Showing posts with label scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scotland. Show all posts

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Coldstream THS

 Saturday 17 July 2021

Nido's on a THS (Temporary Holiday Site) in Coldstream, right on the English/Scottish border.  The THS are part of the Camping and Caravanning Club and are run by local groups.  They're dotted all over the country and tend to be set up around the usual holiday times - Easter, Summer, Public Holidays.  The beauty of them is there's no need to book; just turn up and pay the nightly fee.  In this case it was only £8 per night, which includes access to fresh water and somewhere to dump waste.  Some of the THS meets organise events and meals, or you can just keep to yourself.

It was only about an hour's drive from last night's stopover, with a break to top up with food in Kelso on the way.  The THS was in the grounds of The Hirsel Estate Country Park, well off the main road and surrounded by trees, fields and streams.  Next to the THS were a few craft shops and a cafe.   I checked us in and the Stewards offered us space anywhere we liked in an adjacent field, which was already occupied with quite a few vans.  This was the last night for the THS; it was packing up tomorrow after a couple of weeks on this site, so I think quite a few vans had already left.  It was a very hot day, but with a strong breeze blowing.  I put the awning out and used the storm straps to peg it down.

We spent the day relaxing, walking around the grounds (well-marked routes), eating and enjoying an evening walk around the adjacent lake.  Tomorrow our plan was to head for the Northumberland coast to spend several days exploring the beaches.  

A nice pitch on the Temporary Holiday Site in Coldstream

Friday, 16 July 2021

A great view in Scotland

Friday 16 July 2021

Nido's parked up in the Upper Cheviot parking area just over the border in Scotland, with a fantastic view over the Cheviot hills.  This park up is one of many in a trial being run by Forestry and Lands Scotland.  They allow motorhomes and camper vans to park up overnight for one night only (no return within 24 hours).  Some of the parking areas charge but this one doesn't.  It's a great initiative so long as everyone follows the simple rules and details can be found on the Forestry and Lands website.

We left The Twice Brewed Inn yesterday and drove for about an hour to Kielder Water, the largest man-made lake in Europe.  On the way we stopped in Haltwhistle to do some food shopping in what must be the smallest Sainsburys in England! It was a beautiful, still, sunny day with clear blue skies.  The roads were extremely quiet and with the abundant greenery, trees and the blue lake, we could easily have been in France or Germany.  We parked up at the Tower Knowe visitor centre.  The first car park is by the toilets, shops and restaurant, but we took the left fork to the overflow car park, which only had one other van parked.  It's £5 for the day and the ticket is valid in all of the official car parks around the lake.  Cathy made a picnic and we followed the path along the lake, soon finding a route to the water side, where we sat on some stones to enjoy our food and allow Salty to cool off in the water.  Swimming is banned, which is a shame as it looked quite safe; if it was France there would be a dedicated 'beach' area for swimming, separated off from any water traffic.  We continued along the main path around the lake, before turning off down a side track to again reach the lake, passing some sad looking, abandoned chalets that I think were part of the Outdoor Education Centre.  The main path is also used by cyclists and sometimes runs alongside the road that follows the lake perimeter, so at times we lost complete sight of the lake, which was a shame.

We moved on to our overnight stop, which was a CL at Haining Head Farm, near Bellingham. It's a working farm and there were sheep, lots of birds (including noisy guinea fowl and pea hens!) and a few wild children living on the farm!  It had good views over the hills and some passing traffic on the road, which reduced into the evening.  There were two caravans on site and I think the owners were either shepherds or sheep shearers, as they had their working dogs with them and were away during the day, returning later in their work clothes.  We had a quiet evening and ate outside in the warm sunshine.

Tower Knowe Visitor Centre - overflow car park

Heading over the border into Scotland this morning, we first stopped at
Hell's Hole, Wauchope Forest.  This is another of the free Forestry and Land stopovers.  We parked up in the shade and had a cup of tea, before taking Salty for a walk around the forest trail, which included a cooling swim in a stream for him.  A short distance away we turned off and drove up a steep and winding track to reach this current stopover.  The drive up was relatively easy for us in a 6m campervan, but anything too long might struggle with the hairpin bends.  But the views up here are amazing and its very quiet and peaceful.  When we parked up I could see a Forestry and Land van parked up and later the Warden came over to have a chat.  He was very helpful and welcoming, explaining all about the trial to allow motorhomes to park in their car parks and how the Scottish Government were encouraging such schemes.  He gently explained the simple rules (no fires, no litter etc), then wished us a pleasant stay.  This is an excellent scheme and we felt very welcome.  I hope the trial becomes a permanent feature and we can return to use many of the others around Scotland.

