Tour of Wales

Despite promising to go there we hadn’t been to Wales for such a long time and even then only once on a failed camping trip and for weekends or business. The only times I had been there for any length was as a child to the Lleyn and Anglesey and in my early teens teenager to Pembrokeshire. So as we were kicking our heels due to our big summer trip having been delayed a couple of months we decided to take the plunge.

Day 1 : Friday 16 June

The day started with a 4 hour drive around the M23 / M25 / M40. The weather didn’t look that hot and but as the day wore on it just got warmer.  It might seem odd going to Wales from the South Coast via the Grand Union near Northampton but friends Lesley and Jeff have a Narrow boat moored there at Heyfields Marina and we had promised to pay a visit. Like all such places it was down narrow lanes so imagine our amusement when, after a mile or so, we came across an IKEA arctic on foreign plates stopped before a low height bridge – he wasn’t going anywhere except in reverse. As it was the marina owners were more than happy for us to pitch up there for a night. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening at the start of a very hot weekend with a picnic lunch and BBQ supper and several bottles of wine.

Day 2 : Saturday 17 June

IMG_1090The day dawned with a cloudless blue sky and already hot. After a bacon sandwich breakfast Fred managed to exhaust himself with just one “walk” around the site. We hadn’t decided where in Wales we were going but as it happens the marina in question lies just of the A5 so it was an easy decision to head to North Wales and save on the navigation. Some of the old A5 is a bit of a drag but other goes through some lovely countryside.

It took a while before we eventually got to Wales and we started looking for camp sites. I thought the A5 took us to Bala but when it didn’t we took a turning off signposted to Ffestiniog. The 13 mile road had a number so one might think it was ordinary however as it climbed to around 1500ft over the moor it became a narrow single track passing Lynn Conwy lake, the source of the river Conwy.

Once in Ffestiniog with a mobile signal we got onto the web and found a nice site back in Bala – I should have taken the turning there in the first place. Situated in remote countryside about 3 miles outside Bala this C&CC site was just what the doctor ordered, very peaceful with nice facilities.

IMG_1094

Day 3 : Sunday 18th June

It was Sue’s birthday so a relaxed day was on the cards. One shortcoming of the site was a lack of walking possibilities without walking down the lanes so we opted to start in Bala where there is a great walk from the old station car park along the banks of the River Dee to Lake Bala. Fred had a great time in the long grass and the river and in the lake chasing the gulls. On the way back he got into the river and swam spontaneously for the first time.

DSC_0002

Our walk was followed by a tour of Snowdonia to Dolgelau, Betsw-y-Coed and back to Bala. It was getting warmer and the breeze through the van was welcome. Stopping anywhere meant tangling with the many tourists but we found a nice picnic lay-by on the pass near Ffestiniog where we could watch the classic cars out for the day and loads of would be Joey Dunlops.

Day 4 : Monday 19 June

As I said I was a child when my parents took us to Anglesey and Sue has never been there so that is where we were going but not before Fred had another play in Lake Bala. The A5 took us through Betsw-y-Coed and up and through the pass at Pont Pen-y-Benglog where the lay-bys are full of campers and cars that belong to the guys hanging off the cliffs all along the lake.

A quick shopping trip to Asda in Bangor to buy lunch and stock up and we headed for Aglesey. There are two bridges across the Menai straights and I wanted to use the old Thomas Telford suspension bridge close to Bangor.

Once across the bridge we turned right looking for a lunch stop, a frustrating excessive and annoying when we got to Beaumaris where they crowd you onto the sea front and charge £5 for the day. Anyhow we found a nice lay-by with a view across the straight of the whole of Snowdonia.

Driving a short way around the north coast it was cold and drab and it didn’t take long to work out that we didn’t want to stay on Anglesey. On the way back to the “new” Britannia bridge we made a couple of calls and picked a C&CC site near Cricceth on the Lleyn Peninsula. The site was on a bit of a slope but the facilities were exactly the same as the last site so it would do us for a couple of nights.

