29 August 2015

The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride

After an aborted attempt last year when Dora wasn't dapper enough, but the Maidstone ride was full of Harleys, I decided to have another go with the Rocket!

"Red Pepe" must be allowed as I haven't had an email telling me that I can't take part. So....

This is my sponsorship page.

28 August 2015

Scotland the Brave - Report 2

From Glencoe, our next stop was going to be three nights at Loch Ness Glamping. The journey between the two sites was about seventy miles. But with an arrival time of 4pm, we had about 7 hours to do it. Even in Scotland in the pissing rain, we'd be hard pressed to find something to do.

The first stop was in Glencoe Village to take some photos of the River Coe bubbling long, and then for breakfast at a small shop cum coffee house cum cafe - Crafts & Things.

Not dog friendly inside and too wet to sit outside, so Reggie stayed in the car.  ðŸ˜”

We liked the look of some decorated mirrors in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh style and Claire bought a couple. Photo to follow, but mirrors are difficult to photograph without acting like a mirror! So maybe not.

Once away we passed the Corran Ferry, and into Fort William on the A82, right through and on towards Spean Bridge.   Neill and I stopped here on the Ashes Tour in 2013, and it was raining. At least today the rain had stopped and we continued on the A82 to the Commando Monument.  

And here we stopped.  Claire's father Victor Stevenson was a Commando and trained near here under Lord Lovat and was shipped off to Burma for the war against the Japanese. We took a few photos. Reggie wasn't allowed on the monument itself, although in his absence other visitors kept climbing over it and showing a distinct lack of respect.

Reggie had a little walk away from the monument where there is a path that heads across the mountains towards Spean Bridge village and then across to Fort William.

As we sat in the car we decided to make a change to the route and go to the Isle of Skye.  It's completely in the opposite direction to the glamping site at Drumnadrochit.

So at Invergarry we made a left turn off the A82 onto the A87 alongside Loch Garry and then Loch Cluanie.  The next stop would be Eilean Donan castle. A very popular tourist spot and I am sure the castle was used in a movie or two (or more),

With the Insignia using fuel at about 49mpg, we had plenty of fuel to get us around 600 miles on a tank.  The last fuel stop had been in Carlisle. We did pull into a small fuel station with a shop to get some snacks and a drink.  

I had an idea that to get to Skye we could take the Glenelg Ferry. After the stop we took the left turn and were rewarded with a sign saying the ferry was 9 miles ahead and £15.  Brake! The bridge at the Kyle of Lochalsh is free.  So the ferry idea was knocked on the head.

A few miles on and we arrived at the castle. The car park was pretty full and we found a space after a tour around the lot.  What I did like was a roped off area for motorcycles; just on case I ever get there on two wheels. 

We had a drink and Reggie had a paddle in the loch, and then with it raining again (!) we headed off to the Kyle of Lochalsh and the bridge to Skye via the co-op supermarket to get some sandwiches for lunch.

It briefly dried up as we headed over the bridge and onto the Island of Skye, where it started to rain again. We aborted the mission at Broadford overlooking the sea, We didn't take many photographs as it was dull and wet.

From Skye we retraced our steps back along the A87 and then left onto the A887 rejoinong the A82 at Invermoriston on the banks of Loch Ness, And hurrah. It stopped raining.

The traffic was pretty heavy as we headed the last twenty miles or so to the glampsite. I had the site in the TomTom and it was easier than we expected as we could see the armadillos on the hillside to the right.  We checked in and went to the armadillo.  Time for one pic.

"Our" armadillo
Once settled in we headed back down to Drumnadrochit to the Co-op to buy some essentials and to get fish and chips from the attached chip shop.  

The first night took a bit of getting used to. The armadillos are a little cramped.

Tomorrow would be another day and we would have to decide where to go.

Another new blog to follow

Found this one courtesy of a friend on Facebook - http://thewanderingwasp.blogspot.co.uk

Scotland the Brave - Report 1

The idea was originally to set off Friday morning and drive up to the Carlisle area for an overnight stop. Given the hassles and massive tailbacks that are associated with the Dartford Crossing, I added another overnight on Thursday to get part way along the road so that we would have a pretty easy day on Friday.

