With the new parts, Vince had partial success fixing some systems. The generator was back in business and some of the house systems, like the water pump and refrigerator. Three of the four slides and the air conditioning/heating however were still not working but we decided we needed to move on as a new K-Line ship had since moored at the port and the dock hands would want our spot for new arriving equipment.
We headed north to our first UK camping site, Sandy Balls Holiday Centre (£20/nt), in Godshill village, near Fordingbridge on the western edge of the New Forest. This is a wonderful camping place, with both inside heated and outside swimming pools, and would be fun to stay for a few days or a week. Not us however. We had a mission to head north to Scotland to the John O'Groats Caravan Site at the north eastern tip of Scotland. We wanted to get to northern Scotland and then start slowly working our way south, trying to keep ahead of the colder weather.
|En route to Sandy Balls, Vince took a road that clearly wasn't suitable for large vehicles. This was one of the wider sections; at one point he had only about 2" of clearance on either side.|
|Sandy Balls Holiday Centre is a great spot for camping; lots to do with 2 pools, a couple of playgrounds, arcade games, bike rental, a couple restaurants, shops, free wifi and more. I couldn't capture good photos to present how nice this site was.|
|Settled into our super pitch at Sandy Balls. It's huge, even by US standards.|
|Vincent sitting outside of the Woodside Inn, one of the restaurants at Sandy Balls, where one gets the best wifi connection.|
The first objective was to get to Stafford, which we did. The second objective was to find this Red Lion Caravan Park which I only knew to be "near Stafford". No street address, village name or postal code. With amazing luck and a few very helpful people along the way, it only took 3 stops, asking for directions, and James and I made it. Both Vincent and I were very relieved to see each other at the end of the day.
|Happy and relieved to be reunited at the Red Lion Caravan Park in the village, Houghton.|
|Lots of chickens, ducks and tiny goats milling about.|
|The farm has a variety of beautiful bunnies; not sure what their fate is.|
|Our anniversary dinner at the Shropshire Inn, Haughton. Okay dinner but good wine and delicious brownie-based dessert. Plus received a gorgeous pair of sapphire earrings to match the ring Vincent gave me for my birthday.|
|Paul getting hands-on training for dumping the black and grey water tanks. Vince is hands-off!|
|Really enjoyed the Red Lion Caravan Park. Besides selling home-made ice cream, they sell eggs, milk, home-baked goods and a variety of home-made savory pies. I'm looking forward to their steak & kidney pie.|
|Exiting the village Houghton. I followed Vincent on a dual direction road; there wasn't much room for another car if it happened to come from the opposite direction.|
|Beautiful entrance to the Lowther Holiday Park.|
|When we parked at our pitch, women staying across the road commented that they thought we were a band!|
As it wasn't supposed to rain, we decided to stay an extra day to see a bit of the area. That, and Vince wanted to use the free wifi to download European maps for the second GPS. Seemed he didn't feel confident about that old fashioned driver's atlas I purchased, or didn't want to lose me. (Sweet Vince, spent hours sitting in the community centre area downloading maps.) While I was waiting for Vince to return from downloading files, I decided to do a load of washing. I had problems getting the hose connected to the machine with water perpetually squirting all over the place. After mucking about for a while it was almost noon, I hadn't made any progress and we were rapidly losing our day. Several emails to Vince went unnoticed so in frustration I headed to collect folks to salvage the day.
We aimed to set out in the direction of Keswick but got as far as the end of the Lowther Holiday Centre drive; we spotted that the Crown Hotel was having a Sunday carvery special for £6.95. We were beginning to understand this familiar Sunday roast special. So we parked and went in. It was quite mediocre but we all had a substantial meal to keep us going for a while.
|By Arthur's Round Table, the kids ran to the top of a knoll and the cows all ran toward them to check them out. (Must have heard their American accents.) It startled the kids and they all ran away. Ah, city kids.|
|Running from the cows. The cows are all watching them likely wondering, "what's their problem?"|
|The Castlerigg Circle seemed to be a popular local destination. There was an ice cream truck parked there and we saw an older couple get out of a taxi with the obvious plan to hike back to their home; good idea for an outing.|
|On our fifth day in the English countryside, observing sheep still holds its fascination.|
|Sarah in her new pink waterproof jacket. We're a little better equipped now for this UK weather.|
|On Lake Derwentwater, Paul watched a dog repeatedly fetching a stick in the water. We thought of Molly; but she'd only like the fetching part, not the water part.|
The town of Blair Atholl is very picturesque. When we entered the Blair Castle Caravan Park, we were greeted by a pair of Highland cows.
|Highland cattle have serious horns. Trivia: A group of Highlands is known as a fold, not a herd.|
|The Atholl Arms Hotel is right on the main road and looks like a nice place to stay for a few days.|
Therefore, without the space to work in, I decided to forgo any notion of using our washing machine and set off to use the Blair Castle Caravan Park facilities. At £2.50 per washing or drying load, it quickly added up. Five washes and two drying loads later, I was out £17.50. I had read that doing laundry in Europe would be costly, which was one of the reasons we decided to add a washing machine to LandShark. What I hadn't factored in, besides the potential that the RV slides wouldn't work (therefore not giving us enough room to do a load of laundry) was that a large load in the washing machine pretty much drained the fresh water tank. So in order to do one or more loads, one needed to have a water faucet plus a dumping drain at the pitch; that way you could keep filling up the fresh water tank with minimal trouble rather than having to move the RV to fill up water every time you did a load of laundry. Oh well, lots of kinks to work out in order to get life working smoothly.
Due to a Blair washing machine breaking down, laundry getting locked in the spinning machine and a number of unforeseen obstacles, the job of cleaning laundry took much longer than expected and everyone was famished. So we fetched take out pizza, which was pretty good and finally were ready to do some sightseeing about 13:30. Fortunately, our destination Blair Castle, was literally next door. We signed up for both seeing the castle and the grounds at a family pass cost of £16. (Staying at the Caravan Park gave us a £10 discount off of the posted £26 fee). Much to my pleasant surprise, all 3 children really enjoyed touring the castle and spending time examining the contents of the rooms. Even more to my surprise, Paul emerged from the castle wanting to buy himself a kilt.
|With its earliest structure dating back to 1269, Blair Castle is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses.|
|A few times a day, a bagpiper plays for about 5-10 minutes at the front entrance welcoming people. We happened to arrive just as he started playing.|
|The last room to see in the castle is the ballroom. There was a box of period costumes for kids to try. There was no sign posting stating for what age range these costumes were intended so Vince felt he should give it a go.|
|Vincent and Paul chatting while walking around the Hercules Garden.|
|Paul and Sarah watching the ducks, sitting next to the swan house.|
|Another photo of the Hercules Garden; the Chinese bridge is in the distance.|
|James imitating art.|