Exploring Scotland on our honeymoon
  • Day1

    Edinburgh

    May 27, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Before we picked up the van we had 3 nights in Edinburgh to explore the city. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel in Charlotte Square and whilst we didn't get a free upgrade after dropping some subtle honeymoon hints, the room was still lush. We arrived at the hotel just in time for the 'social hour' which involves zero socialising and lots of free wine - my kind of social hour! The hotel is huge and has a couple of restaurants so for dinner on the first night we ate at BABA which does amazing middle eastern small plates which were delicious along with a couple of tasty cocktails.

    For our first day in the city we joined a free walking tour, our favourite way to get to know a new place. Our tour guide Kenny was great and knew so much about the history of the city. He was a little rusty due to it being his first tour in a long time due to covid but that just added to the experience waiting for him to remember what he was going to talk about next. The tour took us along the Royal Mile, St Giles Church, Greyfriars Churchyard (or Kirkyard as the Scots like to call them) to see the famous Greyfriars Bobby's grave and Edinburgh Castle.

    After the tour we headed back to one of the streets we passed full of lots of independent shops and cafes which was apparently JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books for a mooch around and in search of some lunch. We then spent the afternoon exploring Edinburgh Castle (which came with a bonus sighting of DS Arnott himself - Mother of God!)

    Our second day in Edinburgh started with a walk up to Arthur's Seat via the Royal Mile where we stopped at St Giles Church which we had passed on the walking tour the day before to have a look inside. The church had the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen so it was definitely worth a stop. As we continued along Royal Mile, we also passed the Queen's residence where she stays when she is in Edinburgh, Holyrood Castle. Turns out we Will and Kate had stayed there only a couple of days earlier! At the top of Arthur's Seat we were rewarded with 360 degree views of Edinburgh which are pretty amazing.

    It was then time for lunch so we headed back to the Royal Mile in search of something to eat and stumbled across a very pink cafe called Laila with some free seats outside where we could soak up the sunshine. Alongside some very bizarre drinks worthy of such a pink cafe such as unicorn coffee (which was blue in colour and covered in sprinkles, needless to say we skipped that), they also did some delicous pittas. For the rest of the afternoon, we slowly made our way back to the hotel via the Scott Monument and a seat in Princes Street Gardens for a spot of people watching. For dinner we headed to Bodega in Leith for tacos and frozen margaritas which were amazing!
    Read more

    Joanna Blake

    The unicorn is Scotland’s national animal! xx

    6/9/21Reply
    Simon and Blake

    Now you mention this, this does make a lot of sense!

    6/9/21Reply
     
  • Day2

    Edinburgh to Loch Lomond

    May 28, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    After a very lovely few nights in our 4 star hotel, today we pick up our campervan which will be our home for the next 14 nights. We couldn't pick the van up until the afternoon, and not wanting to miss out on the sun that had finally made an appearance, we headed up to Calton Hill to catch some final panoramic views of Edinburgh and get up close and personal with the National Monument, which commemorates the Scottish serviceman who died in the Napoleonic Wars. We then headed back to the hotel to grab our suitcases and jumped into an uber to McRent to collect the van. It was quite a distance from the city however the chattiest uber driver kept us entertained for the entire 45 minute journey.

    After a quick tour of the van, a brand new Fiat Ducato called Cliff with only 400 miles on the clock, and the necessary paperwork signed, we headed off to Aldi to stock up on a few supplies before making our way to our first destination Loch Lomond. When arriving at Aldi however, it dawned on me that they McRent had forgotten to give us all of our bedding so we had to make a quick detour back to the depot to pick it up. A couple of hours later we were pulling into an idyllic campsite, right on the edge of Loch Lomond itself. After making ourselves at home in the van, we did what all good campers do and cracked open a beer and the monopoly cards.

