Drop a pin where you used to play ‘it’ and label it what you called the crossed fingers!
With our festival and holiday cancelled, we embraced the opportunity to explore the UK in Gretal 2.0
// 1 Scotland
We didn’t make this easy for our (very southern-based) selves. We didn’t just want to explore say Loch Lomond or the Cairngorms. Nope, we wanted to do the North Coast 500. 500 miles around the northern most part of Scotland. That was a schlep!
The stops after we arrived in Inverness:
// Day 1:
- Invergarden – oil rig cemetery (Geographer’s dream…apparently)
- Badbea – archaeological site where people lived on cliff edge until 1906
- John O’Groats – first midgey experience. Sweet little brewery with knowledgeable guy who told us about the octagonal room and table Jan de Groot built due to quarrelling in his family about who should be head of the table. There were also eight doors: problem solver extraordinaire.
- Dunnet distillery – nice lady walked the dog while we bought Rock Rose gin.
- Dunnet head – I SAW PUFFINS and was very excited.
- Strathy Head – beautiful camping spot with our own little bay.
// Day 2
BEN HOPE DAY
- Morning swim with Tryfan – first time he wagged his tail swimming!
- Tryfan’s first mountain and first Munro, my first Munro and David’s first mountain/Munro with a dog.
- The world’s Northernmost Munro.
// Day 3:
- Kayak on Loch Hope before we left – baby shark (Tryfan!)
- Ceannabeine Beach – BEAUTIFUL (pulled over mid drive as it was so inviting!)
- Durness – time warp little shop (got an excellent selection of hungover snacks)
- The Old School House takeaway – kitchen was in the old Headmaster’s office
- BEACH OF DEATH AKA Oldshoremore Beach – dead puffins, dead other birds, dead jellyfish, dead dolphin (and probably more that we missed)
// Day 4:
- Scourie – meh
- Kylesku Bridge – a good bridge, but not good enough to stop and photograph
- Stoer – walked 6km to see old man of Stoer and saw some seals FINALLY.
- Lochinver – good, but wet so looked for a pub to sit in. None took dogs inside. Mental.
// Day 5
- Drove to Ullapool – nice mountain shop and cafe, but got attacked by midges…again.
- Corrieshalloch Gorge – midgie hat needed, fun wobbly bridge built in Victorian times. Tryfan trying to walk over a wire bridge was fun to watch – weird walk!
- Realised we had missed some geology geek-fest so drove back 20miles to visit Knochan Crag National Park. It was a bigger hike up than we realised. We got to see the however many years of the rocks and David liked touching the history haha!
- Gairloch – the best hot chocolate from a young couple. Treated ourselves to a campsite WITH SHOWERS. Dreamy. Millcroft pub for dinner – great food except the whiskey dessert I ordered did not have any whiskey in it – livid.
// Day 6
- Hillbillies cafe in Gairloch – delightful!
- Beinn Alligin circuit – big Munro day! Forced Tryfan to go in his rucksack to go down off the first peak. Second time, he crawled in after having been taken clambering with David for a while!
- Gorgeous loch parking spot – fire on, citronella joss sticks in van and in our hands!
// Day 7
- Downloaded a Scottish Artists playlist so I could sing ‘I’ll take the high road and you take the low road and I’ll be in Scotlaaaand befooooore you’, which I enjoyed. David also 100% enjoyed this….I’m pretty sure.
- Applecross – lovely walled garden with cafe, bought a book based on a murder that took place near there in 1869, which was really great.
- David was looking forward to driving the bit from Applecross over the mountain pass as it was mean to be mental! There were treacherous bits, but I think the fog and rain took away from it a bit.
- Skye – Portree – bought two gins to escape the toursits (hypocrites I know).
- Culnacnoc – waterfall surrounded by many sheep much to Tryfan’s curiosity.
- Staffin harbour – parked up for the night. Incredible sky.
// Day 8
- A little seal kept popping up to say hello in the bay as we read
- Quiraing – The Needle, The Table and The Prison were conquered. I genuinely thought this was a little walk….it was a proper hike with very boggy bits! Tryfan enjoyed the latter, but didn’t enjoy the need for the roadside shower afterwards!
- The Gallery cafe up on the hill – nice stodge
- Glenbrittle campsite – no showers/loos, but flat with good view. Lots of holes which Tryfan dug up and we filled in! Enjoyed the beach run to see the cows.
- Really midgey which was fun when Tryfan refused to come in and David was chasing him!
// Day 9
- Explored the beach
- Fairy pools – SO busy, but kept walking further and found one to ourselves. Tryfan didn’t enjoy us getting in.
- Kintail – beautiful loch and great hotel for dinner and drinks filled with locals.
// Day 10
- Kayak on the loch in Kintail – LOADS of seals popping up
- Eilean Donan Castle – bought the world’s most expensive cow toy (I didn’t see the 1 in the tens column….) Had a tasty MacHaggis Toastie.
- Random spot, can’t find on map – was nice until Tryfan rolled in HUMAN poo. The importance of burying/taking it with you has never been more discussed and whinged about than when we took him down to the loch, gagging and scrubbing his curls!!
- Van cinema again
// Day 11
- Inverness castle – the finish line!
We had a little detour to see my Gran in Forres and then to see David’s friend in Aviemore. No pit stops after that – 11 hour drive home to get David back in time for A Level results day. Never. Again.
We finally made the jump from our VW T25:Gretal for Renault Trafic conversion: Gretal 2.0
Gretal needed too much work and time spent on her and we just couldn’t do that. We sold her to a lovely guy who had the time and know-how to fix her up and he sends me photo updates! She’s going to be a wedding vehicle!
We bought a conversion and she’s doing well – a few tweaks needed as I think it was a bit of a bodge job, but she’s holding up well, drives faster than 50mph and is REALLY roomy!
We will miss the fellow VW camper waves and the classic look, but we enjoy not breaking down all the time.
Here’s to more #vanlife adventures
Briefly, I went to Norway for two weeks with my husband, a tent and a beautiful (to me) van.
I went to:
// Bergen – got a decent slice of pizza and a van.
// Voss – wanted to do hardcore water sports (it was too windy/closed), so bought a £7 half pint of beer. Saw some cows.
// Odda – clambered the 65,000 steps to and from Trolltunga. Blew me away (not literally). Last toe nails have only just fallen off last week. Climbed to base of glacier next morning on way to next location
// Went south. Chasing the ever-escaping sun (it was my summer holiday after all). Found a decent campsite somewhere random near Sandjeford. Swam in a fjord.
// Did a long drive with a few pit stops along the south coast – very wet day. Listened to my constantly improving Road Trip playlist on Spotify. Sometimes, there’s a dodgy one added by my friend (Barbie Girl leaps to mind), but that made for a laugh in the van!
// Sola – Beautiful sand dunes on the west coast. Some mental landscapes and grim hotdogs on the next drive.
//Ryfylke – most beautiful campsite view. Enjoyed my luminous airseat with a strong coffee after my HIIT session each day. Went kayaking. Stayed here longer than I meant to. Climbed up Preikestolen to watch the sun rise. Blimey!
// Bergen – stopped looking at price of things and just had a few amazing beers. 7 Fjell. Phwoar. Worth all 1000 pence.
Ultimately, go here if you like:
// Decent beer
// Unbelievable jaw-dropping scenery
// Standard campsites with incredible views (or free wild camping)
Don’t go there is you don’t like:
// Paying through the nose for everything
// Paying for each shower
// Sugar tax
// Everywhere you turn being incredibly beautiful…
Here’s my 1 second every day: