With a niggly driveshaft and looming storms, we decided to head homewards. Not directly though: the storms meant our planned crossing was cancelled for up to 5 days, but if we got to Stornaway, we could take the last boat today! So off we went, nipping through the countryside (driveshaft clacking merrily away), until we made it to the ferry port with a little time to spare. This was handy as the boat was heading to Ullapool, not Uig as we planned, so we needed to switch our plans around. Not that we minded though, as Ullapool has some of the best fish & chip suppers going!
After seeking advice on the driveshaft and manipulating the grease in the cv joint, we decided it wasn’t too bad and therefore we didn’t need to rush, so decided a leisurely run back via Oban and the Mull of Kintyre would be the plan. Leaving Ullapool we headed south into the area of Westeros, touching on a section of the famous North Coast 500 (NC500) route as a handrail.
Our first stopping point was the famous gardens in Inverewe, which we found were closed, though we could still visit but without paying admission….. because it was closed.. but, baffled by the logic, we went in. It’s worth a visit, the gardens are lovely with lots of trails to follow and plants to see – impressive given its hostile coastal position looking over the Atlantic Ocean!
As we drove along, we had noticed several old concrete structures, relics of WW2, plus a museum dedicated to the sailors of the Russian Arctic convoys. We didn’t really think much about it, but a chance question to a local about parking for the night, led us to discover more about the history and to find a stunning place to park up.
She recommended we stop at Firemore Bay, a camping area on the most stunning red sand beach. You leave a donation in an ammo box on a fence post or occasionally a warden comes around to coax money from you and to be honest, it’s worth it! The beach is beautiful and in late evening, the colour is stunning – I haven’t done it justice in my pictures and the stormy skies and sea made for an incredible setting amongst the dunes.
Further along a single track road brought us to some abandoned coastal gun emplacements which guarded the gathering convoys in Loch Ewe from attack. Coastal gun batteries, anti-aircraft sites, barrage balloons launching points and command posts, litter the coast line where had protected the lifeline to Russia before they headed into the hardest of all the North Atlantic convoy routes to Murmansk.
From here we headed down to Gairloch and it’s excellent motorhome service point (by the Harbour Masters office) and Torridon for a walk around the bay and a stop at “The Wee Whistle Stop” cafe for cakes and tea – highly recommended.
We stopped over in several places alongside lochs and even alongside a remote dam, where all night the rutting and bellows of stags echoed around the surrounding hills. We even stopped at an old railway station at Appin, which the owner is steadily transforming into an eco-friendly campsite with glamping and hot tubs in old railway carriages!
But then disaster struck: the weather was deteriorating steadily, torrential rain and gales making driving difficult enough, but then… the van battery light came on!
I’d seen this before and knew it meant the alternator was in trouble. I searched the van for a replacement brush pack I knew I had, but must have left it behind in a van cleaning frenzy!
The light went off and we decided to give Mull a miss and head home, as if it failed totally then being close to Glasgow or Carlisle would make sourcing a spare easier…. Right?
Wrong…. It failed just outside Tyndrum and we called the AA, as despite us calling several motor spares outlets, no one could help find this common £5 part before next week as it was Friday. The AA man couldn’t really help either, though he did manage to enlarge the securing holes on the brush pack so it fitted slightly closer to the alternator commutator. It worked!
We set off nervously, racing (yes, in a T3….) to get back before it failed us. But it didn’t fail and we made it safely back, where I found the spare and changed it in 20 mins…..
We were disappointed, though not so much: we had managed fully 4 weeks away in a tiny van, without killing each other or the dog! Lots of lessons were learnt. So that meant the trip was a success, so time to plan our next trip away once Christmas etc was over. Moreover, we needed to finalise our finances, prep the van using lessons learnt from this trip and get the dog and house ready for the next big trip! More to come…