ARK Motorhome Blog

We have been motorhome users for many years now and love the freedom and simplicity of the lifestyle. This blog charts some of our recent adventures and experiences. We hope you find it informative and interesting.

Rutland

13th August 2020 to 16th August 2020

The weather this week has been extremely hot. Over 35 degrees for the last 5 days and tropical (greater than 20 degress) during the night. It will not last much longer but we thought we would squeeze in a long weekend before we resumed the normal britsh summer of 15 degress, rain and cloud.

It was Moira’s choice this time, and she has always wanted to visit the gardens of Geoff Hamilton at Barnsdale. These where the gardens featured on Gardeners World for many years whilst Geoff was the presenter. They are located close to Rutland Water in the county of Rutland – the smallest county in the UK.

We chose a camp site that was conveniantly close by – Rutland caravan and camping . The reviews for the site were dominated by a small number of horrendous comments, even though the overall rating was good. My personal opinion is that the site is great and the negative review comments are unwarranted. Its a large open site that feels relaxed and peaceful (in the adults only area where we were). We didn’t use the facilities due to Covid restrictions, however there was an indoor pool and cafe on site.

The site is close by the village of Greetham which is absoluely lovely in a quitessentially english sort of way. Golden sandstone houses with the odd thatched cottage thrown in. There were a couple of pubs in the village. Unusual since the village was only small. We stopped by The Plough for a quick beer one evening. They served an excellent pint of GreenKing IPA, and after a couple of those we decided to remain in the beer garden to have something to eat. I would recommend the burgers – superb.

As I mentioned Moira has always wanted to visit the gardens of Geoff Hamilton located in Barnsdale. Barnsdale Gardens is more than just a garden, its a complex of 38 gardens with a nursery and cafe serving home made cakes (well you just have to).

Here are a few photos :

We spent most of a day there, before returning to the site to sit out in the evening sunshine and cook some BBQed food with a few beers.

On Saturday we decided to do some mountain biking. Not being “spring chickens” lets say, the path we chose was around the circumference of Rutland Water. Mostly on the level although it was a little longer than we thought (about 18miles) which is greater than Carsington Water which have done in the past – a few times.

Niggles

Another trip with no Motorhome problems – fingers crossed the initial niggles are done now. We did call into Don Amott on the way out to Rutland. The warranty job to replace the rear light surrounds was carried out. Only a few minutes, but enough time to visit their onsite cafe for a great breakfast.

Round trip distance 155 miles according to google maps.

Blair Atholl

17th July 2020 to 24th July 2020

Camp sites are just starting to reopen for self-catering use i.e motorhomes and caravans. Social distancing is, of course, mandatory but is manageable in a motorhome if you are sensible. Whilst pubs and restaurants are also starting to open their doors, we have decided not to use them at the moment, and prefer to cater for ourselves in the motorhome this trip.

We have been coming to Blair Atholl now for more than 20 years. Usually two or more times each year – we love it here. We found Blair Castle Caravan Site whilst touring Scotland in a borrowed motorhome when the kids were tiny. Instead of the 2 nights we had planned there, we stayed a week, cancelling the other bookings. There was an instant attraction to the place and one that has only matured and increased over time.

The site has modernised during this period: a new site office and shop; Internet access, Segway and bike hire; and recently some lodges that are open all year even when the camp site is closed. Despite all these changes the site hasn’t lost its charm or its character and has resisted the temptation to squeeze more pitches into the grounds. It remains a lovely open site with huge areas of grass and play areas at its centre.

We know the local area very well, and use the site as the base for a lot of walking in the local hills. I’ll compose a Relive flyby from the routes we took during the week, but the Garmin site is currently down at the moment as it is being held to ransom by hackers.

Here are a few photos in the mean time.

Garmin is starting to recover from their ransom induced outage. Here is a Relive of some of the routes we walked. In total we managed 37.3 miles of planned walks in 5 days.

This was the first time we have been totally reliant on this motorhome without supplementing it with the use of shower blocks, toilets and restaurants. I wasn’t really expecting any issues as such, but thought it may be more restrictive than we are normally used to. Obsolutely not – no problems at all. In fact, under the current Covid circumstances, it felt even more comfortable and appropriate – even natural, than I was expecting.

