It's hard to put into words, just how pretty Sandbanks is.... the views are wonderful over to Swanage and beyond and the company was excellent!!!
We had all been looking forward to seeing Libby's godparents in Sandbanks and we weren't disappointed.... with an upcoming wedding to plan and girls bridesmaids dresses to be finished... it was brilliant to see Aunty Louisa's family.
So following multiple dog walks on the beach along Sandbanks, followed by some real family fun and a chance to spend a night out of the van... we leapt at the chance... It has been a great day and both girls are on 'cloud 9'!
Swanage and the Studland coast await tomorrow enroute to Wellington in Somerset.... 222 miles to go and counting!!! We are getting closer!!!
Our day started with a well needed clean of the van after a particularly muddy series of tracks through North Yorkshire Moors, the Adria was brilliant and barely missed a beat despite the poor weather... but it did receive a fair bit of mud for its trouble...
So with the fabulous Diamondbrite kit firmly in hand, we spent an enjoyable hour on the van... this made a huge difference and we couldn't speak highly enough of the 'dry wax' and 'rain screen' products... such a pleasure to spend so little time to achieve such a decent result!!!
After this we headed into Stamford for a full look around and a chance to visit the wonderful deer park at Burghley House. This old house is full of history and family intrigue but the real attraction was the ability to get so close to the deer who roamed freely around the estate.
But with the light closing in, we set off for the south coast and a chance to see the girls' godparents in Sandbanks.... an old family haunt which we are really looking forward to seeing again.
313 miles to go!!
Today appeared to have all 4 seasons in one day... One minute being pelted with rain that turned into sleet, yet out of nowhere occasional glimpses of blue sky and sun rippling across the moors... beautiful yet foreboding in equal measure...
So we thought we would get a slow start today after such a busy drive last night to /York, but the morning sun was too beautiful to miss so we managed to get 'breakfast views' with the sun rising over the moors!
After some scrambling around, the odd missed turn and hasty detour to avoid Rosedale Bank... we passed across Blakey Ridge towards the picturesque Hutton le Hole.... a beautiful drive and one made better by the dappled sunshine.. Add a bit of scrambling over rocks until we decided enough was enough so we headed south. South to Rutland and the beautiful market towns of Stamford and Oakham... with the fantastic Rutland Water between both towns... Maybe a bike ride tomorrow, maybe some more work but we need to hit the south coast by nightfall as we need to make our next destination Sandbanks, Poole.
Is there a better way to wake up…. perching on a cliff top overlooking a Scottish fishing port in full flow? It was a beautiful sight and made us appreciate the Scottish Salmon that is such a family favourite. Thankfully, we got to stretch our legs as it required a decent walk to see both the beach and the harbour entrance…. but it was chilly!!!! Perhaps not as chilly as earlier nights, but particularly windy!!
After the morning constitutional to the beach, we spent some time enjoying seeing the various sights - driftwood shapes, kelp, varying stones of all shapes and sizes…. but no seals although later on we did discover that Killer Whales weren’t too far away in the Isle of Lewis…
So began the hardest drive of the trip so far…. Up northwards towards Durness and Sango Sands along a beautiful single track road on the A382. The lying snow hilltops and crofting villages were interspersed with beaches that would equal any in Cornwall… huge expanses of white/golden sand…. Truly breathtaking!
After a chance to visit Sango Sands beach and see the dolphins playing, we headed west towards our eventual destination John O’Groats and the start of the journey south to Lands End… it is worth noting that this 104miles journey is slow!!! at times painfully slow as it took over 3hrs!!! But time wasn’t a problem so we enjoyed each rolling hill and viewpoint towards the Orkneys.
We finally arrived at a blustery, rainswept John O’Groats around 4pm…. with the mist coming in from the Orkneys, it was a great feeling to have reached the top of the UK mainland… With Libby enjoying the power of the wind as she balanced herself as she lay back to a peculiar 45 degree angle, we planned the first stop.
