Summer’s arrived at last

Or at least, we’ve had 4 days of sunshine and no rain. We’re well aware that may be all the summer that’s been alloted the Highlands this year and are prepared to don our winter woolies again at a moments notice!

Despite the bad weather we’ve been having a great time in the far north. We left Edinburgh after a week of checking out areas for later flat hunting, sailing (John), a hen party (Rachel) and generally enjoying getting to know the city we’ll be living in soon.

From the capital we headed up to Aviemore in the Cairngorms for just one night (picking up two hitch hikers on the way, which was nice) before crossing to Ullapool and the north west. The scenery up here is absolutely jaw dropping. We have to make sure to switch driving regularly so we both get a good chance to stare out the window! A particular highlight was the Corrieshalloch gorge, just at the Braemore junction – a stunning waterfall with a rather wobbly suspension bridge over it!

A few good walks for me in Ullapool while John caught up on a bit of freelance editing and then the sun came out. This totally lulled me into a sense of false security and I promptly decided that we needed to swim in Loch Broom. Well, that was short lived… At about mid-calf height the agony from shrinking capillaries in our rapidly freezing feet was intense. So we staggered back out as quickly as we could travel over kelpy rocks. Not exactly tropical sands but I’m determined to get a wild swim in at some point on this trip.

We’re in the Assynt mountains now, wild camping (parking?) just off the road to Lochinver. We did an absolutely brilliant walk today on Quigan – an amazing knife edge ridge with fantastic exposure and gorgeous views. Tomorrow we head to Sandwood Bay, Cape Wrath and Durness. We’re hoping to do a day of sea kayaking at some point but also have our fingers crossed for the weather to hold so we can lie on the beach for a day too. It’s hard work being homeless and unemployed!

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New photos from the Hebrides online in our photo gallery

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Bongo adventures, a set on Flickr.

Check out some of our latest photos on Flickr. We spent just under two weeks in the Hebrides, taking in Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris, Lewis and Skye. Lots of breathtaking views and stormy squalls!

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Blown away by the views on Skye

We’ve spent three days camped in the shadow of the Black Cuillin on Skye. Well we would be in their shadow if the sun had appeared… The mountaineers amongst you will know that the Black Cuillin are some of the UK’s most fearsome peaks – a jaggedy, wind and rainswept ridge of alp-like peaks where compasses don’t work very well.

The weather has been typical for Skye, which is to say very wet and windy. The campsite at Glen Brittle is at the mouth of a loch, ideally placed for watching the squalls race in from the sea. Once or twice when the clouds parted we would get an enticing view of the dramatic ridge above us. But as the campsite owner pointed out, the brief snatches of clear weather were ‘a tease’ – within ten minutes or so the next squall would sweep in. I lived to regret going to the loo in a clear spell with no coat – when I emerged after a minute or two it was coming down in stair rods!

So mountaineering on the first day was sacked off in favour of a tour of the nearby Talisker whisky distillery. It was fascinating to see how this fiery stuff was made, and a dry way to spend the afternoon.

Yesterday we got onto the hill a bit, up into Coire an Lagan, below Sgurr Alisdair. The mist was down as we were up, but we did get occasional glimpses of very black, very steep, very wet rock. Later we headed up the valley to look at the fairy pools, a set of impressive waterfalls and pools, a noted wild swimming spot. Only warm enough for about ten minutes in August I would guess! All the rain meant that stepping stones across the river were a bit submerged. But Rachel got across in the end (though she has asked me to spare you the details!)

The wind got stronger in the night, rocking the van quite a bit. This morning there were two types of tent left on the site – Quasar mountain tents, like the one we took on our bike trip, were still standing, but trembling violently. Almost all other tents were either flattened or packed away, their bleary-eyed occupants looking glum-faced in their cars. We felt very fortunate to be in the van. Today it’s off to Edinburgh, where hopefully the weather will be a bit more clement.

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A Hebridean Adventure

It’s been a while since we last blogged but we are now well and truly in the middle of nowhere!

After a lovely weekend near Oban with our friends Chris, Paul and baby Lucy, we took the evening ferry towards the Western Isles on Monday. A rather choppy (and distinctly seasick for poor Rachel) crossing later and we found ourselves on the windswept but beautiful island of Barra. There are no official campsites on the smaller islands but there are a few semi official spots with toilets and water points etc. We haven’t spent a single penny on camping fees since we arrived!

From Barra, our route has taken us north on to Eriskay, across the causeway to South Uist and on to North Uist. We’re currently camped by the ferry terminal at Bernaray (way more picturesque than it sounds) in preparation for another boat on to Lewis and Harris. From there we plan to travel back to the mainland via Skye and on to Edinburgh for a public philosophy lecture (me) and my sister’s hen do (Rachel).

Although it’s been more of a whirlwind tour than we would have liked (lack of planning on our part) we’ve absolutely loved the Hebrides so far. Acres and acres of wild, windswept landscape, amazingly narrow roads that skirt so close to the sea/lochs/mountain escarpments that you feel you might fly off the edge at any moment! Perfectly white beaches, beautiful free camping spots and super friendly locals and fellow campers. We’ve done a couple of half day walks and managed not to get blown off the mountains (though we have had to hang on to each other for support a fair few times!) Plus we’ve seen seals, deer and loads of beautiful seabirds. A trip is highly recommended!

The Bongo is going well and handling the terrain brilliantly. We’re getting used to where everything lives and how the different seating arrangements work, although Rachel did manage to drive over the picnic furniture we’d stored under the van this morning so we’re by no means experts yet… 🙂 Fortunately the furniture seems no flatter than before its mishap.

We’re hoping to post photos soon but maybe not until Edinburgh as signal is a bit patchy. Hope it’s a wee bit warmer and more springlike where you are.

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Scotland at last!

A week after leaving Norfolk, we’ve finally crossed the Scottish border! It’s been a fantastic way to get here though, visiting friends and family along the way.

After a lovely couple of days in Northumberland with John’s aunt, uncle and cousin (including a trip to Holy Island) we spent last night in Dumfries and Galloway, near Wigtown. One showery, blustery walk from Garlieston to the ruined castle at Cruggleston this morning and we were grateful for the van to dry off in.

Once we’d had a restorative cup of tea and a few cheese and chutney sandwiches, we were ready for the off again. We’re heading to our friends in Oban for the weekend so tonight is an intermediary stop-but what a beautiful one! We’re now parked on the shore of Loch Lomond with a wonderful view and only the ducks for company. Perfect.

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A great start to two months on the road

On Thursday we set off on the ‘proper’ Bongo road trip – two to three months to explore Scotland, Ireland and a lot of England in between. If all goes to plan we should be based in our bongo until the end of July.

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We started our trip with a brief visit to Lowestoft, to see Rachel’s nana and grandad and aunty M. The sun was shining and we had great walks in Southwold and along the prom at Lowestoft. Then on to Manchester, stopping at a motorway service station en route for a Quaker Skype call.

We’ve been having a fantastic weekend here, staying with Graham and Andrew & Claudia. The theme of the weekend has been copious amounts of eating and drinking, and it’s been great to catch up with everyone. Today we’ve interspersed some great meals with a walk up Holcombe Moor. And we’ve been gleaning lots of exciting travel tips from friends who have explored the far reaches of the highlands.

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All this socialising has meant we’ve not been doing much camping in the bongo. We’ll start ‘proper’ camping when we head into Scotland next week. Before then we are seeing more family in Northumberland.

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First pitch near Ashbourne

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