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 > Trip report: Scottish highlands

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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Friday

Seemingly a rare thing, but I don’t have to be on a customer site this week. So I am working from home. In these situations I tend to start work at 05:00, effectively working middle-eastern hours – useful because many of my customers are to the east of me timezone wise.
This was very useful this particular Friday since it meant that by 14:30 I had done 9.5 hours work and could look at making an early getaway.

Everything was prepared, so we just had to move the cars around to get the camper out and then head for the highway. However, by 18:00 it was clear that everyone else in the country had the same plans and the M6 heading north was stop-go for miles, adding an hour’s delay to the journey.

There was a little panic when Sally, taking a rare turn at the wheel of the camper, accidentally hit the wrong switch and engaged the free-wheeling front axle at 60mph. There ensued the buzzing noise of the dog clutch faces grating against each other at speed. We pulled off the motorway and did some tests – seemed the transmission was still working correctly.

We decided it was too ambitious to try to get to Scotland that night, so instead headed for the Lake District. Since this is a spectacular part of the country with great hiking it was a struggle to not change plans and just stay there for the week.

We looked at a number of options for stopovers on the journey north, but there aren’t the options that exist in the US. We could pay to camp in the car park of a 24-hour service station next to a motorway. This would be noisy and unattractive and they would probably want £12 for the pleasure. In the end I found a pub near Kendal (of Kendal Mint Cake fame) that had a camping field and charged £10. No hookup, but I’d rather my money went to a local pub rather than a major corporation running a service station:

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Plus it meant we were able to indulge in some great beer and pub food in the evening.

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Stay tuned for more…


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
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sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Saturday

Up at 06:00 we headed North, skirting the Lake District, but avoiding the motorway until necessary. After a while we left the hills and crossed into the Scottish borders, crunching the miles up the M74 motorway.

We reached Glasgow and followed the Clyde – a major shipbuilding hub in its time, before turning North again into the start of the Highlands.

A quick stop at Loch Lomond:

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There is some beautiful scenery which we flew straight past, but we have certain goals on this trip and don’t have time to stop everywhere on route. But, having briefly experienced this area we will definitely be back again for a longer stay.

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Normally truck campers are extremely rare in the UK. So it was with great surprise that on the motorway we passed an identical truck (itself a rare site in this age, colour and cab combination) carrying a European built truck camper. I would have waved, but I was so stunned I just stared. They did the same! Later we passed another truck, this time a German-owned Nissan, again with a small European truck camper on the back. Normally we only see regular class B and C RVs, but as soon as we crossed the border we saw no end of non-standard RVs – converted buses, home-built class Bs, etc. Sort of like a giant Burning Man, but colder and with less sand. I think Scotland is a Mecca for such RVs. I like them, but am aware many campgrounds will look unkindly upon such vehicles – then again I suspect most owners of such vehicles are not wanting to pay for camping, plus the type of luxury campground that would exclude home-built vehicles is probably the type I would avoid too (like the one someone mentioned recently that was biased towards class As and excluded truck campers).

We arrived in Fort William early afternoon.

[image]

Since we intended to climb Ben Nevis the following day (Britain’s tallest mountain, though that really isn’t very tall by normal mountain standards), we needed to take into account the likely weather. And the likely weather for Ben Nevis is high winds, driving rain and, this being summer, temperatures only just above freezing point.

Hence we decided to pick up some waterproof over-pants. However, on visiting a local outdoor equipment shop we found they had a sale with 60% reductions. So we came out with the waterproof pants, and a couple of shirts for Sally, and some socks, and a new rucksack too. It is the end of summer of course so these retailers have their end of season sales on – I love a bargain [emoticon]

The campground I chose was just below Ben Nevis. We considered booking in advance, but their website said there was a £5 booking fee – what a wrip-off. Given it was the weekend before the kids return to school I decided that most people would have vacated the campground by Saturday to make the long journey south. So it turned out, with ample camping available, and the showers and bathrooms were almost empty.

The weather was beautiful for Ben Nevis this afternoon – sunny, perfect visibility all the way to the summit – in other words extremely rare weather.

