We’re Off! 6/6/2022
A Bridge, a Tunnel, a Problem and a Solution (ice cream!) 7/6/2022
Sunshine on a Rainy Day 8/6/2022
Family Catch-ups 9/6/2022
Triumph 2000 Register National Rally 10-11/6/2022
Back to Devon 13/6/2022
West… then East! 15/6/2022
Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time… 16/6/2022
…the Day We Went to Bangor! 17/6/2022
Rest and Relax 18/6/2022
Ferry (or Bridge) Cross the Mersey 19/6/2022
And into Scotland 20/6/2022
The Beautiful Galway Coast 21/6/2022
Off Grid… 22/6/2022
All Things Westerly 23/6/2022
Loch Ness 24/6/2022
Towards the North Coast 25/6/2022
The North Coast and the Atlantic 26/6/2022
As North as it Gets 27/6/2022
Heading South 29/6/2022
Edinburgh Seaside and Motorways 30/6/2022
Not Whitby 2/7/2022
Go East 3/7/2022
Run For Home… 5/7/2022
We’re looking for photos. If you’ve managed to get a snap of our combo on our trip could you email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Norfolk and Suffolk
After yet more ‘last-minute jobs’ including having to weld a new nut onto one of the steadies, we were packed up and ready to leave at 10.45. We headed straight to Ness Point, Lowestoft, where Christina dipped her toe into a rather murky North Sea. Ness Point may be the most Easterly Point, but it isn’t the most scenic of places! We took some photos, had lunch and spoke to a few people about the challenge, before continuing the journey to the area that Christina called home for over 20 years. A final stop for a photo in the shadow of the Orwell Bridge before parking up on Karen and Andy’s drive for the night.
Not the most inviting sea!
A bridge, a tunnel, a problem and a solution (ice-cream!)
Day 2 – Essex and Kent
We woke to birdsong a little earlier than we would have liked. Who knew birds could be so lively at 4am? After managing a bit more sleep, then giving up, we had our breakfast, packed up and were ready to hit the road by 8.45. We had a pretty straightforward journey to Southend-on-Sea, where we sat in the sunshine having a brew on the seafront and chatting to interested passers-by. We met some people who were genuinely interested in the combo and the challenge, took photos and dropped coins in the box. Others who took photos but acted as though we weren’t there, and some who just oo’d and wow’ed. But the best was the family who walked past, then Grandad came back, read the poster and put some coins in the box. Then the little girl came back and dropped some coins in, followed by her brothers who also dropped some coins in. I gave them all an EAAA badge and they went away happy!
Our next stop was Whitstable, for lunch. We managed to negotiate the Dartford Crossing, but because we wanted to take the A2 rather than the M2, we put Chatham into the satnav, and somehow managed to do a bit of a detour through the Medway Tunnel. After resorting to the good old-fashioned paper map, we got back onto the A2 and arrived on Whitstable seafront at about 2pm, ready for some lunch. As Christina was unpacking the food, Paul uttered the fateful words “I don’t want to worry you, but I think we might have a problem.” He’d noticed that the car seemed to be sitting rather low and feared that the rear spring had broken. Of course, neither of us felt hungry anymore, Paul just wanted to get to the next stopover and Christina sat willing his prediction to be wrong. After relocating some of the heavier items from the back of the car and front of the caravan we set off carefully to Deal. A quick stop on the way gave hope that things had improved and by the time we got to the campsite the rear end seemed to be back to normal. First priority on arrival was to get to the ice-cream parlour before it closed, but then to repack tools and other heavy items to as close to the caravan wheels as possible, for future journeys. And note to selves – try to avoid rough roads and potholes whenever possible!
Sunshine on a Rainy Day
Day 3 – Kent to Hampshire
Having heard wind and rain during the night, we were a bit worried about what today’s journey would be like. We had another earl start, although we did manage to sleep til almost 6am today! By the time we were packed up, the rain had stopped, and we rolled of the campsite at about 8.15. We had planned the journey and programmed the satnav, and set off towards Dover. The rain had returned by the time we got there, so photographic evidence was sot from inside the car (as were most of today’s photos.)
From Dover, we headed towards Brighton, where we had hoped to park up along the seafront for lunch, but unfortunately every space within eyesight of the pier was taken, so we went a little further along, almost into Hove. Interestingly, very few people looked at the combo, but having lived in Brighton for 10 years, Christina knows that it takes something quite amazing to get a Brightonian to turn their head. Thankfully, the worries from yesterday seem to be unfounded, as the car performed well, despite some horrendous downpours. We seemed to go from lovely, bright sunshine to rain so torrential that we had to pull over.
From Brighton we went along the A27 to Arundel, where we met up with a schoolfriend of Christina’s, who she hadn’t seen for about 18 years. As we sat having a brew in the caravan, and catching up with news, a lorry drew into the car park. We then had a knock on the door, the lorry driver asking if he could take a video of the combo for his youtube channel about unusual caravans. Of course we said yes, as long as he plugs the challenge!
From Arundel we had our final leg of the day, to Gosport, where Simon and Susie have very kindly offered us space on their drive for the night. And to top it off, we have view across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
Day 4 – Hampshire to Devon, via Dorset
Having been warned that the close where we were staying gets very busy from 8.15 with school runs, we were all ready to leave by 8pm (despite Christina actually sleeping late – til 7am!) Paul had a quick tour of Simon’s garage, where he keeps a Hillman Imp and a Jaguar replica, as well as the American truck on the drive, before we set off.
We had a fairly simple day planned today, catching up with members of Christina’s family. First stop was to Cousin Richard in Dorchester, with a quick detour to Weymouth to touch base with the English Channel, and be a bit posy along the seafront… Christina decided that the beach and weather were so nice she would do more than dip a toe, and in fact took her shoes and socks off for a paddle. She was soon joined by an inquisitive Jack Russell who seemed to wonder what on earth was going on.
Well, there wasn’t a bus needing to use the bus-stop….
