And the loveliest of them all

It was the morning after our long walk to Cullen and we were enjoying that first thing in the morning discussion of what time we would play golf, when we got a message. Our friends Biz and Melanie were only 3 miles away in Cullen. How’s that for a coincidence! Before long they were rolling up in Findochty, booked in to stay the night on the site and we were making plans to go to the pub for dinner. 

Findochty Harbour

We had an even bigger smile on our faces than usual as we trundled our trolleys up to the 9th tee that afternoon, having phoned the golf club to check that it was ok to begin our round at the half way point, the nearest to the campsite. Strathlene is a long links course so being able to start at the nearest point saves about two miles of walking and possibly more importantly the ducking and diving necessary to avoid the oncoming golfers. We were sun kissed and windswept by the end of 18 holes and in fine spirits. Dinner in the pub that night was a slightly riotous affair. Biz and Shirley are quite a double act with their funny anecdotes and ability to imitate each other’s accents. Melanie and I realised that we were the nearest thing to grown ups in the outfit but it didn’t stop us becoming helpless with laughter. The waitress coped with our nonsense admirably, the food was good and we rolled back to the van still laughing several hours later. 

The next morning our friends went on their way in the pouring rain and we battened down the hatches and settled in for a day of reading, playing games and taking the dogs out for quick comfort stops. Fortunately for us, the dogs don’t like walking in the rain so we can get away with short walks on wet days, making up for it on fine days with long walks. For those of you who have fitbits or other step counters we must do a little boast. On these trips where golf is added to our usual activity we average about 20k steps a day. Sadly the pub stops tend to offset the benefits but we’re having a lot of fun. 

So what can we say about Findochty – if we haven’t sold it to you already? You get a pitch right on the water’s edge in a sheltered cove. You can walk along the Moray coastal path and find other neat little villages where you can stop for refreshment. The campsite is quaint but comfortable and if you’re quick off the mark you can get a game of golf for free on the Strathlene course with the generously provided golf tickets from the owners. Only two pairs can play each day but we were fortunate enough to be there with only one other pair of golfers so we played on three days. The site was full or almost full the whole time we were there so if you want to visit you need to book in advance.

Findochty from the 8th

On Sunday we packed up our belongings, loaded the trailer and hitched up ready to cross Scotland to visit Arisaig and our ultimate favourite site in Scotland. Silversands site, a couple of miles outside the village of Arisaig is that wonderful mix of perfect position, a genuine welcome, simple but spotless facilities and views and an atmosphere that soothes the soul. It is so many people’s favourite that booking is essential so if you are planning a visit we would recommend that you don’t just turn up. Phone ahead … once you have seen the place you would be so disappointed not to be able to stay.

This wouldn’t be one of our trips if we didn’t make a rookie error and on this occasion we accepted Google Maps advice on which route to take across Scotland. We had discussed the route before and considered going up to Inverness and through the Great Glen on the north side of Loch Ness but Mr Google said we would be better going via Aviemore, Newtonmore and across the Cairngorms. It was a horrible drive. Raining, windy and on narrow roads where at least fifty percent of road users we met coming the other way didn’t seem to know that staying on the left side of the road is the wisest option. Endless twists and turns had us repeatedly meeting large vehicles in the middle of the road swinging round bends and causing us to brake, gasp, swear and sweat our way across country. We were mightily relieved to get to Fort William and tour gently through the last 22 miles towards Arisaig. Scotland is a larger country than the tilt of the BBC weather map would have you believe and it has narrower roads than much of the UK, so if you are visiting for the first time, allow yourselves a lot of time to get anywhere. Occasionally we meet people from North America who simply cannot believe how long it takes to get anywhere. One couple told us they were expecting to get from Edinburgh to Inverness in an hour and a half. For timings like that you need an aircraft. Slow down, you move too fast… Paul Simon knew a thing or two when he wrote that song.

And then we were here – in this truly exquisite corner of Scotland being warmly welcomed by Karen and shown to our pitch looking out over white beaches, crystal water and the islands of Eigg, Rhum and, in the distance, Skye. There isn’t much here in the way of shops, pubs or ready made entertainment but sitting watching the view can take up a big chunk of your day. For golfers there is Traigh Golf Course just across the road. I defy anyone to play that course without looking out over the sand and sea to the islands and saying ‘Wow!’. The clubhouse serves coffee, sweets and ice cream during the day and you can cycle or drive to Arisaig three miles away to find a Spar Shop, a restaurant and a lovely little café at the Boat Yard. Here at the harbour you can also get a ferry to Eigg if that’s your thing. We haven’t done that as the round trip with stay on the island takes seven hours and we can’t leave the dogs for that length of time but we have plans for another visit in a few weeks. Watch this space.

Over the sea to the Islands

It was only our second day when we booked our next visit in June. Somehow the full impact of this wonderful place had faded in the two years since we were here and so becoming reacquainted was an unexpected delight. It truly is a retreat from the full on place we call life. We chatted gently to our neighbours, finding that the lady next door lives only about 10 miles from us in the Scottish Borders – Hi Vivien if you are reading this! We cycled to the village, making short work of the hills now that we have electric power and then signed up for a Country Mermbership at the golf course. This is a significant saving if you plan to play more than six rounds in any year. 

Motorhomers – please respect this fragile environment.

Golf has become our go to activity on this trip but don’t be put off if it’s not your bag. Walkers love this area as you can make your way to numerous beautiful places along beaches and quiet roads. Others just sit quietly and watch the ever changing light play on the water and the occasional yacht scudding by out to sea. It is the end of May and we are far enough north to be going to bed in daylight. In another month it will only be dark for three hours a night. 

