Thursday morning arrived and we woke to glorious sunshine at Bunree Caravan Club site it looked like a beautiful day lay ahead, the loch was so still, reflecting the hills around it like a mirror and canoeists were already out on the water, pity it couldn’t be us because after breakfast we would be packing up and moving off to Braemar.
Soon had everything packed away, said our goodbyes to our fellow caravaners and were on the road for 9am, it was a pretty uneventful 3hr drive and the sun shone all the way although we did go up and down some steep and narrow roads but it wasn’t a problem for the car or Pod, we know the satnav finds the shortest route but sometimes we were convinced it was plotting against us.
The drive took us past the empty ski slopes and their silent lifts suspended motionless in the air, very odd to see the runs without snow and we really had to use our imagination to see what they would look like covered in a wonderful thick layer of pure white snow. Once we’d passed these we began to drive down the winding road and soon passed through the snow gates and turned left into the site entrance, we had arrived at Braemar Caravan site.
Easy enough to book in and as we’d done it on line we had chosen a pitch we hoped would give us a lovely sunset, weather permitting. Pod was set up in no time and it was as if we hadn’t been anywhere else. Love it, the ease of it all is brilliant, so stress free.
The weather was so good we took the opportunity to walk the short distance into the village, all quiet with a few small shop open. We made a bee-line for Braemar Mountain Sports and could quite easily have bought the shop out. Don’t normally say that about outdoor shops as they are much the same but this one was great, all good quality gear and some great bargains to be had. Managed to control ourselves though, nearly bought a bigger rucksack or ‘bergen’ depending on your view, but sanity returned just in time and we put it back.
Continued our walk through the village and it brought us to Invercauld Arms, looked great from the outside and once in we found the small bar decked out in various colours of tartan and the high walls surrounded by every conceivable whiskey box. All LB could think was she’d hate to have to take them down and dust them all.
We always look for a local ale but on this occasion they didn’t have anything on draft so we lumped for a couple of bottles of Macbeth pale ale, very nice, so much so we had another and dinner too. Pulled pork for one and good old fish and chips for the other, nice portions and good value for money.
Our lovely followers never let us down and came up with a few ideas, one being a walk up Creag Conninch (538m). Just situated in the village and it seemed a nice little walk to tide us over with the hope of finding a nice picnic spot to watch the village below us carrying on with its daily life.
Table in the awning was laid for breakfast and the awning was opened to take in the view across the green, no sooner had the zip gone up when the funniest sight seen in ages came waddling at full speed across the grass, ducks, a whole army of them. What made us laugh was the fact they can fly but choose to waddle, almost run, quacking at full volume as they did, you could almost see them pushing through with their shoulders like people caught up in a sale, determined to get to that bargain before anyone else, in this case food. There were signs up saying not to feed them but this behaviour was not of ducks who weren’t in the habit of grabbing the odd morsel or two.
Quite steep to start but because of the tall pine trees covering the hill it was very still and silent, almost like a blanket, muffling and preventing sound from breaking through. Our legs had recovered from Ben Nevis and we soon got into a rhythm stopping occasionally to take in the scenery always in the hope of catching sight of deer or a red squirrel.
On the way up we’d passed a path that veered off to the left, the sign said Lions Face so we decided to head off in that direction and see where it took us.
Once back below the trees the only sound to be heard was the rustle of our waterproofs and the crunch of the bracken as we walked over it on he path. We tried our best to make as little noise as possible as we so wanted to catch sight of deer.
The path wound round the base of the hill and after about half an hour we walked through an enclosed area of smaller trees, as we did something caught our eye and on looking further we discovered a tree tucked away from all the others decorated with Christmas tinsel, baubles and little sentimental personal gifts, it was touching to see and seemed to mean a great deal to those who had through time decorated the tree. Just to the left tucked under the bows of another tree was a small wooden bench, the perfect place to have our picnic.
