A fond farewell to an old friend

At Spurn Point shortly before we nearly got stuck in the sand

For around eighteen months, from December 2010 until May 2012, the lighthouse tour became the main focus of my life. Planning for the tour itself presented very few challenges, but there was one obstacle that needed to be overcome before I could even leave home: learning to drive. I am still uncertain as to how I reached the age of 27 without a licence, but I did and in order to successfully implement the UK lighthouse tour plan it was essential that I learnt to drive and bought a car within this eighteen month period.

Not having a huge amount of money to spend on a vehicle and taking into consideration the cost of insurance (which was huge, by the way), I opted for an X-reg Suzuki Wagon R+. She appeared to provide exactly what I needed: a small car with seats that folded right down in the back allowing for a lot of storage space and, without wishing to sound too shallow here, a great colour too! So, Geko Waggers (her formal name based on her registration and the type of car – must also be said with a hint of a Westcountry accent) was introduced as the most expensive item I had ever taken ownership of.

I passed my driving test on 22 October 2011, one month after purchasing the car, giving me a little less than seven months to get used to her ways and ready for the road. I feel that it is important to add at this point that this was not a cheap car to maintain during those seven months. I could list all of the problems she had (wheel bearings, coil packs, replacement of the front suspension, among many other things), but it would only bore you.

So, after dragging her through her MOT just a month before the trip, we were finally ready to go.

To start with she was fine and when I say ‘to start with’ I mean for the first two days of the tour. On the second evening her emissions control light came on, which was obviously a little worrying considering I still had 28 days of driving ahead of me. Based on previous experience of the car (that I was really struggling to like at this point), it was likely to cost a fair amount to get the problem sorted, so I stopped off at an independent garage to get it checked out. Due to her age they couldn’t run the diagnostic test and suggested I take her to a Suzuki dealer, but they did point out that it was “probably nothing serious as the car was still running fine”. So, this is my reason for not then hunting down a Suzuki dealer until…well, I just didn’t bother and carried on driving until day 30, by which point she was still very much moving! However, it’s not pleasant worrying every morning that your car won’t start or that it’ll just stop in the middle of nowhere, but you’ve got to take these risks sometimes.

We had our issues along the way: I almost got her stuck in sand on Spurn Point, I reversed her into a pavement which caused her rear mud flap to come loose, she hit a wall whilst turning around near a cattle grid (I am wording that as if it wasn’t my fault, I realise this), and one of her rear tyres exploded on the motorway. Those 30 days were hard going for poor Little Car (as she came to be known during the trip – mainly as a result of me say ‘come on, Little Car, you can do it’ when trying to force her up steep hills or ‘sorry Little Car’ along really bumpy “roads”), but she made it through. She also soldiered on after both of the bird episodes.

Broken down on the M57

So, she may have returned home a little battered and bruised, but the most important point is that she did return home.

However, with the month-long section of the lighthouse tour over (the tour itself does, of course, continue) it was time for us to go our separate ways and she has gone on to a nice man at the garage (who himself has toured around the country a bit) who is going to fix her up and sell her on to someone who, I hope, will treat her better than I did (not particularly hard to do, I imagine, based on the aforementioned incidents).

I don’t want to get too sentimental about it as she was a complete drain on the old bank balance, but she did get me to some great places and I wouldn’t have met the brilliant people I encountered if she’d fallen at the first hurdle. I do, though, wish she would have saved me from the “unsafe men” at Peterhead and Wick, but that may have been asking too much!

So, thanks Little Car for getting me to where I wanted to be. May you have a happy and long(ish) future ahead of you! 🙂

Overlooking Horcum Dyke on the Yorkshire Moors

uklighthousetour2012 in figures

Here are some fascinating facts I wanted to share with you about my tour.

The final map with red dots showing the places I visited during the month

Distance travelled: 4,379.6 miles

Cost of petrol: £610.55 + a tank on the first day that I can’t find the receipt for (so around £655)

Petrol stops: 22 (this is based on filling up when I got down to half a tank whilst in Scotland, just to be on the safe side)

Days spent in England: 14 1/4

Days spent in Scotland: 13 1/4

Days spent in Wales: 2 1/2

Number of lighthouses seen: 147

Number of lighthouses visited (inside): 6

Number of lighthouse steps climbed: 451

Most lighthouses seen in one day: 9 (days 12 and 13)

Number of photos taken: 2,631

Number of ferries caught: 3

Number of campsites stayed at: 22

Number of B&Bs stayed at: 4

Number of days spent using a satnav: 0

Number of failed attempts at using the satnav before giving up on it: 3

Number of bird injuries or fatalities resulting from the tour: 2

Number of bird injuries or fatalities resulting from the tour that were intentional: 0

These are just some of the statistics, but let me know if there is anything else you would like to know here and I will endeavour to provide the answers. 🙂

…for the night.

So, we have reached the final part in this trilogy of posts reviewing the campsites I stayed at during my tour. Nights 19 to 27 coming up!