A serious conversation being had whilst having a paddle
Our arrival at Richard’s was a little fraught as one of his neighbours had a big builder’s lorry outside, not good in a small cul-de-sac, but we soon realised that we could work our way around it and got onto the drive – only for the lorry to drive off about 5 minutes later. Having been sitting in a car for 3 days, we welcomed the chance of a good, brisk walk through fields (and an industrial estate) to visit Uncle Robert, where we had an hour of reminiscing about previous adventures. Back at Richard’s, Paul had been asked to go and see the next-door neighbour who is another classic car fan, and had a Wolsely 1100 in his garage, so a few stories were exchanged. He also told Paul that the video taken yesterday had come up on his phone, so to then see the combo sitting in his neighbours drive was a surprise! After a cuppa and a natter, we set off again, this time to Cousin Claire’s where we were ‘booked’ onto her drive for the night. We had been warned about the A35 from Dorchester to Honiton, but even so we weren’t quite ready for the hills we encountered. Paul and the Herald coped admirably, while Christina sat with clenched teeth and white knuckles, with the realisation that there would be many more hills to come on our trip, now that we’d left the flat roads of East Anglia. Thankfully all went well, there were no queues on any of the hills, and we arrived safely at Claire’s just after 6pm. Her parents, Auntie Tricia and Uncle Brian, along with Auntie Katie, all joined us for a family meal and yet more catching up. We retired to the drive around 10pm, steadfastly refusing the offer of a ‘proper bed’ in the house.
Triumph 2000 Register National Rally
Devon (still) – Days 5 and 6
We left Exeter at about 8.30 for what was, for us, a short drive to Paignton, where we were booked into the Triumph 2000 Register’s National Rally. This was originally booked back in 2020 before the world shut down with Covid, so it was a really happy coincidence that it was at the right time and place for us to call in on our way round the UK. Despite us having the ‘wrong sort’ of Triumph with us, they kindly allowed us to join them for the weekend. As we were to spend two nights here, it was a good chance to take a breath, do some washing, and plan for the next leg of the journey. As the evening meals were already booked, we didn’t even have to think about food!
The thing that we love about having a caravan is that, once pitched, it is easy to relax and forget about ‘stuff’, and so by the time we’d made a cuppa and chatted to a few people, the anxieties of the previous days had dissolved, and we felt like we were on holiday.
Feeling refreshed, we spent Saturday socialising, and planning the stops for the week ahead. A few tweaks were made for our journey around Wales, and provisional bookings were confirmed. The evening was spent with other club members enjoying a great meal and live music.
Day 7 – Cornwall
We couldn’t set off quite as early as we normally would, as we had to stay at the rally for the AGM, but we got everything packed away and were hitched ready for the off as soon as the meeting finished. It was as about 11.30 when we left, with Andrew, Catherine and one or two others waving us off. We set the satnav to get us to the next campsite, in Mullion, with the intention to stop at an approximate halfway point for lunch.
Our route today took us over the Tamar Bridge from Devon into Cornwall – thankfully for us, the toll is only payable when travelling in the other direction, for some reason!
Our lunch stop was actually a lay-by just off the A38, but despite the traffic Paul managed to have a snooze while Christina read a book. We’re clearly adjusting to the Romany lifestyle!The roads started to get hilly again as we approached Truro so we were grateful that there wasn’t too much traffic.
We had been forewarned that the only way to visit Lizard Point was without the caravan so we went straight to our site, pitched up and had a cuppa. It’s a lovely little CS site, accessed through a farmyard, with views across to the sea. Although we haven’t got ehu, there is a small shed with a kettle and toaster, and a freezer for our ice-blocks, so we are well catered for. The only worry we have is the access road meets the main road on a steep incline with poor visibility of oncoming traffic, so leaving tomorrow could be tricky!
Our visit to Lizard Point was the first time in a week that the Herald hasn’t had the Viking attached. We took the car as far down as possible to get some photos, walked around the cliff tops, then returned to the site for our meal, and bed.
Back to Devon
We woke early today, with the farm peacock making an effective alarm. Paul was worrying about getting out onto the main road, and having to do a hill start, so we decided the best thing to do would be for Christina (wearing a hi-vis jacket) to jump out before the start of the hill, hot-foot up to the junction then text Paul the all-clear before standing in the middle of the road to stop any traffic. The reality was far less exciting as she walked up the hill, got to the top to find a local gentleman who thought she was mad, there were no cars and the lack of signal meant that the text didn’t send. However, it was a relief to get out onto the top road with no mishap!
Our first stop today was Land’s End. We had messaged ahead and been given permission to park in front of the archway for photographs, which we did when we arrived. This caused quite a stir as a coach load of Danish tourists arrived at about the same time and seemed to think we were part of the attraction, so all started posing for photographs with the combo as a backdrop. Once we’d got away, we parked in the coach park, as directed, and went for a wander around the complex. The photo in front of the ‘iconic signpost’ had to be done, so we queued, paid and posed. The smell of hot pasties was irresistible, so we treated ourselves to one while we checked over the route for the rest of the day. A few tacky souvenirs later and we were ready to go.
Tonight’s stopover was a garden just off the A39 by Bude, right on the border of Cornwall and Devon. We didn’t want to arrive too early, so we stopped in a layby just off the road, and Paul once again snoozed while Christina read her book. Our hosts for the night had said they were just a few minutes away from the A39 but we hadn’t realised how quickly the road would become a single track lane. Thankfully we didn’t meet many other cars and managed to find the house. The only difficulty was getting into the driveway as there was a sharp turn and a steep incline – so the fear of the hill start from the morning was actually realised in the afternoon. Paul managed to get up, although was coughing a bit after the car filled with fumes from the slipping clutch. We parked up in their garden, and soon had chickens clucking around the caravan, while horses and sheep in the adjoining field came over to the fence to see what was going on.
We were being totally self-sufficient today so, after a short walk and a basic meal, we decided to catch up on some of the sleep we’d missed with our early start and were both asleep by 9.30.
Day 9 – Devon – Somerset – Monmouthshire
As we didn’t want to run the risk of meeting the school bus on the lane, we were up and ready to leave by 8.00. We continued back on the A39 to Barnstable then, as we had been warned by several people that the roads through Exmoor were really not suitable for caravans, especially old ones being towed by a Triumph, we followed the satnav inland on the A361 towards the M5. We stopped off at a picnic area for a cuppa then continued on around Tiverton to the motorway. This was the closest we had come so far to running out of petrol, as there was a surprising lack of filling stations along the route. Thankfully a can from the boot kept us going to the Tiverton Services where we filled up the car and the can (we’ll skip over how much it cost!) We stopped at a motorway services just before the Avonmouth Bridge, parked up and sat up on a grassy bank, leaving the caravan door open. There was a lot of interest and several photos taken, as well as some money dropped into the box. One couple added to the JustGiving page because we made them smile. Another gentleman wanted a photo of himself standing next to TinTin as he was a childhood favourite! Just as we were about to leave the services we heard a toot and a call and looked round to see some friends from our TSSC Norfolk Area! They were touring around in their motorhome and had spotted us across the car park so came over for a quick chat. They had just come around the Exmoor coastline, and listening to their experience made us realise that we had definitely made the right choice of route!
