Saturday, 8 July 2017

Life in the Lakes

What's it really like living up here?  Now is the time of year when millions of folks come and spend their summer hols with us, perhaps pausing to check out cottages and houses in estate agent's windows - but what's it really like living here?  The best way to describe it is it's exactly the same as living anywhere else, except the views are better.

We eat, drink, shop and work to pay the mortgage the same as we did before, but the absolute best part is at the weekends, and on days off, we get to do really cool stuff like we did last weekend...

Friday - Kayaking

I'd bought this as a Christmas pressie for Steve but we thought we'd wait for good weather to use it.  As it turns out the day was a bit grey and blustery but it didn't rain and we had a fantastic time.  We'd organised it through Distant Horizons (who offer all sorts of fab adventures).  They made sure we were well kitted out and, under the safe and watchful eye of Sue we set out across Ullswater.

Photo thanks to Distant Horizons

Photo thanks to Distant Horizons
Much as I loved the day I found it a bit challenging as I have a dodgy back so for the last hour or so, while Steve went through some more safety drills I enjoyed a lovely swim in Ullswater.

Safety drills! (Photo thanks to Distant Horizons)
Enjoying a dip! (Photo thanks to Distant Horizons)

FAB day! (Photo thanks to Distant Horizons)
We were also lucky enough to have a Skoda Yeti to play with the for the weekend, thanks to the lovely folks at Vantage Motors down in Morecambe.  Whenever they loan us a car we like to check out all the lesser used features - in this case we started with it's wetsuit drying potential.  Passed with flying colours!

Saturday - From Everest to Windermere

I've mentioned the Rheged Centre on this blog many times as they have so many fascinating exhibitions and stuff - this time I was catching up on the last days of the Everest exhibition and it was very thought provoking.  In a nutshell an artist by the name of Derek Eland spent a season on the mountain with a bright yellow diary tent where folks of all nationalities recorded their thoughts on postcards before, and after, summit attempts.  The exhibition tours the country so do take a look at his website to see when it might pop up near you.

Me at base camp. Sort of...
Inspired by the exhibition we decided to recreate a little of life on Everest by eschewing a Saturday night slobbed in front of the telly and having a beach BBQ on the banks of Windermere instead (OK, so it's not a lot like Everest, but it is outdoors).  When we picked up the Yeti they told us the rear seats came out, so this seemed as good a time as any to test them.  I think the idea of the seats coming out is so you can fit more in the car, but for us, we found they made perfect beach BBQ seats...

Sunday - time spent with a wonderful Old Man

Thanks to assorted illnesses and injuries (not to mention a chaotic workload) we don't get off up the fells quite as often as everyone imagines we might.  The weather was perfect and the Old Man of Coniston was calling - so who were we to resist.  I particularly love spending time exploring the old quarry workings on the main route up - there's a few interesting bits of history about it here.

We also discovered that even with the back seats in place, you can still fit a lot of kit in the back of the Yeti. (Yes, it is a nice perk to get given a lovely new car to play with occasionally but we have actually bought a car from the fab folks at Vantage and would definitely recommend them.  The Yeti is a very spacious and practical car for anyone who needs to carry around a lot of kit and a lot of people) 😀


For the past couple of weeks I've thoroughly enjoyed reading Nick Baker's new book ReWild - all about what we can do to get back in touch with nature.  Ever wanted to see better at night?  Or improve your wildlife spotting skills?  It's all in here AND I have a copy to give away this weekend.  All you have to do is identify where the 4 pictures below were taken (2 clues 1 - re-read the blog and see where we went and 2 - we live in Grange-over-Sands 😉 )

Email your answers to me: and I'll pick a winner at 9pm on Sunday 9th July.

Name the lake (Great for kayaking!)

Name the venue (Great for exhibitions!)

Name the fell (Great for mining!)

Name the prom (Great for coming home to!)

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Adventures along the Kintyre Peninsula

Goat Fell from Brodick, Arran
I am sure that you could take a relaxing break along the Kintyre peninsula, but with so much so see and do the question is, why would you?  We were off adventuring to celebrate a milestone birthday (I'm not a big parties kind of a gal and decided that exploring a quiet corner of Scotland would be way more fun!).

Anyway, as there was SO MUCH to see and do I thought I'd tell the story with words instead of pictures.

