Archive | October, 2016

More pictures taken on Skye and finally, Glencoe

22 Oct


Not visited in our campervan, but posted to show what can be seen in Scotland. Still on Skye, we got to Glen Brittle early in the morning. At the top of the car park, which is used to access the Fairy Pools and the mountains beyond, a VW stealth campervan was coming to life. We could see a mattress inside. Not photographed, to retain our fellow campers’ privacy.

With toddler in her rucksack carrier, we made the walk across the Glen to reach the wonderful Fairy Pools. A young man from Glasgow was taking video with a £30 odd Drone which at 720p quality had pleased him with it’s results. He landed it very skillfully on a small rock jutting out alongside one of the waterfalls. I want one!

Later, coming back down from the lower slopes, we could not believe our eyes. A young Lady had stripped to a  see through, chiffon dress and wearing only her pants underneath, was climbing, barefoot across the rock wall of the stream below , obviously for “glamour” photographs from a very professional looking telephoto equipped cameraman. Wow ! a Real “Fairy” at Fairy Pools. With the good weather continuing and now this, I do lead a charmed life………..  She did slip and fall, feet first into the shallow , cold water at one point, revealing far more than intended when her skimpy dress caught on the rocks. Here she is


Next , we visited Dunvegan Castle and then the Coral Beach. Also on Skye.


coral-beach-skye-from-abovecoral-beach-from-above-skyecoral-beach-on-skye  A fairly long walk in the sun had the layers coming off. The very light coloured beach contrasted hugely from the volcanic darkness of the pebbles and sand at Talisker beach. The currents must be just right to deposit this “coral” debris just here.

quiraing quiraing-table

Another day, we made our way to Quiraing for a ramble to this awesome mountain walk. Historically it is said that the “Table” , on the right above, was used to hide livestock from Viking invaders. Goodness knows how they got highland cattle up there! Some mountain bikers appear to also use the main path. I only got partway. The shear drops were just too much for my fragile mentality and, embarrassingly, I had to return to the car for an early bath. Disgraced rugby player fashion. (I do have genuine reason for being fearful, at heights, having worked at 1000 feet , in harness as a young man but losing what little nerve I then had in horrendous fashion.)

Finally on Skye, apart from several , local walks around Portree we went on a wildlife boat trip and saw Sea Eagles, Seals and glorious marine scenery. Portree harbour has great restaurants too, with quality local fish directly off the boats.


portree-lifeboat  Sadly, our time on Skye was running out and reluctantly we made our way back to Armadale for the ferry to Mallaig and then onwards to Glencoe for another overnighter before Glasgow and the train South.



We saw the first light rain in a fortnight as we left Glencoe for Glasgow. There were several , mostly German, adventure trail bikes around and with my Dachsund style legs, I looked at these tall in the saddle “magic carpets” with envy. How do you go on if you drop one on oneself in a remote ford? How would you pick it up? LOL.

If you go to Skye (and you should!) dont miss the Stein Inn, Skyeskins and Skye beers, especially Skye Black.



Stealth camping or Free Camping using motor vehicle in Scotland

18 Oct


Please Note: These pics just show vans, camper vans and motorhomes we spotted whilst in Scotland. I am NOT implying that any of those shown were involved in any “stealth” or free camping activities. If one of these is yours and you want the picture removed, just let me know via the comments option below.


We did witness several “camping vehicles” obviously in use as overnight stopovers in locations including Glen Brittle (Fairy Pools carpark) , the headland below the Clan Mcleod tribute land at Portree and on laybyes throughout the Isle of Skye. Vehicles ranged from totally unmarked vans, through partially converted campervans, of various base vehicles, to Motorhomes of all ages and values. One was certainly in the £50k to £60k bracket. NONE of those seen are shown here. Some were almost literally next door to official campsites. We saw no anti-social activities , litter or infringement of the Land Access Laws.



In my opinion, wild camping is not about money, although some must enjoy the campsite fee savings, which can be significant. When you have a self contained support unit , (your “camper”) why tie yourself to convention or the “grid”. Solar power is frequently seen in use now. I find nothing wrong with wild camping as long as you affect nobody else. Stick to the guide lines , aimed at non vehicular land access and yu should be unlucky to attract attention.

