Scotland 2016

Scotland 2016

Leg 01 - Vienna-Iggensbach - 2016-08-26

We started our trip on a friday after I came home from work and although I finished early we didn't leave Vienna until 18:30 because, of course, we hadn't finished packing the days before. With one stop at a gas station we made it to Iggensbach, Bavaria, Germany that evening. We arrived at the inn Weihermühle at around 23:00 when the waitress was already closing the pub's garden. Nevertheless, she served us to closing time beers which we very much appreciated after the long day.

The inn Weihermühle has a restaurant with an annexed garden and offers several guest rooms. Additionally, they provide free pitches for campers and caravans. When we arrived there late at night a few vehicles were already parked ready for the night but it was still far from crowded.

distance traveled today: 282 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 15 minutes

distance traveled total: 282 km
time on the road total: 3 hours 15 minutes

Leg 02 - Iggensbach-Chunnel-Hythe - 2016-08-27

After a vanmade breakfast at a service area we continued our drive through Germany, Belgium and France to get to the Eurotunnel linking the island of Great Britain and continental Europe. All of these gas stops I planned in advance in order to avoid refuelling at gas stations on the motorway.

Since I was too lazy to look up on which motorways the French toll system applies, I chose to cover those 70 km from the French-Belgian to the Channel Tunnel on the country road. This idea wouldn't have been a problem, the only thing was that the Chunnel's tourist terminal wasn't well-signposted at all and we ended up lost in the cargo terminal for at least 30 minutes until a nice lady at the truck cargo inspection opened a gate for us so we could leave the cargo terminal.

I had booked the passage back in May with enough buffer in case anything happened on the road for 7:20 the next morning. As we arrived around 23:00 at the tourist terminal we could either wait for our booked train ride in the morning, choose a train at 4:00 in the morning with no extra charges or pay € 70,-- per person extra and take the next train that left at 23:30, which we actually did.

Also, Willi got scanned during the check-in. We had to stand there and watch him pass the scanner on a conveyor.

After only 30 minutes on the train we left Folkestone on the left side of the road for a campground in Hythe which I randomly found in my Sygic GPS app. Since wild camping is not allowed in England we just wanted to get a 'legal' spot for the first night. We stayed at the late arrival pitch, didn't hook Willi up and left at around 05:30 the next morning.

distance traveled today: 1081 km
time on the road today: 14 hours 40 minutes (incl. Chunnel)

distance traveled total: 1363 km
time on the road total: 17 hours 55 minutes

Leg 03 - Hythe-Scott's View - 2016-08-28

We spent pretty much all of the next day driving up to The North (yes, this is what is says on the direction signs). Very non-British we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and Burger King for lunch so we could quickly get back on the road.

When the highway ended, the roads got smaller and fewer cars passed our way, we finally crossed the English-Scottish border. Our destination was Scott's View, a viewpoint near Melrose, which we reached soon after crossing the border.

The campsite in Melrose didn't have any free pitches so we benefitted from the fact that wild camping is legal in Scotland and stayed at the Scott's View for the night enjoying the beautiful scenery while doing the dishes in the van.

We met a nice English couple with their two dogs who were also staying the night at the viewpoint and who we had a nice talk with about travel destinations and recommendations for tours.

distance traveled today: 672 km
time on the road today: 11 hours 30 minutes

distance traveled total: 2035 km
time on the road total: 29 hours 25 minutes

Leg 04 - Scott's View-Edinburgh - 2016-08-29

We left Scott's View early in the morning after a breakfast with this beautiful view. Our destination for the day was the Edinburgh Caravan Club Site and we had a few stops planned on our way there.

Hume Castle, or rather the ruins of the same, were deserted at 9:00 in the morning. The only ones we disturbed were the sheep living in and around the castle.

Our next stop was St. Abb's Head National Nature Reserve. At about 9:30 we found an almost empty parking lot, only two locals had just gotten out of the car for a walk with their dog. We spent three hours walking/hiking around the nature reserve and were greeted politely by every sheep or cow we came across. When we came back to the parking lot there wasn't even a single free parking space and there were so many people and a tour coach and school class and... - basically we were happy we had arrived early enough.

