Iv’e got to fess up. I thought I’d have loads of time to catch up on my posts when I got back to Norwich, but , for one reason or another, that just didn’t happen.
BUT, I am determined to catch up (on the interesting bits anyway) even though, (as my family know) we’ve already set off again! So over the next few days I’m going to get on with it. Here’s part one, top west coast of Scotland, down to Kendal, Cumbria. Bear-with ]
The Orkneys were delightful. Rugged, wild beautiful & full of interesting and entertaining history. Mostly, the weather was ‘passable’ with the odd foul day, but it doesn’t seem to bother the locals much, they just seem to get on with business, whatever its like, but always like to apologise for all the rain the first chance they get…which is nice. But there are sunny days and when the son shines it all looks so much better, like God’s own country.
Heading west, the last bit of ‘proper’ road, by that, I mean a road wide enough to overtake on, was just outside Thurso. The new road (or is that ‘old’?) takes on a slimmer leaner version of itself, with the odd ‘Passing place’, which is a little tight in places if you are over 2m wide. Lucky for us, most of the traffic seems to be coming ‘at’ us, ie. on the opposite side of the road going clock-wise around. We had a tip before we set off to go anti-clockwise around the NC500, because most seem to go clockwise. We were certainly finding that to be the case, maybe 3-4 times more MoHo’s coming from the opposite direction.
The coast road hugs as much coast as it can hang onto, jutting inland around a fjord then over a little bridge, hugging the fjord once again and out to the coast, compelled to keep the drivers right hand windows awash with scenery. Then, once you get to the very end of the road that goes west you begin to turn south. As if in competition, the valleys get deeper, the hills higher and the sand whiter, and the views (if its possible) even better. What a fantastic road to drive. Joining us on the route around were loads of others ‘doing the 500’, lots of motor bikes, cycles, tandems and campers of all shapes and sizes, and of course loads and loads of Motorhomes. This road is now becoming so popular that there’s pressure to upgrade it to a full two lane road. During high season, there just arn’t enough B&B’s and Hotels to go around, unless you book very early, it’s almost impossible to reserve rooms for the circuit, the route is beginning to become a little over populated for its own good. We only had one bit of difficulty the whole circuit, where a large, wide lorry delivering stage equipment had trouble making it’self narrow enough for the oncoming vehicles to pass, including us. We collected a few more light scratches down the near side as we make contact with the roadside bushes.
A few days driving down the west coast and we find Mallaig, a thriving fishing port and more Gulls than I’ve ever seen…anywhere! A free car park on the dock-side will do us nicely for a couple of nights whilst we figure out the options for trains to Fort William over the viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter films , as recommended by our visiting rellies from OZ, Eileen and Ian (thanks guys). We have a choice £30 each for a return trip on the steam train, or £15 each along the same line, over the same bridge on the service train…no contest for tight-arses like us. At least the service train paused momentarily on the bridge so the passengers could take pictures. We had 2.5 hours at Fort William to kill and to be honest, had trouble filling it. Once you’ve seen the main shopping street, had lunch in ‘the spoons’, had another walk down the shopping street, there doesn’t seem a lot else to do. But we did find an extremely good free museum ‘The West Highland Museum’ about halfway down the main street and FREE. You could of course take trips from Fort William out to Mount Ben Nevis, but the cloud cover that day wouldn’t help the view, so that’s another few quid saved.
Back at the station we saw loads folks dressed up in Harry Potter gear, piling off the (look alike) steam train, just returned from Hog-warts. There’s a little car park under the famous bridge, which is about halfway between Malaig & Fort William, we woke up early one morning in an attempt to get in it, but even at 09:00am the car park was full with others parking on the road, so we had to dump the idea & go on towards Fort William. Having spent a few hours in Ft. William the day before, we saw no reason to stop again, so on to ploughed on through to Loch Lomand.
Nobody could argue that Loch Lomand is a truly beautiful area of this area, but after all those fantastic views across vast swathes of the Scottish highlands and west coast, it comes over a little underwhelming. Sorry Lomand, but Iv’e got to start whizzing through these stops to catch up.
No sooner do you drop out of the bottom of the loch than you hit the Erskine bridge & on past Glasgow, England awaits. A couple of stops in the Lakes, Kendal and then Keswick.
We were invited to pop in to Catherine & Chris of Lobster fame, up in Kendal too.
Thurso (Free car park) no services n58.59568 w3.51500
Rispond, (free beach car park) great beach! no services. n58.54800 w4.67660
Ulapool Tesco car park. Free, no services. n57.85750 w5.16500
Next to Skye Bridge, free car park, no services. n57.27277 w5.73010
Pub car park, ‘Seumas’ brewery nxt door. Free, WiFi.n57.29014 w6.17549
Mallaig, free car park next to train staiton. Toilet block. GULLS! n57.0050 w5.8317
Luss, Loch Lomand. Free car park. n56.01886 w4.61582
Keswick, down a dead end lane. Free, 1 mile walk into town. n54.60477 w3.15535
Kendal C&CC site. n54.34650 w2.73070.