So many feelings as we leave the holiday cottage in the morning ready to travel across to catch the ferry on Monday that will take us to our last WWOOF host. Before every host we have had feelings of trepidation. Will they be nice? What will be expected of us? Where will we sleep? What sort of food will they feed us? Will we like them, will they like us? Will we have to run off in the dead of night to escape?

This is our biggest gap by far between hosts as is also tinged with that end of term is approaching type feeling. In many ways this feels the same as just before we were leaving our house to start this adventure – lots of uncertainty about what happens next, lots of excitement about the next phase being imminent, lots of looking ahead and wondering what will happen next, lots of looking back and thinking about what we are leaving behind us.

We have toyed with the idea of not doing this last host. It will be our first host where we have to leave Willow far behind – the island does not allow vehicles so we’ll be boarding the ferry on foot with an even smaller percentage of our belongings than we are currently used to – and we thought we were already being pretty darn minimalistic! The weather is changing and is wilder, windier, wetter – not quite so inviting to be living the outdoorsy lifestyle in November as it was back in May. We’ve had a taste of the comfortable lifestyle back in a cottage for a week. Also the call of friends and family back south is getting louder – we’ll be heading back to Sussex to catch up with people and put our affairs in order in just a couple of weeks and there is a temptation to just do that now.

But this host is on an island, something we have not done yet and we are excited about the idea of that. They sound nice and interesting and able to teach us new stuff which is of course the whole point of this exercise. Plus there is certainly a part of me at least that wants to actually know it’s our last host while we’re there, not looking back retrospectively thinking ‘oh, that host five weeks ago was our last one after all’. I want to do my saying goodbye to this section of the adventure while we’re still actually there to do it properly.

So, no idea what we’ll have in the way of phone signal, internet connection, electricity to power things up. Don’t know if toilets will flush, showers will be hot (or indeed there at all). No idea if we’ll be working inside or outside, eating dinner at 5pm, 7pm or 10pm. But at some point in the next few weeks I’ll be back to tell you all about it. Until then, we’ll be off WWOOFing again.

Hosts Jim, but not as we know them

We’ve met some amazing people this year. As we move rapidly towards our last WWOOF host (Monday! Eek!) I’ve been reflecting on some of the interesting, inspiring and incredibly hospitable hosts we’ve stayed with.

We have also stayed with various friends and family over the course of this year, often at times when we really needed friendly faces and welcomming arms and we are so very grateful for the times friends have come through for us. There are various people who deserve special mentions – and believe me I have a whole Wondering Wanderers awards ceremony type blogpost waiting in reserve for just such a time, with theme music, tearful acceptance speeches and some sort of gong based loosely on Willow, oh and spangly dresses and guest presenters and…. oops sorry, drifted off a little there!

Anyway, where I am going with this is a rather long winded but heartfelt and slightly tearful THANK YOU to Lynda and Stuart. Friends who have become family and who have been supportive, kind and very hospitable to us this year. We have stayed with them several times on our way past their home and had hoped they would be able to visit us on our Scottish leg of the adventure. Sure enough they came up to Scotland AND we got to share the holiday cottage they booked.

Luxury. A bed, a bath, flushing toilets, sofas, TV, plug sockets and a kitchen! In exchange for welcomming us into their cottage and giving us lifts and supplying lots of ingredients we did the catering for the week and got to bake bread, cook roast dinners, boil broth, make crumbles and pies and generally remember what life is like with more space and more facilities.

Willow was fixed and is now up and running again – thanks to our breakdown cover and fab service by a local recovery service we are able to complete this last bit of the journey.

So we’ve had a lovely week exploring Fort William. We climbed the very first little bit of Ben Nevis which we could see out of the windows of the cottage (we’ll be back one day with proper footwear to climb the whole thing), we did loads of walking, we watched the steam trains each day running close to the cottage, visited Inverlochy Castle and enjoyed full days activity knowing we had a warm bath followed by a soft bed at the end of each day.