Night 19: Lochgilpead Caravan Park, Lochgilpead, Argyll

The view (that I wasn’t supposed to have) from the tent at Castle Bay Holiday and Residential Park in Portpatrick

This was the campsite that I probably saw least of and I shall explain why. Night 19 marked the first night that I encountered rain and it was set to continue throughout the night. So I arrived, checked in with the assistance of a man who was struggling with the receipt-printing machine as it had run out of paper and he was fairly new to the task, and set up the tent. After using the bathroom and running between the car and tent with armfuls of bedding, clothes, food and a couple of books, I finally made it into my waterproof home – at least I hoped it was waterproof (it was). I was happily reading my new book about Scottish lighthouses that I had picked up at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses when the neighbours arrived home. They had clearly been out drinking because she was gobby and he was aggressive. I was concerned that there would be a case of domestic violence at a few points, but it seemed that she knew how to hold her own against him (some couples are just a bit strange). Eventually they quietened down and, although the rain continued throughout the night, I slept rather well. The facilities at the site were standard, but not as clean as some of the others, which probably wasn’t helped by the weather conditions. The site was located a short distance from the centre of Lochgilpead, which would have been nice had it not been for the weather. Overall a good site, I just wish I’d had the chance to explore a little more.

Night 20: Sandylands Holiday Park, Saltcoats, Ayrshire

This was probably the most commercialised site I stayed at, but belonging to Park Resorts it was to be expected. I arrived just before 6 to find that reception closed at 5pm (although it said 7pm on the website), but it wasn’t a problem as I wasn just told to wait until 6 when the security staff would arrive and be able to check me in. Although the camping area was rather long it was fairly busy so I had the choice of a dried up area or another dried up area to pitch my tent. It was here that I struggled most to get tent pegs in the ground and had to ask a park attendant to assist me the following morning in pulling them out. There were plenty of facilities available here: bar, amusements, fish and chip shop (took advantage of that one as well), laundry room and a very sparkly toilet block (they had used some sort of material with glittery bits in it on the walls and surfaces – a little weird). So that was good. There were two showers in the ladies bathroom both of which leaked (just what you expect from a large site, surely), but like the site I stayed at on my first night camping their main focus clearly wasn’t tents. My least favourite part of this site was the fact that a train line ran alongside the camping area, which made it a pretty noisy place to be when freight trains passed. So, I don’t suppose I’ll be revisiting any time soon, but the facilities were good.

Night 21: Castle Bay Holiday and Residential Park, Stanraer, Portpatrick

Firstly, this site was not easy to find. There are no directions on the website and I managed to find it on my third attempt after speaking to the owner on the phone a couple of times. Eventually I arrived and found reception on my third attempt too (really wasn’t doing well that day). I checked in and was given a map of where I could camp (which I then, it turned out, went on to ignore). I ended up camping on a pitch that was for those who had paid for electric hook-up only, but luckily the site wasn’t full and when the man came over to tell me that I was in the wrong area he allowed me to stay there anyway as I was only staying a night. Oops! I was quite pleased really as I had an amazing view of Dunskey Castle and the mound where I was supposed to have camped was rather busy (it was just a big mound with no real level ground). The toilet block here was fine, but the location was really the main appeal and I embarked on the lovely walk along the cliff path from the site to the centre of Portpatrick. It was a nice evening and I sneakily went and explored inside Dunskey Castle on my way back. Although it’s a bit out of the way, I would recommend this site for its location mainly. I’d love to go back to area again one day.

Night 22: Moordale Caravan Park, Silloth, Cumbria

So, back in England and no more beaches on the seafront for me. This site was fine and served its purpose very well. It was really quiet with, fortunately, a sheltered pitch for me to settle. Finding it did involve me and one of the owners standing silently for a moment trying to work out which way the wind was blowing (it seemed to be coming from all directions). The toilet block on had one shower in the ladies, but I was having a grubby day (partly due to my waking up late after a pretty bad night’s sleep). There were plenty of dogs around and it was only a short walk to the beach. The walk to town to find some food was a little more arduous though and, due to the time of day, there wasn’t much in the way of available food, but I managed by going to the only open cafe where everyone else seemed to be converging. There’s a damn golf course next door, which is fine, but I managed to get a little lost on it on my way back from a lighthouse hunt (not using my sense of direction got me into that and using it got me out – should have stayed focussed at all times). So, there’s not a huge amount more to say about the site. Get’s a fairly laid-back thumbs up.

Night 23: Butterflowers Campsite and Touring Park, Port Haverigg, Cumbria

I stopped in the car park of another campsite to phone ahead to this site as I knew it  would be a busy time. I loved the name and thought it might be just as lovely as it sounded. It certainly is a good site with lots of facilities (pool, laundry room, kitchen etc.) and has some great little decorative touches. There are plenty of toilets and showers available and the camping area was on level ground. It’s also a really nice location, just a few minutes walk from Duddon Sands and I took a stroll alongside towards Hodbarrow Point in the evening. The only problem I encountered with this site was the noisy neighbours. They were families with children, but it wasn’t the children that were the problem. The adults were drinking until the early hours and playing really loud music, which I’m sure was very fun for them, but not so much for me (did they not know that I was on a driving tour?!). I was also approached by one of the noisy guys who told me I needed another tent peg (although he didn’t use those words, he referred to them as something else so it took me a while to work out what he was chatting about). I assured him that it was fine and he and his friend simmered down after I informed them that I had camped for almost 20 nights without a tent peg in that particular part of the tent. That’ll learn ’em! I would be happy to revisit this site in the future, but hopefully it would be a little quieter!

