Our trip to the Isles Islay & Jura, Scotland

November 2016

Our trip to the islands of Islay and Jura was going to be special enough but just to add some extra specialness, we were also going to stop off at Aileen’s favourite town – Inveraray and visit its famous Inveraray jail. Then on to an overnight stay at Stonefield Castle before catching the ferry to Islay the next morning. Our trip included 3 overnight stays – Stonefield castle, Islay hotel and Jura hotel. Hopefully packing in as much as possible.

Inveraray is situated on the A83 in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and has a long history, which has helped define it’s architecture and hospitable way of life. I can well understand why Aileen enjoys visiting this special wee town. When entering the town from the east, you will go over a humped back bridge and if you look to your right, you will be met with a sight to behold. Inveraray Castle with its unusual green colour and gothic style.

On this particular visit, though, we decided to visit Inveraray Jail. We choose the self guided tour, complete with headphones, allowing us to wonder around a building that oozed history, tragic stories and fascinating facts.  We would thoroughly recommend a visit to this thought provoking place.

After a quick lunch, we were on our way again. Staying on the A83, we finally arrived at our accommodation for the night, Stonefield Castle .  It’s a bit pricey, although there are Groupon deals available at times but it’s worth it if you are looking stay in a castle for the night. It’s well maintained grounds are perfect for a stroll and the views across the Mull of Kintyre Peninsula   are very special. Again, this would be an ‘On the Way’ recommendation.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off for the fishing village of Tarbert where we would catch the ferry to Islay. Arriving early, we decided to climb a nearby hill and say hello to the locals!

This would be our first trip to Islay and the tight schedule created a bit of a whistle stop tour of the Island. So once we had checked into the Islay hotel, we set off in the car for a quickish look around.

I don’t know if it’s because Aileen and I have been spoilt by Scottish scenery over the years but personally, I was underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, It’s a beautiful Island and I feel I am doing it an injustice considering we only stayed for one night but I’m being honest with how I felt.

There were highlights such as quaint little villages like Portnahaven.

Distilleries galore and not just whisky but also Gin as its popularity continues to grow.

Most Scottish Islands will regularly delight you with glimpses of their wildlife and Islay doesn’t disappoint.

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Port Ellen, where our hotel was situated, had a sleepy charm to it with colourful houses and the village of Bowmore had an unusual round church The local grocery shop is an interesting place to stand and observe the local’s interactions. Clearly the weekly shop is a great chance to catch up on all the Island gossip.

So yes please go to Islay and explore it but you might need to stay longer than one night!

The next day we set off for Jura. This trip involved a short ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura, the journey takes only 10 minutes. 

Jura has fewer people living on it than Islay, it basically has one main road the A846, which becomes a single track road from Lussagiven, taking you from the Feolin Ferry port to Kinuachdrachd at the north of the Island.    Along the way you will treated to the Paps of Jura to your left and to your right you can see the Scottish mainland with endless hills and mountains. 

I loved Jura. I loved its remoteness, its scenery, it’s hotel and its single track roads.

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 Again, we only stayed for one night but for some reason I remember our stay in Jura much clearer than our stay in Islay.

Of course creating memories needs moments in time than linger with you and become hardwired into your special memory bank and Jura did that.

During our ‘Jura road trip’ we decided to go off the beaten single track and take a road that we hoped would lead to a spot for some seal watching. This road had no passing places with little room for error either side. We eventually reached a set of large gates, possibly the entrance to a local estate owned by laird! This created a dilemma as our journey back would mean reversing at least a couple of miles and who’s to say what we would meet. Maybe an angry laird! So I persuaded Aileen that I could do a 3 point turn. With a sharp fall into a stream at one side and a bog to the other, Aileen got out and began to give me some instruction. I began to manoeuvre the car, quickly realising that a 3 point turn had been a tad ambitious. I kept a close eye on Aileen’s instructions in the mirror. To be honest, her instructions closely matched a highland dance routine. Arms flying in all directions and darting from side to side. I decided to make a executive decision and inch a bit further into the bog. I was now perfectly place for one last reverse and we would be on our way. That’s when my heart sunk as I heard that unmistakable sound of my front wheels spinning frantically and mud was now flying in all direction.    Luckily Aileen had avoided the mud but our car was covered in it and we were now stuck in a bog in the middle of nowhere. 