Sadly, we were let down by two campsites due to the ice in their sites (the first time this has happened this trip) so the eventual destination was further than the planned Dornoch. We ploughed on against the relentless weather with roads improving as we headed southwards, becoming a decent A9 trunk road just north of the oil rigs near Cromaty.
Thankfully, this kind people at Brahan came to our rescue.. Having loved the wide expanse in the estate, we were more than happy to head towards Dingwall and the Brahan CL. Finally pulling in at 9.30pm, what a busy day!!!
Tomorrow promises a trip to Aviemore, Granton on Spey and possibly Culloden…
So after a week in the new Adria... it seemed both the right time to review the motorhome and give our first impressions.... so over the next day or so, a new page has been created to allow us to post reviews... with the Adria Silver Edition Matrix the very first review!
Unfortunately, it also provided a great opportunity to test our cleaning powers as we sought to keep on top of the mess.... that said, it has fared far better than expected despite the snow! So after a couple of hours, we were delighted with both the interior and exterior. To be fair, this had been massively helped by the superb cleaning products from Diamondbrite married to some good old elbow grease!!
As noon approached, the sledging had to stop (each opportunity for sledging has been well and truly grabbed!) and we headed west towards Ullapool.
The journey was a fabulous mix of almost complete white-outs alongside some beautiful rivers/bridges and dams. We even managed to spend some time making a snowman, having lunch al-fresco and spotting some red deer stags... Today's wildlife has been amazing with red deer stags as close as 15m away and various highland cattle on show across the myriad of farms along the route. But perhaps the piece de resistance came in the shape of an eagle... this truly immense bird gradually lifted off close to the edge of a treelined hill and flew alongside the river... Magical!
So after Ullapool (with it's quaint but strange) appearance as it juts out into the loch, we headed along the western coastal route that zigzags through the Sutherland countryside. This proved to be different again, perhaps even lunar in its appearance with some immensely cold areas with lochs/rivers and even waterfalls in partially frozen condition.
As we left this beautiful, if remote, area we headed north west towards our eventual stop at Kinlochbervie and it's bustling harbour... a real fishing village make no mistake and one worth visiting... the promise of a fishing ship returning at 7am tomorrow has precipitated an early bed!!! Let's hope we get to see the action in the morning, we certainly couldn't be better placed as we sit high up on the cliff overlooking the mouth of the harbour...
John O'Groats awaits tomorrow too... exciting times!
Despite the mad dash from the Isle of Skye last night, the night passed without incident in a fantastic campsite attached to the Highland Riding Centre... having been welcomed last night, it seemed a great idea to spend more time there this morning...
So when Becki rang to confirm we could get the girls a ride... well to say the motorhome bounced would be no exaggeration!! So once breakfast was wolfed down (bagels today.... cinnamon&raisin of course!) the girls bolted out to the stables and onto their chosen ponies of Fidget & Fungus...
Under the careful eye of Catherine, we headed out for a lead ride into the woods across the valley. A genuinely fresh but beautiful start to the day which really started the day with a bang! Once the girls had been prised away from the ponies... we substituted the ponies for sledges and snowboards... much fun, giggling, snowball fights later, we headed back to the Adria and onto Loch Ness.
We headed into the Loch Ness visitor centre with a fair amount of trepidation, but we were really impressed with the moderate approach to the cinema-esque presentations. Both informative and educational it posed the question 'Do you believe it is true?' but in a scientific and measured way.... Really good and well worth visit, especially for girls our age.
Following the chance for a quick lunch whilst Nessie spotting... we headed into Inverness. After a brief visit to GoOutdoors for more clothes and a new 'Stingray' sledge, we headed northwards again to the Brahan Estate. A beautiful 4,000 acre estate on the road to Ullapool.... all paths point north tomorrow as we head to the northern coastline of Scotland. Spare a thought for us tonight though, its supposed to be heading towards another -10degrees (this time with no electricity!!!)
