The big walk and much needed recovery!
Day 9: We woke early to bright blue sunny skies… The walk was on! We arrived in the car park @ 815 and followed the other early birds to the start of the path where we stopped to read the information board taking heed of the safety warnings. Still a little nervous we started the stop clock, we were off! The going on the first stretch of the path was relatively easy and we managed to walk at a decent pace for the first 45 mins or so, then the going got tough. The path disappeared and I found scrambling over rocks difficult. Warm and frustrated at the slow progress we were now making I considered turning back but after a small snack and some water I was ready to push on. We continued at a moderate pace taking a few breaks for water here and there before we reaching the zig zags which proved very difficult After an initial struggle Flo coped with the zig zags much better than us and many stops were needed. We eventually reached the snow field which was still surprisingly large, it was Flo’s first snow experience, so she enjoyed a cooling roll around before we made the final ascent. Cloud had started to descend to our right but the left was still fairly clear enabling us to see the shear drop ahead, but looking around it’s easy to see how so many people have had serious accidents here in bad weather. It was a relief to make it to the top and we sat catching our breath whilst eating our sandwiches before taking a few photos. It was an incredible feeling to know what we had achieved, but knowing the descent was going to be as difficult we were keen to get moving again to avoid stiffening muscles. As we passed the snow field the cloud started to drift and the views were incredible, my knees started to ache from the pressure but thankfully it was a lot easier aerobically! There were fewer stops on the journey back down and we completed the route in 6hours 45mins which we were both very happy with. Warm, smelly & achy we decided to push on with the drive to Ardnamurchan. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the drive west along Loch Eil, Loch Eilt and Loch Ailort was incredible. We reached our destination and parked in Kilchoan for the evening. Cold beers were opened and after a long hot shower we headed to the local hotel (http://www.kilchoanhotel.co.uk/) for a meal. The staff were friendly and were able to sit inside the bar area with Flo which was a relief as the midges were out in force! The home cooked food was delicious and just what we needed to aid the recovery process.
Day 10: I woke with incredibly achy legs! It was a genuine struggle to move! I think Flo was feeling the same way as she was still asleep at 9am having barely moved since we arrived back from the hotel the previous evening. A gentle coastal breeze meant there weren’t any midges around so we took the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely al fresco breakfast before driving to Adnamurchan lighthouse, the most westerly point of the UK. The views were amazing and we stretched our legs slightly before stopping for lunch in the Sonachan farmhouse (http://www.sonachan.com/#!kittiwakeskitchen/c1yrv). Local produce was a big feature on the menu and they even had a little farm shop opposite selling their organic vegetables. The afternoon was very warm and we sat on Sanna beach, which was basking in the sun, for a few hours. The beach was as beautiful as the hotel manager had described the previous evening with crystal clear water and brilliant white sand. You could easily have been in the Caribbean. We opted to catch an early evening ferry to Tobermory hoping to spend the flowing day exploring the Isle of Mull but it wasn’t to be. We drove to the only campsite in Tobermory but upon on arrival we discovered it was fully booked. A word of warning, this campsite is a few miles out of the town centre and there no walkable path! We drove back to the town centre where we headed to Macgochans in the harbour carpark to make use of their WIFI whilst having a swift drink. The other campsite on this side of the Isle was in Craigmure so after a brief a walk around Tobermory we got back in the van! The drive was lovely in the evening sun but to our dismay the only campsite here was also fully booked. Hoping to catch the kitchen of the nearby pub before it closed we dashed inside but everyone must have had the same thought. It was manically busy, they’d run out of lots of food and the only table available was outside where the midges were once again gathering. Back in the van again we drove back to Salen hoping to pick up some snacks from the local Spar but that was also closed so we couldn’t even get water for the overnight wild camp. Arriving at the Glenforsa hotel we were told dogs weren’t allowed despite the fact there was a Labrador running around causing havoc. Starving and with few supplies on board we took our chances with the midges and sat outside, however the breeze quickly dropped and the midges appeared in a large swarm. Both nervous after the walled garden incident Mr B quickly finished his poor burger & headed back to the safety of the van. A short drive back along the coast to Craigmure we discovered a parking spot overlooking the Sound of Mull where we watched the sun setting on another beautiful day. Thankfully Mr B had taken note of the ferry timings for the next day and we both vowed to wake up early to get back to the mainland. Our Isle of Mull experience had been disappointing to say the least.
