On Top of the World

The wind and rain had died away in the morning and what a view to greet us.

It doesn’t get any better than this. Well, I suppose it does, but not at that particular moment.

Our Overnight Spot

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As always when we are on tour our morning starts get later and later. On to the A68 and heading to Bishops Auckland, in particular the local Morrison’s . We needed fuel, Propane gas and the use of their facilities. After getting lost in the one way streets of Bishops Auckland I eventually found a Calor Gas depot  behind Morrisons to get a replacement bottle of gas.

After our fourth night in a row of staying off grid we were starting to stink. It was becoming obvious that the Extreme Knitter was getting tired of washing with wet wipes and a flannel and my suggestion of a hospital type bed bath didn’t go down well.

Ohh er Matron !

“We’ll not have any of that malarkey ” she said.

With a swarm of flies following us down the road we headed in a sea ward direction.

We found a campsite just south of Whitby near to Robin Hood bay and booked ourselves in for three nights. The showers were clean and hot. It’s amazing how hot water can make you feel invigorated

I looked at a map in the evening and realised how close we had been to ” High Force Waterfall” the previous night. I could kick myself for not visiting. I really must start looking in more detail when doing my research.

 

 

 

 

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We hit the Wall

Morrisons at Hawick was our first port of call in the morning to use their facilities yet again. I like to think of Morrisons as our version of Walmart in the USA, although they don’t let us stop over in their car parks as Walmart do.

I had a plan. not a good one, but a plan all the same.

We needed to be beside the seaside and on our way we stumbled across Hadrians Wall.

Hadrians Wall

A section of Hadrians wall at Cawfield

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Apparently Hadrians wall took six years to build. I imagined that after 2 years Mrs Hadrian was losing her patience with him taking so long on his DIY project

“Hadrian”.  “you had better get that back wall finished before my mother visits”.

I set the Sat nav for a seaside destination and followed the back roads that she suggested. (yes, I do call my Sat nav a “she”) which isn’t normally a good thing, but this time she surprised us with a fabulous trip. It was obvious we weren’t going to reach the seaside before nightfall, so we scouted around for somewhere to pull over for the evening. After inspecting many places that neither of us could agree on, we eventually found a large parking area at one of the highest point of the North Pennines called Killhope Cross on the A689

Killhope Cross

We parked up just as the sun was setting. The beauty of places like this is the dark sky. As night fell it was pitch black and the cloud less sky was awash with stars.

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The only thing the extreme knitter was concerned about was that the strong wind might blow us over.

About 10 pm the gas ran out, so in the pitch black with the rain and wind lashing down on me, I ventured outside the camper van to swop over to the spare gas bottle.

Why doesn’t the Gas ever run out during the daytime.

 

 

Hawick and Kielder Forest

We had a very quiet night in the Hawick car park. 

Hawick Aire

The following morning after bacon butties, we visited Morrisons to use their facilities again before we set off for Kielder Water arriving at the start of the forest drive, a 12 mile long gravel road through Kielder forest.

I had read all the warnings that the forest road was only suitable in a 4×4 vehicle , but I worked on the basis that if the track became impassable we could turn around. The track was a toll road with a payment machine costing £3 and a notice warning about the need for 4 x 4.

I really enjoy driving these forest tracks

Kielder Forest Drive

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A stop over at the six mile point for food and beverages

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The 12 miles of track came to an end near a main road, so we turned around and went back along the track to travel another 12 miles doing the return trip.

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As can be seen from photos the road is a fairly level gravel surface with some steady gradients that you could drive along in your Granny’s Fiat 500 without any bother. Not as challenging as I would have liked, but certainly an enjoyable drive.

It was starting to get late, so somewhere to overnight was a priority before it got dark. There was a pub that allowed motor homes to over night in their car park if you had a drink and a meal in the pub, but It didn’t appeal to us.

I had heard that overnighting around Kielder water including the forestry drive was banned and checked by the forestry agents. All the parking areas had barriers across the access.

We gave up after driving around aimlessly and decided to head back to Hawick car park for another night.

You’ll note that this was the third night we had stayed off grid

Hawick

We decided to travel Eastward along the Scottish border, as further North in Scotland were experiencing some tremendous storms and although we don’t mind a bit of wind and rain, Gale force storms aren’t pleasant in a camper van.

We reached the border town of Hawick mid afternoon. Unfortunately it was a public holiday and the majority of the shops were shut. Luckily good old Morrison’s supermarket came to the rescue again not only for supplies, but when you’ve been camping off the grid you appreciate their clean toilet facilities, better than the usual public conveniences.

Hawick have become tourism leaders in providing for all types of visitors to their town, including free overnight parking for Motor homes and Camper vans. It would be rude not to take up their kind offer, so we parked up in one of the designated motor home bays and settled in for the evening.

 

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The Old Grey Mare

Departing from the Lake District after three nights of luxury camping and we were travelling to the Scottish border, turning off the A74 at the Moffat turn off. Taking a minor road out of Moffat, we arrived at the Grey Mares Tail waterfall in the wind and driving rain.

The volunteer National Trust workers were packing up for the day which left us and one other campervan in the car park. Yeah, another off grid overnight stay for the E/Knitter. I’m sure she will look back at these times with good memories. There is something magical about camping miles from anywhere and anyone in a beautiful location.

The Grey Mares Tail

Our wind and rain battered camp for the night.

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The following morning the rain had died down to a light drizzle, so we walked up to the view point and watch the spectacular waterfall in full flow due to the recent rain.

 

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The scenery here was stunning in a valley carved out during the ice age.

The car park soon started to fill up in the morning

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Today is the right day

Today is the right day to start our adventure.

In the words of Willie Nelson’s song

‘On the road again,     Goin’ places that I’ve never been.     Seein’ things that I may never see again And I can’t wait to get on the road again.

It’s Sunday morning and we headed out on our trip to Scotland. We had previously visit Scotland in May last year. We are visiting in September this time to firstly avoid the last of the summer midges, but also to experience how Scotland starts to change with the onset of autumn.

eeny miney mo

Our Scottish trips start out with a basic plan “drive to Scotland”. After that it changes on a daily basis, that’s the beauty of travelling in a campervan. We try to visit places we haven’t been before, some will disappoint and we will move on to somewhere more pleasing while some places will pull like a magnet, making it difficult to leave. I know that if we reach Nairn at any time during this visit we will experience that pull.

Our loosely formed aim was to travel as far north as possible up the western highlands, cut across to John O Groats to complete our End to Enders tour with some bits thrown in the middle, which since visiting Lands end in July has become a goal.

We will travel back down the East coast. Deciding which places we would visit and stop overnight as we moved around. This route has now been named the North Coast 500 in an attempt to recreate the legendary Route 66 in Scotland. I don’t think you can force a legend, it’s something that happens and evolves without any planning or media marketing. There are obviously some must see places that have to be visited because they are there.

With the high mileage we would be travelling the most expensive part of this trip was going to be fuel. In bid to cut down our costs I decided to wild camp more on this trip. With campsites charging on average £20 to £25 per night if we can wild camp for six out of the twelve nights that would save £150. That £150 would pay for 1000miles travel. We need to pace our selves and use a campsite every other night just to allow us to empty the toilet and grey water tank, shower and launder clothes. Two consecutive nights wilding would be the limit from a hygiene point of view.

Cost saving is one thing, but the upside of this plan is waking up beside a loch or on a quayside and that experience is priceless.

There are people that insist that it shouldn’t be called wild camping when using a campervan, that only camping in a bivy on a snow laden mountain side being worthy of the term. Lets face it sleeping somewhere other than on a campsite is friggin wild to me.