The week flew by – as it always does when we visit Blair Atholl. We managed a reasonable walk everyday other than one due to heavy rain across most of Scotland that day. It doesn’t seem to matter that we have walked some these tracks tens of times, its always different. Red squirrels, red deer and bussards seems to be the more adundant of the local wildlife, along with the Highland cows or course. There are polecats up here too although I haven’t yet spotted one. During our last visit in January 2020 (using a lodge because the caravan site is closed in January) I set up a trial camera and caught some great footage of the Reds.

Round trip distance 685 miles according to google maps.

Niggles

Non this trip, apart from a window catch needing a bit of glue which is trivial especially since my wife can be a little heavy-handed.

The seal for the window above the cab was replaced under warranty in June and has stopped the wind noise at speed or during windy weather when we are driving.

The surrounds for the rear light clusters have now gone from pitted to fully rusty and leaving rust streaks on the bodywork. It has been acknolgedged by Don Amott as a warranty problem particular to this version of Bailey motorhome, but because of Covid they are still without a suitable replacements. It’s now been 4 months since the acknowledgement was conformed as a warraany issue.

Fairbourne

9th July 2020 to 14th July 2020

Well Lock-Down has seriously impacted our touring ambitions for this year. Restrictions on visiting family in Wales have just been eased so at long last we are going to visit my Mom in Fairbourne. as our first post lock-down trip. Caravan and Camping sites are still not open, so we will park in Mom’s driveway and use the motorhome to social distance / isolate ourselves as best we can.

As a result of the winter gales, the gates at the side of her house were blown apart. It was not just the high winds, but the gates were rotten having been made of softwood over 10 years ago. The only trace of the gates hanging on the gateposts after the gales were the hinges. The rest of the gates were strewn all over the garden.

The gates were a totally non standard size as they were custom made to fit into the thick welsh slate walls. So I will need to build replacements from scratch to fit the openings. I ordered some pressure treated timber a number of months ago (anticipating a much sooner visit) and it has been sitting on Mom’s driveway ever since.

So we loaded the motorhome with provisions for 4 days, as well as all the tools I would need e.g. chop saw, screws, hammer, etc etc. Most of these were too big to fit through the access door into the garage area under the rear seating, so it had to go inside the motorhome. The dog wasn’t impressed.

As you can see from the photo carosel below the new gates took shape quite nicely and the weather was kind. Job done and Mom was most appreciative.

There wasn’t much time for walking on this trip, but I did take the dog down to the lovely beach a couple of times. Sun shining, light breeze and waves lapping onto the sand at low tide. A great place to be.

Round trip distance 220 miles according to google maps.

Niggles

The windscreen was replaced during lock-down, but during the procedure Autoglass informed me that the Lane-Assistance camera may need re-aligning after the new windscreen was fitted. The camera is sited behind the rearview mirror and focusses through the windscreen. Re-alignment can be done by a Peugeot dealer which seemed the easist solution as soon as they opened their businesses again. However, the Stafford and Lichfield Peugeot dealers don’t have a workshop big enough to accomodate the Bailey. After driving to and from Fairbourne without the camara being re-aligned I found that I couldn’t detect any difference in the lane-assist performance. I concluded that the Autoglass engineers did a great job and didn’t disrupt it’s operation.

The grey water waste valve that fell off was just a push fit, so easily repaired. I have since puchased 5m of waste hose that connects directly to the valve for use on fully serviced pitches.

The pull switch in the bathroom broke again. After I repaired it the last time, I took the precaution of buying a replacement and leaving it in the motorhome, just in case. Although I bought it from B&Q it was a like for like replacement so after isolating the electrics it was a simple job to replace.

Enhancements

3rd March 2020 to 14th March 2020

Bike rack

The Motorhome was fitted with the fixing frame for a bike rack, but not the rack itself. The fixing frame is a Fiamma so I spoke to Don Amott about a suitable rack that fitted. They advised the Fiamma Pro C or Pro C-N. The C variant comes with the fixing frame and the N variant without. Ideally I would have purchased the N variant as it’s cheaper and I already had the fixing frame. However, after a little reasearch I found a company call Outdoorbits whose prices were only a fraction of those from Don Amott’s. Unfortunately they didn’t stock the N variant, but it was still much cheaper to buy the C variant from them, rather than the N variant fron Don Amott.

Installation was fairly straight forward. Other than assembly and tightening nuts all I needed to do was reduce the vertical frame slightly with a hack saw. Took about an hour in total.

Spare Wheel Carrier

I find it very odd that a vehicle with a price tag of greater than £50k, doesn’t come with a spare wheel. Nor does it come with a jack capable of lifting the motorhome even if you had a spare. I realise that all weight is payload, but it puts you entirely at the mercy of the breakdown services in whatever country you get the misfortunate of a puncture.