Night 24: The Anchorage Bed and Breakfast, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

I had slept badly for a few nights and was not able to find a campsite with any availability so I decided that a B&B was the way to go. It was just along the road from this that I narrowly avoided getting three points on my licence (phew) and so I was just glad to arrive. The only issue though was that I couldn’t work out what the house number was. I couldn’t find the number on the website and there didn’t appear to be any signs outside that matched the name I was looking for. Google Maps told me it was number 43, but I think it ended up being 40 something else and on the opposite site of the road. So, I rather embarrassingly had to call the lady from right outside to find out what number it was. Oh well, I made it in eventually and was given a lovely big room. I made myself a cup of tea (so much relief at the presence of the kettle and the lady said to just let her know if I needed any more tea bags – heaven!) and had a brief relax (I’m not good at relaxing, it turns out) before heading back out for a walk along the seafront on the lighthouse hunt. The B&B is in a really convenient location just a short distance from the town centre. The following morning I had a menu of breakfast options to choose from and a room full of memorabilia to look at while they prepared my full English. The breakfast was brilliant and I had a really nice chat with the owners (who also enjoy the odd lighthouse visit). Really liked it here and got a chance to watch a bit of the Jubilee celebrations too. Bonus!

Night 25: Chester Fairoaks Caravan Club Site, Little Stanney, Cheshire

This must have been one of the easiest campsites to find based on the instructions online. It has a small camping area and I was the only one in a tent (who knows why, got to do a bit of camping in the rain surely!) It was a really quiet site with plenty of bathroom facilities. The owner was friendly and it was very conveniently located not far from the M53 for my trip to Wales the following day. There’s not a lot else to say about it really, just that it’s a really nice site!

Night 26: Tan Y Graig Caravan and Camping, Trearddur Bay, Anglesey

It took me a while to find this one, partly because the GPRS on my phone wasn’t working (that was a lifesaver at times) so I sort of guessed where it was and then realised I gone too far and stopped to check the instructions. There aren’t many buildings in the area so it shouldn’t have been too difficult, but I struggled (as I do sometimes). Anyway, I found it eventually and met the lovely owners. I was welcomed by two dogs, the smallest of which was a little chatty and I was later told that, as I was the 1,001st visitor, I got to take the dog (not sure the male owner was that keen on the small dog!). The site is fairly new and was pretty quiet when I was there, although the weather again wasn’t great. The bathroom facilities were good and kept very clean. So clean, in fact, that I felt really guilty for going in there after I had been traipsing around on the muddy grass outside. I pitched my tent in a spot where I would be sheltered by a touring van and a short distance from a field of ponies, which was lovely. The female owner was really chatty and a lovely lady. She stuck her head out of the window the following morning to check how I’d slept and warn me about the weather and parking in Aberystwyth. It’s a really nice location, very far away from anywhere (at least that’s how it felt, but it wasn’t actually too far from Holyhead) with the lovely Trearddur Bay to the east and South Stack lighthouse to the west. Would definitely recommend this one.

Night 27: Greenore Camping & Caravan Site, Tremain, Ceredigion

What can I say about this site except that it was my favourite! I arrived and was given a comprehensive tour of everything the site had to offer, including the Camper’s Cabin. While I pitched my tent they prepared a cup of tea for me and brought it out along with some cake (amazing!). The weather wasn’t great so I tucked myself away in the Cabin for a while until I was joined by the owners and some of their family members. I had a lovely evening with them and received a free full English breakfast the following morning as the owners thought they had overcharged me considering the size of my tent (they clearly weren’t aware that I had paid £20 at the campsite on my first night – now that’s overcharging!) It was a really lovely experience being there and I was made to feel like part of a friendly camping community. The owners also informed me that the outdoor shower block had frozen up at one point the previous year and so they had let one of the campers have a shower in their house, that is how kind they are. I would not only recommend, but positively encourage, people to stay here. It’s a wonderful place and I couldn’t have asked for a better last night of camping.

So there we have it. That is my review of the varied and, in general, rather enjoyable camping experience during my tour. I hope you have enjoyed it and will find it useful if you ever find yourself in the vicinity of the areas I stayed. 🙂

…that’s my home…

Welcome to the second part of my campsite review. Let’s get straight on with the show starting with the fabulous night 10, which incidentally also happened to be my birthday!

My wonderful birthday cards along with my delicious cake courtesy of Woodland Gardens Caravan and Camping Site in Lundin Links

Night 10: Woodland Gardens Caravan and Camping Site, Lundin Links, Fife

This site advertises itself as adults only so I knew it would be a quiet one. When I arrived at reception and was booking in the owner asked me what the date was and I told him it was the 21st and added briefly that it was my birthday. He informed me that he also liked to be away on his birthday to avoid the risk of surprise parties. This is, of course, certainly not why I chose to go away for my birthday, but it was a welcome reminder that it was, in fact, my birthday and a text message received a short while later alerted me to the fact that I still hadn’t opened the handful of birthday cards I had taken with me. So, there I was sitting in the large (and very exciting) recreation room, surrounded by my cards and chatting away on the phone to my flatmate when the female owner of the site (Jan) came in carrying a small cake and an envelope. The picture on the right shows the cake in all its glory (that didn’t last long) and my (somewhat themed) birthday cards. With the above in mind, how can I possibly complain about this site?! Not only that, but there really isn’t much to complain about regardless of the owner’s generosity and thoughtfulness. The site was indeed quiet and very sheltered (a joy when you’re camping almost every night) with a very clean and gorgeously decorated bathroom block (notice this one isn’t referred to as a toilet block!). There were two touring caravans at the site the night I was there and the following morning I got chatting to a lady who owned one of the vans who was telling me about what it’s like to camp in a van and how they actually manoeuvre the caravan so the towing part is against a wall or fence (that had really intrigued me, but apparently it’s just a matter of pushing it). So, to summarise, this site is great. It’s fairly new and still building its reputation, but I’m sure it will go from strength to strength, so if you are ever in the area then just get a tent and camp there!