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Not to worry, it was too late to climb it today – we would be doing that tomorrow and the weather was forecast to revert to normal then – i.e. rain, cold, 30mph gusting 60mph winds.

[image]

Stay tuned for more…

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:32pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Sunday

The alarm went off at 05:00 after a night of high winds and rain.

A quick breakfast and we were at the bottom of the trail to Ben Nevis.

There were two places we could start – either turn left out of the campground and walk half a mile to the visitor center to join the gently sloping start of the official trail, or turn right and walk half a mile to the youth hostel and take a track that heads straight up intersecting the above mentioned official trail. Stupidly we chose the latter which was a very steep climb right away when your muscles are still cold.

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Once on the official trail Sally, who is usually very fit and does a lot of hill-walking, started having difficulties. Probably a combination of the abrupt start of the climb without a warm-up, having made a donation at the blood bank a couple of days ago and having changed her meds at the same time. This meant a lot of stopping and resting on the upwards journey. I took Sally’s pack off her for the 2nd half of the climb and that helped.

The weather didn’t help though. After 1 hour we were in the low clouds with no view and getting pretty wet. As we climbed it got windier, wetter and colder. The summit was not a pretty sight.

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The summit contained a geological marker, the remains of a collapsed building and a stone shelter with a steel door – an emergency shelter.

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A young woman ahead of us climbed up to the shelter and opened the door for a look. She cried Eurgggghhhhh and backed off quickly.

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I didn’t ask her, but I suspect someone had used it as a toilet. I can’t imagine any experienced hiker despoiling an emergency shelter by using it as a latrine, but when the weather is good (it happens some time) tourists are tempted to make the journey up and they probably wouldn’t be aware of the life-saving nature of the building in the winter.

[image]

We didn’t stay long on the summit, returning quickly to get out of the rain. Returning down the trail was horrible since it had been ‘improved’ with the use of rectangular stone blocks which formed overly tall and slippery steps punishing the knees.

[image]

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The worst part was again that final section down to the youth hostel (we didn’t learn from our earlier mistake). The steps were very steep, very wet and sloped downwards. We slipped several times. What an irony if you nearly completed the entire hike, only to be injured during the last half mile.

It was not lunchtime, so we treated ourselves to a hot meal at the café below the mountain. Everyone else there was dressed for a normal lunch, while we were soaking wet, carrying back packs and looking a real mess.

Thankfully the campground had a DIY laundry with large drying machine. It also had irons and ironing boards – I guess in case you wanted a nice crease pressed into your walking trousers. We also made good use of the campground’s hot showers that afternoon.

Stay tuned for more…

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Monday

A bit achy today, so a later start. The plan was to head for the Isle of Skye, and as RitchieC correctly predicted, the Glen Brittle campground. I powered up the laptop and checked the weather: Heavy rain there all today; and tomorrow; and Wednesday; and Thursday. OK, plan B: where is it not raining? It turned out that this band of rain stopped about an hour east, and it was warm and sunny there. So today’s new direction would be East.

First a quick stop by the locks, built by Telford that allow boats to traverse the Great Glen, crossing from one side of Scotland to the other in a straight line without going the long way around.

[image]

Next stop: The Commando Monument; set-up to honour the Commandos as originally set-up by Churchill.

[image]

Unfortunately the monument told of many young men still giving their lives as Royal Marine Commandos today.

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Then onto Scotland’s main ski destination: Aviemore and lunch at the lake below the ski resort.

[image]

After lunch and Sally’s battles with ducks we headed up to the ski resort, nearly driving over this chap on the way, which might have left Santa down on pulling power this winter:

[image]

At the resort we took the funicular railway up to the restaurant at the top.

[image]

You aren’t allowed out of the building outside of the ski season as they are trying to protect and regenerate the natural flora on the mountain, so we confined ourselves to the observation deck, and then rather than burning calories going for a hike, we consumed them instead in their café:

[image]

We took the ride back down the railway:

[image]

Returning to the lake we found a campground right next to it and were lucky to get a site with electric hook-up right opposite the lake shore. Great location.

