Nine Week Caravan Honeymoon
This story happened on: 13/07/2018
I'm Fiona Driver, from Orkney. My husband Trevor Hunter is from Shetland. We got married on 17-7-17. No big deal – except we'd waited 20 years to finally get married!
We are both musicians, and we played ourselves down the aisle in Stroud, in the Cotswolds, with a fiddle duet I wrote for the occasion.....
It was 22 years to the day since we met. The wedding was unconventional and perfect. We had decided to spend the money on our rings rather than the wedding itself – so my dress cost £12, and my purple suede shoes were £2 in a charity shop! We had no speeches, wedding cake, posh flowers, bridesmaids or any of the usual stuff – just afternoon tea with a string quartet playing, for 55 of our friends and family, with flowers from a nearby allotment, fresh local cherries, and purple ribbons on our own cars.
We had asked for honeymoon donations, rather than wedding presents, and we ended up with around £2,500 to spend! We quite fancied Austria, but couldn't go right away because I had to finish my music degree.
In the end we decided to go on honeymoon the following year.... by which time a new idea had emerged, and we had bought a caravan!
Our lovely 2 berth Sterling Eccles Amber came up for sale just 12 miles from home, so we went for a look. We both loved it right away and we paid £4,000 for it including the motor mover, all the tanks, cables and everything you need. I had been camping in a tent for 20 years, since I was a small child, but Trevor wasn't keen, so this was a luxurious compromise! I knew absolutely nothing about caravans but I proceeded to learn everything I could, read hundreds of forum posts, and to get up-to-date with all the legalities.
The caravan was 15 years old and the tyres had never been changed – so that was the first thing to do (including the spare!) followed by a gas and electrics inspection, a new breakaway cable, a brake service, and general check over. I got to know the water system, and tested everything out at home before our first experimental trip. Luckily, Trevor's car is a heavy 3.2 diesel Mercedes, and tows like a dream.
We did some calculations, and realised we could be away around the U.K. for nine whole weeks with our honeymoon donations – much better value than 2 weeks in Austria. I immediately joined the Caravan and Motorhome Club. I did a lot of research into which areas we fancied visiting, worked out how long it would take to drive between sites, and I booked them all in advance. We set off on Friday 13th July, taking the overnight ferry from Orkney.
We visited, in the following order: Kinlochewe, Bunree, Edinburgh, Hawes, Coed-y-Llwyn, Brecon Beacons, Cirencester, Broadway, Borrowdale, Coniston and back to Edinburgh again!
I could write many thousands of words about our travels, but I'll keep it brief! It took eight hours to drive from Scrabster to stunning Kinlochewe, among the mountains, and I was delighted that there
was no mobile phone or internet. Proper peace! Proper midgies too though... Damp weather didn't help and we escaped to Inverness the next day to avoid the swarms. We returned in better weather the next year and loved it.
On July 16thwe departed for Bunree, which would have been a shortish run if the car hadn't decided to go into limp mode, a problem which plagued us for two whole years before someone figured out what was wrong (the turbo actuator, if you're interested!) Meanwhile, when it went limp every few hours we just had to pull over and re-start the engine.
Bunree was a delight. We were last to arrive and it was full but they'd left us a waterside spot labelled 'honeymoon pitch' and it was perfect. July 17th was our first anniversary, and we drove down to Oban, where Trevor had the best Cullen Skink he's ever tasted. In the evening I made us a meal and we got the folding table out for the occasion. Other highlights from Bunree included driving all the way around the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, and trekking through the Lost Valley in Glencoe. I also discovered the Club's amazing laundry facilities, which I made very good use of during our nine week adventure – we'd put aside over £200 for laundry!
July 20, we set off for Edinburgh, because one of my brothers lives there. We've made many trips to the lovely Marine Drive Club site, as we travel to Edinburgh frequently. It's a very smart and well run site with a lovely coast to explore on foot. We walked out to Cramond Island, hiked the Leith Waterway, visited the UK's biggest collection of owls, and I spent a lovely Sunday with brother Pete and baby Ellie.
July 23rdwe ventured to new pastures- down to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. Just off the M6, Hawes is quiet and attractive, with the wonderful Wensleydale Creamery tempting us to eat even more cheese than usual, and some fruit cake while you're at it! We spent five days here, but our visit coincided with very hot weather and a massive thunderstorm, our first in a caravan. I was terrified and exhilarated at the same time, as the skies darkened and lightning crashed around us. We loved Hawes, and were fascinated by the thousands of stone walls and barns. We went walking in evenings, to escape the heat. Bolton Castle was another highlight, with falconry, gardens and cafe.
