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Aussies on Tour in Scotland 2013 PDF Printable Version E-mail


Pam and Martin Williams' Motorhome Tour of Scotland

Summer 2013

1920 km (1,200 miles) in Scotland out of a total of 2580 km (1,610 miles) in Britain

For some pictures of our Scottish trip click here. Enlarge individual photos by clicking on the image, or work through them using the arrows on the sides of the picture with a map position showing on the right hand side.

Introduction

Our last three years motorhoming have seen us travel almost 40,000 km visiting places as far afield as Narvik, above the Arctic Circle in Norway, and Monemvassia in the southeast of the Greek Peloponnese. This year our planned four-month trip was through France and Iberia and back. We live in Western Australia and keep our motorhome in the English Midlands, so it was going be a quick MOT, catch up with a few friends and relations, then hit the road to the ferry and on south.

Our plans were snookered by health issues, so our long holiday became shorter and less stressful; basically about six weeks in the UK. Yes, we did catch up with friends and rellies, but mainly the holiday had a motorhome focus on Scotland. We used to live there but had not been back since 1968.

The following is a summary with some comments and observations on our 2013 trip to Bonnie Scotland. Some general topics and spiel first and then more detail on where we went and where we stayed.

Clockwise or Anti-clockwise?

The plan was to travel clockwise; up the west coast, across the top and down the east side. We drove up Loch Lomond and on to Tyndrum in really foul misty rain and called in to the tourist office there. They confirmed that the bad weather in the west was set in for the week and that it would be warmer and drier in the east of the country. So we headed back to Crianlarich and on to Killin and Loch Tay. They were right too!!

Free and Wild!

We did quite a bit of research before we left home on places that we could stay. Generally we don't stay in camp sites but we obviously want to be safe even when we are on our own. We checked out loads of Googled sites; the most useful being the French site 'Camping Car Infos' (http://www.campingcarinfos. com/index1.htm) and of course the MagBaz Travels page: http://www.magbaztravels.com/content/view/685/30/

In practice, we found that a lot of the information was out of date and there were a lot more signs of the 'No Overnight Parking' variety than we had been led to expect. So we also had to rely on our noses and our experience gained over the years. We did find some magic stopping spots and generally the Scottish attitude to motorhomes was so much more refreshing that that south of the border!

General Comments and Observations

Scotland has some wonderful places, great scenery and many unspoiled landscapes. Apart from a few large cities it's not crowded and has lots of isolated villages, farms and cottages. A bit like we found in Norway last year. In huge contrast to Norway, there are very few Scottish waterfalls and they are really quite small.

No Vacancies!

We saw so many 'No Vacancies' signs as we drove around, which probably meant that there were lots of tourists around or it could just have been that the B&B and hotel owners were on holiday themselves and the places were shut! Actually, the tourist business did seem to be thriving.

Forget 'Over the Sea to Skye' - it was good to be able to drive over to Skye and also not to have to pay a toll for the new bridge but to be honest we thought that Skye was over-rated. Too many people chasing too few places of interest, too few tourist destinations. Mind you, that was when it was dull and wet the weather is such a determinant in enjoying Scotland!

People and Culture

We found all the locals that we met very open and friendly. There seemed to be a lot of support for the 'Yes' vote for devolution, due to be decided next year (in October 2014). We'll now watch the outcome with greater interest! There were certainly lots of signs in Gaelic, particularly in the west and in the Highlands.

There were also many signs trying to ensure that everyone was driving on the correct side of the road.

Motorhomes

There were a reasonable number of motorhomes around certainly too many on Skye - but there were still free and wild places to stay if you knew where to look and were reasonably resourceful. We use autogas for cooking and heating and there were plenty of places that sold it on our route.

There were few places to empty the toilet or dump the grey water though. Luckily we have a SOG system installed so we do not use any nasty chemicals in our Thetford loo. We use public toilets where possible and we empty our cassette every day.

Roads

The roads were generally good, even the many 'single track with passing places', although the edges were not too good even on many A-roads. We took several scary roads: the ones that spring to mind are the loop road through Tarskavaig, Tokavaig and Ord; the road to Applecross up Bealach na Ba (the Pass of the Cattle) and the road from Kinlochewe to Torridon very narrow with quite a lot of traffic.

Wildlife

We were only in Scotland for about 2 weeks but we were disappointed that we saw very little wildlife about not many birds although we heard a few owls and we saw a few raptors, few butterflies, no seals, no dolphins or otters and we saw no-one catch any fish. We did see signs promising ospreys, red squirrels and deer and warning of feral goats but they all kept away from us!

In some ways it was surprising that there were any trees left.

We were more lucky with things that could not run away and we picked a load of blueberries oh and yes, there were the blackflies in the west that did their best to protect the wide outdoors! None in the east.

Obviously egged on by the wet weather we did see a lot of fungi and some professional fungi collectors ... and we did like the highland cattle they had attitude and were really full of character.

