Some of the best village ramparts in France
When we bought Bertie in September 2015 we had wanted to use him for long overseas trips. I had been reading the blogs of adventurous souls who had spent months travelling abroad in their motorhomes. We chose a left-hand drive van for this reason but circumstances had conspired to keep use in the UK. We have moved from Suffolk to NE Scotland in that period, we have gained one grandchild and another one will be along this summer. We closed a business and handed over the bulk of the goodwill to our son and I have set up a smaller new business. All that has meant that we have used Bertie a lot and from Cornwall to Caithness (several times) but we have never been abroad. All that is about to change as we drive south up into the Grampian Mountains on our way to Hull to catch the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge. We have insurance for 60 days on the continent and we must be back and we plan to see lots of Belgium and France in that time.
First day leg is quite short – just 152kms to Pitlochry. It always takes us ages to get going on a trip (even quite short ones) and however much we prepare there always seems so much that can’t be done until the day we leave. Anyway at 13:10 we pulled on to the A940 and started the first climb up on to Dava Moor on our way to Grantown, Aviemore and the A9. Despite the late start we had not had lunch when we left and after about an hour we found a quiet layby by Loch Insch near Kincraig just off the A9. There is still quite a bit of snow on the mountains around us and it is cold, grey and gloomy but nothing can dampen our excitement at the adventure ahead of us! We have several days to get to Hull so there is no rush and we are determined to enjoy every minute of this trip.
Our destination for today is a car park beside the visitor centre at Pitlochry Dam just outside the town itself. Pitlochry is a popular holiday resort that rose to prominence in the 19th Century when the railway made it possible for people from the Central Belt and even England to get into the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The dam was built in the 1950s as part of a huge enterprise to develop the hydro electricity industry in Scotland. We arrived at 16:45 and just had time to visit to the exhibition at the Visitor Centre before it closed at 17:30 – very interesting and worth a stop. Sadly I understand that overnight parking is now discouraged here which is a real blow. We also walked across the dam itself to enjoy the views across Loch Faskally.
There was one other motorhome there but they moved off before the night and by the morning there was just us and a lady who had slept in her car. It was really cold that night with a sharp frost by morning so I felt sorry for her in her car! Over the years we have travelled and wild camped in car parks like this across Scotland we have often seen cars parked up along with the campers and motorhomes. Occasionally there are tents pitched on the grass beside the car parks too. One can’t help but worry what these folk do about “facilities” and we are glad to have everything we need on board.
After breakfast we drove a few miles to Dunkeld. This historic town is right beside the A9 between Pitlochry and Perth and we have driven past so many times over the last 8 years but have never taken the time to see it properly. The Picts had no written language that we are aware of and thus there are few records of Pictish Scotland (we do not even know what they called themselves and we use a term derived from Roman writers who referred to “painted people”. This is a long way of saying that Dunkeld is one of the old settlements and it was known to have existed in C9 when Kenneth is reputed to have brought the bones of St Columba to the monastery here in 849AD. The cathedral there now dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. There is a fine stone bridge across the River Tay (Scotland’s longest river) and there is a nice old town. There is good parking beside the river which is used by motorhomes to stopover.
We had wanted to visit Craigmillar Castle just south of Edinburgh today but having finally arrived there through the suburbs of Edinburgh the tiny car park was full including several police vehicles are we were waived on by police. We found out later that there was an “armed incident” in progress in the nearby park. We took the hint and left Craigmillar for another time and pressed on to our stopover at Prestonpans.