I have been a member of the AA for over 20 years and I know that they will be with me within a hour if I call them, but that doesn’t mean I will be on my way within 2 hours. The tyres on the motorhome are rated for over 4 tonnes and run at 80 psi. You can’t generally walk into a QuickFit and buy one. So a puncture on a Bank Holiday will probably disable the motorhome for a couple of days whilst a tyre can be found.

The comprimise for me is a wheel carrier with a spare tyre (not a full wheel and tyre). Ok it will still need the breakdown services to jack the motorhome up and replace the punctured tyre with the new one, but that is all I should need to get me on my way again.

The spare carrier I also bought from OutdoorBits and fitted it myself to mounting points already manufactured into the AlKo chassis. Another hour or so – and only half the wieght of a full wheel and tyre.

Fishguard

5th March 2020 to 8th March 2020

As the sites are starting to open up again and the weather gets a little less wet, we thought we would start the season with a long weekend in Pembrokeshire.

We chose the Fishguard Bay Resort. There were a couple of main reasons a) it was open and the facilities liooked good, b) the location – perched on top of the headland over-looking Fishguard harbor – a beautiful spot.

This was early March so we didn’t hold out much for the weather, but we did quite well. Mostly dry and overcast, but with extremes at both ends. A lovely clear sunset on thursday and a gale (50mph gusts) on saturday with much buffeting of the motorhome throughout the night.

From the site it took about half an our to travel down to St Davids where there was plenty of open parking for a large motorhome. We walked through the ruins of the old palace and around the catherdral. We didn’t go in as they were preparing for a wedding.

I can see why this little city is so popular. We also found a little pie shop – simply by the delicious smell eminating down the street. It was the first time we had tried a St David’s Oggie – lovely. If you are ever aound St Davids you must try one (or two).

We also tried a short walk along the Pembroke Coastal path. We didn’t go too far, the path was very muddy after all the recent rain and the drop down to the sea wasn’t trivial.

Round trip distance 435 miles according to google maps.

Further Niggles

Another couple of things to add to the list:

  • Whilst cruising down the M5 a lorry in front flipped up a rock. It hit the lower passenger side corner of the windscreen. Over the next three days we watched the cracks creep across the screen. Being replaced on the 27th March
  • The grey water waste value fell off. I’m sure it simply needs re-fixing but I haven’t got around to doing it yet

Lake District

30th Dec 2019 to 4th Jan 2020

Christmas 2019 was a relaxed family Christmas and memorable because of this. Close family, board games, card games, food and drink – all the ingredients necessary for a superb few days over the Christmas holidays.

It’s difficult to gather together extended family as everyone has their own plans and sometimes they just don’t line up. However, our attempt this festive period was to invite all extended family to our home on the Saturday (29th Dec). We filled the house and overflowed into the motorhome. As is traditional at this time of year, we all played silly games like adult versions of pass-the-parcel (wearing oven gloves). A little drink was consumed and soaked up with a great spread of food. Another great treat – Christmas is all about family.

But all that food and drink needs an outlet, so on the 30th Dec we jumped in the Motorhome and headed north for a few days.

We booked last minute at Troutbeck Head Caravan and Motorhome Clube site for 3 nights and arrived just before dark after a very late lunch at Tebay. Once again the Club wardens were happy to help and explain how their site and facilities operated. There had recently been some refurbishing work done and the reburbished toilet / shower block was superb.

The night time temperatures were now well below freezing with clear skies. It was great to lie in bed and look out at the stars through the morohome skylight without the usual light polution we get at home. Unfortunately the cold weather and fairly full site led to some electricity problems. To be clear these problems were not caused by poor maintenance or capacity issues at the site. These problems were caused by some inconsiderate campers overloading the circuits by using electric heaters in their awnings. Once the wardens had aked them to turned them off, we all had stable electricity again.

In Scotland (our usual bolt-hole) we are used to finding a walk, driving to the nearest carpark, parking up and setting off. In the Lake Distrinct we learned that it’s not that simple. Parking a large motorhome is not a trivial matter in the Lakes. Having found a couple of good walks we wanted to try, we couldn’t find parking and then ran out of light. So the next day we walked Mell Fell from the campsite to avoid the parking problem.