You can rent one of these pods – look at the beach

So – enough of the tourist thing. Time to talk about life on the road in an ageing but well loved motorhome. New to us on this trip is a Khyam Screenhub. It’s a replacement for an old Screenhouse that we had used and loved for several years. The Screenhub is heavier but has full windows and a groundsheet as a useful extra. It goes up quickly and gives a spacious and sheltered place to spread out when on a campsite. The putting up and collapsing of this tent is easy once you know how. There’s a video on Youtube h showing how to put it up if you like that kind of thing. 

The hub

Having completed the process we sat down with a large G&T and sent a photo to Adrian and Rachel to show off our tent pitching skills. Unfortunately communication skills are the first to go after I’ve consumed even half an inch of G&T so the ensuing WhatsApp exchange was verging on the filthy as predictive text tried to make sense of my garbled comments. I won’t repeat it verbatim here but it read like I was about to shoot Shirley (it chose gun not gin) and then engage in some very questionable sexual activity. Adrian responded with emojis that expressed his revulsion – clearly this is not the sort of message your kids want to receive. Rachel urged Shirley to run for her life and sent a gif of Tom Hanks running in Forrest Gump. We were helpless laughing by the end of it.

G & T?

Living in close proximity in a motorhome we are often amazed at how much we discover about one another that might be missed at home. The other day I was sitting reading quietly when I noticed Shirley doing some strange arm movements with twitches and finger clicks thrown in. I was alarmed at first, thinking she was having a seizure but reassured when she glanced up, clocked my confused expression and giggled nervously. “i’ve got a song in my head and I was dancing” she explained. “What was the song?” I asked. “The Unicorn Song” she replied. Then we laughed til we cried.

There is a big connection between the two places we have visited on this trip and it’s the well loved film Local Hero. The village scenes were filmed in Pennan on the same coast as Findochty and the beach scenes were filmed just up the road from here at Camusdarach beach – known in the film as Ben’s beach. If you haven’t seen the film we can recommend it and once you’ve watched it come and see for yourselves. Go on, you know you want to.

Shirley’s Bit

Shirley is as brown as a berry

My mum loved poetry “as long as it rhymed!” and she liked Scots poetry most. We’ve seen a lot of broom and gorse in full bright yellow bloom on this trip and it reminded me of one of Mum’s favourite poems – “Yellow on the Broom”.

It’s a sad poem but it gives a voice to those who are often ignored or looked down upon. In this age of austerity where families have been pushed to their limits and beyond, it gives an insight into the way many have struggled over the years, doing what they could to make ends meet. I hope it speaks to you too.

Broom in full glow

Yellow on the Broom

I ken ye dinna like it lass tae winter here in toon
For the scaldies aye miscry us and they try tae bring us doon
It’s hard tae raise three bairnies in a single flea box room
But I’ll tak ye on the road again when yellow’s on the broom 

When yellow’s on the broom, when yellow’s on the broom
I’ll tak ye on the road again when yellow’s on the broom

The scaldies cry us tinker dirt and they sconce oor weans at school
But who cares whit a scaldy thinks for a scaldy’s just a fool
They never hear the yorlan’s sang nor see the flax in bloom
For they’re aye cooped up in hooses when yellow’s on the broom

When yellow’s on the broom, when yellow’s on the broom
They’re aye cooped up in hooses when yellow’s on the broom

Nae sale for pegs nor baskets noo, sae just tae stay alive
We have tae work at scaldy jobs frae nine o’clock tae five
But we ca nae man oor maister for we own the world’s room
And we’ll bid fareweel tae Brechin when yellow’s on the broom

When yellow’s on the broom, when yellow’s on the broom
And we’ll bid fareweel tae Brechin when yellow’s on the broom 

I’m weary for the springtime when we tak the road aince mair
Tae the plantin and the pearlin and the berry fields o Blair
We’ll meet up wi oor kin folk frae a’ the country roond
When the gang-aboot folk tak the road and yellow’s on the broom

When yellow’s on the broom, when yellow’s on the broom
When the gang-aboot folk tak the road and yellow’s on the broom

When yellow’s on the broom, when yellow’s on the broom
I’ll tak ye on the road again when yellow’s on the broom.

written by Scots gypsy-traveller Betsy Whyte


8 thoughts on “And the loveliest of them all

  1. 😂😂😂 now I’ve got that song stuck in my head. 😂😂😂green alligators, and long necked geese some humpy backed camels and some chimpanzees, some cats and rats and elephants and bulls with horns but the loveliest of all was the unicorn. 😂😂😂😂😂enjoy your holiday. Both of you x

  2. Hi to you both – David was only asking last week if I’d read any blogs from you lately!
    Arisaig is one of our favourite places – we know it more from the water having moored a boat for a season at the Marina and generally trying to visit on our summer cruises.
    We are just back from a 2 week trip in the caravan – the first ‘proper’ one where we spent a week at Loch Creran getting our boat ready for launch and then a week at Chainbridge in Northumberland with my brother.

    We are now getting ready for 4 weeks away – Stirling, Port Appin, Mull, Stirling – and Home at the end of June. One day we will say ‘I recognise those dogs, people and motorhome’ when our paths cross again.

    Great to see you both looking so well

    Dave, Jude and Linnhe x

  3. That does look fabulous, I must get to Arisaig in the van. Been there a couple of times years ago on ‘boring’ holidays {giggle}.

    I love how you can meet people on campsites. Last week I got chatting to a chap whilst washing up and it turned out he was friends with the lady who lives 3 doors from me . . .

  4. Loved reading your account of your travels again. I’m with your mum Shirley, I love poetry that rhymes too. Thanks for sharing that one. Warm greetings from Ibiza xx

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