Yorkshire Dales – July 2017

So we get to that time of year when teachers breathe sigh of relief as the school holidays come around, and the sun comes out (or not!). This year we have decided to do two one week trips rather than a single two week trip. This way we can go to completely different parts of the

img_0504country, hopefully have different weather and road conditions. Setting off on the first Saturday after schools broke up was a risk. It turned out that we had some of the easiest driving ever in the ‘van. Straight up the A1, pop onto the M1 before heading around Leeds on the way to see some friends in Horsforth. As ever, we needed to stop and have a coffee on the way.

After lunch it was off up through Otley and over towards Skipton to out first stop at
Howgill Lodge It’s a lovely campsite facing west, and is tiered to make the best use of space and to make it relatively easy to park up level.

Next morning we woke up to rain (it wouldn’t be the last time), so we headed off into Skipton for a wander round. Before leaving Skipton we popped in to Keelhams farm shop to buy some meat and various accompaniments for a BBQ. Getting back after lunch rain was still in the air, but the thought of sitting in the ‘van for the afternoon was not too appealing. We therefore decided to go for a walk along the Wharfe to Barden Bridge to get an ice cream. Unknowingly, we had now set the pattern for any day that it rained – get up, go to local town and have coffee/tea, buy food, sort out a walk for the afternoon, repeat.

After a couple of good nights at Howgill Lodge it was time to move on to Thornbrook Barn near to Ingleton. On the way we stopped off in Settle (you guessed it, for a coffee!) and then to Clapham. We had spied a great walk that took us from Clapham, up Thwaites Lane, across to Norber’s Erratics before dropping down to Austwick and then back to Clapham. The hardest bit was the climb out of Clapham itself.

We arrived at Thornbrook Barn, a very smart and well laid out campsite. Our conclusion was that this was the best campsite that we have stayed at so far for facilities. The weather was good enough to BBQ some of the food that we had bought from Keelhams.

The walk that everyone says that you must do if you are in the Ingleton area is the falls walk, especially if it has been raining – we definitely scored on this point! We set off from the campsite to walk down to Ingleton and find the start of the walk. It costs £6 per person, with the money going to maintain the paths along the way. As with many walks, it starts a bit slow with you wondering where are the waterfalls, have they been over-hyped, have we just missed them? Nope, be patient and as you climb up the valley alongside the river they begin to appear

When you get to the top, it’s a short walk across to the cafe, before starting the second leg of the walk alongside a different river. The route eventually drops you back into Ingleton – time for a cup of tea. We then headed back to the ‘van, had something to eat and then decided to have a drink in the local pub – Marton Arms for a drink.

Next morning we awoke to heavy rain (and a bit of work – eek!). Once the work was out of the way and the rain had abated a bit we decided to go and explore Kirkby Lonsdale, first stop – a cup of coffee!! Once we had had a good wander around we headed for Sedburgh, then on to Hawes (no coffee this time) and we picked up the road back to Ingleton. This took us past the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, where we pulled over to take some photographs; this time we had a cup of tea in the ‘van.  Our meal that night was in the Marton Arms; thoroughly enjoyed it except for I’m not one with the modern fad of serving a brioche bun with a burger, for me it’s far too sweet (rant over).

That night it rained again and continued to rain as we left Thornbrook (we will definitely go back) to head over to Barnard Castle. We stopped on the way in Richmond, a town that I’d always wanted to visit, but didn’t see too much as it was raining heavily.

img_0550

On to the Camping and Caravan Club site at Barnard Castle and the sun was beginning to peek through and blue skies were appearing. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so we went for a walk in Deep Dale woods, a nice circular walk from the campsite. Sal had bought a fleece in Kirkby Lonsdale and wanted to see if she could blend into the background….

Hey, the next morning it wasn’t raining so up and in to Barnard Castle to explore, before getting some fantastic sandwiches from William Peat and then going for a walk along the Tees, and some exploration of the castle. We were too close to High Force, and as we were now on a ‘waterfall tour’ we felt that we had to go!!! It was well worth it, a nice easy walk out there and with the amount of rain there was a fair amount of water coming down the waterfall.