Just as this scene was about to turn into the domestic of all domestics, we both heard the squeak of the large iron gates being opened and out drove a man looking bemused by what he was faced with. Was it the laird coming to give us a telling off for ruining his bog?

As it turned out, it was a fellow tourist who had had the sense to drive up to the gate, open it and drive on to the seal viewing point. This wasn’t a gate to a lairds private land but nothing more than a benign boundary gate. He was now on his way back, luckily for us, and was more than prepared to help push our car out the bog; at the risk of being covered in copious amount of mud. As it turned out, he was also staying at our hotel.

We were now back on the road deciding to waste no more time and head for the north of the Island.

We quickly rejoined the single track road north but before long, we had stopped again. This time we were hypnotised by the views of snow capped mountains and miles of nothingness.

We felt the need to get out for wee stroll into the nothingness but with no obvious established paths, we decided to turn back as we didn’t want to disturb the flora. Although there was time for Aileen to have her obligatory loss of footing and nose dive into the bog. Luckily I managed to pull her out without the need for any help from a passing tourist!

The remainder of our trip to the north of the Island was relatively incident free and we relaxed into our default setting of wonderment.

Later that evening, back at the hotel, we met the tourist who had helped us get our car out of the bog. Let’s just say he was shown our appreciation with some large glasses of alcohol.

And that was our trip to the Islands of Islay and Jura. As you will no doubt have realised by now, we don’t do typical travel blogs full of step by step facts or 10 things you should know about – whatever.

No we prefer to include some helpful links and give you a general personal flavour of our trips. Please feel free to read our other blogs, set out in a similar personal and times humorous way.

 

Please feel free to subscribe for future stories, if they are your kind of thing.

 

 

 

Haltwhistle

Haltwhistle is a small town in Northumberland, England and may not be on your travel radar but think again.

Sections of Hadrian’s Wall are close by.  It is nicknamed the centre of Britain, because of its geographical position in the exact centre of the country. It is a popular place to stop, especially with walkers and cyclists. The Pennine Way, national long distance trail includes Haltwhistle as a well earned rest. There are a number of campsites in and around the area. The town even hosts its own walking festival, so you can put your best foot forward on a range of walks, including the Haltwhistle Rings – 22 circular walks through historic countryside bordering the town.

Just under 5 miles away is the Sycamore Gap Tree, which featured in the 1991 Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and has subsequently become known as the “Robin Hood Tree”

    

My dad has stayed in Haltwhistle for a number of years but it has only been recently that I have appreciated it’s style and surroundings. Maybe it’s an age thing.

We would definitely recommend  Haltwhistle as a place to visit, stop over or stay and we will be making the most of it during future visits,

Lake Lugano

Following the success of our West Highland Way trip the previous year, we decided to meet up again for ’round 2′. This time we were going to go abroad and this time Aileen and I were not going to be the organisers! We looked forward to sitting back whilst another couple stepped up to the mark and delivered a well organised trip that would need lots of planning, coordinating dates, coordinating sleeping arrangements and spending hours researching local sights and entertainment. This would be fun to watch. After all Aileen and me are the king and queen of organisation. Lets just see how much the stress of it all takes it toll!

So it came as a bit of a surprise when, a couple of days later, we received a phone call from Gordon.

He had been tasked with this arduous task and he informed us that it was all sorted!

It turned out that Gordon, who had just retired from the police, had put his name into a scheme that offers retired police officers the chance of staying free at various properties. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be lucky enough to be picked but low and behold Gordon was the lucky man. So all we had to do as a team was book our flights.
Lavena Ponte Tresa, looking out over Lake Lugano with the Swiss mountains in the distance, was a perfect location. The accommodation itself was also perfect. We would be staying in an old rustic villa spread out over 3 floors and with plenty of charm, as well as a large garden and a tennis court. We all felt fortunate to be given this villa for a week.

