in this and weren’t averse to dive bombing in attempts to steal the prize dangling from crabbing lines.

Back to the car we went and then to Pod, it’s just lovely to drive onto the site, round the corner and to be confronted by little Pod waiting.  She did look very small and cosy amongst the other beasts.

Our last day and we were heading to the beach come what may.  The weather was being a pain, but it promised to clear, so we went kitted out with everything and a basic packed lunch.

The satnav took us on a tour of inner Anglesey and we eventually popped out on the south coast, near Newborough.  From Google Earth we decided to find the LLyn Parc Mawr, Nature Reserve and Forest, park up and walk through the woodland to the beach, that way we covered a bit of everything, this was easy enough to find and parking was free.

Once we crossed the main road we discovered the path.  It was a wide, gravel covered path and easy to follow, perfect for a bike ride we thought and you’d certainly cover the ground quicker.

The walk to the beach took just over an hour, we decided to take a trail off the main route and wound our way along a narrow grassed path that took us through the forest and under extremely tall pine trees which loomed overhead providing some much needed shade. We seemed to have the place to ourselves and the stillness enveloped us until we came into earshot of the sea.

Within 100m or so we broke through the treeline and found ourselves with a sneaky view through the sand dunes to the beach, needless to say we quickened our pace until we broke through the dunes and found ourselves on Llanddwyn beach.

We just so happened find ourselves at an upturned wreck of a small wooden boat and it seemed the perfect place for lunch whilst we took in the huge expanse of soft golden sand.

From here we could see Llanddwyn Island, once lunch was out of the way rucksacks were put back on and we set off along the rock line towards it. Now, this is an Island surround by sea, so obviously we had to be weary of the tide.  We were in danger of being cut off from the mainland by a 200m stretch of water which ran on 6 1/2 hr cycles so we were very mindful of the time.

Llanddwyn Island certainly had a lot going for it, a beautiful shell laden footpath circled the island and further onto it we discovered the ruins of St. Dwynwen’s Church, who is the Patron Saint of Lovers.

Next we passed a stone Celtic Cross set in place to remember those who’d walked the path before us and in the distance we could see a huge cross set in place by Queen Victoria and beyond that we could see the two light houses.

As we circled back round we passed the immaculate small white brick Pilot’s Cottages, a huge cannon placed nearby had been used in times gone by to call men forward for the lifeboat to be manned.

We were truly taken back by the island, a very peaceful place and still mindful of the tide we decided to head back to the mainland and our 1hr walk back, but not before two seals basking in the afternoon sun caught our eye.

We took a slightly different route back to the car and stuck to the main gravel path, along here we passed horses with their riders, families of cyclists and runners doing their best to complete whatever route they had set themselves. When back at the car we discovered we’d covered 14km so we hadn’t been too shoddy today either.

For our last night on Anglesey the slow cooker came out, whilst it was doing its thing we reviewed our trip of Anglesey and decided we loved discovering its history and folklore, and when we do return we’ll venture more to the south and west coast, as there was a huge amount we hadn’t seen and we’re always very happy to Xplore.

Posted in Abbey, Accessories, anglesey, Architecture, Beaches, Canals, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Coast, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Lakes, Mountains, national trust, Photography, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Walking, Waterways, woodland | Leave a comment

Holiday your way in a First Choice Bailey Phoenix

This little adventure started for us slap bang in the middle of our circular tour of Scotland taking in the NC500.

We were on holiday, yes, but we can’t help keeping up to date with everything via WWW and one of these was Twitter.

Casually working our way through the feed our eyes clocked a message in the inbox and once opened we were pleasantly surprised to see an invite from Bailey Caravans to the launch of their new Phoenix range, only condition being there was an embargo in place until the actual launch date.

Of course we agreed, neither of us could resist having a first look at any caravan, never mind a brand spanking new range. So emails were exchanged and a few days later the invitation arrived through the post giving the location of Stanton House in Swindon and the date of Friday 20th July with an embargo in place until midday.

