Setting out on our 2016 trip to the Arctic Circle. We had a 2 ferry deadlines to meet before our adventure could begin in earnest. Lots of miles in 2 days.
14th June 2016 we left home on a bright and breezy morning and headed to Dover for the 12:00 DFDS sailing to Dunkirk. The first time we had used Dover for a long time, the first time to Dunkirk and the first ferry trip for Fred. It is was an uneventful 2 hour crossing that tipped us out on the Autoroute just shy of the Belgian border.
An 400km drive through Belgium, with an unintentional afternoon detour through the middle of the Antwerp rush hour, the Netherlands and Germany to Haltern-am-See a bit before Munster. Here we tried a new experience and found a Stelplatz. For anyone touring Germany in a camper or motorhome these are brilliant.
They are basically stopping places that you are allowed to use for a night. They might be car parks or lay-bys, with or without facilities and free or a couple of Euros. They are identified my the image of a camper on a street sign. The particular one we found was on a grass car park part of the local sports ground. No facilities but a lot of woodland and a bar nearby. It was a very quiet night only us and one other and our first experience of having to dig ticks out of Fred!
The following day we had decided to bash 800km to Hirtshals on the northern most tip of Jutland, Denmark, with a few detours for roadworks and epic torrential rain around Aalborg that slowed the motorway to 20 miles and hour and even then we couldn’t see anything. At least we could have a relaxing evening with no pressure to rush for the ferry in the morning. We arrived at the camp site overlooking the straights from where we could see the ferries heading to Norway. That far north is on the same latitude as Aberdeen so it was light well into the evening.
The following morning we had time to kill, a walk on the beach, a visit to the limited supermarket and a fill up of reasonably priced Danish diesel before we headed to the ferry for an 11:00 sailing. Another long trip for Fred but he seemed OK with it.
It is worth noting for anyone going to Norway that going this route the ferry actually costs the same as or even less than the tolls on the bridges in Denmark and across to Sweden. However it is several hundred miles less to drive!
Another point of note if you are travelling with a dog even though you will have a pet passport for Europe the same rules regarding worming when coming from Europe into Norway apply as for returning to the UK. So we took Fred to our local vet the day before we left home for his worming tablet that lasted until we crossed into Norway.
Next – Kristiansand to the Arctic Circle >
We have been considering either updating our current van or starting a new one while we can. A key criteria for Sue is the ease of which we can get the roof up and down as we get older. There is no after market option for this and a VW California does not float our boat. However it is possible to retrofit a California roof. Earlier ing the month we had a trip to Cornwall and paid a visit to Kernow Transporters and Premium Camper who buy in salvaged California roofs and fit them to vans. We have given this option a lot of thought and have decided we are happy to go with it.
So to get the ball rolling and to beat a 1st June VW price hike we have placed an order for a new T6. It is a SWB T30 Kombi in white (as if it could be anything else) and the spec is much the same as our current van except that it will come as a Euro 6 Blue Motion so 150PS DSG with LED lights,
So a few days in Cornwall at The Lost Gardens of Heligan. There is a fab campsite next door that is part of the estate which is only a short drive from superb beaches. At this time of year they are empty and Fred just adores chasing seagulls.
We used the trip to pay a visit to Kernow Transporters & Premium Camper in St Just. From Heligan to St Just is a long way on a wet day and it is surprising how long Cornwall is. A bit of a drive about and we had a walk at the Minack Theatre.
The lost Gardens themselves are a spectacular tropical garden with a rain forest in a valley. The kitchen gardens (almost a farm) have been beautiful restored and able to grow all manner throughout the year. The farm shop on site is a great place to shop for the BBQ.
Watching Fred’s first year growing up and developing was a largely joyful experience. He is a handsome dog with great intelligence and character. He is also a wilful little soul and can be too clever for his own good.
We left Busfest in Malvern after lunch to get to the C&CC site at Kendal in time for dinner. We managed that but not before we met with a closed M6 at Preston and couple of hours detour. The site was easy to find between the M6 and Windermere. We spent a couple of days walking and touring around the lakes.
Our biggest frustration with the Lake District was how much it costs to park. Sometimes it might be justifiable if you were to spend all morning or even day in one place but when you only want to stop for a coffee or a quick look see it is a rip off.
From Kendal we headed to Edinburgh a nice drive through the borders. We had booked a very expensive pitch for a few nights at the Caravan Club site at Siverknowes by the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh. The site is conveniently located for busses into town and our case visiting relatives and has great walking space alongside the river.
It seems like Falkirk is a place where interesting things happen such as the Falkirk Wheel lift that we have visited before. It raises and lowers the canal boats. This timewe were keen to go and see the Kelpies at Helix Park in Falkirk. These are 2 huge steel horses head sculptures beside the Forth & Clyde canal just along from the Wheel. Sadly the weather was as they say locally “get driech” so we may just have to go back again.
Heading south from Edinburgh we had a great drive along the A1 taking in the views of the Firth of Forth, St Albs, Lindisfarne and Banburgh and eventually arriving at the C&CC site at Scarborough. From here we walked all the way into Scarborough which I can assure you has little going for it. And we had a very wet drive to Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby. Whitby has much more going for it and of course Fish and Chips to die for.
A final stop on the way home at a C&CC Certified Site in Derbyshire. A great little spot that we had all to ourselves and Fred had a huge field to run in and he never saw the deer.
This was a good test of the van and all that came with it. We covered about 1200 miles in 2 weeks and were very comfortable with whatever the weather threw at us.
This was our second visit to Busfest and equally as good as the first. It didn’t matter to us that the traders were the same as last year and even some of the bands were the same. Indeed we really like the Ska band that plays the Sheep Shed nearest our T4 Forum pitch. With Fred in tow we couldn’t spend so much time amongst the crowds and we had to leave him in the van for a while when we went for a walk around in the evening. Steve who we drove top with and who pitched up next to us had to come and find us because Fred was setting the alarm off.
A lot of folk rated this event so we had to give it a try. It was nice enough but we were pitched a long way from the centre. And the entertainment and trade stand were limited. On a value for money comparison it came no where near Busfest.