We first holidayed in Scotland a couple of years ago, when we spent a couple of weeks travelling on the West Coast of Scotland, primarily on the isles of Sky and Mull. We fell in love with the country during those two weeks and vowed that we’d come back and spend more time here. That’s the reason the first few months of our big adventure is being spent up here.
Since we started our big adventure, we’ve now been back in Scotland for two weeks, and already our love affair has been rekindled. This is such a beautiful country, it seems around every corner there’s something new and awe inspiring to
see. If you’re a lover of the outdoors, I don’t think it would ever be possible to get bored with this place.
We first hit the east coast of Scotland just above Dundee after a couple of long days driving up through England and by passing the urban areas around Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Our first stopover – and one of our favourite stopovers of the journey so far – was in St Cyrus, a small village perched in the hills overlooking the North Sea. Our stop was a tiny little parking space big enough for two vehicles, about 200 feet up, with views over the sand dunes, the golden beach and the crystal blue sea that was almost as smooth as a lake that night. We had footpaths that took us down a steep track down onto the gorse filled dunes where there was so much birdlife we didn’t know where to look next. When we weren’t watching the birds, we were on “dolphin watch”, our eyes glued to the water looking for the signs of the dolphin that inhabit these waters. We didn’t see any that day, and two weeks into our trip we’re disappointed still not to have seen any.
Moving North, we headed up to Port Errol in Crudon Bay, where we parked on the harbour side with the sea immediately below us. We hadn’t anticipated being able to stay on the quay sides quite like this, but most of the harbours seem to allow you to park on the harbour walls which means we always get good views of the sea. The other advantage of parking up in the harbour is that there’s generally a pub very close by. It was nice to go for a beer, however the selection of beers was pretty disappointing, just draft rubbish like (IMHO) McCewans and Tenannts – no real ale in sight! It’s been a struggle to find any decent beer since. Phil also took the opportunity to have a fish from the harbour wall but he drew a blank that night, and every other time he’s fished so far!
Aberdour Bay was our next stop, a beach car park in the middle of nowhere, it was lovely having the place to ourselves. We didn’t see another soul other than a couple of cars driving into the car park in the evening, seeing us and driving away again – think we may have spoilt their fun ! There’s a big campaign that Sky TV are running right now about plastics in the sea. Walking along the beachside it was easy to see the problem, the high tide line was strewn with plastic bottles and debris. We made a decision that night that whenever we stopped at a beach location we’d take a sack with us and do our bit to remove the shoreline of plastic rubbish.
We pulled into Portsay Harbour mid-day on Saturday 18th March; the local skiff racing team were giving tryouts to potential new members….yep, they have an over 50’s team! Phil was easily persuaded to get into the skiff and have a little row around the harbour with a bunch other beginners – a few crabs were caught on the way round. This energetic activity deserved a beer, and we spent the rest of the evening in the quayside pub watching the England Ireland rugby international. Never realised there were so many Irish people in Scotland – every person in the pub other than us we’re supporting the green shirts.
We moved northwards via Lossiemouth, a quaint little town where Carol sampled her first Ice Cream of the trip, there’s lots more to come! With 40mph winds forecast we gave up our coastal view and parked up nearer the town centre where we had more shelter. We should have learned the sense in this move – four days later on Orkney we parked on an exposed headland, the Burgh of Birsay, where highish winds were also forecast. We woke at 3 in the morning feeling like the van was going to be blown into the sea…we had a dash in the dark to find shelter from the howling gale. There were some student campers also on the headland, they must have spent the night hanging onto their tents for dear life.
Our travels up the last part the very North East Scottish coastline was fairly uneventful, more of the same beautiful towns, coastline and awesome stopovers, and more of the same dodgy beer. The only thing of note was waking up on Tuesday morning to a white world – it had snowed overnight and the woods we were staying in looked pretty amazing with its white overcoat.
John o’Groats was high on our list of places to visit on our travels, “Lands End” equivalent of the North, and all in all we were pretty disappointed. Not really sure what we expecting, there’s obviously the hype of it being the northerly end of the longest distance between two points in the UK, but other than having a great signpost for taking a selfie, we were a bit underwhelmed. We didn’t stay long.
So that’s taken us up to the top North East corner of Scotland….next stop, the ferry and across to Orkney!