    Campsite: Luss Caravan Park
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £32
    Read more

    Joanna Blake

    Have a fantastic trip! The weather’s looking perfect for you. xx

    5/31/21Reply
    Pensioners On Tour

    Nice van 👍

    5/31/21Reply
     
  • Day3

    Loch Lomond to Fort William

    May 29, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    We were staying in a little village called Luss on the edge of Loch Lomand and we read there was a nice heritage trail walk so we packed up the van and headed off to find the start. The heritage trail combines 3 shorter walks starting with the faerie trail where there were cute little faerie houses dotted around in the trees and woodland area. We then passed along a quarry trail which took us along a stream back up to the main road and finally a river path which ended at a little cafe and tat shop on the loch. It was about time for a coffee and a cake and what a cake it was. Combining my two favourites biscoff and cheesecake!!

    We jumped back in the van and headed off towards Fort William where we would be staying for two nights so we could tackle Ben Nevis. On the way to Fort William we stopped off at a very picturesque spot for lunch and a brew and a visitor centre in Glencoe where I found a cracking postcard featuring a “heilan’ coo”. Before heading to the campsite we decided to do a reccy of the Ben Nevis start point which sets off from the visitor centre. We bought ourselves a little map and asked how long it would roughly take to complete which was 4 up, 3 down.

    We finally made it to the campsite where we set up for the night with a great view of Ben Nevis himself just incase we weren’t sure what we were letting ourselves in for. We rustled up a nice big pasta and gnocchi dinner to carb load before tomorrow’s hike!
    Read more

  • Day4

    Ben Nevis

    May 30, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Today we tackled the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis! We got up early, had a good hearty breakfast of porridge for energy and headed off to the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre to make sure we got a parking spot as we did not have a plan B prepared. It was already pretty full when we arrived just after 8am so we definitely made the right choice getting their early. After rustling up some sandwiches, snacks and purchasing the ever important compass, we started the ascent just after 9am.

    The first half of the trek is not actually that bad. Whilst it's steep, the path is pretty good so you can just slowly make your way up. Around the half way mark however, the path gets steeper and the luscious views of greenery and lochs turn into rock. But again, totally managable and we kept plodding onwards, zig zagging our way up. As we got closer to the top, you could feel the temperature drop and we started to pass patches of snow. We weren't expecting however for the final stretch to the summit, to be trudging through thick cloud and snow a foot deep in places. During this final push, we really did debate whether it was worth pushing on to the top however when we made it to the top and the clouds lifted, we were surrounded by amazing panormaic views. After the obligatory photo at the top, we tucked into our sandwiches before making our way back down.

    Now if you thought treking up through deep snow is tough, getting back down again came with its own challenges. There were a number of techniques being adopted by fellow hikers from running to sliding down on bums. We decided to dig our heels in and hope for the best although I definitely fell over on my bum at one point whilst wondering why I didn't pack a spare pair of socks! Once we were out of the snow, it did get easier however the rock is quite slippery so you really had to take your time to avoid rolling an ankle. As we made our descent, it just kept getting warmer! We honestly couldn't have picked a better day to do it! I had visions of getting to the top, not being able to see a thing and having to find our way back down relying solely on my compass skills but instead we were met with breathtaking views for miles!

    They say the average time to climb Ben Nevis is around 4 hours up and 3 down. We got to the top in just over 3 hours and it probably took us around 3 hours to get back down. We'll take that!

    It was then back to the campsite for a much needed shower and some salmon, new potatoes and veg courtesy of our in van chef, Mr Thatcher before climbing into bed before most of the children on the campsite. We are going to sleep well tonight!

    Campsite: Ben Nevis Holiday Park
    Number of nights: 2
    Price: £30 per night
    Read more

    Tricia Little

    Love this adventure, well done!!. Now for some well earned 😴😴😴😴

    6/4/21Reply
     
  • Day5

    Fort William to Applecross

    May 31, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    We set the alarm for 8am this morning however we were a bit slow getting up. This wasn’t like the morning after Machu Picchu in your 20’s this was Ben Nevis in your 30’s and limbs were sore!! After a nice scrambled egg and salmon brekkie we were on our way to Glenfinnan viaduct for this mornings entertainment.