I have joined the NC500 “club” with a view to making the full tour of the Route when possible.

The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile scenic route around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle

Although there are official camping sites available , there are significant gaps in the route where wild camping could be the most practical option and I would not rule it out. Our NV200 is fully 12v with a long self sufficient period between elctrical hook up. We have LPG on board for several days heating and cooking , even in very cold weather. We can fill up with LPG at many garages.

for more about the NC500 route see

All comments welcomed below. I have heard from lots of self converters. Please use the Blog to offer your views. Thanks.

Ferry to Armadale, Skye .Then Portree. Home for 8 nights.

18 Oct


We had arrived in Armadale on the 4pm Ferry from Mallaig. The sky on Skye was cloudless. Immediately, we were struck by the awesome natural beauty all around us. The drive to Portree gave a tantalising taste of things to come. We passed an isolated pub on the main road. (Isolated was to take on a new meaning as the week progressed!)

Opposite the pub, in view of the Black Cuillin Range, was a campsite where motorhomes and a few caravans were pitched in ideallic scenery.

PIC OF THE DAY.   Cuillin hills, Skye.   June 2007.  Pic by Donna Murray.

Our new home for the week ahead, Seafield House, Portree was found fairly quickly at the termination of a lane leading down to the very edge of the sea at Portree. This massive house, sleeps ten , has three bathrooms and oodles of character. We did a quick explore of all the rooms, like children at Christmas, then nipped out to buy logs from the local garage. We did not need the warmth. It was just a decorative flickering flame in the family sized lounge.


Next morning, energised by the surroundings, we strolled into Portree town where we stocked up with local produce, wherever possible, then explored the place on foot. We could see  Seafield House from the area around the two youth hostels. You cannot miss them, they are brightly painted and compete with each other for attention. One was being repainted, obviously due to the weather being so kind, dry, sunny and warm. After a lunch back at the house, we headed across to Talisker Beach and hopefully the distillery if we had time.


The one mile walk from where we had to park at the junction of two farm tracks, quickly turned from rural to marine environment. We were greeted at the car park by noisy cattle and a friendly, stocky , black cat. He seemed to have quite a bit of feral cat in his background but was calm and gentle enough to be fussed by our toddler! Cattle gave way to sheep, then rabbits and playful crows and unidentified birds of prey. This place is a must visit destination. Emotionally stirring and too beautiful to describe here.

There is at least one waterfall from those headland cliffs seen above. They fall directly into the sea. The beach has a dark volcanic element to it with a ridge of pebbles running down into the greyish sands to the water.

talisker-beach-pebbles           Somewhat reluctantly , we made the slight climb back through the farm buildings, watching the rabbits avoiding the hawks but obviously enjoying the warm sun. Back in the car we skirted around the curious cows and drove back to Portree. The Loch at Talisker, yet again, shocked with it’s fresh beauty and tranquility. Everywhere we looked, we had new vistas to gasp at. We took so many photographs, I even learned to hide my finger from the lens! The distillery had to wait for another day.


Talisker Distillery makes, unsurprisingly, Talisker Malt Whiskies. Skye’s Whiskies. One is a hefty 57 ABV. We could not wait to take the tour as the timing clashed with our toddler’s regime. Small children are not allowed in the industrial areas either. We had a good look around the display area and I bought a bottle of  “Port Ruighe”. A single malt, finished in Port Casks, this beefy 45.8% example lacks the burnt match edge of other Taliskers. (Subsequently tasted at home, it is a definite “keeper” for special friends and occasions.” Recommended.”) We now had six different malts for my chums to try out. They had better remember my next birthday!

Click on the pics above for better closeups. Two lovely VWs adorned the car park. Who said that the scenery could not be improved?

In the distance, you will find an adventure camper , later obscured when we left by a modern motorhome. The clouds were only temporary.

Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig

17 Oct


Gog showed up , bang on time again, in his Taxi. He took us to “Easy Car” , not far from the town centre. They had brought up the hirecar from Glasgow and all our luggage just about went into the boot. My son in law does not do things by halves. A 4WD., Volvo XC60 Auto was soon to be in our hands. The car was taken by Easy Car to Mallaig , ready for when we got off the train.