Finally back to the campsite for fish and chips from the van that comes around on a Friday night (well recommended).

This trip didn’t have any Owens who wouldn’t get up in the morning, or lads who wanted to sit around a campfire talking to the early hours. It did have loads of great views, some great campsites, enjoyable walks and lots of coffee!!

Lincolnshire Wolds – July 2017

This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for a long time, staying in the county, going to a ‘cool campsite’, and exploring somewhere new. We mostly achieved what we set out to experience, but….

We arrived on Friday evening at the Three Horseshoes in Goulceby and were soon exhibiting camper van smugness. Five minutes after arriving we had parked up, plugged in the electric, turned the gas on, popped the roof and were then in the bar having a pint!  There seemed to be a good mix of couples and families, tents, camper vans and caravans. The location was really good, all set for a great weekend!

Up early next morning to find somewhere to watch the final British and Irish Lions test. Our first choice was the local rugby club in Market Rasen, not too far away. We arrived to find an empty car park, clearly nothing on here. Now we headed to Louth hoping to find somewhere to watch the game and have breakfast. Finding somewhere to watch the game is clearly not our forte so we settled for a really good breakfast at the Auction House in Louth, whilst trying to follow the game on the BBC website. The food was excellent. Game drawn, breakfast finished, off to explore Louth.

Suffice to say it is somewhere we we will go and explore again. As we explored we came across some great places such as the Cheese Shop and Deli, Meridian Meats and Babbits. Now suitably stocked up for lunch we headed back to the campsite.

In the afternoon we went for a walk around the village, enjoying the gently rolling countryside and some sites along the way. Back at the van we sat and read for a while until getting ready to go and eat at the pub. We had noticed that the number of tents and groups was slowly increasing.

Not a bad meal at all, especially for the price and then back to the van. Various people had BBQs underway, and in some cases the smell of BBQ lighter fluid was pretty pungent, not sure how the burgers tasted!

Off to bed and fast asleep, woken just after 1am to the sound of 2-3 groups still chatting and listening to music. After half an hour it was clear that the group closest to us was still going strong, they weren’t loud but as there was less background noise their conversation and music was very clear. So, quickly throw some clothes on and go and ask them to be a bit quieter, especially considering the time of the night. Eventually they did go to bed but it was was probably closer to 3am than 1am by this time.

Enter Owen! A school group was camped the other side of the field and they were up at 7:30, except for Owen!! Various people were asking Owen to get up, with the voices getting louder and louder as he was trying to enjoy his Sunday lie in. They even managed to wake up the group who had been going until the early hours. Sod it! Sal and I agreed that the best thing to do was have a cup of tea, cook breakfast and then head off home.

The Lincolnshire Wolds is definitely an area that we will go back and visit, we may though chose a quieter campsite next time!

Highlands- Part Two

Monday

Today’s plan is nice and simple, get up, see if there are any dolphins down at Chanonry Point, and then head over to Clachtoll Beach on the west coast, stopping off along the way. The day could go one way or the other!

Once we’d packed up we left the site and headed for the car park down by the lighthouse at Chanonry Point. Today must be a good day for spotting dolphins as the car park was full and not many cars leaving. We eventually got a space and then set off for the beach. There, right in front of our eyes was a school of bottle nosed dolphins no more than 15m from the water’s edge.  Our biggest problem was finding a good spot to watch them as there were so many people on the shoreline.

When something like this happens you lose track of time, all you seem to be doing is taking more and more photographs, hoping that there will be a good photo in there somewhere! But what a sight and what a privilege!

