The Skye’s the limit

My fourth night on Skye and already I feel rested and peaceful. The nights are dark and silent, although night before last I watched the edge of the Geminid’s shower through the sunroof. That was pretty amazing. It’s raining again this morning but as I’m working til 4pm I don’t really mind.
I’m busy testing the second battery too: it looks like they’re both shot.  🙁

Damned leak

The rain has been almost non stop here for nearly 2 weeks now. And I went into the wardrobe for something and there it was, a leak. Really bad too. So bad that my brand new, never used Canon printer was actually so full of water that I had to put it in the sink to drain out before throwing it away.

Spare towels, shirts, coats everything had to be taken out and I found a laundrette to wash them all toute suite. Of course the wardrobe itself was soaked. After an inspection it was clear what had happened. When I was sheltering from the 113 mph winds on Skye I parked in the lee of a tall wall beside some pine trees. I was barely bothered by the wind but I recall a scraping sound as a branch tickled the roof. I think one of them must have hit the gas flue and made it loose and so there was  basically a large hole in the roof for 3 days in pouring rain.
Still, at least I know what it was and it was fixed easily, simply tighten the locknut up and make sure the rubber seal was making a seal on the roof.

That part of the roof has leaked on and off for years now ever since Isatlan messed up when fitting that accursed satellite dish. The last time it was fixed was back in 2012 when I was last in Scotland and I wondered if that was the last I’d know of it lol

Cue that dehumidifier…sometimes things just happen for a reason eh?

Merry Christmas!!!

It’s Christmas morning, and this is my 8th Christmas in the van now. I decided to leave Bamburgh and come north and I am now sitting in view of the Forth bridge in Fife. I hope this weekend to get some photos of the new bridge construction before moving to Falkirk for more photos of the wheel.

The van’s old problem of non-starting is back again *sigh* I turn the key and it flat out refuses to start. I can try continually and it may or may not start eventually, and over the years there’s been no clue as to what causes it. However my fire works great, the fridge appears to be working and at least I am moving again.

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and Santa is kind to you 🙂


From Scotland to Hawaii and back again

Castle Moil, Skye
Castle Moil, Skye

Just on the edge of the Isle of Skye, beside the bridge to the mainland, is a small village called Kyleakin. Castle Maol is a ruin just a little outside of the village, on a hill top overlooking the Kyle Akin. Oddly, it is also known as Castle Moil, Dun Akyn, Dunakin Castle, Dun Haakon and Castle Dunakin! It was the family seat of the McKinnon clan and it looks commanding still, standing on the headland even though it is ruined.  I was taking photos from about a half mile away in a car park when a car pulled up and the lady driver asked if this was the way to the castle. I replied there was a path, but it was steep, muddy and in parts quite deep in mud and water. It is also overgrown and difficult to find in parts so this point was the best view of the castle by far without getting really dirty and tired.

She’d gotten out of the car and she smiled and told me this story:

“I’ve been going to night school to learn genealogy and I’ve found out about some of my ancestors going back hundreds of years. My great, great, great grandfather was a McKinnon. His family owned and at one time lived in the castle. Sometime in the late 18th Century he emigrated to Hawaii. He opened a bakery store there which whilst not in the family now, is still operating. I’ve thought about the family members who are lost in time now and who I’m resurrecting  in memory, and to find out I have  a physical connection to them through the castle fills me with an incredible need to be here, to see it, to touch it.

So I’ve hoped and dreamed for 20 years and finally planned this trip and now here I am, a half a mile away from something that has filled my thoughts and dreams for most of my adult life. I want to touch it, as my ancestors did hundreds of years ago and feel connected to them emotionally, across time and history. Getting muddy and wet is the least of my concerns and nothing will bar me now from going up there and touching the stone.”

Her and her elderly step-father set off and I took some more photos, feeling a little humbled by her story. Suddenly I thought about her amazing journey, and I thought about my journey too. I am agnostic, so I don’t believe there is a point to life, except the point you make. Mine is about People, Places and Experiences. This blog is about relating them too. Here I was in the midst of a great story, in a great place, about some amazing people, so I set off quickly to catch them up.

Home at last
Home at last

They’d not gone far as the bracken and undergrowth had grown over the path. She had jeans and trainers on and her elderly step-father was wearing some very smart leather slip ons. They really weren’t dressed for this so being in walking trousers and boots I tried to beat a little path for them. As we walked I introduced myself and she said her name was Tari Thompson.  I explained about my blog and that her story had touched me and how most of my life now was spent going places and meeting people and having experiences. I asked if I could walk up with them and photograph her realizing her dream and touching the stone. She was happy with this idea and we set about making our way to the hill that the castle was on. I chose an adjacent hill when we got nearer, as I had an excellent view across with the Kyle Akin in the background. I then went over to where they were after giving them some time alone.

Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.
Tari Thompson fulfills her lifelong dream and touches the stone of her ancestral home.

I got some photos, and I took some for them on their ipad and their camera. It really was a touching moment. This was a lifelong dream for someone coming true, and they shared it with me. I left them alone then so she could dwell on her own thoughts uninterrupted, but I left her my card, and hopefully she will email as I asked her to so she can see the photos I took and approve them to be published here.

And here they are 🙂

I love my life lol



EDIT: Some time after this was published, I received an email and I’ve copied the contents below…

Castle Maol

I want to thank you for the great blog you wrote about Ms. Thompson
fulfilling her dream of placing a hand on the castle and connecting
with her ancestors. Her ancestors are, in fact, my own. It gave me a
chill to think about doing the same one day. Thanks again!

Jonathan McKinnon

What’s the chances!!


Quack quack

View of Loch Lomond with distant mountains You’ll tak the high road and I’ll tak the low road and I’ll be in Scotland aforrrrrreeee yeeee….

OK so I can’t sing, but I’m happy to be spending time in Scotland again. Especially around here, Dunbartonshire, by the shores of loch Lomond which is beautiful. Scotland is generally very good to the tourist: routes are well signposted, there’s plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view, and you’re never far away from somewhere that will sell you food and drink.

I wasn’t sure where to go when I dropped off the camera in Glasgow, but Loch Lomond is less than an hour away so I’m pleased I came here now. Jack is loving it too and I’ve never seen him swim so much! I’ve no idea what’s got into him but he’s going into the water just for the fun of it, which is unlike him.

Chatting to someone at work who was talking about Duck Bay. I’d never heard of it so after I’d been to Asda in Dumbarton, I came to find it and it’s right there, almost on the end of the Loch, in plain view. I’ve already passed it twice without realising lol

A view of a beach with trees in the foeground and 6 men frollicking in the water,One of the great things about Scotland is that you can actually access the beautiful areas. Often in England they’re restricted, sometimes for no good reason, and it’s infuriating. But here you can park by the road, go down to the little sandy beach, and play in the water if you wish. Not that I did, I leave that to my brave dog, who doesn’t seem to care if it’s cold. On the second picture you can see 6 guys all playing in the water too. They were there for about a half hour messing around, stripped down to their boxers. God knows how they stood it, it was absolutely freezing despite the sun.

A tour boat cruising Loch Lomond with mountains in the distance There’s lots of cruise boats around this end of the loch too. I’ve never been on one, I usually find the value for money is just not there. Saying that you never know, I may check it out for the weekend. I like it here enough to stay til then, and  maybe next week too!

The photos by the way were taken on my trusty old Canon S70 compact camera. I’ve had it for years and it’s my backup for when things go wrong with the expensive ones, which they do 🙂


Glasgow parking is mad!

I got to Glasgow today to hand in my camera, found a parking spot after half an hour, and had to pay an incredible 60p per 12 minutes!! That’s £3 an hour lmao!
Has anyone ever paid more than that?
I think the nearest greed I can think of is the robbing Lake District charges.

Shame on you Glasgow!

Ice age landscape

I was driving back down to the north east when I spotted a sing saying Ice Age Landscape. You know, one of those brown ones that indicates an item or area of interest. So I quickly turned off the road onto a narrow, single track road and followed it along  a valley until I came to a viewpoint. After parking I read an info board which said that this was Glen Roy, and was virtually unchanged since being formed by glaciers during our last ice age.

Glenroy - Ice Age Landscape
Glenroy – Ice Age Landscape

You can clearly see the parallel lines going around the valley walls, where the different levels of water had been when it was a lake, and the scouring effect the ice had as it washed slowly along the ground carving out the glen itself.

I’m not a frustrated geologist, but I find all this stuff fascinating and spent an afternoon in Glenroy just marveling at the landscape and how it had been formed.


Beach but no sea?

Loch Morlich beach
Loch Morlich beach

I think I’ve already mentioned the lovely beach at Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, although it’s not a littoral one, the nearest sea is miles away. However this sandy beach is as good as most beaches you’ll find by the sea.

There’s some ancient Caledonian Pine trees along this stretch too so it’s very picturesque. That’s Cairngorm in the background, still covered in loads of snow.

Jack stalking ducks
Jack stalking ducks

Jack of course loves it because there’s ducks there, and one of his favourite  pastimes is chasing them, even though he doesn’t even come close to catching any.

You can see in the photo how unconcerned all the ducks are that he’s 2 feet from them hahah I think they all know him now and know he can’t fly!


Morlich beach
Morlich beach

It’s quite popular too even though for this time of year there isn’t that many people around.  Yet the weather has been fantastic. It’s rained some days, but there have been plenty like this one with blazing sunshine most of the day.

I think maybe it’s a bit of an undiscovered place. I was chatting to work colleagues about Glenmore Forest Park and no-one had heard of it.

