The last glorious day of summer in Langdale, the Lake District

It was early October in the north-west of England and our weather expectations were low … but the isobars were working in our favour and there was one day in a blustery and showery week when the sun shone, the sunglasses were dusted off and the short trousers had one last airing … and on this splendid day we were lucky enough to be in the Lake District!

We were staying at the National Trust Great Langdale campsite.  This campsite has some shortcomings; it isn’t the place for you if you are looking for somewhere with luxurious heated facilities [despite the sunshine it was chilly in the evenings and mornings]; or a site with spacious campervan pitches [the pitches work best for smaller campervans] or even if you want somewhere cheap and cheerful [it costs £25/night in September/October but varies between £21 and £30 for two adults with EHU].  What this campsite does offer is stunning views of the wonderful Langdale Valley, peace and quiet, the Old Dungeon Ghyll just five minutes away [where you can get a pint of Old Peculier, my favourite beer] and access to superb walking.

We enjoyed one of those days when the hills are so magnificent you don’t want to stop hiking and we were having so much fun we ended up following a route somewhat longer than we originally planned.  It was so glorious on the hills we just kept adding another hill and the sun had left the valley by the time we descended back to our cosy Blue Bus.

We climbed upwards from the valley and emerged from the crags above Langdale onto Loft Crag, a superb viewpoint.  The panorama down the steep hillside into the valley and across to the summit of Bow Fell were magnificent and further away we spotted Great Gable among the multitude of fells.  We moved on to Pike of Stickle, skipping Harrison Stickle that we have climbed before and took in Thunacar Knott before deliberating over our lunch about where to head for next.  High Raise was beckoning and we set off across the slightly boggy land dotted with small tarns to this hill with views into Borrowdale and across Derwent Water to Skiddaw.  Sergeant Man is easily recognisable from almost any direction except from High Raise it seems but we hiked on and navigated to this little peak.

Our final objective became Blea Rigg, a Wainwright neither of us had knowingly climbed before and the top of which isn’t really clear on the map or the ground.  We had searched for Blea Rigg on an earlier occasion this year during a walk from Grasmere to Silver How and failed to find it.  This time, in the continuing sunshine, we climbed up every pimple and nobble between Sergeant Man and Silver How, examining Wainwright’s drawings on each one, determined to be sure we had stood on top of Blea Rigg.  Comparing my photographs with those of others on the internet later we are confident we did get there!

We descended on sheep tracks below the crags, eventually joining Stickle Ghyll and the well-made path into Langdale.  We had walked about 15 km but most importantly had experienced a truly memorable Lake District day.

 

 

 

A Campervan Trip to the North-East: Hexham, Whitley Bay & County Durham

2019 August North East trip (19)
St Mary’s lighthouse at Whitley Bay

The Hexham Racecourse campsite is on the top of a hill and has wide open views over the racecourse to green hills and woodland.  This lofty position does mean it catches even the merest hint of a breeze.  The walk into Hexham is an easy 1.5 km but the return is back up the hill and a trifle more demanding.  The peace and openness of this relaxed campsite suited us very well and the facilities are modern and clean.

Hexham is a quiet little town but certainly worth a walk around to see the abbey and the old gaol and there are plenty of cafes to sit in and watch the world go by.  We walked down to the town in the early evening and pottered through the streets and the park.

On a wet day we took a longer walk from the campsite through luxuriant woodland where raindrops dripped long after a downpour had stopped.  The long ribbon of West Dipton Wood follows the brook along a narrow valley to the charming Dipton Mill Inn.  We followed tracks and lanes to the hamlet of Juniper where we picked up a path over the dramatically named Devil’s Water into Dipton Wood, a large area of woodland and heather that is varied and delightful.  We didn’t meet another walker until we were on the paths and lanes that took us into the Tyne Valley and Corbridge where the sun started to peep out.  We treated ourselves to pancakes with ice-cream in the Emporium Ice-cream Parlour before catching a train back to Hexham and tackling the hill up to the campsite.

