The ferry from Malaig to Skye took forty minutes. After disembarking we drove north to Portree where the town elders were canny enough to provide a large car park on the edge of town. We were able to park the camper and walk up to the town centre in the pouring rain and choose one of a variety of restaurants in the town and on the quay. We had oysters and sea bass – it was still raining when we came out.
We then drove north to Uig where we found a campsite which rapidly filled up with motor homes, a few caravans and even some families in tents. It made you proud to be British! It was extremely wet and windy, the rain had hardly stopped for the last twenty four hours and the forecast for the next few days was poor – but in spite of the weather the holiday makers (mostly British but some Dutch and German), carried on regardless – pitching their tents, walking the dog, visiting the towns and the beaches. Everyone was well wrapped up and no-one seemed to notice the weather – even the adolescents seemed rosy cheeked and communicative!
In the past we have spent a lot of time at Balloch on the shores of Loch Lomond. We could cycle from the campsite along the river Leven and eventually arrive in Dumbarton – the family seat of the Sweeneys.
On this occasion we were only staying in the area for a couple of days so Graham and a family friend, Joe Bell, took the train from Dumbarton to Balloch where we had lunch.
The following day we enjoyed a scenic drive along the shores of Loch Lomond to the Scottish Highlands, passing through Glencoe and Fort William. We spent the night at a campsite near Malaig from where we would take the ferry to Skye. The campsite was in the middle of nowhere but had “No Vacancies” signs along the approach road and, sure enough, it was full.
The helpful owner managed to find space for us by the front gate. In the morning we took advantage of a small break in the rain and walked down to the beautiful sandy beach.
We found ourselves back in the UK by the 23rd June, several weeks earlier than usual and, having done our democratic duty in the EU Referendum, we headed north where we planned to explore the more northern parts of Scotland. Our journey north took us to the home of Judy and David Barber in the Chilterns and then on to Lancashire to visit our niece, Angela and Jon.
It did not take many hours of driving to reach Scotland although it was a wet journey which rather spoilt the view. We stayed at Kirkcudbright (not pronounced as it is spelt, more like Ker-koo-bree) at an 120 acre campsite overlooking the Solway Firth. There was a golf course adjacent to the camp site and we wandered up to the clubhouse for an evening meal. The blakcboard menu didn’t look very exciting but when we spotted an Asian chef in the kitchen, we decided the chicken curry would be a clever choice. However, when we sat down to eat we could see through the open kitchen door neatly stacked shelves of cash and carry pre-packed sauces. My chicken curry turned out to be cooked chicken served with a jar of mild curry sauce! The poppadum was OK though.
The following morning when visiting the shower block I came across the two ladies responsible for the cleaning. They were both elderly, stick thin, with tightly permed grey hair and large plastic teeth that clicked and clacked as they chatted together. I first saw them sitting outside the building, barely visible through a thick cloud of cigarette smoke – I wish I had taken a photograph. They could have been sisters and I enjoyed listening to their grumbling and gossiping as they sloshed bleachy water everywhere.
It was now time to head home towards the UK. We travelled using the toll roads, stopping overnight at Langres just north of Dijon at a campsite alongside a reservoir. It was a beautiful sunny evening but the site was pretty waterlogged from earlier heavy rainfall and more rain was forecast overnight so we took the precaution of parking on the access road, rather than risking the grassy pitches.
We arrived in Calais the following afternoon, giving us plenty of time to shop at the big hypermarket and stock up at Majestic Wines before we got the Eurotunnel home. Blog ends . . .
We arrived at Vallon on a Saturday afternoon and it wasn’t until the Sunday that we unloaded the bikes and visited the local town. As a rule Sundays in rural France are quiet days with the shops and homes hidden behind closed wooden shutters with just the occasional sight of a black clad octagenarian shuffling in the shadows.
Vallon was a pleasant surprise. The small town was situated at the head of Les Gorges de l’Ardèche and was the centre for outdoor activities, walking, cycling and canoeing. The town on Sunday afternoon was open for business and was full of people. The restaurants and cafés were busy and all the little touristy shops were open and doing good trade with folks enjoying Le Weekend.
The next day we cycled up the valley of the river Ibie that flows into the Ardèche. At that time of year it was mostly a dry river bed but there were a few pools where people were able to take a cooling bathe. Unfortunately we didn’t have our bathing costumes with us.
We stopped for lunch at Lagorce, a small village set at the top of a hill. We were panting and puffing when we arrived but it was fun after lunch travelling downhill at a breakneck speed. We were careful to have only one small beer and a tiny glass of red wine with our meal.
The weather forecast for the Jura area was heavy rain lasting several days so we decided to leave our already soggy campsite and head south west towards Montpellier. The route out of Ornans was steep and the road ribboned on endlessly up through the valley, following the line of the meandering river. For over an hour we carefully negotiated hairpin bends on narrow roads which seemed to be getting us nowhere.
At last we reached the A39 and began our journey south towards Lyons. We spotted many British registered vehicles on the motorway, some flying the English flag and obviously heading for the Euro 2016 football. Five hours later we had arrived at our campsite at Vallon Pont d’Arc at the head of the gorges of the Ardèche.
By pure coincidence we had a surprise visit that evening from cousins, Gill and Robin Snelson, who had continued their holiday after attending our Bardolino wedding and were cycling in the Ardèche. They had backed into a street sign and smashed the rear window of their car – something we had done on more than one occasion so Tony was experienced in making a temporary repair using a plastic table cloth and duct tape. We had no idea they were in the area.