[image]

We went for a quick walk around the lake to burn off some of the calories consumed earlier:

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Stay tuned for more…

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:44pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Tuesday

We headed north east towards Inverness. On the way passing the site of the Battle of Culloden, then driving through the centre of Inverness, which was extremely quiet (certainly compared to southern England).

From there we joined the other end of the Great Glen, passing Telford’s locks at this end and heading south west back in the direction of Fort William along the north shore of Lock Ness.

Sally had always wanted to visit one of those castles on the shores of a loch, and having turned north east from Fort William instead of north West towards Skye we were missing a major one. So we stopped at Castle Urquhart.

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Then on to visit a pretty gorge.

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We continued south west to the end of Loch Ness, where we crossed another set of Telford’s locks, this time having to wait while they opened the swing bridge to let a couple of yachts through.

[image]

We left all the other traffic and turn around to head back in the direction of Inverness, but along the south shore of the loch.

[image]

This proved a good decision as the countryside is completely different and spectacular. It is also very quiet, unlike the north shore.

[image]

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Camping and Caravanning Club had opened a brand new campground on the shores of the loch just two months ago, so we headed for that.

[image]

Since it was only 16:00 we locked the camper and walked back up the steep hill to see the gorge that runs down it. There is a very nice waterfall, but the picture didn’t come out, so you’ll just have to take my word.

[image]

Stay tuned for more…

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:49pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wednesday

Another nice morning. Caveat – just because I’ve shown pictures of sunshine in Scotland, please don’t make your vacation booking based upon this – undoubtedly normal weather service will be resumed as soon as you arrive.

[image]

South East this morning. More lovely country roads. Sally spotted one of her favourite hairy cows:

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We passed a little castle. This whetted Sally’s appetite for more castle action, so when we saw the sign for one we could visit we pulled in:

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Note that these are not the 1000 year old war-torn stone fortifications you get all over England, but a more gentile form of castle – generally a ‘stately home’ or ‘manor house’ built to look like it is fortified in the way of some of the later German castles. Still lovely none the less.

We were now in Whiskey territory and passed a number of distilleries:

[image]

We decided to call in on this one, and got a free tour and tasting.

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I’m not a whiskey drinker generally (OK, I recall my water bottle tasted of JD for several days at Expo after DJ had ‘topped it up’ with a bottle from his camper). The tour was interesting though. In hindsight I would have preferred a smaller producer. I was saddened to see this one had now computerised their operation and everything was run by one man at a console (they had fired the people who used to operate the plant by hand). That is fine for a Toyota factory I guess, but for something like expensive Scotch Whiskey part of the allure must be in the history and tradition, and the image you are conjuring up in your head is likely to be one of artisans with decades of distilling experience using their expertise to produce this classic drink (as implied by the glossy advertisements) rather than a computerised processing plant churning out bar-coded barrels to be trucked to a coastal processing and storage plant.

We crossed another ski resort and a range of rugged hills, and of course more castles.

[image]

It was getting late so we located a campground on the GPS and headed for it. It was OK, but I was a bit annoyed at being berated by the campground host for only having one of our two club membership cards. She explained we should always carry both to prove our age in case we wanted to claim age related discounts. Sally pointed out that in our mid 40s we were not due any age-related discounts so that was hardly a relevant argument. I reckon she just saw our slightly battered camper and, being a site mostly occupied by static homes and retired couples in very clean class C RVs, assumed we weren’t club members (i.e. we weren’t their type of people). So she couldn’t quite believe we were and wanted proof (which she could have looked up if she knew how to use her club-supplied computer system).

Rather than cook tonight we decided to walk into the village and find the local pub. It turned out there was only one, a rather run-down low-rent hotel / pub with attached Chinese take-away. I had a decent pint of ale and ordered a take-out from across the corridor. Marks on the wall above my head showed the darts board used to live there. It appeared to have been moved to the back room of the pub, but from the jagged tears left in the dry-wall it appears the relocation was probably done late at night with the help of alcohol rather then during the day with a screw-driver.

