About Me

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Hi! I'm Eunice and I live in Bolton, Lancashire, with my two dogs Sophie and Sugar and an assortment of cats - well it used to be Sophie and Sugar, now it's Sophie and Poppie. I first began camping back in 1997 when my then partner took me to Anglesey for my birthday weekend. We slept in the back of the car - a hatchback - using the cushions off the settee at home as a mattress, and cooked and brewed up on a single burner camping stove. The site was good, the views were great, the weather fantastic and I was completely hooked. Following that weekend we got a two-man tent and some proper accessories and returned to Anglesey two weeks later, then over time we progressed to a three-man tent followed by an old trailer tent, then a new trailer tent, a campervan and finally a caravan. When my partner decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the street - literally - in April 2009 and I suddenly found myself alone after fifteen years, I decided there was no way I was going to give up camping and caravanning if I could cope on my own. This blog is the story of my travels, trials and tribulations since becoming a solo camper - I hope you like it

Saturday June 8th 2013 - Ardnamurchan Point and Sanna Bay

Another sunny morning brought my last full day at Invercaimbe and the dilemma of what to do. Having driven quite a distance the previous day I had a mind to just stay on site and do nothing; there was a small local agricultural show being held a couple of miles up the road at Camusdarach so I could maybe have a look round there then spend the rest of the day on the beach or by the tent, but then if I did that I could be missing the opportunity to explore somewhere I hadn't yet been. My mind was more or less made up though when I got chatting to one of the site residents as I came back from the beach with the dogs; she said Ardnamurchan Point was worth going to as dolphins could be seen near there, so that was it - decision made, and after a breakfast of coffee and toast and a quick look at the map book I put the dogs in the van and set off.

My route took me east along the main road in the direction of Fort William then turned off at Lochailort and headed south, and although this was still classed as an A road it got narrower after the first few miles and in most places was just a single-track road with passing places. Driving through a little place called Glenuig the road followed the water and the view across the Sound of Arisaig looked quite nice so I stopped briefly for a couple of photos then continued on my way.

As I headed further south and then west the road became very winding and twisty and the land became more rugged in many places, though beside the various lochs it was very scenic. The lady I'd been talking to on the camp site said it was 'a bit of a drive' to get to Ardnamurchan Point but as time went on I realised that this was turning into rather a lot of a drive. With the road being so narrow, and with many blind bends and inclines, I had to keep my speed down as I never knew what I was going to meet coming from the opposite direction; the journey got tedious after a while and seemed to take forever, and at one point I almost wished I'd never started it as it felt like Ardnamurchan Point was a million miles away 

Eventually though my epic trek finally came to an end and I pulled up in the car park close to Ardnamurchan lighthouse; it had taken a staggering two-and-a-quarter hours to drive just sixty miles! Now I don't really know exactly what I'd been expecting to see when I got there - maybe a little hamlet with a few cottages or something - but other than the lighthouse and its outbuildings and a small cafe-cum-gift shop there was absolutely nothing there at all. I was glad to see the cafe though as after that long drive I needed a brew, so I got a takeaway coffee and a couple of slices of fruit cake and went back to sit in the van for a while.

I hadn't gone all that way just to sit and look at the view though so after I'd taken the dogs for a quick walk down the track I went back to the cafe and paid to go up to the top of the lighthouse. It was a steep climb up the spiral staircase, with the last dozen steps being up an almost vertical ladder, but the views from the top were good and the guy who looked after the place gave some very good information about the light itself and the history of it. But as for seeing any dolphins, it seemed I was out of luck there; the sea was as flat as the proverbial pancake and there wasn't a fin or a flipper to be seen anywhere.

Once I'd looked round the exhibition which was in one of the outbuildings there was nothing else to do except get back in the van and head back the way I'd come. After a few miles I reached a fork in the road and a sign pointing to Sanna Bay; to go there would mean driving in completely the wrong direction and adding another eight miles to my already long journey but I'd been told it was nice there so it was worth a look while I was in the vicinity.