Lake Lugano is stunning and we had a perfect lake side view.

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Lavena Ponte Tresa is a border point between Italy and Switzerland which involves a short walk across what feels like a token border into the Swiss town of Ponte Tresa. Clearly both towns are keen to keep their national identity with Italian and Swiss flags prominent in their respective towns but the ease of walking from one to the other makes it difficult to immediately feel that you have entered another country.

With this is mind, Aileen and I decided to hire bikes and cycle beyond the border and deeper into Switzerland. In the end, to be honest, our cycle to Lugano wasn’t exactly a cycle into the Swiss Alps but it did at least give us that sense of cycling in a different country. We cycled through some small villages, stopped at a local cafe with no spoken English to be heard and marvelled at the beautiful scenery.

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Our second trip into Switzerland did feel like a trip to the Swiss Alps as all 6 of us walked over the border and boarded a train to Rivara for the Monte Tamaro cable car taking us up 1,530 m then on foot to the summit at 1,962 m. The views were stunning and well worth the trip.

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It’s a great place for all the family and being the big kids that we are, we could resist the Alpine coaster bobs. Described as ‘An awesome, breathtaking downhill ride’. We were given our instructions before we set off down hill. Basically – that’s your brake and about 30 metres from the finish, apply your brake or you’ll overshoot. Hindsight is a great thing and it would probably have made more sense to put those that wanted to go faster at the front but as we had just randomly took our turn and as fate would have it, this created a bit of a domestic. Steve was keen to show off his army training and’An awesome, breathtaking downhill ride’ was perfect but he had done the gentlemanly thing and stepped aside to let his wife Susan to go first.

Susan, who was clearly petrified and still had the instructors warning in her head regards braking, decided to apply the brakes about 150 metres from the end. Resulting in safe but slow, extremely slow, decent.

Swiss mountains are renowned for the human yodel travelling great distances but on this occasion it was Steve’s dejected tones – ‘Susan!’ ‘Susan!’ ‘Go faster!’ ‘You’re spoiling my ride’ That could be heard for miles around.

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Lake Lugano doesn’t have the same popularity as other Italian lakes but the close proximity to Switzerland and the ease of walking over the border just added to our memorable trip. We would highly recommend this lovely part of the world.

Bridge over the Atlantic

We decided to take advantage of a spring Groupon deal and headed to Argyle, Scotland. We arrived at our hotel Lochmelfort for an overnight. Once checked in, we were shown to our room. The hotel had a certain amount of grandeur about it but it also had a more basic wing and this is where we were shown to. Unfortunately the room door was locked from the inside and our hotel rep looked concerned. Was there still somebody inside? Was there a body inside? How would he get us in we wondered. He proceeded to ignore every hotel health and safety book and opened the room next to us, climbed out onto the balcony and completed a manoeuvre that Spiderman would have been proud of! Opening our door, now from the inside, he calmly stated ”sorry about that” handed us our key and walked off. Needless to say our balcony door remained firmly locked for the remainder of our stay.

Clachan Bridge is about 8 miles from the town of Oban on Scotland’s west coast and was built between 1792 and 1793 and links the Island of Seil to the mainland.

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Our trip to this bridge took in some lovely scenery as well as the historic Kilmartin Church, with its ancient carved stones.

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Clachan Bridge is well worth seeing. It might just be because of its unofficial name but it felt like a special place to stand on and take a selfie – as you do.

2016

2016 We decided to make up for our lack of camping the previous year and made a concerted effort to get on the road as much as possible.  Of course our wandering spirit also resulted in another year of tent free side track travels:-

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Bridge over the Atlantic

Lake Lugano

Haltwhistle and

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In between these adventures, we did make plans regards camping and our first plan involved purchasing a Daxara trailer.   We were fed up with cramming all out camping gear into the back of our car and it was becoming a dangerous place for our dog Sam, who was going to be squashed to death one of these trips.  We invested in a hardtop lid for the trailer complete with roof bars and a roof box. Finally, we were able to pack the majority of our camping equipment into the trailer and roof box. Sorted!