2019 August North East trip (6)
The view from Hexham Racecourse campsite

Our next stop was the Caravan and Motorhome Club site by Whitley Bay.  On the way we returned to Corbridge to visit the fascinating site of the Roman town that has been excavated.  The Whitley Bay campsite is arranged so that pretty much everyone has some sort of sea view, looking across to the picturesque St Mary’s Lighthouse that can be reached by a short causeway between high tides.  We walked along the coast to the centre of Whitley Bay and joined the queue for a Di Meo’s Ice Cream, spoilt for choice by their range of delicious flavours.  There were plenty of people enjoying being on the beach and I decided it was warm enough to have a paddle in the sea as we walked back.

2019 August North East trip (31)
Brancepeth Church modern stained glass window

We ended our trip near to Durham.  We walked to Causey Arch, the world’s oldest surviving single-arch railway bridge and along the old railway line into the village of Lanchester.  The Lanchester Valley railway was built to carry iron ore and coal to the Consett steelworks and was opened in 1862.  Trains ran here for just over one hundred years and today it is a level and popular walking and cycle path.  In Lanchester we found the charming Kaffeehaus Amadeus, a small and delicious slice of Austria in County Durham.

Before we headed home a friend took us on a short walk to see Brancepeth, an unexpected picture-postcard village with a castle and St Brandon’s Church, which had exceptional 17th-century features but was destroyed by fire in 1998.  The church was restored and is now a light and airy space with a stunning modern stained glass window depicting colourful flowers.

Shetland: Top Tips for a Campervan Trip

Shetland (7)
Uyea on Shetland’s north coast

The Shetland Isles some miles off the north coast of Scotland are fascinating and beautiful islands, packed with wildlife and a different view around every headland.  Shetland will take your traveller’s mind and blow it over a sea cliff with its stunning scenery, friendly people and tranquillity.  Getting to Shetland is quite a journey for anyone but it is perfect for the pace of a campervan or motorhome holiday.  Read on and get the bug …

Getting there

If you are taking your campervan, rather than hiring one there, you will be on the ferry from Aberdeen.  Even if you are hiring, consider taking the ferry, rather than flying for a gentler way of getting north.  We got on the NorthLink ferry in Kirkwall, Orkney, as we spent a few days on these islands first.  As we were only on the ferry from about midnight until early morning we decided that the sleeping pods would be an acceptable and cheaper option, rather than paying for a cabin.  This turned out to be a frugal choice too far!  The sleeping pods area is full of people shuffling, snoring and generally being quietly noisy and if you value your sleep get a cabin.  If you must save money, take your own blanket and find a corner of the boat to sleep in.  On our return to Aberdeen we had a cabin which felt luxurious.

Where to start exploring

Before you go make use of the Shetland Tourist Information site as it is incredibly useful.  I spent hours checking out the walking pages for ideas for long and short walks on the islands.  We followed a number of these including Hillswick Ness, North Roe, Culswick, St Ninian’s Isle, Eshaness and Hams of Muckle Roe.  They were all good paths and excellent hiking with cliffs, sea stacks and arches around every headland.

Getting off what Shetlanders call The Mainland [the main island] is easy.  There are daily inter-island ferries to the northern islands, Yell, Unst and Fetlar and to Whalsay and Bressay on the east.  There are also regular sailings to Skerries, Papa Stour, Foula and Fair Isle.

Reading some of Ann Cleve’s Shetland series or watching the TV series before you visit could be a fun part of your planning.  It will in no way prepare you for the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the community but they are great stories.

Camping

There are wild camping spots on Shetland but do support the community campsites as these are a great chance to meet local people and support rural areas.  Information about the nine campsites is on the website including the facilities they provide and cost.  Some of these campsites have honesty boxes, at others a volunteer will come round for payment.  We stayed at almost all the campsites and they were all good although my favourite was the Burravoe Pier site on Yell.  We spent a few days in this picturesque spot, walked and cycled from here and just watched the sea.  I also loved camping at the village hall at North Roe where there are no facilities except for water and electric.  We had it to ourselves and sat in the evening sunshine listening to snipe drumming overhead.  My post about Scottish campsites is here.

