South to North

We have set off from our South coast home in Dorset in the UK to go up country to the farthest North on this [or these] islands, which is to say, to Shetland. In doing this we are leaving behind the best spell of warm weather we’ve experienced this year and will be swapping it for coldish temperatures and probable rain and gales. We’ll be taking a series of ferries to get to what is, in fact a series of islands, first Orkney, then the Shetland Isles.

We’ve made it almost to Preston [northern England, Lancashire] for our first night, in a pub car park. Our willingness to commit to buying meals in the pub gets us a night’s stay, although it’s no hardship! Already the weather has cooled, the sun gone. The day’s travel has been all on motorways, motoring to get the miles done on frantically congested roads clogged with huge lorries belching fumes; most routes mired in roadworks which slow the flow. The lorry drivers, dogged by rigid schedules, drive aggressively and angrily and are horribly intimidating!

Our second day of travel takes us far up into Scotland and while it’s still motorway to begin with, it’s quieter and less fraught. We whisk through the Lake District, treated to beautiful views there and beyond, the landscape widening out, hills dotted with sheep, homes few and far between, although it’s hard to find a place to park for lunch after we leave the motorway.

We skirt Edinburgh and cross the uber-modern Forth Bridge then forge on to Perth, where there’s time for a look around. It’s elegant, with fine Georgian terraces of grey granite and a pleasant centre, cafes and bars with outside seating. There’s an extensive park and the River Tay flows along the side of the town. Then we’re off to our site just on the outskirts.

The third day’s driving is the most spectacular, with a journey through the Highlands towards Inverness then onwards North. It’s a long day but we drive through wild landscapes dotted with tiny, stone, bothy homes and rushing, boulder strewn streams; many of the highest mountains still have pockets of snow, even now in mid-June. We pass Pitlochry, famous for its theatre and Aviemore, famous for skiing then we’re crossing the Moray Firth and futher on, the Cromerty Firth, where a forest of oil rigs can be seen, ant-like in the distant estuary.

We are heading for Thurso but opt for a detour to John O Groats due to its status as furthest North on the mainland. The road narrows and the hillsides are a mass of golden gorse as we follow the coastline, until at last we turn towards John O Groats and join a throng of others enjoying the late afternoon sun at the edge of the UK.

Then we must head off to our site, at Thurso, where our pitch faces out across the bay with a grand view of the Orkney Islands and a cracking sunset. and tomorrow there’s a ferry to catch…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook

The Ups and Downs of the Highlands

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We moved on, north from Glasgow towards the Highlands and the lochs [lakes], driving through suburbs crammed with beautiful sandstone mansions; first to Loch Lomond, Bannoch and Bannoch Castle. We are limited, at this time of year to sites that are open, yet many are-and all boasting five-star provision.

The castle [pictured above] is picturesque enough in its setting but all that visitors can see of the interior is a torn lace curtain.

Since Glasgow I’d been mentioning to Husband that a faint, high-pitched whine drifted intermittently through our vehicle, a comment that he dismissed in his customary airy fashion.

Loch Lomond, immortalised in song, surrounded by hills and adorned with small leisure craft and a steamer is of course beautiful, although Balloch village is nondescript, apart from some droll touches:
p1060647Having spent the night in Balloch’s excellent site we moved on and towards Loch Ness while I puzzled over the fizzing, crackling sound that appeared to come from the passenger side air vent.

There was little in the way of grocery stores but a plethora of farm shops indicated that my lust for pies might be about to be satisfied and it was. After our visit I concluded that if we lived in the vicinity of such a shop we’d be a] bankrupt in a very short space of time and b] obese.

Back in the van with the spoils the fizzing noise began to be accompanied by a burning rubber aroma, which even dismissive Husband admitted smelling. There were no indicator lights on the dashboard but we halted while Husband peered into the engine. Nothing amiss. We continued, as did the fizzing and the smell. There was a short stop to see ‘The Falls of Falloch’:

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Then we stopped to consume ‘Scotch’ pies here:

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At last we came along the Caledonian Canal side and to the shores of Loch Ness, check-in, plug-in and Horrors! 

The leisure battery under the passenger seat was too hot to touch! This was certainly where the smell had originated. No more plug-in as everything needed to be switched off; no lights, no water, no cooker, no heat-no heat? The temperature was -6C and a light dusting of snow. From Reception I got the number of a motorhome specialist in Inverness. We prepared to vacate and trek up to a hotel in the village. Then the mobile repair fellow messaged to say he’d be with us at 6.00pm.

There was an anxious wait, but he arrived, managed to isolate the offending battery, leaving us with 2 that continued to function and informing us that the stench was of noxious boiling sulphuric acid and very, very dangerous. Lovely. We’d been breathing it in all day. Ho hum…

Thanks to the cheerful, able mobile repair fellow we could plug in, get warm and be lit, waking next morning cosy and snug and to this view:

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