Water, water everywhere

East and North today. Preparing to return to the ferry next week.

The huge meal that we had eaten at The Derg Inn last night stood us in good stead this morning and we were able to get away from Terryglass good and early, for we had a long way to go. With no need  for breakfast, no waste to drop and no water available to fill the tanks with, we were off by 10:00, which is early for us.

We had woken to teeming rain and that was largely the story all day. It is almost bedtime as I write this and the rain continues unabated.

Today has been the most boring drive of our holiday thus far. Dull, dull, dull… driving in heavy rain on mostly uninspiring roads, with no views due to low cloud and precipitation. And then there was Tesco. *sigh* Well, these things have to be done and we are now stocked up for a few days.

We found a viewpoint car park without height bars in which to have our lunch, We could see, dimly through the rain, something of the intended view of Lough Ree. It was good to be able to stop without feeling like undesirable miscreants for once. 

There have been long stretches of straight flat road today. The first caused us to enquire whether the Romans had been here but it quickly became apparent why the road was so straight when we realised that we were passing through the most enormous BOG. More bogs followed, with their own straight stretches.

Also today we have found the HGV traffic. Until now we have seen few commercial vehicles but we have certainly caught up with them today.

Tonight we are at Lough Rynn and have an entire 20 pitch caravan site to ourselves. No photos yet, due to that interminable rain. Maybe tomorrow we can explore a little and take a look at our surroundings. We will be here for two nights, or possibly three.

Easkey does it

Where were we up to? Ah, yes, Bundoran, I think. 

After two nights in Bundoran the weather had changed and we drove off on a soft St Valentine’s Day, in a fine drizzle. The plan was to go to an Aire at Gortnor Abbey Pier. I had asked around on Facebook for a suitable spot to stop and walk the dog on our way and Easkey (or Easky or Eskey or any one of the variant spellings that abound) had been suggested.

On our journey the character of the landscape changed considerably, becoming ever more agricultural and warmer and more lush. Numerous small tractors populated the road on our way. The heady aroma of muck-spreading seemed omni-present. That muck is good stuff though as I noted shortly before reaching Easkey that the grass here was growing well already. 

Easkey, apparently, is a surfer spot of world-renown. It remains unspoiled, a one-street village of the standard “two pub” size that we have come to understand and  recognise. It stands out however by virtue of its community-run caravan site. We decided to stop for the night and to move on to Gortnor Abbey Pier the following day.

Check in is at the Community building adjacent to the site. The code for the barrier and facilities is obtained on paying your €20  (Includes EHU). The free Wi-fi password had to be requested as it was not offered. (The staff appeared to be in need of some training and a customer information handout)

The Easkey site is small and unfussy. It is new, so the facilities block looks very spanking-new and promising. Accessibility is, as you might expect from a new-build site, very good (so far as this able bodied person can tell) with really roomy shower and lots of turnaround room in the Ladies.

The (cold) facilities block

There are three showers in both Ladies and Gents and each has one of them designed for Disabled use. Showers cost €2 for six minutes. To add insult to injury, the showers are of the push button type and deliver (I counted) around 12 seconds of water per push. Not enough to keep a body warm in the cold ambient temperature of the block. A blown air type heater on the wall by the entry door appeared not to be functioning.

Between the Ladies and Gents is a kitchen with kettle, toaster a couple of sinks and washing machine and tumble dryer. There is a small dining set and a book shelf with books etc. Presumably this can be used as a social space.

Vincent at Easkey

The motorhome pitches are hardcore and are very approximately level, each surrounded by plain grass (just cut – underlining my assessment that the grass was already under way for the year.)  We chose the most apparently level pitch. They are not “fully-serviced sites” as promised at the barrier and we think this applies only to the handful of static pitches sharing the park. Motorhomes have a hookup only, not even a dedicated water point.  It does make the overnight charge expensive for what you get, especially as we were unable to find any grey or black water waste points. Fresh water, rubbish and electricity only.

The free wi-fi provided a very weak signal to the van with only intermittent access. We tried indoors in the kitchen area but had no signal at all there.

The village has a couple of general stores, butchers, a pottery, Restaurant, Takeaway, bicycle hire and a small Heritage centre – most of which were closed for the season. The Pottery was open but we did not go in as I find it embarrassing to not spend money in such a place and we have simply nowhere in the van to put beautiful or delicate objets d’art. We were sad that Pudding Row was not open and i was equally sad not to be able to view the Heritage Centre, which is in a tiny cottage occupied until  the middle of last century – ultimately by a family of eight! This may not seem remarkable but the small size of the place has to be seen to be believed – it made the standard Scots two-room But-and-Ben look positively palatial. I imagine it was a one-room place, about the size of our van…. but with SIX kids in it.