Day 5 : Tuesday 20 June

DSC_0012We decided on a drive around the Lleyn Peninsula for the day. The forecast wasn’t so hot and indeed by the time we sopped for coffee just before Nefyn it was bright but chilly. The views from the hillside, more Snowdonia, were nothing if spectacular once again. Parking at Nefyn was limited so we carried on to Abedaron where at least this time the National Trust would let us park for an hour instead of all day and let Fred have a run on the beach. We set off to towards Abersoch, a well to do resort, in search of somewhere to park up for lunch and were disappointed again by rip off car parks. In the end we stopped by a boat yard in Pwllheli where as luck would have it we found a fresh fishmonger and bought a couple of filleted Mackerel for tea.

IMG_1105Returning to the camp site, that was actually in Llanystumdwy the birth and resting place of Lloyd George, we tried to take Fred for a walk and a dip in the nearby river but he wasn’t keen on the boulders. He kept slipping of and he couldn’t understand how deep it was. In the end we took a walk through the woods and past Lloyd George’s grave.

As I said the weather forecast had suggested it would be cooler – it was nothing of the sort with the temperature in the high 20s and still warm at night.

After the frustration of all the expensive car parks we took the decision to join the National Trust so from now on we should be able to find free parking as well as places to visit.

Day 6 : Wednesday 21 June

IMG_0659Today we decided to head south toward Pembrokeshire via some of the coast and Aberystwyth. A short supermarket stop in Porthmadog and back on to the A470 heading south. We stopped for coffee and a walk in the Kings Forest a spectacular wooded area full of giant Canadian spruce trees.

DSC_0013Once at Dolgelau we took the coast road consisting of beautiful country lanes and spectacular coastal views. We pulled over for lunch in a lay-by on the side of a hill that looked out over the Irish Sea to the north we could see all round to the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula. Below us the sea was turquoise and clear.

Today it was very hot and as we got to Aberystwyth the van’s outside thermometer read 31.5C. We stopped on the sea front for a stroll and an ice-cream and watched a large dolphin lazily swimming just off the beach. It started to shower but came to nothing.

Looking at the forecast for the coming days we decided to head inland for the night and a C&CC site at Rhandirmwyn. It was so far out of the way that it was impossible to find and there was no mobile access to call them and once there there was no radio either. It could have been a nice place were it not for the clouds of ferocious midges which, along with the mozzies and bitting flies, made a feast of Sue. So bad was it that we very soon locked ourselves away and cleared the van of the insects as best we could.

Day 7 : Thursday 22 June

IMG_1110We got up very early and there were just a few beasties about so we very quickly loaded the van and headed into Llandovery to find a cafe and some breakfast. We decided to go back along the A40 to south Pembrokeshire and ended up on Pendine Beach for coffee. Fred was so excited being let off on such a big beach that I am sure he set a new land speed record for Cocker Spaniels.

IMG_1112From here we worked our way through Saundersfoot and Tenby and on to the Stackpole Estate and the beach at Bosherston. We had lunch overlooking the sea and then took Fred down to the gorgeous sandy beach. The tide was out and the beach was empty and he had such a good time.

DSC_0014Although the weather was holding it was time to think about going home that afternoon and we headed east along the A40. We tried a couple of small C&CC certified sites that were poorly located and very expensive before we found a lovely little site at White Mill near Carmarthen Coincidentally there was a couple already there in an VW T4 van with a Westie called Fred and they came from Lancing just 30 miles away from us.

Day 8 : Friday 23 June

Today was set to be grey and damp and sure enough as we were packing it started spitting. I managed to get a short walk in with Fred after breakfast before we headed on up the road. The A40 was full of classic hot rods on their way to Pendine for the Vintage Hot Rod Association speed weekend – perhaps we should have stayed. We were heading to the Dolaucothi Gold Mines just by Llandovery. Gold was mined there since before the Romans until the 1960’s. They are a National Trust property so another bit of value for our recent membership. We took the walking tour and the history of the site is fascinating, it would be easy to spend a lot more time there one day.

IMG_1113

From Dolaucothi I called my cousin Claire in Stroud and we spent the evening with her, Olie and Jade over an Indian Takeway.

Day 9 : Saturday 24 June

And that was about it. We had camped in Cirencester and were up early and on the road and home in time for lunch.

So we have done 1200 miles around Wales (where it always rains) and burned to a frazzle. Last time we tried to camp in Pembrokeshire, 45ish years ago we had to admit defeat to howling wind and rain. Lets try it again sometime…..