The road ended at little hamlet of a dozen cottages and a large gravel-surfaced car park surrounded by a vast expanse of well-kept grass which was crossed by a gravel track with eight or nine more modern houses up towards the end. A couple of footpaths crossed the grass to the sand dunes and a short walk took me to the beach; now I don't know whether or not the long drive I'd had somehow dimmed my appreciation of the scenery in front of me but my impression was that although it was a nice place it just wasn't as lovely as the beaches and bays around Invercaimbe. I wandered along from one end of the bay almost to the other, shot several photos, then made my way back to the van for the long trek back to Arisaig.

The second drive of the day took just as long as the first, though I did break it up a bit by making a few brief photo stops at various points where there was a good view, though to be honest I really couldn't say where any of them were or if they had any names. There was one little place which I thought was quite pretty though - tucked away in a corner at the end of one of the lochs, and in a slightly elevated position, was a little hamlet of half a dozen houses and bungalows and a couple of wooden chalets. With rhododendrons in the gardens and backed by tall trees growing up the hill it had an almost alpine look to it and wouldn't have been out of place at the foot of an Austrian mountain.

I finally arrived back at Invercaimbe about nine hours after I'd left; it had been a long day and I was glad to be able to make a sandwich and a coffee and relax outside the tent for the rest of the evening while the dogs lay in their bed close by. As the sun started to go down beyond the islands I put the dogs' bed back in the tent, got the camera and we went for our pre-bedtime walk along the beach; sadly this was our last evening walk and last Invercaimbe sunset and I didn't want to miss it.

As I settled down in bed a while later I thought back over my day; if I'd known just how long the drive would be to get to Ardnamurchan Point I probably wouldn't have gone, especially as it had used up a great deal of the fuel I'd got the day before which meant I would have to get some more as I passed through Fort William on my way back south the following day. However, I'd got some nice photos to add to my collection, and if I'd learned one thing it was this - next time somebody tells me that somewhere is just 'a bit of a drive' I'll think twice before I actually go there!

Friday June 7th 2013 - Part 2 - Fort Augustus

The drive from Fort William to Fort Augustus was a straightforward one and only took about forty five minutes; having checked out the village on Google street view at home I had a good idea of what it looked like so was able to head straight for the car park when I arrived. And that's when I had my second stroke of luck that day - I was just about to put my money in the ticket machine when I noticed a ticket already in the slot, and when I took it out it had four hours on it. Although there were plenty of people around there was no-one near the machine so no clue as to who had paid for it or why it had been left there; deciding that the car park ticket machine gods were rewarding me for passing the Fort William ticket onto somebody else I thought I may as well use it so in the front windscreen it went, and with the dogs on the lead I set off to explore.

The village was quite an attractive little place although there was nothing much to it; just a handful of shops and cafes, a petrol station, supermarket/delicatessen, a couple of restaurants and a takeaway, with the main attraction being the loch cruises. This was the other end of the Caledonian Canal, with another set of staircase locks linking it to Loch Ness, and there was no shortage of passengers on the trip boats. The area around the locks was very pleasant and I spent quite some time there, watching some private yachts come through then walking up one side and along the canal for a distance before coming back down the other side.

By the time I'd finished wandering around I was feeling more than a little peckish; my breakfast had long since worn off and I was ready for a brew and something to eat. It was far too warm to leave the dogs in the van for any length of time so I found a place where I could eat outside and ordered a large coffee and a slice of carrot cake; the dogs sat looking at me expectantly but they didn't get so much as a crumb, though I did give them a treat each when I finally got back to the van.

On my way back to the car park I noticed a sign on a wall for a rare breeds croft, with an arrow pointing down a path along the riverside; it said dogs on leads were welcome so I thought I may as well take a look. The path took me to an entrance gate and a wooden shed with a board outside displaying the fees and a lady inside sitting knitting; handing over my £2 I went in and was quite surprised to find I had the place to myself. And what a strange place it was; there were several large fenced enclosures housing a rather motley collection of sheep, goats, pigs and highland cattle, with a central pond where various ducks and geese quacked and honked as I walked past with the dogs.