A slow pace

My top tip is don’t dash around Shetland, even if you are only there for a few days.  We explored the islands for three weeks and this felt good but we could easily have stayed for longer and even after so long there were still things we didn’t get round to seeing.

Taking it slowly will give you chance to find your own special corners.  There is a main road along the length of Shetland’s Mainland but you will want to turn off this road to explore the single-track roads that often end at the sea, which is never far away.  Stopping and watching the sea was one of our favourite activities, the views change with the weather and tides.  If you are lucky and patient you might spot seals, otters or orcas.

Experience the slower pace of life in Shetland and give yourself time to talk to people.  We found that Shetlanders still practice the art of conversation and many of them willingly and generously shared fascinating stories with us.

Food

Find at least one of the cake cupboards.  These are roadside places to buy yummy fresh cakes with an honesty box.  We visited the Cake Fridge at East Burrafirth and the Emma’s Cake Corner in Hoswick many times.  For a full list.

Buy the Shetland Times on a Friday and check out which village halls are offering Sunday Tea or Sunday Lunch and get along.  In the winter, the lunch is soup and sandwiches and cake for a fixed price.  In summer there is an offering of homemade cakes, quiche, sandwiches and more, each item a small amount of money.  All this is washed down by constant refills of tea or coffee.  Sitting at communal tables you will get a chance to chat to some more Shetlanders.  The money raised generally goes to a good cause or to support the village hall.

You can also buy Shetland milk and excellent Shetland butter in the village shops and supermarkets.

Things to see

You will probably spend lots of time beach combing and sitting on cliffs but eventually you might want to see some sights.

Take a boat trip with Shetland Seabird Tours.  They take weather-dependent daily trips to see the birds around Noss and have early bird dawn trips too.  We never got to see the birds on Noss as on the day we were booked the orcas were around and we had an amazing hour watching them hunting the bays.  Whatever you see, you will enjoy a great trip with a knowledgeable crew.

A trip to Mousa to see the best preserved broch in Scotland [and anywhere] is another must-do.  This is a short boat trip and walk to the broch.  You can also visit at night, leaving around 22.30, to see the storm petrels returning to their nests in the broch.  This is a unique Shetland wildlife experience.

Visit Jarlshof, the site of human settlement for around 4,000 years near Sumburgh Airport.  With examples of buildings from Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Norse and medieval eras this is a complicated and fascinating site.

If you have a wet day spend it in Lerwick.  After browsing the shops and cafes, visit the bright and modern museum on the quayside where you will learn so much about Shetland and its history.  A trip to the Town Hall to see the colourful stained glass windows that tell stories from Shetland’s history is also worthwhile.

The Tangwick Haa Museum at Eshaness will give you a useful overview of Shetland’s fishing industry and Querndale Mill surprised us with its varied exhibits, in particular the photographs of local wildlife and their Shetland names.  The beautiful Burravoe Haa Museum on Yell tells more stories about fishing and local history and has an archive of wildlife photographs taken by Bobby Tulloch, a local man.  The Old Haa also serves excellent tea and homemade cake.

If it is the seabird nesting season you will want to go to either Sumburgh Head or Hermaness National Nature Reserve on Unst.  You might see puffins, gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots or razorbills and other birds.

Some people might tell you that trees can’t grow on Shetland.  Although it can be windy, this isn’t true and we visited some superb woodlands.  Da Gairdins at Sand, Garderhouse is a woodland garden on three crofts that is lovingly tended by Ruby.  Michaelswood near Aith is a magical community woodland to remember a young man who died.  Both of these are perfect to visit on a breezy day when you want some shelter.

