North Devon

Every now and then the Extreme knitter yearns to be beside the seaside. To pacify her salty sea dog desire, we travelled south towards the North Devon coast taking the long detour on the A361 to avoid the notorious Porlock hill situated west of Minehead.

A road famed for destroying gearboxes, burning clutches and boiling radiators on the way up. Overheating the brakes on the way down.

We stayed at the Camping and Caravan Club camp site at Lynton. With our age concession it cost us £16 per night for a pitch with electric hook up, awning and dog. It was a bargain compared to the site I was looking at just down the road that wanted £35 per night for the same facilities. The site was an oasis in the middle of nowhere with excellent facilities and friendly site managers. During our stay they chatted to campers around the site and were busy with the site up keep.

 

Monday. The sun was shining as we headed down to Lynmouth and after spending what seemed an age searching for a parking spot we were able wander along the quayside to the Lynmouth Cliff railway. The world’s highest & steepest fully water powered cliff railway transported us up to the town of Lynton. Lynton just happened to have a wool shop (I don’t know how she finds them)

http://www.cliffrailwaylynton.co.uk/history/

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The day was turning into a rail extravaganza as I pulled into the Woody Bay train station. The Lynton – Barnstable Railway runs steam engines along a one mile stretch of narrow gauge track to Killington Lane

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http://www.lynton-rail.co.uk/page/visitor-information

 

Tuesday, it rained and rained, so we set off for drive around north Devon. First port of call was the Atlantic village shopping centre near Biddeford as it had a roof, but we hadn’t planned for the exclusions of dogs. Ruby and I stopped in the campervan whilst the E/Knitter braved the shops.

We were gutted that we missed out on a walk around the shops and were forced to take a nap. The E/Knitter woke us up on her return to tell us about all the bargains she had bought. Ruby and I watched bleary eyed as she modelled various tops and items of clothing.

We left the shopping centre and drove north towards Ilfracombe. It was raining when we rolled into the near empty Quay side car park. We only stayed a short time then returned to the campsite. We had seen a lot of Devon through the campervan windows, but decided that Ilfracombe needed to be seen on a dry day.

 

Wednesday, The rain had cleared and the sun was trying to break through the clouds. We were breaking camp to return home, but as the morning started to warm up we decided to pack and then go back to revisit Ilfracombe in the sunshine. The Quay side car park was certainly busier than yesterday. We found a spot by Verity, the intriguing statue by Damien Hirst. It’s large, highly detailed and a bit of a jaw dropper.

http://www.damienhirst.com/verity

Verity on Tuesday in the rain

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Verity on Wednesday in the sunshine

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We hadn’t had any breakfast, so we had an early lunch in a restaurant that allowed dogs in. (it was noticeable the amount of eating establishments in Devon that allowed dogs).

Fish and chips always taste better when eaten near the sea.

After wandering around Ilfracombe for a couple of hours time was getting on and unfortunately we needed to make tracks towards home. We were driving up the M5 motorway and  getting peckish, so we pulled into a Subway sandwich bar, bought a sub and headed of towards Weston Super mare.

The promenade was empty, so we parked up on the sea front and ate our Subway evening meal. The calories needed to be burnt off and a walk up the prom to the town helped reduce them.

Weston humour

bare grills

As usual Ruby and I sat on a bench outside Marks and Spencer waiting while the E/Knitter searched for more bargains. I tend to meet a varied cross section of people when I’m hanging around with Ruby. Complete strangers will approach me and talk when I’ve got Ruby. On this occasion a young man came up to tell me about his Yorkie/Poodle cross. He had pictures on his phone and although I didn’t say it to him, it looked like a sheep with a Yorkies head attached, sort of a cloning experiment gone wrong.

Next passerby was an obviously gay man who walk by several times eyeing up Ruby or probably me, wondering if I was of the same persuasion. I must look a bit camp with a small Yorkshire terrier on a lead. I need a sign that says “I’m holding this dog for my wife”

My last visitor was an elderly gentleman who was confused and just wanted to chat about his collie puppy that had died and the local bus service.