Carrying on from the services, we crossed the Avonmouth Bridge, soon followed by the Prince of Wales Bridge, across the River Severn.
From there we went around Newport and down to St Brides, where we found our next campsite. We were greeted by a very fraught looking lady who was in the middle of gathering her sheep for shearing. She pointed the way to the camping field and explained that there would be some sheep in there later as she used it for a holding pen during the shearing. Lo and behold, just as we were enjoying a cuppa in the sunshine, the sheep arrived! Chaos ensued for a while until they settled down and started to enjoy the grass.
We went to watch some of the shearing and were told that the fleeces are mostly sold and shipped to China, then shipped back as finished items, which seems totally bonkers. We then took a walk down to the Severn Estuary which was an amazing sight, a vast stretch of calm water, looking across to Bristol and out to sea.
West… then East
Day 10 – Gwent – West Glamorgan – Carmarthenshire – Pembrokeshire
Another day, another journey! Today we travelled from Newport, Gwent, stopping at Port Talbot, West Glamorgan, then through Carmarthenshire and into Pembrokeshire. At Port Talbot we went down to the beach and Christina had a paddle in Swansea Bay, although we were unsure which sea this would be (I have since been advised that its source is the Irish Sea, so we can tick that one off the list.) The beach at Port Talbot is beautiful, lovely flat golden sand, and the sea was deep blue.
From Port Talbot, we travelled west along the M4 and into Carmarthenshire, then up towards the North Pembrokeshire coast, finally stopping at today’s campsite just past Cardigan, on the A487 which is apparently one of the most significant roads in Wales as it stretches from Fishguard, right up to the Menai Straits near Bangor, which will be our route to Anglesey tomorrow. Our campsite has beautiful views across rolling hillside, but no sight of the sea, so we took a walk to find a view across Cardigan Bay, just so we could check in with the coast.
As we got back from our walk, the sun came back out so we spent the evening sitting outside watching the rabbits playing about (not quite so noisy as last night’s sheep!) as the sun began to set.
Didn’t we have a lovely time…
Day 11 – Gwynedd and Isle of Anglesey
Having spent the night within a stone’s throw of the A487, it was easy to get back onto the road this morning. Our destination was Anglesey, so in theory it should just be a case of follow the road all the way up to the Menai Strait, but our SatNav was adamant that we shouldn’t go through Aberystwyth, although it didn’t say why. Chatting to the warden it would seem it was because of a rather steep incline coming out the other side, and possibly also volume of traffic. The road from Tremain to (just before) Aberystwyth goes along the coastline of Cardigan Bay, and the views are absolutely stunning. Several parking areas saw Paul pulling over and jumping from the car with camera in hand. As we approached Aberystwyth we were directed to take a 20 mile detour out to Devils Bridge and back along the A44. We did wonder at times how bad Aberystwyth must be for this to be the preferred alternative, as some of the hills were quite challenging, but it was undoubtably scenic.
Then came Snowdonia, which has been Christina’s mental block, thinking that the hills would be a challenge too far, but in fact it was easier than some parts of Cornwall had been. Although there were very few sections of dual carriageway, there were numerous parking areas to pull over and let other cars pass, but there weren’t really that many, so our slow speed wasn’t a problem. Once when we pulled over, the car behind us pulled over too, as they wanted to stop and take a photo. On another occasion, we had to stop at traffic lights and were drawn into a conversation with some locals standing by the roadside.
Paul needed to get some oil for the Herald so we did a slight detour to a big Halfords just before crossing over to Anglesey via the Britannia Bridge.
We found our campsite quite easily, pleased to be spending 3 nights here to rest awhile and get some washing done! Christina’s son, James, has joined us from Manchester for a couple of nights so we can do a spot of walking and sight-seeing.
…the day we went to Bangor!
Another job that needed to be done while we have a break from the driving, was to replace the two rear tyres on the Herald, as Paul was beginning to be concerned that they were getting close to the end of their safe life. So, our first stop was to go back into Bangor to KwikFit, who thankfully had some in stock. We had a wander around the harbour, which I have to say didn’t look it’s best as the tide was out, picked up the car then did a quick visit to Tesco for provisions.
Unfortunately, as the south of the UK was basking in sunshine and suffering from heatstroke, the Isle of Anglesey was covered with a blanket of grey cloud and mist and getting blown about with strong winds. Despite this, James was keen to go to a beach, and was happy to be our chauffeur for the day. The beach was beautiful, with lovely sand, but the water was cold! Christina paddled but decided any further than the ankles would be too much. James was determined though and set off to the water in his trunks, closely followed by Paul who was not going to be shown up! As they walked into the sea, the wind blew and the mist thickened to hide the view around the bay, and it soon became clear that it was going to take a long walk for them to get deep enough to swim! Christina stood watching (someone had to hold the valuables!!) as they disappeared into the distance. They did both manage to swim, before coming out to get sandblasted as they emerged onto the windy beach.
By this time, most of the people who had been at the beach when we arrived, had packed up and gone, so we decided we should perhaps do the same. James wanted to have another drive around so we went to have a look at the Menai Bridge (in fact, we drove over it and back again) and realised why we couldn’t use this crossing with the caravan, as at places there would only have been about 50cm clearance. By the time we got back to the campsite, the mist was turning to rain, but by about 6.00 it was dry enough for us to have the planned BBQ, so Paul and James set about lighting the coals. Whilst the other 3 couples on the site sat inside their caravans watching TV, we sat outside cooking kebabs and burgers, and trying to ignore the drizzle. A very pleasant evening, despite the weather!
Rest and Relax
Today was a real R&R day, as we managed a lie-in, and then just spent the day reading, having a walk and planning routes and stopovers for the next leg of the journey.
