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.

About 2B's in Pod

Just a bit of fun for two people who love exploring the UK until retirement in a few years.. then Europe, here we come. For us, it doesn't matter how you make the journey, just enjoy making memories.
This entry was 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. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Manchester via John O’Groats – Part 3

  1. Beverley Brook says:

    What a wonderful adventure. We were in some of the same areas as you were at similar times so can confirm your points re the wonderful weather, stunning scenery, flipping midges in Oban, I’m still scratching! We covered 1650 miles in our 17 days, a combination of caravan sites, bed and breakfast stops and 5 nights on Lewis staying with an internet friend. We have been to Scotland lots of times previously but have never had such wonderful weather, it makes everywhere look so much better doesn’t it? Looking forward to more of your adventures in big pod. It will be a bit different towing a bigger unit around with all the extra kit you will accumulate along the way to be packed up each time you move. Happy caravanning. Bev x

    Liked by 1 person

    • 2B's in Pod says:

      Thanks Bev. Sounds like you had a fabulous time too.
      Plan is to try and stay minimalistic. No awning, as we see new Pod as little Pod with the awning space built in.
      Just use a tarp and the pup tent for storage.
      Here’s to planning more adventures for us both ! Our paths will cross one day x

      Like

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