Thursday, 22 October 2009
Now that Autumn is firmly upon us, it’s good to look back on those gloriously long, hot days of the early Summer.
The first stop on Skye was at the Glenbrittle campsite, a charming little spot, tucked away at the end of an eight-mile cul-de-sac. It’s designed for tenters who fancy a crack at the very enticing Cuilin Ridge. The road to the site was a tricksy little thing, with a steep drop into the valley with two miles to go. We stopped to let the over-run brakes cool down (and to admire our Airstream in the wild).
The site itself was one of those “park-where-you-like” jobbies, with only a handful of hard standings with hook-ups. We found a spot on the grass with a view out to sea, and spent a few days running on solar power. And there was plenty of it.
It’s perhaps worth mentioning our batteries. Back at Easter, we spent five days on a site without hook-up. It was my own silly mistake, but when I booked us onto a Camping and Caravanning Club site, I completely failed to register that a Standard Pitch can mean nothing more than a patch of grass. For the Caravan Club on the other hand, a Standard Pitch might include a hard standing, electric hook-up, breakfast in bed and the grass cut four times a day. So we tried to live off the batteries. The days were bright and sunny, but being early April, they weren’t very long, so to spare the blushes of the solar panel on the roof, we used the site shower and toilet facilities. You’d think that by watching minimum TV, using only LED lights and not running any fans, we should be able to last quite a while. On the third evening, the voltage dropped so low that the inverter wouldn’t run, so we had to go to bed at nine o’clock! I haven’t done that since I was a tiddler! The next couple of days were taken up by waiting around in the mornings until we were allowed to run the generator for a couple of hours, leaving us about an hour to explore before everything shut. So, these two 90 Amp-hour batteries were lasting next to no time. On our next trip to Tebay, we had an exchange of views on the state of the batteries. It turns out that the batteries are not covered by the warranty which, to be honest, is fair enough, but I wasn’t best chuffed to have to fork out around three hundred quid on something that was less than 18 months old. Airstream did, however, replace the PSU in case there was a fault with the charging system. The old one was sent off for testing – I’m still waiting for the results…
So, with new batteries and glorious sunshine, we had no problems surviving on Skye. Being at the end of an inhospitable road, we didn’t venture too far from the site. The Cuilins were calling, but the call fell on deaf ears (I was a: pretty unfit and b: it would have meant getting up early), so we just had a couple of short walks from the site, though one afternoon we did venture as far as the local distillery.
Talisker is a bit rough for my taste, but the tour was interesting. To be honest, though, once you’ve had one distillery tour, you’ve seen them all.
Still not having any plans, we moved on to the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Loch Greshornish. This was a world away from the terrible time we’d had at Easter – the welcome was warm and we were feeling very bold with our new batteries, so we booked in for three nights on a “Standard” pitch. This one came with glorious views across the little sea loch.
In the nearby village of Dunvegan sits the tiny little “Giant Angus MacAskill Museum.”
This was, quite simply, the best entertainment I’ve had this century. It’s a couple of quid to get in. You might need to ring the bell – the curator was in the house next door peeling tatties for when his wife got home from work. This curator, Peter MacAskill, traced his family tree and found he was a distant cousin of the Giant, so he thought it would be a good idea to make a museum of the Giant’s life. Angus, it turns out, never set foot on Skye, and none of the exhibits are original, but the recreations are excellent, and the commentary from Peter (when he wasn’t running off to check the tatties) was eye-wateringly funny.
If you ever visit, you could see the exhibits (housed in the single room of the old smithy) in about ten minutes, but allow yourselves at least three quarters of an hour for the stories. And don’t leave without asking about the coffin… The picture shows a waxwork of Angus, one of General Tom Thumb (who was in the same Show Business as Angus) and the real Peter MacAskill - Curator and Comedian.
It was while we were sitting in the campsite one afternoon that we decided that we would just hang the expense and go to the Hebrides anyway. You may remember that we have mentioned CalMac Ferries arbitrary pricing structure. Caravans are only supposed to be up to 8 metres long – anything longer gets charged as a commercial vehicle. They take 10 metre motor homes, but not 8.25m caravans, like our 684. Back in Oban (which was about the last time we were to get mobile internet access for the next three months!), I got on my high horse and send some frank emails to various people. It seems that the Hebridean Tourist Development Agency were familiar with CalMac’s fun and games, and the Scottish Minister for Transport promised to bring it up at the next meeting with the CalMac board. Caledonian MacBrayne, by the way, is wholly owned and funded by the Scottish Government, so you know who to complain to…
So we turned up at the ferry port in Uig, got a ticket and found ourselves, at least for the time being, leaving Skye and on the way to the Outer Hebrides…