We did have a visit from a young lad who lives on Anglesey. He owns a Herald but isn’t yet old enough to drive it, so he came to visit on his 1980’s Honda scooter. He has a website and YouTube channel ‘Car Hunting Anglesey’, had seen us on Facebook and was interested to see our set-up. He stayed for about an hour, talking cars with Paul, and recorded some footage on his phone.
Other than that, today was pretty uneventful, but we are all set and ready for the next leg of our trip.
Ferry (or bridge) cross the Mersey
Isle of Anglesey – Gwynedd – Caernarvonshire – Denbighshire – Flintshire – Cheshire – Merseyside – Lancashire
Having had a lovely break in Anglesey, on a fabulous CS site – Caeau Crinion – we have to admit it was hard to get back onto the road this morning. We were all packed up and ready to set off by 8.30, and were waved off by Ken (the site owner) and James, who is heading back to Manchester today.
We took the A55 through Conwy and along Colwyn Bay, then around Chester to the M56. From Chester we went up to Runcorn and over the Mersey via the A533 Toll Bridge.
Our next stop was Southport, but the only parking on the coast road was a definite ‘no caravans’ so after a quick stop (before we’d seen those signs ;-)) for some photos, we headed up the A59 towards Preston.
We found a quiet lay-by to stop for lunch and the obligatory snooze/read then set off again with the intention of driving along the coast road through Blackpool. Unfortunately though, we missed the turn that would take us along the ‘tourist route’ then got mixed up in lots of traffic until all we wanted to do was get out! We were disappointed not to be able to get a photo of the combo near the iconic Blackpool Tower but having since looked on Google Earth we think that might have proved impossible anyway. (If you zoom in on one of the photos from Southport, you can just see the tower in the distance, so that will have to do!) Having escaped Blackpool, it was just a few more miles to our next stopover, Southview Farm, near Poulton-Le-Fylde. This is a new site, and we thank Andy and Jill for their kind and generous hospitality.
Getting back into the driving had proved difficult today, and we were both feeling really tired, so after a bit of maintenance to a very rattly car door, we opted for an easy afternoon, a short stroll followed by a quick dinner and an early night.
And into Scotland
Day 15 – Lancashire – Cumbria – Dumfriesshire
Our destination today was Ecclefechan, just into Scotland. We had looked carefully at the possible routes and realised we had two options. One was to go inland and up the M6, which we really didn’t want to do, the other was to go around the coast, which involved going through the southernmost part of the Lake District, and would involve several small, windy, steep roads, which we really, really didn’t want to do. So, with heavy hearts, for safety’s sake, we decided it would have to be the M6. Having said that, this must be one of the most beautifully scenic stretches of motorway in the country, with the Lake District on one side and the Yorkshire Dales on the other. The road was fairly quiet and the hills manageable, which made up for our disappointment of having to leave the coast.
We realised that we would be entering Scotland at its most southerly point, which is of course Gretna Green, so we had to call in to have a look around. We spent a while walking around, trying to decide how to get the car and caravan in the right position to take a photo, where Christina would stand, camera in hand, while Paul sneakily drove in front of the Blacksmith’s for a few minutes, and how to drive round the block so that we were facing the right way. All went well until we approached, from the necessary angle, only to find that a bride had pinched our spot! Paul drove round again but she was still there, so after all the planning, the photos had to be of Paul crossing the junction, no posing allowed!
Tonight, we are staying on a smallholding belonging to a fellow TSSC member, David Kirk. Although only a few minutes from the A74, the approach proved to be quite tricky as the road is single track and the gateway easy to miss. Having overshot the entrance Paul performed an amazing reverse turn into a neighbouring gateway and we found our destination. We drove down into their yard, where Paul was shown into David’s barn where he keeps a collection of Triumphs. Trying not to show too much barn-envy we then returned to the gateway where we pitched up on the grass verge with another fabulous view for the night.
The beautiful Galloway Coast
Day 16 – Dumfrieshire – Wigtownshire – Ayrshire
Today has been amazing! We left Ecclefechan at about 8.15, having refilled our water bottles and said our goodbyes and thanks to David and his family. We took the A75 west to Stranraer, then up the Galloway coast via the A77. The route was stunning, there were glimpses of the sea from the A75, but almost all coastal from Stranraer up to Turnberry. We lost count of how many parking areas we pulled over in. just to admire and photograph the views.
Paul really enjoyed the driving and the day felt much more like a touring trip than a test of endurance! There were hills, but with so little traffic we could take them at whatever pace best suited the Triumph without having to worry about annoying other drivers. We did have to spend quite a long time sitting at one set of traffic lights, as each line of traffic had to be escorted by a van travelling at about 5 miles an hour! I don’t think we were trusted to go slow enough on our own!
We arrived at our campsite, Garton CL site, near Ayr, at about 3.30. We were welcomed by Bobby, who stays on site for the season. We then had a visit from Joyce and her mum, who own the site. Everyone was so welcoming and we thank them for their generous donations to EAAA.
Day 17 – Lanarkshire – Dumbartonshire – Stirling – Inverness-shire
Today has been another day of spectacular views as we travelled up the A78 along the Firth of Clyde, heading towards the Highlands. We over-rode the satnav because we wanted to go all the way up through Wemyss Bay, whilst it wanted to go inland to the A737. We were pleased we did, as it was a beautiful route, but when we got to Greenock and Port Glasgow, we realised why it wasn’t the recommended one – more traffic, lots of roundabouts and generally a built-up area.
Once we’d got through and across the Erskine Bridge, we were soon travelling along the banks of Loch Lomond on the A82.The views of the Loch got better the further north we travelled, but all stopping places were on the other side of the road, so the photos had to be from within the car.
We have increasingly been having problems with the doors on the Triumph, on several occasions Christina has been stuck inside, unable to open her door, and several times Paul has struggled to open his door from the outside. This is not uncommon for Heralds and so we had started to close the passenger door by Paul lifting and shutting it from the outside, whenever possible. However, today, just as we were driving around the quite narrow and twisty ascending road along Loch Lomond, the passenger door randomly started to open. Christina was alerted to this by the sound of the road but with a lack of passing places the only thing to door was to hang on to it, especially around right-hand bends, until Paul could pull over and re-shut it.
