Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200307 England Scotland

TUESDAY 1 JULY 2003 – 30 years to the day since we first met on a blind date. It’s a drizzly start to the month but we are not surprised to hear that we have just had the second hottest June on record.  There’s a new Lidl open in Market Drayton and I feel like I’m on holiday as I recognise all the products we buy in Europe and even see the obligatory campervan in the car park. 



WEDNESDAY 2 JULY – John goes off for his last radiotherapy session whilst Netty takes Mum & I for a shopping trip to Shrewsbury.  From the Park and Ride it’s a 90p return bus ride into the town centre.  First I join Netty whilst she is looking for new trousers.  After Mum has treated us to lunch I join her and visit the cheapie shops where I make a few purchases.  Arrive back exhausted mid afternoon.  Cook a meal at Mum’s for us all as John is not well enough to make it over to the motorhome, the radiotherapy seems to have knocked him about. 



THURSDAY 3 JULY  – In Newport we take a look around our cottage.  As always it’s like looking round a different property as it has been completely redecorated in different colours since last year.  Call in to Pete & Carol’s where we are pleased to learn that Verity has got a first from university.  In Leegomery we park outside Kevin & Sandra’s and they join us for a meal.  Netty & family have moved and Kevin & Sandra drive us round there for a brief visit. 



FRIDAY 4 JULY  – Spend a lot of time at Telford town centre trying but failing to decide what digital camera to buy.  After pausing in Donnington to shower and change we head back towards Newport.  Steve has been very romantic and as a surprise has booked for us to go for a meal at “The Lamb” at Edgmond where we went on our first date.  Were joined by Pete & Carol and Paul & Elaine and have a lovely evening.



SATURDAY 5 JULYNext port of call is Stafford where we visit John, Shirley & Daniella.  Spend the time drinking, chatting, eating and listening to music until almost midnight.  We’re both upset to learn that Barry White has died.  We love his music and now wish we had gone to see him live in Sydney.  Daniel phones us up, as he is very excited to have his first wobbly tooth!



SUNDAY 6 JULY – We walk over to the car boot sale on Stafford common.  On return John cooks us a full English breakfast whilst Shirley nurses her hangover.  Head off on the M6 noticing “toll” signs in place no doubt for future use.  In Hitchin Peter & Margaret are away on holiday but have offered us their driveway to park on whilst we wait to pick up Bev & Norm our friends from Melbourne, Australia.



MONDAY 7 JULY – We manage to park near the railway station to meet Bev & Norm when they arrive from London at 1250.  They are both very well and have enjoyed their lively 10 days touring round Europe and are now ready for their “Swatour” trip.  Strolling around Hitchin in the afternoon they admire all the old buildings and even take another walk in the evening.



TUESDAY 8 JULY – At Cambridge we use the park and ride at Trumpington and catch the £1.50 return bus into the centre.  The college buildings are most impressive and our visits include Kings College and Trinity.  Finally take the plunge and buy a digital camera from Jessops. They price match the Internet so we think we have got a good deal with our Minolta Dimage XT camera, 256mb SD card, a leather case, computer card reader and 3 year warranty for £378.   In all we spend almost 5 hours wandering round Cambridge and really enjoy it.  Afternoon drive up to Cleethorpes where Bev & Norm are amazed at the size of the medium plaice and chips £6.99 in the famous Steels restaurant.  Our friend Oz calls down to join us for a quick drink before we move on to our parking spot at Barton on Humber beside the Humber Bridge.



WEDNESDAY 9 JULY  £2.50 toll gets us across the Humber Bridge.  We stop for a quick shop at Netto.  Bev has never had to put a coin in to get the trolley nor used our check out system where you put stuff straight into the trolley they pack up later using your own bags.  Unfortunately Norm joins us later and misses the briefing.  By the time our shopping has gone along the conveyer, Norm has returned the trolley but not removed the coin and we have nothing to put the shopping in!  We continue on to the Yorkshire Sun Society.  John meets us at the gate and we soon set up camp.  After using the clubhouse showers Norm tries to find the mop to dry the floor.  He mistakes the panic alarm by the sauna for a light switch and we soon have the siren blaring away!  Having made our presence felt we guide Norm back to the van to sit out in the sun and relax.  Norm erects the borrowed tent for them to use tonight.  We join Maureen & John for an evening meal and in true Aussie style Norm cooks on the BBQ.