Another busy day draws to a close…. in summary, we’ve woken up in a Scottish ski resort at Glencoe, been sledging and run in deep snow at Glencoe. Then moved onto enjoy the Glencoe National Trust centre and a decent walk in the old volcano. Fort William followed shortly after this, with a chance to connect with the sea too. Then onto Ben Nevis for a whistle stop tour and then onto Loch Ness… Over Invergarry Pass and then onto Torgoyle House where we sit tonight….
Hmmm… that sounds busy and we probably all feel equally tired now too…
Add into that a chance to replenish supplies at Morrisons, get some well needed diesel and finally got the opportunity to refill the Gaslow system…. all necessary, but perhaps the most enjoyable was the Gaslow which felt like brilliant value for money at £10 for a full tank!!!
The day has been a whirlwind of lessons including the history of the Glencoe massacre of the (Mac)Donald clan. Geography lessons in the visitor centre on plate tectonics and rock formations. Natural history and biology also made an appearance both here and when we spotted some will red deer on the hillsides near Loch Ness. Maths lessons were clearly evident in the accounting in the supermarket and hopefully English will be covered by the finishing off of the girl’s diaries tomorrow…
Sadly, words won’t go close to describing the incomparable beauty of the landscapes today so I’ll just let these pictures give it their best shot….
Isle of Sky beckons tomorrow but we have chanced upon a beautiful CL here at Torgoyle House. Wrapped around by snow laden trees, this exquisite CL has the best of all locations but we can’t wait to just get up and get on the bikes tomorrow!!! Should be fun!!! Full nights sleep will certainly be required….
With the constant pitter patter of snow throughout the night, we wondered what we would awake to find... suffice to say it was an absolute pleasure to see just enough (but not too much snow). The blanket of snow stretched across the estate where we stayed at Torgoyle. A lovely CL and well worth detour to find, the welcome couldn't have been bettered!
So with many plans for the day in our minds we set off towards the Isle of Skye.... the lack of internet, telephone service overnight had stopped blog publishing, so once this was done, we fairly motored our way towards Skye. The state of the highways here has been world class giving us the ability to confidently predict timings and length of journeys.
So the Kyle of Lochalshe was chosen for the lunch time stop..... this was just about perfect (2hrs drive) with some of the best sights we have seen thus far. The wild sheep, red deer were in abundance and the drive on the A87 was something not to be missed...Endless snowy peaks with rich green hillsides below... with some stunning lochs to mirror these wonderful sights... Of particular mention would be the inlet that houses the 'Inner Seas' near Shiel Bridge
Sadly the chance to see a fully fledged castle with so much history was denied due to restoration works, but the view was out of this world. Eilean Donan castle sits astride a rocky outcrop with the Isle of Sky as a backdrop whilst being surrounded by the 'Inner Seas'. This really was a stand out moment thus far!!!
Three onwards and over the much questioned bridge (clearly an open sore for the islanders) and onto the Isle. The island has some attractive peaks but was full of little bays that could be reached across heather covered moors. Definitely a walkers paradise but perhaps not today at -2 degrees...
So after a very brief chance to see Clan Donald's heritage we headed towards the ferry.... both girls were ecstatic at the chance to ride an island ferry and this Caledonian MacBrayne vessel was perfect!!! With light fading we made the headland again at Mallaig and started the long trek east.
Finally arriving at 9pm at our next stop at Borglum Farm... A further chance to explore Loch Ness tomorrow.... can't wait, but happy to hang up the driving boots after a busy day!
Is there a better way for children to start the day, than with snow falling and the promise of more…. Well, we were royally treated today… it started snowing at 8am and it still hasn’t stopped!!!
The wintry landscapes have been truly breathtaking. From imperious mountains looming over crystal clear loch water, to wintry forests and a fully functioning ski resort in full flow!!!
The day started with some basic housekeeping… needs must I’m afraid… but with the water tap fully frozen from the -9 degrees overnight, it was somewhat curtailed….
