Our Scotland adventure has arrived ! Research of locations, sites, timescales and ferries were about to be put to the test. Our version of the Scottish North Coast 500 from Manchester, 16 nights at 9 sites.
Decision had been made to just use the tarp on this occasion and hope the weather wasn’t too bad and prevent us from cooking under the tarp. Also made it easier to move on every 1 or 2 days, the awning is great but a lot of faff when you have limited time. Sites had been booked which had facilities and we planned to make full use of those, a very minimalistic approach, don’t you think?
With a three hour journey ahead of us Pod had been packed the previous night and after breakfast a few more items were added to the boot of the car. The sun was out and 9am rolled round pretty fast, we said our goodbyes to those left behind, including the dog, who looked less than impressed. Think she knows that once Pod comes out, we’re disappearing again.
The journey turned into a nice easy drive and we soon rolled into Lidalia Caravan Park in Newcastleton. Small site with two ponds, some pitches were around them, others looked out onto trees.
Turns out the site is built on the remains of an old railway station which used to run along the Waverley Line. The grounds were immaculate and the pitches were in great condition, the odd one were a little short in length but all were very good for Pod.
Facilities were good too, separate blocks for ladies and gents, spotlessly clean and each unit had 4 complete washrooms which contained shower, toilet and sink. Good facilities for those that struggled with mobility. The mirrors were funny though, all safety glass and we felt like we had walked into a fairgrounds hall of mirrors.
We were only here for one night and once Pod was set up we went for a walk along the riverbank and if we found a pub during the walk we’d have to call in, of course.
The path for the river walk was easy enough to find and we soon found the Newcastleton Bridge over Liddel Water. Looked like great mountain bike trails were on offer and the trails suggested rides of 10k and 24k in length.
After a very peaceful and relaxing walk we sat on a large wooden bench overlooking the river and listened to the water as it babbled past and under the stone bridge, the only thing that broke the silence was the occasion car that drove through the centre of the village.
We eventually made the decision to move and once on the stone bridge we walked back into the village and found the Grapes Hotel. Funny little layout inside, hotel at the front with a dinning area which looked out the large front window and the bar was eventually found in the middle.
Two pints were ordered and we sat at one of the benches at the front, we love watching the world go by and to us the village gave off an air of sleepiness, as if it was waiting to be woken up for something.
Back to Pod we went for dinner and to put our feet up and relax as the next day we had a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Braemar.
Day 2 arrived, breakfast was had and sandwiches were made for either a stop on the way up or when we arrived, all depended on how the journey went. Do love our little door bin, works perfectly for this trip and especially when cooking, just scrape it all off the chopping board and into the bin, easy.
With the aim to arrive around 1pm we set off just before 9am, we had good road conditions and little traffic so we stopped at Stirling Services for our little picnic.
Once demolished we hit the road again and drove through the Cairngorms, has to be one of our favourite places, spectacular scenery surrounded us along with a blue sky. Some snow remained in high spots and as we drove through we spotted the empty ski lifts going up and down. Plan to see this in the winter.. one day.
We arrived at Braemer Caravan Park just after one and were given our designate pitch, two nights were to be had here.
As we rolled along through the sight we met up with a few other Podders, and a few who had swapped their Pods for motorhomes and bigger caravans. People we’ve met during our travels and ownership of Pod seem to have become good friendships of a ‘vanning kind, no matter what they travel in.
Once set up we discovered we had no mobile signal and our mobile Wifi wasn’t working, not the end of the world you’d think but we like to have contact with the outside world, just in case a family member needs to make contact.
We’d brought data top up cards for EE and 3 as research lead us to believe these would be the best, but no, neither worked, we were fortunate enough to have Mat’s phone on O2 and this worked perfectly. Wifi could be bought from the site so we spent £4.00 on it for 3 days use, this cost applies to each device so only the IPad was connected.
Rumours were floating round the site that midges were out in the evening, so the home made midge door net was put in place, seemed to work well and good use was made of our tired old Khyam awning.
Time came to catch up with our fellow ‘vanners and arrangements were made for us all to trundle down to the local pub, in this case the Invercauld Arms Hotel. We kind of took over the bar area and soon rearranged tables for maximum grouping, needless to say it was fabulous catching up with everyone and listening to their adventures which were ahead of them in the holiday season.
Back at Pod we used the site facilities and these were as expected, clean and well laid out, day 3 was on the horizon so off to bed we went.
Woke to a frost but looked like a good dry day ahead, a walk was planned but no destination decided upon.
Breakfast was eaten and whilst checking good old Facebook one of our followers suggest a walk around Lock Muick, after a little research we took up their suggestion and rucksacks were packed for the day ahead.