Countdown started and research into the location began. As it was 165 miles away and with traffic it was likely to take longer than the 3 hours promised by google maps, we thought it would be best to make a bit of a trip out of it and book a hotel in the area.

Stanton House then went into a search engine and low and behold we discovered it was also a hotel, perfect, couldn’t think of anything better, drive down the afternoon before, leisurely evening and be all refreshed for the following day, so a room was booked.

The day arrived and off we went, traffic was as expected and we arrived mid afternoon. Booked in and as a little treat to ourselves we booked the ‘Cotswold’. Huge room within which there was a four poster bed, wardrobes and dinning table, very plush with wonderful views out over the grounds and would you believe it the 7 Phoenix caravans we were invited to see.

Bags were dumped and a camera was grabbed, we couldn’t just sit there now could we. Off down the stairs we went and grabbed a few pictures of the Bailey Phoenix, First Choice range. We also had the pleasure of meeting the Bailey crew and finding out the reason for our invite.

The ethos seems to be bloggers and vloggers who all own caravans, of various makes and models all have important contributions to make and independent reviews, such as this, were just as important as those written by well known magazines and dealerships. As someone said, the caravan industry need to work together, building a community as one and not seek out specific owner reviews, how else can the industry improve and move forward.

We thought this was a great approach, maybe a clever marketing strategy yes, but consumers are fully aware when those affiliated to specific brands have only good things to say.

Dinner was eaten at the ‘all you can eat’ buffet followed by a walk around the grounds and its garden which lead us down to a beautiful lake. We felt suitably refreshed and were really looking forward to the following days events.

A delicious breakfast was eaten and shortly after 10am we, along with 66 other people were handed named lanyards and ushered into one of the event rooms where the large wooden doors were closed behind us.

Here, we were introduced to the Bailey brand as it celebrated its 70th birthday. The marketing teams pride was clearly evident as they worked through the different models.

We also learnt about the First Choice ethos, which to most is known as ‘entry level’. First Choice is targeted at those who have bought a pre-loved ‘van to test out caravanning in general, after all, who wants to spend thousands on a new one, until you know its definitely ‘your thing’. Once you’ve ignited your passion for caravans and the ability to have your holiday your way, then First Choice models should be a worthy option.

Prima Leisure the parts and accessories arm of Bailey, also gave a presentation on their products and their wish to service the caravan industry as a whole, not just Bailey.

Soon after, the doors were opened and on leaving we were presented with goodie bags containing little treats and vital information on the Phoenix range, we were then let loose to examine the caravans and await the 12 noon embargo deadline.

First off, for us we had to see the Phoenix 420, their 2 berth, small ‘vans will always be our thing and we couldn’t wait to see what was inside.

Door, was open, so in we went. A nice big grab handle was on the inside right panel and something that would be used by all and save holding onto the doorframe when getting in and out.

The seating area converted to a good 6’2 x 4’9 bed and in each corner, near the Bailey signature opening front vertical window were directional spot lights with USBs included. The JVC radio looked very trendy and came with two speakers, again in the corners, the TV was easily accessed on a near side unit above the fridge and below the microwave.

There was a large kitchen area, with a built in work surface over the 4 gas burner hob, no dual fuel/hot plate. The cooker consisted of a very handy separate oven and grill.

Washroom was of a great size and spread across the rear of the ‘van. The shower was a fully functional lined unit and storage surrounded the washroom, with a nifty hiding place for the table.

Outside, the 420 had an accessible storage locker at the front, combined toilet and storage near the rear and the gas bottle was perfectly positioned near the axle, along with the battery being carried underneath in the same location. All adding to some great weight distribution as there isn’t a front locker.

From here we ventured to the other 6 vans on offer with their transverse, island, French and twin beds and all were obviously slightly longer than the 420.

The one that really caught our attention was the 6 berth 760 and the only twin axle in the range, this had the same layout as the Unicorn Segovia but was slightly shorter and some £6,500 cheaper at £19,000.