On the 2nd we left Troutbeck and made a booking at another Caravan and Motorhome club site – Conniston Park Coppice. This was about an hour south, travelling through Ambleside and down to the shores of Coniston. I am consistently impressed by the quality of these club sites and their facilities. However, there were hardly any pitches remaining (my fault for not booking earlier) so the only pitch we could find to fit our large motorhome was not entirely level – even with careful positioning of the wheel ramps.

The next day, having learned our lesson from Troutbeck, we found another walk that we could do from the site without needing to find parking. This walk was The Old Man of Coniston trail. Quite a challenging hike. The path leads up to 3000ft and along the rocky ledge which could well have been the top of a caldera formed by a long extinct volcano. Finlay (our spaniel) was not impressed. His idea of a holiday is curled up on the sofa.

Round trip distance 335 miles according to google maps.

Further Niggles

To add to the first list here are a few more:

  1. The front of the dinette eye-level cupbaord has warped to the point where the magnetic closures do not close – to be replaced under warranty by Don Amott on the 17th Jan.
  2. The closure on the centre eye-level locker in the rear lounge nolonger allows the locker to be closed. I repositioned the catch to fix the problem.
  3. The pull-switch on the bathroom light failed and wouldn’t turn the light on. Stripped in down and re-assembled it so it worked again – will need a replacement.
  4. Passenger side door mirror – bit more than a niggle but my fault. Smashed the casing on a wall. Will need to be replaced when I get home.

Fairbourne

7th Nov to 9th Nov 2019

When I was young I lived in a small coastal village on the mid-wales coast called Fairbourne. My mom still lives there. As it was my Mom who introduced us to motorhomes we thought we would go and visit. Round trip distance 220 miles according to google maps.

Thursday was a bit of a write-off weather wise – heavy rain for most of the day. But Friday was a brief exception – lovely clear blue skies. Just perfect for a walk on the miles of deserted beach.

Friday evening we had agreed to meet the rest of the family at a place called the George III Hotel at Penmaenpool. A lovely old place on the banks of the Mawddach estuary. It was great to see them all again and as with most of these get-togethers we were amongst the first to arrive and the last to leave. Good food and great company!!

We needed to get back on Saturday as our daughter Rhona, had to get back to Uni, so we set off from Fairbourne at about 11:30am for the 2 and a half hour drive. That’s when the fun really started. During the previuos evening it had snowed on the higher ground. The first snow of the year. Being rural Wales we had’t heard a word about it on TV or radio before we set off. Very pretty, but I had’t expected to be driving our new motorhome in 2 inches of fresh, slippy snow. Slowly but surely, with use of the traction control, we made progress, although we did pass a couple of other motorhome that got themselves temporarily stuck. I wasn’t sure I would ever need the traction control button. How wrong can you be.

Niggles

As the first 1000 miles approaches there have been a small number of niggles appearing with the build of the Bailey Autograph. Here is the list so far:

  1. The screws securing the plastic end-caps to the dinette table bracket dropped out. The self tapping screws were too small for the hole that had been drilled – I’ve replaced them.
  2. The screw-head for the newly installed alarm sensor on the habitation door interferes with the door closure, making the door difficult to open and close. I’ve replaced with a flat head that doesn’t impact the door closure.
  3. Rear-light cluster wiring on the passenger side protruding from under the vehicle and dangling on the road – tied it back with tie-wrap.
  4. Habitation door alarm wiring protruding from under the vehicle – tied it back with tie-wrap
  5. Recall on the Peugoet Boxer cab – break pipe fixings – booked in with local Peugot dealer on Friday.

Northumberland

21st Oct to 25th Oct 2019

Our first trip in our new Bailey motorhome was to Northumberland. Round trip distance: 562 miles according to google maps.

Having picked up the motorhome from Don Amott’s on the 18th and kitting it out from the NEC Caravan and Camping show on the 19th, this was our first “shake-down” run to make sure we understood how everything worked and to identify anything that wasn’t working.

On the Monday morning we excitedly finished packing up, and headed of toward Beamish River Caravan and Motorhome Club site (via Don Amott in Derby to pick up some missing trim and manuals). Once we had fixed the normal rattles e.g grill pan, microwave plate and chattering saucepans, the new motorhome drove exceptionally smoothly, especially over smooth roads. The low AL-KO chassis makes a noticeable difference by lowering the centre of gravity and thereby reducing “roll” around corners. I’m not so sure about the lane guidance function. In reduced width lanes it can get quite annoying listening to the alarm every time a wheel touches a white line. Nevertheless – very impressed with the first real drive.

