Ever since we met, Darren has told me how much he loves Scotland. I have never really been north of the border other than once on a school trip to Loch Lomond with the Columbus Fellowship when I was about 13. That was an amazing adventure. A week of outdoor pursuits based at a youth hostel on the shore of the loch. We spent the days in kayaks and waterskiing , sailing and generally larking about with minimal adult supervision. The holiday culminated with a vicious wide game in the woods, with literally no rules. Two teams, red verses blue each with the appropriate colour of wool tied around a wrist. The object of the game…. to remove the oppositions wrist bands by whatever means. Like I said vicious. Imagine 30+ youths aged 12 to 18 chasing each other down … no mercy … through the woods. Most likely it would not be allowed in today’s sometimes over cautious society. But we loved it. Dangerous, exciting, daring. That night after The Game was the infamous daffodil dinner. Not really sure why but you had to eat a daffodil before you could have your dinner. Go Figure. Later we collapsed into our bunks exhausted and exhilarated. Sounds like my clipper adventure. I am sure I will do a lot of collapsing into a bunk again when I set sail. Perhaps that Loch Lomond adventure was the start of my wanderlust.
Anyway! I digress. Back to this little circumnavigation we have embarked upon. It’s called the North Coast 500 and it is a drive, ride or walk around the coast of the Northern Highlands of Scotland.
We set off from our local train station, Disley, on Friday morning. Darren , Isla and me. Two rucksacks, a bag of dog food and our walking/ wet weather gear. Four trains later and we were in Lochwinnoch where we picked up our camper. Hired via the website Goboony which is the AirBnB for campervans. After a quick tour of the van we were off. Heading NORTH. North as far as we could go then following the coast right back around to Glasgow. The weather at home was forecast to be unseasonably good for the week and typically ‘Scottish’ where we were headed. Windy, wet and cold, sunny, bright and warm but what a perfect mini holiday. We camped first night in Glencoe, the mountains covered in mist looming over us, what a perfect vista to wake up to. Bacon and eggs and strong coffee in the van in the morning then off we set towards the west coast and the ‘REAL’ Highlands. As remote as it gets, the roads narrowed to bumpy single track with passing places. Those of you that have adventured along the west coast will understand, we soon ran out of ways to describe the wondrous beauty of the mountains, lochs and moorland. “WOW! look at that…. that’s beautiful!” after every turn in the road, we soon fell silent, just taking it all in. The famous Bealach na Ba was a nail biting ride, with sheer drops and hairpin bends that Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and Captain Slow would have loved. ( They probably actually did and I just missed that episode.)
The panoramic views were worth it and we eventually dropped down into Applecross which was to be our home that night. A spot of wild camping next to the loch, Darren’s perfect location as we were within walking distance of the pub! Later that night, snuggled into the bed over the cab at about 3am we were awoken by the low rumbling of 3 red deer stags. Grumbling at each other literally 6 feet away, it’s a bit early for the rut so they were just pontificating. But WOW, so close to the camper and a really eerie sound to be woken by. Our week was perfect, one amazing view after the next, unspoilt little beaches, friendly people, wild windy weather. Heading North we eventually reached the North Coast, Durness and Sango Sands. The light was perfect, the wind 40 Knots and whipping the tops off the breakers. It made me really think about what I am embarking on…..The Southern Ocean and how enormous the sea will be down there. The breakers off Sango were mind blowing but NOTHING in comparison to the Mighty Pacific. Wild camping that night was interesting! The top heavy Fiat camper was about as aero dynamic as a top heavy Fiat camper, that is, not one bit. We were buffeted and shaken, rattled and rolled, woken every few minutes with the rain thundering on the roof, a genuine fear of being blown over. Small voices each asking the other “are you awake?” The previous evening we had pulled off the road on to a small gravel patch with dubious drainage and all night both thinking how on earth we would be pulled out next morning after the deluge. The story in the news the previous week of the poor lady who had died when her caravan was blown off a cliff made its way into my brain in the early hours and then sleep was impossible. How on earth will I manage on just 4 hours at a time, on a watch system, for months on end, with enormous waves !!! Our adventure continued, foraging the biggest haul of wild ceps I have ever had, wild bilberries and blackberries to add to our porridge in the mornings, the bacon soon ran out 🙂
We visited The Falls of Shin where the salmon leap up the falls making their way to their breeding grounds. We visited Ullapool, Gairloch, Lochinver, Aultbee, Drumnadrochit, Lairg, Tain, innumerable lochs, bens, beaches, bays, coves and castles. We enjoyed a chilled out week travelling at a snails pace, literally like a snail with our home on the road with us. It gave me a very very gentle taster of life living in a confined space, admittedly with the one I love, with hot water and pubs, fresh food and space to get out and walk about, with chance to sleep for 10 hours straight. In fact absolutely nothing like my BIG circumnavigation.
I am taking on the biggest challenge of my life and really hope I can raise some serious money for East Cheshire Hospice @ Home while I am about it. If you can please support me and the hospice by clicking the link below and donate.