Thank you so much, we love you lots xxx

Wild Camping – summing up

The Wild Camping phase of our adevnture is over, infact it actually ended a week ago when we arrived at a holiday cottage for a week but that’s a post all of it’s own.

We spent six weeks living in the van from leaving our last host, that’s 42 nights. Only 9 of them were spent on campsites with electric hook up, showers and toilets. All of the rest were spent parked up wherever we could find each night. This included lay-bys, carparks, roadsides, closed-for-the-season campsites. We parked in woodlands, lochsides, beside the sea, on the side of mountains, in remote places. We have seen stunning sunrises, sunsets, starry skies and moonlit nights. We’ve seen so much wildlife and scenery amd watched late summer turn to autumn and start to turn to winter.

We have been stripped back to the most basic of human needs – food, drink, warmth, shelter, where to go to the toilet and how to keep clean. At no point have we struggled, suffered or been in any danger, but it is the closest I’ve ever been to more basic survival and not knowing where I’d be sleeping each night.

So how was it?

It was fun, it was fulfilling, it was interesting, exciting and challenging. These six weeks have probably embodied the whole year in many ways. We have seen new sights and sounds, had new experiences, found what we want to do next and learnt something new every day. One of my favourite quotes is Jonathan Swift’s ‘May you live every day of your life’. We did that. We lived every day.

Over to the others…

Stuff I didn’t do. I have not seen the Northern Lights, didn’t have a go at shooting, never caught my own fish and cooked it in the van.
Good: How much we did do! Still wowed at how much we saw on the very first week. We saw an extremely beautiful stag (mostly in sillouette). It was brilliant visiting Skye, it’s certainly the place I want to live. I really liked the house we went to visit.
Learnt: That it is possible to live in a community in this country by living on an island instead of just a remote village in somewhere like Africa, or somewhere like the communities we’ve stayed at where people choose to live together.

Seeing roadkill – we saw a dead otter and what we think was a dead hare. There is not much space to live in when we’re in the van all the time.
Good: We saw snow! I liked playing games in the van with everyone, that was fun. I also liked the evenings in Willlow, it was really nice all being together. We’ve seen lots and lots and lots and lots of wildlife, like golden eagles, deer, otters, seals.
Learnt: You don’t need TV, consoles or other electronic things to entertain you, you can play really basic games like cards.

Condensation. The damp and mould that started in the last couple of weeks living in the van. I worry about the impact of it on our health and it was a daily battle trying to keep on top of it.
Good: Loved being parked overnight and waking up to snow capped mountains all around us. I like being with the kids in the evenings. The wild camping experience has been so lovely, eating, talking together and having no outside distractions. I have slept better, eaten better and lived better.
Learnt: Lots about the Scottish property market – totally different to buying and selling houses in England. Also learnt that the remoteness of the highlands means that people are  more helpful and able to do things than in the densely populated area in the south where we lived.

: The mouse! Also the needing to curtail things like splashing in puddles and walking in the rain due to lack of places to get warm, dry and clean for us and clothing.
Good: We found where we want to live 🙂 We ticked off loads of things we wanted to see, do and experience on our list. We had some fantastic quality time together chatting, playing games, singing songs, reading books, learning about each other.
Learnt: Precisely how long I can go without washing my hair before I start to feel really skanky, how very little money we can feed ourselves for. Finely honed our lists of what we do and don’t miss about conventional living.

Mice and Mould

When I started this blog I wanted to document the highs and the lows of the adventure. The challenges and the victories.

We’ve recorded the tough bits at the various hosts and the issues along the way. We have the usual family falls outs, thankfully not very often. I guess we simply couldn’t live in such a small space if there was constant squabbling or the need to have more time and space away from each other than our rather limited accomodation affords us. Dragon and Star are very close siblings and probably fall out a lot less than most other brothers and sisters I know (I certainly would not have wanted to share such a tiny space with my little brother when we were children, much as I loved him and get on well with him now) and there is a certain intensity to sharing 24 hours a day with your spouse when you both used to have seperate days from each other Monday to Friday.