We had lunch on arrival here, so supper was 'tapa' of potatas bravas and sausage, with a San Miguel.  Well, when in Spanish!  The views and peaceful quiet here are amazing and I highly recommend anyone to try them out and send them a positive review if you enjoyed it (QR code on their sign on each site).

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Visiting some of the Knights Templar sites in Scotland

I’ve long been fascinated by the lives and history of the Knights Templar, not for any religious or masonic reasons, but just because I think it’s a very interesting period of history.  Their influence spread far and wide and I suppose my interest was first piqued when travelling around southern France and coming across some of their walled villages, towns and castles.  We plan to use the Templar sites as a basis for a future France tour in our campervan, probably dipping into northern Spain too.

Before our recent trip to Scotland, we popped into our local library in Llangefni, to pick some books to take with us; it’s September in Scotland, it’s bound to rain and so we’ll need something to read when sat in the van (it did and we did!).  My eye caught the title of a book written by Robert Ferguson - The Knights Templar and Scotland (ISBN 978-0-7524-5183-1).  A quick flick through showed they may gave spent some time in Argyll, where we were heading on our trip, so I took out the book and read it before we travelled, renewing it to take with us.  It proved to be an invaluable source and helped shape our trip, although I should add there is no hard evidence and much of what is written is speculative.  I’ve summarised the history below, although if you want to learn more please do get hold of a copy of the book and make up your own mind.

On 14 September 1307 King Philip IV of France signed an order for the arrest of all Knights Templar for heresy, as well as seizing all their lands and wealth.  The order to dissolve the Knights Templar was approved by Pope Clement V.  The order took effect on Friday 13 October 1307 and any Knights were rounded up without warning, imprisoned, badly tortured and then killed, mainly through burning at the stake.  Although many (including the Grand Master - Jacques de Molay) were arrested that night, many escaped, with evidence that they were tipped off a few weeks beforehand. This gave them time to gather much of their wealth and move it to the port of La Rochelle (where the Templars kept their fleet), where it was loaded on to ships and sailed, with a large number of Knights to Portugal and Argyll, Scotland.  Their escape to Portugal is well documented, but the trip to Scotland less so.

The alleged route they took to Scotland is not documented, but is known is that they probably sailed up the sound of Jura to Argyll.  It's possible to support this by the Templar gravestones in the churchyards at Kilmartin and Kilmory.  The theory is that they probably landed at Castle Sween, which is located on Loch Sween between Kilmartin and Kilmory and is said to be the oldest castle on the Scottish mainland.   There is much more to the history of the Knights Templar in Scotland, including their lands and settlements in eastern Scotland, south of Edinburgh and their alleged support of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn.  But, given we were travelling the west coast and Argyll in particular, I was focusing my visits on Castle Sween, Kilmartin and Kilmory.  Our tour of Scotland took us along the Kintyre peninsula after visiting the Isle of Mull.  This area is one of the most important historic sites in Scotland, with evidence from the prehistoric, neolithic, iron and bronze ages.  It’s also this area that is purported to have strong links to the Knights Templar.

During our visit to Kilmartin to view the neolithic, bronze and iron age sites, I was also keen to check out the alleged Templar links to this village. Two of the old stone circles are enclosed within Temple Wood, an area that was planted up much later than the circles, so may have a link to the Templars, given its name (there is also a village in eastern Scotland called Temple that has confirmed links to the Knights Templar).  But it was Kilmartin church that provides the clearest possible link to the Knights Templar.  There are a number of grave slabs either in the display house or in the graveyard that would suggest strong links. One grave slab shows a sword with a scallop shell shape as the pummel (at the top of the hilt).  The scallop shell is the symbol of the Christian pilgrims, then and now seen carried by those pilgrims completing the Camino de Santiago Compostela.  The Knights Templar were originally formed as a warrior group of monks, tasked with protecting pilgrims heading to Jerusalem.  There were other grave slabs depicting religious knights and swords, although the link to Knights Templar remains tenuous and unproved.

I had planned to also visit Castle Sween and Kilmory the next day, but unfortunately Storm Ali was inbound and due to hit the area we were in, so we decided to cut short our trip and head for home ahead of the bad weather.  But we'll definitely return to this part of Scotland.  If you’re interested in the Knights Templar and are visiting Scotland, these areas are well worth a visit. On another trip I also hope to visit their settlements in the village of Temple and Rosslyn Abbey in eastern Scotland.

Grave slab in Kilmartin cemetery

Scallop shell pommel

Monday, 17 September 2018

The historic Kilmartin Glen

Monday 17 September 2018

Nido’s parked up on the Ardfern Motorhome Park.  We’re ‘billy-no-mates’ again - just us here on a 10 pitch site next to Loch Craignash.  I’d booked this on, but we could have just turned up, as there’s an honesty box for payment.  It comes with electric and a decent wifi signal (hence a flurry of blog posts going out tonight).  Another wet and windy night!