A sign on one of the fences which actually had a sign - not many of them did - said that particular enclosure contained red deer but there were none in evidence; a couple of the sheep were shedding their fleece and had bits hanging off all over the place, which made them look rather like woolly jumpers coming unravelled at an alarming rate. There were some cute little black lambs who turned their backs on me when I tried to take a photo, and several rabbits in another pen. The cutest of all though was a little young roe deer named Bracken; according to the sign it had been found at the roadside somewhere by a passer-by who took it to the croft, where it had been cared for ever since. It was very tame and came right up to the fence so I could scratch its head, and it was so inquisitive that every time I tried to take a photo it would walk too close to the camera. Of all the time I was in there I never saw a single person working there, and when I finally made my way out I found the shed at the entrance closed up and the knitting lady gone.

Back at the van I gave the dogs a drink and their treats and finally set off back to Invercaimbe; I'd been out well over six hours and I still had an hour and a half's drive ahead of me. The dogs slept all the way back so they must have been tired from all the wandering about; it had been a good day and it was finished off nicely by a couple of hours chill-out outside the tent in the evening sun, then as the sky began to turn red with the sunset we took our late stroll along the beach before snuggling into our beds for the rest of the night.

Friday June 7th 2013 - Part 1 - Neptune's Staircase and Fort William

After a good night's sleep I woke to another gloriously sunny morning, and as long as the good weather was the same everywhere else as it was at Invercaimbe I planned on making another attempt at going to Fort William, followed by a drive up to Fort Augustus. I expected it to be a long day so for once I didn't linger too long over breakfast in spite of the lovely view from the tent; having taken the dogs for a good walk along the beach I put them in the back of the van, collected what I needed from the tent, topped up their water container, and set off on my day of exploration. It seemed the weather gods were being kind to me too as there was wall-to-wall blue sky and sunshine all the way along the A830; just before I got to Fort William itself I saw the sign for Neptune's Staircase so I turned off the road, found the car park and made my first stop of the day.

Neptune's Staircase is a set of eight locks, one above the other, which bring the Caledonian Canal down to the level of nearby Loch Linnhe, and the main road at that point is actually a swing bridge; I was able to witness this in action as just after I got there the traffic was stopped and the bridge opened to allow a yacht to sail through. I spent almost an hour wandering round and taking photos from both above and below the locks but I just couldn't get one which showed the 'staircase' properly - I really needed to be somewhere high up and looking down but unless I took drastic action and hired a helicopter I didn't see how it was possible. The canal up above the locks looked lovely though with a towpath running along each side, and if I'd had my bike with me it would have been nice to pootle along with the dogs running beside me - maybe that's a thought for the future.

When I'd got all the photos I could I returned to the van and after giving the dogs a drink - the day was getting hotter by the minute - I left the car park and drove the couple of miles into Fort William itself. As I'd driven through on my way to Arisaig earlier in the week I'd noticed a large car park just off the main road along the lochside so that's where I headed; there were plenty of spaces so I picked one overlooking the water. I was just about to get a ticket from the nearby machine when a couple in a small motorhome gave me theirs - it was paid up till midnight and they were on the point of leaving so they said I may as well use it. The car park fee wouldn't have cost that much anyway for the length of time I wanted so I thought that was really nice of them, and I said I'd return the favour by passing the ticket on to someone else when I'd finished with it.

A look round the town centre came first, which didn't take long as it was mainly just one long partially-pedestrianised street, and as I had the dogs with me I couldn't really go in any of the shops so my wanderings were concentrated along the lochside promenade and the gardens at the far side of the car park. At one point I came across the strange-looking metal sculpture of a man, which was apparently 'Ben Mhor' and was made mainly out of recycled mountain bike parts - very ingeniously done but to be honest I thought it looked a bit out of place stuck there like that.

When I'd got enough photos I returned to the van and gave the dogs another drink; I was ready to leave for the next part of my day but first I had to find someone to pass the car park ticket on to. It wasn't long before a car pulled up nearby and a young woman with a small child got out, she was quite surprised and pleased when I gave her the ticket. After chatting to her for a couple of minutes I got in the van and set off, my first port of call being Morrisons petrol station, then with the tank topped up and the windows wound down I pulled onto the A82 and headed in the direction of Fort Augustus.

