The Adventure Begins ……

So at last we’re off!! After months of planning, we finally left on our year long trip around Europe in our lovely blue VW Camper Van named ‘Oscar’.

The idea was conceived by Howard last summer, shortly after acquiring our new California Campervan. He decided that a ‘Gap Year’ was in order, having reached the grand age of sixty! Mid life crisis or what?! For some reason, I was persuaded that this was a fine idea, and so we started planning our great adventure around Europe.

The plan is to travel to the warm countries in the cooler weather, and the cooler countries in the summer. So we are heading south initially, down through Spain, Portugal and Italy, and Croatia if time permits. We then plan to scoot back across Europe to catch a ferry from Denmark to Iceland in mid May, tour around Iceland for three weeks, and then travel back up through Scandinavia – Sweden, Norway and Finland. Then, if we’re still enjoying ourselves – cross from Finland to Tallin, and explore the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The only things we have booked are the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, the first night in Santander, and the return ferry trip to Iceland.

In order to check that we have everything we need (or too much stuff!), and that the van is functioning well – we have opted to do a preliminary week long tour around Northern Scotland in January. Yes, that’s right – Scotland in January! So today we set off from home towards Inverness with the aim of doing the famed North coast 500 route around the Highlands.

Needless to say, getting to this moment in time has been nothing short of frenetic. Having just recovered from the festivities of Christmas and New Year, cleared and sorted our annexe for the lovely young couple who will be renting our annexe and looking after our house while we are away, and trying to organise and pack everything we might need for a year, we were both exhausted before we had even started our great adventure. We were both up til 2am last night searching for final items to pack, and trying to fit everything in the van.

Just as we were approaching completion this morning, and Howard was fixing the bikes onto the rack, the roofer arrived to replace tiles we had lost in the strong winds just after New Year! So we eventually set off leaving the tiler still on our roof, and countless other chores left to complete.

Such was our state of disorganisation, that as we set off down our drive, we hadn’t even planned which way round we were going to do the drive – east to west, or west to east! So off we set, only knowing that we needed to head for Inverness! It was a lovely clear day, and as we drove along the coast road between home and Newburgh, the sun shone and the snow glistened off Schiehallion in the far distance – and we took this as a good omen, and started to relax now that we had at last started our journey.

The drive up the A9 was glorious, with snow on the distant mountains, making the whole scene very monochromatic and magical. We stopped off in my favourite ‘Mountain Cafe’ in Aviemore for a break, and sat and planned our next move. We sourced a suitable overnight stop at a pub in Golspie, on the East Coast just north of the Dornoch Firth, from the ‘Britstop’ bible, which suggests sites where camper vans are welcome. We phoned ahead, and ordered supper, and were told that the chef would hang on until we arrived.

So we have just sat down and had a lovely supper, a large gin and tonic, and are now feeling set up to explore the Sutherland coast tomorrow. I should add though that it is minus 2 degrees outside, so Howard has just drained some of the water out of our tank, to allow for expansion in the likelihood that it freezes overnight! We may possible be mad embarking on this trip in January, only time will tell – but I’ll keep you posted.

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