No young ladies or even old ladies billing and cooing over Ruby.

We walked back to the campervan along the beach to give Ruby the chance to have a run around. I said to the E/knitter that I thought a man was taking our photo. Don’t be silly she said he’s taking a photo of the pier.

It wasn’t until we left the beach that we spotted a sign saying no dogs on the beach between May and September, punishable with a £75 fine. By now I expect our mug shots are posted around the town as Weston Super Mares most wanted.  Omg!! We are now hunted criminals.

The Scene of the crime

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We all turned our collars up and drove out of town as fast as we could.

 

 

 

 

45 years and we still don’t know each other

Our kitchen sink has a draining board and on that draining board sits one of those draining trays that you can stack the cups, cutlery and dishes to dry off. We’ve had several replacements over our married life.

Today I plucked up the courage to ask the extreme knitter why we had one.

She said “because you wanted one”.

I said “I never wanted one, I hate the dam thing”

She said “I hate it as well”.

45 years of married bliss and all this time I thought the E/knitter wanted it and she thought I wanted it. Lack of communication I think, but we are still getting to know each other.

The dish tray is now in the dustbin and all is well in the household.

 

A new proposal

gretna shops

The Extreme knitter wanted to visit the Gretna Gateway Outlet Village as we started out for our last night in Scotland. After the knitting problems the previous day I wasn’t going to argue with her.

The complex was a small designer type setup with some well known shops. Totally out of the blue I was treated to a Craghopper fleece gillet and I splashed out on a Subway meal.

While the E/knitter wandered around the shops I nipped into one of those “Olde worlde” sweet shops and made a special purchase that would be revealed later.

Suitable over shopped and over fed we returned to the campervan and I phoned what would be our next and last campsite.

I managed to bag the last pitch available.

Next stop was the Blacksmiths shop in Gretna Green famous for performing wedding ceremonies for eloping couples from England.

gretna black

It was here that I produced a pair of wedding rings crafted by Haribo confectionary that I had bought in the sweet shop earlier and we renewed our wedding vows to each other as we exchanged the rings. 45 years in July, we are starting to get the hang of this marriage thing. I’m going for the endurance award.

Haribo Rings

new rings

With our marriage now extended, we headed north on the A74 towards Moffat.

The Camping and Caravan Club 181 pitch site at Moffat is a really a staging post for visitors travelling to and from Scotland to break the long trek. It is always busy.

The welcome was very pleasant and efficient. The site wardens obviously had the site running like clockwork and considering they had spent the day showing hundreds of campers to their pitches, still had time for a bit of good humoured banter.

Moffat Camping and Caravan Club Site

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Once we were settled I sent the feral daughter a text message to say I had just married her mother, which came as a bit of a shock to her.

Then she was upset because she missed out on the wedding do. Our evening wedding supper started with a fine beef soup produced especially for us by Mr Heinz and that was it, nothing else. What did you expect? The two Haribo wedding rings used up my budget.

A short walk from the campsite led us to Moffat High Street. At that time in the evening the shops were closed, O dear, what a shame.

Moffats claim to fame is Sheep, lots of them.

The Ram Statue in Moffat

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We had only just returned to the campervan when the heavens opened up and gave us the first rain we had experienced during our trip.

We woke the next day to find the pitch slightly waterlogged, but at least the rain had stopped.

The trip home is always the same, driving back down the motorway feeling slightly melancholy after an enjoyable trip.

Until the next one.

 

Expedition Base Camp

We rolled up at Glentrool camping site about 5pm and settled in. I felt immediately comfortable here. By 5,55pm I had popped into the reception and booked another night. This site was taken over in 2014 and totally revamped with a lot of thought and planning put into the design and layout.

The hard standing pitches are massive, able to take the largest motor homes. The tent pitches don’t have vehicular access which makes for a safe camping area

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The toilet facilities are first class

Fran and Jen the enthusiastic owners have invested a lot of work and effort into the site. It makes for an extremely pleasant stop over.