 Our Base

For the bulk of our stay our base was the superb Port Ban campsite at Kilberry which I cannot rate highly enough - it was utterly superb.  The views were fantastic, the facilities pristine and the folks that run it were so utterly lovely we felt relaxed from the moment we arrived.

View from the pitch

Nearby Kilberry Inn
Sunset behind Jura

Campbell's Tomb

Fabulous mini golf

Excellent sea swimming

As the site was within easy reach of a few ferry ports we decided to make the most of it with a spot of island hopping.  CalMac ferries were superb throughout - though I was disappointed with the lack of Captain Birdseye beards...

The Isle of Gigha is just 7 miles long and half a mile wide and is perfect for exploring on foot or by bike - the ferries run regularly throughout the year and the crossing is only 20 minutes.  We packed a picnic and our wetsuits to make the most of the stunning beaches.


While I'm on the subject of island hopping we also nipped over to Arran - a slightly longer crossing at 30 minutes and a much bigger island.  This time we bought round island bus tickets which allowed us to hop on and off the bus network and complete an entire lap of the island.

Although it's considered one of the larger of the Scottish islands it's still only 20 miles long and, all told, is around a quarter of the size of London.  There's still a north/ south divide though - the big pointy bits are all in the north and gentle rounded hills are in the south and all of it is well worth seeing. (Someone on social media pointed out that my photos don't do Arran justice and they're absolutely right - no photos do it justice, you really have to go and see it for yourself.)

Goat Fell

Holy Island


Kilbrannan Sound

Beach at Blackwaterfoot

View to Ailsa Craig

The final island we visited and the only one we went to with a specific purpose in mind.  This was the longest crossing of the three at 2 hours 20 minutes and if you're just going over for the day get the 7am ferry and treat yourself to a fry-up from the ace on-board cafe.

We took the bikes to give us tome for a quick visit to Laggan Bay (breathtaking) before spending the afternoon at the Laphroaig distillery.  I've been a huge fan of Laphroaig since I was a student and, as it was a big birthday I was celebrating, we opted for one of the big tours, spending time exploring the distillery, visiting the source of the water they use and finally cutting peat before heading back for a few more tastings.  They were very generous with their tastings and if one of you is driving they save them all for you in tiny bottles which you can take away and enjoy later.

Laggan Bay
Steve cycling on the beach...

Mull of Kintyre

It wouldn't have been a proper trip if we hadn't gone all the way down to the tip of the peninsula, though the drive to the Mull of Kintyre is not for the faint-hearted (especially if you're driving a campervan!).  Just after we arrived, as per the song, the mists rolled in and we couldn't see much,  Still, at least we'd been.
Mull of Kintyre lighthouse just before the mist rolled in

Campbeltown is worth a visit for two main reasons - firstly the haggis nachos at the Royal Hotel have to be tasted to be believed - they are AWESOME!  The second reason is the cave painting on Davaar island.  No ferry required this time, just check the tide tables as it's a fairly long walk along a causeway which is completely covered at high tide.

We'd heard about the painting from a lovely man in the heritage centre (another place worth visiting to give you a feel for the history of the region) but even then the directions were sketchy.  Best advice is to look for the cave marked on the OS Map and it's just past there.  The painting is a life size depiction of the crucifixion and was completed in 1887 by a local man who was then exiled from the town.  It's been restored a few times but is worth visiting for a refreshingly untouristy experience - no gift shops, entrance fees or tour guides - even the signs to the cave are hand made/ painted - just be sure to wear good sturdy shoes as the beach is very rocky.

Davaar Island

Sign at cave entrance

Archibald MacKinnon's painting


The views on the drive down to Carradale are absolutely stunning - uninterrupted views over to the mountains of Arran.  Carradale itself is a very quiet and pretty fishing village and the campsite is right on the beach - another excuse for a quick swim!

Carradale Bay
Carradale Beach
Carradale wild goats
The journey home...

All great holidays must come to an end and so it was with this one - but we still fitted in a few fabulous views on the way back.  If you're in the area definitely take a detour to Crinan to visit the canal - it's a work of engineering genius and a very pretty spot to boot!

Our last stop was at the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.  We've stayed there several times on our journeys up and down to Scotland and it never disappoints - this time they even organised a beautiful rainbow for us.

Loch Lomond 


Loch Lomond

Another excellent adventure and a corner of Scotland well worth taking the time to explore - I'll just leave you with one photo of my wild birthday celebrations - cheers!  😀