We haven’t been in the van for a few weeks, so with a couple of free weeks we decided to head off on a June Jaunt to visit friends and relatives we have not seen for a while in and around Falkirk, before heading to the Moray Coast in north east Scotland.
Week 1 – Day 1 – Friday 14th June 2019
Ardrishaig to Lochearnhead
First though, we had an event to attend on Saturday 15th and it was another Tay Fitness Event, this time the Mhor 84 Half Marathon with a sell out 500 entrants. I was on drone flying duty and The Navigator was assisting. It was a pleasure to help out our niece Iona and husband Pete who run these events and the free bacon roll for breakfast and fish and chip lunch were a bonus for us.
Week 1 – Day 2 – Saturday 15th June 2019
The Mhor 84 Half Marathon
You may remember from a previous Blog that I filmed their last event, the Hidden Glen 10K in monsoon conditions that prevented the drone from flying but this time the race was more or less run in dry(ish) conditions and the following are some pictures of the event with a full video to come soon, I hope.
The runners have to be commended for completing the course as it was fairly challenging but I’m sure the spectacular scenery near Lochearnhead compensated to some degree as did the piper playing to urge them up a pretty steep hill.
If you, or anyone you know, would like to participate in one of their events there are four more this year. Details HERE.
The Mhor Marathon – 4th August.
A 10K & 5K event in the very picturesque village of Killin – 24th of August.
Swim Loch Tay – Their 1st swimming event in Loch Tay – 15th September
Glow Ape – A night time 10K at Go Ape, Aberfoyle – 13th October.
Sunday saw us head from Lochearnhead to Sauchie to visit The Navigator’s mother.
Week 1 – Day 3 – Sunday 16th June 2019
Lochearnhead to Falkirk
There have been a few niggles with Bessie since we bought her and fair play to out dealer, Lowdhams near Nottingham, they have fixed everything under warranty. Up to now all the problems have been with the body of the van, built by Swift, but our first problem arose with the Fiat part of the van on my last trip when a heat shield over the exhaust dropped at one end and was trailing on the road.
Fiat sent someone local out last week to take it off so we could drive it this week and we took it to a nominated Fiat dealer in Falkirk for them to assess it today and order a replacement part if necessary.
We took the van to the Ian Grieve Fiat garage first thing on Monday morning and they took it right away into their workshop and had a look at the heat shield issue and the result was that they said it was not really needed and their advice was not to bother replacing the bit that had fallen off.
I can’t remember any form of tradesman saying that they thought work was not required, so fair play to Andy at Ian Grieve!
Week 2 – Day 1 – Monday 17th June 2019
The rest of Monday and Tuesday was spent visiting friends and relatives including, The Navigator’s aunt Helen who was celebrating her ninetieth birthday, and for clarity, the 90 year old is on the right in the following picture!
Week 2 – Day 2 – Tuesday 18th June 2019
Falkirk to Perth
Late on Tuesday afternoon we headed up to Perth to stay the night on the Broxden Park and Ride which was our fourth free night in a row. We have stayed here once before, and although the two designated motorhome parking spots are on a slope, they are okay for a brief overnight stop. Since we were there last, a load of Tesla branded electric car charging points have been added around the perimeter of the car park – all unused when we were there!
Week 2 – Day 3 – Wednesday 19th June 2019
Perth to Portsoy
On Wednesday morning we headed off quite early and set course for Portsoy on the north east coast and arrived first in Banff where we parked up and had lunch before a walk around the town.
From there we drove west a short distance along the coast to Portsoy where we were booked onto a caravan site for two nights right beside the seashore.
There is a huge annual event held every year in Portsoy, the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival which we had heard about, although we had no idea it was on this weekend coming. The campsite was booked for the event a year in advance so we had to make do with the two nights and leave on Friday morning.
Week 2 – Day 4 – Thursday 20th June 2019
Portsoy is a typical traditional fishing port on the Moray coast but nowadays it is mostly small pleasure craft that use it as the harbour more or less dries out. We had two lovely days here and enjoyed walking about and seeing the preparations being made for the weekend’s activities.
Week 2 – Day 5 – Friday 21st June 2019
Portsoy to Cullen
After servicing the van we moved on to Cullen as The Navigator was worried that the motorhome parking spot near the harbour would be busy with vans parking here and later heading along to the Portsoy Boat Festival but we were surprised to find only one van there. I have a bit of a soft spot for Cullen as, back in the day (1980s) when I was a boy rep, I stayed at the Seafield Arms Hotel a lot when I was travelling between Inverness and Aberdeen and had many a great meal there, usually always starting off with a bowl of the famous Cullen Skink soup. Here’s the very simple, tasty RECIPE if you would like to try it.