This camping business suddenly seemed more expensive than we had thought it would. ‘’FFS we could have spend a week in Spain all inclusive with the money we’ve spent!’’ was a regular rant.

We also decided to research a new tent. Not that our Kampa was giving us any problems but now that we had the storage sorted, it seemed that we needed something else to get right in our never ending quest to find the ultimate camping experience that would be the perfect combination of storage, transport  and stress free tent erection.   

Meantime in between our tent research, we had some camping to do and off we set to  Nicholaston Farm south Wales then back up to Scotland and off to Inver caravan park Dunbeath (Links to follow)

We knew we could manage one last big camping excursion before the season finished and this focused our minds in finding that elusive tent that would make our camping experience even better. We decided to buy an inflatable tent. We did our research and bought an Outwell Vermont 7 berth. This would eliminate the need for a separate bag for poles, it would go up quickly and would be the answer to all our small issues. At least it had better! It cost a small fortune.

Truth be told this tent turned out to be the wrong decision. Yes it was big and had a well thought out interior but it was too big and as for space saving with no poles – the air beams and the tent combined just created a big mass of tent that had to be squeezed into a large bag, all the time trying to squeeze out the air. Its dismantled bulk was heavy and now our small trailer was full. Our tent was too big!!  We quickly realised that we had also limited what campsites we could go to but we had no choice. It had cost a lot of money and we would just need to accept it and be aware of where to camp.

Our first outing with our new tent was to Fields end water caravan park Cambridgeshire (Link to follow). We managed to squeeze it into our pitch but it stuck out like a sore thumb. This was a perfect tent for a family who wanted to go on holiday for a week or two but not for a couple with their wee dog who just wanted to stay a few days then move on to anot her site. It was too big, too much hassle putting it up and packing it away and  took up too much space in the trailer. It had to go! Just not yet.

Cruise aboard the Coral Princess. Vancouver to Los Angeles

This would be our second cruise. Our first had been a Thomson’s Mediterranean cruise and it might have been because it was our first cruise or the variety of destinations or the fact that we were with family members who were just as excited as we were but it has a special place in our heart.

That might explain why we didn’t enjoy this second cruise as much. Don’t get me wrong, the ship was grander, the destinations were amazing (apart from Astoria which I’ll get to) and the weather was perfect but there were issues. That said (we’re not naturally negative people) there were a lot of special memories.

For the purposes of this blog, we have split our issues and special memories into two sections.

So without further ado here were the issues as we saw them, though others might have seen them differently :-

The ship – No atmosphere. Age range 65+. It had a large section of the ship dedicated to  an art gallery with the option to purchase. Who goes on a cruise to buy a painting?

The gym had a section that enabled us to create a small exercise area and we would regularly use it. Whilst using it we would observe a mix of passengers getting health checks, filling in questionnaires etc. It became quickly apparent that this ‘service’ was another way of cashing in on the demographics of our fellow ‘worried well’ patrons. Of course nobody from the fitness team would acknowledge us. Not even a ”good for you”! We were obviously too healthy for them and our fitness appeared to unsettle them.

The onboard activities continued to disappoint. One activity in particular was the putting tournament. This involved a golf club, a carpeted section, a golf ball and a plastic target. As it turned out I (Tom) was rubbish at it and with my Scottish accent, Scotland having a long golfing history, it made my rubbishness seem even more magnified. Luckily Aileen saved the day with a great performance and won it! My reactive grumpiness was further boosted when this guy came up to me, after hearing my Scottish accent and asked – ‘Do you really think that Scotland can afford to be an independent country?’ Obviously referring to the independence referendum the year before. I think I barked back something like ‘I’m not interested in talking about that right now pal, I’m trying to win a game of putting!’  and he walked off.

