Early Birds. Many years ago we had the thrill of moving house to discover that our new next-door neighbours were a duo of accomplished professional musicians. The Early Birds specialised in original children’s music – which provided a touching and much-loved soundtrack for our own daughters’ childhoods. One particularly memorable and moving track revolved around a child’s view of things seen ‘from the window of my Daddy’s car’, where the chorus still chimes in our heads every time we turn for home in the Knumptywagen: “Going home, going home, there is nothing quite like going home”.*
And so with that emotive music reverberating in our memories, we headed onwards in light flowing traffic through Glencoe south towards Loch Lomond and hence onwards on the last leg of our fortnight’s trip. Stands of tall Scots Pines punctuated the horizon, with low sunlight strobing through their ruler-straight bare trunks making them look like giant green-tufted bar-codes.
Both our mirror-shattering incident and uninspiring visit to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel are reported elsewhere, as is a far-more enjoyable visit to the Loch Lomond Arms, but we are almost home (at least in story-telling terms) so this particular piece is a handful of random snippets from our trip which haven’t found page-space elsewhere.
Pete’s Beach isn’t apparently called that, but I suppose it helps to protect its true identity as one of Scotland’s bestest Westest Coast beaches, which it certainly appeared to be on the day we found it, despite a rare overcast sky; a perfectly proportioned golden-sanded cove with a clear sea breaking gently – it was truly picturesque, highly photogenic and surprisingly unpopulated. Layered rocks scattered the perimeter while a rust-coloured cliff closed off its southern edge. We enjoyed leaving our footprints in the wet sand, almost as if leaving a signature to claim the beach for Knumptydom, as well as for Pete! (See ‘Scotland The Best 100 Places’ by Peter Irvine, published by Collins)
Nairn. Mentioned again here because we did visit twice – the second time to replace our failed water-pump, reported elsewhere and involving a 200-mile round trip – good job we had no other plans. And Nairn’s got a wonderful statue on the harbour, of a woman with kippers. And a wonderful beach. Not the one that fronts the town; the one on the other side of its eponymous River. Slightly hidden behind a large and sociably mixed campsite, it goes on for miles of gently curving sand backed by gentle dunes and a golf-course. We set off to walk along it but within a mile or so of trudging through soft white sand, felt a bit like John Mills and Sylvia Sims so turned back for an Ice Cold In The Knumpty Van. Nairn also boasts a two-vehicle jet-wash; agreeable public toilets; posh-looking restaurants; a handful of thriving pubs; a high street (with shops!); cafés and a well-stocked supermarket – all complementing its attractive harbour which doubles as a drag-racing strip for the local youths’ souped-up Corsas, Adams and Fiestas, all sporting wide-mouthed and therefore very loud exhausts.
Pubs & Football. There are two pubs we vaguely patronised during our trip which don’t get a mention elsewhere – which were both coincidentally related to the Chief Navigator‘s unquenchable passion for televised football. The Argyle Arms in Ullapool was very quiet in the late afternoon when we enquired whether or not they’d be showing the Liverpool vs Chelsea match later that evening. ‘Well, och, yes, I’m sure we could sort that oot fer ye’ responds our amiable host. ‘Give me a minute’ as he disappears into the darkened hinterland of the Hotel’s back corridors. ‘Would this do yeh?’ he enquired minutes later, leading us into a small, separate and completely unoccupied bar, clearly mid-refurbishment. ‘I’ll make sure the TV’s on when you get here – just help yourself!’
Which we did. In fact, due to a prior gastronomic appointment up the road at the Ceilidh House, we didn’t actually reach the Argyle Arms until half-time – but true to his word, our private TV room had been tidied up and remained our own exclusive domain for the remainder of the match, in exchange for just a meagre couple of pints (we couldn’t fit anything more in!) And as we emerged – bleary-eyed back into the main bar – it was to be greeted by more than several surprised turning heads, all of whom were fully immersed in an intense Quiz Night, through whose midst we skulked with muttered ‘good nights’ out onto the street and back to the exclusive domain of the Knumptyvan.
