Having been asked many times to write an article for the Church magazine I thought that I had better do something about it. But where do I start, well I suppose it started many years ago when I used to walk the South Downs Way with Ruby, this started as a one off then continued for the next eleven years till she was ninety, even then it was me who had to give up due to a bad back and six months in bed. She used to say to me that if you want to do something enough, do it! So thinking she was a good role model and having a stubborn nature I did and do, “travel that is”.
While recovering and learning to walk again, I started looking at motor homes with respect to travelling here there and everywhere. It just seemed that the more I looked at vans and worked out what I wanted to do with it, the bigger the van grew. So once well enough and had sold my business I proceeded to set about buying the van that I had decided would meet my requirements, a Pilote Galaxy and the adventures began. This was in the year two thousand, many miles have been travelled since then, the longest to date was one of six and a half thousand miles over two months, this I will cover at a later date, unless of course someone says “please no more of your ramblings”.
Yes! I was nervous when I took delivery of the motor home, so off I went to the New Forest to ensure that I had to learn every thing about how it all worked and how to use it. With the travels I had in mind it would be essential that I knew how every thing in the van worked. Then off I went on the first of my trips accompanied by my friend Sasha, my cat. That first trip was of quite small duration and distance compared to the ones I now undertake, but I was still learning to walk properly at that time.
That trip was round the North coast of Norfolk starting at Kings Lynn heading east to Great Yarmouth, many of the fishing villages and towns are well known to the Walsingham Pilgrims from St George’s having visited them on coach trips, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Hunstanton, Brancaster, Blakeney, Cromer; also of course Holkham Hall and Thursford Hall with steam engines and Wurlitzer Organ which was fantastic to sit down and listen to, not forgetting Merry Go Round on which I remember riding with nearly every other horse having a member of St George’s riding on its back when there a few years previously while on pilgrimage. All of these places had their points of interest and not only were they interesting but very peaceful and relaxing. While staying on some of the camp sites around the coast there were a lot of children about as it was during the school summer holidays. So when taking Sasha for her evening walk on a puppy lead it caused great interest, Sasha must have thought it her birthday as she had never had so much petting and stroking in her life. After leaving the coast I headed for Norwich to visit my brother for a few days then home.
After my successful Norfolk trip I decided it was time to go further afield to the North coast of Scotland and island hopping through the outer Hebrides, and really tax my abilities as I was still not walking correctly at this stage and still having to use a stick to help take the pressure off my back and keep my balance. Having purchased a small car to tow on behind which I thought would enable me to visit even more inaccessible places than I would have been able to in a motor home while touring around the country. Of course this made it even more of a challenge as this meant my on the road length was nearly forty feet, still I thought, just another of life’s little challenges
So off we went, the first of many beautiful sights I encountered while going through the lowlands of Scotland was to see the mountains of the highlands ahead of me, this was when I fell in love with the rugged nature of the highlands and the fantastic scenery. Even now after all the thousands of miles I have travelled it is still my opinion that there is very little that beats it.
Every other year I try to go back there in the spring, as the wild life around the coastal area are sights to behold.
My first stop in Scotland was Fort William, on the Glen Nevis camp site which sits right at the foot of Ben Nevis. After watching climbers setting off up the mountain in the rain I thought “I could do that” when it stops raining of course. As day three dawned it was blue sky and a lovely morning. So off I went with walking stick in hand as I had not fully recovered at this stage but was determined to get half way up, that was my goal. On getting half way up I thought just a bit further, then it was a bit further and so on it went until after five hours of climbing I reached the snowline, which was within a few hundred yards of the peak. Then it took another five hours to get down as my back did not like the down bits. I must admit I spent a lot of time admiring the fantastic views which was a good excuse to rest.
Next stop was the Isle of Skye staying on the Portree camp site I then used my car to explore the island. It is a lovely island with many inlets and coves, also an abundance of bird life from Golden Eagles to Corn Crakes, plus many various sea birds. While there, the Queen came to visit, I tell people that she came to see me — “illusions of grandeur”.
Next it was off along the Great Glen to Loch Ness then on to Nairn on the East coast, while there visiting another bird sanctuary and Fort George which over looks the Moray Firth. Continuing on up the east coast to Wick and then on to John O’Groats spending several days there as there was so much to see. Firstly the cliffs at Dunnet Head which are covered with nesting sea birds, Fulmars, Guillemots and Kittiwakes to name but a few. I spent hours watching them at very close quarters absolutely fascinating, but stayed a few yards away from the Fulmars as they squirt you if you get too close and it does not smell nice, revolting in fact. There are also the old lookout posts and wireless station from the last war which are very interesting. From John O’Groats you can get a ferry over to the Orkney Isles and an organised coach trip around them, well worth doing so if you are ever there, the stone circles and the Neolithic village of Skara Brae are amazing. I would have liked to have spent more time there, perhaps I will take the van over there one day.
Then it was on along the north coast to Scrabster near Thurso, there I had a good day out boat fishing, with a catch of cod, coal fish and ling most of which I gave to the site wardens, ready filleted as I did not have room to store it in my van fridge. The North coast has so many beautiful cliffs, bays and lochs to visit, it is impossible to hurry and this is where my car came into its own enabling me to get to the out of way places, down tracks that would have been impossible in my motor home. Finally reaching Cape Wrath, which requires a short boat trip and a mini bus ride about which all I can say is “very interesting”, about seven miles on a rocky up and down track. Within fifty yards of the lighthouse is a rocky stack covered with various birds including Puffins.
Then it was turn left and start heading down the west coast for Ullapool where I intended getting the ferry over to the Outer Hebrides but on the way down made a quick visit to Scourie and Lockinver as I did not want to miss anywhere out. Typing this gives me the urge to go back up there; anyway I think this is enough for this article, more on the last part of this trip next time.