Then there was the flood in our room. We returned to find our room ankle deep in water and we quickly headed to reception. The receptionist took a note of our room number and with a face that a poker player would have been proud of i.e. no emotion, empathy or sympathy stated ”I’ll get someone to look at it”. Safe in the knowledge that we would be looked after, we headed for lunch. On return to our room we discovered that there was now a large noisy machine attempting to dry out our room. A maintenance guy suggested that it could take at least 24 hours to dry out and we should head back to reception to organise another room. Our current room was with a balcony and we were given an alternative room in the bowls of the ship with noisy air con and uncomfortable beds. Sometimes that’s just the way things happen and we accepted it. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.  What we did struggle with was the lack of apology or acknowledgement that we had been inconvenienced. I questioned this approach back at reception and to be fair they did accept that this was poor practice and offered us breakfast served on our balcony the next morning, when we were back in our now dry room.

So basically those were our non life threatening and insignificant issues that in the greater scheme of things are not that important but hey ho they were our issues and we thought we would mention them. Now onto the whistle stop tour of our amazing memories :-

 

Astoria. We’re not quite sure why we stopped at Astoria. Maybe it was a convenient distance between Seattle and San Francisco. It had a rundown feel to it, which we don’t mind as some run down places can have that ‘something’ about them as well as a rich history but Astoria didn’t leave us with that feeling. Nevertheless we decided to make the most of it and go for a wander.  Our initial research had suggested that we should take a walk to the Astoria Column. A tower built in 1926, the concrete and steel structure is part of a 30-acre city park. So we began our hike to the top of a reasonably steep hill, only to find this – photo. It was closed and not only was it closed, it was covered up. That was it, that was Astoria and apologies to everyone in  Astoria but this is our personal account and we may have missed many things.

 

Vancouver – Our perfect city. Views to die for, beaches, clean with friendly people who stop and ask you if you need any help, cycling around Stanley Park and Granville Island with its markets and artisan shops, walking along the port with huge ships docked and the sight of water planes coming into land.

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We were only in Vancouver for a couple of nights prior to embarking on the cruise ship and it was too short and we plan to return there one day and spend more time in a city that we fell in love with.

 

Victoria – OK but a bit too British for our taste. It has some lovely  architecture, beautiful parks and wide clean streets but I suppose when you’re looking for

something different, it can have an impact on your experience of a place. So basically – sorry Victoria it’s not you, it was us.

 

Seattle – We won’t forget waking up, going out to our balcony and trying to adjust to the sight of a large American city. It was still early but starting to heat up and Seattle was starting

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to wake up. Sky scrapers, car horns, the background noises of people shouting at each other. We loved it and couldn’t to get off the ship to go exploring. Highlights included a city bus tour although we soon realised that we had gotten the more reserved tour as our but would regularly pull up beside another tour bus which was blasting out Reggae music, driven by a Rastafarian and it’s passengers were having a great old time.   We were given the educated tour. Oh well at least we now know about – Starbucks, Grunge music, Frasier, Microsoft and of course Sleepless in Seattle.

 

 

San Francisco – If ever there was a city that we want to go back to it is San Francisco. Our ship arrived early in the morning and we had pre-prepared our own itinerary. So off we went, like a couple of demented tourists, keen to savour as much as possible before we would have to return to our ship:

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Open top bus tour – check. This was a great way of taking in vast areas of the city and was fascinating and informative.

Golden gate bridge – check. We walked over it and back again, as well as going over on a bus, although that was an accident as we had got on the wrong bus but it was another chance to go over the Golden gate bridge and how can you not be happy about that!

Alcatraz – check. What a great day trip this is. Well organised with a mix of helpful guides and an opportunity to wander on your own. An amazing and thought provoking place.

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Peer 39 – check. Just time for a bite to eat in a vibrant part of the city. With the sun going down, live music and surrounded by people who appeared laid back and friendly, it was a perfect end to a special city.

 

Los Angeles –  Our final destination. We said our goodbyes to a ship that in reality had been no more than an expensive taxi for us. Although that had been disappointing, at least most of our destinations had lived up to our expectations. Would Los Angeles do the same? This part of our journey requires its own special page and you are welcome to read it here

 

 

 

 

‘The Jacobite’ steam engine

Aileen knows that I have a fondness for unusual and interesting train journey’s and would one day love to go on a long distance train journey such as one through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. As it turns out, Scotland also has an unusual and interesting train journey and my family surprised me with a trip on it for my 50th birthday.