PS. please excuse the possibly clumsy use of the dash cam video. It is the first time I have tried it and I am sure I need to refine it a bit,

Arctic Circle to Home

arcticcircle2home

Day 10 : Thursday 23 June

Heading back south from the Arctic Circle we found a nice camp site at on the E6 by a river. The site office was the Krokstrand Cafe across the road who hacked me off with stupid Norwegian alcohol laws. They wouldn’t let me buy a beer and take it back to the van – if I wanted one I had to drink it in the cafe – how stupid! That night a thunderstorm brewed and it poured.

DSC_0217

Day 11 : Friday 24 June

The next morning we went back to Mo I Rana and the supermarket where I could buy beers to drink wherever! We stocked up for a few days and filled up with diesel. As we left I set the sat nav for , Storuman, the town in Sweden that we were heading towards for the night. Once on the road out of town the sat nav lady told us to take the third turning off the roundabout after 156 miles and the day night feature started working again. Clearly the software could not cope with the latitude at that time of year!

We headed across the border into Sweden past mountainsides full of Huttes and a large area for garaging skidoos. We drove alongside mirror lakes and through mile after mile of pine forest – Ikea will never be short of raw material. We hit Storuman later in the afternoon and found the municipal camp site where we could pitch up next to the swimming lake. While Sue made use of the laundry the heavens opened and treated us to a spectacular thunder shower. That evening there were a number of folk with classic American cars driving around the town and it was surprising to see the number of immigrant or refugee kids who congregated by the lake in the evening. We took the opportunity to introduce Fred to swimming and I took him in out of his depth, he wasn’t too happy but like a true Spaniel he swam.

Day 12 : Saturday 25 June
DSC_0250The following morning we set off for the coast, again lakes and pine forests. The previous day we had seen a Reindeer on the verge and Sue was just saying she was pleased to have seen one when we came across a large stag in the middle of the road. He wasn’t in a hurry and trotted down the road for a while before disappearing into the bushes. Shortly after we drove through Junsele, a small town that resembles something out of a Wild West movie, that was playing host to the Swedish Wild West Cruisers club for American cars and motorcycles, surreal to say the least.

We got to the coast at Harnosand and visited the supermarket. Our first experience of a a Swedish supermarket and we couldn’t help but notice the single refugee sat at the door begging. We stopped the night just down the road at Bye Camping, simple but economic, and had the field backing on to the lake to ourselves and a few mossies. It was a warm evening and we were able to enjoy a few beers with our BBQ.

Day 13 : Sunday 26 June

Next day we carried on south and then looked for a campsite inland. We found a nice quiet municipal campsite in Soderfors, a company small town laid out in a grid its main industry like so many others in Sweden being pulp. We shared the touring pitches with, amongst others, a German couple in a Unimog Camper in which they had been on a 2 month tour up through Finland at, judging by the speed they we were doing when we passed them earlier, 30kph.

Days 14  & 15 : Monday 27 & Tuesday 28 June

We headed east looking for somewhere to stay near the coast and came upon Osthammer a delightful quiet resort town. Here we pitched up for 2 nights so we could have a day doing nothing much. The town itself had an attractive centre of traditional buildings around a small square. There was a park area next to the camp site where we walked to the waters edge for a paddle and an ice-cream from the kiosk.

Day 16 : Wednesday 29 June

Today we had to get past Stockholm but first it was time for a bit of culture and a visit to Gamla Upsala. Upsala is the old capital of Sweden and Gamla Upsala is the village of Old Upsala where the burial mounds of the ancient kings are amongst the important archeology on the site.

DSC_0280

Afterwards we headed across Stockholm and its dreadful motorways and traffic, the first we had seen since Bremen in Germany. Clear of the city we went looking for a camp site and came across Jorgeso Camping in Oxelsund. A nice quiet family run site with a walk along the beach where Fred had a paddle. Strangely the car park was full of Brits camping in vans and caravans who seemed to have something to do with Triathlon that happens there.

Days 17 – 19 : Thursday 30 June – Saturday 2 July

Today we explored some of the small roads to the coast looking for camp sites and admiring some of the smart holiday properties. Carrying on south down the Baltic coast it occurred to us that half of Sweden looked like they were on holiday. In which case it might be prudent to find a 3 night stop with washing machines to catch up on some domestic chores. We found a large site in Kalmar with nice facilities although we needed some help turning the washing machine on. There were nice walks around the wooded park and a little bit of beech to paddle on.