    The Glenfinnan viaduct is the one that’s featured in Harry Potter when you see the Hogwarts Express on its way from Platform 9 3/4 to the school of magic itself. We opted not to ride the train as it would have wiped out a whole day but instead head to the viewpoint to watch the real life Hogwarts Express pass over. We arrived in good time and found a nice spot to watch it pass by tooting his horn.

    Back on the road we had a 2 and a bit hour drive to our next destination which was Applecross. Applecross is our first stop actually on the NC500 and is one which is sometimes missed due to its single track winding roads to get here. After reading a few blogs on whether we would make it in a camper we decided to give it a crack and we were so glad we did. Apart from the odd reverse along a shear drop single track to let a car past who clearly wasn’t going to give way we witnessed some incredible views including one we stopped at to enjoy a very windy cuppa!

    After finally making it to Applecross we set up camp, showered and headed out to the Applecross Inn for a nice pub dinner. Blake opted for cod and squat lobster (serious food envy when it came out) and I went for posh fish and chips which was just chunks of battered monkfish instead of cod. We also tried some local tipples with a local Applecross IPA and Blake sampled some of Skye’s finest gins.
    Read more

    Tricia Little

    Love it🤗

    6/4/21Reply
     
  • Day6

    Applecross to Gairloch

    June 1, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    We woke up early, still feeling the effects of Ben Nevis and after a quick shower and some brekkie we were back on the road again. The Applecross pensiula is absolutely spectacular and we had regular stop offs to enjoy the views and pick up some smoked trout and salmon pate from the Applecross Smokehouse (which was set up in in a chaps back garden).

    For lunch, we stopped off at the Torridon Countryside Centre for a lovely walk (the centre was shut) alongside Loch Torridon and said hello to the friendly red deer. We then had a sandwich and a cuppa back at the van before heading back on the road again towards Gairloch. Just outside Gairloch we made a quick detour off the NC500 to visit Redpoint and its gorgeous sandy beaches. The guide book boasted an 'exquisite' beach and we definitely visited the wrong one but it was still nice all the same.

    Our campsite for the evening was just outside Gairloch right on the beach. It's enormous in comparison to the sites we have stayed on so far and whilst it was tricky to find a spot (you get given a map where the electric points are and its just a free for all) we ended up a stones throw from the beach. The campsite has a cafe so feeling lazy we got a burger and some pizza for dinner.

    Campsite: Sands Caravan Park
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £24
    Read more

    Tricia Little

    Amazing

    6/4/21Reply
     
  • Day7

    Gairloch to Achmelvich

    June 2, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Simon managed to snag us a last minute spot on a whale watching tour with Hebridian Whale Cruises this morning so we packed up and grabbed some breakfast on the way to Gairloch Harbour. The tour was on a rib so we were kitted out in thick waterproof dungarees and jackets to keep us warm and dry and then taken out to the rib. Before we got on, Simon and I were given a safety briefing which involved a very quick whistle stop overview of how to drive the boat and signal for help if our tour guide got thrown off the boat (not sure how we ended up with this responsibility).

    It was a 2.5 hour tour however for the first 1.5 hours all we saw was a lot of sea birds, ganets, razorbills, guillemots and the occasional puffin (which were pretty cute) but no sign of any actual whales. There had been a minke whale sighting the past few days in a particular spot however with still no luck, we headed off to another spot which due to the structure of the sea floor was apparently a popular feeding spot. Here the rib stopped and we were told to keep our eyes peeled and give the signal if anyone spotted anything. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small spray of water and gave the signal. Everyone had a look but we couldn't see anything at first however after a couple of minutes a small group of dolphins appeared! They were quite far away at first but then came closer to the boat so we could see them up close which was absolutely amazing! After watching the dolphins for a bit it was time to head back and we even managed to sneak in a cheeky minke whale and porpoises sighting just at the end! The minke whale was quite far away but it was a sighting all the same. We could then head back to the harbour happy and fortunately our driver managed to stay on board for the entire trip so we didn't have to invoke the emergency protocol.

    Back on dry land, we grabbed coffee and a juice from a very cute cafe Coast Coffee in the harbour and had a mooch around their very lovely shop. I could have bought lots of bits I definitely don't need, but refrained and then we hit the road again.