We felt the layout in this ‘van worked brilliantly for a family, the separate units were all divided by solid doors and provided that much needed insulation.. should you want it of course.

The Phoenix range looked well thought out. They all come with a purple graphics and fitted with ‘Brockwell’ fabric which enable you to dress your chosen ‘van with a colour scheme of your choosing. Although they do offer a dressing pack (cost option) which consisted of 4 scatter cushions, 2 throws, 2 bolster cushions and a floor mat for the washroom. Weight and its distribution seems to have been a priority too, with its heaviest 760 coming in at MTPLM of 1600Kg.

The Phoenix range begins at £16,600 to £19,999 and with its opening vertical front window sits nicely with the Pegasus G170 and Unicorn, although the latter 2 are more expensive by between £2,000 to £6,000, but as a first choice for a brand new van, the Phoenix range is certainly a good option.

Posted in Accessories, Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Photography, Travel, Traveling | Leave a comment

2B’s, Pod and her maiden voyage.

D-Day had finally arrived and with a car fully laden with gear we set off to Venture Caravans in Daventry, Northamptonshire to collect our Elddis Xplore 304 Sanremo aka ‘POD’.

We had a 2 ½ hour drive ahead for an appointed time of 12 o’clock, so we were on the road by 9am, with fingers crossed we wouldn’t be delayed by traffic and once collected we could head off to Chapel Lane Caravan and Motorhome site for a one night stop and a shake-down. The site was only an hour away from Venture, so if any issues did arise we only had a 1 hr journey and not a 3 to rectify them.

The motorway journey was easy enough, a few road works tried their best to throw a spanner in the mix but it didn’t affect our arrival time and we rolled into Venture a few minutes after 12, we couldn’t have timed it better.

As we turned off the A5 into the carpark we spotted Pod immediately, she was all hooked up, windows open and looked great with her decals on the front. Wide smiles stretched across our faces and once parked up we made a bee line for her. She was locked, but it didn’t stop us walking round and pressing sweaty noses up against every window to get a peek inside.

We eventually hunted down one of the staff Darren and we began the all important handover, Mat has loads of previous caravan knowledge, of every shape and size, but the handover was a great way to refresh his memory and learn a few new tricks as technology is always changing and being updated.

Darren was great, provided us with a welcome cup of tea and a full rundown, he took us both round the outside before moving inside and answered any queries we threw at him. It was a great experience, we weren’t rushed and didn’t feel any pressure to be on our way.

The time did eventually come for us to leave and the Specialised Cover, Elddis Tow Pro Elite went on, after our second attempt. There’s a knack to it and worth the effort as the large front window would turn into an insurance claim should it be damaged.

Towing mirrors went onto the car and off we went, still grinning, like two kids in the preverbal sweet shop. Next stop Chapel Lane C&M site.

We eventually turned off the major roads and onto Chapel Lane, as we drove along we spotted what looked like a Church tower to our left and immediately after this we found the entrance to the caravan site.

Booking in was easy enough and we began our trawl of the site, looking for our perfect spot.

Eventually found one that backed onto trees, a great sized pitch as were all those which were specified for awnings.

First impressions of the site were good, standard Caravan Club toilet/shower block and spotlessly clean as expected. Those pitches with awning space were as said above, of a great size, nice and wide with the usual stone ground.

All with grass boarders and trees dotted through the site and around its circumference. Pitches that weren’t designated for awnings were a little less attractive, it looked more like a carpark as the whole area was tarmac with a road going through the middle to the more appealing pitches. Not something that we’d choose, but each to their own.

Once Pod was levelled the fun then began, time to find homes for all our caravanning paraphernalia; pots, pans, duvet, groceries and clothes to name a few, plus sorting the usual stuff out such as the electric, water and figuring out the TV and WIFI settings.

Took us a few hours, everything probably took longer than it should of as we couldn’t help stopping every now and then to pinch ourselves with disbelief, but with a lunch break in between, we eventually had Pod sorted.