The site was a little more expensive than all the others and insisted that we take out some kind of Swedish Camping Card. There were a lot of seasonal caravans parked there just like home from home even with front doors in the awning.

Kalmar has a fine medieval castle set in the sea on the edge of the tree lined old town.

Day 20 : Sunday 3 July

The day was one of sunshine and showers. We tried exploring inland but it got very wet and thundery before we headed back to the coast and added up in Karlshamm. Here we found a Nice site with good facilities although it was a bit bunny infested which was a problem with Fred.

 

On one side of the estuary was a huge edible oils and fats plant but the town itself was quite attractive with some grand residences.

Day 21 : Monday 4 July

An interesting day driving along the coast. In the morning we were driving through fruit farms and orchards and in the afternoon through cereals and potatoes. It was interesting to see how early the cereal harvest was at this latitude compared to home.

At lunch time we found a nice parking spot among the dunes but dogs weren’t welcome on the beach. From here on west the road was tight to to the coast and the further west we got the more holiday land it became. We stopped the nite at a pleasant site on the beach front just before Trelleborg before heading to Malmo.

Day 22 : Tuesday 5 July

This morning we crossed the Oresund Bridge from Malmo back into Denmark. The bridge, that costs £45, is actually half bridge and half tunnel that spits you out into Copenhagen.

Once there you can’t not go and see the Little Mermaid along with hoards of others off the cruise ships. Fred wasn’t impressed despite the several American and Welsh lady tourists that wanted to say help to him. On the way we passed the Tivoli so that was 2 birds with one stone.

As we drove around that morning the weather got progressively worse. We crossed the Storbelt bridge, another £40, to Odense, by which time it was a continuous downpour so we headed for the Bojden ferry and stopped at Faarbourg for the night.

Day 23 : Wednesday 6 July

This morning the Camping Gaz ran out in the middle of making a brew so we had to find a supply. Actually the local Shell garage and it was cheaper than at home. Then on to the ferry that takes about an hour to get to Fynshav on the mainland. We drove to Flensburg in Germany and then a rural drive to Kappeln and a camp site at Karshau. It was a disappointingly small pitch and infested with bunnies which was a major problem.

Day 24 : Thursday 7 July

This morning we decided to make progress and head for Holland but first we had to cross the Scheilbrucke at Lindaunis. The bridge is interesting as it is single track controlled by lights and carries vehicles and trains in both direction and pedestrians as well as lifting for boat traffic.

DSC_0332

We used the Autobahn and drove all day until we got to a cute place called Bourtagne just across the border into Holland and found a nice quiet camp site.

Days 25 & 26 :  Friday & Saturday 8 & 9 July

Bourtagne is a complete fortified star shaped village dating back to medieval times. It has a town square surrounded by quaint buildings several of which are cafes and restaurants. A walk around the ramparts gets views of the whole village including the old toilets build on platforms over the moat.

 

Days 27 & 28 : Sunday and Monday 10 & 11 July

Fro Bourtagne we had a pleasant morning drive through Holland ending up at Sue’s friend Marja’s house near Zwolle where we chilled for the afternoon and camped on the green next-door.

Day 29 : Monday 12 July

Marja had booked Fred an appointment with the vet first thing so he could get his worming tablet to come home. So after breakfast we walked her son to school and Fred to the vet. For the rest of the day we headed toward Dunkirk and in the end stopped at a camp site near Ypres in Belgium.

Day 30 : Tuesday 13 July

Today we caught the ferry home. For the first time they wanted to check Fred’s chip against his passport.

It has been an epic adventure and we can’t wait to do more. Our one regret is not spending more time in Norway so next time we will go to the North Cape. In future we would probably not bother with Sweden or Denmark.

< Previous Arctic Circle 66° 33′ N

Arctic Circle 66° 33′ N

Situated on the E6 about 80km north of Mo I Rana the Polarsirkelsenteret is a bit more than just a line across the road.

We arrived at the Arctic Circle at about 17:00. It was a pleasant afternoon with an air temperature of about 18C but at that time of year and latitude the sun is very hot. There is a large car park, a visitor centre with all the touristic paraphernalia built astride the line and overnight parking for campers. There are also monuments, including those to Russians and Yugoslavs from WWII, and a large area of rock piles that Fred had a go at knocking over!