Night 11: Miltonhaven Seaside Caravan Park, St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire

I will forever remember this place as “the animal campsite” and I will explain why. Firstly, there was Tom, a big, fluffy, ginger cat who followed us around the site as the owner gave me the introductory tour and then visited me briefly at my tent later that evening. Then there were the ducks. Now apparently there are two sets of ducks: the first set are a friendly bunch of four who travel to and fro between the campsite and another property a short distance away, chatting to people and generally just socialising really. The second set of ducks hang out at the campsite’s pond and, in extreme contrast to the first set, will disappear as soon as anyone goes near them. I became very familiar with the first set of ducks who visited me a few times on the evening I arrived (crawling out from underneath my car at one point) and, whilst I ate breakfast the following morning, one of the males watched me closely whilst beckoning his female friend (who sadly never showed). In the evening I went for a short walk along the beach just in front of the campsite. On my way back I narrowly avoided stepping on a chicken that was lingering about as I was heading for a gated section where goats and rabbits were chilling out. I watched them for a while until a pony appeared and approached me. Now, I’m a bit of a funny one when it comes to animals in that I like looking at them, but I’m not particularly keen on touching them, so instead I decided to ask it if it would mind me taking a picture of it (I’d had a lot of sun that day, it’s my only excuse) to which, of course, it didn’t reply so I went right ahead and took the picture, being mindful to thank the pony afterwards. I then felt really guilty as I walked away and it continued to watch me (a.k.a. beg me to stroke it). To be honest, there’s not a lot else to say about the campsite aside from the various creatures that tread it’s paths. It was a great location (essentially on the beach) and was very quiet. The bathroom was fairly standard (and you had to pay for the shower), but it did have a kitchen (with a kettle!!! a real rarity) and recreation room, which were both a bit of a bonus. I would be more than happy to return if I ever find myself in those parts again, mostly (of course) to re-visit my little animal chums!

Night 12: Peterhead Lido Caravan Park, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire

Now this was a strange one. No one really seemed to know what they were doing when I arrived (apart from having a barbecue!) and I got the impression that the man who oversaw proceedings hadn’t been doing it long. I was handed a key for the toilet block (yep, back to toilet block now) and asked where I wanted to go, so I pointed to a pitch that looked like a sensible enough choice to which I received the response ‘You can go wherever you like’. A bit weird, but not rude in any way, just strange. My stay here wasn’t entirely pleasant. The caravan park was a bit of a thoroughfare for teenagers and I had that damn old man (see the first of my least favourite people in an earlier post for more ghastly information about him) pestering me almost continuously. It was a nice enough location, but it all just felt a bit odd and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t glad to leave the following morning. There seems to be an issue with campsites in this area whereby the local council have taken over responsibility for them, but done absolutely nothing with them. My recommendation: don’t camp in this area unless you absolutely must.

Night 13: Rosemarkie Camping and Caravanning Club Site, Rosemarkie, Black Isle

Perhaps it was because I arrived just before they were closing reception, but I didn’t receive the personal service at this site that I had at others. I’m not sure if it’s a Camping and Caravanning Club thing as it was a pretty big site, but never mind. The site was in a great location right on the beach and just a 20-minute walk from the lighthouse at Chanonry Point. To be honest, this is one of the sites that didn’t stand out so much to me. My notes tell me that the facilities were good, but there weren’t enough showers and that I bought fish and chips from a shop in the village (now I do remember that). It was also one of the sites where I encountered the sea mist, which was particularly spooky as it started coming in that evening so I made a quick escape to the safe confines of my tent. So, not much to write home about with this one, unfortunately. It wasn’t a bad site and the walk along to the lighthouse was lovely, but I’m not going to rave about it.

Night 14: Wick Caravan Site, Wick, Caithness

I received a lovely welcome at this site from the very friendly female owner who I got chatting to for quite some time upon my arrival. She emphasised the fact that she and her husband were always onsite so I would not be abandoned. She was certainly right there as it didn’t take long for the only other camper to start chatting and then attempt to feed me wine (see earlier post for more information about him). The funniest thing I remember from this site was that I had some wet washing from the previous evening hanging around in the car all day and it wasn’t drying at all so I utilised the resources I had available to me (a camping washing line that refused to stick to anything with it’s suction pads, my car and my camp bed) to hang my washing out to dry. I wish I had taken a picture of my efforts as it probably would have looked rather amusing to the standard passer-by. Fortunately though the site was (as it states on its website) secluded and passers-by were in short supply. The facilities at the site were very good and I remember spending a particularly long time in the bathroom that morning (I think I was mostly hiding from my weirdo camping neighbour). For the great customer service this site gets my thumbs up, but the fellow camper gets a big thumbs down.