It was another lovely morning and we made the most of it and sat out watching the seabirds diving into the sea directly in front of us. After lunch we had a walk about Cullen and spent time wandering around Seatown, the older part of the village which had, what would have been originally, closely packed together fisherman’s cottages but nowadays many are holiday homes.
We talked to an older lady sitting outside who was repotting heathers and lavender plants in the tubs on the pavement outside her cottage. Few of the cottages have space for a garden but most make use of tubs for plants and this interested The Navigator as that is what she has back home.
In the evening I lashed out and treated The Navigator to a traditional sit in haddock fish tea at Linda’s, with all the trimmings, tea, mushy peas and bread and butter.
By the way, I had the standard haddock but The Navigator went for the smoked haddock version which was drier than my succulent fish, but she enjoyed it nonetheless.
Now, we don’t eat out that often, after all we are two retired oldies scraping by, so it is a bit of an occasion when we do go out of an evening and you would think The Navigator would have the decorum that the occasion demanded, but no, she just could not help herself and made two chip butties!
It was a beautiful evening and we were treated to a glorious sunset. I say we, but The Navigator passed on this opportunity to see this wonder of nature to read her book in bed, so these pictures will be as new to her as they are to you!
Week 2 – Day 6 – Saturday 22nd June 2019
We had an action packed day ahead of us and it started with us heading to the Methodist Church Coffee Morning, and, as befits the occasion, it was almost standing room only. And no wonder, £2.50 a head for an unlimited buffet of home baking with lashings of tea and coffee, all served by some very pleasant and chatty local parishioners.
At the furthest point of our walk at the golf course and lovely beach, The Navigator availed herself of the public toilets near the club house and was so impressed with the standard of cleanliness that she made a donation. This toilet, and the one in the village square, are maintained by the local community and they are doing a great job.
After lunch back at the van we then headed up into the village for a walk about and potter in the half a dozen or so brick a brac shops and there were some fascinating things on display. Later, back at the van we sat out dolphin watching as we had been reliably informed by someone in one of the shops that there was a fair chance of seeing the dolphins in the bay at around 4pm.
The gentleman in the Dolphin souvenir shop was spot on and we saw them fishing and swimming up and down for about half an hour, before they eventually moved on. Unfortunately they were not leaping out of the water and they were a few hundred yards offshore so it was difficult to get a decent picture of them.
A bbq followed and then we welcomed Mairi and Ian to Bessie for a lovely evening with them. Ian and The Navigator used to work for the same company at one point, she in the East Midlands and he in Hillington on the outskirts of Glasgow. Ian and Mairi had sold their family home in Paisley and had been renting a house in Portknockie, the next village along the coast as they searched for a home to buy in this area and as it happens they get the keys to a property in Cullen on Monday.
By the way, Ian and I are red with too much sun, not too much wine!
Week 2 – Day 7 – Sunday 23rd June 2019
There were ten other vans beside us last night and we chatted with a few of the others on Sunday before heading off for a walk to the summit of the local hill to get a panoramic view over the village and bay. On the way back to the van we had a look in the antiques centre in the old church in the village as it had been closed yesterday while an ambulance crew attended to a customer who had taken ill. As per yesterday, The Navigator was so impressed with the standard of the toilets in the village square that she made another donation!
We spent the afternoon relaxing sitting outside the van and at one point history sort of repeated itself. A few years ago we met a lovely couple from Yorkshire (you know who you are) in Dinan in northern France who were doing a recce to look for places to bring their van on holiday and today we talked to another couple from further along the coast at Elgin doing the same and I was delighted to pass on some tips to him, while The Navigator gave her a tour of Bessie.
Making the most of the great weather, we had another BBQ and sat out most of the evening. It was a proper scorcher and I topped up the tan on my head again! The forecast for tomorrow was not good at all so we made the most of it tonight.
Week 3 – Day 1 – Monday 24th June 2019
From about 4am the rain battered down on the roof of the van and it lasted most of the day. We were going to move on today but decided to hunker down and sit the storm out so it was a day of reading, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos and Netflix films.
Week 3 – Day 2 – Tuesday 25th June 2019
Portsoy to Kingston on Spey
It was time to move on after a great time in Cullen, one of my favourite places to visit. If you would like to see more of my pictures from Cullen head to the gallery at the bottom of the main page when you are finished reading this page and you will see another dozen photographs. Click on any one to expand it.