45 minute drive took us through the beautiful countryside and for £4.00 we payed parking for the day. A short walk to the information hut highlighted the 8 mile route and of the deer who were in the area, it also informed us that the deer were to be steered clear of as they had had a very hard winter. On speaking to a local we discovered that after a ‘head count’ they were down by 30% on the previous year, the Beast from the East meant many had paid for it due to lack of food.
The sun was out and with hardly a cloud in the sky we began the well marked walk around the loch.
Words can not describe how spectacular this was, not a single sound could be heard, so peaceful.
When the wind dropped to nothingness the loch became a mirror image of the hills and grounds in the distance, totally mesmerising, so much so, we couldn’t help but stop every 100m or so as the scenery changed with every step.
For us it was one of those places you want to burn into your memory for ever.
The drive back to Pod was a slow one, we didn’t feel the need to rush, too much to see and take in, wonderful scenery.
Dinner was made using the slow cooker and eaten under the tarp, the temperature had dropped somewhat and if you were in the shade coats were needed, no midges though, so all good.
After our amazing walk during the day our bed was calling, with tired feet and aching legs it felt really good to climb under that duvet.
Day 4 and off the pitch for 9.30am as we had a 3 hour drive in front of us to Brora Caravan and Motorhome site.
Journey went well until we hit a road diversion which added half an hour, but the scenery continued to be glorious along the Highland Tourist Route, the roads were good too, so no complaints here. We were even treated to a low flyover from a giant Hercules and once back on the right road it took us partially along the Malt Whisky Trail, another idea for a future adventure.
We turned off the main road and within minutes we were at the site, we had to cross a single track bridge to get to the site, so anything like an 8ft wide twin axel may find it to be a ‘heart in the mouth’ moment.
Booked in and pitch found, sand dunes were just in front of us and we were itching to see what was over the other side, so we didn’t hang around setting up.
Cup of tea downed and off we went over hill to discover a golf course between us and the beach, easy enough to cross, just had to look left and right before doing so.
Beach was spectacular, long sprawling spotlessly clean sandy beach, best thing being, we seemed to have it all to ourselves. After a mini stroll we headed back to the car and drove into Brora for a few supplies, we could only find a Co-Op but this was well stocked.
Back to Pod we went and after dinner we headed back to the beach, do love the sea, always torn between mountains and the sea, we want both, or is that greedy.
Again we had the place to ourselves, the sea had gone out to leave sand untouched by any human, dog or any other species that might find its way to the beach. A gentle breeze blew in from the sea but we knew this wouldn’t be an issue for us in Pod as the golf course and sand dunes were a perfect barrier.
Shower block was standard Caravan Club fare, clean and hot showers, what more do you need.
Saturday, day 5 arrived and as we looked out of Pods window we were greeted with the sun rising over the beach into a lovely red/blue sky.
Bit of site seeing on the cards today as we headed out in the car for a 10 minute drive to Dunrobin Castle. A spectacular building still owned by the 24th Countess of Sutherland and built in the Scottish baronial/French renaissance style. For us the epitome of a fairy tale castle, just like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
£11.50ea paid and in we went, we wandered through opulently dressed rooms in wonderful colours and eventually found ourselves outside in the gardens.
Falconry display was ongoing in the back ground and the beautifully maintained formal garden lay between. A walk down the steps to the garden lead us through areas full of colour and which had been left to grow wild, always think this is a great touch to any garden.
We then walked towards the museum, just before entry a sign informed us we would see archeological finds, intrigued we went through the door. This came as bit of a shock, as neither of us were prepared, the main open area was full to the brim with stuffed animals, including the head of a small elephant on the wall and the neck and head of a giraffe which was securely planted in the middle of the room.
Once over the shock the collection included various finds during the previous Count and Countess’ safari adventures, along with the stuffed animals they had collected items from Central Africa and even fishing equipment from Eskimos. It also gave a detailed history of Pictish stones found within the area.
Once back at the site we headed across the golf course and back to that beautiful beach, dinner was eaten later, after which a follower on Facebook informed us we had the chance to go fossil hunting should we want to and their was a nudist beach just up the coast. This, could also be an option for another trip north with Pod, not too sure about the nudist beach though.
Bed time was calling and we were on the move again in the morning, as this was our last site on the east coast we made the mad decision to wake at 4.30am in an attempt to catch a sunrise, this bearing in mind we were also on the move again to Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome site, but it was only 1 ½ hours away so we thought it was worth the risk.
Alarm went off on day 6 and up we got, clothes were put on in a blurry haze and we flip-flopped over the golf course to the beach to be met by cloud, gutted. Still fabulous though, a little eery as the low light crawled across the beach and the wind scuttled through the reeds along the bank.
One last long look at the beach and we said our goodbyes as we scuttled back over the golf course and back to bed for a few hours.
Woke again a few hours later and once breakfast was eaten and pots washed it didn’t take long to get Pod loaded and we were on our way again to the top most point of Scotland……. Part 2.