Venturing North…. 21/5/22

Well we have wanted to get back up to Scotland ever since we came up here in Spring 2017 to do the NC500 …. far too quickly! Three weeks is just not enough to take in the beauty of the West coast of Scotland, let alone try and squeeze in Skye and the East coast too!

This time however we have been quiet focussed in our planning. We have 6 weeks and are only looking to take in Dumfries and Galloway and Northumberland… stopping briefly in Leek en route as I read something about it being an interesting market town a few months ago so felt it appropriate to do a little diversion as we were passing close by!

We had found a CL just outside Leek,(Roche House Farm CL £10 without electricity) which had stunning views out across the rolling hills. The Farm was a livery so we also benefitted from having lots of horses looking on curiously, although we were the only motorhome for two out of the three nights. We managed to get out into the fields and do a lovely circular walk taking in the beautiful countryside as well as make a visit to the Wednesday market in the pouring rain which stocked us up for the next few days. An interesting place but I wouldn’t go out of our way to revisit it despite finding a couple of very interesting looking eateries!

Leaving Leek we stop started all the way back towards the motorway as traffic was heavy and as we were passing a Morrisons we thought we may as well fill up as we had half a tank of diesel, probably wouldn’t get much cheaper en route and it was a long drive to Scotland… possibly a mistake considering what happened next.

We continued our journey and as we got two thirds of the way round the roundabout from the A500 joining the M6, Hattie flashed her EDC warning light and then came to a slow stop in the middle lane just over the traffic lights…. and wouldn’t start again. Not knowing what the issue was as there hard been no warning of a problem, I gave her a couple of minutes and tried again – nothing…. although I could smell Diesel. With Arctic trucks coming at us from behind at great speed and swerving at the last minute, Keith noticed some marks appearing on the road in front of us – that coupled with the guy in the van making hand signals as we were trying to start Hattie again made us realise that it may be us that was gently coating the road surface with diesel…..

I could think of better places to break down but to be fair to the police and the road traffic officers, it took them about 30 minutes to get us off the road and into a safe place and they were great…. we apologise to anyone who was in the area and had issues with heavy traffic on Friday lunchtime / early afternoon as it is fair to say it was our fault as they had to shut most of the roundabout to clear up the diesel spillage – thankfully it hadn’t spread too much further as there were talks of having to shut the M6. I’m dreading the clear up bill when it comes through…. although hopefully it will be covered by the Insurance. The RAC wouldn’t even log the call until we were in a ‘safe place’…. and then took 2.5 hours to get someone to us, although when he did come – the guy was great and we were fixed and on the road again within 20 minutes – absolutely amazing!

Somehow the fuel pipe from the ignition had come loose and all it required was re-attaching and we were good to go…. we lost about 1/5 of the tank…. it could have been a lot worse!!

Although it was mid afternoon by the time we set off, we did actually make it to our chosen location for the night – SilverCraigs Campsite, Kirkcudbright which is Dumfries and Galloway (£24 per night inc. elect.). The last 30 minutes of the drive made the long day worth it as the scenery was stunning…. beautiful rolling hills in every direction we looked.

We arrived just after 7pm and the site was full, but parked up and admired the views out to the estuary and the hills beyond as we prepared dinner which thankfully was simple and very tasty consisting of Halloumi and Aubergine, Onion and pepper harissa relish, Slaw and sourdough flatbreads…. just what we needed! Although sleep wasn’t great after a bit of an odd day it was incredibly quiet and we felt like we were interfering with the peace by doing our exercise in the morning … very laid back and tranquil.

Kirkcudbright is an artists town and you can see where they get their inspiration from as no matter where you walk – it is beautiful. It is an area to come back and explore further as three nights just wasnt enough to do it justice.

After amazingly beautiful weather it was unfortunate that it chose to break on the day that we should have been able to see the eclipse…. whether we would have been up in time to take advantage of it is another thing but as it was forecast to be grey and raining for 24 hours we shifted our ‘rest’ day to Monday morning and took advantage of an extra hour in bed!!

So, after a quick re-stock at the local Co-op, we moved further around the coast to Isle of Whithorn, stopping off briefly en route to have a walk around Wigtown which is Scotlands ‘Book’ capital. Wigtown is a small town where every third building is a bookshop / coffeeshop with a bookshop in it… very quirky, mostly second hand books although there were a few shops that stocked new ones as well…oddly in comparison to the other towns we have visited there weren’t many pubs – maybe there is some wierd Scottish rule of not selling alcohol and books under the same roof!

We had chosen to visit the Isle of Whithorn as you should be able to see the ‘Five Kingdoms’ from the point – England, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man and of course Scotland – just a shame that the weather was a little overcast as the only Kingdom we could see was Scotland, not that we are complaining as it is a mightily beautiful kingdom!!

We had seen that ‘The Steam Packet Inn’ – the only pub on the Isle of Whithorn – offered motorhomes a first come, first served parking spot so arrived just after lunch to give us a good chance of getting a space – It was surisingly busy for a Monday….obviously a popular place. Once parked up, we headed out Westwards along the coast through the fields with lots of curious calves and onto the cliffs.