THURSDAY 10 JULY – It’s another lovely day and we are all reluctant to dress and leave so we laze around until almost lunchtime.  Parking in York works out rather well when Steve gets permission from us to use the M.F.I. car park, by the city walls and a short stroll from the main attractions.  Escort Bev & Norm to the Jorvik museum then head off on our own trail.  The Railway Museum is free to visit, huge and excellent.  We spend a couple of hours browsing round and see only a small part, train spotters must think they have died and gone to heaven!  Return to the van via the Minster and The Shambles old street.  Bev & Norm get back around 7pm.  They’ve had a great time and especially loved all the old things.  Make use of a C.L. (Caravan Club Certified location for up to 5 caravans) on a farm just outside York.  For £4 we park overnight in a farmers field opposite a pond. 



FRIDAY 11 JULY – In Leeds £3 gets us parking for the Royal Armouries Museum.  Since the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 many museums have become free to visit and this is one of them.  The displays are set out over 5 floors and there are regular demonstrations by actors in theme costume.  We all enjoy the visit and stay until lunchtime.  In Wakefield we park up outside my cousin Karen’s house. When she arrives home she makes us very welcome and caters to our motorhome needs.  Today is Auntie Pamela & Uncle Denis’s Golden Wedding Anniversary and they have invited family and friends to join them for a meal.  Along with Karen’s husband Chris, son James and girlfriend Kay Leigh, daughter Sarah and her friend Jade we head to Dimple Well Lodge.  It’s great catching up with all my relatives especially cousins and their off spring.  The children are the most difficult to identify as they have all shot up.  Claire has had her hair put up and she looks very glamorous.  We have a delicious meal and dancing follows.  We’re the last to leave and continue chatting back at Karen’s until 2.30am



SATURDAY 12 JULY – Yet another sunny day.  Bev & Norm take an early walk around the area and comment on the high standard of the gardens.   Many people stayed over last night and most of them call round at Karen’s.  After lots of photographs followed by farewells there are just a small group of us left and we head to the National Coal Mining museum, now also free.  1pm is the time of our underground tour leaving us chance to check out the other exhibitions.  Togged up with mining caps and lanterns, Mum, Netty, Bobby, Nick, Karen, Chris, Sarah, Jade, Bev, Norm, Steve and myself head into the pit.  The tour is very interesting but a little drawn out.  We’re all glad to emerge from the dark chilly mine out into the scorching sunshine.  There’s a number plate auction taking place here and I really fancy GS5 (I was born on the 5th) especially as it is on a beautiful Bentley.  Mum’s friend John would be equally well suited with E4RLE on a Jaguar, it’s his surname and a favourite car. Netty, Mum and the boys head off and we return to Karen’s.  Bev & Norm go to New Miller Dam with Chris to walk the dogs.  We’re amazed by how hot it still is when we have our evening BBQ.   Round the night off by watching comedian Peter Kay whose comical observations confirm many of the British traits we have tried to explain to Bev & Norm.



SUNDAY 13 JULY – We head off after eating a big cooked breakfast outside.  Bev & Norm are very impressed by Mavis & Trevor’s mobile home and love the view.  Lisa & Sian join us all for a BBQ lunch.  With the weather and all the BBQ’s we are having our Aussie friends should really feel at home.  Steve guides Bev & Norm round Baildon Moor then down Shipley Glen tramway.  I take up the baton and take them through Saltaire.  As we enter Keighley we notice a display showing the temperature to be an amazing 29C.  The steep streets of Haworth hold great fascination to the Aussies.  We take Daniel and Natasha along with us for a walk and whilst Bev & Norm ride the Worth Valley Railway to and from Keighley, we spend time in the park.  Together we all walk up Main Street calling into The Black Bull for a drink.  