From Loch Lomond we continued up the A82, through Ben Nevis and Glen Coe. There was low cloud over the mountains, but this didn’t spoil the stunning views.
With several stops along the way, we eventually reached Fort William and then it was just another 10 miles to tonight’s pitch, which is actually on a Scout campsite on the banks of the River Spean. We have been given permission to park here for a couple of nights, as tomorrow we will be visiting the most westerly point of mainland UK, which is not caravan accessible, so we will leave the ‘van and go with just the Herald. As with many of these beautiful, out of the way places, the single-track access road is very bumpy and so great care must be taken to protect the rear axle. This means removing all unnecessary weight from the car so guess who had to get out and walk?!
All things Westerly
Today has been a very westerly day! Our aim was to visit the most westerly point of mainland UK, but with just the car as the roads are not suitable for caravans. We had checked the route on the map and on the satnav and couldn’t understand how 80 miles was going to take us 3 hours. We decided to take the A830 there, and the A861 with the ferry, on the way back. Given that the round trip was to be about 160 miles, and the Herald can only do about 150 miles on a full tank, the first job was to check that fuel was available on the route – it was but just the one station at the very end – and to top up so that we started with a full tank. Once we got onto the A830, and then the A861 and B8007, we began to realise just how 80 miles could take so long! It was certainly long and winding, as well as up and down! Most of it was single track with passing places, with top speeds of about 20 miles an hour. In our minds, this was going to be an easy day as we weren’t towing, but the reality was that it took just as much concentration, if not more.
We left at about 9.15 and 3 hours later arrived at Kilchoan. This is not quite the most westerly point, but it is home to the most westerly shop and petrol station. While Christina went into the shop to ask where the toilets were, Paul chatted to the man in charge of the pumps, and it seems that as well as being the most westerly, they are also the most expensive, at £2.30 a litre. I guess when the next filling station is 75 miles and 3 hours away, you can charge whatever you like. A quick stop at the community centre for toilets and to check out the shower facilities (more about that later) we set off for the final few miles to the lighthouse. By this time, Paul was in need of nourishment, so we sat and ate our pasties, sheltered from the wind by a stone wall, looking out on the lighthouse. Christina treated herself to a coffee and bought a fridge magnet which sums up our destination perfectly – The Back of Beyond! It really is one of the most remote locations, and somewhere we will probably never go to again. Having said that, I’m glad we made the effort, not just for the challenge but also so we can say we have!
Having had a walk around and taken some photos, we went back to the petrol station to top up for the trip back.
As it was closed for lunch, we sat in the picnic area where Christina finally had a 4G signal and posted yesterday’s blog entry before returning to the Community Centre with our shower gear. The last place we stayed at that had a shower was Anglesey, so this would have been our 5th night without one, tomorrow night doesn’t have one either, and quite frankly there is a limit to what you can manage with a bucket and a kettle of hot water. We each got our £4 token and enjoyed the full 10-minute hot shower before changing into clean clothes ready for the journey home. The A861 was a slightly better road, and of course had the added excitement of the ferry (£10 one way).
A quick stop off at the local shop for some provisions then we were back to the caravan for our evening meal and another early night.
PS I should just mention, the doors have been fixed!
With a relatively short drive to do today, we didn’t need to leave quite as early as we usually do. Paul’s latest idea for protecting the rear spring over potholes is to raise the front of the caravan to take the weight off the back of the car. So as we left this morning, Christina became the ballast, standing at the back of the ‘van until we were over the worst of the bumps. Whether or not it was necessary is debatable, but no damage was done!
We have a small CS site booked for 4 nights in Flitchy, near Inverness. We will stay in the caravan tonight, then leave it for two nights while we go back via Fort Augustus to complete the Highlands/North Coast of Scotland, which is another area unsuitable for caravans (although we have been reliably informed that we will see lots of campervans and motorhomes on our trip.) We wanted to travel along the bank of Loch Ness, so got back onto the A82 towards Inverness. We stopped off briefly at Urquhart Castle but decided not to pay the £13pp admission charge so made do with peering over the wall to take a photo.
A couple of miles further on was the village of Drumnadrochit which has a big carpark (no charge, just donations) with toilets and a few tourist shops, so we stopped there for a brew and had a walk around. A few tacky-not-tacky souvenirs later and we were back on the road to the campsite. The owner of the campsite had told us that the right turn from the A9 to the B851 where the site is located, was blocked due to roadworks, and advised us that the best thing to do was to take the turning before, which would take us past the junction. We should then turn right, back onto the A9 where we could turn left into the B851. Having looked at various options available, we decided that we should trust that he knows the area best and follow his directions. Unfortunately, it was a steep climb, and a 12-mile detour so Paul wasn’t happy when we got back to our junction to find that there were no roadworks, and we could have turned right after all. That being said, there were diversion signs laying by the road so it could be that it had only just reopened. We arrived at the site at about 1.00 so after setting up, we had lunch and then Paul had his customary nap. Christina took a stroll around trying to find the best spot for wifi as this is another black hole for mobile data. Next job was to sort out what we need to take with us for the next three days without the caravan. We have a B&B booked for tomorrow night, and a pod at a touring park for Sunday night, but will need a few provisions for lunches, and a portable stove to boil a kettle.
>Towards the North Coast
Day 20 – Inverness – Ross and Cromarty
Having loaded up the Herald with what we need for the next three days, and tidied and secured the caravan, we set off on the A82 back towards Fort Augustus to continue our round trip from where we left it yesterday. At Invergarry we turned onto the A87 which took us up to the A890 where we met the A896 which forms part of the North Coast 500. Whilst it is not our intention to ‘do the 500’, much of our route over the next 3 days coincides with it.
We stopped off at a few places on the way, but when you’re not towing your kitchen, bathroom, and bed behind you, it’s not so easy to just pull over for a cuppa and a snooze! We set up a blanket for a picnic near Shieldaig but had to pack it way again as soon as we’d finished our sandwiches, as it started to rain.
We arrived at The Old Smiddy Guesthouse at about 3pm, and were shown to a lovely studio room with a great view across to Gruinard Bay. The most exciting thing, though, was an en-suite bathroom with clean white towels and fluffy towelling robes! We spent the afternoon lounging, and feeling fresh and clean, until it was time for our evening meal.
