We have a joke in our house about ‘ailment hour’ when we allow ourselves to discuss our growing list of medical challenges and then stop when time is up. The stopping bit is quite an issue, hence it turning into a joke. I’m not going to bore you with the details but suffice to say that Poppy wins the competition by having surgery to remove 15 teeth. She can’t join in ailment hour and rarely complains when in pain but she was properly miserable after coming around from the anaesthetic. We’re glad to report that she is back to normal now, in fact she is noticeably brighter. The thing we have to accept is that we’re all getting older. It’s not easy is it?

They say that having a classic Hymer is like owning a stately home – there’s always something that needs fixing. Heidi has been in for her annual health check and MOT and she continues to keep us on our toes with various small jobs that need doing. It seems inevitable and we knew what to expect, although to be honest we sometimes wish we could afford a younger model. Fortunately those desires never extend to the living, breathing members of the household.

The impact of the various challenges of dealing with my medical issues is that long trips are not an option for us these days. Our travelling life is now going to be filled with shorter trips in the UK. It took us a while to come to terms with this change as our long slow meanders through Europe have been such a joy and given us so many wonderful memories. Finally, when a late but very welcome spring appeared, we began to see the possibilities of new adventures in places we have previously driven past on our way either to the channel or the Highlands. But before that we had to cope with a long wet winter.

Wallowing in Winter

We tried all kinds of ways of getting a few days away from home over the winter months. In October we booked a short stay in a ‘lodge’, aka upmarket static caravan, with hot tub for 3 nights. It rained constantly, the wind was ferocious and we managed just one hour in the hot tub due to the dangerous weather conditions. The site we were on had a golf course but the golf clubs stayed shivering in the car for the whole time. The trip was a true learning experience. We had occasionally played with the idea of getting a static caravan when touring becomes too difficult. This is what we discovered: a) static ‘lodges’ are fearfully expensive to buy b) the site fees are shockingly costly and c) our lovely old Hymer is far, far better built than these vans. Finally, we left on the third day because the bed was uncomfortable. Any thought of changing to the static holiday lifestyle promptly left us and we apologised to Heidi for our doubts about her future.

Second trip of the winter was more of an escape than a holiday. We were having some decorating done and rather than mixing a hairy, over friendly cockapoo with white paint we escaped to Beecraigs caravan park in November.

We parked in splendid isolation at Beecraigs

We managed to hit on one of the only weeks of the winter that wasn’t raining. Sadly it was well below freezing and walks with Poppy in the forest became an exercise in staying upright. Walking like a penguin is the advice on offer but no-one tells you that doing that for any length of time gives you pains and aches in various parts of the body, some of which you didn’t know existed. It was of course very nearly the darkest time of the year in Scotland and on those long winter evenings we discovered how dependent we have become on access to the internet. There is virtually no mobile signal in the park and we suffered the agony of thinking of things we wanted to look up and then trying to remember them the next day when hiding in the site coffee shop. There were so many things we would have liked to know but we still don’t remember what they were. One highlight of this trip was son Chris coming to visit, taking us out for a meal and bringing us heated blankets. Another was meeting our friends, Mary and Jacqui for lunch, and laughing a lot. The final treat was breakfast in the warm and welcoming onsite café, enjoying freshly made bacon rolls and free wifi. Clearly this trip was all about food and keeping warm.

Beecraigs winter sunset

In January, for my birthday treat, we sampled the delights of Crieff Hydro where we rented a cute little lodge and had access to the many fun things that the hotel has to offer. We enjoyed a morning in the victorian spa, numerous games of pool, good walks and several visits to the gorgeous Winter garden coffee shop. A final treat was a beautiful birthday meal in the restaurant.

Spot the deer roaming in the nearby woodland

If you are considering this as a holiday destination it is only fair to warn you about the small Ben lodges. They are built in the style of Swiss chalets with a high pointed roof. Each one has a cosy log burner and a very well equipped kitchen. Soon we discovered two disadvantages of this style of lodge. The high pointed roof means steeply sloping ceilings in the bedrooms. Super comfy beds are provided with excellent quality of linen but the shape of the room makes sitting up in bed impossible. Your head is under the lowest part of the slope and we banged our skulls numerous times getting in and out. The second disadvantage is that the bathroom is on the ground floor and if you need to use the loo in the night you have to negotiate a steep staircase. We noted that other chalet styles are available for future reference.

Ben chalet Crieff Hydro

Despite the bruised bonces we had a lovely time. So much so that we looked online to see what the prices would be like in better weather. Ouch!!