MONDAY 14 JULY – Bev & Norm walk Daniel to school and get a peak inside.  As ex teachers they find it very interesting.  Next they take a walk over the moors whilst we stay at home and look after Natasha.  The “wanderers” return at 2pm having hiked to Oxenhope then caught the train back before returning to Main Street and The Black Bull.  It’s a little disappointing to find Cliffe Castle in Keighley is closed on Mondays but Natasha is happy to visit the playground there.  It’s still very hot so we sit out in Sandra’s garden and relax.



TUESDAY 15 JULY – We head out into the Yorkshire Dales with the scenery looking even more stunning in the beautiful sunshine.  In Ingleton we pay £6 parking and this includes the fee for the walk.  The Waterfalls Walk is just lovely.  It’s 4 ½ miles with two ice cream stalls en route to keep me happy.  We’d forgotten just how nice England could be.  Our friends Jack & Dot have moved to Horton in Ribblesdale so we head over to visit them.  We haven’t seen them for many years so have lots of catching up to do.  Coupled with the fact that they want to visit Australia we have lots to chat about.  Whilst Dot & I sort out tea the others go for one of Jacks “short” strolls that turns out to be over 2 miles but does include a visit to a pub. Norm’s getting into the traditional cask ales and likes to sample the different types.  We all enjoy our meal and a chat after which Bev & Norm camp out in the garden summerhouse.



WEDNESDAY 16 JULY –  Driving carefully down single track lanes we make it safely to Malham Tarn.  Bev & Norm head off at 10.30am on the circular walk to see the limestone pavement, Janet’s Foss and Goredale Scar.  I’m full of cold and having done the walk before I opt not to.  Steve stays behind for company!  Bev & Norm return at 4pm having completed the circuit with a few extra detours.  They head down to the tarn where Norm has a swim. 



THURSDAY 17 JULY – We are woken at 5am with the van shaking.  Sheep have gathered round us and they are nudging us with their horns.  Steve clambers out of bed and goes out to chase them off.  What would anyone think if they could see a naked man chasing sheep at 5 o’clock in the morning?  He gives them instructions to “go away and don’t come back”.  They return so I go out and repeat the process but this time call out “mint sauce”.  This has the desired effect and we get to sleep in for another couple of hours.  Norm goes off for a morning swim even though it’s starting to drizzle.  Traverse more narrow lanes with spectacular scenery. We travel through Grassington to get to Bolton Abbey where we drop our visitors off to look around.  We just manage to squeeze through a low arch in the road by putting the wing mirrors in.  Next spot on the tour is Harry Ramsdens, but we’re too early and continue to Richard’s chippy for lunch.  Two huge fish with chips feed us all followed by battered Mars Bars.  We all enjoy The National Museum of Photography and Steve and I call in to the courts on the way past.  I’ve never been into one before and find it all very interesting.  One room has a video link up with a prison so they can try the inmates on site.  Return to Keighley and Claire & the kids call round to see us at teatime.  When Steve goes out to bowling Bev & Norm head off to Goose Eye to visit The Turkey Inn.



FRIDAY 18 JULY – We drop Bev & Norm in Keighley en route to the hospital.  I’m having a couple of small cysts removed this afternoon as a day patient.  Bev & Norm have chosen to stay out overnight and have booked into The Beeches Hotel £45 room including breakfast.  I check in at Airedale Hospital at 12.00 and go down for my operation at about 3pm.  By 4.45pm I’m come round in the recovery room and am discharged just after 7pm.  Sandra’s drive is a bit congested with cars so we head up to Claire’s to park for the night.  They have a new Play Station two interactive game that is fascinating to watch.



SATURDAY 19 JULY – We call down to see the kids before setting off but only Natasha is up.  I’m a bit sore but otherwise fine despite having hardly any sleep for some unknown reason.  We collect Bev& Norm who had a lovely day in Keighley yesterday and particularly enjoyed Cliffe Castle and their evening meal at the Balti House.  I rest on the sofa whilst Norm takes the navigators seat.  By 11.00am we are at the Beamish Museum £10 for Bev & Norm to look around whilst we stay in the van. They really enjoy it and stay until it closes at 5pm.  Make use of one of the Camping & Caravan Club sites £5 where Bev & Norm have the tent erected in 16 minutes.  Christen the new BBQ for our evening meal. 