Afterwards, we drove along the coast and visited Tantallon Castle. Once again three hours later and after exploring every single step and corner of the castle, we finally left for Edinburgh. Just a quick Tesco stop and we jammed our way down the streets of Edinburgh to get to the Edinburgh Caravan Club Site. The check-in was quick and uncomplicated and the staff friendly and helpful.

The first of the two photos above shows the adventurous path from the campground to the nearest bus station. No problem by day, neither by night, but you know... We spent two whole days walking around Edinburgh and visiting sights like the Real Mary King's Close (go Katie!), the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh Castle and a few pubs. And we climbed Arthur's Seat.

This is what our typical breakfast setup with freshly baked rolls, tea and coffee would look like - not always but most of the time it was warm enough to enjoy eating outside.

distance traveled today: 161 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 5 minutes

distance traveled total: 2196 km
time on the road total: 32 hours 30 minutes

Leg 05 - Edinburgh-Stonehaven - 2016-09-01

We left Edinburgh with destination unknown heading North, gazing at the Forth Bridge as we drove towards St. Andrews to visit the castle, cathedral and university of St. Andrews.

I feel like most of the Scottish castles we visited have not been altered to make it more appropriate/accessible/... for tourists. They were left rather natural (if this can be said about something humanly created). In St. Andrews Castle for example we were able to climb down a really narrow tunnel under the castle walls.

We decided to just head further North and see how far we could go that day. We made it to Stonehaven and arrived at the Stonehaven Queen Elizabeth Park Caravan Club Site just a few minutes before the reception closed for the night and the lady was exceptionally accommodating in giving us the last free pitch. We spent the evening walking into the town along the beach and getting something to eat and drink in the camper.

distance traveled today: 182 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 15 minutes

distance traveled total: 2378 km
time on the road total: 35 hours 45 minutes

Leg 06 - Stonehaven-Culloden Moor - 2016-09-02

This day we visited the castle I had been most excited about because of its location and from what I have seen in pictures.

And indeed it was stunning. The beautiful weather we had been having since we arrived in Scotland added to the stunning experience.

We also wanted to visit Craigievar Castle, just because I thought it looked so funny, but we just couldn't find the driveway to the castle until we had already decided we were going to skip it. Well, I just wanted to look at it from the outside anyway.

The last intermediate stop was a tour of the Glenfiddich distillery where our very nice tour guide led us through a very noisy distillery. We stayed the night in the Culloden Moor Caravan Club Site to have a good starting point for Culloden battlefield the next day.

distance traveled today: 200 km
time on the road today: 4 hours 55 minutes

distance traveled total: 2578 km
time on the road total: 40 hours 40 minutes

Leg 07 - Culloden Moor-Dornoch - 2016-09-03

Our first drive of the day was exactly three minutes long taking us to Culloden battlefield. We chose not to pay for the visitor's center and just wandered around the reconstructed battlefield. Thanks to my five guide books, we had a pretty good idea what had been going on when the Jacobites clashed with the Government Army.

We didn't stop in Inverness but just drove through on our way to drive round Loch Ness. Nessie was nowhere to be seen but we couldn't help but stop a few times along the way to climb some rocks.

We also visited Urquart Castle. Unfortunately, it was very crowded there but we really, really liked the performer talking about the food culture, weaponry and clothing of the time when Urquart Castle was flourishing.

Leaving Loch Ness behind us we drove further North and landed in Dornoch where we stayed at Dornoch Caravan and Camp Park. This was the first campground to offer free wifi ;-). We took a nice evening walk at the beach and stopped by at the Eagle Hotel Restaurant.

distance traveled today: 184 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 20 minutes

distance traveled total: 2762 km
time on the road total: 44 hours

Leg 08 - Dornoch-Durness - 2016-09-04

When we left Dornoch for Durness on the northern coast we chose a route through the highlands and not to continue to drive along the coast since we felt we had seen enough of the sea, plus we knew it wouldn't be long until we saw salt water again.

