The Adventures with Betsy Bus - Part 1
As camper van fans, no conversation lasts long without stories of our camper adventures, so happy to share some tales:
Betsy was first registered in Adelaide, Australia in 1974 painted off-white. Don't have much of her early history except that the original owners liked wine, judging by the faint remains of a "winery" sticker on the back window!
At some point, she was acquired by G'Day Kombis, brought to the UK and the light blue paint applied over the original white. We bought her having just had a refurbished interior and new Mexico 1641cc engine with twin Weber carbs. As we have a habit of driving down narrow country lanes, often involving close-encounters with foliage, it's just as well the exterior isn't immaculate as we wanted a practical vehicle, not a 'show pony'.
The whole reason we bought her was for Rebecca's 50th birthday trip to Scotland and despite our best intentions, apart from day-trips with the dogs, never got any overnight trips in her before we set-off for our 4 week trip. I will add, that my most recent 'camping' trip involved 4 nights during an unsupported fat-bike race in the Finnish arctic the previous February where it was -27C, whilst Rebecca hadn't been camping - ever!
Living it up in the arctic - photo Lorenzo Del Ninno
The plan for our Scotland Trip was to island-hop up the west coast and then onto Harris and Lewis, before returning via Skye and then driving most of the North Coast 500 route around to Inverness, before heading south. Having spent my childhood and teens in Scotland, there were some familiar places but many new ones.
Day 1, driving north from Hampshire we stopped over-night near Penrith. Next day we then took the ferry to Arran to spend a few days at Lamlash. Arran is like Scotland in miniature and it gave a great introduction to our trip.
Over to the Mull of Kintyre via the Cloanaig Ferry stopping for a lovely lunch at Tayvallich Inn before heading to Oban. Onto the ferry to Mull and overnight at Fidden Farm (below). Knockvologan Beach holds special memories for us as we honeymooned on Mull and every time we have returned it's been glorious sunshine - it again didn't disappoint.
Driving up the west-side of Mull for a lovely, fresh seafood lunch at the Ulva Boathouse before heading to Tobermory, the ferry to Kilchoan and onwards to overnight by the beach at Arisaig.
A short drive to Mallaig to take the morning ferry to Skye, a tasty lunch stop in Broadford before we headed around to Glen Brittle, the Cuillin Hills majestic against the blue sky. As it was early afternoon we got the pick of the campsite spots, right next to the beach. I'd last been here in 1981 and pleased they'd upgraded the toilets!
Next day, we drove up to Uig and the ferry to Tarbert - the recently unified ferry fares were much in evidence as the boat that day was fully booked. Glorious drive up through the Harris Hills to Stornoway. We hadn't expected it to be so busy in early May - the only campsite in Stornoway was fully-booked but the owners had a deal with a neighbour who had a couple of serviced pitches in their field - suited us fine.
Next day, heading west to Callanish before north and the Butt of Lewis.
We stood by the lighthouse to see a large pod of dolphins out to sea whilst we rustled-up an al-fresco lunch of fresh bread, cheese and a glass of wine. Rebecca spied a big bird perched on a pole - she initially thought it was a buzzard, but as we drew nearer it got bigger and bigger as it was a sea eagle!
Heading back we stopped at the black-houses at Gearrannan and contemplated how hard life must have been for inhabitants in winter in these parts.
Next day, we headed south to explore some of the beaches on Harris - the grey clouds over Horgabost were indeed ominous, we got a proper drenching shortly after!
The sun returned for a drive along the Golden Road before heading back to Tarbert for the ferry back to Skye.
The weather on Harris was a portent for what was to come - we camped at Dunvegan enduring a few days of stormy south-westerlies, blowing 40-50mph at times. We dropped the roof overnight as the flappy canvas kept us awake. We left the awning unattached and watched it being blown flat by the wind - testimony to the durability of Air Beam tents.
We left Skye in squally showers as we were blown about a bit on the hilly road from Sligachan, over the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh and joining the NC500.