Batteries recharged rucksacks were donned and off we went again, the rain continued, nothing heavy just annoying. Not another soul was seen as we moved through the wood and as it opened up below us luck worked in our direction and a solitary deer could be seen grazing. It didn’t stay for long and soon moved off deeper into the wood.
The path eventually brought us to Lions Face, wish we’d researched this before because the sign below the cliff edge said it was best viewed from across the river as the cliff face and the way it had worn was that of a Lions Face. One to look out for over the next few days if we happened to be in the area again.
Still not another person to be seen as we came full circle and back to the wooden gate. Our short local walk had been local, but not short which seems to be usual for us, 3 ½ hours covering 9.21km.
Back at Pod we dried off quite quickly and once dinner was eaten we planned our next day’s walking, weather looked better, dryer and although a few Munros could have been on the cards we decided on a Corbett which was sat behind the site, this one was called Morrone and 859m.
Opening the blind on Saturday morning we were pleased to see a lighter sky, not clear blue but definitely much brighter and no sign of rain. Breakfast was eaten again with ducks for company and the route on the map decided upon.
The walk took us through the village and past the local pond, the path went through fields of heather and was easy enough to follow. As we climbed upwards the hill opened up to huge areas of flat land bursting with more heather and once past a certain point in the distance the mountain rescue relay mast came into view.
Eventually the mast became nearer and clearer and blue skies surrounded us as if to applaud our arrival at the summit but along with the blue sky came the most ferocious wind, so strong we hid behind the stone wall surrounding the mast to eat lunch wrapped in our woollens and waterproofs.
We like to do circular routes when we can and this walk lent itself to it perfectly, the path downwards was like walking into a wind tunnel, MrB had hold of LB as the wind did its utmost to turn her into Mary Poppins.
Once further down and out of the wind the view out in front of us was spectacular, the hills rolled away and because of the organised heather fires the flashes of various shades of green made it look like those Scottish giants had exchanged their kilts for combat trousers and were out on manoeuvres.
At the bottom of the path we reached a road known as the Military Road, it was in deed very military like, straight as a ram rod and went right through the middle of the local golf course.
We passed red squirrels chasing each other up and around trees and a tiny mole who was desperately trying to get itself off the road, with a helping hand it was shoved in the direction of the grass verge and safely out of the way of oncoming traffic.
Back at Pod we discovered we’d covered 12.7km and for our last evening before heading to Leaplish Waterside Park we had spaghetti bolognese for dinner, after hot showers and a game of scrabble we clambered into bed having planned our 4 hour drive to Kielder Forest.
All gear put away again, like clockwork now and we were soon ready for our four hour drive. We were on the road for 8am as we wanted to make the most of our time at Leaplish, we were only there for two nights so it was important to make every second count.
The drive took us through some beautiful countryside and within no time at all the lake appeared on our left, it looked fantastic, surrounded by trees and it seemed to go on for ever. Turning into the park we drove down a small road under the long green branches fanning out from the tall pine trees and as we’d booked a woodland pitch it looked very promising.
The office was easy to find, set in a clearing which seemed to have pitches on it too, from this pine trees stretched out in all directions, we were hopeful of a secluded pitch hidden within the woodland, once booked in we made our way to our allocated pitch, we didn’t have to go far as it was no more than 25m from the office and on the clearing, we were gutted to say the least. From where we were the site did look busy and presumed it was full so begrudgingly went about getting Pod settled in, the pitch was very uneven so our home made levelling blocks came into play, 6 pieces of timber 1’ x 6’’ made for a fiver and when stacked into a ramp worked perfectly, Pod was soon sat on 3 pieces of timber, perfectly level and wasn’t going anywhere.
