In the years leading up to retirement, Bramley resident and Probus Club member Dr Jeff Grover and his partner, Mary, had travelled the four corners of the globe and post retirement had intended to continue their adventures.
By 23 March 2020 they had planned to jet off to Las Vegas to hit the tables, ride in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and horse ride on a nearby ranch before moving across to LA for a relaxing Mexican cruise.
Then the ‘big C’ put an abrupt stop to these ambitions – no, not cancer, but Covid -19. Lockdowns, isolation, on-line shopping, bubbles and Zoom all entered our vocabulary but underpinning all this was ‘Where can we go on holiday?’
Jeff explains that they had often thought about buying a motorhome but now this had become a genuine option and bought a thirteen year old 2-berth motorhome which fulfilled all our requirements. For the petrolheads it was an Elddis body on a Peugeot 2 litre diesel with a manual gear box but one of the attractions was that despite its age it had only travelled 16,000 miles. We had several test runs to the New Forest and south coast each time improving our experiences with this new way of holidaying.
This was all in preparation for the BIG ONE. Two weeks in Scotland negotiating the North Coast 500 during September 2020. This is 500 miles, driving, in our case, anticlockwise from Inverness up the east coast to John O’Groats, turning left towards Durness and then down the spectacular setting of the west coast before returning to Inverness.
The other important difference from our southerly sojourns was the introduction of wild camping which is legal in Scotland. Simply put, this involved finding a suitable parking place, lay-by, or car park where we stayed for the night free gratis. Once darkness descends all traffic ceases and a good night’s sleep is guaranteed.
We motored northwards up the east coast until we finally arrived at John O’Groats where we parked up for the night. We had arrived! This motor-homing lark was becoming a doddle. However, there was a gale coming off the North Sea but our four wheels clung tenaciously to the tarmac. The following morning, we headed off to Dunnet Head – actually, the most northerly part of mainland UK before staying in a campsite by the beach in the metropolis of Thurso.
Continuing eastwards along the top of Scotland we negotiated the single-track roads with their often, hair-raising passing spaces along the way. We wild camped at every stop over, most memorably one overlooking a small bay, where when opening the bedroom curtains in the morning we were met with a mesmerising sea of tranquil beauty.
The scenery was stunning. Particularly surprising were the expansive but empty sandy beaches located in every bay. If it wasn’t for the weather the Scottish west coast could easily rival any Spanish Costa. The dramatic, moody, mountains (or munros), sheltered valleys coated in bracken and thistle with lochs surrounded by water sodden peat – all with virtually no sign of habitation, were magnificent.
Another highpoint (pun intended) was the route towards Applecross, which has the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 2,054 ft, and is the third highest road in Scotland. This put the motorhome and its driver (me) through their paces negotiating the hairpin bends and testing the efficiency of the brakes and strength of nerve of both occupants.
Walks, whisky tasting (of course), beaches and magnificent scenery were all highpoints of our motorhome adventure. We finished our Scottish adventure at Gretna Green where we spurned the anvil but enjoyed a delicious Scottish breakfast before crossing the border to go home. In total we travelled in excess of 2000 miles in 14 days without incident or trouble.
The secrets of motor homing are patience and tolerance. It takes a while to get used to living in such a confined space, whilst sharing the minutia of everyday life and leaving all inhibitions behind you.
Was the purchase of our motor home a good decision? The answer is yes, definitely! Trips to France and Spain have already been mooted, although we could take off at any time to any part of the UK once Covid restrictions are lifted.
Having said this however, we have booked a flight to Argentina in December 2021!!!!