Find your Shetland

Everyone finds their own way to enjoy Shetland.  I hope these give you some ideas to start planning your own trip.  If you’ve visited Shetland and I’ve forgotten your favourite thing to do then drop a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scotland 2019 trip: 41 overnights on campsite & free camping spots reviewed

2019 Scotland
We were lucky to catch this stunning view of Ben Nevis from near Linnhe Lochside Holidays at Corpach

 

Campsite name How many nights Comments Cost
Glendaruel Caravan & Camping Park, Argyll 1 Pleasant & peaceful site, clean facilities, warm showers, slightly sloping pitches.  Woodland walks and red squirrels near out pitch. £20.00
Ettrick Bay, Isle of Bute 1 Grassy parking area with sea views, just oystercatchers calling, two other vans in another nearby car park £0.00
Roseland Caravan Park, Rothesay 1 High above Rothesay, open views & sunny site, very sloped pitches, clean facilities, showers £1 for 5 mins, hot water, wash-up open but covered £28.00
Ettrick Bay, Isle of Bute 1 Another van behind us this time £0.00
Glendaruel Caravan & Camping Park 1 Second visit £22.00
Big Jessie’s Tea Room, Gigha Ferry Terminal 1 Friendly family, great views over the sea & level pitch.  Vans can use ferry car park.  Ferries from 08.00 to 18.00 £0.00
Machrihanish Holiday Park, Kintyre 2 Grassy spacious & friendly site with wide-open views, 2 hours free wifi, separate bathrooms, lovely & clean with heating, showers fine, near to village with hotel. £19.50
Carradale Bay Caravan Site, Kintyre 1 Grassy site by a lovely bay, views to Arran, key for facilities which are clean but dated, no heating but showers continuous & hot, wash-up open with roof. £24.00
Lochgilphead Caravan Park 2 Level site by the town, hard-standing pitches, facilities dowdy but showers hot, adjustable & continuous, no heating in evening, wash-up under cover, industrial scale laundry. £23.00
North Ledaig Caravan Park, Connel 1 Large well-organised site, popular, sea views from all pitches, facilities heated & clean, modern showers were fairly warm, wash-up outside, £24.00
Glen Orchy car park by the waterfall 1 Peaceful, level car park that we had to ourselves. £0.00
Glencoe Mountain Resort 2 4 level gravel pitches alongside the car park with EHU, toilets & shower £1, site £15 without showers, dish wash indoor, cafe open until 20.30, showers continuous, hot & adjustable.  You can free camp in the sloping car park. £17.00
Invercoe Caravan Site, Glencoe 2 Open site with views across the loch & the Pap of Glencoe behind, facilities clean & showers hot, dish wash inside. £27.00
Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping Park 2 Large, well organised site with shop, restaurant & bar nearby, facilities old & new, indoor dish wash, showers warm enough. £26.50
Linnhe Lochside Holidays, Corpach 2 Terraced site on the loch with shop & bakery, about 1 km beyond Corpach, nice views, good hot showers & heated facilities that are clean but dated, ACSI £17.50
Loch Fleet car park, Skelbo 1 Loch view, fairly level, quiet road, car park has bins, watched seals & eider ducks, one other van. £0.00
Wick Caravan & Camping Site 1 Lovely open grassy site with patches of trees by the river & 10 mins walk from Wick, facilities dated but clean, showers small but hot, adjustable & continuous. £21.00
Birsay Outdoor Centre & Campsite, Orkney 1 Level grassy pitch & the sound of oystercatchers, facilities okay, showers warm but not hot, still only one wash-up sink. £20.20
Broch of Gurness car park 1 Sloping car park but level enough at the bottom overlooking the sea, nice to look around the broch in the evening, one other ‘van. £0.00
Orkney Caravan Park, Kirkwall 1 Busy site with hard-standing near to Kirkwall, excellent clean individual bathrooms with good hot showers, wash-up inside. £24.85