After gorging ourselves on watching dolphins at play we went back to the van and pointed Betty in the direction of Clachtoll Beach, some 90 odd miles away on the other coast. Up through Bonar Bridge and then the A837, our first taste of an ‘A’ road with passing places. In 25 miles we probably met less than 10 vehicles and the narrowness of the road meant that we went at a pace to savour the scenery. By lunchtime we had got to Ardveck Castle on Loch Assynt and took our time reading the various information boards and wandering out the castle itself. One amusing incident involved a car that came roaring into the car park, the driver leapt out, engine still running, and ran over to the information boards whereupon he photographed each one. he then ran back to his car and was last seen heading towards Durness! Clearly taking his time to enjoy the sights or was this a game of treasure hunt?

Before arriving at the campsite we took some time to wander around Lochinver and to buy some beer and food. We also noted the Lochinver Larder for a visit the following day.

Now off to find the campsite. The distance from Lochinver to Clachtoll is only 5 miles but it seems to take a while to get there. It’s single track and pretty busy so progress is relatively slow, but we’re not here to race around. Once we had checked in to the campsite at Clachtoll Beach, we parked up and went for a walk out to the beach and rocks. It might have been a IMG_0394bit damp but the views were none the less fantastic over towards Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and Canisp.

The campsite itself has great facilities, is close to the beach and is run by people who really care for their customers.

 

Tuesday

We awoke on Tuesday morning to more rain. What to do? Not a good day for going for a long hike, so we headed out to the Stoer Lighthouse. There we found people with large binoculars and specialist scopes looking to Orcas, Minke Whales, Dolphins etc.. As the weather had abated slightly we decided to walk up to see the Old Man of Stoer. The guide says that the path is easy to spot, we’re a bit slow on the uptake and it took us a few minutes to find the IMG_0397actual path. As ever with these sort of situations the further we walked the heavier the rain. We eventually crested a ridge and there in front of us was the Old Man of Stoer. To complete the walk we should have continued to Stoer Point but decided that due to the weather it was prudent to head back. Upon arriving back at the car park we enjoyed a warm cup of tea from the food stall there and sat in the van hoping that there would be sighting of a whale or dolphin. Unfortunately not but earlier in the day a Minke Whale had been seen.

On the way back to the campsite we pulled over into a passing place to let an oncoming VW camper through. As they came closer we realised that it was the couple from Great Barr that we had been chatting to on the beach at Rosemarkie. Soon both vans had found somewhere to pull up and their owners had time to swap notes and stories from the respective trips so far. We now know them as Jon and Jennie. It’s a small world!

Now time for a pie from the Lochinver Larder (gorgeous) and a detour to see Achmelvich Beach. There it was a bit blustery, I failed in an attempt to take a photo of Sal having to lean into the wind to stay upright! It might have been damp but a good day was had by all.

 

Highlands – Part One

Friday

We set off with the intention of trying to get to the Carlisle area to stop over night. After various re-routings to try and avoid the holiday traffic we finally arrived at The Metal Bridge Inn. This is a Britstop and clearly used as a stopping point on the way to Scotland due to its close proximity to the M6/M74. The people were really friendly and helpful and are clearly working very hard to make their Inn successful. What we hadn’t planned for was the traffic through the night – hey ho, a few lessons learned here, one of which is don’t sleep in the pop-up if it’s potentially noisy outside.

Saturday

After a quick cup of tea we were on the road again, heading north for Rosemarkie. Very similar to yesterday we were slowed down by roadworks. We arrived in the early afternoon at
Rosemarkie campsite and we’re shown to our pitch. Wow!!  Feet from the beach, great view across the Moray Firth, what more could we ask for? We were even told at what time the local bottle nosed dolphins would make an appearance at Chanonry  Point.
After a quimg_0303ick BBQ we went for a walk down to the village, and then headed down to Chanonry Point to hopefully see some dolphins. As we stood and waited for the dolphins to put in an appearance we got chatting to a couple from Great Barr (Birmingham) who also have a T5 based camper van. After waiting until 10pm we decided that tonight was a ‘no show’ and that the dolphins had clearly got a better offer elsewhere.

Sunday

If it’s really soothing to go to sleep listening to the waves gently break on the shore, then it’s doubly good to wake up next to the sea (when it’s calm!).  After breakfast (breakfast burrito), we set off to explore the village and to find the Fairy Glen.