    There is endless beautiful scenery to look at when driving here, it's hard to believe we are in Scotland. The views keep getting better around every corner you turn so its hard not to keep pulling over to take a photo and soak in the view. There are now lots of beautiful beaches as well so we stopped at Gruinard Bay and dipped our feet in the ice cold sea (a reminder that you are actually in Scotland and not the Mediterranean). Our next stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge where a short walk took us across the gorge via a suspension bridge to see the 160ft Falls of Measach.

    It had been quite a long afternoon of driving so when we reached Ullapool we filled up on petrol and parked up in search of a pub. We stumbled across a locals pub just off the main street and after being complimented on my trousers "I like your flares love", we ordered a G&T and a ginger beer for drives. After a quick stock up on snacks in Tesco we headed on to our final destination near Lochinver. Instead of taking the NC500 via Inchnadamph we decided to take a slight detour along the coastal route via Inverkirkaig. It was another single track road but not as windy as Bealach Na Bah and yet again we were rewarded with stunning landscapes. We finally arrived at our campsite just before 8pm where we enjoyed a classic pasta and sauce supper in the van.

    Campsite: Shore Caravan Site
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £15
    Read more

  • Day8

    Achmelvich to Durness

    June 3, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We had a slow morning as we had no real activity planned for the day. After breakfast we headed to the beach which was accessible from the site we were staying on. Achmelvich beach was written everywhere as being one of the best little coves and it didn’t disappoint. We set the blanket down on the white sandy beach against some rocks to shelter from the wind and spent an hour or so just watching waves break onto the beach. A young boy running in and out, struggling to decide on whether he was going to brave the ice cold waters, also provided us with some morning entertainment.

    After having to clean up a slight overflow whilst filling up with water (Blake edit: slight overflow = water pouring out from under the fridge and the side of the van) we were on our way to our first stop, the village of Lochinver. Here we looked in a few gift shops and bought a tartan clad heilan’ coo Christmas decoration which has become a bit of travelling tradition, along with fridge magnets. Our next stop was Loch Assynt to visit the so say haunted castle ruins of Ardveck. Luckily no poltergeists were seen today. Lunch today overlooked Kylesku bridge which sweeps over the mouth of lochs Glencoul and Glendhu.

    Having had a lazy morning we decided the next stop would be Blairmore to pick up the four mile walking path to Sandwood Bay. I won’t lie, my enthusiasm for walking had all but gone but with the promise of a beautiful beach and half a wispa gold at the end we plodded on around many a loch, over many a hill and past many a lamb. Well the guidebooks weren’t wrong, Sandwood Bay was incredible and we almost had the place to ourselves! Having set down the blanket and eaten the wispa it was time for one thing, a power nap!!

    We were taking a bit of a gamble with the next campsite as you couldn’t book in advance and the pitches open from 11am so getting there at 6:30pm was going to be pushing it. Luckily we managed to get a spot due to being a smaller van as the next motorhome didn’t. For dinner we were having the smoked sea trout from the Applecross smoke house with buttered new potatoes and it didn’t disappoint!!

    Campsite: Sango Sands
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £23.50
    Read more

  • Day9

    Durness to Tongue

    June 4, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We had had quite a few early starts so we opted for a leisurely breakfast which ultimately became more leisurely when Simon spotted the campsite 'Breakfast Bar' on his way back from his morning shower. We enjoyed our breakfast baps and lattes overlooking the bay.

    Our first stop today was just down the road at Smoo Cave. You could have a look around the first chamber of the cave for free but for £10pp you could hop in a dingy to explore further into the caves which we decided to do and it was totally worth it! The guides were really knowledgeable and it was great to see inside the cave. There is usually a waterfall however as Scotland has been having such amazing weather recently, there wasn't one today. Despite being not far from the sea, the water inside is freshwater which flows down from a nearby loch and is also home to some resident Scottish piranhas, latin name 'brownus troutus'.