DSC_0204We were not sure what to expect at this latitude and the surrounding terrain is rugged but then the visitor centre is at 630m a.s.l.. However not far down the road in either direction industry and agriculture continue despite the shortened seasons.

We were in too much of a hurry to get here and were worried about how long it is going to taker to get home. In reality we could have taken our time and / or gone further north. We must come again and and carry on to the North Cape.

< Previous – Kristiansand to the Arctic Circle    Next – Arctic Circle to Home >

Kristiansand to the Arctic Circle

Depending on the actual route you take it is about 1000 miles from the southern tip to the Arctic Circle by the main coast road and then the main road north. Sounds like a long way but that is only half the distance to the North Cape – but that will be another story.

kristiansand2arcticcircleDay 3 – Thursday 16 June – Kristiansand is the southern most tip of Norway a 4 hour crossing from Hirtshals The Colorline ferry arrived mid afternoon and took quite a while to disembark and single file past the immigration / customs – sadly a test of things to come post Brexit

It was overcast and damp as we hit the road aiming to find a camp site not too far away for the night. The first of many spectacles came on the E39 at Feda, a tunnel that exited directly on to a suspension bridge over a fjord before going straight back into another tunnel on the other side. Shortly after we cut off at Flekkefiord on to the 44, a smaller coast road. It was spectacularly senic even on a damp and dreary evening often single lane winding through narrow fjords with big drops, picturesque valleys and cragy tops. Getting desperate we stopped in a small village and contemplated stopping for the night until we opened the door and met the local residents – mosies! Eventualy we found a small and surprisingly inexpensive campsite with nice facilities, Bakkaano Camping, in hills near Sognadal.

Day 4 & 5 – Friday 17th & Sat 18th June – The next day we followed the coast north heading for Stavanger. After stopping for a quick look at Egersund church and a coffee by the fjord the country side along this stretch of coast turns into flat coastal plain with arable farming all the way to Stavanger Fjord. I used to stay at a hotel in Sola so we headed for Sola Strand, a long sandy beach, where we rocked up for lunch. Sola is next to Stavanger airport that is constantly busy with helicopters coming and going to the oil and gas rigs.

A quick look at a couple of camp sites and we decided on a nice site on the beach south of Sola Strand at Olberg harbour. It was barely separated from small the beach by a row of dunes and had great facilities. Next day was Sue’s birthday so our plan was to stop here and chill. It was a great spot and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Fred particularly liked the beach, the Oyster Cachers and a family of Eiders. It was windy and a showery at times. The winds off the Atlantic were a constant 65kph for 24 hours so we had to take down our inflatable drive away awning and when it came time to go we had to to turn the van back into the wind so that we could lower the roof without risking damage.

Day 6 – Sunday 19th June – After filling up in Stavanger with what had to be the cheapest diesel in Western Europe we headed for Bergen opting to take the scenic route with a couple of longish ferries hoping across the islands. However before we could do that there was the tunnel under Stavanger Fjord which at 8.5km long may not sound too spectacular but at 265m deep it certainly is. There are 2 ferries each about 45 minutes and such an enjoyable way to travel.

We arrived in Bryggen, the old town at the heart of Bergen, for a spot of lunch parked up just off the waterfront and had a quick look at the touristic buildings. Most of the big buildings are stone or brick from the early 1900s, presumably because the wooden ones would have succumbed to fire amongst other things, but there are several preserved or reconstructed buildings.

A short stroll was enough for us – nowadays we really don’t do cities and Fred certainly doesn’t! This section of the old waterfront overlooks the harbour where apart for a host of sail boats and fishing boats the ferries and cruise ships dock. Further out to sea it quickly gives way to shipping for the oil industry.

Leaving Bergen and still on the E39 it was a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon and the views from the road across the fjords simply went on and on. We stopped for refreshment at a busy road side cafe to buy ices – not something to be recommended at those prices. Parked up enjoying them a guy pulled up next to us in the most pristine black 1957 Thunderbird convertible, such a nice way to enjoy that road. Shortly after we came across the quintessentially Norwegian church nestling in a small hamlet on the shore of the fjord at Vikanes.

