And we are off…

And we are off…

A Hop Skip and Jump to Scotland.

We wanted to start our Art Tour in Scotland for a couple of reasons, firstly the midges descend around May and last until September so it was a case of being there at the beginning or end of the Tour. Secondly, we have a grandchild arriving middle June, so though we could hotfoot it back to Kent for the main event a little easier if we are half way down the West coast of England.

Actually driving to Scotland, from the other side of the country in our Motorhome takes longer than we thought so we decided we would break it up somewhat with a few stops to get started. We hopped to Norfolk, skipped to North Yorkshire and Jumped up to Northumberland. Arriving in Edinburgh to give us a true flavour of the country and those beautiful scenic views.

So, day one and it was all about that automated voice…

Relaxed about setting off a day later than scheduled, we told our Super-duper specialist Motorhome Sat Nav where to head for. The M25 turn off had a massive delay so thought nothing of the alternative route it took us on. Consequently, we enjoyed the architecture of London for far too long! If you have ever tried driving through London with a 22ft Motorhome you will feel our pain, but it just needs one funny remark to let off steam and that was when Paul seriously told the Sat Nav Lady to up her game in London traffic! Don’t you think it’s weird how we talk to those automated voices. I’m sure we will give her a name soon.

Once out of London we stuck to the more picturesque views of the A1 then off to Kings Lynn in Norfolk for the night and the renowned food market. However, a Low bridge was nearly our undoing,  the words Stop and Reverse worked wonders, as did the waterproof tape Paul used on the cracks on the air con unit on the roof!! Phew that was close… Loving the Super-Duper specialist Motorhome Sat Nav that makes sure you don’t drive anywhere your Motorhome won’t fit!

Day Two, all about the smiles

A little detour felt only right when we saw a town called Downham Market. Who can resist a market, with its local food and craft stalls? However, this town must have had a flourishing market at some point in its history to be named as such but now it covered what looked like, a measly 100 yard square space. We were disappointed to have squeezed through those little streets, found somewhere to park the beast, only to, not find, a bustling market town. However, there is always something to be grateful for as I was, when I was trying on pure wool jumpers at the second stall I came across. This local craft stall holder was selling off her stock to make way for new stuff, so Paul and I both handed over our fiver, yes I said a fiver each and walked away with big smiles ready for those windy highlands. Oh, and Paul got more Gaffa tape, you never know when you might get assaulted by another low bridge! That’s Paul smiling! Off to Hunstanton, what lovely A roads they were with passing motorhomes smiling and waving, so much it became a game, would they or wouldn’t they, needless to say the caravans are a different breed of travelling home and don’t wave at motorhomes!

Hunstanton has a sandy/stone beach, pier building and a little of everything for families and all ages so well designed it was a joy. We can recommend breakfast at Becci’s kitchen for food and the view. Paul found Britain’s biggest joke shop, and we got to have a proper ride of our new Electric bikes. I would usually be red faced and puffing away but no, we were racing up those steep hills smiling away.

Sticking to those A roads now for the Motorhome camaraderie as much as the view, we stopped at Scarborough as that was the nearest O2 shop! With all the prep involved for this trip things still go wrong, fb told me I wasn’t admin on my Art page, my laptop wouldn’t use my phone as a hotspot and so on, but I left there all smiles, then found some wonderful local artists and their art, already the people and locations are filling my head with ideas, really smiling now.

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Day Three is all about the glutes.

Boy are there some steps and hills in Scarborough, everywhere we went as my knees were protesting, I kept telling them my bum was going to be really grateful! What this also meant was the views got better with every gradient.

The largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast was made popular 1700s by the finding of mineral water which led to a spa thought to have medicinal benefits, a spa still stands today. The old and new architecture of Scarborough looked very settled together and told of a rich history. Nothing more so than that of The Grand Hotel. It sits presiding over the bay in a prime spot looking every bit as regal as its design. The building is so impressive it draws you to it, and speaks of an age where pomp and ceremony reigned. It was actually designed in a V shape paying homage to the V for Queen Victoria. Intrigued I researched it a little:

More about The Grand…

Completed in 1867 the design character was centred around concept of time: 12 floors, one for each month; 365 rooms, one for every day of the year; four towers, representing the seasons and 52 chimneys for the weeks of the year. A little quirk in design was that the hotel offered two taps one with salt water and one with fresh.

Passing through the years the Grand took part and recovered from war injury and always drew a wealthy and elite clientele, including the SAS when the hotel was used for covert training. A change was afoot when Butlins bought the hotel in 1978 and ran it until 2004, but when Britannia Hotels bought it, the Grand was restored to its former glory and high standards and so was awarded with the accolade of one of the top ten places, buildings and historical sites that tell a remarkable story of Britain. Its concept of time really resonated with me.

Opposite is a wonderful Gallery, with Art by Tracy Savage, unfortunately closed but found I liked her paintings in the window. They have a lovely sense of humour, another name to check out later. We enjoyed our short visit but got back on the road to a place a few locals had recommended: Robin Hood Bay, Whitby. This didn’t disappoint, the vistas were beautiful the quaint shops surprised and enthralled you, tucked away along their tiny cobbled lanes and those hundreds of steps and steep hills worked their magic too. I hope! Whilst having afternoon tea in one of the many choices the village offers, I met a group of ladies away for a long weekend together there, which sounded like a perfect idea. It made me think fondly of my Centre Parcs girlfriends, we have been going away together for years and our fun, friendship and unity has helped all of us over the years. It’s so important to recharge your batteries with females who lift and support you. With my change of life style I often reflect on what I’m grateful for and they amongst other dear friends, are one of them.

