Friday, 7 June 2013

Loch Na Keal, Mull - Ardmore Forest, Mull - Scotland Tour 2013 - Living in a Hiace Camper Van

Hi, how are you?

Today has been such a great day - it feels more like a week with all that has happened..

I was rudely awakened this morning by a ram, butting its horns against the van, and into my bicycle spokes! When I tried to face him off, he stood his ground and made circles of the van, and occasionally butting it again - did he think it was a big sheep? Who knows?

Over breakfast i had decided to go kayaking in the loch, so I gathered my things together and got the kayak down from the roof. (I decided to remove the rear parking mirror to make it easier to get the boat up and down.) This is how the van looked this morning inside as I was getting things ready:

I kayaked up and don the loch, probably a couple of miles in all, but any of the islands were too far away to reach from were I had been camping. I had the fishing rod with me too, and ran out some line which I trawled bend the boat as I paddled along. 

The Kayak on return from sea fishing 

The waters of loch na keal seemed to be breeding grounds for thousands of Jelly fish and as the sunrays penetrated the water, like spotlights it lit up shoals of them pulsing in the motion of the water. In all the time I was out there I didn't see or hook a single fish, but it was good to have a first sea kayak of the trip and use my arms again.

Not long after getting back i hit the road. I had decided that I would do the circuit of Mull, rather than going down towards Iona, which seemed like a more touristy destination with a visitors centre etc. I drove off along the narrow coast road..

The road passed inland a bit, and past some beautiful stone buildings and sheer fields of bluebells - more than I have ever seen in one place before. Then it wound its way up onto the coastal cliffs again. I was hungry from the paddling earlier, and looked out for somewhere special to stop.

I soon came to a clearing at the side of the road, with a couple of vehicles parked there. A bridge in the road indicated that there was a river beneath, I had arrived at Eas Fors a waterfall. I went down to look over the edge were it plunged many feet over an abyss to the shore below. Then further up I noticed a camp set up and a huge natural pool below a smaller waterfall. 

This was one of the best camp/wild swimming spots I have ever seen - and the weather could not be better. I chatted with the English couple who were there for the day, then decided to join them in the water. 

Amusingly they borrowed my shower gel to wash their small white terrier (which was not fond of water!) Afterwards it smelt very pepperminty! I had a long swim in the pleasantly cool water, very welcome on such a warm day, and having had my lunch took a cycle along the road for 1/2 mile and back. Nigel, if you're reading this, bring your bike over, if you can manage it - its the way to see this coastline, and the roads are great for bikes.

Further way around the coast - it takes ages, averaging 20 - 30 mph, I was stunned to defend a hill to see Calgary bay with its beautiful white sands. There are miles of nothing on Mull, and then something amazing really stands out, like the waterfall and pools earlier. It was here I spotted another Hiace camper and pulled in to stretch out on the beach and have a chat with the camper couple. who were bird and wildlife lovers. They pointed out sand martins flitting in and out of their nests nearby.

I could easily have stayed there that night - there is a great free camping area there, with picnic tables (but no facilities), but I didn't feel I had covered enough distance today, so I headed on in the direction of Tobermory. On the way there I discovered a forestry track that I decided to explore. I followed to for a few miles into the forest
and I would have camped there if I'd found a place with a view of the sea - it was fun to get out into the woods on the dirt roads..

At a crossroads in the woods

See what I mean? How did I do so much in one day? Well, I finally made it to Tobermory about 6pm and parked up in the harbour carpark. I hopped on my bike and went back to the Fish 'n Chip van, and ordered a Haddock and chips for dinner, which I ate with the sun streaming in the side door of the camper. I love this time of the evening after a long hot day when everything becomes more calming, and the sun still has soothing heat on the skin./

I set off in the direction of Glengorm castle, looking for a place to camp, but couldn't resist driving all the way down to the castle to take a look:

This castle reminds me of the one in the film, 'The Wicker Man', and its certainly set in a stunning and remote location with amazing views out to the isles that lie beyond. 

I'm now camped up at a good spot in Ardmore forest code by. Here's a shot of my camp spot, just after I had my shower, again its remote enough to have a shower outside the van:

Its been an amazing day, and I'm feeling very fortunate to have been able to have these experiences, and only too glad to share them here. As ever I made a lot of video today which I'll edit up for future posting..

Miles so far: 316

If you're looking for a good map of Western Scotland and the Western Isles, the one I recommend is the 'Road 2' - this map used to be produced by OS, but they stopped doing it. You can buy it here for £4.99:

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See you soon..

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