‘The Jacobite’ was the steam engine used for the ‘Hogwarts Express’ as seen in the Harry Potter film ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’.

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This 84 mile round trip starts in Fort William, near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis. It visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig and passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, loch Morar. Finally arriving at Mallaig, next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis
As it is a very popular journey, we had to wait a couple of months after my birthday before we got a seat and as an extra surprise we had a seat in the first class carriage!

On arrival we were shown to our carriage which gave a great first impression. Oozing with period features taking you back to bygone days. There were 6 signs on the table stating ‘Reserved’ and a bottle of Champagne and two glasses addressed to me – perfect. It got better! Not that we’re unsociable but we were aware that the carriage had room for 4 more passengers, which might limit our opportunity to look out the window and just generally relax into the journey. We only had about 15 minutes before departure yet the other seats still remained empty. We knew that these seats were like gold dust and would not remain empty for long, so we sat and light heartedly joked about who would join us. Would they be nonstop talkers? Would they be aloof and uninterested in their fellow passengers? Would they be extra large and fill up the small carriage? Or would they be friendly, like minded souls who would enhance our journey? We waited to see!

Finally the whistle blew and the train started to move. Aileen and I looked at each other and couldn’t believe our luck. Even though the other seats had been marked as reserved, nobody appeared and we had the whole carriage to ourselves. It felt like we had The Jacobite to ourselves whilst we looked out of the window and drank Champagne.

The journey certainly had its highlights.

GlenfinnanGlenfinnan viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) which overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. We stopped at Glenfinnan station for some photos and a stretch of our legs.

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Along the route are the villages of Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig (our destination).

The scenery is without doubt beautiful but we were frustrated at regular stages throughout the journey with the overgrown vegetation alongside the railway track.  It might have just been the time of year, August and that’s the nature of nature but we knew that we were missing amazing views due to overgrown trees and shrubs. A small point but worth noting.

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We finally arrived at Mallaig and whilst most of our fellow travellers headed for the tartan and souvenir shops in this picturesque fishing village, we decided to continue with the sightseeing. We noticed signs for local boat tours and one was for just over an hour, which gave us plenty of time to take this tour before our train would depart for the return journey. The company was called Western Isles Cruises and tours included a 1 hour wildlife cruise – perfect. As it turned out, it was perfect. The sea was calm, there was a clear blue sky and the views over to the Isles of Rum, Eigg and Skye were spectacular. We kept a close look out for birds of prey and sea life but on this occasion we were treated to seals basking on the rocks. 

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As promised, we were returned in time for our train journey back to Fort William. The journey back was just as enjoyable. Making this a trip to remember. Definitely one of those  unusual and interesting train journeys I often dream about.

 

The West Highland Way

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The West Highland Way. A self guided walk that stretches 96 miles north from Milngavie to Fort William, a Highland town nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis—the highest mountain in the UK. It’s a walk that we had been considering for many years and with Milngavie being our home town, it was always there as a reminder. We would regularly see groups of excited walkers meeting up at the Obelisk starting point in the town centre and say to each other ‘we’ll need to do that walk one day’.

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2015 was going to be a busy year. We would be celebrating our 50th year on this amazing planet. As were some of our friends. So back in early 2014, during a get together and a few Prosecco’s, we decided to organise our West Highland Way (WHW) walk for the May of 2015.

When we say organise, what we mean is that it was decided that Aileen and me would organise. We’re good at organising. Or should we confess that we like to ensure things go smoothly, everyone is kept up to date, all planned and unplanned elements are prepared for and basically it will run to military precision. Thankfully over the years since this walk, we have mellowed and now actually embrace the unknown – with, of course, a backup plan B just in case!