Crossing the Sogner Fjord to Lavik we took a detour from the E39 in search of a camp site for the night. We found a one in the middle of nowhere and by that I mean we turned off the main road following a camping sign and drove for miles along small roads until we came upon it by lake Askevatnet,. It was in an idyllic spot in a valley next to the lake with several Huttes (the Norwegians enjoy holidaying in Wendy houses) and a small communal block with a toilet, shower and small kitchen. It was so quiet we only had 2 other vans and several Polish workers for company that night.

Day 7 – Monday 20th June – The following morning still following our detour on scenic small roads we came across a roundabout at Dale in the middle of the tunnel that was lit in disco blue. The whole day was just more great roads and fab scenery on our way to our next stop over that was to be Alesund.

Here we made our first foray into the supermarket which as expected was expensive and we were surprised by the poor choice, something we found throughout Norway. We also had to go to a pet shop as Fred had chewed through his lead and if we thought the supermarket was expensive the pet shop beat them hands down! That night finding a camp site was a annoying and we drove 20km up the road until we found one at Sjoholt. It was a bit uninspiring but the dreary evening probably didn’t help.

Day 8 – Tuesday 21st June – The following morning I was on a mission so we drove back into Alesund. As a kid one of my favourite books was the Shetland Bus, the story of the Norwegian fisherman and sailors who escaped from Nazi occupation of Norway and with the help of the British SOE formed a naval unit that sailed from Scotland to Norway in fishing boats supplying the resistance, rescuing people and carrying out attacks like the attempted sinking of the Tirpitz. On the harbour front by the ferry terminal is a monument to the men of the Shetland Bus.

From Alesund we headed on toward the Atlantic Road. A series of bridges hopping across several small islands. Nice though it is it is no where nears as spectacular as the tourist literature makes out. As it sweeps from one island to another there is only one main arch, to allow boats past, and this is the one you will see on all the photos. The other bridges are all fairly flat. We stopped for coffee and waved to the first Brit we had seen since Germany and who just happened to be another VW T5. They pulled in for a chat and recognised our van from the T4/T5 Forum!

Immediately after the Atlantic Road we followed a sign for a camp site heading out to the islands. It took us so far out and the road eventually turned to gravel before we got to Camping Lyso. This site has to be recommended with loads of pitches in amongst the rocks and views all around. The facilities were excellent including good WiFi and all for a great price. That night was midsummer so the shortest of the year and we were able to wonder around taking in the views late into the evening while the sun still shone on the mountains.

Remote though this place was there were new holiday homes being built in several places and some of the Lithuanian workers were staying on the camp site. Yet another example of Norway’s relationship with the EU.

Easy 9 – Wednesday  22nd June – Continuing to head north and after several days following the E39 we finally reached the end and joined the E6 on the way to Trondheim. Sue had been suffering from a bad cold and sore throat for several days so we made a detour into a small town, Bardshaug, and called into Boots the Apotek for a packet of Strepsils at twice the UK price!

Despite the northern latitude it was warm in the rush hour traffic around Trondheim so we were pleased to find a nice camp site just north of Steinkjer, Follingstua Camping on lake Snasavatet. From our pitch we had an elevated view over the lake.

Day 10 – Thursday 23rd June – The following day we simply headed north on the E6. On the way a long tunnel at Hemnes was closed and the traffic redirected over the old mountain road. From the viewpoint at its peak we got clear views of the Okstindan mountains and the Okstindbreen glacier. As the weather promised to be fine all day we decided to press on to Arctic Circle that afternoon. Just before Mo I Rana something strange happened to the sat nav and the screen decided that it was night time so that the only solution was to turn the day night feature off. It was a haul getting past Mo I Rana because of the amount of road works but we made it late in the afternoon.

< Previous – Home to Hirtshals           Next – Arctic Circle >

Home to Hirtshals

Setting out on our 2016 trip to the Arctic Circle. We had a 2 ferry deadlines to meet before our adventure could begin in earnest. Lots of miles in 2 days.

home2hirtshals14th June 2016 we left home on a bright and breezy morning and headed to Dover for the 12:00 DFDS sailing to Dunkirk. The first time we had used Dover for a long time, the first time to Dunkirk and the first ferry trip for Fred. It is was an uneventful 2 hour crossing that tipped us out on the Autoroute just shy of the Belgian border.