Braewick Cafe & Caravan Park, Shetland 1 Sloping site above a beach, busy at the weekends, clean modern facilities & warm, good hot showers, one kitchen sink. £18.00
Burravoe Pier Trust Caravan & Campsite, Yell, Shetland 3 Sloping site with small facilities block by the pier on the edge of Burravoe with fantastic sea views, 1 shower that is roomy & hot, 2 toilets & heating.  This is a favourite site. £10.00
Braewick Cafe & Caravan Park, Shetland 1 Met the friendly owner this time, radiators were on & great facilities. £18.00
Delting Boating Club, Brae, Shetland 2 Facilities warm, just 1 shower cubicle, hot showers, gravel & fairly level, some road noise & a little crowded, near to village with shops & chippy £15.00
Cunningsburgh Touring Park, South Mainland, Shetland 1 Tarmac car park by marina with hook up, clean facilities building, 2 toilets, 2 showers, £1 was enough for us to share a shower, good hot showers, 2 indoor sinks for wash up. £16.00
Grutness Pier, Sumburgh, Shetland 1 Level parking area by Fair Isle ferry terminal, windy night toilets, quiet. £0.00
Sumburgh Head Hotel, Shetland 1 Level area with a view of Sumburgh Head in car park, can use toilets in hotel, hook up and quiet. £5.00
Sandsayre Pier, Sandwick, Shetland 1 Near houses, car park by the pier, fairly level & quiet night. £0.00
North Roe & Lochend Hall, North Roe, Shetland 1 Car park for hall with hook up, chemical toilet, grey water disposal & water, peaceful & wonderful open views. £10.00
Braewick Cafe & Caravan Park, Shetland 1 Third time here, windy! £18.00
South Nesting Public Hall & Caravan Park, Shetland 1 Sloping area with hook up, one bathroom, peaceful, bathroom clean & fantastic hot shower. £16.00
Skeld Caravan Park, Shetland 2 Level gravel marina site, showers £1 for 11 minutes so shared, no heating, one kitchen sink, clean facilities & friendly volunteers. £19.00
South Nesting Public Hall & Caravan Park, Shetland 1 Second visit £16.00
Ardtower Caravan Park, Westhill, Inverness 2 ACSI site on the hill near Culloden, with good views, clean facilities with radio, warm showers, good sized pitches, friendly. £17.82
Rothiemurchus Camp & Caravan Park, Coylumbridge 1 In the forest, friendly welcome, clean facilities all at one end of site, showers only warm but continuous, lovely position & red squirrels. £28.00
Allt Mor car park, Glenmore 1 Wooded car park with individual bays separated by trees, 4 other vans here, fairly level, peaceful. £2.00
Glenmore Caravan & Camping Site, Aviemore 1 Large site with grass & hard standing pitches, large toilet blocks, some heating, showers warm but short burst on push button. £21.81
The Helix & Kelpies car park, Falkirk 1 Car park on the edge of the Helix Park, toilet open until 22.00, popular overnight halt, cars stopped arriving and leaving by 23.00, some road noise. £5.00
Crofton Hall CL, Cumbria 1 Immaculate site with 4 showers & 2 toilets in the courtyard, a short walk away, large pitches, showers hot & continuous. £17.50
Howgill Lodge, Appletreewick 3 Informal site with fantastic views, good hot showers & friendly welcome, a favourite campsite. £22.00
Wharfedale Caravan & Motorhome Club Site, Grassington 2 Large level site, excellent facilities, one block in the centre, friendly wardens. £26.70

 

2019 Scotland (2)
Camping at Big Jessie’s Tea Room

A day visiting Salford Quays with a local

I have lived a hop and a skip away from Salford Quays for over ten years now and still visiting the Quays is a favourite thing to do.  Salford Quays is my local walk, it is our first choice for drinks and a restaurant and it is where we always take our visitors.  It is a fantastic place to live near, always changing and interesting.  When I have been chained to the laptop for a morning, a stroll around the Quays brings me back to life as there is always something new to see.  As well as being a great place to live near Salford Quays is also a wonderful place to visit for a day or two.  Here’s a local’s guide to what to see and do.