It's a seven hour drive from Hawes to Coed-y-Llywn, in Snowdonia. We arrived on July 28th. Neither of us had been before, but for the first few days it just rained. In the end we discovered that it wasn't raining in other places, so we drove away from the mountains and visited some gorgeous Welsh seaside towns and castles, starting with Harlech and Criccieth. We visited Caernarfon and Llanberis, and planned my ascent of Snowdon. Despite a pretty miserable forecast, I climbed Snowdon on August 1st, in fog, with hundreds of moaning children, badly prepared adults in white trainers or flip flops, and dogs. There was a twenty minute queue to touch the summit and it smelled of engines (the train) and sewage (the cafe loo). I wasn't impressed!
We also visited Llandudno and Conwy, drove all around the Lleyn peninsula and as far as Aberdaron to get a glimpse of Bardsey Island, where my father had a house for many years. It was absolutely roasting hot and the beaches looked more like Greece, with sunbathers as far as you could see!
We departed on August 6th and made the shorter journey to the Brecon Beacons. While getting ready to leave, Trevor decided it was a good idea to wind up the stands while I was still inside the van at the back.... causing the whole thing to see-saw rather alarmingly and me to start screaming!
We had a lovely time on the Brecon Beacons site, which we've been back to since. Highlights include climbing Pen-y-Fan, walking along the canal, and driving to Rhossili bay and the Mumbles.
From there we headed to Cirencester, which was only a three hour drive. I was actually born in the Cotswolds, even though my parents moved to Orkney when I was a baby, so I've got lots of relations still in the area.
We spent eight days in Cirencester, and loved it. It's such an attractive site, next to the park, and a short walk from the very attractive town centre. You can visit the whole area from here, and there's so much to see – we loved Snowshill Lavender in particular.
We wanted to see the Broadway site too, so headed there on August 18th. We hit it lucky and got a pitch right next to the old station building, where the first touring caravan is kept – the fascinating Wanderer!
I bought the book written by its owner about his travels around the country, pulled by horses. How things have changed....
From Broadway we climbed up to Broadway Tower, and visited Stratford-Upon-Avon. We loved the steam train that puffed its way past our caravan every few hours. We tried to stay longer but there were no cancellations so we moved on to Borrowdale, up in the Lake District.
It took ten hours to get from the Cotswolds to Borrowdale, and it was dark when we arrived. I filled the water barrel by moonlight and there were skeins of geese flying across the moonlit sky – it was stunning, and definitely Autumnal! This was the only site we stayed at with no toilet block, which was fine with me because I always use my little bathroom in the caravan. Trevor, however, wasn't so keen – he will use my wee shower but has always been nervous of the tiny white plastic toilet!!
It's such a stunning area and we love Keswick. We've visited before, spending the previous January in a holiday cottage. We loved Grasmere too, and my day hiking on The Lion and the Lamb and across the ridge was a highlight, along with our ascent of Blencathra, one of Trevor's biggest hikes. The circuit of Buttermere is also a favourite walk,
but the very best thing about the Borrowdale trip for me was my climb of Haystacks, which was one of the best hills I've ever done.
On September 1st we departed for Coniston, and spent a week there, which included my birthday! Trevor rowed me around Coniston Water in a boat, and we visited Windermere and Kendal.
On September 5th I hiked up Coniston Old Man, and included another three summits in a marvellous high level hike. I took some great pictures in perfect weather – including the one chosen by the Club for the Lake District section of the current Club Handbook, which made me very happy!
We made the journey back to Edinburgh on September 8th, and stayed a few days before returning to Orkney on September 15th after the most amazing trip.
I'm so glad we did it this way – we've got so many memories and photos to look back on, and if we can get along in a small caravan for 9 weeks, I think we'll be ok in a house together!
We loved our adventure so much that we've since spent another couple of months away in our caravan, including all of last September, and are now planning where to go this year. Luckily we can work from wherever 'home' is, so being away is no problem!
We always stay on club sites because they are so well run, and we know what to expect. Thank you Caravan and Motorhome Club for a great experience and we'll be out there again soon!