It was time to move on today to service the van and head east as we had to be home on Thursday. With no particular place in mind to go we dodged along the coast and the first port of call was Portknockie and we had never been here before. There was a lot of work being near the harbour so we could not get anywhere near it due to the road works.
I’ve never had a bad meal from Linda’s in Cullen but Ian and Mairi claim that the chippy in Portknockie is even better so that is noted for the next visit to these parts.
After Portknockie we stopped at the next fishing village, Findochty, where we had a walkabout near the little harbour.
Findochty, like Portsoy, has a little caravan park beside the shore which might be worth a stop in the future.
From Findochty the next port of call was the metropolis of Buckie which boasts a Tesco and a Lidl and we chose Lidl to top up on groceries.
Portgordon was the next little fishing village to call at but I missed the junction on the A98 and so it will have to wait until the next time.
Spey Bay was the next stop. It is a beautiful coastal nature reserve (managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust) with the largest shingle beach in Scotland. Constant changes caused by the river Spey create a succession of habitats, from bare shingle to coastal grasslands, brackish saltmarsh and wet woodland and it attracts large numbers of wildfowl, seabirds and ospreys which fish in the estuary. In fact a guy with a massive long lens on his camera let me see some pictures he took of an osprey taking a flatfish only half an hour before we arrived, but salmon and seatrout are more to their liking as per this statue.
Also at the mouth of the Spey is the Scottish Dolphin Centre which is a great place to come and see bottlenose dolphins, grey and common seals and the occasional otter. The Centre is based in an 18th Century salmon fishing station and has a fascinating history.
On the other side of the estuary mouth we could see a couple of motorhomes parked up and decided to head there and see if it was suitable for an overnight stopover. To get there you have to travel back up to the main road and cross the Spey at the lovely little town of Fochabers, home of the famous Baxters of Speyside.
We went in to the factory gift shop in the vain hope of finding some bargains but, as ever, none were to be found. I would have thought that with no transport costs and no retailer mark up, their products would have been cheaper but not here. Their toilets are clean and free which is always a bonus for we travelling motorhomers!
It is about six miles down to the coastal village of Kingston on Spey and my hunch was correct and there was a good place to park up for the night.
Week 3 – Day 3 – Wednesday 26th June 2019
Kingston on Spey to Glencoe
The following morning it was back up onto the main A98 and along towards Elgin but before we reached there we turned off and headed to Lossiemouth, again a favourite place to visit on this stretch of coast. Lossiemouth is a lovely coastal town with a fantastic beach but its main claim to fame is that it is the home of the only operational RAF base in Scotland and there is a fairly constant roar of jets coming and going.
I parked on the main street as bizarrely the large empty car park near to the east beach is for cars only.
We had a walk about and The Navigator always seems to find something to buy at the Harbour Treasure gift shop near the marina. As we were heading back to the van we passed Ashers the bakers and bought a few things including this taste sensation, a chicken and haggis pie in a creamy sauce!
I drove round to the west beach and we spent an hour or so watching the Typhoon jets practice take off and landings. An osprey was hovering over a pool on the seashore but did not have any luck fishing. It did not seem unduly bothered by the noisy jets passing by either.
We had met a couple from Lossiemouth at El Campello early in the year and it would have been good to catch up with them but we did not have their contact details. There are more pictures of Lossiemouth in a gallery at the bottom of the front page.
By now it was early afternoon and we decided to head away from the Moray coast towards the west coast as there was no great desire to visit Elgin or Inverness, so from Forres we headed through the Cairngorms to Carrbridge on a road I had never driven before, and it was spectacular. A quick bite to eat in Carrbridge then it was off on another great drive through Aviemore, Kingussie, Newtonmore, Laggan, Spean Bridge, Fort William and onto the Invercoe campsite at Glencoe for our last night.
We have been visiting this site for well over thirty odd years in all weathers, mostly terrible, but it was 75 degrees when we arrived and thankfully the heat was keeping the midges at bay.
Week 3 – Day 4 – Thursday 27th June 2019
Glencoe to Ardrishaig
We were in no real hurry today so after a lazy morning we headed down the coast to Oban for a ‘big shop’ before the last leg to Ardrishaig. Before that however we stopped off just north of Appin where we have stayed before and were lucky enough to see a white tailed sea eagle circling above a fish farm on the island of Lismore, but a combination of nets and buzzing seagulls saw it soon disappear.
One final stop before Oban was at another favourite wild camping spot at Loch Creran where we had lunch and a last relax in the sun.
Check out the Cullen and Lossiemouth galleries on the bottom on the FRONT PAGE.
COMING UP NEXT…
I’m off on a solo July Jaunt for a week or so as The Navigator is working…