Victorian Spa bath Crieff Hudro

Then came Spring

The arrival of spring brought warmer rain and some sunny days. The solemn BBC weather person kept warning that it was unseasonably cool and we agreed somewhat sardonically that anyone who goes outside should already be aware of this. Not to be put off, we highlighted 5 days with no medical check ups and got Heidi ready for her spring outing. The planning was complicated by our desire to get some sunshine. We kept checking the weather forecast and changing our minds about where to go. First we considered Fife. We had a great time there last spring and we knew we could play some golf without travelling too far. Forecast – constant rain and wind. What about Northumberland? Shirley could get some fly fishing and we could play golf too. Forecast – much like Fife but windier. Finally we realised that the west coast of Scotland was getting the best weather in the UK. Result!

Dumfries and Galloway is a short trip across country from where we live and has many beautiful places to visit. We had five days available and set off for the area close to Dumfries on the Solway Firth.

Many parts of the UK are realising the advantage of encouraging motorhomers to visit. Caravan sites are often not what motorhomers want. Being fully self contained and self sufficient means that a place to park and replenish the water tanks is all that is needed. Caravan sites offer all kinds of facilities like showers, toilets and plug in to the mains but with a van properly set up with solar power and onboard water tanks and toilets these facilities aren’t necessary. European type “aires” designed for motorhomes are popping up around the UK and Scotland seems to be leading the way.

We began our four night trip with two nights at Glencaple aire overlooking the Solway Firth. Here you can park facing the water and enjoy magnificent sunsets whilst watching flocks of Barnacle Geese flying in at dusk to feed off plants and grasses. These rare birds return annually to Solway from the arctic.

Glencaple pier sunset over the Solway Firth

Next to the aire there is a lovely restaurant and coffee shop. We enjoyed breakfast there one morning and vowed to return. Parking cost at Glencaple is £10 per night. There are only 5 parking spaces so if you plan to visit, arrive in good time.

We love the freedom that motorhome touring gives, especially when you can change your mind on a whim. On the second day we drove to Dumfries, parked in a lorry park to go to one of the nearby supermarkets and then moved onto Crichton Golf Club where we got a warm welcome, assistance in parking the van out of the way of flying golf balls and 9 holes of golf in the sunshine. This was our first game since last September and 9 holes was plenty. After stocking up on ice creams at Lidl in Dumfries we returned to Glencaple and relaxed again. It’s amazing how restful it is to stare at water and then at the sun slipping down over the horizon, especially with an ice cream in your hand.

Crichton Golf Course in Dumfries

There are no waste services at Glencaple pier but just 3 miles along the road there is a motorhome parking area that provides everything you need to refresh the tanks. Tucked in the grounds of Caerlaverock Castle Estate there is a circle of three neatly prepared parking spots with bird tables and picnic benches at each one. In fact there is plenty of room and on the second night we were joined by five more vans from different countries in Europe. Once again we put £10 per night in the honesty box for the use of this beautiful place including services. Shirley aka The People’s friend, struck up a conversation with the man who came to empty the box each evening. All proceeds go to the local community and he told us that they are able to support their own private lifeboat amongst many other things. The community is delighted and so are the motorhomers.

We enjoyed long walks and some bird watching in the extensive grounds. For the first time we saw a woodpecker in full pecking action… we’ve heard them frequently in the woods near our apartment yet never seen one in real life. Apparently they are shy birds. We couldn’t believe how comical he was with his whole body quivering as he gave that tree a proper hammering. We took the long walk to the castle one afternoon, mostly because it advertised a tea room. Sadly we were offered a tea in a take away cup and a piece of millionaire’s shortbread wrapped in cellophane to take outside and eat at a picnic table. Not quite what we dreamed of but the surroundings and the sunshine made it feel special.

Dumfries & Galloway we love you

We were so thrilled with our discovery of D&G as a perfect place for motorhomers that we were soon off again to explore some more. This time we discovered even more gorgeous places to stay but on the downside we also found that many of the roads are appallingly pot holed. Sadly this is the case in much of the UK but the rural nature of this part of Scotland means that it is in danger of being the land that tarmac forgot. It was so bad in places that my Fitbit registered 7000 steps when I drove from Kirkudbright to Dumfries, presumably because the van was bouncing and rattling so much.

Our first night was spent at the free parking at Sweetheart Abbey. The setting and village of New Abbey is beautiful but the Abbey itself was closed to visitors whilst checks are made on the stonework at the top of the ruins. We believe this is because a gargoyle fell off Melrose Abbey a few years ago, causing great alarm to the Health & Safety team and now many abbeys in the care of Historic Scotland seem to be closed to the public. Easily amused I began mentally designing a sign saying “Danger! Flying Gargoyles” This has just reminded me of a man we met on the bus a few weeks ago who was a real history buff. He talked at length about Hysterical Scotland without a hint of humour. We spent a quiet night in the grounds of the Abbey before heading further into the county to Kirkcudbright (pr. Kirk oo bry).

