Greetings Blog Watchers!
It’s been a month since you’ve heard from us and as we promised to let you know about our return to the UK and decisions about the future we’re back with news to share.
We landed back in the UK on the 25th of April in Newhaven after a stomach-churning crossing from Dieppe. As soon as we got on the ferry, the Captain informed us that it was going to be rough and he wasn’t wrong. We were green on arrival at the ferry port and it was cold and raining so we were relieved to drive just a short distance and to pull in behind the terminal building for the night. This is one of the reasons we like this crossing – they don’t mind you staying overnight either after the evening crossing from France or before the morning crossing from the UK. For the first time, our two little dogs were a bit traumatised by the crossing and sat close to us quivering for a while after we pulled up and battened down the hatches. It must have been very rough down on the vehicle decks and no doubt noisy as well.
The next morning we set off towards Devizes where we were to spend two nights and visit my sister and her husband and family. The CCC site at Devizes is a few miles outside the town in a lovely spot beside the canal and right next door to a great country pub where we had a meal together on the first night. We can recommend it as a restful stopover and really interesting if you like wandering canal banks and looking at the variety of boats. Despite the shock of the cold wet weather, we had a great time and two days passed far too quickly before it was time to leave and head north.
Touring in the UK is a lot more expensive than in Europe and we knew that we would be living in the motorhome for a couple of months and staying on campsites most of the time once we got back to Scotland. Being a combination of Scottish and Yorkshire made us feel slightly squeamish at this thought, so we set ourselves the task of getting home as cheaply as possible.
Our first stop was at Stafford Coach and Lorry Park. This is, by a country mile, the least visually appealing stopover we have had on our entire trip but on a Saturday night it’s free and it feels safe and quiet.
The parking is right next door to a shopping centre with a large Sainsbury’s supermarket so we took advantage of their café and had a very pleasant dinner there before retiring to the van for the novelty of British TV and an early night. The TV was a disappointment but the sleep was great and we were up and away in good time although not before we’d returned to Sainsbury’s for another novelty – a big cooked English breakfast. At last, the benefits of coming back to the UK were beginning to outweigh the sadness at leaving France.
We made it as far as Moffat in Scotland that day and stopped at the Green Frog Café where you can camp for about £6 a night if you don’t need electricity. There are good facilities and it’s small and quiet. In the morning you pay for your overnight stay in the adjoining café and, if you’ve got as little willpower as we have, linger there for a coffee and perhaps a scone. We’d now been back in the UK for five nights and all thoughts of healthy eating had temporarily left us. We settled into a cosy leather sofa, had a huge coffee and massive scone and breathed in the friendly atmosphere. We can thoroughly recommend this place as a lovely restful stopover or a weekend break, although we were tempted not to in case it gets too busy. It’s only a few yards further on from the CCC site in Moffat and that looked horrifyingly busy and full compared to our quiet little corner.
Monday morning found us driving into Penicuik on the outskirts of Edinburgh, diving into Tesco and finally rolling into our home for the next couple of weeks in Roslin. There are two sites available in Roslin and they are owned by two generations of the same family. The first is a CL with a license for only five vans and the second, just fifty yards away, is a small campsite. Both are lovely although it can be difficult to get a booking at the CL as it’s so popular. The sites are just behind the fabulous Rosslyn Chapel of the Knights Templar and later, the Dan Brown ‘DaVinci Code’ fame. We enjoyed two weeks of wonderful walks, meeting up with family and friends and also a lovely weekend visit from our pals Katherine and James of Clune Gap Years. The weather began to improve after the first few days of icy blasts and rain and we began to feel contented back where we belonged – the only thing that stood in our way was finding somewhere to live.
We spent hours and hours looking at Rightmove, Zoopla and other online estate agents’ websites and still had no real idea where we wanted to live. Seeing the prices of houses in the kind of places that appealed to us we began to realise that we probably had champagne tastes on a beer budget. One of the reasons for selling our overly large house last year was to create a fund to support our travel habit so we didn’t want to end up spending our entire capital on our new home. Houses within easy reach of Edinburgh are not only expensive, by Scottish standards, but anything in our price range was going on the market one day and being sold the next. It was clearly time to look a little further afield so we extended our search to the Scottish Borders whilst adding the possibility of buying an apartment into the mix. The latter wasn’t immediately appealing but we quickly found that you could get an awful lot more for your money if you’re prepared to consider life in a flat. There are two towns in the Scottish Borders that really appealed to us. The first was Melrose, right on the banks of the Tweed, a real gem of a town where there are small independent shops, a wonderful Abbey and some good friends nearby. The second was Kelso – similar in many ways but a little larger. We honed our search to these two towns and finally… I know you’ve been waiting for this since the top of the page … we found our new home.
Good luck and judgment – it’s for the birds
We booked ourselves into the Caravan and Motorhome Club site in Melrose and arranged to view seven apartments. We spent two days viewing properties and walking around the area to try to get a feel for which one might be our future home. The sun was shining, people were smiling and chatting to us and we felt completely at home. It was becoming obvious that this would be a great place to live, if only we could decide which of the flats we liked best. We were sitting outside the motorhome with a notebook and making notes on the different properties with their pros and cons when I felt a sudden cold wet sensation on my head. At first I thought that it was a strange localised rain shower until I realised the awful truth – a bird had crapped on me. Laughing about the old wive’s tale that having a bird do its stuff on you is a sign of good luck, Shirley got a tissue and started to clear up the mess. At that very moment another bird flew overhead and crapped on the notebook. Clearly they are too well fed in Melrose. After we had dealt with the droppings we made our final decision and called our lawyer, asking her to make an offer on our behalf.
The very next morning we had our answer – our offer had been accepted on a lovely ground floor apartment. It ticks just about all of the boxes from our rather ambitious wish list being spacious enough to allow us to spread out a bit whilst still being cosy and easy to manage. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms and – here’s the biggy – it’s just across the road from the golf club and the golf club has a pool table. That’s two of our guilty pleasures in one package. Melrose is also the home of the Melrose 7s Rugby – that’s another of our happy places found and there are more coffee and scone places than any two girls could wish for. We are ridiculously delighted and very much looking forward to moving in on July 5th and trying out living in one place for a couple of months. Yes, you heard that right. We plan to set off again at the end of August on another trip but this one will be shorter because we intend to be home for Christmas. Despite my usual horrified reaction when people talk about Christmas before Advent begins, we’re looking forward to that too. After two years being away during the Festive Season we’re enjoying the anticipation of being around loved ones and appreciating the changes of the seasons. You have my permission to remind me of this if I complain about the cold later in the year.
We have six more weeks of living in the motorhome with a short break of a few days having a family holiday at Center Parcs so we might pop up with an occasional blog post. We’ll be exploring the possibilities of being in attractive places whilst being within easy reach of our lawyer in Edinburgh for all the legal stuff that house buying entails. The sun has been shining more often than not, the countryside is stunningly beautiful with its new spring colours sparkling wherever we look and we are finally able to relax and enjoy being home, now that we’ve settled the question of our future.
Thanks for following us on our latest adventure and please look out for the occasional blog over the summer before we return to life on the road at the end of August.