An 400km drive through Belgium, with an unintentional afternoon detour through the middle of the Antwerp rush hour, the Netherlands and Germany to Haltern-am-See a bit before Munster. Here we tried a new experience and found a Stelplatz. For anyone touring Germany in a camper or motorhome these are brilliant.

DSC_0004They are basically stopping places that you are allowed to use for a night. They might be car parks or lay-bys, with or without facilities and free or a couple of Euros. They are identified my the image of a camper on a street sign. The particular one we found was on a grass car park part of the local sports ground. No facilities but a lot of woodland and a bar nearby. It was a very quiet night only us and one other and our first experience of having to dig ticks out of Fred!

DSC_0014The following day we had decided to bash 800km to Hirtshals on the northern most tip of Jutland, Denmark, with a few detours for roadworks and epic torrential rain around Aalborg that slowed the motorway to 20 miles and hour and even then we couldn’t see anything. At least we could have a relaxing evening with no pressure to rush for the ferry in the morning. We arrived at the camp site overlooking the straights from where we could see the ferries heading to Norway. That far north is on the same latitude as Aberdeen so it was light well into the evening.

The following morning we had time to kill, a walk on the beach, a visit to the limited supermarket and a fill up of reasonably priced Danish diesel before we headed to the ferry for an 11:00 sailing. Another long trip for Fred but he seemed OK with it.

It is worth noting for anyone going to Norway that going this route the ferry actually costs the same as or even less than the tolls on the bridges in Denmark and across to Sweden. However it is several hundred miles less to drive!

Another point of note if you are travelling with a dog even though you will have a pet passport for Europe the same rules regarding worming when coming from Europe into Norway apply as for returning to the UK. So we took Fred to our local vet the day before we left home for his worming tablet that lasted until we crossed into Norway.

Next – Kristiansand to the Arctic Circle >

Lost Gardens

So a few days in Cornwall at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. There is a fab campsite next door that is part of the estate which is only a short drive from superb beaches. At this time of year they are empty and Fred just adores chasing seagulls.

We used the trip to pay a visit to Kernow Transporters & Premium Camper in St Just. From Heligan to St Just is a long way on a wet day and it is surprising how long Cornwall is. A bit of a drive about and we had a walk at the Minack Theatre.

The lost Gardens themselves are a spectacular tropical garden with a rain forest in a valley. The kitchen gardens (almost a farm) have been beautiful restored and able to grow all manner throughout the year. The farm shop on site is a great place to shop for the BBQ.

Edinburgh and Back

We left Busfest in Malvern after lunch to get to the C&CC site at Kendal in time for dinner. We managed that but not before we met with a closed M6 at Preston and couple of hours detour. The site was easy to find between the M6 and Windermere. We spent a couple of days walking and touring around the lakes.

Our biggest frustration with the Lake District was how much it costs to park. Sometimes it might be justifiable if you were to spend all morning or even day in one place but when you only want to stop for a coffee or a quick look see it is a rip off.

DSC_0058From Kendal we headed to Edinburgh a nice drive through the borders. We had booked a very expensive pitch for a few nights at the Caravan Club site at Siverknowes by the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh. The site is conveniently located for busses into town and our case visiting relatives and has great walking space alongside the river.

It seems like Falkirk is a place where interesting things happen such as the Falkirk Wheel lift that we have visited before. It raises and lowers the canal boats. This timewe were keen to go and see the Kelpies at Helix Park in Falkirk. These are 2 huge steel horses head sculptures beside the Forth & Clyde canal just along from the Wheel. Sadly the weather was as they say locally “get driech” so we may just have to go back again.

Heading south from Edinburgh we had a great drive along the A1 taking in the views of the Firth of Forth, St Albs, Lindisfarne and Banburgh and eventually arriving at the C&CC site at Scarborough. From here we walked all the way into Scarborough which I can assure you has little going for it. And we had a very wet drive to Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby. Whitby has much more going for it and of course Fish and Chips to die for.

DSC_0090A final stop on the way home at a C&CC Certified Site in Derbyshire. A great little spot that we had all to ourselves and Fred had a huge field to run in and he never saw the deer.

This was a good test of the van and all that came with it. We covered about 1200 miles in 2 weeks and were very comfortable with whatever the weather threw at us.