Gog then took a much reduced load to the station where the Jacobite Steam train was warming up for the trip to Mallaig. We climbed aboard and joined lots of people, out to have fun on another (!) sunny day. The train is dog friendly and we had a quiet and friendly whippet cross next to us , across the aisle. Known for their endearing nature, he was not a bit of trouble , even when we ate a cream tea of scones and jam, right in front of him, once underway. The scenery was stunning. As you would expect in the Big Country!


Just before Glenfinnan Viaduct, where, famously, Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express, had a couple of adventures, we had lovely views of Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains. Magical.


Every available window was filled by a photographer, so my snapshot shows fellow passengers and just a glimpse of the viaduct itself. At least my finger is not in this particular shot.

We made a short stop at Glenfinnan and we saw a poignant reminder of how this country can turn feral. A snow plough retired to a sidings. It reminded me of the black and white newsreels of the winters of 1963 and 1964  when the whole of the UK had major snow issues.




We arrived in Mallaig far too quickly and the car and luggage awaited us across the road from the station. We had some time to kill before the ferry departed and so we had a lingering lunch in a superb sea food restaurant. Tampura Monk fish with sweet chilli and a Monk Fish Thai curry. As I was not driving, I even had an early afternoon coffee with whisky and cream float. Decadent!

We were soon on the ferry and on our way to Skye. Warm and dry enough to sit outside, on deck with big sky views of blue sea and softly coloured hillsides of the mainland.


We had seen one of our first stealth campervans in Mallaig, along with an adventure camper and a demountable on a 4 x 4. More on this topic later.


I remember once, aged just sixteen, being in some French village, full of young daredevils riding their tuned up and overbored (illegal) mopeds around in the sun. My bike as back home in Blighty and my goodness, I really missed it. I wanted to join in the fun and enjoy warm weather biking at it’s best. I felt a bit like that, seeing these camper vans in their element at Mallaig. It would have been great to have the NV200 up there with us to enjoy. On Skye, despite having the best of times, this feeling would deepen. It is a wonderland for camper vanning , stealth camping  and motorhomes.

Last day in Fort William. Another dry, sunny day for Ben Nevis

16 Oct


According to the Captain of the boat trip we took from Fort William on Loch Linnhe, the mountain behind the town, Ben Nevis, sees 340 days of cloud, mist and rain each year ! Above is a rare photograph of this well known monster in full sun. The educated commentary we got onboard made the trip special. The boat was full of foreign tourists from USA., Japan, China , Spain, Germany and France.


Salmon farming is a huge business in Scotland, employing many people and producing superb fish. The fish restaurant on the docking pier was so busy that we could not get a table for four plus baby when we visited. There was a long wait to get seated.

fw-view-to-loch     This is the view, down to Loch Linnhe from the end of Fort William High Street. It is two decades since I was last there. On business with a colleague, heading ultimately up to Inverness , we “drank ourselves” a tee shirt each in the cellar bar on the High Street. I think it was a promotion for Drambuie but we went the extra mile and drank the required measures as Rusty Nails. A cocktail of Drambuie and Whisky. Oh, what a night………………………….

We enjoyed our time in Fort William. I will be talking about camper vans, stealth camping and adventure motor homes in forthcoming posts about the next stages of the journey to Mallaig and then the stunning, awesome, beautiful and welcoming Isle of Skye! Promise to get back on track with the Blog!

Glasgow to Fort William by Scots Train

16 Oct


Took the early train from Glasgow Queenstreet for Fort William. Fantastic scenery on this section particularly south of Tulloch.The rock gullies close to Roy Bridges were surreal to see. A young lady sitting nearby was from Toronto and lived just an hour from where my gran and grandfather lived at Hamilton, Ontario. On arrival at Fort William it was a short walk to another apartment, this time in the High Street itself, close to all shops, bars and restaurants.


fw-shops-1 View from one of the apartment windows. We stayed here for three nights.