Into wonderful Whitby for the evening, where we found, stunning relics of Abbeys/ Monasteries with a ridiculous number of steps! (199 to Church and Abbey) as well as the creative and flamboyantly dressed Goths that were all over town for their special weekend that happens twice a year in Whitby.

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Day Four and it was all about the trees.

With a visit to Pannett Park, Art Gallery and Museum left to the town by a benefactor (which was unfortunately closed!) we walked around the beautiful park, watching the squirrels play around all the different types of trees found there. The wood carvings, trees and foliage shapes and shadows grabbed our attention and brought a sense of calm to our expedition that morning, so much so we both took time out for ourselves to meditate amongst them. Studies have shown the many benefits of being around trees and we definitely felt that there. As this art gallery was closed, we continued our walk and found ourselves at The Art Café on Flowergate in Whitby town. What a find, spread over three floors we drank coffee admired many artists work of all descriptions, listened to Jazz and engaged in friendly conversation with the owner and some regulars. Part of the reason for this trip was to also reconnect with a variety of people and with our North Yorkshireman, Lancastrians and Kentish folk we all got along so well the banter was contagious funny and kind. A morning seared into my memory. (A poll suggests that Lancastrians really are the friendliest in the UK)

We couldn’t leave Whitby without a proper visit to the 3000 year old Abbey ruins so we did the 199 steps again, and decided it was worth it. English Heritage have recently spent 1.6 million on this historic site and by involving clever technology have introduced The Ammonite Quest, that all the children seemed to love. They even have an App that allows you to take part in finding relics on your smart phone. This Abbey has seen the bronze age , medieval times and then private ownership in 17th century. It has inspired Artists, novelists and poets over the centuries like JMW Turner, JRTolkien and Lewis Carroll but the one we all know and is capitalised on is Dracula imagined by Bram Stoker and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why, just add some moody skies over the church and abbey and the scene is set.

Day Five, hooked up, mindfully and Electrically!

After 3 nights and four days of wild camping we booked into a site at Runswick Bay. Emptied our grey water, topped up with fresh hooked up our electric, luxuriating in having more than just 12v to use. This means everything got plugged in and fully charged. Bikes; phones; Laptops; kettles; toaster; radio and to Pauls delight, the T.V. As I said things go wrong and for some reason the T.V failed to work! Determined, Pauls brain worked at this until he cut wires off of one thing to fashion a lead into something else until he got it going. That man is always resourceful.

Despite the beauty of these beaches I can’t stop to paint on them because we are on a mission to Scotland and although the sun has shone for us it is also very cold and windy so I’m soaking up inspiration and of that there is plenty!

Runswick Bay is as pretty as the locals report, with its red tiled roofs collected into the hillside the view from the sandy beach is a picture postcard. Walking through the few streets in between those red roofs, the homes and holiday stays are beautifully adorned with flowers and sea memorabilia, the local notice board talks of the beach clean up that everyone takes part in and other community spirit. All of this exudes a feeling of love and care. There is a coastal walk you can do from Whitby that continues past the bay so the only little café is on the beach and obviously does well. If I’m honest the tea was great but the banana cake was artificially sweet and the cream tea came with jam and squirty cream, already applied? Next time I would just continue further on the walk to Staithes a little bay made famous by James Cook and Mackerel fishing, now a hub for artist and creative alike. Note the lovely art Gallery is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays, which is the same for some of the other little businesses there. That was a shame but everyone needs time off and the craft shop was open so I managed to picked up a little handmade gift for Grandbaby number three.  Lunch at the Crab & Lobster worked a treat, a comprehensive menu with something for everyone and very busy. Is it bad that I seem to have swapped a daily glass of wine for Cider? Onto Seahouses still part of the coastal walk but we drove and all charged we wild parked overnight.

Day six, rich pickings.

We stayed overnight just in case the sea conditions improved in the hope of visiting the Farne Islands. The boat ride was like that of a amusement park, some loved it others looked a bit green! The group of islands are home to hundreds of birds. The Puffins one the day for me, I learnt that after spending eight months at sea they only develop their orange bills and feet to attract a mate. The more vibrant the orange the more of a proficient fisher he is! The Gannets were also impressive with their six foot wing span. We didn’t see any dolphins but we saw plenty of Seals who when sunbathing just wait for the water to reach them before going in for a dip. Lazy Sea dogs.

Where we parked was a great view, with privately owned Bamburgh Castle (joined English Heritage and The National Trust!)  ahead to the left and the sand dunes and beach to our right, so we couldn’t drive past the castle without a peak. Beautifully maintained with an interesting history, if you like castles its worth a visit.

Day Seven and we are in Scotland at the end of our first week.

In Edinburgh, on The Caravan Club site close to town and the beach that we can recommend, we stayed for a few days as we had a few things to sort out.

We did go into Edinburgh to do the sites but didn’t end up doing them so can’t comment, or believe I didn’t visit the Castle! All in all, an interesting first week. We settled into Paul driving with me navigating and researching. We got to know the Beast better, got over our disdain for the Super-duper Sat Nav; enjoyed the paper Maps; loved Google for the maps and research of people and places; started drawing and playing with different mediums and Paul now likes my Motorhome special, Vegetable curry! Roll on Week Two where we take on the NC500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66.