In the main though I think the impact on our relationships with each other has been all positive. We have all got to know each other better, both as a group or team or family unit and as four individuals with intermeshed relationships between each of us. There are tears, tantrums, shouting and strops of course, it would be terribly unhealthy if there was not and I think putting feelings out there for discussion, talking stuff through and continually communicating is hugely important – both for the sanity of the four of us today and for learning those skills for the future. I like to think that yet another side effect of this adventure for Dragon and Star will the increased levels of tolerance for others, compassion and empathy, negotiation and conflict resolution skills, knowing when to diffuse a situation and when to air your views with a big shouting session is appropriate. The upshot of this lifestyle is that you simply cannot be selfish, you have to take into account the feelings and needs of others, you must take accountability for the impact of your actions on others. Co-operation, working together and playing to everyone’s strengths is essential.

So while living in this small space with others has it’s challenges the lessons being learnt from them are sufficient to weigh that up as a positive.

Other positives include learning to live with less stuff, live on less money, appreciating the simplicity that is possible and feeling so much more engaged with the world around us. The turning of the seasons having a true impact on our daily lives over and above turnning up the heating or switching off a light. Overall we continue to love every day knowing we are making memories that will last us forever and having an adventure that we will talk of for the rest of our days and will shape what happens to us from here.

But the downsides? There are not many, probably way fewer than most people experience on their normal daily lives with houses and jobs and TVs and sofas. But there are difficulties with this way of life which mean we know it’s not a forever option for us.

For the last two weeks we had a mouse in the van. First evidence was a chewed up carrier bag in one of the cupboards along with some droppings. We assumed it had got in just to that cupboard which has a hole down to the outside so cleaned it out and blocked it up. But the mouse was clearly in the van and started making it’s presence felt in our food cupboards and in the cab of the van, nibbling through some packets and leaving more droppings. And keeping me awake at night with it’s little mousey scuttling and gnawing noises. This was Not Good. We moved all the food into a plastic box, set traps in every palce we could think the mouse could get to, continued to keep everywhere very clean and also strew tumble drier sheets in all sorts of places having googled and found mice in campervans is a pretty common problem and turned up various bits of advice for dealing with them.

After 5 nights of traps with the mouse getting increasingly bolder to the point of clearing all the traps of bait each night at around midnight one night one of the traps went off. Sure enough in the morning we had a dead mouse to dispose of. We left traps set again on subsequent nights to check it was just the single mouse living in the van and it would appear it was, so we’ve blocked up all holes we can, stuffed more tumble drier sheets in places and are keeping fingers firmly crossed that we won’t need to use the traps again. I hated the need to kill it (and infact we had a mix of live capture and killing traps) but sharing Willow with any more bodies, even a tiny one, simply was not a long term option.

Another issue we are still dealing with is damp, condensation and ultimately mould. Willow showed few if any signs of having damp problems when we bought her but then she had not been lived in through the winter. The combination of body heat of four people, cooking and boiling kettles for washing up and drinking and simply breathing in the van as the temperature outside drops means we are constantly wiping down misted up windows. Where possible we are keeping a vent or window open for ventilation but when it’s really windy or rainy (as it often has been up here in the Highlands) that isn’t feasible. So the kids bunk where we store all the sleeping bags and pillows has to be dried out every night and all the bedding aired for half an hour before bedtime, the curtains and sofa have to be constantly monitored and kept away from the windows, the kids soft toys, our clothes, our towels, our bedding all need to be kept an eye on and made sure they are not stuffed up somewhere going mouldy. We have already chucked out a few things which suffered from a lack of vigilance but hopefully we are on top of it now.