Dinner was cooked in the slow cooker and eaten at our lovely little dinette, we couldn’t stop giggling like teenagers as this process alone was new to us. I wasn’t forever crouched down looking for cooking utensils and Mat was doing his best not to duck down as he took the two strides at his full height to the front seating in the van.

Night time soon arrived and we sat on the sofa looking out of our huge front window whilst listening to the radio fitted in one of the top cupboards, we can say we were truly in love with Pod, she was everything we expected and more, so much so, we felt like we’d borrowed her from someone for a cheeky trip away.

We hadn’t any issues with her, she just needed tweaking to our own personal needs, so the following morning we would be heading back up north and home to collect more Pod gear, then on to Burrs Country Park C&M site for a further two nights.

We wished we could have stayed at Chapel Lane longer as there seemed so much to see, the Transport Museum was just outside the gates, grade II St. Mary’s Church nearby and various walks on offer such as Walkers Heath Park which had 52 acres to explore. There were also 3 pubs within a mile radius of the site.

Bed was made up easily enough and in future we now had the option of leaving it made up for our ‘on the move’ trips which involved 2 night stops and still have the option of sitting at the dinette.

Fabulous night sleep was had by both, Mat had the added comfort of lying stretched out, the bed was that long his feet didn’t touch the bottom. It was lovely to wake up to a blue sky peeping down through the skylight and being able to use our own little washroom, so no mad dash to the site facilities was needed.

We wanted to make the most of our stop at Burrs so we dragged ourselves from under the duvet and made the seating up, more to give it a go, plus the novelty of having a sitting and dining area will take a while to wear off.

The mattress came out of the bunk as we thought this area was best suited for storage of the duvet, sheet and topper, pillows went under one of the dinette seats.

Carpets and sink drainer were also removed and all will go into storage once home. We may use them in the future, but for now they weren’t needed. Pod was given a quick wipe down and the Aquaroll, Wastemaster and electrical cable were all placed in the area above the axle, nose weight would be done once home before Burrs as she would then be fully loaded with additional items such as the sun canopy, chairs and pup tent.

Back home family were given a quick guided tour of Pod and once we’d allowed them to drool over her we were off again, not far this time, 40 minutes up the road to Burrs, a site neither of us had been to before so were looking forward to exploring. Another Caravan and Motorhome Site, these work brilliantly for us as no deposit is needed and as we both work shifts that can be changed at the drop of a hat, it’s really a no-brainer, as long as we cancel with 72 hours there aren’t really any penalties.

Took a right off the B6214 and onto Woodhill Road, following this to the end brought us to Burrs and its cobbled road. This was a very slow drive of about 200m, it’s not one we really want to rush over as the chances of everything inside Pod finding a new location was highly likely.

Entrance to the site was just past the Brown Cow Pub, but to get onto the site we had to buzz the intercom and hope that someone in the office answered or it would have meant staying put whilst one of us walked to the office to make our presence known. Fortunately, just as I was about to set off on foot, someone shouted a greeting through the intercom and once we verified our name the gate was raised and we rolled forward to the office.

Do understand the reason for the caution, but it could do with the intercom being slightly further back from the gate. If the warden hadn’t caught our attention through the intercom we’d have been blocking the gate and those behind us would have been stuck. We had nowhere to go, the likelihood of them all moving out of the way so we could reverse was verging on never.

Booked in, but not before being told off for leaving the car engine running, trying to keep the fridge cool wasn’t a good enough reason so off it went.

Pitch along the railway line was chosen and we were given the option for nose in or out which was a nice touch as usually sites can be quite strict about this. We opted for nose out, we were determined to make use of our wonderful front window and this would give a great view of the railway on which steam trains were known to go up and down on a regular basis.

Pod was soon up and running and our home made sun canopy came out too. Doddle to make and it was up along the awning rail within a few minutes, perfect fit and provided that much needed protection from the sun, also cooled the inside of Pod down too, as soon as it went up the temperature inside went down by a few degrees.

