Friday, 31 May 2013

Last day of work in Belfast, and getting a few things sorted on the van

Hi folks,

So what have I been up to yesterday and today?

Well, yesterday was an amazing day here weather wise, and I couldn't have picked a better day to be without the van - it was booked in to have a CV boot replaced, and have a general once over before the trip. The CV boot replacement was going to be tricky to attempt alone because I'm not tuned in with how to remove the free wheeling hubs on the front axles.

So anyway, I was about on my bike all day in the sunshine, and enjoying the laid back atmosphere around the university area in Belfast. I had a good few hours to wait for the van and it couldn't have been a better way to spend it than cycling about, relaxing somewhere a while, then cruising off somewhere else. I checked out the tall ship 'Pelican' still moored in the harbour from the weekends maritime festival, and hung out a while near the Titanic centre, watching roller bladers.

The Pelican moored in Belfast Harbour

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

New video, Part II, Donegal Wild Camping Trip, Ireland

Here is Part II of the Donegal, Ireland wild camping trip video!

In this video you can see Patrick braving the Atlantic for a swim, brave man. We've got some sea kayaking footage from Malin Beg bay by the Silver Strand, and a scenic drive to the the remote and beautiful abandoned village of 'Port'.

You'll also get to see what Liz makes for breakfast in the camper van, and experience the drive up to Europe's highest sea cliffs at Slieve League near Teelin. I round off the trip with an off the beaten track scramble down to check out one of the Napoleonic era sea defence towers at Slieve League. I'll be trying to find something extra and worth seeing at any tourist destination I visit, so stay tuned for something a bit different. Enjoy!

Part 1 of the video is here: New Video - Donegal trip part I


I've been back in Belfast for a day since my visit to the North Antrim coast. We had a wonderful time, and the weather was the opposite of the rain that was forecast. If you're planning to visit Ireland, don't be put off by the weather forecasts, as its often totally unreliable, especially on the coasts. The last day, we spend chilling out at White Rocks on the beach, watching the surfers. It was hard to leave and return to the city again.

I'm feeling pretty good today, since I managed to meet my friend for lunch after her job interview (fingers crossed), get my light rock fishing rod repaired, and get the van washed, all before starting my shift at 4pm - all of course after a long lie in following the trip. This is my second last day at work, (night shift tomorrow night is the last) and I've been clearing out my locker and lightening the load even further. I can recommend this to anyone - there's no feeling like walking out of a job and having no ties. My manager even came out to bid me farewell and wish me luck..

What are your favourite camper breakfasts? What are your thoughts on letting go and moving on in your life? Leave a comment..

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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

More North Coast N Ireland wild camping..

Yesterday we had a great time again on the north coast. After visiting the Giants Causeway, and checking out the new visitors centre which is mostly submerged into the hillside, we had excellent fish 'n chips in Portstewart for a late lunch.

The Song Remains the Same? (The well known Led Zeppelin album cover was made here)

Mid-afternoon we headed up to Downhill and Benone strand. After driving around on the beach for a while we parked up and spent the afternoon chilling out. There was big surf and a number of surfers enjoying the waves and spray.

We relaxed there until the tide came in too far and fast to stay on the beach much longer. A few cars got stuck as they were driven up onto the softer sand to escape the tide.

Parked on Benone Strand

Having abandoned the idea of staying overnight on the strand, we set of in the direction of Magilligan point to find a place to camp. It's a peninsula jutting out into Lough Foyle that ends close enough to Donegal for a small port to ferry cars to the other side.

To reach the point entails driving past a huge prison, and an Army base & firing range, with red flags blowing in the breeze. At the end there is an old sea defence tower and 'The Point Bar' - so lots to experience.

There are a few suitable wild camping spots on the left, a bit before reaching the ferry terminal, but we chose to stay next to the terminal, go for a pint, then cook dinner with this sunset as our view; another amazingly memorable day:

Do you have any favourite wild camping spots in Scotland you could share with me? Whats your most memorable camping memory? Do share below.

You might also like ~ Rest & Recovery

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Sunday, 26 May 2013

North Coast camping in N Ireland

Welcome back!

I've been keeping busy the past couple of days as my friend is visiting. Last night we had a farewell night out for me, and we went to the pub with a few close friends. If you're ever in Belfast, check out 'The Duke of York' bar off Donegal Rd in the Cathedral Quarter of the city - a place full of character and atmosphere.