The season has definitely changed now and where we were enjoying T shirt weather (albeit a freak heat wave rather than usual early October conditions) we have now seen snow, rain aplenty and had the van rocked by windy nights. But is is cold. And dark. And wet. Cold is not the most serious of these really – we can get warm by putting more clothes on, we have very good sleeping bags and hot water bottles so once we’re cosy in bed we stay warm. Dark is combated with good torches and lanterns but wet is a trickier one. Coming into the van with wet outdoor clothes, even coats is a problem. Where do you put them? Bringing wet things in only serves to exacerbate the condensation issues and when getting through as few clothes as possible is a priority – partially because getting them clean and dry again is expensive and difficult and mostly because you only have a very finite amount of changes of clothing anyway – this is hard.

Finally the miles, the weather and perhaps her age have gotten to Willow again and she is currently residing in the local breakdown recovery yard having spluttered to a halt last Thursday. We had our first need to call on our breakdown cover and were towed to a layby for a couple of nights near to the yard by the very understanding of our situation garage owner before being given a lift to our holiday cottage while Willow is being looked at. As ever the universe (and friends!) seem to have provided in answer to our needs and we had already got a stay with friends lined up in a holiday cottage just 20 miles or so away which we were on our way to when Willow gave up. So while we luxuriate in comfort, heat, light, beds, baths, kitchens and sofas with splendid company Willow will hopefully be sufficiently patched up to get us back down the country again.

We have one last WWOOFing host lined up, which ferry crossings and Willow permitting we’ll be heading to next weekend and then we have decided to head back to Sussex for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends and retire Willow for a while. More on that to follow.

Skye’s the limit

Friends will tell you I am guilty of glass-half-full-ism to the extreme. In Nic world everything is fantastic, amazing, wonderful. There are times when this seeing the joy in everything approach means no one believes me when something truly is fantasic, amazing, wonderful of course. A bit like the boy who cried wolf I guess. I am the Nic who cried wonder!

But you really do have to believe me when I report that Skye is all of the above and more.

I can prove it. Look.

We’ve spent a very happy week travelling around most of the island, spending all but one night in the same closed for the season campsite where you are welcome to park for free. We looked at a couple of properties just to get a handle on what we would get for our money, registered with all the estate agents on the island, spent time in the bigger towns checking out the shopping, culture and community facilities, drove around large chunks of the coastline and tried to get a real feeling of the different parts of Skye.

We were particularly taken with the Sleat peninsula, and loved our visit to Rubha Phoil. We had some beautiful walks including climbing to the Old Man of Storr (I got about halfway and then paused to admire the view and had a lovely chat with a fellow view-admirer about deep stuff like what life is all about. Amazing who you bump into on the side of a mountain. The others climbed to the top) and of course we saw yet more breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife.

We definitely left part of our hearts behind when we crossed the bridge back off Skye and onto the mainland yesterday evening as the sun set. But that’s fine, because we’ll be back.

Reasons to be cheerful…

One: We’re free to wonder and wander
Two: The world is beautiful
Three: We can share it with you thanks to Three

One of the most important skills I believe we possess is communication. The ability to articulate ourselves, use language to make our needs, our views, our ideas, our emotions understood and got across to others. There are so many different ways to communicate – talking, writing, art, body language, facial expression, singing, playing instruments, shouting, actions…

I like to talk. I try to adhere to the rule of two eyes, two ears, one mouth and do twice the amount of watching and listening as I do talking, but I do love to talk. I also love to write. I have written something somewhere since I very first learnt to write. With a chunky crayon on scrap paper as a little girl, in countless tear smudged diaries through my teens and in latter years tapped through a keyboard and uploaded to blogs that float somewhere out in cyberspace.

When we embarked on this journey we knew communicating with family, friends, random strangers who found us online and were interested in our adventure, WWOOF hosts would be a priority. We would need some internet access and we researched the options. From talking to friends and looking online we found our about the Mifi from Three. A nifty little device that allows you to connect multiple things to it and creates it’s own little wireless hotspot with high speed internet to phones, laptops, games consoles.

For eight happy months we have uploaded blog posts and photos (oh so many photos), downloaded music and streamed iplayer and youtube. We have emailed, shopped, googled, skyped and generally retained our connection to the rest of the world. It is compact, lightweight, has amazing battery life, as good if not better coverage than the various phones we have on different networks, charges by USB / mains / car charger and is an all round vital bit of our kit.