SUNDAY 20 JULY  – Drive into Newcastle which looks lovely in the morning sunshine.  The waterfront area has been re vamped and beautiful flowers abound.  The Millennium Bridge is an amazing engineering feat; it opens like an eye blinking (but not until noon today).  Up the coast we make a coffee stop at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Warkworth has a lovely castle but we are making a beeline for Alnwick castle where some of Harry Potter was filmed.  Alnmouth is a pretty seaside village but a coastal running race is coming through and all the car parks are full.  Alnwick castle is very busy, with lots of would be Harry Potters wondering around with broomsticks.  Steve stays in the van watching the Grand Prix whilst we explore the castle.  It’s free to look around almost everything, the exception being 6 rooms inside. There is a fee for the gardens but you can see quite a lot thorough the gates.  Craster on the coast is famous for the smoked kippers but it’s packed out and parking difficult.  North Farm nr Embleton is another Camping club site £5 again and Norm & Bev can camp.  We have superb views out to sea and of Dunstanburgh Castle just to the south. After the crowds have left we drive down to Low Newton-by-the-sea and enjoy a drink at the village pub.  The grassy square backs the beach and is surrounded by what must have been fishermen’s cottages.  It’s all really pretty and unusual with the castle in the background.



MONDAY 21 JULY – We continue up the coast to visit Holy Island also known as Lindisfarne.  You approach over a causeway that is closed at high tide. Parking is £3 from where it is a short stroll to the village.  The ruins of the priory are nice as is the castle on the rock but we are more fascinated by the “boat sheds”.  They are literally the hulls of old boats that have been up turned, chopped in half and fitted with a door.  The obligatory crab sandwiches are eaten and mead sampled before we leave.  Berwick upon Tweed is approached over the road bridge with a viaduct on our left and the old stone bridge down below on our right.  The town is surrounded by Elizabethan Walls and you can walk the circuit in about 40 minutes.  Whilst dodging the showers we walk part of the walls and explore the town centre.  Enter SCOTLAND a little further north and find a lovely parking spot on the hill just above the new Eyemouth harbour.  We all walk down into the pretty little fishing village and are lucky to spot a couple of seals in the harbour.  Before we head back Steve & Norm are compelled to stop for the obligatory beer sampling.  Overnight we are joined by 2 other motorhomes who also appreciate the lovely view.



TUESDAY 22 JULY –  Heavy rain at times in the night but it’s almost stopped when we wake up.  Make an early start and head to Edinburgh taking the coast road to the port of Leith.  The area is being re-developed with a big Ocean Terminal shopping centre and lots of free parking.  After 9.30am a full day bus pass costs £1.80. Bev & Norm head into the city, we visit the Royal Yacht Britannia £8.  During the audio tour we are surprised to find the royal sleeping cabins are small and basic but the staterooms are very big and impressive.  Catch the bus into the city and visit both the Edinburgh and the Royal Edinburgh museums (2 of many which are free) then having been to Edinburgh before we just amble round and discover “The Elephant House”, the café in which J.K.Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.  By mid afternoon the sun is out again and it’s hot.  So far Bev & Norm have had sunshine every day of their trip.  They return at 8.30pm rather footsore having enjoyed a real exploration of Edinburgh.



WEDNESDAY 23 JULY – It’s not far to Falkirk where we are all impressed with the Falkirk Wheel that replaces 11 locks to connect two canals. Boats sail along a raised channel to enter the top of the wheel whilst ones in the lower canal enter at the bottom.  Archimedes principal comes into play and the balanced load turns easily within the wheel dropping the top boat off at the bottom and vice versa.  In operation it’s a really amazing thing to see.  Heading off around the Kingdom of Fife coast we stop in Burntisland to visit the quirky Edwardian Fair Museum, opened at our request.  We park for lunch in Ravenscraig Park and then Bev, Norm & I walk to the castle and along the coast to meet Steve in Dysart.  Here is a small museum within the house that John McDouall Stuart was born.  He chartered the south to north crossing of Australia.  Crail is a lovely old fishing village with a stone harbour and old cottages.  After visiting the tiny museum we all do a circular walk to the harbour then along the coast.  Kingsbarns has an award-winning beach and makes an excellent overnight parking spot. 



