Reflections on this trip.

This trip was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I love my Eriba Caravan.

It was partly planned before I left, and some sites were selected on the hoof. My original plan was Banchory - Culloden - Brora, then it was a case of whatever took my fancy and where the better weather could be found. The distance between sites is an important element of the plans, as I don't like the dogs having to be 'cooped' up for long periods. I think I got it right with the sites I chose.

I'd been to all of the sites before, some more than others. Morvich and Kinlochewe, I've been to dozens of times due to their proximity to the hills, but the Skye site I'd only visited once. They were all good sites and the ones I'd liked to have stayed on for longer were Brora and I always stay longer at Morvich. Banchory is fine, but a bit 'sterile' and regimented design, and Bunree is too 'clubby', it's regarded by the C&MC as almost their flagship Scottish site, but I don't think it is. Skye was very 'old school' feel. I would recommend all the sites and I will certainly visit them all again. However, all the sites, with the exception of Banchory and maybe Brora, are midge hell holes in the summer!

My only negative site experience was my impression of Kinlochewe. It is a great site, but with the NC500 on it's door and the resultant increase in folk who are not used to living on sites, small things were noticeable such as showers and toilets hadn't been left as they'd been found, dog mess hadn't been picked up outside the site, little elements which are important as it's the only reason you stay on a site! On the other hand Brora, which also has the NC500 on its door was definitely not impacted, and was to me quieter than normal.

Sites were all reasonably priced, probably averaging £14/night. I didn't have a budget for sites, food, or fuel. But I'll have to maybe record that in the future. I could probably have avoided buying some things if I'd planned a little better. I bought a folding chair and batteries from Argos (£17, more or less covered by a voucher I'd brought), washing powder, and dog food.

I had virtually no problems with the van. One night, a door catch in the toilet fell off, which I screwed back on, and a waterpipe popped of the pump and flooded the cupboard, which now reminds me to check every time I fill the tank. I also lost a towing mirror on the road (destroyed!), and I have now fashioned a lanyard to make sure I don't lose the replacement.

I learnt that I should have brought a chair to sit outside in the sun, and I ran out of washing powder and AA batteries for the radio, I hadn't brought enough of both. I also forgot to bring shorts, which would have been good for the warm weather and they don't need washed as often.

I also ran out of dog food twice. I'd brought about 3kg, but I reckon I'll need about 3kg per week, thats about 200g/dog/day. The dogs switch food no problem, but I prefer grain free dried food on the road, and I couldn't get it anywhere I visited.

Things I brought and haven's used include pots and pans. My Remoska covers almost every eventuality. On this trip I've used it very successfully for ready meals (curries, pasta etc), pies, beans, and one night I made Nacho Chips. Not so successfully, but still OK, I tried toasting bagels with cheese and they turned out like my mums 'Spanish Toast' i.e. burnt one side, soggy the other!

I'll also have to come up with a better idea for a bin. The Eriba one is far too small and isn't wide enough to even accept an empty can. I ended up hanging rubbish bags from handles and it ends up getting in the road.

I did have some new experiences. Banchory - the dog walking around the grounds of Crathes Castle is outstanding, and I found the shortcut from the riverside walk to Morrisons! Cuilloden - the woods at Culloden Village and on the Black Isle are very good for long walks. Brora - the beach is stunning and the walk along it to the village is great. There is a great charity shop in Brora. Kinlochewe - I went right up to the gorge on the south of Beinn Eighe which is a great long dog walk from the site. Bunree - the walks in the woods at North Ballachulish offer good long dog walks.

Not so good - the roads forming the NC500 are in a very poor state, in particular around Achnashellach and Craig, and is busy even this early in the season. Skye is far too busy and even the lesser popular sites are crowded. Too suffocating for me. I can't actually think of anywhere I could go on Skye to relax. It is just a continuous 'caravan' of massive motorhomes, campervans, and 'rubber meatheads' in bloated cars!

Overall, a great trip I thoroughly enjoyed.


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