We all had quite a lot to drink, which isn't my usual lifestyle at all, and today we are suffering just a little. Not to be deterred, we have headed up to the scenic North Coast of N Ireland for two days camping.

Tonight we're parked in a seaside car park with a beautiful view and its very relaxing and peaceful. Just what I need at this point.
We're sharing this spot with a German reg. VW T5 - so there's a good feeling of safety in numbers, not that there's anything to worry about here.

Earlier today I did a spot of fishing off Carrickfergus harbour, and within 10 minutes caught a small pollock using a shirasu head and Eco Gear bait. It was very similar in size to the ones I caught last weekend in Donegal so the young must be prevalent around this coastline at this time of year.

In case you're wondering, part II of the wild camping trip video will be ready in a couple of days as its mostly edited and almost ready to upload.

Here's a shot of tonight's camping spot..

What are your thoughts on wild v campsite camping? Any other camper van people out there into fishing? Leave a comment.

You might also like ~ Quiet Sunday Spot

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Friday, 24 May 2013

New Video - Donegal trip part I

Part I of the Wild Camping Trip video is now available on YouTube:

I hope you enjoy the video - I certainly enjoyed making it..

Part 2 of the video is here: New video, Part II, Donegal Wild Camping Trip, Ireland

Today I've been hard at work on the van preparations. I've had all the mud flaps off and undertaking the messy job of Waxoyling the rear of the wheel arches to prevent corrosion. I got it done and I'm pleased to get to this point.. It took ages to get all the painting done in these places due to the weather and now I've finally got the area properly treated.

I've also done a good clear out of the van itself, following on from my storage space clear out yesterday. I removed a good sized bag of junk that had gathered up in the van over the past year. Its good to know exactly where everything is now, and to have a little more free storage space, and cut down on some extra weight before I set off..

Whats the one job you are always putting off on your camper van? What do you think are the most important things to have with you on a trip? Share in the comments section.

You might also like ~ Fitting roof bars to a Hiace Hitop camper van / Solar power update

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

More Donegal trip photos / clearing out

I thought I'd share with you a few more photos from the weekend in Donegal. I was mainly shooting video which will soon be edited and posted on the YouTube channel. (You can click on any picture to enlarge it)

Kayaking at 'The Silver Strand' Malin Beg

Early morning at Malin Beg

The rugged coastline at Port

Parked at the stony beach at Port
The Jaguar car club arrived up at Slieve League

Today I've been finishing clearing out my belongings. I've been keeping some things in storage for the past year and it was time to be free from all of that in time for hitting the road on Monday 3rd June. I made a trip to the recycling centre, and to the local Barnardo's charity depot. Seeing the empty storage space was a good feeling and its taken a long time to get there. Each step of this journey becomes more and more liberating as I release the bonds of possessions and refine my life of simplicity in the van.

What are your thoughts on living a simple life? Any ideas I could implement in my life? Share below.

You might also like ~ The Adventure Begins...

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Exploring Slieve League - Glencollumbkille Donegal wild camping trip 2013

Hello again. Here's an update on how I spent today..

I wasn't able to post when away as I don't have mobile internet access across the border into the Irish Republic. In Scotland I won't have this problem, but I may be without a signal sometimes. I've decided to write my posts anyway and upload them when I do get connected again - I wanted to let you know that.

Today I awoke after a windy night up on Slieve League cliff top car park. There were a few scary gusts of wind during the night even though I tried to park in the shelter of a grassy bank.

My camping spot last night

After breakfast I set off to climb the mountain, to get a look down from the top of the cliffs. It was a much better day than yesterday, and I had a clear view in all directions across the land and seascape. I added a picture from the cliff top looking down to the previous post. One of the most amazing things to see from up there are these perfect beaches beneath the sheer cliffs, that would be only accessible by boat on a calm day - I'm sure few people have set foot on them. The cliffs here reach a height of 601 metres. 

After returning to the van for a rest and a snack, I set off to explore the coastal lookout tower I had seen the night before, and decided I would definitely try to get down to it. The tower was perched on the end of a promontory of land at the bottom of a steep incline. It was also above some sheer cliffs.

