Thursday 13 July 2023

The Cairngorms and Scottish Borders

Thursday 13 July 2023

Nido's parked up at another Forest and Land Scotland park-up, this time at Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders.  It's another nice quiet one with great views over the hills.  The adjacent hilly forest is said to have some of the best mountain biking trails in Europe; certainly the youngsters there today seem to be having lots of fun.  This is the final night park-up of this trip as we decided to head home from here, rather than stay on a temporary holiday site in Lancashire tomorrow night, which was our original plan.

On Tuesday our plan was to stay on at Rosehearty for one more night.  But we decided to move on.  We drove down to the Burn o' Vat visitor centre, where we can park up for the night and they have fresh water and a toilet disposal point. They ask for a donation to the Park Scotland charity, which we were very happy to make.  After a quick lunch we started a circular walk in the forest of the Muir of Dinnet, which also took in the Vat, an amazing natural amphitheatre accessed through a narrow gap in the rocks across the burn.  The Vat was carved from the stone by action of raging glacial meltwaters at the end of the last ice age.  The burn level was low, so it wasn't a difficult climb in - even for an old git like me!  The view inside the Vat was incredible and the waterfall, although quite gentle when we visited, must be something to see when in spate.  We carried on, ascending through pine forests before passing through open heather-clad ground before dropping back through a large birchwood.  We had glimpses of Loch Davan to our left.  It just started to rain as we walked the last 400m to the van. I cooked dinner and we spent the rest of the evening chilling out.

Yesterday morning we both slept until 0900. After breakfast we drove the 5 miles into Ballater and parked in the free car park in the middle of the village.  We left Salty in the van and had a quick walk around to get our bearings and doing a bit of shopping in the butchers (Haggis), bakery (pasty and pie) and Co-op, before going back, packing a rucksack with coats, water and some snacks and heading out for a walk.  We did the Seven Bridges circular walk, which is very well marked with blue arrows and way marker posts.  Taking us first along the edge of the river Dee through oak forest, we crossed the river again at Polhollick Bridge, an elegant white suspension bridge with a warning sign that only 4 people should be on it at any one time!  It took us into Dalliefour Wood, a Scots pine plantation with good views to Craigendarroch, the oak-clad hill above Ballater.  The path widened and flattened off and after 1k we turned onto a road (with short sections moving off the road onto a separate path) which took us back to Ballater via the Royal Bridge, opened by Queen Victoria in 1885; it had several predecessors, all of which succumbed to the might of the Dee in full flood.  Back in the van, the pie and pasty were heated up and enjoyed with a cup of tea.

It was an 18 mile drive to the Linn of Quoich car park, mainly because the single track road follows the Dee for 9 miles from Braemar, before crossing the river and doubling back on itself. The Linn of Quoich, is on the Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve, run by National Trust Scotland.  Braemar's about 9 miles away by road, but only a few miles as the crow flies and I could just make out the top of Braemar castle over to our left.  Although we're not NTS members, it only costs £3 to park here for 24 hours.  We're were the only van there.  Supper was a simple meal of toasted Ballater traditional breaded with a ratatouille bruschetta topping and some pork steaks.  We had a quick walk with Salty down to the river before returning to the van for the evening.  It was very still and quiet and Salty is going bonkers because I think there are rabbits - or maybe haggis - running outside the van!

This morning we were up early and had a longer walk along the Linn.  It is absolutely stunning, with the river cascading across flat rocks and through narrow gorges, with a few deeper areas that would be ideal for a swim. On both sides are Scots pines in what is a remnant of the ancient Caledonian Forest.  It's by far the most beautiful place we've visited on this trip.  We walked for about an hour, stopping to soak up the atmosphere and watch the white water and the dippers doing their thing on the water's edge. Back at the van, breakfasted and showered we were just preparing the van to leave when the Ranger turned up.  I had a chat with her and thanked her for allowing us to stay.  She said a few vans had been breaching the one night stay rule and leaving litter, so the Estate was considering whether they want to continue to allow vans to stay overnight.  If the few ruined it for the many, it would be a great shame.  If you're in the area do visit - you won't be disappointed.

Our journey south took us via Perth and over the new bridge that spans the Firth of Forth.  I spent about 15 months in Rosyth when HMS WESTMINSTER - the last RN warship I served in - was in refit there. Looking across I could just make out HMS PRINCE OF WALES in the dockyard, which is in repair after mechanical issues.  Further down the road I saw we would pass Rosslyn Chapel.  This is somewhere I've wanted to visit for some time, as I have a interest in the history of the Knights Templar, both in their bases in Europe and, in the latter stages of their existence, in Scotland.  We arrived but the parking was rammed, strangely with lots of EU motorhomes, so we turned away and carried on.  I think it's popular with vans of the Da Vinci Code (book and film) as it appears in the final chapters.

Arriving at Innerliethen we took Salty for a quick walk before sitting outside with a cup of tea, soaking up the sunshine and the views and listening to the pipe bands and brass bands as they played in the distance.  I'm not sure if this was a show or practice for the Highland Games, but it was lovely to listen to. It's quiet now, the sun has just set behind the hills and there's only one other motorhome lots of rabbits that Salty is taking a great interest in!  I found another tick on him this morning (that makes it a total of three) and then found one on my left calf!  We carry the tools to remove them so all was sorted, but it was a reminder to pay more attention when doing the post-walk tick check in the future.

Tomorrow we head home.  We'll stop somewhere for lunch and a leg stretch and then face the horrors of IKEA again in Warrington, as Cathy wants another memory foam pillow plus a towel rail for the van.  We've had an excellent two weeks in Scotland with some outstanding weather and have seen and stayed in some lovely places.  The final stage of the trip - the Cairngorms - was absolutely stunning.  We only saw a small part of it so will definitely return to see more of it.  Next up is France, a 6-week trip starting later next month.  So there's some time to sort out a few niggling issues with the van and hopefully get the Thetford fridge checked and fixed.  Weirdly, since I reported the issued to CMS, it's been working fine!  Debbie and Paul at CMS have been excellent and we've swapped a few emails to discuss and gather information on the issue.  The current thinking is it might be a 12V DC power supply issue, rather than a PCB replacement, but I'm confident Paul will diagnose the fault.

Until we check in to the Eurotunnel....catch you on the other side!

Entrance to the Vat

Excellent haggis and sausages

Chinese takeway - by Royal Appointment!

Seven Bridges walk from Ballater

Linn of Quoich park up

Abandoned but what a view!

Wild swimming spot

Staying back from the edge!

Final park-up of the trip

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