No matter, we ditched these plans and headed for the western shores of Loch Lomond…. the roads were now full white with a little sign of the glitter… yet the motorhome was in sensational form as it didn’t miss a beat (perhaps until we entered the ski resort car park, but I think we can allow some leeway here as it is at some height!!)
The small villages that dot the route were all but cut off due to the heavy snowfall and parking bays on the side of the main road were almost unusable too… So it left a wintry blanket over Loch Lomond and the snow crusted peaks above… Magical!!
After a chance to take some pics, we headed out on a walk and took the chance to bombard each other with snowballs!! And we took the chance to try out our newly acquired Helinox chair/table... these are unbelievably light (only 400g of thereabouts) and have such a premium feel too... They really were very easy to put together (even with cold fingers!) and will certainly be heavily used when the weather is a little more amenable!! Perfect to take on short walks though so you never know when they might reappear.
At every possible stop, the snowball fight commenced ( with the adults clearly losing the battle!!)
So onwards and upwards we went towards Glencoe and its amazing lake at Black Mount…. probably the view of the trip so far!!!
Then on and into the ski resort towards the end of the day… a little heater skelter if the truth be told as the roads were slippy and we almost considered our options… but press on we did and we entered the pitch close to the chair lift /nursery slopes… Bliss!!!
Out came the snowboards and ‘bum’ sledges and off we went up the slopes… a few moments to treasure, with Libby probably the best snowboarder in the family…. Everyone certainly tucked into the salmon and pesto that has become a family favourite… and then off to bed!
With further snow forecast overnight and tomorrow, we will have to leave early to get to both Fort William and Loch Ness… Perhaps the Isle of Skye may have to wait until the southwards leg of this trip…. Looking forward to out first fill-up with LPG and the Gaslow tomorrow... awesome piece of kit which would not be without!
So after a -7 degrees Celsius overnight…. pretty pleased we changed motorhome now!!!!
We woke up to a fresh covering of snow in a beautiful (if chilly valley), however the Lidalia campsite gets a universal thumbs up from us! Decent wifi (allowing us to stream cricket off SkyGo and IPlayer at the same time!). The pitch was excellent and well serviced but the showers were a step above the norm! As we hadn’t carried any water, we chose to use them and we were not disappointed!!! There’s nothing quite like a torrent of hot water to offset the extreme cold!!!
So after a very pleasant breakfast, we headed northwards through the Borders towards Glasgow….
The snow was heavy but picturesque, allowing us the opportunity to get the camera out on on numerous occasions…
Glasgow soon came and went, its a wonderfully well appointed city and obviously full of cultural interest… but sadly we didn’t see much on our whistle-stop tour…
And onto the Trossochs and Loch Lomond…. the vistas as we descended into this valley was reminiscent of Tolkien. The Loch was bathed in glorious late afternoon light and it seemed to draw us towards its flood ridden banks.. some 180 acres of farmland are now part of the Loch…. it’s clearly been a tough time in this region! Thankfully the families new Berghaus gear was well used throughout the day… great products… almost bombproof in their construction!
But the Gartfairn campsite has survived this and is unbelievably well sited.. overlooking the southern tip of Loch Lomond, we were treated to a wonderful sunset that was only enhanced by the mirroring of the colours on the Loch itself… With snow capped mountains abound.. it has proved a great place to stop.
Thankfully, we also had Gavin from Geoff Cox on hand throughout the day, to answer queries and offer suggestions. But he really came into his now as yours truly managed to mistake the screenwash refill bottle with the coolant bottle!!!! Ahem….. thankfully the mini crisis was averted and we sat down to some more ‘Word Chums’ as the evening’s entertainment with the girls. Which prompted me to offer these recommendations
Top 5 Apps to try thus far
Busy day just doesn't do it justice!!!! and a good covering of fresh snow to add to the mix!