As it turned out, there is a bit of planning required to walk the WHW. Especially if it’s a group of 6, now in their 50’s with varying degrees of fitness and walking experience, who all want a decent night’s sleep in comfortable beds and a hearty breakfast to send us on our way. So with great gusto Aileen and I set about our organising. –

Spread sheet with accommodation, dates, costs and daily distance – check.

Organise baggage transportation – check

Set up a group chat – check.

Use group chat to ‘encourage’ and ‘motivate’ some of the team to get active – check

Start our own training regime (we were fit but not long distance walking fit) – check

Print off WHW places of interest – check

Start to become concerned that some of our group weren’t putting in the miles – check

Question why we are always so organised and is this a negative trait – check

Finally on 17th May 2015 our intrepid group of 6 met at the Milgavie town centre Obelisk for a photo opportunity and we talked excitedly about the walk ahead, just like all the other walker we had observed over the years. We dropped off our luggage with Travel Lite, who ensured our belongings were waiting for us at our destination each day and off we set.

 

Our walk took 7 days. Some do it in 5 but we wanted to stop a savoir the views and not feel rushed. This was a good decision as the pace and daily miles was steady but not too arduous and gave us plenty of time to stop and enjoy the moment. Our accommodation ranged from the ‘just perfect’ to the ‘That’s one of the most uncomfortable sleeps I’ve ever had’ but each one was welcoming and had its own special memories. Each night we would all meet up over a meal and loudly discuss and recall what had happened earlier that day. This was a special walk with amazing views, funny stories, tales of anguish and pain, a feeling of achievement and 7 days of sheers escapism from the realities of life.

 

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All on our doorstep and enjoyed by people from all around the world. We would recommend adding this walk to your bucket list and if you need somewhere to stay the night before your walk, you will get a big welcome at our own Airbnb (its initial inception and our experience of it will be available in a future blog)

Isle of Arran 2015

Here are some photographic highlights of our trip to the Isle of Arran 2015. We got the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick on a lovely clear day in January and booked into the Auchrannie Resort (Groupon deal) for a couple of nights. The island has a road B880 which cuts through some beautiful scenery and runs through its centre from east to west. We decided to do the bottom half the first day and the top half the second. Because of the time of year we went, the roads were virtually empty. Which meant that we could stop in places that would otherwise have been impossible. Thus giving us some special extended moments of breathtaking views.

This is a very special island and we would return in 2018 for a camping trip and climb up Goatfell. 

On the ferry to the Isle of Arran

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The Kings Cave

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Standing stones

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standing-stones

 

Ailsa craig island and Pladda lighthouse

 

Lochranza Castle

 

Brodick Castle

 

Some wildlife

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2015

2015 was a big and hectic year for us. We were turning 50 and we had a year full of trips and birthday parties ahead of us. So our fledgling camping lifestyle was going to have to take a back seat.

We took a trip to the Isle of Arran. Walked the West Highland Way attended weddings, celebrated birthdays, enjoyed a train journey from Fort William to Mallaig on the The Jacobite Steam Train which goes over the Glenfinnan viaduct highlighted in the  harry potter movie and went on a cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles.

So due to a busy year , full time work and other commitments; our camping took a back seat but we were still keen to hit the road with our new tent.

Laurel park Spalding Lincolnshire was our choice. Purely because of a system we have decided to follow, Basically on the day of our trip we will look at the weather app and head towards the area that has the highest probability of sunshine. So on this occasion it was Lincolnshire.

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The campsite was nice and quiet but surrounded with huge Conifer trees, totally obscuring any view but as it turned out Lincolnshire doesn’t have any views.   It was the most boring place we have ever visited, regards it’s landscape, with monotonous flat fields and never ending horizons.                                        

That said, it certainly didn’t disappoint regards the weather and we spent a week relaxing and sun bathing.   

Though I have to add that we’ll probably never return.

 

As for the tent set-up, it was much better and made it so much easier to cope with a week in one place. Being able to stand up, get changed, sit on a chair inside the tent first thing in the morning whilst eating our breakfast and planning the day ahead just made all the difference from our 2014 year with the 3 person tent.  So all was good.