    Afterwards we headed to the Balnakaeil Craft Village. Originally constructed in the mid 50's as a MOD Early Warning Station, the buildings intended as barracks etc. were repurposed to create the craft village of today. We had a mooch around the numerous galleries, ceramic and crafty shops before finishing up in Cocoa Mountain, famous for its indulgent hot chocolates. We both decided on a Mocha Mountain Chaser which is a huge chocolately coffee, drizzled with more milk and white melted chocolate, accompanied by a 4 chocolate chaser. It was intense! Especially as we had got very excited in the shop and come out with a salted caramel and white chocolate croissant and a raspberry and white chocolate blondie too!

    Feeling a bit sick we headed off to our next destination Tongue. Tongue isn't far from Durness so we had a little pitstop at Skinnet Beach and Ard (still not sure what an Ard is?!) After getting told off by a grumpy local for parking in her parking spot we went for a stroll, past lots of cute lambies along yet another beautiful beach.

    Our campsite today is on Kyle of Tongue surrounded by gorgeous scenery. It's also an amazing campsite with great facilities and the best showers of the trip! For dinner we had booked a table at the Tongue Hotel which was just under a 30 minute walk away, albeit at the top of a humongous hill! We gave ourselves a little longer because you never can trust how long it is going to take you to get there and we set off at such a pace we ended up power walking it in 20 minutes! It was a bit of a fancy hotel and the dinner was divine. Simon opted for Cullen Skink for starter (a Scottish fish soup speciality) and Scrabster (a local port) lemon sole with crushed new potatoes and roasted veg for main. I decided on the trout tarlet with horseradish for starter and a veggie burger with fries for main. Feeling stuffed, we didn't have any room for dessert so we headed off back down the hill to the campsite to walk off our dinner. Having escaped the midges on out trip so far, they were out in force this evening however that didn't stop us from enjoying the beautiful sunset on the way.

    Campsite: Kyle of Tongue Campsite
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £27
    Read more

    Joanna Blake

    Ard is Gaelic for “high, above the ground”. The beaches look absolutely stunning ....... and deserted! xx

    6/9/21Reply
     
  • Day10

    Tongue to Dunnet Head

    June 5, 2021 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    After our slap up meal last night unfortunately there was no time for a lie in. The facilities were the best we’d had so far so we decided to get up early and get some laundry done as well as filling up on water and emptying the grey water etc. We initially headed to the Strathnaver Museum however it was closed due to covid so continued along the NC500 until we saw signs for Coast Coffee on the side of the road and pulled in for a pit stop. Most of the time we hit a coffee shop it’s just an average flat white however this little converted horse box has it all going on! Blake had a date and pecan scone complete with all the trimmings and a flat white. I went for a dirty chai latte and a cinnamon bun which were both delicious.

    A bit further on we stopped at Strathy Point to take the short walk to the lighthouse. All the signs mentioned it was a good spot to see more dolphins and whales but unfortunately we didn't spot any today. Next stop was Melvich Beach which we’d heard good things about. We knocked up a packed lunch and headed on our way. It was mostly overcast and a bit windy but like true Brits we braved it out sheltered by some dunes for a fair while (until my phone battery died which was showing the Bristol rugby game).

    After a quick cuppa in the van to warm up we did a drive by of the fishing port of Scrabster, where last nights lemon sole dinner had come from, before heading on to our campsite on Dunnet Head. As we were so close to fishing ports we had read having fish and chips in this area was recommended so after a recommendation from the campsite owner (who also loved a chat) we headed to the Northern Sands Hotel to collect a takeaway breaded haddock and chips. We debated taking it to the Dunnet Head viewpoint however we decided it might get cold so ate it in the van in the carpark. In hindsight we probably could have made it and not looked like weirdos eating takeaway in the restaurant carpark but the food was delicious!

    Before heading back to the campsite we drove to the Dunnet Head viewpoint, the most northerly point of Scotland. The views here were amazing and you could see many of the islands off the North Coast including Orkney. There were also loads of sea birds nesting on the sides of the cliffs. Our campsite this evening is also right on the Dunnet Head cliffs and we were able to watch the seals play in the small harbour from the van.

    Campsite: Windhaven
    Number of nights: 1
    Price: £28
    Read more