Rolling out of Edinburgh mid-day we headed southwest stopping at the National Wallace Monument a couple kms northeast of Stirling. This monument is in recognition of Sir William Wallace, patriot, martyr and Guardian of Scotland.His rise to notoriety started in 1297 when Wallace led Scotland to victory over England at the Battle of Sterling Bridge.
Following small roads just wide enough for us to drive on, we pass a sign showing another side road leading to the gravesite of Rob Roy. Rob Roy (1671?-1734), byname of Robert MacGregor was a noted Scottish highland outlaw with an exaggerated reputation as a Scottish Robin Hood.
Heading toward the coast we camped for the night in a great seaside village, Oban. Oban is known for its great location and fresh from the ocean, fish and shellfish.
It had rained here most of the day and the grass in the campground was soggy with deep ruts where heavier vehicles have been pitched with some unable to make their way out.
Setting up camp quickly, with a momentary pause in the rain, we blasted our way out of the middle of the field toward firmer ground while grass was flying in all directions as we fishtailed toward the gravel road.
In town we found a cool old pub, Auley’s Bar, to have a locally brewed cask ale while talking with locals, who had stopped in after work for a pint or two. An eatery around the corner was recommended to us for a well known English dinner of fish and chips, smothered in malt vinegar, chased down with another pint of locally brewed ale.
When we awoke the next day we were greeted with a glorious morning of puffy white clouds floating east against an azure blue sky background. Letting the tent dry out for a bit we made a cup of strong, dark roasted Honduran coffee for myself and a berry flavored tea for Melanie.
Headed down the coast we skirt along the shoreline of several different lochs with some incredible views.
At this point we are tired and desperately in need of a couple down days to rest and dry out. We headed back across Scotland to Newcastle and stayed in an AirBNB with another couple traveling from the US, and getting ready to move to Oregon. We ate supper and drank some red wine together while relaxing inside before retiring and sleeping in a real bed.
The morning found us travelling south in a fine mist, just enough to get you wet without you ever knowing it. The first place we come across is the Castlerigg Stone Circles.
These stone circles were built around 4500 years ago and are believed to have been a gathering place for trade and ceremonies. Unlike Stonehenge these stones are not protected by a fence and you are able to walk amoung them and feel the energy that still exists.
After another great night camping we make our way back north a bit to a bobbin factory, the Stott Park Bobbin Mill. This place was super interesting and watching the process of turning locally grown wood into bobbins was fantastic. Our female tour guide operated the old lathes and drills with precision turning out a bobbin every few seconds. The men who ran these machines in the past would produce thousands of bobbins a day, all paid as piece work.
This is another town along the way that I can’t remember what the name was but a small store along the river was full of woodcarvings.
Finding our way back to central northern England, we stopped in Richmond to see the Richmond Castle. This Castle was built in 1086 and was built with two large and two smaller outer stone towers, with a stone walk between them. A narrow circular staircase tightly winds it’s way in a clockwise direction making foot placement in the dimly lit, musty dampness somewhat difficult on the time worn stones.
Standing on the top walk we both look at each with identical thoughts of “The Wizard of Oz”, when Dorothy melted the wicked witch with a poorly thrown bucket of water.
Directly in front of the castle is an old pub full of good natured locals so we stop in for a pint and have a blast ribbing the patrons and bartender equally with smiles and laughter all around.
Just outside of town was the Easby Abbey that had been founded in 1152. Inside the church, which was in use at the time, are still displayed 13th-century wall paintings.
This was a bank holiday weekend in the UK and we unluckily found all of the campgrounds full. We started talking to a couple of glamping couples who knew the owner and talked him into letting us stay a couple nights in a little space. After setting up we get invited over for beer and wine and a very entertaining conversation before heading to town to find a pub for supper.
While at the pub we started a conversation with a couple who where in town with a box of 92 pigeons to be picked up. WHAT? RACING PIGEONS!!! They told us all about the world of racing pigeons and how their arrival at the end of the 95 mile race is all digitally records for the competition. This particular race was over 1000 birds.
Continuing on our zig zag, who knows where we’re going pattern we finally make it to the northern part of Wales, Snowdonia National Park. This is the last day of the holiday and campground after campground is full, as are the hotels. We finally find one, Llwyn Celyn bach, mid way up the mountain with commanding views of the town (Llanberis), the blue lake (Llyn Padryn), and mountain down below.
Towering off to the side of us is the mountain Snowdonia and a large portion of the people in town were there to climb this mountain. After walking into town to check things out, we walk back up to the campground and cook a wonderful dinner as the sun sets, casting colors and shadows across the valley below while the stars replace the light as the fading day turns into a clear crisp night. A glass of Scotch tops off a wonderful day with a toast to all that is good.
Riding up thought the mountains in the morning is amazing with the views we were given, but it had begun to rain again.
Turning toward the coast we head to an area that a friend of mine, Billy, had recommended to us, the Blue Pools. The Blue Pools are at the site of an old quarry. To get to them you climb up a fairly steep hill and follow a trail to another very steep hill, almost like a very high berm. There is a low tunnel cut through this solid rock berm with an old narrow gauge track though it. Lowering your head to avoid the rock ceiling above, you step on stones as you navigate this muddy, rocky track.
Exciting the tunnel you are in a large bowl with the Blue Pools in the center. The sides of the pool drops off immediately most of the way around with two sides being somewhat shallow, allowing the brave, or foolish, to swim in the 40°F waters. I chose to be foolish that day are dove into the breath stealing, crystal clear water. What a rush!