The North Coast and the Atlantic
Day 21 – Sutherland
We left the Guest House at about 9.15, having enjoyed the ‘Full Smiddy’ breakfast. We wanted to be able to tick off the Atlantic toe-dip today, but were unsure which points of our route would give access to the water. So our first stop was just a few miles down the road at Gruinard Bay, where we climbed down a steep, sandy bank so that Paul could get a photo of Christina having a paddle. It was interesting to see how many wild campers were on the route, most camper vans parked up had their curtains closed, and there were quite a few tents on the beach or by the rivers. Back onto the A832, we followed the NC500 route up to Durness. It was a long drive, so we stopped off a few times to get some fresh air and stretch our legs, but neither of us needed a morning snack after the breakfast we’d had.
As we approached Durness we did a short detour to visit the Balnekeil Craft Village (https://balnakeilcraftvillage.weebly.com.) It was an intriguing place, with several ex-Ministry of Defence building now housing artists and crafts people who seem to have made their homes and businesses there.
We then went down to Sango Bay, which was a much better spot for an Atlantic paddle, with a beautiful wide sandy beach, but unfortunately the wind had become quite blowy and so we didn’t stay very long.
As we continued our journey to the Halladale Touring Park near Melvich, the wind seemed to get stronger and stronger, so we were glad to finally reach our destination. We are booked into a ‘pod’ for the night, which is very much like a caravan without the wheels, very basic and with communal toilets and showers a short walk away (well, we don’t want to get too used to the luxury of an en-suite bathroom and fluffy white towels, we’ve still got another week of our journey to go!)
As North as it gets…
Day 22 – Sutherland – Caithness – Ross
We left our ‘pod’ just before 8am for the short trip to Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland UK. The cliffs there are home to several different sea birds, including puffins. It was fascinating to watch them all flying around, catching the air streams and diving. While we couldn’t positively identify any of the birds, or to photograph them from our distant vantage-point, we were reliably informed that some of the white specks we could see were puffins. The view around the lighthouse was spectacular from all ways, both out to the ocean and inland.
From Dunnet Head we went a few more miles to John O’Groats. Unlike Lands End, the iconic signpost is free for anyone to take photographs, but of course this means you either have to manage a selfie or ask a friendly stranger to take a photo for you. As we arrived early, there were very few people around and so selfie-stick it had to be (by the time we left, about an hour later, there was quite a crowd around the post, and a communal spirit of taking photos for each other.)
We had a wander around, bought a few souvenirs, had a bacon sandwich (Paul) and a fresh baked scone (Christina) then set off down the A99 and A9. It was much easier driving than yesterday, as the roads are wider and smoother, and as we left John O’Groats, Paul commented that we could perhaps have got the caravan up there if we’d gone up from Inverness. However, hills from Dunbeath to Berriedale soon made him change his mind – 14% down and then back up, with twists, turns and sharp bends.
The scenery is less barren and more rolling on this coast (now back to the North Sea) with lots of sheep and cattle between the road and the coast. We stopped for lunch at Dunrobin Castle (although we didn’t actually go into the castle, we were able to walk down to view it from the sea’s edge). It is stunning and reminiscent of the one in the film Shrek, with it’s pointed turrents.
Next stop was Tesco in Inverness to stock up with provisions, then back to the caravan for a much-needed cuppa. We are now the only ones on the site, so won’t have to worry about waking anyone when we leave early tomorrow morning.
Day 23 – Nairnshire – Moray – Banffshire
Today was going to be an easy day, mileage-wise, compared to the past three days, as we just had to go 90 miles along the A96 and A98 to a campsite just east of Banff, where we had arranged to meet our friends Mark and Clare, who are there for three nights as part of their touring holiday. There wasn’t much in terms of scenery along the A96, but this improved once we moved onto the A98. We were close to the coastline at Cullen, and passed under the very impressive viaduct into the town and then back out again.
We then passed through the pretty harbour towns of Banff and Macduff before arriving at the campsite just after midday. Our early arrival meant we had time to do some washing, and the strong, warm wind got it dry without us having to use the tumble drier. The campsite is mainly statics, with just a few touring pitches. Positioned as it is, high above the coast, it is very windy, and we felt very sorry for our neighbours in tents, who were struggling to keep them stable. We spent a pleasant evening in the caravan with Mark and Clare, having decided that the weather wasn’t conducive to an outdoor barbecue.
Day 24 – Aberdeenshire – Angus
We woke to the sound of rain on the roof, although the wind had died down overnight. Making the most of the car and caravan being wet, Paul went out with a bucket and gave them both a much needed clean. We left the campsite just after 8.30 and headed east along the A98 to Fraserburgh, then south via the A90 to Peterhead, where we parked up for a brew. There was a big car park on the front, with bus sized spaces along one end so we parked in one of them. Within a few minutes, a car drew in and the driver got out to have a look at the Herald and a chat with Paul. He left after a few minutes but soon after another couple walked over. They told Paul they live across the road, had seen us draw in and had to come over for a closer look. We chatted about our trip, and the fundraising, and they kindly gave us some money for the pot. We gave them a couple of Air Ambulance badges in return, but when a police car pulled in and parked behind us, we realised that it could have looked like some sort of dodgy deal was going on!
From Peterhead we continued down the A90 to Stonehaven where we were able to park up along the sea wall. As we started to get lunch, we again attracted the attention of passers-by who stopped to chat about our challenge. It felt like we were properly back ‘on the road’ after the time we’d spent with just the car so hopefully with just a few more days of travel down the east coast we will be able to boost our funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
From Stonehaven it was just another 30 miles to tonight’s campsite, Gardeners Cottage, near Forfar. We arrived at about 3pm and met the owner who told us some of the history of the site and showed us some of the work they have done since buying it from the prison service who had used it as a rehab place for prisoners preparing for the end of their sentence and life back on the ‘outside’. It had been left to go wild for several years but he and his family are making a great job of clearing and replanting. We set up and then went for a walk through the woods and along the lane, before coming back for food and a relaxed evening looking out across the hills and listening to the radio.
Edinburgh – seaside and motorways
Day 25 – Fife – Lothian
Once again we awoke to the sound of rain, but thankfully by the time we were up and ready to leave it had eased off. Campsite to campsite would have been just 90 miles today, but we took the A90 down to Dundee, and across the Tay Bridge and then onto the A-roads to St Andrews.