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It gained the nickname Expedition Base Camp due to it location in the Forest area, being ideal for trips out to explore.

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We were by standing water and the forest, so it wasn’t long before the Scottish midge made an appearance as dusk fell. Luckily it was early in the season, so the numbers weren’t great, but enough to cut short Rubies evening sniff around the dog walking area.

Next morning we set off towards Newton Stewart again as the E/knitter needed another ball of wool for my hat (I must have a big head).

I believe there had been a technical problem with the project the day before and there had been a lot of muttering under the breath as it had to be unravelled for the second time. I have learnt over the years not to ask and keep very quiet during these times of knitters stress.

With sufficient supplies of wool to last the trip we continued down through Creetown where I was forced to stop at a Tesco store, much to my disgust, as we needed food supplies.

Back on to the A75 were we turned off towards Brighouse Bay. We stopped at a small car park with access to the beach, had lunch and ambled along the sand with Ruby making friends with every dog in sight.

brigport

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Later back on the road, the sign for Castle Douglas came into view, so we made a detour to drive through the small town, then onwards to our campsite at Glentrool for our last night there.

The morning starts were getting lazy and slow. Having lost track of the days we realised that it was Friday and we needed to start travelling in a homeward direction.

 

North Rhinnes

With Balloch O Dee camp site behind us we continued our travels heading towards Stranraer using the pretty route taking in as much of the scenery as we could. The road sign for Wigtown loomed into view. We couldn’t pass by Scotland’s equivalent to Hay on Wye without wandering around the second hand book shops and a very pleasant town it is.

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I spotted a sign for the harbour and off we went.

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The harbour was a large parking area with a launching ramp and several boat moorings. This would have made a good place for an overnight stopover, but we hadn’t long left our previous night camp.

The coastal road took us through many small villages and towns. Our propane gas bottle had run out the night before, so we stopped at Whithorn on the way for a refill. The ladies in the shop suggested lots of places to see and various camp sites. They told me that a famous actor was being filmed at Port Patrick for a Hollywood movie. Gerard Butler or somebody, I have no idea.

We were soon entering Stranraer and the sign for my favourite supermarket appeared.

I    heart-29328_960_720  Morrisons.

We refuelled with several litres of Morrison’s finest diesel and stocked up the depleted fridge and food cupboards. I purchased a small joint of Beef brisket for our evening meal.

We had a joint of brisket in the freezer at home especially to bring with us, but I forgot it. Never mind I had £25 worth of Morrisons vouchers, so the £36 shopping bill only cost £11 in hard cash. I love a bargain me.

We gained a phone signal and wifi in the car park, so I called to book a camping pitch for the night.

We were lucky with the weather and the campsites that we picked. North Rhinns camp site in Leswalt is a small site that takes many tents and a maximum of three campervans below 6 metres long.

http://www.northrhinnscamping.co.uk/

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The excellent facilities are housed in a building beside the gate, consisting of two toilets, one large shower room and pot washing sinks.

The site has individual tent pitches and Camping pods that are surrounded by trees and bushes giving each one some privacy.

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Quite a unique site and highly recommended.

We cooked our experimental Sunday lunch even though it was Tuesday evening. (I’ll do a separate post on the results).

Port Logan breakwater

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A lazy start to the day and toast for breakfast we were hitting the open road again.   Port Logan and Port Patrick bound this time as the E/knitter wanted to see the Hollywood Film star. Unfortunately the filming had long gone leaving just a few fishermen. Never mind, onward to Stranraer for some retail therapy to pacify her disappointment.

I was last here 25 years ago taking a lorry load of machinery on the ferry to Belfast then on to Londonderry. It didn’t make much of an impression at the time, but the ferry has stopped using the port and Stranraer in the sunshine appeared to be a busy and thriving town.

Whilst I had a phone signal in Stranraer, I phoned the next camp site on my list of possibles and I booked a pitch at Glentrool campsite back up in to the Galloway forest.