But last weekend disaster struck! The Mifi was disconnected and we were left stranded. But never fear, by the power of technology (anyone else thinking of He Man now?) and friends and truly exceptional service we managed to get a message to Three who swung into action and within hours we had arranged for the nearest post office to accept a parcel for us and 24 hours later we were in reciept of the new and improved version of Mifi on all you can eat tariff

I can’t praise Three enough really – their customer service, speed of response and communication skills are faultless and first class. The Mifi is an outstanding product – whether you live in a campervan and travel around like us (admittedly a fairly small niche market!) or are on the road a lot for work, or simply as an very good alternative to home broadband.

My communication brought to you using high tech communication tools and a fantastic communications company. Everyone playing to their strengths.

This post, as with all of the post since we’ve been on the road is brought to you thanks to the Mifi from Three.

Thinking Ahead

Half way into the wild camping part of the adventure we’ve been reluctantly starting to think ahead. We were in a shop buying a lantern earlier this week and telling the guy in there about what we’ve been doing. He was really interested and asked the tricky question ‘how do you think you’ll feel going back to real life again then?’. We all laughed and said we didn’t really expect we ever would. But of course this current lifestyle is not sustainable. An 11 year old boy and a nearly 9 year old girl cannot keep sharing a bunk forever, Willow has already done so much better than we could have ever hoped with so many miles, so many hills and so much living full time in her. We know that at some point in the not too distant future we will want a home again. A kitchen – to cook and bake and make jam. A lounge with a sofa to stretch out on and bookshelves to fill and plugs to charge up laptops to watch films on and boxes to fill with lego. A bathroom to take long luxurious baths in with fragrant bubbles and space on the side for a glass of wine and a bowl of peanuts and soak for hours. A bedroom with a full size bed and a duvet rather than a sleeping bag and a wardrobe with a choice of clothes rather than a shared plastic box with limited clothing selected for it’s durability and ability to be stuffed up small and not show the creases. And space – space to invite friends over, to play in, to loll about in and to close a door on everyone else in the world and just be alone every so often. And a garden – to keep chickens in, to grow food in, to sit in the sunshine with a beer, or to run around being rowdy in.

This leads us towards the ‘what happens next?’ question. The one we hoped this year would provide an answer to or at the very least scribble out some of the possible answers. And it is. We now have a list of essential and desireable requirements for the place we end up calling home. Top of the list is a view, something with water. Be it river, ocean, lake or loch we all feel very strongly that we want to be near water, able to see it from our windows. We need land, enough to grow food and keep animals on. Not too much, we have seen an almost self sufficient model on as little as under an acre on our travels and have been inspired by clever ways to make the most of available space, use polytunnels and greenhouses and adopt permaculture principles to ensure we are using space as efficiently as possible. We want to be mortgage free which means buying outright with the equity in our current home and we want out outgoings to be as small as possible which means self sufficient or at least close to it for energy and food, stripping back material needs and consuming. We want to bring in income by methods that are meaningful, soul feeding and rewarding – finding work that we are good at and enjoy. We have some ideas but will need to explore them further and consider our geographical location before making final decisions on that. We need to live somewhere that meet our needs as individuals and as a family, providing social, educational, community opportunities, that will support Dragon and Star both now and through the coming years of growing independance.

There. Not too big an ask surely?! This year has been an amazing journey of demonstrating to us what we can do without, what we miss and what truly is important to us, what makes us happy and when everything is stripped away what are the first things you need to claw back. We have had to let go of some ideals, change our thinking and make sacrifices. We have had to roll with the punches, think on our feet and adapt to an ever changing background of circumstances. We have learnt so very, very much about ourselves, the world around us, other people and what really matters. I have every confidence in us working through this next stage and making our next set of dreams come true.

We’ve been talking about this bit of the adventure at the half way point of the wild camping, recalling how much we’ve done in three weeks and speculating on what the next three weeks might hold. We still have a wish list of whale spotting, northern lights and sea eagles to tick off. Later today we are heading to the Isle of Skye and will start looking at property with a view to starting to hone that list above a bit more.

