We have been home for eleven weeks – not that we’re counting. It’s been great to be back and yet, inevitably I guess, there has been a bit of restlessness about. Life in a house is so completely different to life on the road and we’ve discovered that our year away hasn’t cured the travel bug, it just made us want more of it. So to ease our hankering for wandering we’ve had four short trips to some of our favourite places in Scotland and thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.
Within three weeks of coming home we headed north to Killin and the Maragowan Caravan and Motorhome Club site close to Loch Tay. This is one of our all time favourite haunts and once again it didn’t disappoint … unless of course you count the snow storm that swept through on one of the days. That was a shock after seven months in southern Europe. We had some beautiful walks along the banks of the loch and a substantial dinner in the pub across the road from the site. We gave into the scone addiction that seems to have us in its grip on two of the four days we were there and we played a lot of games.
Sitting together all cosied up in the van we discussed, not for the first time, the possibility of downsizing the house and buying a bigger and more comfortable motorhome. It makes little financial sense as houses go up in value and motorhomes go down but then we are frequently reminded that life is often shorter than we imagine and we plan to live ours to the full.
Whilst parked up at Maragowan I was somewhat surprised to see Shirley returning from the washing up room with a strange man and disappearing with him into his caravan. I wondered if I should go and check that she was ok and hadn’t been lured in by the promised of seeing his puppies. As it turned out she was admiring his brand new, top of the range, caravan. We used to be caravanners and have never regretted making the change to the motorhoming life but for a couple of hours afterwards, Shirley waxed lyrical about the size and space they had. Quite incredibly, when she’d got all enthusiastic about their beautiful full width bathroom they had said , “We never use it. We always use the site facilities.”
We had only been home about twenty four hours when we saw an offer of a spa day at the lovely Forest Hills resort hotel near Aberfoyle. £39 each for a massage, facial and full use of the spa facilities. Without any hesitation we booked in at Cobleland, a Camping in the Forest site for the following week and arranged our pampering day. Cobleland is a beautiful, simple site, close to the River Forth and with numerous walks through the forest available for two small dogs and their companions to wander along. The facilities are quite ordinary but they are clean and spacious with plenty of hot water and more toilets than you could shake a stick at (see what I did there?). We took the motorhome offsite to get to the hotel and parked up in a shady spot while we swam in the deserted pool, steamed in the steam room and lounged in the relaxation room before receiving our massage and facial. We left feeling so chilled that we couldn’t be bothered to cook dinner so we ate in Liz McGregor’s, one of the many delightful cafés in Aberfoyle. Portion sizes, as is common in this part of the world, were designed for big hairy hill walkers so we returned the van to its pitch at Cobleland and lay in a full to bursting heap on our reclining chairs outside on our spacious pitch.
Our route to Cobleland had been via Stirling and Port of Menteith, where you will find the only lake in Scotland – the rest being lochs of course. We decided when it was time to come home that we couldn’t face this route again because of the miles of narrow roads, the distinct lack of tarmac and the inevitable oncoming buses and logging lorries, so we returned via the longer but wider A81. This road brings you into Stirling a couple of miles from Dobbies. Why would I mention this? Because we have internal scone sensors and Dobbies do great scones. We detoured, ate our fill of scones and returned home content.
In the midst of these small tours we were grappling with the puzzle of the replacement washbasin. Motorhome washbasins are made of plastic and they quickly become stained and weakened by certain soaps and mouthwash. Ours was in a bad way so we ordered a replacement from Derek Justice – a man who can. He makes a replacement washbasin from GRP using the original basin as a mould. The price is considerably less than the manufacturers replacement and his work is excellent. Our problem was that the basin was held in place by wing nuts and bolts. The wing nuts wouldn’t turn because the wings were too close to the cabinet they were set in. After scratching our heads for a bit we realised that the unit holding the basin must have been fitted to the wall of the van after the original basin was put in. A design oops if ever I saw one. Chris, youngest son and patient recipient of all requests for fixing things we can’t manage, looked at it and scratched his noggin. He then pronounced that the only way to get the thing out was to cut the nuts. This sounds painful and the reality was, according to Chris. In the meantime Derek of GRP fame got in touch to say that someone had brought in an identical basin and he could make us a new one using that as the mould. That gave Chris a bit of breathing space for removing the old one but the horrible job still had to be done. Eventually, with a little maternal nagging, he folded himself into the small space available to get at the offending article and cut it free. It took a long time and used up a lot of his stock of swear words but he managed in the end. We now have a sparkling basin and a whole new vocabulary of dirty words.
Trip three was to Melrose and the club site that is perfectly positioned right in the centre of the town. This is yet another of our favourites, not least because we have friends who live there so we can meet up, socialise and have only a short distance to stagger back to the van afterwards. The other highlight of Melrose is the beautiful walks along the banks of the Tweed only a short walk from the very centre of the town. Spending time here always gets us thinking about whether the Scottish Borders would be a good place to move to when and if we downsize. This set off another round of ‘will we, won’t we?’. We might still be talking about this when we’re eighty.
After a few days at home we were off again to Arisaig, a tiny and beautiful place on the north west coast of Scotland. Here there is probably our favourite campsite in the whole world. Silver Sands Campsite is run by a delightful couple, John and Karen, who make everyone welcome, provide good facilities and give you the opportunity to sit for hours looking out over white sand and blue sea to the islands of Rum, Eigg and Muck with a tantalising distant view of the Cuillins on Skye. We met up, as planned, with Katherine and James, our good pals and fellow motorhomers. They were there waiting for us with their dog Oscar and a welcome cup of tea. Much good food, healthy walks, silly games and wine were our companions for this three night event. Shirley and James played golf on the fantastic Traigh Golf Course and came back as brown as berries. I couldn’t play this time because I’ve got tennis elbow and it’s too painful to swing a club. I did however enjoy the game vicariously by looking through our monocular and sighing sadly.
I’m not good with alcohol – I get tipsy alarmingly quickly and have a hangover before the others have finished their second glass. The unfortunate result on this occasion was sudden onset clumsiness that resulted in glasses of wine being knocked over, not once but twice, all over K & J’s table and Shirley. Shirley was encouraged to strip off her T shirt and put on one of K’s fleeces while her T shirt was put into soak and James crawled under the table with embarrassment to join Oscar who was hiding for fear of a soaking. They were kind and patient and I made a mental note not to drink so much again when in a confined space. Katherine and James’ blog gives a different version of events that includes Shirley dancing on the table.
We left Silver Sands on Thursday because we had an important event to return home for. On Friday Shirley and I slipped quietly off to the Registry Office to upgrade our Civil Partnership to marriage. This is a simple paper exercise that requires no witnesses or fuss as we did the big commitment eleven years ago to the day. After signing the papers we set off into Edinburgh for a beautiful meal and cocktails. How happy are we?