I chose a Days Inn near Baldock in Hertfordshire as it was cheap and dog friendly.  We packed the car and when Claire came home there were a few bits to do and we set off. Luckily later in the evening the traffic wasn't too bad through the toll tunnel at Dartford. We made good time and were soon checking into the motel on the A1 service area at Baldock.

Reggie was okay in the car and despite a bit of noise he wasn't too bad overnight.  The odd bark and growl when people made noise in the hallways.

As we left in the morning we saw this car in the car park.

Pity the van parked so close to it!

Friday we set off on the A1 route up to Scotch Corner where we would take the allegedly scenic and "biker friendly" A66 across from the east to west coasts of England.  It is quite a narrow part of the country.

The run wasn't too bad until around Barnard Castle on the A66 where the road became two lanes of jammed cars.  After 45 minutes inching along we checked the map and I set the TomTom for a country route via Barnard Castle and Middleton in Teesdale.  Once we were free of the jams we purred along.  At least we were moving and did see some nice scenery and villages.

Finally arriving at the next stop at Stobart's Motel.  Stobart's are one of the biggest UK truck companies and the motel is on the northern side of Carlisle. It is dog friendly, in fact the staff made a fuss of Reggie, has a cafe and bar onsite.  

Car outside Stobart's Motel
Once checked in we had a run into Carlisle to have a look about and take Reggie for a walk. We found our way to a free car-park near the castle.  On the map it shows a park behind the castle that goes across to the river.  

Carlisle Castle

Castle and bridge to town

Tubular bells sculpture
The park had lots of these sculptures that were actually musical instruments.  A kind of tubular bells.

Saturday morning and we were packed and on the road again. The plan was to head north past Gretna to Glasgow and pick up the A82 and stay with it alongside Loch Lomond to Glencoe.

We had crossed the border into Scotland and with more stops required for Reggie to stretch his legs and ablute, we pulled into a services on the M74. Had we seen the overhead signs and then heard the radio, we would have been able to plan a detour. Why? There was an accident on the A82 about halfway up the left side of Loch Ness that had blocked the road.  I pulled off the motorway and looked for a right side of the Loch route.  In this area there aren't too many roads!

In the end we had it sussed and let TomTom lead us around Glasgow onto the A81 and A84, and we stopped in the touristy town of Callander for lunch, and my first haggis of the trip. It wouldn't be the last.

Callander Fishery

From Callender there was heavy traffic in the opposite direction as people unable to get south on the A82 had to travel along the A84 and the way we had come up. The traffic for us wasn't too bad.

There's always a bit of frustration when you have had to make a quite long detour, and as we arrived at Crianlarich to rejoin the A82 and the original route, the road to the south was still closed.  Adding to the frustration was the column we had joined had a guy that looks at a 60mph speed limit and does 45!

Just before we entered Glencoe itself the guy turned into a hotel and we were let loose. The scenery is superb despite the rain!  Yes. It rains in Scotland. Frequently.  In Callander it had been warm and sunny.  There had been rain at some stage though as the "Fishery" car park was pretty well flooded in parts.

TomTom took us through the glen and then right onto the small road with passing places across the River Coe to the Glencoe Youth Hostel. There are two on this road, the Independent, and ours, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association hostel.  We checked in.

Although they are testing the water with dog friendly hostels, dogs aren't allowed in the cafe/restaurant or the lounge.  So basically they can go in the entrance hall and into the bedroom. Personally, this is a little restrictive and as long as the animals aren't where food is prepared then they could be allowed into the breakfast room.

Once checked in we had a run to look for the vistor centre. We founf it but it closed at 5pm. We did have a little walk in the rain and then back tot h Hostel. We decided to eat at the Clachaig Inn that we had passed on the road after we turned off the main A82.  In contrast to the YH it had no restriction on the dog - obviously guests don't go in the kitchens! Oh. It was still raining! Hard.