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The drive up to Glen Trool took us past The Cocoa Bean chocolate company at Twynholm. The E/Knitter volunteered to investigate while Ruby and I sat outside dreaming of chocolate. A few minutes later she returned empty handed. Apparently a single Chocolate was £3 . I’m known to be quite flipant when it comes to parting with money, but I can buy a pack of four Mars bars from Morrisons for £1.

 

 

A brief return to civilisation

Back on the road again following our overnight stop in the forest.

http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/forest-parks/galloway-forest-park/raiders-road-forest-drive

We stopped at the Glen bar view point then travelled to Newton Stewart. By now we were peckish. We came across a small Italian café that allowed dogs, so in we went and devoured soup and steak rolls.

The Extreme knitter was showing signs of lack of wool fatigue, so Ruby and I returned to the campervan and had a short nap while the E/knitter found a wool shop and passed away an hour or two in woollen heaven. Low and behold she returned with a bag of wool to knit me a hat.

Yes!!!! Me, a hat.

I know. I couldn’t believe it either especially as this was the hottest day yet.

We were able to access mobile phone and wifi signals in the car park for the first time this trip.

After a quick phone call I managed to get a pitch on the Balloch O’Dee campsite not far from Newton Stewart. Following the long single track road, we arrived at the campsite. First impressions were rustic and comfortable with ponies and chickens roaming around. No printed rules and camp fires welcome.

http://www.ballochodee.com/home/4553037475

We had spent the last three nights with limited facilities and we needed to clean up, so the hot showers were a welcome treat.

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It was strange camping on a busy site again after our solitary three days. This site is popular with people returning time and time again and we could see why. Some sites may have superior facilities, but this one feels right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it has something magical about it.

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We all enjoyed staying here, even Ruby who was desperate to make friends with the pony.

Every September they hold  a music festival on site.

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Like a night in the Forest

After leaving Castle corner caravan site we headed into the Galloway forest area on the A712. Along this road are various stop offs, like the deer park, the goat park, Bruces stone and the visitors centre.

The Goat Park

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I eventually turned off the A712 on to a dirt track. Two miles along the track is the payment machine and after paying our £2 fee we were driving “The Raiders road”, basically 10 miles of forestry track.

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Halfway along the track is Otters Pool with a toilet and parking area. This was to be our overnight stop for the night, but it was teeming with day visitors who departed about 5pm, leaving behind the remains of their picnics, litter and broken chairs. There was a group of lads who were camping out in a tent with a large fire. It was obvious that they were there to party the night away, so we decided to move on further along the Raiders road and found a car park at the end of Stroan Loch.

Otters Pool

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It’s a shame that Otters Pool is so neglected and the main culprits are the locals. It will eventually lead to camping restrictions like the ones being enforced in the Loch Lomond area. (sorry, rant over)

The Otter statue and Ruby

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We were alone in the parking area at Stroan Loch and the sun was setting  across the Loch. The forest area is a designated dark skies area and as night fell I scanned the sky, but unfortunately the clouds blocked my view of any stars or galaxies.

The sunset over the Loch

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Sunset on Loch Stroan

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We woke to find an eerie mist sitting on the water. All was quiet as the road doesn’t open for visitors until 9am. Two red kites circled above the Loch and a couple of walkers stopped to have a chat. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

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It’s good that we are comfortable to rock up in a pitch black forest, miles from anywhere without any radio, TV, internet or phone signal and have a peaceful nights sleep. We have an agreement that if either of us feels uncomfortable with an overnight stop, we will move on to find somewhere else.

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Puffin covered in dust from the track

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We seem to have fallen into the habit of having a lazy start to our days, just being, without any pressing commitments. It was getting near midday when we pulled on to the forest track to continue our journey, so it came as a surprise that I had to brake hard to avoid an owl that swooped down in front of the campervan.

The forest area is amazing and well worth a visit despite the minority of inconsiderate visitors.