Edinburgh to Berwick-on-Tweed

So, we found ourselves at a family party in Edinburgh on a rather splendid Sunday afternoon. And, as we didn’t have to be home until the following Thursday, we decided to follow the coast from Edinburgh to Berwick.

We took the A199 from Edinburgh towards Portobello and Musselburgh. As it was Sunday and a sunny afternoon, Portobello was quite busy so we decided to give Copley’s Bar at Portobello a miss and head for Musselburgh Harbour.

Again, it was very busy so we decided to continue on through Prestonpans, Cockenzie, Port Seton and Aberlady. It was a very pleasant drive with lovely views both over the countryside and out over the Firth of Forth. We eventually ended up in North Berwick where we turned off the main road down the quadrant and right onto Marine Parade.

If you follow Marine Parade all the way down to the end you find a lay-by on the left which is suitable for overnight parking. But if you continue on, up a wee hill, you find a lovely little gravelled area with stunning views out to Bass Rock. As it was still quite busy, we decided to pack up in the lay-by and enjoy the views accompanied by lovely cup of tea.

A little later, when things had quietened down, we drove up the wee hill and found a perfect place to pitch up for the night with a stunning view out towards Bass Rock. Our two dogs and a great time running up and down the grassy banks and chasing through the long grass. We enjoyed a leisurely supper accompanied by the obligatory bottle of wine and settle down to watch the wildlife and the passing ships.

We awoke to a dull and rainy morning, enjoyed a relaxed breakfast, did a wee bit of housekeeping, including picking up litter left by some youngsters who had obviously enjoyed a fish supper. We then continued along the A198 with a relatively short ride down into Dunbar Harbour where we parked up in the main car park, had a quick lunch and set off to explore.

Dunbar Harbour has a fascinating history, as you walk around you will see little information boards that provide quite detailed information on the history of the harbour and how it is progressed through various phases. Be sure to take some time to visit the battery which has been recently upgraded with a lovely garden area and outdoor auditorium.

Having spent most of the afternoon exploring the harbour and watching the boats come and go, we decided to stay the night. If you follow the road alongside the harbour towards the Leisure Centre, you’ll find a raised area with ample parking for several motorhomes. We had a lovely view over the harbour and out to sea. There were another couple of motorhomes staying overnight and we managed to blether with another couple from Scotland and a couple from Holland. As you can see, it was a stunning evening!

The next morning we decided to move on and, after topping up our fresh water tank from a conveniently located tap next to the harbour, we set off for St Abbs. We stuck to the back roads and managed to avoid joining the busy A1.

The approach to St Abbs Harbour is very narrow and very steep and it needs to be treated with care. Having safely arrived at the bottom of the hill we found a spot with an excellent view out to sea. Parking cost £1.00 per hour and, should you wish to stay overnight (6pm to 8am) you can pay the £10 fee at the Harbour Master’s Office. Our waste tank and cassette were both quite full so after exploring the harbour for 2-3 hours and drying off two very wet dogs we decided to head to the Caravan & Motorhome Club Site at Berwick-on-Tweed to make use of their excellent facilities.

All in all we had an excellent wee trip and made our way home at a leisurely pace through Etal (Where we popped into the delightful Lavender Tea Room), Coldstream, Gordon and Lauder. Arriving back in time to do our democratic duty and cast our votes in the General Election the following morning.

A Trip To Islay

If like me, you are a fan of the Single Malt Whisky, then Islay is a destination that should be very high on your “Must Visit” list.

Located off the west coast of Scotland and on a similar latitude to Glasgow, it took us around 5 hours to drive from our home in the Scottish Borders to the lovely harbour town of Tarbert.

We decided to travel up the day before our crossing and take a wee daunder around the Mull of Kintyre coast before we found a beautiful wee spot to “wild camp” between Claonaig and Skipness. We enjoyed an al fresco supper and took in the view over the bay to Arran.

A short drive to the CalMac ferry terminal at Kennacraig and we were soon boarded and on our way to Port Ellen. The CalMac staff were very friendly and helpful and the crossing was very comfortable. The breakfast was most enjoyable!

We were efficiently disembarked and we drove the very short distance into Port Ellen. We parked on the main street and found a lovely wee bistro where we enjoyed an excellent lunch. You may have begun to notice a “foodie” trend  😉

We’re not the type of people who plan everything down to the finest detail. We prefer to be spontaneous and to go with the flow. In this case, we decided to head out of Port Ellen and to recce the island. We headed for Bowmore and then followed the coastline around Loch Indaal through Bruichladdich and down to Port Charlotte where we dropped into the Tourist Information Centre

Unfortunately, it was closed but we did meet a very friendly and helpful young lady who advised us to drive to the other side of the village and head for the village Community Centre. The community run site is superb. There are dedicated pitches with EHU (Electric Hook Up) and a large grassed area where you can choose your own pitch. Inside the Community Centre, there are modern, well equipped and spotlessly clean toilets and showers. There is also a Bistro which offers a menu with a good selection of dishes made from locally sourced produce.

While the Port Charlotte Community Centre became our base from which to explore the island, we did also discover a couple of excellent places to “wild camp”. The first was right at the top of Loch Indaal where we spent a couple of nights and the second was on the east coast on the road to Ardtalla where we spent our last night on the island and also where we managed to get stuck!

Thankfully a very understanding farmer pulled us out with his tractor giving us plenty of time to drive to the ferry terminal at Port Askaig

However, I digress…

Obviously, there is plenty to see and do. It would be churlish not to visit all the Islay distilleries. Christine’s favourite was Bruichladdich where they also distill The Botanist a very fine gin made with local aromatics. I have to confess a love for both Laphroaig and Lagavulin and I’d be hard pressed to express a real preference for one over the other. Although I do now own a wee bit of Laphroaig land. Sadly, we didn’t get to Bunnahabhain on this trip but that does give me an excellent reason to return and as a bonus, I did manage to buy a bottle at an excellent price on the return ferry.

There is a seal colony at Portnahaven which is a very picturesque wee village. Islay House near Bridgend is well worth a visit if only to buy fresh vegetables from the walled garden which is run by the local community. You get to the garden through a courtyard which boasts a couple of galleries a coffee shop and a brewery.

Most evenings we dined in our motorhome although the food at the Port Charlotte Community Centre Bistro was such good value we did spoil ourselves and dine out more than we normally would. We also had a fabulous meal at the Port Charlotte Hotel.

So, we enjoyed a fabulous week on Islay, every was very helpful and friendly and I’m sure we will be back in the very near future.