As we walked the sun came out and the skies brightened up, giving us a beautifully warm afternoon with amazing, rugged views … but still no other land mass! Although Keith’s phone did switch to Isle of Man and then Guernsey briefly which caused a bit of concern as that is considered as ‘Roaming’ with Vodafone!

We had booked ourselves in to the Steam Packet Inn for dinner on Monday night as not only is it the ‘Five Kingdoms Brewery’, it also had fantastic reviews for the food. We were not disappointed – good beer and wine and excellent food (Curried Sweet Potato Soup and Sundried Tomato rolls as an ‘amuse bouche’, Seafood platter and Pannetone with roasted tomatoes as starters, Fish and Chips x 2 as mains and Cheesecake for dessert) with the prize for the best course going to the exceptional Raspberry Marscapone Cheesecake…. dare I say it – even better than my own!

After a very peaceful night listening to the waves, we woke to another overcast morning unfortunately … but it was dry! No views but after our morning exercise, shower and breakfast we battled against the wind and walked around the lighthouse and up the coast a little to the trig point… still beautiful no matter what weather you throw at it!!

We then hit the road again to search out a local cheese producer ‘Galloway Farmhouse Cheese’ which was en route to our next stop – which I saw on the menu the night before but was too full to try! The farm was just a couple of miles detour from our route and they produce unpasturised organic cheese – Cow and Ewe Cheddar, as well as selling Goat Cheddar, a Cow blue, using their cows milk but produced up the road and a brie which is also produced just round the corner. We tasted – and bought – both the Cow and Ewe cheddar as the flavour was incredible and you can’t beat zero miles for keeping the carbon footprint down!!

We normally try to stay three nights in each spot but if we are wild camping or for some reason the site can’t accomodate us for longer, we have to be flexible and when I was planning this trip, this next CL looked exceptional but I had to switch the dates around to even get two nights as they were full…. Greenloch CL, £20 per night Inc. and it was exceptional!

Despite the forecast of torrential rain on Tuesday afternoon we parked up, had lunch and then set off for a little walk to stretch our legs round the loch – it was just under 4km, a little wet underfoot, a few curious calves, an angry swan nesting, some skitty lambs and four little piglets… one of which was being licked by a dog – I think just checking it out for flavour… but all the same very cute!

By Wednesday morning the sun had come out so we got some washing done, made some bread and then set off over the hills into Stranraer to explore and do some shopping.

Stranraer is in a bay but still quite exposed to the North Irish Sea. It isn’t a pretty town as it is quite industrial and also has the ferry going to Belfast – its certainly not a place I would go out of my way to visit to take in the scenery as …. I guess you’d say it is a little run down. However the surrounding area is well worth exploring as the rolling hills and rugged coastline are second to none… whether the sun shines or not!

After a couple of nights with the piglets on their beautiful CL, we delayed our departure by an hour or so and cheakily got some more washing done as the forecast was good and we figured we could hang it out when we got all of the 10 miles down the road!

The next stop was just outside Portpartrick at South Port o’Spittal CL (£20 first night, then £15 thereafter inc. elec) and the decision to do the washing was a good one as to say it was windy was an understatement…. the jeans were dry within an hour!

Another beautifully maintained CL with absolutely amazing surroundings. It is a farm and obviously being lambing season we are surrounded by Ewes and their lambs in all different shapes, sizes and colours… including a couple that look like they have stepped in white paint and dragged their tails in too, angorra lambs and a devilled lamb with teeny little horns that look like someone has just stuck them on as a joke!!

Conscious that the weather was about to break we took advantage and headed along …and up and down… the coastal path into Portpatrick – a beautiful walk taking in the rugged coastline and the abandoned Dunskey castle just as the cloud started to come in. The village of Portpatrick is situated in a pretty little bay which is mostly made up of rental properties and a few cafes, restaurants and pubs but not much more unfortunately – one of those places that has unfortunately been a victim of its own sucess… which is a shame.

We chose to walk back to the motorhome cross country via the tiny winding single track road which was equally as beautiful, giving us good views of the fantastic rolling hills which were covered in lambs and calves in every direction we looked…. definately farming country!

By shear coincidence, after booking the campsite I found that less than a mile down the road (literally – down) is Knockinaam Lodge which evidently has a pretty good chef who has managed to get them 3 rosettes… so we thought it rude not to try it for lunch!

Not only was the location and setting amazing, the food was incredible. It is a five course tasting menu which is set although they will adapt it should you have any dietary requirements… so mine was pescatarian but Keith got the beautifully pink duck. There weren’t many differences between what we both ate as they tried to overlap the menu as much as possible but every course was exceptional, full of flavour and not too rich… they even gave the option of having cheese rather than dessert…. although Keith would have happily consumed both!! We will be back…. but we will be staying in our own accomodation up the road as I think £600+ a night is pushing it a little for our budget – the food however at £42 for the set lunch was exceptional value!

I assure you that we have, as always, been cooking alot as well but mostly the deliciousness that we have already shared with you… we have however weirdly made two different pestos in the last two weeks – one with nettles and cashew nuts to go with BBQ veg and pittas and the other with wild garlic and hazlenuts which we will be eating next week!