Night 15: Sango Sands, Durness, Sutherland

Seriously, I challenge anyone not to like this site (except if it’s raining, then it’s probably not pleasant). The location is absolutely stunning and you truly do feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, which is basically where you are! Sango Bay is one of the best beaches I saw during my trip with it’s big old boulders sticking out of the sand in all manner of directions. The weather was absolutely perfect which I think added to the loveliness. As I walked back from my stroll on the beach that evening two men were sitting outside the bar and one said “hello” and I said the same back. He then said that I had brought some good weather with me to which I replied “I’m leaving tomorrow”, which gave them a bit of a chuckle (in fact, the weather was even hotter the following day – at least it was where I found myself, who knows about them). Staying at this site was cheap, very cheap. I made a note that it was £6.50 for the night, which was the least I paid for a night during the trip. The toilet block was fairly basic, but the owner was really friendly and chatted to everyone, welcoming those arriving with “Hello. How are you?” This was a really good site, mostly for the location, and I would recommend it to anyone who just happened to find themselves at the very top of the Scotland!

Night 16: Clachtoll Beach Campsite, Clachtoll, Lochinver

My favourite thing about this site was the welcome and regular presence of the site’s owner. He’s gave me a tour of the facilities and picked a suitable pitch for me. The following morning his did the rounds, saying hello to everyone and asking how they had slept. Really lovely guy and service like that sticks in your mind. As with many of the campsites in the Highlands, this site was just next to the beach and it was a very lovely beach, which I recall being very sandy (one thing I struggled to enjoy on my trip it was walking over dry sand – it’s really tough going). It was a busy site with people wandering to and from the beach, which was actually rather nice. They also had a hot drinks machine, which I was very pleased about, although the hot chocolate wasn’t great (why I was drinking hot chocolate on the warmest day of my trip I don’t know!). For the sheer friendliness of the owner alone I would happily revisit this place. Warning to anyone who does end up here though: mind the sheep, they get all over the road!

Night 17: Ardelve Caravan and Camping Park, Ardelve, Dornie

I won’t dwell on this final site for today’s post for long as the owners dwelled on me for less time than it will take for you to read this. When I arrived there was a sign saying to pitch up and the owner would come around in the evening to collect the fee (they didn’t end up coming until the following morning). The toilet block was basic and that was about it really. There was a nice view. That is all. If you want to be uninterrupted at a campsite then, by all means, do stop here, but I shan’t be rushing back.

Night 18: Ardnamurchan Campsite, Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan

This was the site where I first encountered the midges and it is this that seems to be the recipe for the forging of new friendships that takes place at this campsite. The owner is a nice enough man, but I was actually greeted by a fellow camper instead who showed me who I needed to speak to. There is a lovely view from the bottom of the site and Kilchoan prides itself on being the most westerly village on mainland UK (fascinating fact of the day for you right there). The campsite is a little odd in its layout. I completely understand why it is laid out as it is because otherwise it would be a fairly steep slope, but there are a lot of steep gravel paths and awkward manoeuvres to arrive at the pitch. Getting out was a bit of a struggle, but I just about managed. The toilet block is very basic and there certainly wasn’t enough showers the following morning with people having to wait outside until one became available. Overall I like the site and there is a very relaxed feel about it. I would recommend it to those who don’t have a big vehicle and are well-equipped to deal with midges!

That is all for now! Final nine nights tomorrow, followers. (Advance warning: nights 28 to 30 won’t be included as I was either staying at my sister’s or home). So, until then… 🙂

Wherever I lay my tent…

I’ve been meaning to report on the campsites I stayed at while away for some time now and I’ve finally found the time! There were 22 campsites in total and 4 B&Bs. Here is my take on those I resided at for the first nine nights (others to follow).

Note: night 1 won’t be included in this post as I was put up (very kindly) by family members on this particular evening.

Middlewood Farm in Whitby, which has apparently won a few awards!

Night 2: Woodland Holiday Park, Trimingham, Norfolk

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a great start to my camping experience. It was, in fact, one of the worst campsites I stayed at. Now, I’m not knocking the whole place and I’m sure it’s a great place to take the family if you want to stay in a caravan or wooden hut (see their homepage for an example of said huts), but the camping field was a big, old thing right at the bottom of the site, possibly as far away as you could get from the toilet block with just two measly portaloos that they didn’t recommend you use anyway. It didn’t help that it was a Sunday evening, which meant I had the entire field to myself. The site’s facilities weren’t lacking, that’s for sure. They had a bar, laundry room, the lot, but it is all a little inconveniently placed for campers. Also, the service I received was pretty standard for a large site with no personal touches (which, I went on to find out, certainly aren’t a rarity at the smaller sites). All in all not the best start, but at least I got it out of the way.