Bad: Emptying the toilet out! I hate doing it, I worry about doing it in public toilets and I always clean up afterwards in the toilets which means I am cleaning toilets every day or so.
Good: The views. We see the most amazing, outstanding views every day.
Learnt: It’s so different living this way all the time rather than just for a holiday on a campsite. It’s minimalistic and stripped back to real basics.
Best moment of wild camping so far: Doing the washing in the loch! It was a real magical moment to be on the shores of Loch Maree with biblical connections where people were baptised and cured by the water in the early morning sunshine washing my pants!

Missing being with other people. When we were WWOOFing we were meeting new people, and children, all the time. While we’re wild camping it’s just us, so less people to play with.
Good: We’re seeing so much more new stuff every day. At home we never saw anything new, at WWOOFing we did see some new stuff but this three weeks we have seen so many new things – wildlife and scenery. I used to watch Springwatch, Autumnwatch, David Attenborough wildlife shows and be in awe, now I think I have seen more myself.
Learnt: What a treat electricity is! When we lived in a house we could just plug stuff in whenever we want, now it’s so precious we save energy and take it in turns to charge stuff up. I learnt lots of new stuff at Knockan Crag about rock formation and geology.
Best moment of wild camping so far: Seeing the salmon leap. It was top of my list of things I wanted to see and on our first day of wild camping we watched them leap at Shin Falls.

Going back into civilisation. I didn’t like visiting shops and seeing traffic. I also was sad when we saw some crows attacking and killing a seagull.
Good: All the wildlife! I’ve seen salmon jumping, red squirrel, golden eagles, red kites, seals, dolphins, guillemots including a chick blown off course by some high winds, red deer and lots of other birds. I like the views, my favourites are ones with water – I liked Loch Ness best.
Learnt: I think I’ve learnt more wild camping than at lots of hosts. I’ve learnt about caves, mountains and how they got made, how lochs formed (they are like giant puddles left over from the ice age), lots about animals, about history of Scotland – picts, ancient woodlands, extinct wildlife, how dangerous minks are, clearances (when people left their homes to make way for sheep farming) and loads more.
Best moment of wild camping so far:  Seeing our first definite golden eagle.

Bad: Spent so much money on petrol than we’d originally budgeted for which will limit the second half of our time. I’d love to tour more for the next few weeks but finances will dictate that we do not travel as far as we just can’t afford the petrol.
Good: It’s all just so much better than I could have hoped for. I knew Scotland was pretty but it’s actually breathtakingly gorgeous, I knew there was abundant wildlife but didn’t expect to see it all as easily as we have. I find it hard to comprehend that this is the same country as I own a house in, albeit it at the opposite end on the south coast. There are so many less people, so much more space, we really do live alongside the wildlife and nature instead of trampling all over it. The air is cleaner, the weather is wilder, the landscape more dramatic.
Learnt: Loads! I’ve learnt that I am definitely at my happiest when spending time alongside Dragon and Star. I missed then while we were WWOOFing – I missed the little incidental conversations, the just hanging out with them, the eating dinner together just us four, the exclusive family time that the four of us need to ourselves and is so precious. This is rather an intense and full on recuperation period from six months of eating other people’s food at other people’s dinner tables and I am aware of the irony of Dragon saying he missed friends and other children – clearly there is a balance in between living with other people all the time and not seeing anyone but the other WW all the time but I have been doing lots of thinking about Home Education and the future and I know the way it works best for us is just how it has been the last three weeks – walking along slowly, hand in hand, discovering as we go.
Best moment of wild camping so far: It’s hard to choose one really, I keep flicking through my memory like a photograph album. There was one magical moment when we rounded a corner coming down a mountainside in Willow and suddenly the ocean spread out below us with the Summer Isles and all four of us said ‘whoa!’ at the same time. There was sunrise at Loch Maree when Star and I went paddling in the loch. Watching Dragon and Ady fly a kite while Star and I jumped through rainbows on the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. There was looking up one evening while we were eating dinner and spotting a red deer stag silhouetted on the hill just above us. But I suspect I am being greedy so shall choose this moment, right now. When we are halfway through what has already proved to be an adventure beyond our wildest expectations and still has as much ahead as it does behind and the promise of so much more to come.