Paul had done some research and knew that there was a big parking area to the west of the town, so we headed there for a cuppa. What he hadn’t realised was that there would be an influx of lorries and officials getting ready for the Open, which starts next weekend. Nevertheless, we drove straight through the middle of it all and parked up on a grassy area a short walk from the beach. By this time, the sun had come out meaning we could sit outside to have our break. We had a walk along the beach, which apparently is the one featured in Chariots of Fire. There were a few people boarding but none without wetsuits.
Our next stop was just 20 miles around the coast at Elie, which is a pretty village with a small harbour and beach. We stopped there for lunch and a walk around, with the combo once again attracting attention.
Tonight’s campsite is just east of Edinburgh, between Musselburgh and Prestonpans, so the next part of our journey involved getting onto the M90, across the Queensferry Bridge, then the M8 to the Edinburgh ring road.
After being used to small country lanes and at the most dual carriageway A-roads the speed and size of traffic on these roads was quite daunting, we were relieved to get back onto the smaller roads on the approach to Drummohr Holiday Park. This is a much bigger campsite to most we have been on, with a Reception/Check-in area, and a man in a golf buggy to show us to our pitch. The lady on the reception desk, and her husband (who I think are the wardens) both came out to look at the Triumph and Viking, with photos taken and even a request to look under the bonnet! It was gloriously sunny as we set up and put the kettle on, but our plans to take a walk down to the coastal path had to be put on hold as a big grey cloud came over and a torrential rainstorm sent everyone under cover. After about an hour the cloud had passed and blue sky had returned, so we went for a walk down to the shores of the Firth of Forth before dinner.
Another quiet evening spent reading and listening to the radio, and planning our route and stop-offs for tomorrow.
Day 26 – Northumberland
Back over the border into England! Having looked at our route for today, Paul realised that Holy Island was not far from the A1 and so we scheduled in a visit. As tonight’s stopover was only a 90-mile trip in total, we decided to park up in the main carpark and take a walk around the island. The causeway onto the island is impassable at high tide, but we’d checked and the safe times for crossing today were between 8.05 and 15.15 so that gave us plenty of time. We arrived at about 9.45, and already there were quite a lot of cars in the visitors’ car park. Thankfully the rain held off, so we spent about 2.5 hours looking around and buying a few souvenirs; by the time we left the island was getting quite crowded. It must be a strange place to live, with a daily influx and then departure of visitors at times that depend on the tides. We wondered whether the cafes and gift shops vary their opening times to accommodate the visitors’ arrival and departure.
We arrived at tonight’s stopover in time for lunch, and just as the heavens opened. Paul had his snooze and then came the call to say Christina would be on Sara Cox All Request Friday at 5.50. As the call cut out as she was telling us what to do, we then spent time walking around to find the best place for signal and realised it would have to be halfway down the lane next to the campsite. So, at 5.40 we were walking round in circles waiting for the call. They called on Paul’s phone, as that had had the better signal earlier, and while Christina was talking to Sara, several pings came through on her phone from people who were listening in. Once Christina’s heart rate had returned to normal, we went for a walk down to the town to look around, before returning for dinner and another quiet evening, after the excitement of the day.
Day 27 – Tyne & Wear – County Durham – Yorkshire
We had hoped to go to Whitby today, and even had a campsite booked, but looking on the map yesterday we realised there were lots of < and > signs, which mean steep hills! There was one in particular that, according to google, is 15% gradient. Whilst it might be possible for the Triumph to tow the Viking up such a hill, there is always the risk of added complications, such as a sharp bend in the road, or a traffic queue halfway up – anything in fact that might necessitate slowing down or a hill start. We looked for alternative routes but as they all went through the North Yorkshire Moors, they all seemed to have steep hills at some point. So with reluctance we cancelled the campsite and redirected our route around the Moors.
We still wanted to check-in with the coast though and knowing that Christina’s friend Nicki lived close to a nice beach somewhere near Sunderland, having relocated to the area last year, we contacted her to ask if there was anywhere with a good-sized car park. She recommended Seaham North Beach and said she would love to meet us for a catch-up, so we arranged to be there for 10.00. Our route took us back to the A1, then the A19, through the Tyne Tunnel, which was very dark!
Sunderland to Hartlepool is another beautiful stretch of coastline and at the time we arrived in Seaham it was relatively empty. The sun had come out, so we braved the wind and sat outside with coffee and pastries, whilst keeping an eye on the car and caravan which continued to attract attention in the car park.
After about an hour, the carpark was beginning to fill up, and Nicki had other plans for the day, so we said our goodbyes and continued on to our campsite, which is just east of York. Although its further inland than we would have liked (for the reasons explained earlier, it makes a convenient stopover ready for us to head back to the coast for tomorrow’s trip to Mablethorpe, via Bridlington, Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Day 28 – Lincolnshire
As we had had to travel inland yesterday, we wanted to touch base back with the coast before crossing the Humber Bridge. We decided to stop-off in Hornsea, for no better reason than the fact that we have some Hornsea pottery in our other Viking. Sadly, the pottery manufacture is no more, but the town is a typical English seaside resort, with fish and chip shops mixing with fishing boats and ice-cream stalls. We had a walk along the front, but there were thousands of little black bugs that particularly liked the yellow jumper that Christina was wearing!
Our next destination was Grimsby/Cleethorpes, via the Humber Bridge, which is quite spectacular.
From the bridge, we took the A15 and then the A180 which took us through Grimsby and then along the seafront at Cleethorpes, which was packed! We finally managed to find somewhere to park at the SW end, in a large carpark by the boating lake. We took up a double space and it wasn’t until we had bought our ticket that we saw the ‘no caravans’ sign. The nearby ice-cream man said the inspectors don’t come round often so we chanced it! We’d only just parked when a couple came by and asked about the caravan, as they also have a Viking Fibreline. Apparently, it had belonged to a neighbour and had been sitting for years going nowhere, and so the gentleman on a whim asked to buy it for whatever they had originally paid for it. The neighbour still had all the paperwork, so got it out and receipts showed it to be just £21! It came complete with an awning, so was quite a bargain!
We took a walk down to what we thought would be the beach but was actually a marshy area with the sea a faint line in the distance.