After lunch we headed off the site to explore the Great Glen. This was really scenic, heading down one side of Loch Ness and then return on the other side.

In the evening we wandered down to the Crofter’s Bistro in the village for a really enjoyable meal.

Highlands- Part Three

Wednesday

We’d had a great stay at Clachtoll Beach Campsite but it was time to move on and explore a bit more. The idea was to end up at Gairloch stopping at Ullapool and other places along the way.

IMG_0407First off we needed to retrace our steps past Ardveck Castle before turning right to head south. Besides still seeing great view after great view we came to Knockan Crag where we pulled into the car park and went to find out more. I won’t do it justice to try and summarise the geological history told here, but suffice to say that it’s well worth stopping off and finding out how old rocks ended up on top of young rocks.

Out of the car park and turn left for Ullapool, passing by Ardmair Point on the way. As we arrived into Ullapool we picked up a sign for a car park. Pulling in to the car park we recognised a campervan right in front of us, in fact we had been parked up next to it the day before when coming back from the Stoer Lighthouse. And then in the first shop that we go in to are Jon and Jennie – the world is sIMG_0413hrinking rapidly!! After a quick chat as to where we were individually headed next, we went to find a coffee. Ullapool is a lovely little town with a magnificent scenic backdrop.

The sun was now out in full and time to continue heading south towards Corrieshalloch Gorge. This was the first time that we had encountered midges on our trip! The walk though was great.

The fantastic views continued to come at us at a rate of knots, firstly Little Loch Broom and then Loch Ewe. It was fascinating to stop off at the Russian Arctic Convoy Museum in Aultbea and learn abut how the ships headed to Russia in WWII met up at Loch Ewe before setting off in convoy.

The last section of the day’s journey was to the campsite at Big Sand just outside of Gairloch. Our pitch provided us with a great view out towards Skye. A fitting end to a wonderful day of views and experiences.

 

 

Thursday

We woke up to rain and the forecast for more rain on the west coast of Scotland.  We therefore decided to head south and towards the east coast to ‘chase the weather’.  After a stop for a tour of the Glen Ord distillery we made our way to the A9, following this to the M90 past Edinburgh eventually ending up at Beadnell Bay in Northumberland. The people there were really good, waiting for us to arrive well past the usual time.

Once we had parked up we got out the whisky samplers that we were given at Glen Ord, very much needed after such a long day.

 
Friday

The only reason that we decided to cut our time short in Scotland was the prospect of rain. It had rained all night and was still raining as we were getting up on Friday morning, with a forecast for rain all day. Heading south now didn’t feel like one of our better decisions.

Fortunately the forecast was wrong, the sun came out and we had a great time re-visiting Alnwick, finally going to Warkworth Castle and finishing off with a really nice meal at the Craster Seafood Restaurant.

The trip was really enjoyable with too many highlights to pick out any one in particular. How can you distinguish between seeing dolphins just off the beach, to sea stacks, ‘wow’ moment after ‘wow’ moment when driving down the west coast, to pitching up with a view over to Skye? Along the way we met loads of really nice people, people with a similar desire to enjoy the scenery, explore the various sights and relax. We’ve only experienced a section of the NC500 and we fully intend  to explore some of the more northern and eastern sections.

 

 

Hulme End – April 2017

IMG_0016
Have hat and tea, will barbeque!

We set off for our next adventure at just after 4.00pm on Friday evening. As we crossed over the A1 we could see that the traffic was stationary so we cut across country and arrived at Upper Hurst Campsite at Hulme End at about 6.30pm. After booking in and selecting our pitch Richard quickly set up the barbecue and started cooking. We had brought sausages and burgers with us from Ancaster Butchers; they were delicious and were washed down perfectly with a bottle of red wine (of course!).

