Fife on a budget
I belong to numerous online motorhoming groups and spend more time than I should discovering new places to visit. This is the opposite of living in the moment but, if the moment is dull and the weather is bad, it has a lot of appeal. Whilst reading about new places opening up to motorhomes I discovered that Fife Council have become proactive in encouraging motorhomers to park up in a range of popular places along the coast. This inspired us to set off for a long weekend on a voyage of discovery.
Adventure was not long coming – actually even before we left home. The first job was to turn on the fridge. We soon discovered that it wasn’t lighting, then we checked the gas hob, also not lighting – first thought, maybe we were low on gas, so Shirley went to the local LPG refill place and tried to fill it up. It would take almost nothing. Next we peered uselessly into the gas locker and wobbled, poked and otherwise tried to use ignorance to start it. After that a neighbour came out and tried something similar. Eventually he suggested to us that we stop at Kirkcaldy Caravans en route and plead for assistance. By now it was later in the day than we had intended to set off so we decided to break the journey with a night at The Old Colliery, a pleasant pub close to the Edinburgh City Bypass that welcomes motorhomers if they eat in the restaurant. This suited us very well as we had no gas to heat anything up or have a hot drink. Replete with good pub grub we settled down for the night and woke in the morning to no early morning cuppa and a cold van. For obvious reasons we didn’t hang about and set off smartly to Kirkcaldy to ask for assistance.
I was met by a slightly dour mechanic who asked his boss before apparently reluctantly agreeing to take a look. We were standing watching him checking everything when he asked where we had come from. When we told him that we lived in the Borders his whole demeanour changed. He became friendly, humorous and eager to help. What happened there? We looked at one another confused. It turns out he was a Borders man and despite the fact that I’m from Yorkshire and Shirley from Ayrshire, just the fact that we lived there was enough for him to treat us like long lost kin. He checked everything and was completely foxed by the no gas problem until he asked whether we had turned off the main knobs under the sink that controlled the gas flow. We didn’t even know they were there but after turning them the other way the gas began to flow easily. This was a mystery until we realised that we had recently asked a local motorhome fitter to do a gas check for us and he had sent us away after leaving it with him for a day because the van was too old, and he didn’t like Hymers. The only thing we could think of was that he had turned it off ready to work on it then changed his mind and phoned us to take it away. No worries, we had gas, we had the means to cook and heat the water and the sun was shining. The service at Kirkcaldy caravans was excellent and they didn’t charge us for checking and double checking everything. We were impressed.
Our first stop was at the Loch Leven visitor’s centre and café where motorhomes can park overnight in exchange for either using the café or putting some coins in their tip jar. What a grand place it is – we walked along the loch side with a very excited Poppy who loves to find new places and check out every bush that other dogs have peed in. We call this behaviour checking her P-mail. Loch Leven is huge and beautiful and not far along the path you come across the RSPB visitor’s centre that has lots of interesting information and a good café. We didn’t partake on this occasion but returned to our own local and had scones and coffee in a small outside shelter provided for the purpose.
After a quiet night we set off for Lochore Meadows, a country park where motorhome parking and service point is provided in the beautiful woodland just a few metres from another loch – yes there are a lot of lochs in the Kingdom of Fife. Here we paid £14 a night for parking in a purpose built area just a short walk from the golf course and fantastic dog walks. Electricity is available if required – £6 for 24 hours but we didn’t need it as our solar panel was doing a grand job. The next day we played 9 holes of golf and ending up in a sweaty heap that the golf warden insisted on capturing for us.
Whilst investigating other delights that Fife has to offer motorhomers, we came across a small site on a farm near Tayport. Here you can stay for the princely sum of £5 a night with water and waste services included. This being a planned budget friendly trip we felt we should try it. It wasn’t easy to find, in fact we had given up on it when we found it after causing havoc in the narrow streets of Tayport. Our big van doesn’t fit easily into narrow streets with cars parked on both sides but Shirley managed it. Pedestrians and oncoming traffic were beaten into submission by us sailing gracefully through the Saturday morning shoppers until we mercifully found a safe place to turn around. On the way back down the road we finally saw where we should have gone in the first place and settled in to a beautiful green meadow with beech trees giving shelter and plenty of room to spread out. There is an honesty box for payment and we spent a beautifully warm afternoon sitting under the awning and breathing in the silence. Apparently there is a forest with a loch within easy walking distance but we stayed put, thinking that we could go for a longer walk the next day.