The take-out arrived and we took it back to the camper to consume. Thankfully I had managed to uphold the tradition of take-away food by ordering far more than it was possible for two people to eat, so we then spent the evening reclining in the camper moaning slightly from the exertion.

Stay tuned for more…

fatmanobx

Russellville, Ar. Home Base

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

great report, thanks for sharing...


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sabconsulting

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Posted: 09/07/13 02:55pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thursday

We headed west along the River Dee. Here is a restored relic of our motoring yesteryears – back to the days when your road service wore a smart military-style uniform and saluted members as they passed:

[image]

Inside I was disappointed to find it was no automobile-related Tardis, but had been stocked with leaflets describing local attractions.

The Dee has several attractive suspension foot-bridges crossing it. As you can see it is also prime fly fishing territory (I can imagine ReHoppe there casting into the bubbling stream).

[image]

A few miles further we turned and headed up a dead-end road climbing along the edge of the Royal Balmoral estate. You can’t visit the estate this month as its ‘owners’ are there enjoying it (and undoubtedly the grouse shooting). But up here you can hike across the top of the estate (for personal safety try to avoid looking like a stag).

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A very interesting Ranger station included exhibits on the wildlife present, and a whiteboard for younger visitors to record the wildlife they had seen. I was impressed by people spotting Adders, our native poisonous snake (a form of Viper I believe) – I’ve never seen one in all my years of walking, but our neighbours cat did bring one into her house a few years back.

[image]

Notice the other species spotted. I especially like the “pine tree” someone recorded in the woodland section, and the impressive selection of squashed frogs. I also notice that The Queen is to be found in the moorland habitat, possibly because the other habitats are less suitable for access via her Land Rover.

Down in the valley disappointed German tourists returned from pressing their noses against the locked Balmoral gates. The little bridge in the foreground was designed by I.K. Brunel.

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Further west along the valley at Braemar a castle at the other end of the ownership spectrum could be visited, though it wasn’t open today. This one is owned by the community as a whole and looked after by enthusiasts.

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Come Saturday Braemar would host the annual Highland Games. Frustratingly we wouldn’t be around that day, because it would be a great event to experience. We did stop in the village for a healthy lunch – notice Sally’s cheesy fries and my haggis sandwich.

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We crossed over another mountain pass (and ski resort) and then headed east again, stopping at Captain Scott’s memorial in the foot hills. It was being carefully maintained by a young stone mason – great to see another generation keeping traditional local skills alive.

[image]

That night we stayed at the croft of Sally’s relatives Frank and Jane, which involved a late night and drinking slightly too much.

Stay tuned for more…

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 09/07/13 03:03pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Friday

[image]

After a tour of their land, then a look in Frank’s workshop where he builds model trains using his lathe and milling machine, we headed back South, through Dundee, across the Tay, then down to Edinburgh crossing the Firth of Forth.

[image]

Then, after getting stuck in rush-hour around Edinburgh, followed the Clyde valley back to the M74 motorway. We found a campground on a scenic hill charging only £9 per night including hook-up, with showers and toilets on site. A good one to remember for future use.

It absolutely hammered down with rain all night – this is particularly loud given the huge moon roof our camper has – great for letting the light in, also great for doing an impression of a drum in a rain storm.

Saturday

The rain stopped and we had a nice run down to warmer and drier weather in the south. All in all a very good little trip, and we will definitely be back for more in future. Next time we will try to get to Skye.

Steve.

sleepy

Oak Ridge,Tennessee

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Posted: 09/07/13 03:15pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Beautiful pictures...

I like the way you adapt... Janet and I never really know where we'll end up.... but we always enjoy the journey.

You needed scuba gear on top of the mountain.

How far were you from home at the most northen point? And how big was the loop traveled over the trip?


... it looked like you could measure time in centures in some places.

sleepy

* This post was edited 09/07/13 03:33pm by sleepy *


2003 Lance 1161,/slideout/AGM batteries/255W Solar/propane generator/Sat dish/2 Fantastic Fans/AC/winter pkg
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2003GMC K3500 LT/Crewcab/duramax diesel/allison/dually/4x4/OnStar/front reciever mounted spare

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