We slept well in the total quietness of the wild camping spot and after breakfast reversed our route to rejoin the A816 for a mile to stop in the village of Kilmartin.  Kilmartin Glen is the most important prehistoric site in Scotland.  In particular, it’s linear cemetery, where several cairns are aligned for more than two miles to the south of the village were well worth the visit. They date back as far as 3000 BC and are thought to represent the successive burials of a ruling family or chieftains.  Our first stop was the Kilmartin Museum, next to the village church.  We paid to learn a little more about the history of Kilmartin Glen before following the well marked path to visit each of the cairns.  Close to the south cairn, there’s Temple Wood which is the site for two stone circles.  I was interested in the name of the wood, given the areas possible links with the Knights Templar in this area, but I’m going to save that for a separate post.  It warmed considerably as we walked to and from the cairns, before we visited Kilmartin church and cemetery, with links to Knights Templar again.

We continued south in the van, missing out one area of interest as the car park was too small for us, but parking up with plenty of space at the foot of Dunadd fort.  This ruined iron age fort occupies a distinctive 176 foot high rocky knoll, once surrounded by sea but currently stranded beside the winding River Add. It was here that Fergus, the first king of Dalriada, established his royal seat.  The stone carvings near the top (the originals are now covered by a concrete replica) show inscriptions in Ogham (an ancient alphabet of Irish origin), the faint outline of a boar, a hollowed-out footprint and a small basin.  It’s thought the footprint was used as part of the royal coronation rituals.  It’s also thought that the Stone of Destiny was used at Dunadd before being moved to Scone Palace.  The recently arrived wind and rain made it quite a difficult and slippery climb to the top but despite this the views were amazing and the site atmospheric.  

Back at the van, we dried off and enjoyed a hot brew before driving back north for a few miles to Ardfern.  On electricity, we’ve been able to ‘charge all the things’ and watch a bit of a TV series.  It also means hot showers tomorrow and toast for breakfast! 

Friendly natives!

Kilmartin Museum and Church

River Add and car park from Dunadd Fort

Footprint in stone

Washing up shack with a view

The Isle of Seil and the Bridge over the Atlantic

Sunday 16 September 2018

Nido’s wild camping just off a minor forest road, high up overlooking Loch Awe.  It’s peaceful and quiet and no doubt will be very dark tonight.  We’d just about given up on this road when a Wild Camping symbol popped up on the Sat Nav.  There’s easily room for several vans, but we’re on our own and I suspect it’ll stay that way.  Cathy’s preparing an alternative chicken dinner - a hot cooked chicken from Tesco, with potatoes and veg. 

Last night was very wet and windy at Crannich Farm, but there was enough respite in the morning for me to jump out to unhook the EHU and empty the loo before we set off.  The crossing to Oban was smooth and I was soon pushing a trolley around Tesco to top up with a few bits and pieces, before topping up with diesel and heading south onto the Kintyre peninsula.  It didn’t take us long to reach the Slate Islands, which at their peak in the mid-nineteenth century quarried over nine million slates per year.  The most northerly is the Isle of Seil, which was our destination.  It’s separated from the mainland by the thinnest of sea channels, which is spanned by the narrow, single-arched Clachan Bridge, built in 1793 and popularly known as the “Bridge over the Atlantic”.  We drove to the end of the road and the village of Ellanabeich.  It’s a small hamlet with two rows of small, stone, white-washed terraced cottages crouching below the black cliffs on the western tip of the island.  This land was once separated from the mainland by a slim sea channel until the intensive slate quarrying silted it up and become solid enough over time to build on.  The small island of Easdale is reached by a tiny ferry from Ellanabeich.  It has a Folk Museum, but is more famously known for hosting the World Stone Skimming Championships on the last Sunday of September; we were two weeks too early!  Just so you know, a legal ’skim’ qualifies as a stone that bounces at least twice and the championships are open to all comers.

We parked in a free car park right by the sea.  It had a sign say no overnight camping, although several large motorhomes look set for the night.  However, we prefer to respect the signs and local’s wishes, so our plan to stay there had to be changed.  We had a walk along the two small roads with the cottages either side, past the Oyster Bar and Restaurant and down to the harbour.  After a quick snack and a brew in the van, we were off again, south down the A816.  It took a while, but eventually we ended up at this lovely spot above Loch Awe, although the rain is sheeting across the water once more - that’s Scotland for you!

Ellanabeich cottages

Ferry to Easdale island 

Bridge over the Atlantic

The Atlantic!
Wild camping overlooking Loch Awe