The Tailrace Inn at Kinlochleven also provided welcome respite, if only in the form of yet more bloody football, this time in a comfortable locals’ bar where some of those were amused and entertained by us arriving ‘hotfoot’ from a couple of hours in a howling, finger-numbing gale force wind. Prior to our arrival, we’d been attempting to fish the ‘narrows’ of Loch Leven where our only catch had been a small and mysteriously rust-coloured fish, a photograph of which was passed around the bar in order to confirm its identity as a small codling. “I’ve used bigger fish as bait” was the most amusing riposte we received as we warmed our hands around two very cold pints of Guinness.
Strange, incongruous architecture dominated this village: a huge, utilitarian brick-built edifice housed the World’s Biggest Indoor Ice Climbing Walls while another large, unidentified and therefore mysteriously sinister-looking building sat above the village, like a backdrop to ‘Where Eagles Dare’. Below this, nestled a cluster of houses all uniformed in a bold cream and red colour scheme, reminiscent of raspberry-ripple ice cream. And for anyone amongst our dedicated readership who gives a tinker’s cuss: Liverpool 2 – Porto 0 and Liverpool 2 – Chelsea 0. Hurrah.
Douglas. We can’t quite get over our stroke of luck in finding Douglas. Not that he was lost, he was just waiting for us to turn up. A little like Nairn, it was another place we visited twice – but this time voluntarily – as it provided such a beguilingly delightful beginning and end to our round trip. A river runs through it; there’s a string of fishable lakes set in gently rolling estate parkland; a ruined castle; historic monuments and church. The village has all the amenities you might need in the form of pub; cafés; petrol station; butcher’s and baker’s – along with easy parking and – as we discovered while overnighting ‘wild’ alongside a birdwatcher’s dream lake – warm and friendly dog-walkers. Thank you, Douglas, we will return.
LSM&UC. When we become too old and decrepit to clamber into the Knumpty cockpit anymore (let alone mount the ladder to our corduroy-lined over-cab bed), we’ve decided we needn’t give it all up – we’ll just become LSM&UC – from which we’ll earn a handsome retirement living. LSM&UC? Easy! Limited Space Maximisation & Usage Consultants.
Like many a Motorhomer of our acquaintance, we do like to pack it all in – so come rain; shine; up-hill or down-dale; fishing, cycling or hiking opportunity; outfits for dining out or dining in; relaxing lounge- or beach-wear; a sudden need of cable-ties, corned beef, waterproofs, post-it notes, wellies, folding chairs, windbreak, outside lighting, walking boots, gaffer tape, tin foil or a screwdriver – we need to know we have it all to hand. Hence every cubby-hole, cupboard, under-seat or overhead storage locker; external bike-rack or the (rather confusingly named) ‘garage’ is always packed (very carefully) to maximum capacity and weight-loading. Thus we combine our inherent OCD traits with Tetris-induced packing skills and – as yet – have found ourselves lacking nothing that we might conceivably need.
But when it comes to the home leg, it all goes completely to pot. Standards plummet as we celebrate the fact that we no longer need to be scrupulously tidy with all our goods and chattels. In short, everything we use on our last night just gets stuffed wherever it will go – in a sort of glorious celebration of rank packing irresponsibility. Everything that isn’t already tied down just gets piled into the shower-cubicle/toilet: fishing rods, wellies, coats – even a mercy-dash last-minute consignment of silver punch-bowl and LCD TV – just gets bunged anywhere, rendering the habitation area of the van virtually uninhabitable, as we now loudly rattle our way back down the M6, singing loudly to cover the unpacked cacophony.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOPEQVFfnLA with acknowledgement to Vo Fletcher, who knows nothing about the blatant plagiarism of his lyrics. Sorry Vo! 😊