This week has been woodland walks on which we saw red squirrels, time at the coast when we spotted seals, dolphins, more golden eagle sightings. It’s also sadly had very tedious but necessary visits back into retail world for food, petrol, footwear and clothing supplies (kids feet grown, my jeans size shrunk!), a lantern. It’s made for altogether less gorgeous photographs but does mean we are all far more comfortable!

at the Calendonian Canal

Caledonia Canal

A guillemot that had been blown off course

At Plodda Falls

Plodda Falls

Dog Falls

Back at Loch Ness

seals at Cromarty

seals at Cromarty

overlooking the Skye Bridge

At Tollies Red Kite centre

red kites


Going Wild

We’ve had two whole weeks ‘wild camping’ in the highlands of Scotland and are back in a campsite for an overnight touch with modern conveniences again!

We have parked in a different place for every overnight stop, every meal time and every cup of tea and woken up to a different view every morning, each one more stunning than the one before. Sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular, as is rainy weather, sunny weather… infact do you know what? Pretty much everything is spectacular up here!

Challenges have included emptying our toilet – we have not yet had to dig holes thanks to public toilets (we don’t use chemicals in our loo so it is just waste being flushed down the toilet), filling up our drinking water – most public loos have drinking quality water in their basins so we can fill up our containers using a beaker, although once or twice water has been a yellow or brown tinted colour so we have boiled it before use as a precautionary measure. Cleaning ourselves has proved a slight challenge – we’ve made do with flannel washes in the van, some handy public showers in Ullapool and I’ve washed my hair in various public loos around the area. My favourite wash was a dunk in a loch though!

We have been far too busy walking, playing on beaches, exploring and spotting wildlife to do any hunting or fishing and thus far our foraging has been limited to some handfuls of blackberries picked and eaten along the way whilst walking but we’ve managed to bake bread, cookies and pastry in the van and had pizza, pie, curry and various pasta meals.

There is a wealth of free things to do, with so many educational signs and information boards, visitor centres and museums to visit that we are ending every day feeling educated, entertained and amused. We’ve seen golden eagles, red deer, seals and leaping salmon.

our campsite tonight, in Shielbridge

on a walk earlier today, blue skies, sunshine and T shirts – in October!

Dragon and I making the suspension bridge wobble at Corrieshalloch Gorge. It was very exciting! Ady didn’t like it.

another day, another gorgeous view

the road from Applecross peninsula – up in the clouds

blatantly ignoring the danger signs!

off for another walk

red deer stag right outside our van as dusk fell one night

sunset near Gairloch

another night, another overnight stopover

Loch Maree

visit to a Smokehouse, we watched the whole process of smoking salmon, from dealing with whole fresh salmon to trimming, slicing and packaging the smoked one. Then had some for lunch!

more stopping in beautiful places

stopped for the night again

Slattadale Forest at Loch Maree

We played pooh sticks on the bridge at Flowerdale Falls

Knockan Crag, a long walk up but well worth it for the view

sunset at Knockan Crags

van-baking (like home baking but in a smaller space!) pastry for a steak pie and cookies for pudding

another mountain climbed

at Knockan Crags, learning about geology

viewpoint over Lochinver
looking out over StachPolleigh

red deer stag with several hinds

more lochs and mountains

red deer being majestic

roadside view

at the Falls of Shin, we saw salmon leaping
golden eagle – wish we had a better camera!

some people don’t take our group pictures seriously enough…

sunrise over Loch Maree as seen through Willow’s window

at Beinn Eighe – the first national nature reserve

Loch Maree

just driving along…
Beinn Eighe

morning paddle at loch maree