There is no reservations at the Inn and no organisation for getting a table.  Just hang about and dash when one becomes free. Not good. The food was okay, but the "who runs faster" system was shit.

We found a table that was in the hallway on its own and Claire and Reggie took residence whilst I queued at the bar to order drinks and food. It took fifteen minutes to get an order in and once seated it took a few minutes to be delivered. I guess at the pace they take orders that the kitchen is waiting for it to arrive and can concentrate on one at a time.  Certainly not worth the Tripadvisor rating at all.

As we were staying only two nights at the YH, we had breakfast booked only for the first morning, and so once the group occupying most of the beds in the hostel had had theirs we went and had oursm leaving Reggie to his own devices in the twin room we had.

We had another trip to the visitor centre (where dogs aren't allowed in) and went on the longer run through the glen. Unfortunately, it was raining most of the time, and forestry work meant that most of the walk was of scrub and severed off tree trunks.  But we all got a walk!

From the visitor centre we headed towards Fort William and decided to take the Corran Ferry across Loch Linhe.  It's not cheap for such a short and fast crossing at £8. But it is always nice to be on a ferry!

On the other wide we followed the A861 along the loch edge to where it meets the A830 main road from Fort William to Mallaig.  Traffic was pretty light as it was Sunday,  but I guess as Mallaig is a port on weekdays there might ne a lot more heavy stuff on the road.

Glenfinnan. Where Charles Edward Stewart aka Bonnie Prince Charlie, left Scotland forever after losing the battle at Culloden on 16th April 1746.

Reggie paddling

From Glenfinnan we set off along the main road for Fort William in the hope of getting some food. Although we found a dog friendly pub, food didn't happen, unless you count a packet of crisps and a pint....

Sadly, there was football (soccer American chums) and it featured my club, Arsenal losing 2-0 to London rivals West Ham United.  The locals in the pub seemed to be honorary Arsenal fans judging by the colourful language.

From here we got back in the car and headed back to the visitor centre for a coffee before it closed and then to the YH.  Checking the dog friendly places, we chose the Glencoe Inn for dinner. We should have gone there the night before.  Not to crowded, Reggie very welcome in the bar and they had food!  What could be better?  The staff were very friendly and to be honest it knocked the Clachaig Inn into a cocked hat.

The next morning we would be packing up and heading about 75 miles to Drumnadrochit and the glamping site.

To be continued.

19 August 2015

Armadillo vs Pod?

After staying in two different pods this year I can draw the conclusion between the layouts. 

Cooking: The Pod at Lee Wick Farm in Essex, where we stayed at Easter, is laid out with a table and two chairs and small kitchen on the left as you enter. It came with a microwave, fridge and kettle etc. The Loch Ness version has a cupboard and kitchen unit but no sink and no microwave but did have a fridge.

Seating: Lee Wick had a futon on the right as you step in. Loch Ness had the wet room.

Services: as mentioned the Loch Ness wet room is inside the door as you step in. At Lee Wick, the toilet/washbasin is at the rear left. It's not a shower though unlike Loch Ness.

Sleeping: both were setup with double beds on arrival.

Lee Wick layout
After staying in both variants I found that the Lee Wick setup was far better. The only seating in Loch Ness was the bed. The weather and the the midges mean that sitting outside on the picnic style benches was only for the brave and the well sprayed. Eating in was also a pain as there were no seats.

At Lee Wick, the futon provided extra sleeping accommodation if required and somewhere to sit. The table and chairs meant eating in was an option.

The addition of TV at Loch Ness was a plus for evenings in.

All in all I think that Lee Wick Farm comes out winner in a straight shoot out.

17 August 2015

Back at Work

Today was the first day back at work. Only a half day to start with.

After meeting with occupational health it was decided that I'd start back for two short days for two weeks, then for the next two weeks I'd add a work from home day. Then from then in two week lumps, add another day until I am back full time.

Today was pretty much okay. Later train in to miss rush-hour and then back just before it starts again in the evening.

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