There is a ruined Kirk dating back to medieval times. The kirkyard is tiny and jam-packed. Not possible to navigate without walking on graves,

I fact it is so tightly packed that it is difficult to photograph – it’s not easy to get back far enough to frame a shot.

There is a riverside walk down to the sea. No beach but there is a small harbour and a castle ruin plus the prospect of watching the surf dudes at play.

 

 

Stone-walled

The weather was grim as we left Kippford on Friday in the early afternoon. It made for slow progress but luckily we were not going far – just to Metal Bridge, stopping first at Kilnford Barns and then at Tesco in Dumfries. We arrived at Metal Bridge before evening opening, so not as late as it felt.

My dinner was enormous, as last time, though this time I had sausage (pork, bacon and black pudding) with haggis mash – delicious but far too filling. Nell benefited from a large meaty sausage that I smuggled out in my handbag.

Vincent proved to be far better soundproofed than Hank was and traffic noise was far less of a problem this time.

It was cold dank and misty when we woke on Saturday morning at Metal Bridge. I was thankful that we did not need to join the traffic on the M6. What we did need to do however was to go and find dog food as we had forgotten to buy it at Tesco. Luckily the way south out of Metal Bridge involves taking the B road into Carlisle and that road pops out right at ASDA,  We breakfasted there on some surprisingly good coffee and bacon rolls after we had done our shopping, then topped up the petrol tank before heading on our way to the Hadrian’s Wall Caravan site. The mist had cleared by Carlisle and the sun was out, giving us full value from the passing scenery.

Vincent at Base Camp

As might readily be guessed, the site lies very close to that iconic historical edifice. 

We were treated to a warm welcome and efficient but friendly service. The site is somewhat old school. Possibly rustic. The showers are push button, with a very short water delivery period. The facilities are not well heated but thankfully the water is hot enough. All the same, not a place to linger for long unclothed.

The scenery is stunning

The views all around are magnificent but better still up by the wall.

Long distance views in all directions

Of course we wasted no time in taking Nell for a walk to the wall.  I broke out the camera, though light conditions were poor. 

We had booked one night and planned to move on today but birthday celebrations got the better of us last night and it was deemed prudent not to drive today. We booked a second night and went to walk off last night’s excess along the wall again. I took two walking poles as my back was complaining, so no camera today… when of course the light was stunning.

It’s an amazing piece of work

That’s always the case, I find. 

Poor moles!

and of course I missed capturing the evening’s wonderful sunset, sitting here typing this whilst Mr Snail sleeps it off. Or attempts to. Things got a little noisy this afternoon.

We are sandwiched tonight betwixt two caravans. There are fairy lights. I wish we had gone to Vindolanda.

Tomorrow we are on a 5-van CL site. May be more peaceful!

On the road with the new van

Leaving Winchcombe behind on a very frosty Tuesday morning, we turned Vincent’s head towards Derbyshire. Our first port of call was Bakewell, where we warmed up with hot Mocha and then bought Bakewell Pudding, bread and cheese before embarking  for Chatsworth.

The Caravan Club site at Chatsworth was all but full, with only two pitches remaining and one of those was ours. We were told to drive round and choose the one that we preferred. 

Why so busy at the end of November? Well, Chatsworth is always a popular venue but November sees the estate hosting a Christmas Market and our day there was the final one of the event. In fact, the GPS having failed us, we became snarled up in Market traffic when trying to find the caravan site. It is clearly an extremely popular event! We were happy to finally untangle ourselves and come to rest on the CC site,  which is housed on the estate in what was once a walled garden and is far away from any traffic.

The door to the other side

The river runs alongside the site, which gives direct access on the other side to over 1,000 acres of the estate park, by way of a little wooden door accessed from the little dog walk. A key to the door is provided on arrival. 

There is a single central facilities block, well maintained but well used too. Many cheery “good mornings” were exchanged en route to the shower – mostly to the ducks and pheasants that were roaming the grounds, it must be said.

As immaculately kept as you could possibly imagine, this site has some added extras such as an under-cover outdoor play area, with table tennis and chess table.

A very pleasant place to stay but quite rigid in the Rules department. It was just bad luck, we think, that having arrived after a hard frost our water point was frozen and the hot water supply to the showers was a little iffy – both mornings only half the showers had hot water.

We walked into Baslow on our first morning – there is a direct footpath to the village through the estate, It remained frosty as we set off.

The White Lodge

The Blue Plaque commemorates Joseph Paxton.

In the park

It was incredibly busy in the park, with a continuous flow of people walking towards us. There is a long distance footpath that runs through this way so there were hikers, visitors to the Christmas Market and also, no doubt, workers walking up from Baslow. 