It appeared closer than it actually was, abut eventually I found the remains of the original pathway down to it, along the headland. This tower was one of many, built along the coast of Ireland by the British during the times of Napoleon  to give early warning of a French invasion; that made them over two hundred years old. The towers are positioned along the coast so they an see each other and signal to each other by fire. The last section of path to the tower was near the edge of the cliff and the grass was slippery.

Looking down to the tower perched on the cliff edge

I made it down the slope to the lookout tower. It was amazing how well constructed it was, well to last over two hundred years it had to be. The ruins of a WWII lookout tower lay just beyond it. Its concrete blocks in a pile on the ground. I cast my gaze along the coast, thinking about how it must have been to live on the headland in those days long ago..

Have you got any recommendations for unusual, or off the beaten track locations to visit? Share below.

You might also like ~ Nature

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Overnight at Slieve League cliffs, Donegal

I'm spending the night in one of the most incredible locations yet - at the top of the highest sea cliffs in Europe at Slieve League in County Donegal, Ireland.

The drive up here was steep and at some points just a bit scary I have to say. I'm the only person up here tonight, apart from some fearless sheep. The views are spectacular - and the vista looking towards the Atlantic from this height up is like no other.

Over the past few days I've been camping at Malin More and then Malin Beg, further round the coast from here. Great locations. I've been with my friends and some have come and gone during the time, making it a trip of many chapters.

We've been fishing, swimming, kayaking and singing. We caught seven fish in all, mostly pollock, but had one big Colley on the barbecue on Saturday night. We dragged a kayak down the edge of the 167 steps to 'The Silver Strand' at Malin Beg to enjoy paddling around the bay. Bad weather the next day meant that I couldn't paddle to the harbour in the next bay so it had to be dragged back up again.

We visited the abandoned village of Port - a 13km drive along bumpy and narrow roads to a really remote location - way out there. I explored the ruins and made it down onto the old harbour to gaze out to sea.

It's been a wonderful trip and I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning and having my coffee with the view from Slieve League..

Whats the scariest drive you've ever been on?  Whats the most remote location you've ever spent the night in? Leave a comment.

You might also like ~ Enchanted Evening

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

On the way..

So, I'm camped up outside my friends place in North Belfast before we set off for Donegal tomorrow.. We've had a beer (or two) and getting off to bed for a reasonably early start in the morning. Looking forward to a good fry up in the morning :-)

Good kayak convoy through Belfast earlier with another friend who was driving on to Donegal tonight..

Through the city with kayaks and bikes

Today was my last day time shift in my current job. It's a great feeling to be free and almost ready to head off, leaving no trace..

Another friend visited me today; his circumstances have changed a lot recently and he's thinking of heading off with me for the first week in Scotland. That'll be great if it happens. You know, you just don't know what's going to happen next..

Any plans to head off on an adventure yourself this year? Whats the most exciting part about planning a trip for you? Share below.

You might also like ~ Inspiration and Strangford trip

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Glencolumbkille Wild Camping Weekend plans

Hi folks,

Today I spent some time making some preparations for the trip. I book my ferry ticket to Scotland on the Larne to Troon route - a single of course. I called 3 mobile and upgraded my contract to The One Plan, so I can tether to the laptop all I like form my iPhone when I'm travelling. I'm out of contract so I can do this on a month to month basis if I want, and reduce it again if I want. Its going to cost £25 per month for all the calls and texts and unlimited internet - pretty good!

Yesterday evening I picked up a camera tripod, which will make my video making a bit simpler and allow me to get some of the shots I want without having to balance the camera on walls and fenceposts - I'm looking forward to using that, and I already have a few good ideas for a new video.

This weekend a few, well eight, of us are off to Donegal on a wild camping trip. Its a chance for me to bid farewell to my friends here in Ireland and have a great time outdoors too. We plan to do some walking, kayaking, fishing, have campfires, and plenty of craic in the pubs there. We are heading to a part of Donegal called Glencolumbkille which is west of Donegal town on the atlantic coast..

The area looks pretty good on from what I've seen in the photos online, and a few of the people going with me have been before and say its a great place to visit. We plan to set off on Friday morning and return Monday evening, so its a long weekend trip really, and its about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Belfast I think. It'll really set me up for heading off to the Scottish Highlands for June as well and will be a good tester for the Kayak rack and other camping equipment.

