May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Into Scotland

We drive north from Berwick on Tweed, the sea continues silvery blue and the sun shines. I love this Northumberland coast. We head for North Berwick with some regret, but need not have worried.
We stopped at Cove on the recommendation of Georgie in Northumberland. They had been to a wedding reception there and said it was enchanting, and accessible only on foot. The village sits at the top of a cliff with the harbour at the bottom and I set off down the path surrounded by red cliffs and, at the bottom, more slithery rockpools than sand exposed by the tide.
It felt very Cornish, though I don't think Cornwall has red sandstone cliffs. The path leads through a creepy tunnel under the cliff, otherwise the harbour can be reached only by boat. It's very Daphne du Maurier, with just one house on the beach and two cottages on the edge of harbour which has a large, enveloping wall protecting the boats.
North Berwick is charming, with a street full of good shops and a harbour full of boats and handsome solid houses rising above it. A large pointed hill rises up from the town.This has always been a smart and fashionable place to live, Edinburgh commuter belt I guess. We camped looking out towards the Bass Rock where, as we were parked, hooked up and cooked supper, we watched the last of the sun peer down behind the clouds and light up the Firth of Forth, as still as a mirror. The Bass Rock is a tall straight-sided rock – the plug from a volcano thousands of years ago – which is now home to the biggest gannet colony in Europe. As the light went, it looked increasingly like a large chocolate brownie with mould on the top ... the mould being the nesting gannets and their guano.
Mr and Mrs Gannet
The next day brought rain, and the boat trip wasn't until 1.30pm... and we wanted to get on. We were wavering, having just been around the Farne Islands (didn't see gannets there though) and it was pretty miserable. But I'm so glad we did go.
Gannets on the Bass Rock
The gannet is the biggest seabird, with a 6' wingspan, and a yellow collar, and (when mature) black wing-tips. They lay their eggs in the same place every year and both parents share sitting on them – not like the feckless male eider ducks. They leave in September for North Africa and come back in March or April to the exact same place on the rock. The males and females look very similar but you can tell the males because they are the ones who make the nests and fly around with seaweed in their mouths. We also saw puffins and guillemots and kittiwakes, and a peregrine eagle perched on the lighthouse rail. The chances of coming out unscathed with large seabirds flying overhead in such vast numbers must be remote, and I had my camera poised. But only one of our companions copped it. He said "Och! I'll be off to buy a lottery tucket just as soon as soon as we get back!"
Leaving North Berwick we made for the Forth Road Bridge, with a token nod to Muirfield for Nick (it being one of the five top golf courses in Scotland, and there are thousands of lesser ones around every corner). We were deviating from my coastal route and heading for Aviemore for the night on the way to a town called Keith, east of Inverness.


Unknown said...

Loved the gannet lesson. We used to call Herry The Gannet (in another lifetime) because he ate any and everything! It sounds as though you are having a wonderful time - I wish I were with you. Loads of love from
Mr and Mrs Martin (as opposed to Gannet)

Ann B said...

Just found your blog via Fiona Duncan's column. Great read and looking forward to the rest of your trip. We have an Autosleeper Topaz, little bit smaller than yours but we still manage to squash the two of us and dog in, plus a couple of chairs, small table and a few other bits as well. Not adventurous enough to do a full tour, just back from a week in East Devon via Tewkesbury. Enjoy the rest of your adventure.