Getting here

If you are coming from Manchester city centre then the Metrolink tram is the way to travel.  The trams run every few minutes from Piccadilly Station to Eccles and Media City.  After the Pomona stop make sure you look over the Manchester Ship Canal at the view back to Manchester.  I would get off at the Salford Quays stop and walk along Ontario Basin to the Lowry.

If you drive, there is a multi-storey car park for the Lowry Outlet Mall and if, like me, you own a high top campervan that won’t fit in a multi-storey car park, use the parking outside Booths, just off Broadway.

Morning coffee

You have plenty of choices for your morning coffee but I would start by sitting in the cafe in The Lowry Theatre [opens at 10.00] while you get your bearings.  This is a chance to look around the airy and modern theatre building too.  The Lowry has an excellent gift shop that sells Salford and LS Lowry related items and much more.

Lowry, a Salford painter

After coffee, head upstairs to the gallery [open from 11.00 Sunday to Friday and 10.00 on Saturday] to see some of Salford’s collection of paintings by LS Lowry.  You will see that Lowry painted more than the matchstick people and mills he is known for, although these are fascinating.  As well as the Lowry’s on permanent display the gallery has temporary exhibitions and there is always something worth seeing.

Imperial War Museum North

Cross the Manchester Ship Canal by the Millennium Footbridge, a lifting bridge of white tubular steel with changing LED lighting at night to the Imperial War Museum North.  This purpose built museum [open 10.00 – 17.00] is free to visit, although donations are welcome.  A mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions about conflict and its effects, a visit here is always moving and informative.

Time for lunch

Walking by the ITV studios, where the new Coronation Street set is now housed, [tours are available at weekends] cross the curved Media City Bridge into the heart of Media City, where many BBC TV and radio programmes are recorded every day.  In the lively plaza look out for stars [we have eaten in the same restaurant as Glenda Jackson and you might see a Coronation Street actor or a favourite DJ] and head for Catena, an independent deli-cafe with a relaxed rustic feel and a great menu.  At the very least everyone around you will be wearing a BBC lanyard!  If you have the appetite, Catena’s pistachio and lemon cake is scrumptious.

Behind the scenes at the BBC

If you have booked, you can get behind the scenes at the BBC on a Media City tour.  The tours vary, depending on what is being filmed or recorded at the time, but this is a marvellous opportunity to get a feel for how the BBC produce their quality programmes, from Blue Peter to the BBC Philharmonic, Woman’s Hour to Five Live Sport.  There are also special CBBC tours for children.  The tours are lots of fun and everyone enjoys being in the interactive studio where you get to try your hand at being a weather presenter and reading the news.

While you are in Media City take a few minutes to walk the Blue Peter Gold Badge Walk, a path honouring some of the well-known names who have received a Blue Peter Gold Badge.  This ends near the actual Blue Peter Garden which is tiny but always makes me smile.

Shopping or history or football

If you are as frugal as I am you might like the bargains in the Lowry Outlet Mall … but you might also hate the idea of shopping.  If that’s the case, walk along Ontario Basin, by the Helly Hensen Watersports Centre [and maybe stopping for a beer and watching some water sports at the pub next door].  Cross Trafford Road to Ordsall Park [looking left to see the stripped-classical 1920s Dock Office], skirting around the park to reach Ordsall Hall.  This charming building is over 800 years old and has a great hall with a definite wow factor.  Only open until 16.00 and closed on Fridays and Saturdays, you might have to rush to fit this stunning building in [or come for the weekend instead of a day!]  If it is closed you can still enjoy the attractive timber-framed building from the outside, admire the gardens and appreciate the contrast with the surrounding modern buildings.