After a good nights sleep, only slightly disturbed by some geriatric revellers singing ‘Daisy, Daisy’ and ‘Pack up your troubles’, we had our customary breakfast burritos. We then unloaded our bikes and set off to Hulme End to pick up the beginning of the Manifold Way.

IMG_0264
Thor’s Cave

The Manifold Way is part of an old railway line and is reasonably easy riding. the weather was perfect and we reached the end of the trail at Waterhouses in good time. Unfortunately, there is not a cafe at the end of the trail so we decided to ride back to one we had passed earlier. This is when, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to throw myself off my bike and onto the main road. This caused a major shock to both Richard and the lorry driver, who was heading at speed down the hill. Richard hauled me out of the way and the driver managed to go around me. I was left with a bleeding knee and wounded pride. We cycled back to Lee House Farm Teashop and had a much needed cup of tea sat in the beautiful garden and enjoying the sunshine before resuming our journey back. The ride including the ride from the campsite to the Manifold Way was about 19 miles.

After some lunch at the campsite we set off to Hartington, a pretty village just over the border in Derbyshire. We bought some cheese from the Hartington Cheese Shop, including some Hartington Stilton, some Smoked Peakland White and some Swaledale Goats.  We then popped over to Ashbourne, one of my favourite market towns and had a wander.

On Saturday evening we had arranged to meet some friends (and also Richard’s relations). Carole and Roger live locally and it was great to have the chance to meet and to catch up. We met at Manifold Inn in Hulme End. It was a lovely evening; good food, good wine and great company.

IMG_0017Sunday morning arrived after another good night’s sleep. The cooler temperature had obviously persuaded the revellers to curb their karaoke and have an early night. We had breakfast and loaded up the van and set off home. It had been another fantastic weekend.

The campsite was really good. Great facilities and not too big. The views in all directions were stunning and we had some interesting neighbours, some alpacas and some Jacob’s sheep. The journey time of two hours is perfect for a weekend trip and Staffordshire is one of our favourite parts of the country.

Bellingham and Robin Hoods Bay, April 2017

Bellingham

We arrived in Bellingham (pronounced Belling jum) at about 7.00 pm. We were delayed again, this time for delays around Doncaster. The campsite is a Caravan and Camping site and is very pleasant. It’s probably the largest site we have stayed on so far so we had some feelings of trepidation. We ‘hooked up’ and then set off to the pub in nearby Bellingham.

The pub was great, The Cheviot Hotel. The local ale was lovely, but remember, beer is served cold in the North-East. I had pie and Richard had fish and chips, or rather, whale and chips. It was lovely. We walked back to the campsite, it was quite dark but there was a footpath all the way.

We retired to bed, our first experience of sleeping ‘up the top’.

Next morning arrived and I was relieved not to have fallen through the roof in the night. Richard said that I had remained remarkably still! Breakfast consisted of Richard’s now traditional ‘Breakfast Burritos’. The weather forecast wasn’t promising so we decided to spend the day exploring Hadrian’s Wall. The first stop was Chesters, an example of a Roman bathhouse within a fort. We looked at the Museum and the fort and then had a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the cafe. We also joined English Heritage and our new mission is to make sure we get our money’s worth!

Next stop was Housesteads, the Fort here is at the top of a hill and you have the opportunity to walk along the wall. Lunch was a picnic in the van.

Final stop of the day was Corbridge, a lovely market town where we stocked up with provisions and then made our way back to Bellingham.

That night we cooked in the van using a Simply Cook pack, Thai Red Curry. It was delicious and washed down with a very nice bottle of red wine.

The next day saw us head off to Kielder Water for a bike ride, this first this year!! We started off slow and managed to maintain that pace throughout! The views from alongside the reservoir were fantastic and well worth the effort to get there. Only one mishap along the way when I managed to knock Mr M off his bike – fortunately he landed on the rucksack, so the only damage was to our lunch, a little compressed. When we’d completed the whole trip around the reservoir we had a cup of tea in the cafe at Tower Knowe, again a great view over the water.

When we got back to the campsite it was time for the first BBQ of the year and the first one on our new portable BBQ. Nothing flash, just some corn on the cob, local sausages and supermarket burgers, but somehow it just tastes great when you’re outdoors. And of course it had to be washed down with some red wine.

Our usual modus operandi when on a touring trip is to get up and get gone. Time for a change. When we first arrived the wardens had suggested that we take a trip up to Hareshaw Linn, so after packing up the van (doesn’t take very long) we set off into the village to find the car park at the start of the walk.

It was a lovely dry and sunny day for this time of year and a nice stroll up to the Linn  itself. Along the way there are various items of interest to look at as well as a number of bridges to cross over the stream. When you get to the Linn itself it’s well worth the effort to walk up there. Nice and peaceful. We had to take a selfie at this point just to wind up our daughter!

Back down from the Linn, into the van and off towardsRobin Hoods Bay.

Hooks House Farm, Robin Hoods Bay

Wow what view! We were escorted to ur pitch, all levelling blocks provided and soon had the kettle on for a brew. We didn’t do too much as we had agreed to meet some friends at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby.

Next morning we got up and decided that we would head off into Whitby to have a look around. When we got there we had a wander round, and coffee at Sherlock’s which we found completely by accident. After a couple of hours we decided to head off onto the the local moors, via Sleights. Lunch duly bought we wended our way down various lanes until we found a relaxing place to stop and eat our recently purchased lunch. After lunch we headed back to the campsite so that we could park up the van and then head down to the village.

Robin Hoods Bay is a great little village, lots of little streets and alleyways, and some interesting shops. We eventually found our way to the beach and sat and people watched for an hour. It was great to see families playing together, no mobile devices in sight! Time now to walk back up the hill, there is a penalty to pay for parking the van in such a great spot! Richard soon had the BBQ out again, although it was somewhat colder then a few days previous.

The trip home on the last day was fortunately uneventful compensating for the trip up. We drove through some great countryside down through Pickering to Malton and then picked up the dual carriageways all the way home.

This was our longest trip in the van to date and we enjoyed every moment of it.

Run Cottage, Hollesley, Suffolk – February 2017

This was our first trip of the season to Run Cottage in Suffolk,  delayed from last week’s half term.

We set off at about 4.oopm for an estimated two and half hour journey. However, we had not taken into account the A14 on a Friday evening!

We arrived at about 7.00pm and were directed to our pitch by the very hospitable owner. He suggested that we went and found the pitch and then took the van down to the local pub for a drink and something to eat. (The Shepherd and Dog) The electric hook-up had a cable provided so arrival and set up couldn’t have been easier. We enjoyed a pint or two of Adnams and a nice meal.

The next morning saw a leisurely start and Richard’s famous ‘breakfast burritos’. The campsite has a very useful Information Area and we were able to look at a large map with local walks. It was a very bracing walk down to Shingle Street and it was great to go onto the beach for the first time this year. We stopped and watched the kite surfers which was very interesting. Richard has declined a lesson for this year’s birthday present!!

On the way back we called into the village shop which stocked local produce from the Bakehouse, Woodbridge, including something very tasty called Paradise Cake and some smoked bacon from a local butcher.

The afternoon was spent watching the rugby in the Shepherd and Dog. We were going to eat in the pub but the evening was interrupted by the switch on the TV from rugby to football, a very strange decision. We then took another trip to the shop for supplies and enjoyed fish finger sandwiches back in Betty. We watched a film on the iPad and then retired to bed after ‘battening down the hatches’ against what turned out to be a windy night.

The sun was up and about on Sunday morning and we enjoyed bacon rolls before tidying up and heading off home. The journey back was much easier than on the Friday night.

Points to remember for our next trip.

  • Look carefully at routes for a Friday night departure. Will we get held up? Is it too far? Perhaps have a limit of two hours travelling time.
  • Would we visit Run Cottage again? Yes, definitely, and would take bikes as there are some good cycle routes.
  • Take an ’emergency meal’ in case of unforeseen circumstances.