Day 11: After a night of wild camping we woke very early, ready to catch the first ferry of the day to Oban. Luckily we had some brioche left to nibble on and there was cafe on board serving tea, I managed a little nap on the journey and woke feeling a little brighter when we arrived in Oban. The campsite was as short drive from the port and upon arrival we were met by the friendly owner who allowed us to check in early, such a difference in comparison to the surly managers the previous day. We chose a nice spot on the hill overlooking the mountains and we enjoyed a pot of tea and some toast in the morning sun before walking into Oban. The walk down a country lane was quiet but what awaited us was madness. We had expected Oban to be busier than many of the other places we had visited but we hadn’t fully prepared ourselves for urban life again after days of such remoteness. Flo was instantly scared by the ongoing building works and we were yet again dismayed to find that no pubs on the seafront were dog friendly. Cuan Mor was a huge disappointment, having read rave reviews we were both looking forward to some craft Scottish beers and good food but Flo wasn’t welcome so we moved on. On the north pier we liked the look of EE-USK but unfortunately we had hit prime lunch hour and they weren’t prepared for the crowds of people wanting to sit outside so we ended up in Piazza (http://www.piazzaoban.com/) where the pizza was ok, the pasta dishes looked far better. I stayed here reading with a settled Flo at my feet whilst Mr B headed to the distillery for a few tasters. He enjoyed the experience and came back clutching a bottle. The walk to the McCaig’s Tower via Jacobs steps was a struggle with aching legs but the view across to Mull was worth it. The sun was now very warm on and refreshments were required so we headed to the Lorne bar. I was hoping to enjoy some Scottish gin but there had been no delivery of citrus or ice so the thought wasn’t appealing and I ended up with a cider instead. The beer garden was a sun trap but we decided to move onto the Boat House hoping for a wider variety of drinks, however there seemed to be a conspiracy theory at play as the delivery here was also missing. We took a final walk around the piers to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything and came across a few nice looking restaurants but as expected unfortunately they weren’t dog friendly either. It had been a long few days and we decided to head back to the van with some supplies for an evening of recuperation.
Day 12: It was another lovely sunny morning, I was actually going to go home from Scotland with a tan! We left the site early hoping to reach Loch Lomond in time for a pre lunch walk however, our plans were scuppered by a road diversion. Thankfully we had stopped for a mid morning coffee & cake at a charming little cafe in a converted church. The flat whites were excellent as was the orange and almond polenta cake, as we were stuck on the detour for around 2 hours. We eventually reached Loch Lomond around 2pm and decided to travel up the east side to look for a walking and lunch stop, we passed some lovely spots but it was glorious day at the end of the half term break and everywhere was too busy to pull in with the campervan. The road narrowed and just as we thought we had run out of lunch options we came across the Rowardennan hotel (http://www.rowardennanhotel.co.uk/). The large garden leading onto the Loch was a perfect spot to stop for a quick bite to eat whilst we decided whether or not to stay the night in Loch Lomond. The decision was made for us when called a couple of campsites only to discover that they were fully booked so we decided to continue the journey south to Aberlady. This pretty little village on the golf coast was an ideal location for our last night in Scotland. We headed to the village pub (http://www.theoldaberladyinn.co.uk/) for dinner after a walk along the beach and stocked up on Scottish treats from the farm shop before starting the journey home the following morning.
Day 13: After an overnight stay in Aberlady we drove along the Northumberland coastal route to Bamburgh castle where we enjoyed a brisk walk across the beach. This was to be our last taste of fresh air before the long 8 hour drive to Peterborough.
With regret our Scottish adventure was over, we had enjoyed a fabulous fortnight exploring. Handing back the campervan was tinged with sadness, through the highs and lows of travelling it had been our home for the previous two weeks. We had covered a lot of ground, around 2,000 miles in total, and although I enjoyed the whole experience I would have say the beaches were my favourite. All of them have a different charm but all are beautiful, most have white sand and clear blue seas if only the weather could be as warm as the last few days all of the time. I would highly recommend this trip and I would love to return in future to explore some of the areas that we were unable to explore this time around. However, maybe next time I would take a slightly smaller campervan and I would definitely ensure that the gas was working!!
Mrs B xx