We didn't have any stops planned on the way but also we weren't in a hurry. Although I could have stopped after ever 3-minute-drive to enjoy the beautiful landscapes and weather, we mostly viewed the scenery while driving and made a break just once in a while.

When we arrived at Sango Sands Oasis in Durness the reception was not occupied but a sign said we should just choose one of the free pitches and tell them that we arrived later on. We did just that and although we didn't get a front row pitch there were by far enough free pitches for campers, caravans or tents.

The weather was as warm as it has been the last one and a half weeks and we had a lot of fun exploring the beach and the cliffs that are right in front of the campground.

By the time we had eaten lunch/dinner outside in the warm sun a few clouds had gathered coming from the highlands and it started to rain. Fortunately, this only lasted half an hour and we enjoyed an evening walk to Balnakeil Beach which was deserted by the time we got there.

distance traveled today: 144 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 45 minutes

distance traveled total: 2906 km
time on the road total: 47 hours 45 minutes

Leg 09 - Durness-Ullapool - 2016-09-05

The next day was extremely windy and when we woke up it was raining too. So we dressed up with our rain jackets and trousers and as soon as we got out of the camper - of course - the sun came out and it was warm and not raining any more. The plan was to take the bikes off the van and ride them to Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Great Britain.

Unfortunately, due to the strong wind the ferry across the Kyle of Durness didn't operate so we decided not to stay another night in Durness but to drive southward again.

So, when the trip to Cape Wrath didn't work out we wanted to visit Smoo Cave but that wasn't possible either due to the strong wind which apparently cause the cave to flood. We were only able to walk to the point where boats would take visitors into the heart of the cave.

Well, we said goodbye to the North and continued our trip southbound. From there our route was more or less improvised. We just followed our route along the western coast and looked how far we could go in one slow-paced day of driving.

The weather was still good, it was just a bit more cloudy and windy but still warm enough to be comfortable outside. That evening, we made it to Broomfield Holiday Park in Ullapool, where we also didn't get a front row pitch along Loch Broom but so what. :-)

In the evening, the wind calmed down and it was the first time that we were bothered with midges - nasty little creatures. We strolled through the nice town and eventually stopped for a bite to eat in one of the pubs.

distance traveled today: 109 km
time on the road today: 4 hours 15 minutes

distance traveled total: 3015 km
time on the road total: 52 hours

Leg 10 - Ullapool-Applecross - 2016-09-06

The next day, we asked for biking or hiking routes around Ullapool in the Visitor Center but apparently, there is nothing too interesting around except of course a ferry ride to the Outer Hebrides which unfortunately we thought we didn't have time for.

So, we headed further south and stopped at Corrieshalloch Gorge for a short walk around the gorge and onto the viewing platform. Also, we made a second stop and short hike at Beinn Eighe Visitor Centre because the weather was gorgeous again.

Of course, while driving through Scotland we had seen a lot of sheep and Highland cattle and it had never been a problem. We greeted them nicely everytime we saw some of them and they sometimes didn't even stand in our way. One time, though, on a single track road this huge Highland cow came out of nowhere placing itself directly next to the road with its long horns pointing in our direction. It wasn't unsettled by us driving past it and as we did I kind of expected to hear the horns scraping along Willi's side but either the cow had calculated the distance perfectly or we were just lucky to get away without any cuts :-P You can spot the cow's horns on the second picture to see how near they were.

That evening we made it to Applecross and stayed at the Applecross Campsite, althoug there was a beautiful but overrun place for wild camping on some grass fields right before the Applecross Bay but since we really needed to shower, we preferred the campsite.

distance traveled today: 137 km
time on the road today: 4 hours

distance traveled total: 3152 km
time on the road total: 56 hours

Leg 11 - Applecross-Sligachan - 2016-09-07

Disclamer: This was the worst day weatherwise and I might start ranting at some point.