While we sat in the caravan having lunch, several people came by to have a look at the combo, and Paul kept having to get up to chat to them. One couple drew up and gave us a donation, as they said they had heard us on the radio on Friday and were really excited to see us in Cleethorpes!
Tonight’s stopover is on the driveway of a fellow TSSC member, Di Hanes, near Mablethorpe. We took a drive along the Mablethorpe seafront, but it was really busy, so rather than stop, we drove straight through feeling a bit like posers as lots of people pointed as we went past. Di’s house was easy to find as she had parked her yellow Spitfire and white Herald in the front garden. We couldn’t get as far onto the drive as we would have liked as there was a bit of an angle from the road so we parked up and hoped that the Herald would be ok to pull us back up in the morning. We spent a pleasant evening talking Triumphs, and enjoying the macaroni cheese that Di’s son Harry had made.
Day 29 – Lincolnshire – Norfolk
Harry and Edward catch the school bus at 8am, and as we were worried that we might need some help getting up the slope, we decided to be ready so that they could help if need be. As it was, after a few minutes warming up, the Herald coped easily with getting the Viking up onto the road. We said our goodbyes and set off for Skegness, where our first stop was for a photo under the Skeg Vegas sign.
We continued through Skegness and were surprised at how busy it was, with a mix of holiday makers and locals heading to school and work. We managed to find a space to park along the South Promenade and went for a short walk.
Next on today’s itinerary was a stop off in Long Sutton, to see Christina’s parents, Frank and Tessa. We’d managed to time it so that we were there for Frank’s 87th birthday. It usually takes us about an hour to get to their house but today’s visit had taken four weeks, although that did mean we’d been able to pick up some sweets for him at John o Groats, and some Mead from Holy Island. We had lunch with them and got a few provisions for our last night and day.
We left there at about 2.30 and drove on familiar roads via Kings Lynn, Heacham and Hunstanton to a small CS site near Holme Next to Sea. We finally had our seaside fish and chips from Eric’s, a short walk from the campsite. An ice-cream from the nearby gelato served as a very delicious dessert before we walked back to the caravan for our last night on the road.
Run for home…
Day 30 – Norfolk – a little bit of Suffolk – Norfolk again
We woke early, thanks to a neighbouring cockerel, but both managed to get back to sleep. By 6.45 the sun was shining, and it looked as though we were going to have sunshine for our last day. We set off on the A149 towards Cromer, with the thought that we would stop off anywhere picturesque for photos. We drove down to a carpark just through Cley, but the large gravel bank meant that we couldn’t get photos of the combo and the sea. We also startled an elderly gentleman who was clearly not used to company at that time of the morning, as he got dressed from his swim!
We arrived in Cromer at about 10.30 and parked up on the cliff top car park (unaware at the time that caravans are not allowed there, even though motorhomes bigger than our car and caravan together are permitted.) Paul wanted to get some photographs with the sea in the background, so spent a bit of time manoeuvring until he was satisfied with the shots.
We had a walk into the town and back, arriving back just as two couples were standing looking at the Herald, so Paul had a chat with them, then with another couple who walked past. Just as we were about to leave the carpark attendant came over to say we shouldn’t be there, so had obviously been turning a blind eye until then. We then drove the last bit to complete the circuit, stopping at Ness Point for lunch, 4 weeks and 1 day since we were last there. We had lunch, and Paul had his last on-the-road snooze. He then went for a walk around the circular marker, and photographed the sections for each of the other extreme compass points, showing how far each is from Ness Point.
Eventually it was time to go home. Heading back towards Norwich, and then to Watton, we reached home at about 4.30. After a much needed cuppa, we opened the post, put the first load of washing in and sat apparently stunned that we had actually made it!
In the past four weeks we’ve dipped a toe in all four seas and have been to all four extreme compass points of the UK mainland.
We’ve covered over 3,500 miles. Stayed in 16 different campsites, six driveways and had two nights wild camping. Oh, and the Herald didn’t miss a beat – you can do it in a Triumph!
And tomorrow we start to sort out the garden!
Day 32 – some reflections
We’ve now been home for two days, the washing is done (but not the ironing), the caravan has been cleaned, souvenirs unpacked, photo’s reviewed. Time for a little reflection on the trip.
First of all, we achieved all parts of the challenge – 4 seas, 4 extreme compass points, and a complete circuit of mainland UK. I was teaching today and told some of the children about the trip. One girl asked, “who set you the challenge?” and laughed when I told her we set it ourselves!
We travelled through 47 counties (I think – happy to be corrected!), some briefly others for a day or two. I have realised that my geography knowledge is not as good as it ought to be, but my map-reading skills are pretty good. The UK is a beautiful place, with such a variety of landscapes. There are so many places we want to go back to, that we saw from afar but couldn’t access with the caravan. And that’s only the bits round the outside!
We spent 29 nights away from home, on 16 campsites, 6 private properties, 1 riverside ‘wild camping’, 1 B&B and 1 ‘pod’. And the past two nights, at home, have seen me wake up in the night trying to work out which campsite we’re on and where we’re going tomorrow! Several people have commented “I bet you’re glad to be back in your own bed” but more than that, it’s my own shower and toilet that I’m glad of! Most of the campsites we used (travelling ‘budget class’) were CS sites, which can vary enormously in quantity and quality of facilities. You know that minimum requirement is a tap for drinking water and a chemical disposal point. Other facilities may include a flushing toilet (but not necessarily loo roll, soap or hot water), shower, electric hook-up and even wi-fi, but only two had all the above.
Potholes are everywhere. Anyone who complains about their local highways department should know that it is the same across the country. We travelled just over 3500 miles and encountered bumpy roads from Lands End to John O Groats, and many points between.
People are kind and generous. We have had the most amazing time, made all the more special by the people we have met on the way. Too many to mention individually, but we are so grateful to everyone who has given us free overnight space or have put donations in our pot or on our JustGiving page. We have had toots and waves, and so many people have stopped to chat to us or have even pulled over when they’ve seen us in a car park. At the time of posting, we have raised just under £1500 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, which is fantastic.
Once again, thank you to everyone who has helped us in any way to reach our goal. We are tired but have made so many memories. The Herald has performed brilliantly, thanks to the regular TLC supplied by Paul, and the Viking has stood up to the challenge of being ‘home’ for four weeks. It’s been a blast!