Thursday June 6th 2013 - A ride to Rhu and Loch Morar

I woke to yet another beautifully sunny early morning which was far too good to waste by lingering in bed, so after giving the dogs their breakfast I grabbed the camera and took them down on the beach, this time walking along towards Portnadoran, the camp site 'next door'. As I rounded a rocky outcrop I saw two young women at the water's edge with no less than seven dogs and a small pup all enjoying a game of fetch-the-frisbee-out-of-the-water - Sophie and Sugar would have loved to join in but unfortunately for them I kept them on their leads to avoid any mayhem. Eventually the two women and the dogs disappeared through the gate into Portnadoran and I had the beach to myself so I let Sophie and Sugar off their leads and made my way back round to the tent via the riverside beach.

Not far from the spot where I climbed up from the beach onto the grass in front of the tent several fishing baskets of the type used to catch crabs and lobsters lay unused on the sand; most were open at one end but a couple of them were closed and it was in one of these that I noticed several little sparrows fluttering about and chirping like mad. Having got in there for whatever reason they now couldn't get back out and were obviously in distress, so leaving the dogs and the camera back in the tent I went to the rescue; there were seven altogether and as soon as I opened the end of the basket they were out and away, their chirps of distress replaced by cheeps of happiness - or was I imagining that bit? Well, imagination or not I was just glad I'd seen the poor little things and set them free, and to avoid the possibility of a repeat situation I left the end of the basket open.

With the dogs on their line outside the tent I lingered over breakfast and spent some time chatting to various other residents who passed by on their way to the water tap, then with no firm idea of where to go for the day I decided to go into the village, take a few photos round there, then think of somewhere else after that. Parking places in the village are at a premium and most were taken when I got there but I managed to find a spot on the verge across from the Spar shop; the village itself is so small that it doesn't take long to see everything so a quick ten minute wander got half a dozen shots then I returned to the van.

At the far end of the village was a signpost telling me that Rhu was just over three miles away, so not knowing where or what Rhu was I decided to take a look. The road was single-track with passing places and wound in and out following the contours of the bay, turning inland a bit at one point and passing a large area of grassland. As I drove along I noticed up ahead what appeared to be a small cow but when I got further along it turned out to be a female deer grazing peacefully in the grass. I stopped the van and it raised its head, looking at me across the grass for several minutes before it carried on grazing; it was just a bit too far away to get a really clear photo and to try to get closer would probably have spooked it anyway so I just sat in the van and watched it for a while.

Eventually I continued my journey, passing a handful of isolated cottages and a few sheep grazing by the roadside, and finally coming to a dead end by the gate of a private estate with a view across to the Small Isles; presumably this was Rhu. I had no choice but to go back the way I'd come but the views were good so it had been worth going, and on the way back I stopped briefly in some of the passing places to get a few photos.

Back at the village I followed the road up onto the main A830 and headed towards Mallaig, but resisting the temptation to take another walk along Morar's gorgeous white sands I turned inland and went to Loch Morar instead. Passing through Morar village the road was another single-track one with passing places and it followed the lochside for quite a distance before turning inland; not knowing where I would end up I didn't go too far before turning round and heading back to the lochside, and finding a nice little shingle beach with a convenient place to park nearby I released the dogs from the van and we went to have some waterside fun with a few sticks and stones. As the day was very warm and I was wearing beach sandals I decided at one point to have a paddle to cool my feet down - bad idea, the water was freezing! It didn't seem to bother Sugar though as she went in several times to retrieve the sticks I'd thrown, but I made sure I gave her a good towelling down afterwards.

Those were to be my last photos of the day; it was still fairly early in the afternoon and Mallaig was only a couple of miles along the road so I could have paid another visit there, but Invercaimbe and its lovely beach were calling me back so I returned to the tent, where the rest of the day was spent pottering about, wandering the beach and reading my book. I'd already planned where I was going the following day, weather permitting - it would be a long drive and I didn't want to stay up too late beforehand, so as the late evening sun went down beyond the islands I took Sophie and Sugar for their last walk of the day then retreated to my bed.