Night 3: Brandy Wharf Leisure Park, Waddingham, Lincolnshire

So, the second night was a vast improvement (site-wise anyway). Judging by the ‘leisure park’ mention in its title if I hadn’t have known better I might have assumed there would be twisty kid’s slides weaving about all over the place, a heated pool and, quite possibly, a spa. However, I came (fairly) well-educated about the site. Its website is very open about what it offers in the summer, but May is not really the summer so I think there was one other family there the night I stayed and no activities (not that I minded, there was no time for sky diving anyway). The owner of the campsite was one of those people who, although I am not a “city-type” by any stretch of the imagination, made me feel a little like one by the way she looked at me (as if she didn’t quite “get” me). Feeling a little odd and only slightly unnerved, I was left to my own devices (including finding the toilet block). The site was fine and I was woken rather early by the rousing tones of the cockerel, which was no surprise seeing as it’s a working farm. Overall opinion, not a bad one, but probably better in the summer. Also, I was delighted to learn that my very own dad was brought up and went to school in nearby villages (fascinating)!

Night 4: Victoria House, Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire

Firstly, it is very important to know that this B&B has a pedestrian crossing outside as it’s very helpful when it comes to finding the place (this is shown on the homepage of their website, not sure if it was intentional). So, I had decided to treat myself to a proper bed for the night (without knowing that I would be forced to stay in two more just a couple of nights late – but more on that shortly) and I picked this lovely little place that it nicely positioned in Withernsea, a seaside town where there are fish and chip shops aplenty (I’m not ashamed to say that I did endulge in a little of that – including some ‘scraps’) and a very pleasant promenade to stroll along (I did that too). The room was extremely big with a bathroom big enough to fit a third single bed. The only issue I encountered was that the shower didn’t work, but it wasn’t too tough convincing myself to rest in a nice, warm bath with a cup of tea on hand. Really nice place and friendly owners who, although I didn’t speak to them too much as I was so busy chatting to the man who is walking around the coast (see previous post for more details), were very helpful and keen to chat about the local area. I would recommend this one to anyone heading for Withernsea for sure.

Night 5: Middlewood Farm Holiday Park, Whitby, North Yorkshire

What a beauty! I liked this site from the moment I arrived and I think what really helped was that there were actually other people there – and quite a few of them too considering it was mid-week. The toilet block was very nicely kept and, although the site didn’t have many additional facilities, it was a really enjoyable place to stay and I would certainly recommend it to anyone (unless you have a really really old car that simply cannot handle the crazy steep roads of Whitby – mine just about made it). When I arrived and told the owner about my trip he was keen to guide me to the map on the wall and let me know where I could find the Whitby lighthouses the following morning. I decided to make the most of the pleasant evening by taking a stroll down to Robin Hood’s Bay, which is well signposted from the site. It’s a great little walk down to the bay passing through tree-lined paths and the dinky little streets. The walk and proximity to Robin Hood’s Bay really adds to the charm and experience of staying at the campsite. The other campers were really friendly and I spent quite some time chatting to a lady in the bathroom. A really lovely stay at this one.

Night 6: The Bell Guest House, Horden, County Durham

And so I had left the joys of Yorkshire behind along with the chance of finding a campsite that fell within a sensible distance from the coast! I was aware of this situation though and, although I had listed a couple of potential B&Bs in the area, ended up in a somewhat over-priced guest house/pub that I assume can only charge the amount it does because it is the only accommodation available for anyone passing through for a few miles. The room was small, but well-decorated and the walls were a little beyond thin. The bedrooms were above the pub, which I was pleased to find caused little distubance. However, by this time, I had become very protective of Little Car and didn’t like the thought of her being stuck outside at the side of a rather busy road. I was aware that it wasn’t the best area to be staying, surrounded by towns and villages that were crushed by the closing of the mines and the resulting unemployment in the 80s and which still has an impact today. I managed to pass my time here researching the local area and growing a little saddened by the lack of support the surrounding area had gained to get back on its feet over the past 30 years. I met the owner the following morning, a really friendly guy who sent me on my way with some tea bags and waffles, which was a really nice touch and made me a little less appalled by the nightly charge.

Night 7: Scenic Guest House, South Shields, Tyne & Wear

There is no way I can make any bad comments about this place at all. The owner was so incredibly friendly and so accommodating that I can’t think of one bad point. She made it into my top 5 encounters in my earlier post for her brilliant telephone welcome (involving her back complaint), giving me a choice of room, and her ability to maintain a conversation that lasted over an hour and still didn’t really want me to leave. The guest house was in a great location, just a short stroll across the park to the beach and a only a slightly longer strong to the town centre. My choice of room meant it wasn’t a particularly large space, but I had made the decision and it was a perfect size for me (I sometimes feel a little lost in big rooms)! This wasn’t my first choice of guest house when I was phoning around looking for a room (there are no campsites here either), but having stayed there, if I’m ever back in the area I wouldn’t hesitate to stay again. A big thumbs up from me!

Night 8: Springhill Farm Caravan and Camping, Seahouses, Northumberland

By this point we were in full half-term swing and this site was full of tents and caravans sitting nicely alongside the wigwams (I really wanted to find out how much they were for a night, but I think they were all full and probably massively expensive). It was a really family-friendly place, which I actually quite enjoyed for a while until it got to about 9.30pm and I was getting cold and wanting to go to sleep while the parents allowed their children to stay up hours past their usual bedtime. The site had good facilities and enough of them (very important when I am there as I take ages in the bathroom when I’m camping, who knew?!) and some lovely views. The sheep in the next field had clearly welcomed some young’uns recently, which was just a little bit cute. However, there was a cow in a nearby building that sounded like it was in some serious pain (I do hope it was ok). All in all, a really nice site, but not for those who aren’t keen on children. Be warned, my friends!