That night the heavens opened and we woke several times to the sound of it beating on the roof of the van. Reluctantly we decided the next day to leave this gorgeous place and head home. We were parked on grass and, as we are nearly 5 tons in weight, we were worried that we would start to sink in the mud.
We were very pleasantly surprised what a good place Fife is for touring on a budget. We recommend it heartily.
Note: All these stop overs can be found here.
The very best of the best
A couple of weeks later the lovely oncologist, who is taking such good care of me, suggested that I have a couple of weeks off treatment to give my body (and mind) a rest. We had already drawn a line through the next two weeks to have another trip so the timing couldn’t have been better. There were lots of possibilities but our hearts were set on a return to our all time favourite place – Silversands Caravan Site near Arisaig.
This is the place to go for camping right beside the sea and views that stay with you long after you return home. Karen and John who own and run the site are wonderfully welcoming and hard working. After all the years we have been going there we consider them good friends and it’s no surprise to discover that so do several others we meet as we wander around feeling thoroughly chilled. Karen and John somehow manage the balance of running the site very efficiently whilst creating an atmosphere of coming home. Visitors are often seen standing looking at the view from their pitch in awe. If you can, give it a try, although you would need to be sure and book. For obvious reasons they are often full. Bring your swimmies, small inflatable if you have one, wetsuit if you are a wuss like me and be aware that the nearest shop is 3 miles away so come ready with food in your fridge. If you’re a golfer, bring your clubs. There’s a smashing golf club just across the road with very reasonable rates.
So now, after gushing enthusiastically about the place, I’ll tell the tales of our adventures whilst attempting to have a thoroughly relaxed holiday.
We have a favourite pitch here and it’s not one on the side of the beach. We like it because it’s close to all the facilities and we can spread out in it. Most people prefer the direct beach access pitches and we understand that but we’ve reached the age of preferring convenience. We can always walk 50 yards and stand and look at the wonderful views then go back to our sheltered corner.
It has become a tradition to break our journey at the famous Green Welly stop in Tyndrum right beside the West Highland Way walking route. Here motorhomes and caravans are permitted to stay overnight in their massive car park. They even have a continental style outdoor laundrette for the weary walkers and travellers who can get a good meal while waiting for their smalls to be ready. We pitched up in the signposted spot and settled down. It had been a lovely warm day and I was wearing a summer dress but as pretty much every time we have been there, the heavens opened on arrival. Quick change into joggers and we were settled. We can always find plenty to do sitting in our van and this time we sat happily listening to an audio book and playing mindless games on our tablets. The next morning it was my turn on the dog walk so I wandered up the approach path to the West Highland Way and struggled with Poppy who, despite the wind and rain was on full p-mail alert and found bushes to dive into sniffing like crazy for several minutes each time. I think she could do it for hours but I’d had enough so I brought her back to the van sulking. (Her not me).
We were soon on our way to Fort William where we like to park up beside Lidl to get our fresh food for a few days. We’ve done this so often that we were amazed to find ourselves in the wrong place twice and had to keep going round roundabouts to go back the way we had come. Obviously it’s been too long – we must rectify that.
We have breakfast late every morning, so we shopped first then sat down to our normal feast of oats, nuts, fresh fruit, milk and yogurt. I guess you might call it muesli but it’s our own version and nothing like the shop bought stuff. The idea is that we won’t eat much between breakfast and an early dinner. That’s the theory …
How many women does it take to put up an awning?