We really enjoyed our short sojourn in Scotland and it left us wanting more and regretting all the places we hadn't had time to visit. We must plan another visit. Click here if you'd like to see more of our holiday pictures.

The following is a summary itinerary of our short holiday and includes some information of possible use for motorhomers.

Wed 28 August

Derby to Mawbray, Cumbria - 352 km

The 28th saw us heading across to Stoke and up the M6, which was very busy until we got north of Preston. We left the M6 south of Penrith and joined Route 66, or was it the A66? Past Bassenthwaite Lake, which according to Stephen Fry on QI is one of only two 'lakes' in the Lake District, and through Aspatria to stay with a friend for the night. We were very near the sea and it struck us that the old road signs had been in the sea air for a very long time!

29 & 30 August

Mawbray to Selkirk, Scotland - 126 km

We drove along roads around Carlisle that our SatNav did not seem to know about, into Scotland via Gretna Green, along the main A7 and on to Selkirk to stay with friends that we knew in Derby in the 70's and whom we last met in Paris in 1989.

On the Friday we played at being tourists in Selkirk and later walked up the Ettrick Valley and back across the battlefield of Philiphaugh, fought in 1645. The information boards were very informative.

We hosted our friends in the evening their first experience in a motorhome!

31 August

Selkirk to Tinto Hill - 93 km

On through Galashiels and Peebles we thought about stopping there. We also checked out a few Scottish National Trust sites but they all had 'no overnight parking' signs. We were heading for New Lanark when we were stopped by an 'A73 Road Closed' sign! Luckily there was also a sign for the Motte at Tinto Hill and that's where we stopped, with one other van. Great spot, quiet and safe; windy though! [N 55 37′ 09.9″ W 3 38′ 43.1″]

1 September

Tinto Hill to Loch Lomond - 106 km

Drove on to New Lanark great tourist site with a Bentley Car Club in evidence. On through Glasgow to check out the flat, close to the Great Western Road, that we used to live in. Drove in fading light up to Loch Lomond where we found about 4 vans in a parking area on the edge of the water. Great spot but not great weather. [N 56 01′ 03.7″ W 4 36′ 48.6″]

2 September

Loch Lomond to Aberfeldy - 145 km

Awoke to better weather but this was the day when we stopped trekking up the west coast and headed for the sun over east. Great visit to Killin and wonderful drive along Loch Tay. Ventured up to see the Yew and the thatched cottages at Fortingall very narrow roads. Problem finding a spot to stop so headed for Aberfeldy thanks MagBaz. Car park visited by a police car during the evening. [N56 36.886′ W 3 52.005′]

3 September

Aberfeldy to Bridge of Tilt - 69 km  

After checking out Aberfeldy and doing some shopping we headed up the A9 and stopped at Blair Atholl. Went for a walk up the valley past the firing range to Gilbert's Bridge and back down the east side. Drove out to Queen's View on Loch Tummel with a view to stopping at the forest area but it was clearly marked 'no overnights'. We returned to Bridge of Tilt car park by Blair Castle. [N56 46.462′ W 3 52.626′]  

4 September

Bridge of Tilt to Grantown on Spey - 111 km

Walked to the castle, arboretum, Diana's Garden and the ruined church before breakfast. Later visited the castle, listened to the piper a couple of times and hit the souvenir shop. Walked back via the superb Hercules Garden in bright sunshine. Drove up to a soulless Aviemore and on to Grantown on Spey. Used the free wifi at the library after exploring the main street and deciding not to buy a house there. Lots of real estate offices. Stopped overnight in the car park at the northeast end of town toilets closed at 6pm. [N57 19.994′ W 3 36.301′]

5 September

Grantown on Spey

Went back to try the wifi at the Library but they close on Thursdays, so we walked for hours through Anagach woods got lost several times and needed help from walkers and runners. Nice walk though and nice blueberries. Discussed driving on but ended up moving the van to Forest Road near the golf course.

6 September

Grantown on Spey to Garve - 111 km

Raining and cold. On via the library to Inverness got autogas, supplies at Lidl and fuel. Big hold up on the Kessock bridge. We turned up the A832 and stopped at Garve. Superb walk down one side of the river and back up the other. Lots of blueberries and lots of blackflies! Toilet too. [N 57.637367 W 4.6786]

7 September

Garve to Cove - 106 km

Drove up to the Falls of Mesach and checked out the gorge. Lots of rainbows and lots of fabulous scenery. Great lunch spot. Little Gruinard Bay was unbelievably picturesque. Turned right at Poolewe and stopped in car park before Cove. We slept to the sound of waves - great views. [N 57 49.911′ W 5 41.107′]  