Night 9: Dunbar Camping and Caravannning, Dunbar, East Lothian

And finally (for this post anyway), we reach my first experience of camping in Scotland where standard tent pegs just don’t want to go into the ground (trust me, I am not lying). My favourite thing about this site was the man who showed me the best pitch he could find. He worked there, of course, he wasn’t just a stranger, and one of his jobs was to direct people to a suitable pitch and he spent a while tramping on the ground near the toilet block as evidence that the grass wasn’t too wet in that area. Really nice man. It was a quiet site yet quite large so everyone was fairly well spaced out (not drug-induced, but physically spread out). There was a couple in a van next to me and the man had a guitar which he had a bit of a moment on the following morning. It wasn’t the most amazing site and was fairly pricey in comparison to some of the others if you’re not a member or the Camping and Caravanning Club, but pleasant enough nonetheless. It’s also a short drive from Barns Ness lighthouse, so I wasn’t complaining.

More soon, friends (don’t want to overload you)! 🙂

The good, the chatty and the just plain annoying

As you can probably imagine, I met some interesting characters on my tour and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some more information with you about those who I count as my five favourites (and a couple I wasn’t quite as keen on). I will attempt to list them in order of when I met them rather than by preference (how could I possible choose favourites?!).

Also, many people felt that I was brave to travel as a lone female with one of the concerns being the threat of men trying to “woo” me (nicely put, I think). Therefore, with each man I list I will be reporting on any mention they made of their wife/girlfriend/fiancee/partner (which means you’re safe) or asking about your boyfriend (which means you should run). You will notice a clear divide below.

1. So, I will begin with Martyn who was the only other resident at the B&B in Withernsea. I mentioned him in one of my early posts, but allow me to re-explain. Martyn lives in Devon and is married with children. A couple of years ago he decided to walk around the coast of the UK taking odd long weekends and weeks here and there throughout the year. He expects the whole journey to take him roughly 8 years in total (two of which he has already done), but as he said, he is in no rush (a great attitude and a rare one in this day and age). There have, of course, been times that he has considered walking for longer. He once suggested to his wife that he could go for a three-month period, which down go down particularly well. He isn’t travelling for any other reason than because it’s something he wants to do and I think that’s great. Most importantly of all though, he happened to have a picture of a lighthouse as his background image on his phone. That gets a big thumbs up from me! Martyn mentioned his wife a few times over breakfast, so he gets the “safe man” approval thrown in for good measure!

2. When I phoned ahead to see if there was a single room available at a B&B close to the beach in South Shields, I was greeted with a somewhat hesitant ‘well, I have, but will you be wanting a full breakfast in the morning?’. I had only recently had a cooked breakfast or two (this was the area where there were very few campsites on the go) and my stomach sometimes struggles with so much food of a morning, so my response was ‘No, not necessarily’ to which the lady on the other end of the line began informing me about her bad back, which was preventing her from moving more than was absolutely necessary. When I arrived she was very welcoming and gave me a choice of room (one on the first floor with a view over the road and one on the second floor with a roof window and a better view of the beach and the red groyne that counted as a lighthouse in my book – I don’t suppose I need to tell you which I chose). She then gave me directions to the important places (well, Morrisons, which turned out the be exactly where I was meeting a friend later in the day). My favourite part of this encounter though was the following morning when she told me more about her imjured back (which was feeling a little better for those who are interested), her family history, how she came to live in the area, and numerous other subjects. After breakfast had become a distant memory and we had talked for more than an hour, I announced that I should be heading off to which she replied ‘Already?’. I think I found a friend there and a very lovely lady she was!

3. The next of my favourite encounters was brief, so brief in fact that I didn’t even catch his name. On the journey back along the bumpy road through the military firing range from Cape Wrath a guy stopped our minibus and asked for a lift back to the boat. He had just appeared out of nowhere and I hadn’t seen him on the earlier journey out to the lighthouse. Once we had completely our trip and were back on dry land, I found out that he’d taken the boat and the bus to Cape Wrath the day before and walked to a nearby beach to camp for the night. He had then rushed to the road on the Sunday afternoon in an attempt to catch the bus back the final stretch. This guy’s job is ski rescue and he lives just down the road (a long road) from Strathy Point lighthouse on the north coast of Scotland. My favourite part, though, was that he had seen the weather was nice on the Saturday that weekend and decided to go to Cape Wrath for the weekend as a spur of the moment activity. Now seriously, am I the only person who thinks that being able to do that (and actually doing it) is one of the most brilliant lifestyles ever?! So, when I’m next in the area I’m going to hunt him down and steal his life. He referred to my trip as “collecting lighthouses”, was a little bit cute and beeped and waved at me as he drove away. Enjoyed that brief encounter! This guy did not mention a partner etc. and neither did he asked about my boyfriend, but he was definitely “safe man” material!