We arrived at Silversands around 2 p.m. and were welcomed with a hug by Karen. We had the van settled and the Screen Hub tent up in no time. All was going so very well. Later that evening, knowing it would still be full daylight until around 11 p.m, we hit on the idea of putting up the new connection tunnel that attaches the tent to the motorhome creating an awning. Plenty of time, we said cheerfully. We had been struggling for a while when Karen came along ready to do her final clean and check of the facilities. Realising that we were in a pickle she came over to help. This should have been an easy task but we were hindered by not being tall enough and also we hadn’t thought to clean and lubricate the awning rail. Forward a few more minutes and two other women turned up offering to help. So we now had five strong women heaving and grunting to get the thing attached to the van. We shared two folding steps so that two of us were able to reach and, as always in situations like this, we kept having good ideas to make it easier. None of them did. No instructions had come with the connecting tunnel and we ended up putting it on and taking it off three times. First time we thought it was on inside out so we took it off. Then we put it on the other way before realising we were right the first time. Third laborious time we got it fitted and realised with hindsight that it was actually quite easy when you know how. Finally the whole outfit was put together and the others staggered off to lie down and have a G&T, except for poor Karen who still had loos to clean. I realise this experience was our just payback for all the times we’ve enjoyed watching couples trying to put an awning up, giggling like kids as we watched the show.
We love having an awning, especially when you can step out the door into the extra living space in your nightie if you so desire. It also serves as good storage for the bikes and the golf clubs, although once they are in there the space is somewhat limited. We ate our meals under its shelter several times and enjoyed the convenience of having both a dining room and a lounge.
Our days were mostly spent playing golf at Traigh golf club across the road, where we are country members for a very reasonable fee; sitting staring out to sea; reading; walking and sleeping long and well. We ate simple food and took life slowly and before long began to feel the magic of all our concerns and stresses falling away.
Out for the evening
We took the van off the pitch only once in our ten day stay, when we decided to drive to Mallaig for fish and chips and do some shopping in the co-op. It was a gloriously sunny Friday evening and we managed to get a parking spot on one of the designated motorhome spaces in the big car park near the police station. We sat on a thoughtfully provided bench looking out over the water and enjoying our meal and honestly it was as good as any evening out we’ve had. Simple, fresh and delicious food, a fantastic view, sea air and peace. After that we left Poppy in the van and went back to the chip shop to buy Arran ice creams and sat eating them looking out at the harbour. Finally we shopped in the co-op and took our booty of fresh berries and salad back to the van and home before 9 p.m. Honestly it was the best night out we’d had in ages. The only slight shadow was the fact that I was hobbling a bit.
Oh cobblers I’ve been hobbled
Yes, there is one unfortunate event to report. A couple of days before this special evening out I fell off my bike. It was just plain silly and I felt very embarrassed. We were cycling up the steep hill out of Arisaig when I turned my head to look for Shirley to make sure she was alright. I had the shopping trailer attached and as I looked back I must have turned the handlebars to the left, hit the kerb and clattered to the ground. Shirley rushed up and found me lying flat on my back with my head in a bush groaning because I’d winded myself. A passing car stopped and offered to drive us anywhere if I needed medical help but I kept insisting I was alright. People in a nearby house also rushed up, this time with a glass of water and more offers of help. The pain of embarrassment was worse than the fall and I kept thanking them profusely and insisting I was okay whilst wishing they would go away. I didn’t mean to be ungrateful but their solicitous attention just made my embarrassment worse. Soon I was able to first walk and then ride my bike back to the campsite but by then the soreness had really set in and I lay down on the bed shaking from the shock. Nurse Shirley was on hand bringing me pain killers, drinks and a sandwich and I was once again reminded of how lucky I am. Poor Shirley, I’ve frightened her so often these last couple of years!
So, it was no more golf for me for the rest of the trip and as noted above, I hobbled whilst trying to look normal. Pride is a terrible thing. Left leg is now bruised from hip to knee so I won’t be wearing shorts for a while.
Shirley continued to play golf with the lovely ladies of Traigh golf club and I was glad. It’s bad enough to hobble your own holiday without doing it to your very patient, loving spouse. The ladies of Traigh golf club are so very friendly and have made us feel at home.
As we packed up to leave and said a fond farewell to John, promising to come back soon, it occurred to us that the sadness we had been feeling of not going to Europe had quietly left us. We might go over the channel again but for now we will enjoy the wonderful things that Scotland and the rest of the UK has to offer.
How blessed are we?