If neither of these are your cup of tea, then walk back across the Millennium Bridge, over Wharf Road and up the hill to Manchester United Football Club’s Old Trafford ground.  You can visit the shop for the latest strip or book on a Museum and Stadium Tour in the Theatre of Dreams.

Cocktails

The early evening is cocktail hour at Salford Quays.  You might be tempted by the remarkable golden Alchemist building that overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal and this certainly has the best view in the house from its terrace.  Of course, this terrace is also the retreat of smokers and so isn’t always as pleasant as it could be.  Instead I prefer to visit The Lime Bar, a stylish long-standing Salford Quays restaurant-bar that has a classical cocktails list, friendly staff and a vibrant vibe.  Stay long enough and you might decide to eat here too and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Sunset

If you are lucky you will get the chance to see a Salford sunset.  Standing on the Media City Bridge and watching the sun go down over the Ship Canal is a big hit at the end of a packed day of sightseeing.

13 ferries in 2 months: What did our campervan trip to Scotland cost & how does it compare with mainland Europe?

From April to June we were touring around Scotland, from Loch Lomond to Shetland, we spent two months pottering around this beautiful country.  In previous years we have visited mainland Europe in the spring … it was orcas that drew me to Shetland.  I thought it would be interesting to compare what it cost on our campervan trip in Scotland with our previous holidays around mainland Europe.  Of course, every trip is different but I’ve had a go at looking at the costs across different spending lines, comparing it with our trip to Croatia, Italy and France for the same length of time last spring and a slightly shorter trip to Spain last autumn.  How did Scotland stack up?

Diesel – UK higher

We travelled 2,520 miles and spent £460.   [Diesel is cheaper in Europe so although our Scottish mileage is similar to our mileage in Spain last year that trip cost £389 for diesel.  If we take the Blue Bus to the southern areas of Europe the mileage is higher and the cost more].

Food for two hungry vegetarians – UK lower

In Scotland we spent £719.15 in supermarkets.  [In Croatia, Italy and France last spring we spent £958 in supermarkets, despite the wine being cheaper!]

Cafes and restaurants – UK higher

It is hard to compare like-for-like for this spending.  Sometimes in Scotland there is no tea shop for miles and when you are out walking for the day on a mountain there is no chance for a coffee, whereas in Spain and Italy we would often stop for coffee as it is good and cheap.  In Scotland we spent £527.56 during the trip.  [Eating out is often cheaper in Europe.  In Croatia, Italy and France last spring we spent £467 in cafes and restaurants]

Campsites – UK lower

We stayed on campsites for 47 of the 67 nights of our Scotland trip, the cost per night ranged from £5 to £28 – we spent £778.40 .  On Shetland we didn’t wild camp as much as we expected because a) it was cold and we wanted EHU for the heating as there is no LPG available on the island b) we like to support the community and all but one campsite we used was community run and reasonably priced, it would have been rude not to stay on these sites.  [We tend to think UK campsites are expensive but we spent £983 on campsites for the same number of nights away last year, staying mostly in Croatia, Italy and France and using our ACSI card.  Camping in Spain and Portugal is much cheaper.]

Ferries and parking – UK lower

We spent a total of £644.13 on ferries and parking – £525 of this is the return ferry to Shetland, most of the rest is Shetland inter-island ferries and ferries to Bute and Kintyre.  [The Hull to Zeebrugge ferry was £489 last year plus we spent £218 on tolls and parking]

Entrance charges and attractions – UK somewhat lower

In Scotland we spent £234.50, this included two boat trips on Shetland and a pine marten watching trip.  [Last spring we spent £279 on the same budget line]

Other spending £173.57 [includes £25 for a deep tissue massage after Ben Nevis, washing machines, maps, gifts for friends and a pair of warm trousers].

The bottom line – £3,012.10 spent in Scotland [We spent the equivalent of £4,240 [£1,228 more!] on a holiday of the same length last spring that took us to Croatia, Italy and France with a higher mileage and consequently £610 spent on diesel]

For 67 days away our average spending was £44.96 a day in Scotland.