THURSDAY 24 JULY – When we wake up we notice a car in the car park with a tent at the side of it.  Seems we weren’t the only ones to think this a great spot for free camping.  St Andrews is famous for the oldest golf course in the world.  We wander round the area recognising most if it from the TV shots.  For 90p you can play 18 holes of putting on the adjacent Himalayas course and it is good fun.  Strolling round the town we find the old castle and an enormous ruined priory. There are lots of scenic spots including west beach where scenes from “Chariots of Fire” were filmed.  Late afternoon we head off and drive right through Perth finding it surprisingly small.  There’s a tiny parking spot by the road at Birnam, which is adequate for the night. Whilst I’m cooking dinner the others take a stroll and come back with loads of fresh raspberries, taste great with ice cream. 



FRIDAY 25 JULY – Beatrix Potter was born in Birnam and we have a quick look around the commemorative garden, which includes a depiction of Peter Rabbit.  The twin town of Dunkeld across the river has a moderately interesting church with a nice riverside setting.  Heading up into the Highlands we make a coffee stop at Pitlochry and check out the salmon ladder.  Nearby Edradour distillery is the smallest in Scotland and we enjoy the free tour.  They exclusively bottle whiskey for the House of Lords.  The Pass of Killiecrankie is famous for the Soldiers Leap where one jumped safely 18 feet across the gorge to escape the enemy.  We all complete the Bruar Falls walk right up to the top waterfalls.  It’s an attractive walk through pine forest with lots of nice falls. Spey Bridge Caravan Site in Newtonmore is good value at £6.  There are toilets and sinks, hot showers for 10p plus a twin tub washing machine and tumble dryer with 10p meter.  We’re amazed to get all our washing done and tumble dried for just 10p (the 10p lasts so long that we got to use time already left on the meter!).  We are now in the area where Monarch of the Glen was filmed and whilst checking out the local beer Bev & Norm notice a sign at the “Glen Hotel” pub apologising for any disruption during filming.



SATURDAY 26 JULY – Aviemore is the main ski centre in this area but other than a base for walks it has little of interest in the summer.  Near Inverness we book onto a coach and cruise trip to Loch Ness with Jacobite tours £12.50.  We’re taken by bus along the banks of Loch Ness to the Loch Ness 2000 visitor centre and display museum.  Whilst walking through different rooms and watching films we are given evidence which leaves us all concluding that the Loch Ness monster does not exist.  Our 1-hour cruise along the Loch is very atmospheric with mist over the mountains and monstrous waves on the inky black water.  We turn around at Urquhart castle and arrive back by coach after a total of 3 enjoyable hours.  On the northern banks of Cromarty Firth we find an interesting free camping spot at Balconie Point.  We have a view of lots of oilrigs in the estuary, which look like soldiers marching out to sea.



SUNDAY 27 JULY –   Skibo Castle is where Madonna was married but has now been bought by an American consortium so we can’t even get a glimpse of it.  Dornoch is a pretty village and we visit the cathedral where Madonna had her son christened.  Dunrobin castle is rather unusual as it is more like a French chateau and superbly located on the cliff top.  We continue journeying along the coast stopping to view the standing stones, a poor version of the ones in Britanny.  We make a lunch stop for a BBQ at Brough Head near Sinclair’s Bay.  Unfortunately by the time we get to John O’Groats it’s raining and windy but we step out for the obligatory photos.  The lifeguards are having a display day and we are fortunate to see the Scottish pipers march past playing their bagpipes.  Our friends Joan & Keith live at nearby East Mey so we drive the 5 miles to park up at their place.  They have done 3 trips to Australia so between us we have lots to talk about.  Joan cooks us all a meal then Bev & Norm enjoy their evening walk out and get a glimpse of Mey Castle where the Queen Mum used to stay.