8 September

Cove to Bealach na Ba - 114 km

Another day of superb scenery sunny this time! Nice walk on the beach before driving to Inverewe Gardens to do the tourist thing. Bought some Scottish dollies were they really made in PRC?! Eventually took the road up the Pass of the Cattle towards Applecross Monte Halls eat your heart out. We stopped on the summit at 626 m (2,066 ft) great views but cold. We put a steak pie in the oven to heat the van up!! [N 57 25.123 W 5 42.506]

9 September

Bealach na Ba to Ord (Isle of Skye) - 121 km

Went for a cold walk most impressed by the German couple who set up table and chairs for breakfast in the car park! Off down the narrow and twisty road about 11.30 am. Checked out Loch Carron on the way to Skye then over the bridge to Kyleakin. Drove to the old ferry terminal, where there was one massive German van in residence. Down to Attadale to check out the ferry to Mallaig before looking for somewhere to stop that ended with that crazy roller coaster of a loop road through Tarskavaig and Tokavaig. Great sunset over the Cuillins.

10 September

Ord to Staffin (Skye) - 171 km

Very quiet night one fly-fisherman, one owl, one dog-walker and a few sheep. That magic view had disappeared in the low cloud and driven rain. Crazy drivers on the A87 so we took the side road at Sligachan Bridge to Dunvegan. Lunch at the castle before following the road around the Trotternish peninsula. Our back-up overnight spot was the car park at Mealy Falls (Kilt Rock) but we checked out the Staffin boat ramp road and stayed with a few other vans down near the sea. More waves to lull us to sleep [N 57 38.161′ W 6 12.232′]

11 September

Staffin to Glengarry - 169 km

Drove on to Mealy Falls, down to 'do' Portree and back to Sligachan Bridge. After lunch we left Skye and stopped at Eilean Donan Castle we nearly got locked into the overflow parking area. On via Shiel Bridge and along Loch Culance and the A87 to Glengarry. Parked with a couple of fungi collectors from Skye. [N 57 04.281′ W 4 50.008′]

12 September

Glengarry to New Lanark - 285 km

Followed a local walk along the Garry River before driving into Fort William to watch a large boat coming down Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian Canal. Great, apart from the heavy rain! Drove up Glencoe but we could hardly see anything. Followed SatNav to New Lanark (Ranoch Moor, Tyndrum, Erskine Bridge, and followed a long diversion); parked in their car park. [N 55 39.895′ W 3 46.719′]

13 September

New Lanark to Walwick, Northumberland - 193 km

Back after 2 weeks - bought a piece of art work at the centre. Drove south and back to England after lunch in atrocious weather. Checked out various sites along Hadrian's Wall. Most stops were off limit to us and they charged 4/day (or part thereof). We could have stopped overnight at Housesteads for 8. We ended up stopping in a layby at a crossroads on the B6318. [N 55 01.980′ W 2 10.275′]

14 September

Walwick to Derby - 306 km

Lots of hooting owls in the night; lots of walkers early morning. Back to Derby down A68, A1, M1 and A38.

For pictures of our Scottish trip click here. View individual photos by clicking on an image, or work through them using the arrow on the right of the picture with a rough map position showing on the right hand side.

Martin Williams

PS We found your article 'Free Camping for Motorhomes in the UK' useful, but would make the following comments or additions:

New suggestions

Peebles West of Town. Car park on A72, Neidpath Rd on right immediately past a large cemetery and just before the Kingsland Primary School all on the right of the road leaving town.

Tinto Hill Motte Hill. Good walk, great spot but not great weather for us :-) N 56 01′ 03.7″ W 4 36′ 48.6″

Loch Lomond. Nice roadside/lochside spot near the bottom of the loch N 56 01′ 03.7″ W 4 36′ 48.6″

Blair Atholl. Bridge of Tilt  car park by Blair Castle. N 56 46.462′ W 3 52.626′

Grantown on Spey. Nice spot north-east end of town near the museum loos closed at 6pm. N 57 19.994′ W 3 36.301′

Garve. On the A832 - by waterfall on the Blackwater River         N 57.637367 W 4.6786

Applecross Pass. 626m up at Bealach na Ba the Pass of the Cattle                N 57 25.123 W 5 42.506

Staffin in Skye. By the boat ramp nice spot down by the sea   N 57 38.161′ W 6 12.232′

New Lanark. Main car park of tourist site N 55 39.895′ W 3 46.719′

Comments on the MagBazTravels Listing:

Queen's View on Loch Tummel. MagBaz says the Forestry Area is OK for overnight. It does have a toilet but it clearly says 'no overnight parking'. The Queen's View site was pay and display (5 pounds per day) in common with many other Forestry car parks this seems like a new feature for most of them.

Cove, Nth of Poolewe. MagBaz says 'nice' beaches we didn't see any nice beaches except the Achnasheen WWII base which was 5 per night. We stopped in a car park on the left a bit further on. [N 57 49.911′ W 5 41.107′] There was also a private car park at the end of the road near the memorial to the Arctic Sea convoy & battles.

The recommendation for Aberfeldy was great

Martin Williams