Swamp monster

Jack playing at Swamp Monsters
Jack playing at Swamp Monsters

It was really warm today, so jack was chasing ducks more than usual. He decided to follow these two into the lake through the marsh at the shore. He was definitely game for it!

Odd that until he was two he wasn’t keen on water but he doesn’t care now. He often goes in to cool off, or as here, to chase ducks! Yet another gorgeous day in Glenmore Forest Park and we walked round Loch Morlich which takes about 3 hours if you stroll, play in the woods and chase ducks…


Glenmore Forest Park

One of the best forest parks, or parks of any type for that matter, Is Glenmore Forest Park in the Cairngorms. Cairngorm itself rises right out of the park, and it’s a wilderness and wonderness of trails and activities and trees and lochs and everything you could want in the outdoors. In the heart of the forest is Loch Morlich, seen below at dusk.

Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich

I’ve been here a couple of times over the years but forgotten just how good it was. Drive into Aviemore itself and you get the standard small town shops, with noisy silly cars driven by swaggering teens. It’s not the nicest place I know of and I only venture in to go to the shops for food then I come straight back out and into the glen.

I’ve spent may hours walking around the loch itself, it’s only about 3 miles around the shoreline, but there is plenty of fun to be had at the shoreline and in the forest. There are still some ancient Caledonian Pines by the north shore, a tangled twist of clearly ancient wood and yet on a sunny day you could easily by on a tropical island.


Loch MorlichThe shores are shallow and sandy in parts so it’s easy to wade in and swim, or simply paddle. My dog loves chasing ducks onto the loch: I think it’s juts an excuse to go swimming.

It was here beside the shores of Loch Morlich that the Heroes of Telemark trained. They were the Norwegians who eventually went back to destroy the plant where the Nazi’s were making heavy water, thereby ensuring that they weren’t the first to develop the hydrogen bomb. Can you imagine a world now if the Nazi’s had succeeded in that?

Nowadays it’s home to kayaking, fishing, cycling, snowboarding, camping, hiking and of course skiing. It became a major ski resort as the Heroes of Telemark and other who had trained there, enjoyed the skiing so much that they wanted to come back and continue.

Double rainbowAlmost all car parks are only £2 a day, some allow camping overnight, and there are a myriad trails to follow both on foot and on bikes.  I absolutely love this place so I’m staying for a few days despite the fact the weather is awful.


I’m back

I finally got the ferry back yesterday. It’s telling that I went down to St Margaret’s Hope office to book the ferry at 10 am, and stayed parked at the terminal until 4:50 when the ferry sailed.

Orkney island is nice enough, and the people seem friendly enough, but once I’d seen the peculiar main street in Stromness and took some photos by the harbour, there didn’t seem much to do there.

Stromness high street
Stromness high street

The main street is flagged rather than paved, and most of it’s length barely exceeds 8 feet. My camper is 7′ 6″ wide so it was slightly hairy getting through. And no before you ask, there were no signs warning me of the width.

The harbour is very busy and I stood for a while watching boats come in and out. I was amazed by how easy they made it seem, especially one large fishing boat called the Jean Elaine, who could have been parking a mini rather than a 50 foot boat.

Stromness ferry terminal
Stromness ferry terminal

I found  a nice lighthouse later, but that was after driving through the featureless, smelly farmland that is a feature of Orkney mainland. I’m sure someone will say “but they need to farm!” Quite. Ever since I entered Scotland in December at Dumfries I’ve been smelling the stink of slurry on fields. Oh wait, lemme check my shoes…

The lighthouse was lovely, and so was the Italian chapel, which was also interesting to read about.  After that, there just wasn’t anything else to take my fancy. You can eat out anywhere in the world so restaurants don’t do it for me, same with cafes and pubs. I’ve driven the length and breadth of Orkney and whilst it’s peaceful and friendly, it just holds no fascination for me. The lure of seeing whales was taken away when the lady in the Post Office told me she’d lived there 35 years and still not seen one.

Stromness harbour
Stromness harbour

The fare to the Shetland Islands was a staggering £232, which took it way beyond any trip I was likely to think of. So that’s what led me to return to the Scottish mainland. I’m now in Bonar Bridge, if only Orkney had scenery like this!

In conclusion, if you love peacefulness and can make your own fun, you will love Orkney. Lots of remote spots to camp too.

If you like climbing, hiking, ‘doing’ things, or have a dog that you want to let off the lead, forget it. And contrary to public opinion there are hardly any beaches with sand on and the few there are are tiny.

Ps: I had to drive all the way to Dornoch to get autogas for the cooker so bear in mind that between Skye and Durness, and between Dornoch and Dunnet head, that entire part of northern Scotland has NO autogas stations. I managed reasonably easily on the two tanks that I’d filled in Skye, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you use a lot of gas or only have one small bottle.