4. Next was Chris who I met at Ardnamurchan. I’ve mentioned Chris a couple of times before, I believe. After being employed as a social worker he was diagnosed with a mental health problem and had to leave his job as a result. He’d had rather a traumatic childhood, which he speaks quite openly about. He is also very honest about his experience of having a mental health problem, but noticed that many others (men in particular) aren’t and felt that a heightened level of awareness was needed (there’s my “charity” language coming out – no normal person would say ‘heightened level of awareness’). He wanted to do his bit to help raise awareness and so embarked upon a walking tour, titled ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’, around the coast of Scotland. He took no money with him and, while travelling, relies on the kindness of others who provide accommodation, food or a drink every now and then. He’s met some fantastic people along the way and has some brilliant stories to tell. He’s a great inspiration, hence why he has made it into my top 5. Chris mentioned his partner a couple of times during our time together, so I was safe there!

5. My final favourite, or should I say favourites, were the couple who own Greenore Campsite in Tremain, near Cardigan in Wales. The campsite was my last “tented” night and there are numerous reasons I liked them. Firstly, when I knocked on the door and asked if they had room for a small tent, the guy said ‘Right, I’d better put down my yo yo’ (he had actually just been playing with a yo yo in the kitchen). A little random, but a nice little welcoming touch. They then both gave me a very comprehensive tour of the campsite and suggested what definitely turned out to be the most suitable and sheltered patch for the tent. They then said that they would make me a cup of tea while I pitched my tent (I craved tea most of the time I was away and there was a distinct lack of kettles on the majority of the campsites). So, they brought the tea over along with two slices of lemon drizzle cake and two slices of flapjack. Amazing, I know! They then said that I was welcome to join them in the Camper’s Cabin for the evening where they would be having a chat and listening to music with some family who were leaving the following day. So I did. There was a lot of chatting and a lot of laughing and I got a free glass of rose too (my only alcoholic beverage while I was away). They also offered a complimentary cooked breakfast the following morning as they charged me £12 for the night and felt that they had overcharged me for the size of my tent. So, they just got better and better really and the breakfast was amazing! Hence why they made it into the top 5. Due to the presence of his wife and their great relationship, the male owner of the campsite doesn’t even come close to being an “unsafe man”. Brilliant couple!

Now, I can’t tell you about the good people without mentioning a couple of the bad (it is the main reason I included the section about safe and unsafe men after all). So, here they are in the order I met them.

1. There was an old chap (probably early 70s) staying at the campsite in Peterhead. Firstly, he only lived 8 miles away, which I just think is a bit weird. Anyway, he clocked me pretty quickly after I arrived and came over and told me that if I wanted a cup of tea I was welcome to go to the caravan he was sharing with another old man (who had a really really bad smoker’s cough). I very politely declined and he went away. A short time later he returned and tried striking up conversation again. I don’t remember what it was about. I think he spoke about the fishing industry in Peterhead among other things, but my main memory of him was his almost constant attempts to lure me into his caravan. He then asked me if I wanted to watch TV as he had one in his caravan and I declined (not quite as politely as the first time). A little while later it had just begun to get cold and so I put my coat on. He then reappeared and said that if I was cold I could go to his caravan and get warm. This time I’m pretty sure my ‘no thank you, I’m fine’ had taken a big swerve away from polite and I think he caught the hint of annoyance in my voice. The following morning he continued, asking me if I had enough water for the car (I must have sounded a bit rude that time as he said ‘ok, I’ll stop interfering’). I felt a bit bad then and so spoke to him for long enough for him to think that I wasn’t one of those evil city types who wants nothing to do with anyone who shared their surrounding environment with nature and trees. He told me he’d be over again to say goodbye before I left. He wasn’t about when I left so I just drove off and felt very relieved. The worst part though was when he asked where my boyfriend was. That makes him a completely harmless, but definitely “unsafe man”.

2. My other least favourite encounter was at the campsite in Wick where the only other person camping in a tent was a middle-aged guy who had taken a couple of weeks off of work and decided to drive around Scotland on his motorbike. He was fine to start with, but then he started talking about whether he should go for a drink in town or drive to Sainsbury’s to get a bottle of wine. I knew he wanted me to say ‘oh, I’ll go into town with you’ or ‘yes, I’ll share a bottle of wine’. I said neither and remained very distant about it, just saying things like ‘it’s a tough decision’ and other “skirting around the issue” comments. He then decided he would buy a bottle of wine and asked me if I had a cup to which I said ‘yes, but I’m not drinking’. He tried convincing me that I should by saying ‘but it’s Friday night’, but I was having none of it. So, off he went returning short time later with a bottle of wine for himself and two small bottles for me. Again, I declined and, when I finally decided to make a break for it and go to the tent, left the bottles with him. We chatted about a few things like his previous career as a butcher and how he temporarily gave that up for a job at the Post Office where he still works a number of years later. He is useless with technology, he once had a flooded tent that took two days to dry, he steals meat from his parent’s freezer…I could go on, but I won’t as I’m sure you’re about as interested as I was. After he had asked where I worked he asked where my boyfriend worked. Enough said really! Not my favourite encounter by any stretch of the imagination. As with the old guy he was harmless, although I did feel it was necessary to escape to the confines of my tent before he got drunk as you just don’t know what kind of a drunk he might be. The following morning we exchanged a brief hello and he left while I was in the bathroom. Phew!

So, that is a summary of the best and worst of my meetings over the month. There, of course, is always a lot more to write about the bad people than the good, but I hope it’s provided you with some light entertainment (it certainly did for me at the time)! 🙂