By the way I have been driving around now for a few days with my boat on the roof of the van, and now I hardly think of it up there (always had it on a car before). I've been up to full speed on the motorway too, and on bumpy country roads - I'm now have total confidence in it. 

Well I am looking forward to this trip. As well as the things mentioned above, we can walk to the abandoned village of Port, visit Slieve League where there are the highest sea cliffs in Ireland, and camp out on the beach. The weather forecast is looking ok - fingers crossed..

Thanks for visiting! 

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Dave's Citroen Camper Van / Photonic Universe Solar

I'm writing this post in my camper bunk before I lay my head down for the night. It's really peaceful. Up until a few minutes ago, the blackbirds were singing, and I can just now hear a jet passing overhead on its way to some unknown destination.. It's one of those peaceful evenings you get after a long sunny evening, when the night air cools and eases the senses..

Today I had a timely accidental meeting with an old friend from my school days, Dave. I pulled into a Tesco carpark and saw a converted van parked so I pulled up nearby, then suddenly as I was daydreaming about what to get to fill my fridge, there was a knock on the window - it was Dave and it turned out to be his camper van.

Dave with his blue Citroen van

Monday, 13 May 2013

Planning my route & pictures from Skye last year

Today was a day to really begin thinking about the route I may take, and a rough timetable I may follow in Scotland. I've never been one to plan a detailed itinerary, and much of my motivation for this trip is to travel free - free to stop and spend as much time as I like at any beautiful or alluring location I may stumble upon.

That said, my philosophy on travel, and often in life too, is in having a rough framework planned out, and then to allow for plenty of flexibility within that. This way I'll get to cover the areas I'd like to see, and still have room for spontaneity.

I've got a month to do it in, well that's how long I've given myself for Scotland, so I'll not be in any hurry at all. I've checked out the ferry costs, and a single fare isn't too expensive, I'll not be coming back to Ireland for quite a while, not to live anyhow. I've already spent time with the big road atlas out and decided on a rough route to follow..

My loose framework route

Stage 1 of the journey will be around a week long and I'll cross on the ferry to Troon, then head up the coast, before heading inland and following Lough Lomond. I'll then head on up into the highlands and stay in different locations on the way, before reaching my first 'destination', Applecross.

On previous trips I've been up as far as the Isle of Skye, but have heard many tales about 'The Pass of the Cattle' and the views of the islands from the top and from the coastline at Applecross itself - so totally new territory will begin there for me..

More about my plans soon, but I'd love to share with you a few pictures from last years trip to Isle of Skye..

On the Cullin Ridge

My friend Liz taking it easy

My bedroom view from the van after 10:30 at night.

Stunning view at the top of the island

Looking through all these, im really looking forward to getting on the road...

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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Fitting camper van propane heater

This is a little job I carried out recently. I'd fitted this small propane heater last October when the weather started to get colder - just in time as I remember. I'd discovered that the Mikuni diesel heater wasn't going to fulfil my van living needs. It just had too high a drain on my camper battery for regular use so I opted for the gas one.

However, it was now time to make things a bit neater in the van. I'd been living for a few months with the gas hose loose on the floor - this was handy enough, as I could move the heater from the kitchen to the living space, but it was underfoot, and it blocked cupboard doors from opening properly.

In a small space this can get frustrating, so I pondered on how to best position the heater, and route the gas hose through the structure. It took some time but I came up with a good solution.

I drilled out some inch diameter holes and ran the orange hose from the gas bottle, through the back of the cupboards and under the rear seat. The heater then sits neatly just where my feet will be in the living space. (You can see the original Mikuni heater directly behind the gas one in the pic above too).

The heater now neatly in position.

I made a hole just about big enough to get the hose through where it comes into view again to complete the neat job. I can also still move the heater 180° if I need it on when the seats are folded flat, and, no more tripping over the hose or jammed doors!

Diary: Today I had a quiet shift at work in the morning and after work met some friends for a great Indian meal in the city centre. We were chatting about next weekends trip to Donegal and we now have three more potential wild campers/swimmers/kayakers/sea fishermen joining us. Good news. I'm now settling down before sleep, rain just beginning to fall, and sounds of a steam train's whistle hooting across the river at the station..

What do you think is the best heating system for a camper van? Have you had better results than me from a diesel heater? Share your thoughts below.

