We decided to catch the evening boat, leaving the day free for packing the van. This was a really good idea and meant that we left feeling quite fresh, unlike those times when Mr Snail has leaped immediately from his desk to driving seat and I have been worn out from making all the preparations alone.
It was an easy crossing. As usual we spent the night at the Ring 'o Brodgar car park and alone so we disturbed nobody when we rose at 5 am to catch the early ferry from Stromness and were again blessed with an easy crossing.
Breakfast at Sibster Forest, where we walked Nell around the long loop, fuelled us up for the shortish leg to Dornoch. We had debated travelling further but after a 5 am start, 70 miles is probably pushing things far enough. Sure enough, we were ready for bed by 7:30 pm, though not before a nice long stroll on the beach with the dog and my camera.
Originally I was averse to the idea of a motorhome. It seemed a silly thing, a frivolous thing and not at all my style. Not to mention that fact that I love my island home and had no wish to leave it. I even hate going to the big island to get the shopping in...
When Mr L came home with Brunhilde, an ageing Tabbert FB 660, I felt no more enthused. After my first weekend away on Orkney I was keen to go off on a second one. Then followed longer trips to the North of Scotland. I soon became very fond of the old girl.
I shall miss her.
Brunhilde did well for us on her final run:
17th March, overnight at the Ring 'o Brodgar before leaving on the early ferry to Scrabster on the 18th.
rather less wild the following night, when we parked Brunhilde on my brother-in-law's drive before
the long drive down to Gloucester, where we stayed at the Briarfields caravan site
It was a long trip but she held up beautifully. There was some worry about the exhaust mounts when we saw that the exhaust was sagging. A side trip in to Carlisle and a quick look around B&Q found us a temporary solution and ensured that the old girl got to her destination. Cable wraps - you cannot beat 'em!
I missed getting a photo of Bruni alongside the new RV. If only I had captured that we could see just how much of a step up it is. Not in all ways, though. Bruni might be narrower, less long and less tall than the new snailshell, she may be less roomy inside but by golly she had a trick or two up her sleeve. Tardis-like she managed to store so much stuff that we barely fitted it in to the new van, skirt lockers and all. She was also warm and cosy.
We did, clearly, decide to buy the new one. The vendor gave us a small PX on Bruni - £3,000. She cost us a little over £5,000 under two years ago, so perhaps we might have done better. He wasn't saddled with her however, she has already been sold and is on eBay at a princely £8,995! The description is so good it makes me wonder why we ever parted with her. Clearly she was a little gem and I do hope that she ends up in a good home with a family who will love her.
Great as Bruni was, we certainly shall not miss the palaver of getting in and out of that French Bed, nor the way that the bed sagged to one side and we never had a decent night's sleep.
There can be few better places to wake to at 5 am than Brodgar. We had crossed from Sanday on the evening boat after work on Wednesday, having only one other vehicle on the car deck to keep Brunhilde company.
The weather at home was distinctly grungy but as we sailed across to Kirkwall we could see that we were headed into fairer weather.
Indeed we woke to a near clear sky. I had no time for morning photographs. We forwent our shower or any refreshment, just warmed up the windscreen and drove off into the dark towards Stromness, where we needed to check in for the ferry between 5:30 and 6:30. We made mugs of coffee and fried egg rolls to eat while we queued.
On board the Hamnavoe we sought out one of the cushy sofas and snuggled down for a snooze.
The sun rose behind Hoy and was under heavy cloud so we were almost in Scotland before we saw her. My little camera did not cope well with the lighting conditions (User Error - I forgot that it has a Sunrise/Sunset setting!) and this photo is little like the scene that I saw when I wanted to capture those rays.
Thurso was wreathed in a light mist and had evidently suffered a ground frost. When we pulled up at the new forest at Sibster, we found everything bedecked in twinkling cobwebs. It was quite magical. I took many photographs of sparkling webs but few of them were in full focus.
We lingered and walked Nell around the trail, stopping to brew coffee afterwards. Even Teddy came out to play while we sat at the picnic table and supped.
We were aiming to arrive in Golspie in time to try out the Fish and Chips from The Trawler for our lunch but actually parked there a little before twelve, so Nell had another run, this time along the beach.
The sun was going full tilt by the time that we ate and I was grateful to be back in the shade of the van when we left Golspie for Dornoch, although I liked Golspie very much and would have liked to explore further than we did. It was a remarkably floral place and even at this time of year most houses had flower tubs and baskets out. It was all very colourful.
Dornoch was a delight but very hot indeed. The cool calm of the Cathedral was most welcome, as were the ice cream sundaes in Harry Gow's. The early morning start was beginning to show around Mr Snail's edges and so we left for the beach car park where we planned to stay for the night.
It was full to overflowing! The beach was full too. There was swimming and paddling and sunbathing and dogs frolicking. On the 1st October. In Scotland!
It was well in to the evening before we could move Brunhilde into the car park and settle ourselves down for a night that was not quite as early as anticipated.
Tide times dictated our departure from Dornoch; we wanted to try some Dolphin-spotting at Chanonry Point and had been advised that the best time to go is an hour or two after low tide. That meant being there by around 10:30 am and we wanted to call at The Storehouse of Foulis on our way.
Another glorious sunny morning turned chill and overcast by the time that we had parked at Chanonry. We gave it a couple of hours, seeing three or four pods pass through but not gaining any really good photographs.
Ideally we would have parked up here for the night but those unfriendly orange signs from the highlands and Highlands council made us feel most unwelcome. We knew that the same fate awaited us in Cromarty but we wanted to explore the town anyway and in particular wished to try the wood-fired pizza at The Sutor Creek and to visit the East Kirk.
A visit to Munlochy Clootie Well rounded off our day on the Black Isle and then we were off to stay the night on a club site at Culloden Moor.
Another early start set us on our way to Broomhill, at the unfashionable end of the Strathspey Railway. Broomhill does however offer a car park large and empty enough in which to leave Brunhilde while we rode the train to Aviemore and back again.
There followed an unnecessary amount of camera work and general nerdiness.
Our stop for the night was at Glen Banchor, in a small rural car park about a mile out of Newtonmore. A location of stunning and unexpected beauty and affording mile after mile of walking.