So after some early morning packing, we headed off on a short trip to the weigh bridge!! Thanks to some hard work from Gavin at Geoff Cox, we had an idea of what we could get into the new Adria... but we pushed it close!!! 3500kg on the nose!! Certificate issued!! Collective sigh of breath! (N.B oops no longer a nice new awning on the van, but we are hardly going to need it over the next month!! It's -7 degrees as i write this!!!)
Then off North to the Scottish Borders and a wonderful small site at Lidalia, Newcastletown...
However, the views over Sutton Bank en-route were staggeringly beautiful and the late afternoon sunshine treated us to the full kaleidoscope of colours!!!
Thanks to both Helinox and Berghaus, we now have some fantastic new winter equipment.... Both will prove invaluable.... and fuller reviews will follow shortly after they have had a comprehensive test from the whole family!
But the winner of the day, has to be the new Gaslow system which already proved its use!!! The freedom this system gives is worth every penny!! The gas has been heavily used with the new Adria heating system giving a wonderful ambient temperature to match the lighting! But we have also used it more for cooking and cups of tea too!! safe in the knowledge that a quick trip to fill up at a service station is a simple and very easy option if needed....
The new motorhome has been a treat to drive, light on the steering and with an improved turning circle and better visibility. As mentioned above, the heating has been invaluable due to the cold temperatures today but perhaps the best part is the fixed beds!! Both girls are tucked up in bed, with tummy's full of pasta.... meanwhile we have relaxed in the utterly comfortable lounge..... but our bed is beckoning from above (time to fire up the electric bed and grab some well earnt sleep)
Loch Lomond awaits tomorrow, with a CL (Certified Location) on the loch side at Gartfairn....
Fingers crossed we don't need to use the snow shovel tomorrow! It can stay safely secured in the motorhome's garage!! Along with the girls snowboard!!
Hmmmm..... its probably been the most expensive Christmas on record..... either that or the van has had a respray!!! But it is true that "Taylor' Swift has gone.... However, we now have a new Adria to replace our trusty first motorhome!!! One that will undoubtably revolutionise our chances of taking in all 40+ countries in Europe as part of our adventures abroad!
After much searching, we ended up choosing the dealer rather than the motorhome... Perhaps a risky choice, but the team at Geoff Cox Leisure have come up trumps to each and every request (big or small!). As Adria's 'Dealer of the Year' (3rd consecutive year), this family centred business near Belper, Derby boasts a fantastic reputation yet their prices were highly competitive too.. Perfect!!!
After weeks of research, we had firmly set our minds on acquiring an Adria due to it's build quality, innovative design and it's full winterisation... So as the Silver Matrix 670SL (50th anniversary) edition flicked onto the IPad screen.... we all agreed this would be the one!!! This Slovenian firm has an unparalleled reputation on the continent and judging by the recent reviews in this country, it is probably set to grab a decent chunk of the British market!
So the deal was struck and we agreed on a date in early January.... thankfully this gave us time to research what else would help our travels in 2016... It didn't take long to remember the 'gas fiasco' in Spain or the endless need to wash/clean the salt water off each week! So we looked into any alternatives on the market and found two great options in Diamondbrite and Gaslow.
Both companies matched the levels of service found at Geoff Cox Leisure and we are delighted to have both the refillable Gaslow system fitted alongside the interior/exterior protection afforded by the Diamondbrite.... Alongside these fantastic products we have also added further mechanical warranties and a 100W Solar Panel.... Supplementing this is Adria's brilliant subsidisation of the habitation checks with a Caravan Club membership (for 5yrs no less!!)
So what exactly will the Adria give us that the Swift couldn't....... well it seemed sensible to fully road test the new 'rig'.... and where better than a cold, wintry Scotland... So the route has been planned (see below). Both girls were desperate to add more to this so the 'John O'Groats to Lands End' route has emerged and we can't wait to depart tomorrow to start Part 2!!!
Meanwhile planning of Part 3 to Italy has begun in earnest..... Exciting times ahead!
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