I had thought to stay another night in Applecross and that we could spend the day biking around the peninsula but when we woke up the next day we almost weren't able to see our hands in front of our faces from all the fog so we - again - decided to hit the road for the Isle of Skye.

As we drove on the Isle of Skye it started raining heavily too. Since we were in the area we thought it was a good idea to do something indoors and wanted to visit the Talisker distillery. But for the life of me we were not able to find it. Neither our map, nor the road signs or our GPS could guide us to the distillery. We followed a road that we thought would lead us to the distillery but when we got to the end of the road it was just mooing cows and a barn. At this time it was pouring rain.

Ok, so we left the town of Talisker behind us and continued around the Isle of Skye and heading towards Dunvegan Castle. When we got there, the parking lot was more than full and it was still raining like the world was ending. Then we made the decision to just drive all around the Isle of Skye and then just leave this place for somewhere more sunny.

Along the route we stopped at Kilt Rock - couldn't see a damn thing with all the fog and rain in our faces - and also, we stopped to see the Old Man of Storr because in the guidebook it said something like "while in the area, you should definitely make a quick side-trip to the Old Man of Storr". That was it, nothing more, no information, no time estimate, nothing. So when we parked along the road where we would see the Old Man of Storr I slightly wondered where all the people were that left the cars there. I thought that behind the gate and the fence and the hill there would be something called the Old Man of Storr for us to see and then continue our journey. Nope. Just nope. Four gates and fences later our clothes were soaking wet, I was grumpy as hell and there was still no sign of reaching the top of the highest elevation on the Isle of Skye (as I learned afterwards). The path evolved into a boulder field with water not only coming from the sky as rain but also from the top of the hill as streams. At some point I just stopped, said "Ich scheiß auf den Old Man of Storr" and turned around. Sulking and grumpy I hiked back down again while the Mister continued the hike up to see/surmise the Old Man of Storr (hence the picture above). Actually, he didn't hike but sprinted up, took two pictures, sprinted back down again and caught up with me when I wasn't even down all the way. The first thing we had to do when we came back to the van was change into dry clothes.

After this great experience I actually wanted to leave the Isle of Skye behind us but It was already late when we passed the Sligachan Campsite so it was better for us to stay there. Might be a great location for a campsite if the weather was good and I wasn't so pissed.

distance traveled today: 279 km
time on the road today: 5 hours 30 minutes

distance traveled total: 3431 km
time on the road total: 61 hours 30 minutes

Leg 12 - Sligachan-Glencoe - 2016-09-08

Disclaimer: Grumpy mode continues for the rest of the Isle of Skye.

Although the next day wasn't pouring rain it was still cloudy and far from friendy, so we stuck to our plan to leave the Isle of Skye. Our next destination was the Glenfinnan Viaduct so I thought why not take the shortest route which would include the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig - which, of course, we hadn't booked. So, when we arrived at the terminal at about 11:00 we were told that there weren't any free ferries until 15:00 and we would be quicker to just drive over the Skye Bridge although it was a lot more driving.

So we did just that and when we approached Eilan Donan Castle we spontaneously decided to visit that castle too. We liked it from the outside, but not so much from the insde. The whole interior of the "most romantic castle in Scotland" was rebuilt into a family home and they were exhibiting probably expensive and old objects and family photos.

We continued our journey in the rain and fog to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, or the Harry Potter railway bridge. We didn't want to visit the Glenfinnan Monument where we could park for free at a designated parking lot so we drove past the Visitor Center, across a small bridge over the River Finnan and just afterwards turned right into a small parking lot. Alternatively, there are also parking spaces in front of a church a bit further up the hill to the left. The fog and rain actually suited the viaduct.

Afterwards, we drove through Fort William (with a short stop at McDonald's) and spent the night at the Glencoe Camping and Caravanning Club Site. After a quick glance of the sun through the clouds it started raining again.

distance traveled today: 300 km
time on the road today: 5 hours

distance traveled total: 3731 km
time on the road total: 66 hours 30 minutes

Leg 13 - Glencoe-Glasgow - 2016-09-09

The original plan was to stay in Glencoe and/or Loch Lomond for a few days to go biking, hiking and just enjoy the nature but when it was still raining when we got up the next morning, we decided to just leave it at that and drive to Glasgow.