You might also like ~ Winter Living in the Van

Thanks for visiting! If you've any thoughts or questions please share them below. 

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See you soon..

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Spray Deck / Arne Dahl

I know it's Saturday, but I was at work all day today but I'm involved in a good final project before I leave on the 31st. After work, I spent the evening refining the kayak on/off the roof procedure, and I've simplified it quite a bit. I can now load it single handed and attach it to the roof rack all without the use of any extra ladder. Very cool. At one point this did seem like an impossibility, but with a little time and ingenuity such things become possible. I've even used the spray deck to enclose the paddle and keep the rain out too.

View from above with spray deck on.
I'm feeling pretty good today as more and more, things are coming together and finding their way as I prepare to move on..
Later on I watched Swedish noir drama 'Arne Dahl' on BBC4 - check it out on iplayer. Great series, and with each story broken into 2 x 45 min episodes, its something you can really get involved in. No breaks, so have everything you need ready, you won't want to miss the subtitles!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Duck & Kayak

Another good day!
I slept late, glad to have the night shifts behind me.. My final shift in my job will be a single night shift on the 30th May..
At lunchtime I met up with an old friend for a drink and a pub meal in 'The Dirty Duck' in Holywood. I hadn't seen him in years and it was wonderful to share our experiences as well as our memories, made all the more poignant as I'll soon be leaving these shores.. All the best Steve!
This evening I met up with some other friends with whom I'm planning a wild camping trip in Donegal next weekend. We were taking the time to organise the sea kayaks and get all the equipment in order.
I also had to load my kayak onto the roof of the van, using the winch system my friend made up for me. I'll do a video on that process some time - getting a kayak onto the high roof is one thing, and doing it single handed for my Scotland trip will be another. I need to practice using the winch and strapping it on until I'm really confident doing it without a helper.
Tonight we devised a way to fasten the straps without having to be on a ladder - so that's a start. Here's the boat on the roof, nice 'n sturdy:

I'll drive around with it there a few days and also practice the loading/unloading until its second nature. All the kayaking gear stores away nicely in the hatches on the boat itself - saving a lot of space in the van.
Take it easy..

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Launch of the new site

I worked most of the day on preparing this new website, and moving all my posts over from the old one for continuity. After my last night shift I parked up in a great spot with free wifi and lay down to work on my laptop.

It rained all day yesterday and today, so it was great to have a project to work on. I got so into it that I didn't catch up on sleep, so I'm really tired now. I think the new site looks great and as the last day of work and my trip draws ever closer its a good way to collect my thoughts and focus my mind on the days ahead.

This evening I went for a shower at the gym, I really enjoyed it, and then cooked dinner and tidyed up the van a bit. later i visited friends. I'm now camped out outside my friends house for the night, looking forward to a long lie in.

Take care..

Monday, 6 May 2013

Ballyhornan Rock Fishing

This afternoon I headed on from Reagh Island, on along the coast via Killinchy, Killyleagh, and Strangford, down to Ballyhornan. I went to bed for a couple if hours (night shifts taking their toll), then got up at 5pm, swung open the rear door and took a look at the view..

View through the back door.

I put on some music, current fav, Soma FM, Groove Salad, and started cooking dinner. Chicken thighs and Thai curry..

I have the fridge working well now on propane after a DIY service and its amazing being able to stock up on fresh foods, and have ice cold drinks always ready.

After dinner I got my fishing gear together and set off along the coast to find a good spot. It was a beautiful evening but there was a breeze coming off the sea which was churning up waves and a swell. I'd have to find the most sheltered spot.

I walked about 1/2 hour along the coast and could see the Mourne Mountains on the horizon. I clambered down the rocks to this place..

I fished at a few different locations all evening and tried out different lures, but the guppys weren't biting tonight :-/ Still the walk was refreshing and views stunning - it'll help get me in better shape for the Scotland trip next month.

Reagh Island camping

Camping with a friend down at Reagh Island, on Strangford Lough. I went ahead in the van and cooked dinner and relaxed until he arrived by bike with his tent. Still waters, an amazingly peaceful place.

We planned to do a but of fishing but its not such a good place - lots of seaweed to snag on. So relaxing with a bottle of wine was in order.

We got a pretty good camp fire going at dusk. The machete made short work of the fallen scots pine branches. A great nights sleep too.