MONDAY 28 JULY – Packing up Norm can’t find his bright yellow sun hat with “Swatours” penned on it.  When we return to John O’ Groats harbour he spots something yellow on the chair by the visitor centre.  His hat has spent the night on the seat and he’s most upset to think that no one wanted it!  We just can’t stop laughing about it.  Using John O’Groats ferries we take the maxi day tour to Orkney £34 which leaves at 9am.  We land at Burwick on South Ronaldsay island.  Malcolm our coach driver gives us an interesting commentary about Scapa Flow harbour which played a big part in World War 1 and 2.  Old ships were sunk to try and seal the harbour but this failed so the Churchill barriers were created with concrete blocks.  These still link the small islands to the mainland of Orkney where we stop for half an hour in the capital of Kirkwall.  Next we are taken to Stromness where Bev & Norm treat us to lunch at the Ferry Inn to celebrate us arriving at the northern most point of our Swatour.  Lots of shop windows have posters about Cameron winning Big Brother as he comes from the Orkney’s.  Skara Brae is a Neolithic village of over 5000 years.  £4.50 admission fee includes the visitor centre display; a re constructed home, the original site and a visit to Skaill House.  All very interesting with plenty to see as they used stones for furniture such as beds and dressers and these are still in place.  A quick look at the Ring of Brodgar on the way back, a similar thing to Stonehenge.  The Standing Stones of Stenness is a smaller version but with taller stones.  Back in Kirkwall we have 2 hours to explore and visit the museum, cathedral and harbour area.  Heading back to the port we stop at the curious Italian chapel. In the war Italian prisoners of war were brought here to build the Churchill barriers.  They made the chapel out of two Nissan huts and painted the ceiling to look like tiles and made candlesticks out of corned beef tins, very impressive.  Arrive back in John O’ Groats at 6.45pm having had a lovely day and probably seen the Orkneys at the best in glorious sunshine.  Return to Keith & Joan’s where Steve and Norm clean the van using the pressure hose whilst Bev & I write up our diaries.  Keith & Joan join us in the van for a drink whilst we look out at the farmer next door collecting the last bales of hay under a beautiful sunset. 



TUESDAY 29 JULY – Head west across the north coast of Scotland.  The scenery is fantastic, dramatic and ever changing.  It’s mostly single-track roads winding up and over the moors with misty mountains in the background.  We have stunning views over lochs, mountain pools, streams, heather covered hills, rocky terrain and sandy beaches.   Balnakiel has a super beach and after lunch Norm takes a swim in the sea.  The majority of cars in this area are foreign with the bulk being from Holland, it’s definitely tourist season.  One of the most spectacular detours is the peninsula out to Tarbet.  We want to take a boat to Handa Island to view the puffins but we are too late to do it today and there is nowhere to park up overnight.  Continuing south we find almost all the parking areas have “no overnight parking” signs so we are very pleased to pull off down a side road to Kylestrome and find an unsigned car park with views over a loch plus deer in the field at the side of us.  We’re plagued by midges that even get in through the fly screens and have a bite like an electric shock.      



WEDNESDAY 30 JULY – More spectacular scenery as we head to Ullapool.  As soon as we turn out onto the Wester Ross peninsula we spot lots of great places to free camp and a distinct lack of “no overnight parking” signs.  The landscape continues to impress us.  We head down a single-track road to Redpoint where we walk over the dunes to the attractive beach with soft peach coloured sand.  It’s lovely weather so we strip off to sunbathe and Norm even manages a swim although the rest of us find the water rather cold.  On the banks of Loch Maree we manage to find a parking spot for the night.  It’s beautiful but unfortunately the midges think so too. 



THURSDAY 31 JULY – Between heavy rains we manage to get glimpses of the attractive Loch Carron.  Over the bridge to Skye £5.70 then off up to Portree.  In the downpour the roadside waterfalls are just lovely.  Turn off up the Trotternish peninsula where we admire The Old Man of Storr rock formation.  We brave the rain to walk out to Lealt Falls then stop for lunch whilst checking out Kilt Rocks and Mealt Falls.  We cut across country to try and visit The Quiraing rocks but the returning walkers tell us the weather is too poor to see anything.  As the weather deteriorates we head south to catch the ferry from Armadale and I get a bit of a shock to find it costs £24.75 for the van plus £3 per person.  Bev & Norm fancy trying out a typical B&B for the night but they are either full or don’t have a place for us to park.  We end up driving much further than we would have like encountering “no overnight parking” signs once again.  By 8pm we’re happy to accept a spot at the side of Loch Eilt even though we are not far from the road, the stunning views more than compensate.




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