Business conducted at the village shop, we walked back to base again, pausing to snap the iconic view at t he bridge. Sadly I had  missed this on the way down, when the thatched roof was decorated with frost but a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls were cluttering the scene. By the time that we returned the thaw had arrived.

Never resist a thatched cottage, especially when sited by running water

We dropped Nell off in the van and then walked up to the Christmas Market. I took my little camera with me and set it on B&W in the hopes of grabbing some “street” candid shots but the first thing that we did on arrival was to buy lunch from the Hog Roast stand. Mmmmmm…

Some scenes from the Fair (click for larger view)

Of course, we needed no supper after that.

Chatsworth View

On Thursday morning we meandered off to York, where we stayed at the CC site at Rowntree Park. 

Days 9 – 12, at Huntly

Monday and Tuesday were planned for Huntly Castle Caravan Park, a site that we enjoyed very much indeed. The weather remained beautiful and there was much walking by the river and elsewhere. The weather however was promising a turn for the worse, with gale force wind and heavy rain. We swiftly booked a further two nights rather than face the elements at Glenshee.

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle

Unfortunately even with two extra nights, I still did not find time to fit in a trip around the castle.

Huntly did endear itself to me and I am sure that we shall return, not least because Mr Snail will have a follow up appointment at the ARI in six months’ time. The hourly bus service leaves from a stop very close to the site and takes a little over an hour, dropping off right outside the hospital. It is very convenient.

Days 6 to 8, a little exhausting

We are in Huntly and on a hookup – with lots of lovely power for the lappie.

Now,  if the 23rd of the month was Day 5, today must be… gosh, Day 9? Three nights at Brahan whizzed by PDQ. We did rather more walking than planned and we got a little wet from time to time but it was almost as peaceful and relaxing as we had remembered – only this time with guns.

We parked in the same spot as last time, which was pretty much a year ago to the day I reckon.

The site at Brahan takes up to 5 vans and is ranged along an old  tree-lined drive, the ha-ha supplying an uninterrupted view across the field

The site at Brahan takes up to 5 vans and is ranged along an old tree-lined drive, the ha-ha supplying an uninterrupted view across the field

Our Saturday walk had to be re-planned due to a rough shoot in the area of the estate where we had intended walking. We decided instead to go and see the Red Kite feeding. Due to  a little map disagreement with the track on the ground and the presence of cows (Nell’s scared of them) we took the long route, got wet and missed the birds. A two and a half mile stroll turned into a 4 hour hike but it was not all bad. Nell found a beautiful ball to carry for about six miles and we had some fine views of Loch Ussie. On the down side, I lost the skin off three of my toes and my hips and knees were giving me gyp. Worn out, we hit the hay by 9pm.

On Sunday Mr Snail’s brother and his wife came to visit as they are on holiday in the Heilans just now. We took a stroll with cameras and that map and it served up anther measure of confusion whilst the weather gods served up further rain. We did see salmon leaping and a roe doe grazing quietly at close hand, oh – and a rainbow. So again, not too unhappy with that outcome.

Monday morning saw us leave Brahan early, without breakfast n fact. Mr Snail wanted to deliver Hank to the hands of the exhaust-fixer-man without delay. We were blessed with another fine day and good travelling. Even Inverness failed to ensnare us in its rush our claws and we were swiftly through, despite queues on the Kessock bridge. I took advantage of the delay to look for dolphins but spotted none.

The exhaust-fixer-man’s establishment was on the far side of Elgin and so we drove straight through. I cast a wistful eye over the M&S Food Hall as we passed…

Hank was left with the very nice man at Custom Crafts, who said he would need around an hour. I asked if the nearby snack wagon made a good bacon roll and he said that they were good but that Harry Gow’s were better. No contest! We walked back down to the main road to Harry’s shack and had a sausage and egg roll apiece with a very good coffee. It certainly hit the spot.

Back to two tail pipes at last. The new one is shiny-shiny

Back to two tail pipes at last. The new one is shiny-shiny

Hank needs a whole new exhaust system soon. The exhaust-fixer-man says we are looking at something like £1,200. Eep! But at least we know where we can have one fashioned and fitted and some time in which to save up. That’s better than having the thing drop off and not knowing what to do about it.

I did the decent thing by the way and suggested that it was daft to take Hank back through Elgin just to go to M&S when we did not actually need anything. So, we turned towards Huntly, stopping only to fill up with LPG at a garage just outside town. That was the plan anyway but after two attempts and with a painfully slow delivery, Mr Snail managed to take on just 66 pence worth of fuel. He gave up. We will try again at ASDA in Kircaldy.