Kirkcudbright has embraced the concept of welcoming motorhomers and built a small Aire next to the Swimming Pool. Electricity, water and waste facilities and three beautiful flat large pitches are provided for £15 per night. All proceeds go to the Swimming Pool to keep it open and we also noticed a Swimming Pool charity shop in the town. This is the answer to keeping facilities open when the council can no longer afford to keep them going. Sitting outside in the sun we had a beautiful view of the Kirkcudbright Bay Estuary plus the added delight of mugs of coffee and yummy cakes to celebrate Sunday Bunday. You can have a shower in the swimming pool for £2 and we can reassure anyone thinking of it that it’s a proper shower in a cubicle, not the kind where you stand in your swimmies trying not to look at the other users. I have to confess that the only reason we needed to do that was because we forgot to fill up the water tanks before we settled in and were too tired to shift the old bird off her pitch to get to the hose. Before leaving we had to do some complex manoeuvring to get over the waste water dump and then over to the fresh water hose, mostly because we are 8m long and have 6 wheels. Heidi was built for comfort not nifty shifting.

Kirkcudbright Harbour

From Kirkcudbright we moved on to Luce Bay and the tiny village of Monreith. Here there is a free carpark tucked in behind St Medan golf course and beside the beach. Motorhomes are permitted to overnight here as long as they leave the place as they found it. “Leave only footprints in the sand and take only memories” This is a little piece of heaven, especially for golfers and lovers of the seaside. When we arrived we had the place to ourselves. Poppy could hardly believe her eyes when we opened the van door and allowed her to wander freely outside. She doesn’t roam far without us these days and was quite content to sniff, find an old chocolate wrapper and lie down to smell, lick and admire it for hours.

Wow! A beach all to myself

We had a wonderful couple of days in this hidden spot, enjoying two games of golf on the surprisingly challenging course, chatting to local golfers and looking out over the water. Two other vans joined us but there was plenty of room.

Perfect pitch by the sea

Both days and nights were very warm and there were spectacular sunsets.

Tis is Scotland however and the next morning we heard the patter of raindrops on the roof and decided it was time to move on in the direction of home

After another night in Kirkcudbright, this time in the community campsite, we headed home. Little did we know that the short bursts of rain we had taken as a sign that it was time to go home were only an echo of what was happening in the Borders. Torrential rain storms and flood warnings had left the whole area drenched. Maybe we should have stayed where we were.

Dumfries and Galloway, warmed by the Gulf Stream and with its own microclimate, offers the best of welcomes … definitely worth a visit if you are heading to Scotland.

The rolling hills of Perthshire in winter - beautiful

29 thoughts on “Going Local

  1. Love reading your highs and lows (well, cold) trips.
    We loved our Dunfries and Galloway trip.
    Just add salt to the wound, we had 38 yesterday and 37 today. Several south of England friends reported they’d had their heating on!

    1. Hi K & J, Great to hear from you! 38 deg. sounds too hot for us. We’ve become acclimatised to Scotland! x x x

  2. So lovely to hear from you.
    Can’t recall if I told you of recent changes but having sold our sea boat in 2022 we bought another small Motorhome and spent May 2023 on the Outer Hebrides but Dave’s walking ability continues to be a problem so the Motorhome went – but we still have the touring van!!
    Next adventure was to buy another boat which we keep on Bute. Plan was to sail round Ireland with our friends so we decided our new (to us) boat needed a new engine! unfortunately delays with the fitting meant we are too far behind to sail across so I am currently sitting in our caravan on New England Bay Caravan site – overlooking Luce Bay – before catching the ferry to Ireland tomorrow for a month in our caravan!
    Having had my top teeth removed and implants over the last 12 months I feel for Poppie!
    Linnhe is now 8 and a half and our Pattapoo is coming up 4.
    Love to you both – as we drove past the Solway Coast yesterday we reminisced about how nice it was to meet you at Solway View (when Poppie ran away!)

    Take care

    Judy and Dave

    1. Hi Judy, We thought of you both as we passed Solway View too! Isn’t it great how we make connections with like minded people on our travels? We haven’t done Ireland yet. Hope you have a great time. Let us know how you get on. x x

  3. Lovely to hear you are out & about enjoying yourselves. I have been restricted to home following a partial knee replacement. In fact I have not driven my van since last autumn because of the pain of braking and accerlorating.It’s a good thing Shaughan has been looking after me and excercising the van when required. He’s also a good cook so I have had great food too! I am hoping to get back to it in time for our month in France in September, can’t wait to get back to the van.

