Trip No.6 Scotland & New Year

December 2017

Friday 29th December 2017 and we are travelling to Scotland for our very first Hogmanay. Cathy was on at Facebook sometime in November and spotted a conversation regarding New Years Eve at The Slanj Restaurant, Tarbet on the edge of Loch Lomond, we liked the sound of it so we contacted Jane and reserved an overnight spot on their car park.

On this trip we will find out how we get on with longer periods of wild camping, hopefully we will only have to use a site once or twice during the next 10 days.

Our first overnight wild camping spot was Glencaple again, we like this spot. Parked up and in to the pub we go, food and drinks are ordered.

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Snow at Glencaple

Next day after an hours walk we head off to Dumbarton, found a safe, quiet spot near River Leven, parked up and opened the wine and chocs, hang on it’s only 2.30pm! and why not? Leisurely evening, played scrabble and I beat Cathy which is very rare.

From here to Tarbet is about 35 miles north along the banks of Loch Lomond, got to The Slanj around 11am, there is already 7 other motorhomes, we go inside and introduce ourselves. Gordon and Jane chatted and told us they have travelled as far as Morocco in their motorhome hence why MH’s are made welcome.

A few hours to go yet before we get started with Hogmanay celebrations, relaxed with a drink at the bar and off to change our clothes. We have a marvellous time celebrating with the crowd, dancing for some, the musician played traditional folky songs mixed with popular numbers and well received. The buffet came out and we tried “stovies” for the first time, a Scottish dish of herbs, garlic, chopped sausages, carrots, potatoes and gravy. Also available was chicken curry, bargees, samosa, mac cheese and a large range of fresh cut “pieces” – that’s butties to me and you! We enjoyed the night and flopped into bed at 1.30am.

New Years Day, a bit wet and dark today, our thoughts turn to 2018 and escaping to Europe, hopefully it will happen this year. No driving today on NY day, Slanj make very big breakfasts, met fellow motor-homers Sally & Keith and Jack their Jack Russell, we got chatting, they are very friendly and kindly invite us to call in and see them at home whenever we are passing. Sally & Keith recommended couple of places for us to visit in Scotland, one being the House Of Bruar, this is how we like to travel, have a sketchy plan, chat to people and follow our instincts.

Walked down to the Loch shore to get some air and have a look around, strolled up the hill as well before heading back to Pogo.

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Spot Pogo at The Slanj

Gordon kindly offered to let us refill with fresh water and empty the cassette toilet, they really understanding motor-homers and motorhoming, active encouraging stop overs in their level car park, they are very friendly people, easy going, definitely will we be calling again to see them.

Next morning, we left for Pitlochry, later we pulled over and rested at Kenmore at the side of Loch Tay enjoying the views. House of Bruar had lots of snow and we parked in the furthest corner, overnighting is permitted here, we spent a few hours inside the shops including buying expensive grocery products. Sally told us to try the fish and chips here, they are fantastic, so we did and they are indeed are superb, we both said they were the best ones we had ever had! Thanks Sally!

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Guess who fell out of the van after a glass or two of prosecco tonight and landed on the frozen ground?

I opened the door, stepped out, missed the step and tried grabbing the door before hitting the deck with a thud on my side, I burst out laughing at myself, I thought the step was out!  We couldn’t stop laughing………….. lol!

Off to Aviemore today and probably Inverness before turning south for home via Glencoe. Pub stop over at the Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore, drinks and meal £70. Inverness the next day as neither of us had been there before, parked at Inverness Marina for free and walked in to town. Got wrapped up, it’s cold and drizzly, we went around the outside of the castle, good views over the city and afterwards visited the nearby museum. Coffee and cakes consumed before some retail shopping and waking back.

Tonight’s stop is going to be near Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness as we are planning to visit Urquhart Castle tomorrow, we called in at the Information Centre in Drumnadrochit and it was closed until March but the facilities at the rear were open, fresh water tap and public conveniences which we made use of.

A quiet night and up early for the 10-minute drive to the castle, not many people at this hour but it became surprisingly busier in the next two hours. No problem parking, paid our entrance fee, £9 each, this included a short history film and a guided tour, we enjoyed our day here and we thought it was good value.