We made a detour to visit Inveraray Castle which was nice too, especially the garden - different but nice - and then continued towards Glasgow.

When we arrived in the evening it was raining again, but the two days after it was very sunny and beautiful, just the way the weather was until we started driving southward from Durness.

We got the last free pitch at the Red Deer Village Holiday Park in Stepps and spent two days exploring Glasgow. The location of the campsite is great since it is only a short walk to the train station and where we were able to get to Glasgow city center in just about 15 minutes.

distance traveled today: 205 km
time on the road today: 4 hours 15 minutes

distance traveled total: 3936 km
time on the road total: 70 hours 45 minutes

Leg 14 - Glasgow-Carlisle - 2016-09-12

The day started out a bit sad since we had to cross the Scottisch-English border again. But before we finally left we still had two more stops in Scotland ahead of us.

The first stop was Stirling Castle which we enjoyed but at that point we had already seen so many castles plus there were so many people which we just weren't used to any more after the solitude of the Scottish Highlands. Afterwards, we walked through the cute city of Stirling to find something to eat and then continue our way.

Next we stopped at Falkirk Wheel. It started to rain a bit but it wasn't too bad and we watched the wheel turn one time and then left Scotland for good (at least for this vacation ;-) ).

Remember when we chatted with the nice couple camping at Scott's View? They actually recommended Carlisle Castle for us to visit. That night we made it just across the border to Dalston Hall Holiday Park and Golf and while driving through Carlisle we passed Carlisle Castle and we just knew we had to visit that one too :-).

distance traveled today: 250 km
time on the road today: 3 hours 30 minutes

distance traveled total: 4186 km
time on the road total: 74 hours 15 minutes

Leg 15 - Carlisle-London - 2016-09-13

So naturally, the next day we visited Carlisle Castle and the cathedral and walked through the city center and we enjoyed it very much.

Since we had - again - spent three hours in and around the castle we left Carlisle as late as noon to continue our route through the whole of England. Spontaneously, we decided to go to London for a day and we actually made it a bit before 21:00 to Crystal Palace Caravan Club Site Where we stayed the night at the late arrivals pitch and checked in the next morning.

We spent a hot but beautiful day just strolling around London and in the evening stopped by at the Bag O Nails pub near Buckingham Palace.

distance traveled today: 520 km
time on the road today: 7 hours 40 minutes

distance traveled total: 4706 km
time on the road total: 81 hours 55 minutes

Stage 16 - London-Vienna - 2016-09-15

We left London at 10:30 for the Dover Ferry Port. We hadn't prebooked a passage but it was no problem getting on a ferry. We took a ferry leaving only half an hour after our arrival there at around 14:30.

When we departed we said goodbye to the White Cliffs of Dover and a few seagulls that were fed by one of the passangers on the ferry. During the 1.5 hour passage I managed to doze a bit on the deck in the sun.

We arrived at Dunkirk around 17:00 local time and didn't waste time to get back on the road. When we left France and Belgium behind us it got darker and darker and after the German border I started to search for a place we could stay for the night off the highway. I found a parking space near Cologne but when we were only half an hour away around 23:30 we decided to just drive as long as we could and not to stop for the night. We were in a driving-home-mood and this mood, a few cans of energy drinks and iced coffee helped us drive through the night with just toilet and refuelling breaks.

22.5 hours after we left London we arrived back home in Vienna at 9:00 o'clock on a Friday morning. Then it was only about getting the bikes off of Willi, taking a bit of the stuff with us and going to sleep :-) (I would like to say sleep in our own bed but no - sleep on the couch, in front of the TV :-D)

distance traveled today: 1499 km
time on the road today: 17 hours 15 minutes (incl. ferry)

distance traveled total: 6205 km
time on the road total: 99 hours 10 minutes