This was to be our first paddle in the somewhat murky waters of "motorhome hire.’ In fact, ‘paddle’ could well be considered an apt term due to the extreme weather we experienced throughout most of our week long road trip through mainland Scotland and onto the Isle of Skye.
Hailing from North West England, midway between Liverpool and Manchester we totally understand for many that Barrow would hardly show as a feint blip on their radar when considering hiring a motorhome. It was a chance conversation with like minded fellow travellers over croissants in the Dordogne, and the subsequent emailing of links, that convinced us that we had at last found a company worth serious consideration. As we intended to travel through Scotland on our trip, the diversion to Barrow would be a minor inconvenience.
Travelling with our little rescue dog Lucy, our basic itinerary was heavily weighted around ‘dog friendly’ pubs and restaurants in combination with well reviewed campsites located within an easy staggering distance. It proved a winning formula and one we are more than willing to share with you through this micro blog.
Pick up Barrow drive to Culzean.
(Pronounced: Cul'een.. those pesky Scottish silent Zeds)
A 4pm Friday pick up wouldn't work for us due to work commitments so we were offered a 10am Saturday alternative. This meant we were on our way north with plenty of daylight ahead of us, even on the last day of September.
"Culzean Castle Campsite" on the West coast of Ayrshire was our first nights stopover as it offered great dog walking opportunities within the adjoining castle grounds and spectacular unimpeded views from our pitch over to the Isle of Arran. Unable to pre book a single night, we were advised to ring early on the day to check availability. Thankfully, we were in luck. On arrival the staff were extremely welcoming and, as our vehicle was registered with the Camping and Caravan Club's Privilege Scheme, we were offered a discounted rate - a perk we took advantage of on more than one occasion during the trip.
We had enough supplies on board and revelled in the novelty of being totally self-sufficient on our first night away. We watched the sun kiss horizon, fully aware that the forecast for the following days would seriously challenge our then high spirits.
Culzean ( Still pronounced Cul'een) to Glenuig (Glenweeg)
As predicted by the Met office app and continual yellow weather warnings the afternoon before via the electronic matrix signs along the A76, we awoke to heavy rain and the first signs of the predicted disruptive high winds.
Undeterred by the quizzical look we received whilst filling up with fresh water for our night of ‘wild camping,’ we set a course for our next destination ‘The Glenuig Inn,’ a remote location sat primly on the coastline of ‘The Sound of Arissaig.’
The option of parking on their narrow strip of gravel was an attraction for us, but secondary to the wonderful seasonal menu and advertised ‘dog friendliness.’ I contacted them prior to our trip but was disappointed by the response implying that the 7.3M long motorhome was oversized for their limited parking. Undeterred we needlessly surveyed every lay-by on the final run in and our reward for persistence was a safe berth for the impending windy night, right next to our primary target.
Glenuig to Edinbane (Skye)
It was about 5:30am when I first realised it was Stag rutting season and we were surrounded by the beasts. Thankfully on further investigation they weren't quite as close as they sounded in the dead of night, even during gale force winds.
Christine and Lucy investigated further whilst I made breakfast, as Lucy dog is totally deaf their impressive roars were completely wasted on her, thank goodness.
We had prebooked our ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye and because of the stormy conditions we regularly checked the Calmac twitter feed as we travelled. We were led to believe that our sailing was still likely to operate, but on arrival at the port were immediately told the exact opposite. The resulting detour would add a mere 153 miles to the days drive through 40mph winds and driving rain. It was during this incessant squall that a passing vehicle clipped our wing mirror causing damage and casting a dark cloud over an already very grey kind of day!