Once Pod and awning was set up we took a breath and looked around where we were, we seemed to have been sited on the family pitch as we were surrounded by families with young children, we’ve nothing against children but this was not what we had paid for and were feeling a little flat at this point as this was our last stop before heading home. We’d specifically asked for a woodland pitch and this was most definitely not the case. Deciding to put this behind us we walked down towards the lake, this took us past the toilet block and believe it or not past some empty but beautiful woodland pitches, they were ideal and would have suited us down to the ground, off the main track and tucked away under the spreading canopy of the pine trees, we considered complaining but had we got our way it would have meant packing the awning and Pod up again and as we were only there two nights we decided to suck it up and put up with it.
The jetty, shop and pub area looked great and the Osprey view point was brilliant, lenses were set up to take you to the other side of the lake where you could see mother and chicks in the nest, how they stayed up there in the high winds was beyond us.
As we had the kayak with us we planned to spend the next day our last full day pootling around on the lake, so we decided to check with the office if any launch point could be used and here came our second bomb shell. We weren’t allowed to use it, we were informed we needed extensive insurance and a competency certificate but what really put the nail in and sunk the whole idea was the kayak had to have a solid bottom, ours is ridged but inflatable through-out, we were double gutted. The last leg of our trip wasn’t going according to plan but we were determined to stay up beat, we had a map of the area and decided to pull that out of the bag and go over it in the evening to devise a plan of action.
Dinner was eaten in the Boat House Pub and after working our way through a playing field full of children instead of knee high grass and woodland flowers we returned to Pod to open a lovely bottle of red and a game of scrabble, and after hot showers we ended the evening watching a chick flick, not something we have ever done before but hey, first time for everything. For those that are curious it was The Notebook, someone cried, couldn’t possibly say who it was.
Monday morning, our last day before heading back to civilisation and reality, the sun was making the odd appearance so the OS map came out and we found a circular route of the lake, Lakeside Way, there was no way we could walk the entire route but it would make a brilliant cycle route. Breakfast was eaten with the awning open and because of how we had positioned Pod we had the illusion of looking out into woodland.
Walking boots on and rucksack packed with our picnic lunch we set of along the circular route, not sure how far we would go but the sun was out and it was dry, it looked like a good day ahead. We passed the odd cyclist and the lake itself was very quiet, all in all it was very peaceful, at some points the lake disappeared from view and we were surrounded by incredibly tall and deep woodland.
We passed a cycle route that looked more challenging than the circular route and it looked like something we’d consider in the future, the circular path continued and took us across a small iron bridge which below it had a silver curved metal statue sitting in the water, it gave the impression that a ripple of water had been frozen in time but left the rest of the river running into the lake unhindered. The path continued on the other side of the bridge and it brought us to the Mirage, an incredible wooden structure that gave an amazing view the length of the lake, this was the perfect place for our lunch.
After lunch our walk continued to the weir and a strange looking statue, at this point we discovered the area had been chosen for local artists to display work, some seemed very well hidden and we only hoped all would receive the passing attention they deserved.
At this point we made the decision to turn back and once back at Pod dinner was eaten in the awning, we had company on this occasion though, the midges.. we covered ourselves in spray and pulled down the net divider in the hope we didn’t get bitten too badly.
Dinner eaten and the midges were out in huge numbers, we put this down to warm temperature and no wind, it wasn’t safe to sit outside so we remained in the awning for safety and relived our wonderful tour of Scotland, we did not want our last night to turn into a midge fest.
Our last morning arrived and the sun was out with hardly a cloud in the sky, once up we discovered we had been a midnight feast for midges who by hook or crook and wheedled their way into Pod, one of us looked like we had a bad case of chicken pox, not a pretty sight at all.
Once we checked that the coast was clear we opened the awning for breakfast and soon after we began to pack up for our return road trip home, it all went away in its usual place and we were soon on the road, before we knew it our 3 hour journey had brought us home.
Pod was washed, polished and put away ready for her next trip, we said our thanks for keeping us warm and safe and closed the gate on her knowing she would be out again within a few weeks for another trip up to Northumberland, how lucky are we.