    1. Hi Catherine, It’s really challenging to have the van and not be able to use it. I whimper when we walk past ours when we can’t get away. Hope all goes well for your recovery and that your trip works out. x x

  4. This arrived at just the right time. Lovely to hear that you are getting out and about.
    Thanks for the ideas for our imminent Scottish trip

  5. Very good to read this.
    So, I was sitting in heavy Sarasota traffic the other day, with a white pickup truck in the lane to my left. I glanced over and noticed, “Flying Scotsman” on the side, announcing skills in painting, flooring, and other handy jobs. A serendipity! So, I called them to tell them that our lanai needs new flooring.”What caused you to call us?” “Well, it was a sign. We enjoyed our time in Scotland so much, I had to call.” “Sounds like a sign to me (with a very thick brogue).” So, we’ll be meeting them in a few days. 🙂 Take care of yourselves – and Poppy. Very sorry to hear of the teeth issue. Jim has new partials – which he constantly forgets when we go out.

    1. Hi Darlene, I had to look up ‘lanai’. For obvious reasons they are rare in Scotland. Hope your Scotsman does the job well for you. x x

  6. Brilliant to see a new post from you.

    I’ve been wondering how you all are. Am a big fan of D&G (apart from the atrocious state of the A75) so please don’t tell everyone how lovely and quiet it is 😊.

    1. Hi Beth, I have to admit that I thought twice about sharing our quiet corners! It is such a beautiful area and often gets driven past in favour of the more well known parts of Scotland. Thanks for your good wishes, x x

  7. So good to read of your adventures. Loved D&G when we were there a few years back. We even saw a guy in his budgie smugglers taken a night time dip at Glencaple – it was pitch black !!
    You will be pleased to know that the ‘ladies’ group you initiated all those years ago is still about and meet ups still happen👍
    Love to you both and ‘keep on truckin’ x

    1. Hi Carol, Great to hear that you are still meeting up. We have very fond memories of our get together. x x

  8. As always, enjoyed reading this and glad you are getting out and about. My partner is from Stranraer and we lived in Lochfoot, between Dumfries and Castle Douglas, for a couple of years. We consider moving back when we retire. Friday group is still on, back at Tweedbank, coffee after at the college. Would love to see you. Xx

    1. Hi Susan, We hope to be back on Fridays now and again. It seems to be a popular day for appointments. x x

  9. So glad that use r out and about again. I love reading about ur adventures in ur van. Stay safe ladies and I can’t wait to hear what use get
    Up to next x

  10. Love D&G did a run in May hugging the coast line up to Culzaen then down past Multiverse Dumfries then home to Durham was very warm.

  11. Glad you managed a few days away. Like you we own a “Classic Van” i,e, over 23 years old and dread MOT and annual service but saying that we’ve just returned from a 3270 mile trip through France and Spain. Also like you we now find that longer trips are getting beyond us, so D & G sounds great. Thanks.

    1. Hi David! Great to hear from you. The only thing about shorter trips is that getting ready and packing the van seems to be the same whether it’s for 3 months or 3 weeks. We’re loving exploring some of the places near home. D & G is really lovely. Hope you get to visit is before too long. … and yes the pre MOT worries are very real. M x

  12. Hi Margaret and Shirley,
    Great hearing your tales again, the areas you’ve mentioned are beautiful, we’ve missed getting out and about ourselves, but we’re heading out as got another campervan, which has had concerns we hope we’ve sorted. So it’s a matter of north or south, east or west. The weather though is quite
    daunting. But hopefully will brighten. Great hearing your stories, and enjoying them too. Glad you’re both doing well.
    Sandy

    1. Hi Sandy, It makes such a difference to get a change of scene and the feeling of freedom motorhoming brings. Hope you enjoy your van. x x

  13. Hi you two. Glad to see you’re getting out and about in-between your appointments. I keep meaning to get back up to Scotland but there’s just not enough time to fit in everywhere I want to visit!
    As Carol said there’s quite a few of us from your ladies group who see each other quite regularly. So glad you arranged that meet! Hope to catch up with you two as well sometime. X

    1. Hi Wendy, It’s good to know the girls are still getting together. Hope to see you sometime on our travels. x x

  14. Hi Margaret, just love your stories of your travels. My wife Paula is from Kirkcudbright and we plan to retire there. It’s a beautiful area.

    1. Hi Marek, Glad to hear that you are still following us. We can see the appeal of retiring to Kirkcudbright. It’ll be a while yet though?? x x

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