This total isn’t much more than our average in Spain last year of £42.93 / day and the ferry to Shetland was much cheaper than Portsmouth to Bilbao.  Of course, the weather is warmer in Spain!

Our trip to Croatia, Italy and France last spring was considerably more expensive and averaged £61/day due to the longer distances, high prices of Italian campsites and supermarket shopping costing more.

If we hadn’t taken the ferry to Shetland [and missed all the wonderful sights in these photographs – I don’t think so] we would have been quids in … but Shetland’s wonderful campsites were certainly the cheapest.

 

Top tips for a campervan trip to Kintyre, Scotland

Kintyre
The causeway to Davaar Island

The long finger of the Kintyre Peninsula, on the west coast of Scotland feels almost like an island as the sea is never far away and when you arrive you feel truly off the beaten track.  This scenic and historic area is well worth exploring for a few days.  With quiet roads and different views around every corner it is perfect for a campervan trip.

We took the ferry to Tarbert and arriving by boat in this pretty port felt like the best way to start our tour.  We explored the town that has a pleasant buoyant atmosphere, climbing up to the castle and visited the Loch Fyne Gallery overlooking the quay.  Here among the quirky and beautiful items I found perfect gifts for friends.

Not far from Tarbert, walk through the ornate gateway to find the impressive ruins of Skipness Castle.  Built in the 13th century you can still climb a staircase for the view out to sea and to the tiny chapel at Skipness Point.

Not to missed is Big Jessie’s Tearoom.  Park up and enjoy a friendly welcome and homemade cake or lunch or breakfast with a good cup of tea and a sea view.  Campervans and motorhomes are welcome to stay overnight in the field next to the ferry car park.  You can use the ferry car park too but this can get busy.

Gigha, a community-owned island off the coast of Kintyre, is the perfect size for cycling, being around 10 km long and also happens to be a stunning and friendly place to visit.  We took our bikes on the ferry and cycled the one road from top to bottom.  The spring colour of rhododendrons and camellias and the woodland and walled garden at Achamore Gardens are dazzling.  Like us, you will probably have the bays on the northern tip of Gigha to yourself and enjoy good food, coffee and cakes along with a view at The Boathouse.

After exploring Campbeltown, check the tide times and walk out to the tidal Davaar Island.  It is safe to walk along the causeway three hours either side of low tide and you will have so much fun you need to give yourself plenty of time to get back.  The walk across the stony causeway with the sea on either side has a marvellous airy feel with fantastic views.  On the island scramble around the cliffs on the south side to find the hidden cave painting of the Crucifixion.  This was painted in 1887 by a local artist, Archibald MacKinnon.

On the fresh Atlantic coast of Kintyre is Machrihanish Bay, a beautiful sweep of sand that is three miles long.  The sky is big here and watching the sun set into the sea here is a real treat.  Find a comfy rock to sit on and take in the views of the Paps of Jura and Islay on the horizon and you will hopefully spot seals and maybe an otter.

Follow the narrow and winding road on the east coast and you come to the tiny hamlet of Saddell.  Here you can stroll around the atmospheric Saddell Bay with Saddell Castle, a 16th century tower house that is available to rent through the Landmark Trust.  Inland we found the remains of the Abbey and remarkable medieval grave slabs with effigies of the people buried there.

The Kintyre Way weaves for 161 km around this wonderful and varied peninsular.  We walked a short and easy to follow section of this trail from Carradale to Cnoc nan Gabhar for wide views over Carradale Bay and beyond to Arran.

Overnights

Big Jessie’s Tea Room, Gigha Ferry Terminal – free overnight if you don’t count the homemade cake

Machrihanish Holiday Park a great value campsite that feels spacious and has wide open views and great separate bathrooms, near to a village with a pub.

Carradale Bay Caravan Site –  a popular site on a lovely bay.