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Urquhart Castle

Continued on the A82 towards Fort William and we pulled in at Fort Augustus, looks like a nice place to spend some time. Cathy finds a potential wild camping spot via a Facebook group so I went to check it out, it looks okay, it’s discreet and parking Pogo here will not offend the local residents, walked the road back checking for potential any warning signs about sleeping here, none spotted, that will do then. Drove to the spot, we locked up and wandered around the village. It is a lovely spot here, there are five locks built in 1820 joining the Caledonian canal to Loch Ness, great views northwards down the loch to Inverness, boats trips, good pubs and local shops. Peaceful night’s sleep.

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View at Fort Augustus looking towards Inverness

Today we are going to Glencoe to stay at the Clachaig pub who encourages motorhome stop overs providing you buy food and drink. A lovely scenic drive as the weather had brightened up, bought diesel and LPG from the BP on the outskirts of Fort William. We need fresh water and to empty the cassette toilet in a designated place, so we checked out the Glencoe Ski Centre Resort as mentioned by other motorhomers on the forums.

What a place it is, it was covered in snow and it was like a small ski town in Europe, it was very busy full of skiers, snowboarders, lots of motorhomes of every description, cars, vans, spotted people camping as well, it’s like a self-contained village, restaurants, shops etc, what a surprising place. Darkness fell, we imagine that the scenery would be fantastic especially on a sunny crisp day surrounded by snow. Did the tasks and left to find the Clachaig pub, straightforward enough, went inside to ask if it was ok to stay, good manners costs nothing and we always ask first, good job we did as we were refused as is the owners right, we hadn’t done anything wrong, but the owners have changed their policy, ok no problem. Let’s go to Invercoe Campsite, we love the views from the loch side, we drove there.

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Invercoe Campsite view

Woke up to a beautiful day, stunning views, clear blue skies, crisp fresh air and views.

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Strolled around taking lots of photos of the glorious scenery, we moved off and 3 miles later we stopped to do a walk to Glen Lochen. It was early for us around 10.30am, walking uphill through the forestry commission land on colour coded paths we came across the tarn, what a lovely place with outstanding views, the ice was 2cm thick and there were lots of frozen patterns that caught our eye.

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Glen Lochen, frozen tarn

 

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Frozen pattern in the ice, looks like a bird maybe?

Now we are off towards Loch Lomond, the drive from Glencoe was absolutely beautiful, bright sun, high roads, snow everywhere, it was difficult to focus on driving it was so awesome, stopped to take photos but the scale of the countryside can’t be captured. Fuel purchased at the Green Welly and a rest break. We are hoping to find a wild spot of the side of the Loch Lomond, Facebook groups suggested a few spots like Duck Bay Marina, might check that out when we get there. Drove in to Balloch and found ourselves a parking place with 180 degree views, checked the sign etc for warnings, decided to stay here tonight. Checked the web and we ok to stay inside the national park area here without a permit due to the time of year, it’s ok until Feb/March I think. Location was Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway.

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Balloch

What a very cold night! The size of that icicle! Short walk around the waters edge to Lomond Retail Park where there’s also a Sea Life aquarium, fresh bright & sunny morning, we could see for miles northwards up Loch Lomond, enjoyed the stroll, back for a snack and hot drinks before leaving.

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Heading home now in one journey and our ETA is 5pm.

We have thoroughly enjoyed Scotland, outstanding beauty and scenery, warm welcome from the local folks, good easy roads make for relaxing driving, no problems with wild camping, good place to practise before heading in to Europe and there are plenty of campsites as well if you chose.

We will be back, possibly to do the NC500, I have ridden this route on a motorcycle a few years ago before it was known as the NC500, so I have a good idea of what to expect.

This is probably the last of our shakedown trips before we rent our house. We have learnt how to live efficiently in the van, what works well, what doesn’t, how long before we need more water or to empty the tanks, made enhancements with better organisation, a few small tweaks here and there, additional equipment installed like 12v aux points.

We are ready for our next trip, please follow us as we travel along gently in Pogo.

Dave & Cathy