Time came for a walk round the site and to visit The Brown Cow. Again, generic C&M facilities blocks and spotlessly clean, the site was also well maintained with grass verges running between all the pitches. Some were within metres of the railway line of which quite a few were fully serviced pitches and those to the back of the site ran along the hedgerow of the Pub, so one to bear in mind if you don’t want the noise of the beer garden during the evening.

The Brown Cow was welcoming and we chose to sit in the beer garden with a pint of ‘Ore-Some’, in fact we had two whilst looking over the tops of the caravan site to the railway line and station. Turned out there wouldn’t be any steam trains today, due to the risk, the incredibly beautiful sunny weather we were having did have some down falls it seems.

Back to Pod for dinner and once eaten we lounged around inside and outside of Pod, trying different positions to gain optimum effect, plus we spent quite some time trying to remember where we’d put everything. Eventually the temperature began to drop and the sun went down, again we were both drawn to the front window, like two goldfish in a bowl, except we didn’t want to get out.

Woke again to a beautiful blue sky and the plan for today was to walk along the River Irwell and explore.

Bed made back to the lounge, all windows opened and we sat at the dinette for breakfast with the door open, love the views from every angle and with the door open the dinette is perfectly positioned to look out the door and over to the river.

Good old Google Earth provided us with a birds eye view of the area and gave us a few ideas for local walks, we opted to go right out of the site and follow the river to see where it goes, sometimes a bit of mystery tour is the best way, don’t you think?

We started at Burrs Mill which was originally built in the 1790’s but changed to a bleach works in the 1880’s, not much left of it now but dotted around are landmark signs to give you a feel for the place.

Next stop was The Stone Cycle which is made from stone, copper and brass, looks great from Google Earth and well worth a stop. Something we didn’t know and will look into for the future, this is part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail and in total it features 70 pieces of art work from local, national and international artists. The Stone Cycle is made from a Bury dismantled bridge and once 100 years of industrial grime had been washed off the artist found marks made by the original stone masons to which new carved symbols were added.

Along the river we went, spotting herons, a kingfisher and dragonflies of every size, we passed the weir and continued up the path along the farm fence line.

Trains whooshed past and birds of prey hovered overhead as we reached the stone railway bridge. We had the option to continue to Walmersely but decided to turn back and treat ourselves to lunch at The Brown Cow.

Now, as we were in Bury, black pudding had to be on the menu and it was, this was ordered along with BLT baguette and cheese/onion toasty. Absolutely delicious, great value for money and went down very well with two pints of ‘Ore-Some’.

Back at Pod, feet were put up under the awning and we were treated to the odd train that slowly trundled past along the East Lancs Railway. After doing a little research we discovered The Flying Scotsman paid regular visits to the line, not ones to want to miss such a sight we booked again to stay in September when it was next due. We may even get to have a ride in it, so more research required.

It was our last night at the site and home was our next destination, but not before dropping Pod off at storage, a new experience for one of us, as our previous ‘van had been small enough to be stored at home. New Pod was just over 1m longer and a few inches wider than old Pod, so horror of horrors, storage had to be found, but we wouldn’t change a thing, she’s a perfect fit for us. Old Pod but with the awning built in.

We were up by 9 and once Pod was loaded up we were on the road again. Storage was no more than 15 minutes from home but we were in no rush to get there. Drove through the gates and found our spot, once safely sited with the motor mover the front cover came off and 3 locks went on. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling driving away but weekly visits were planned.. until our next visit to lovely Angelsey.

Posted in Awning, Caravan, Caravanning, Glamping, Photography, Railway, Sight seeing, Trains, Travel, Traveling, Walking, Waterways, woodland | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in Architecture, Beaches, Bridges, Caravan, Caravanning, Castles, Church, Coast, Conservation, Forest, Glamping, Highlands, Lakes, Lochs, Mountains, national trust, Photography, Scotland, Sight seeing, Stately home, Stately homes, Travel, Traveling, Uncategorized, Walking, Whiskey, Whisky, woodland | 2 Comments

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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