After a good night’s sleep, we took “Gog’s Taxi. Fast and Friendly!” and he was too . We reached Glen Nevis to find that a rock fall had blocked the walk to the upper falls so we diverted from the Lower Falls car park for a hefty uphill “stroll” through the forest. For a while we joined up with a French couple after explaining , in my schoolboy French why the originally desired path was closed.


glen-nevis-waterfall Sunny weather. A view of Ben Nevis. Waterfalls and zero midges. Paradise!

Gog was back at the rendezvous point, bang on time, in his Taxi. He took us back to Fort William.

After lunch at the deli, we visited the Highland Museum just a few doors away. As usual, I got left behind as I became more nad more engrossed in the History presented to me. In anticipation of more difficult rambling to come we bought hiking sticks in town.

fw-museum-1 This painting is on the horizontal surface. It can only be seen in the reflection on a cylindrical mirror placed vertically on it’s optical centre. Art from chaos?? Brilliant !

Next day, I visited the Whisky Shop and browsed, researched, tasted and bought some sample single malts. I was given, yes given, a quarter of a bottle of Loch Fyne! Two tasting glasses and magazines for my boosy friends back home. What a lovely Lady! I did consider the weight of carrying these bottled malts but in the end it was fine. I threw away all my heavy clothes!

whisky-shop-fort-william This quarter bottle of over strength whisky was drank over the following several days. Although others in our party tried a sip, none were friends of whisky and so I got to enjoy this “living cask” example. A living cask is a spirit version of what can be done with sherry or port. Using fortified wines, they are known as “solara”. An amateur blend of favourite malts can be made by continually topping up a whisky vessel (preferably in oak cask) as it is drank. With skill and growing knowledge, you can adjust to flavours and character of the blend as time passes by. Totally by accident, I have been doing this for a few years now with cognac and various favourite brandies including Spanish and Greek blends. Not for the purist but it is all in the taste.


With single malts hovering just under £50 per bottle, I do not think that I shall be repeating my Cognac tampering with whisky, much as I would like. Thank goodness that I am permitted to drink alcohol again, in moderation. It is a great pleasure and adds to the spice of life, in my humble opinion. Just treat strong spirits with respect.

Next, we take a boat out of Fort William for rare views of Ben Nevis in full sun. Cloudless!  The Gods were definitely favourable to us!

Glasgow, Autumn 2016

16 Oct


We were invited by family to head off to Scotland again for a two week tour.We took Virgin Trains , loaded down with too much luggage for comfort.  Starting with a city weekend in Glasgow, we left behind the camper van for a superb apartment, close to Glasgow Central rail station.

Would we? Could we survive without our daily use of our little gem? Yes, when it was replaced by our other little Gem of a grand daughter.

The apartment was huge. I estimated that we could have literally parked several NV200s in the lounge/kitchen area alone. Two nights here to allow for an evening with the Scottish Ballet at the Theatre Royal before heading for Fort William by train.


We enjoyed the modern ballet. Bizarre in parts with humour and totally capivating. So different from the classic ballet we have seen before in Buxton a few times. We walked up to the Glasgow Necropolis for a view over the City but mist prevented that but added atmosphere to the cemetery. The mist burned off into sunny conditions as we returned to the Ten Kilometre running event below. The sun was to stay with us throughout for almost 14 days! Staggeringly good weather , even for an often mild October in Scotland.


We visited the superb Riverside Museum and the tall ship Glenlee, rescued from the Spanish navy for it’s return to Glasgow, where it was bult.The museum featured memorable transport exhibits including the fabulous (in my opinion) , Scottish made, Hillman Imp. An exhibit of a model of cruise ship, Athenia, brought tears to my eyes. My grandmother ,aged just seventeen, joined my grandfather, in Canada , where my father and uncle were born. The family returned just before the start of WWII to start a family business.

The Athenia was the first ship sunk by  German torpedo in the Atlantic at the beginning of WWII.


We had a great time in Glasgow. It reminded me of parts of New York City, in a good way. Glasgow is known for the quality of it’s marine engineers who train there. I know. I have met some of them. I wish that we could see the ship yards flourishing again.

Coming next. We go by train to Fort William to join the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig. But not until we have had a few nights in Fort William and tested our legs out in Glen Nevis.