Skye, I expected to be visually jaw dropping! The Cuillin Mountains and their famous ridge walks form an instantly recognisable skyline - an almost trademarked silhouette replicated on many of the logos of local businesses and various forms of tourist tat. Unfortunately by time we arrived at our campsite in Edinbane on Loch Greshornish, we had driven through said scenery without the benefit of a single breathtaking vista.. Low grey cloud and horizontal rain gave way only to more rain and dismal grey murk. After checking-in (again with our Privilege discount) and hooking up the electric etc, we discovered we were seriously lacking in the phone signal department. Luckily WiFi was available but at a price, so we made contact with Sam and Adam at ‘South Lakes Motorhome Hire’ to provide them with as much information as early as possible, hopefully enabling them to plan ahead and order spare parts in readiness for our return at the end of the week. Their response was exemplary and rescued what could easily have escalated into a stressful situation. These guys recognise the value of your holiday, they are genuinely good people to deal with. To quote Sam: "These things happen and most things can be put right easily enough.”*
‘The Edinbane Inn’ is about a 25 minute walk from the campsite and unbelievably we managed to arrive there completely dry, which is a welcome bonus when taking a dog into an eatery. Although it was only just after opening it was already quite busy and filling quickly. It's a very popular bistro style restaurant with a pared down, well considered menu, which we tend to appreciate, especially when its designed to showcase local produce. Our walk back was in failing light and we weren't quite as lucky on this leg, resorting to walking backwards in order to shield ourselves from the spontaneous horizontal hailstorm.
Two major problems, up here. 1) we were traveling with our dog, Lucy and dogs are not usually popular in such establishments 2) Portree, which the main centre of commerce and habitation on Skye, turned out to have a ‘village centre' which was a dead giveaway that we may struggle to spend a whole day mooching. After a quick look at the harbour and exhaustive survey of the tat shops selling every kind of haggis, tartan and tartan flavoured haggis souvenir, we decided we were almost hungry enough for it to be deemed lunchtime. After numerous knock backs from some of the more tempting, yet interestingly empty joints in town/village, we found a seat by the open fire in ‘The Isles Inn’ where we stretched out our lunch until it was time to get the ‘school bus’ home.
Skye to Onich
Looking at yet another disappointing weather forecast we were torn between stopping as planned in Bunree near Onich, just south of Fort William or powering on through to the Solway Coast for the promise of more clement weather and an extra night there. The chance of taking Scotlands shortest ferry route on foot to the local ‘dog friendly’ pub proved too much of a draw. What a novelty!
The Inn at Ardgour is a real, traditional Scottish hostelry on the shore of Loch Linnhe, painted white and just a dozen steps from the ferry landing stage. It serves great no nonsense Fayre. Both of us had Haggis Neapes & Tatties with the obligatory Whisky Sauce. It was bloody good -'nuff said. Lucy was offered dog biscuits yet again.. she bloody hates them but the offer was nice. At least we thought so.
Onich to Rockcliffe
The drive south through Glen Coe and on to Loch Lomond was exhilarating. The landscape constantly being repainted by the glorious morning sunshine. Isn't it funny how it always seems to take less time coming back than it did going? Or was that just another trick of the light? In a blink we're back to reality. The busy Glasgow roads and the M73 heading South beckon. Fast roads, at least for a few miles, heading for Dumfries.
"Castle Point Caravan Park" is an independent site and be warned its cash only (£19.50) . No frills and not as modern as the "Caravan Club" or "Camping and Caravan Club" sites that we had used up to now on this trip. Slightly dated but impeccably clean. It obviously has "Dog Friendly" pubs within walking distance or we wouldn't be here.. A 30 minute walk along the stunning Solway coastline through Rockcliffe to Kippford will bring you to ‘The Anchor’ and if you don't order the 10oz Rump Steak you won't be disappointed, but you will never understand what a treat you have missed. The walk home along the estuary and through the forest in the dark was a bit special, not only because for once it was a clear, dry, windless evening but also because all our 'Spidey Senses' were tingling and we could hear nature all around us.
Back at the Motorhome the heating had kicked in and we had one episode of Peaky Blinders left to watch before the last night holiday blues had us wishing we could go around again.
South Lakes Motorhome Hire
based in Barrow-in-Furness on the edge of the Lake District National Park. Follow the adventures of our motorhome as they travel around the UK and Continental Europe