The club site was excellent. The wardens were friendly and informative. Taking the time to explain the site, it’s facilities and club etiquette. The showers were warm and clean with plenty of hot water. Couldn’t ask for more.

On Tuesday we went exploring the coast. Starting at Holy Island – Lindisfarne, Bamburgh Castle and the lovely sand beach (Finlay loved that), and finally Alnwick Castle famous for the filming of the Harry Potter movies. We had never been to this part of the UK before, but it wont be the last.

The weather looked OK on Wednesday too, so we decided to find a hill walk. Looking at routes nearby using the OS app on my phone, we decided on a BCC Countryfile Magazine walk – Upper Coquetdale. This was a circular walk of 8.4 miles peaking at 1500 ft on the top of Saughy Hill. The two Relive videos below show the route we took, along with a google annotated map of the route.

Relive ‘Cheviot Hills part 2’

Relive ‘Cheviot hills part1’

Having not planned too far ahead (not high season), once we had completed the walk and the obligatory brew and biscuit, we had a look around for motorhome pitches around Kielder Water. Another place on our “must visit” list. We quickly found a pitch at Kielder Caravan Park which is right on the shoreline of the reservoir. A beautiful spot, but the caravan pitches hadn’t been used for 2 seasons so were a little unkempt. The rest of the facilities were excellent: shower blocks, pool, restaurant and bar. Just what we needed after the walk earlier.

Relive ‘Kielder Water’

Thursday was a quieter day, spent around Kielder Water before the weather moved in and we headed home on Friday

The new motorhome behaved just as we hoped it would, apart from one small incident. On the first morning I couldn’t get the control panel to fire up on 12v (leisure battery). After a call to Don Amott aftersales I discovered the problem. The leisure battery hadn’t been secured properly. Both the leads and the steel strap were loose i.e. just pushed on and not tightened up at all. Many apologies from Don Amott for allowing the vehicle to be driven away in an unsafe state, but no harm done and easily fixed. Oh and the fridge was far too cold – even the milk froze. Our fault for turning it to max when we set out.

Hebrides

8th Sept to 21st Sept 2018

We had frequently talked about visiting the Hebrides. There had been a few TV programmes showing the white beaches and the remote landscape. So in 2018 we decided to go and look for ourselves, in a RollerTeam 747 motorhome.

The route we chose encompassed Mull, South Uist, North Uist, Lewis and Harris, as well as a few favorite spots on the west coast of mainland Scotland. A round trip of about 2000 miles over 2 weeks with 4 ferries journeys between the islands.

8th Sept 2018 – Milarrochy Bay Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Our first stop, after the long drag up the motorway, was on the shores of Loch Lomond. Milarrochy Bay is a lovely site with all the facilities you would expect of a club site on the quieter side of the Loch (opposite Luss).

Relive ‘Morning Sep 9th’

To blow the cobwebs away after the long drive, and get into the relaxed holiday spirit, we took some time out to walk the hill at the back of the site. The circular route was only about 4 miles but climbed 1500ft so a good starter for this trip. Being September in Scotland, the weather is not predictable. It seemed to run on 20 minute cycles. Heavy rain, sun, rainbow and heavy rain again. We got absolutely soaked at the top and were both dry again before we got back to the motorhome.

10th Sept 2018 – Leachive Caravan Park

We then headed west toward the coast, travelling past Inverary and along the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde to Leachive Caravan Park. We chose this site because we wanted to visit the Crinan Canal. Although raining for most of our visit Crinan Canal is so picturesque. We will definately return when the sun is shining.

11th Sept 2018 – Shieling Holiday Park

Our next adventure was to take the motorhome on it’s first ferry. We drove up to Oban and boarded the ferry to Craignure Ferry – Mull. Absolutely nothing to worry about really. There was plenty of room on-board to maneuver and park the motorhome (even one this size) and getting on and off was a breeze. The only one of us that was concerned was Finlay. We couldn’t stay in the motorhome during the crossing so we had to go upstairs. Whilst the stairs were no problem for him, he was a little uneasy during the crossing, being not sure what was happening on board the ship.

Whilst on Mull we stayed at Shieling Holiday Park. We choose this park for a couple of reasons: it’s location close to the shore (our motorhome was parked within 3m of the waters edge); and it’s proximity to the ferry terminal as the day already looked full after getting to Oban and then the crossing. The site itself was a real bonus and in retrospect one of the better sites on this trip.

The same can be said of the island of Mull, but with greater emphasis. This was the best of the islands we visited in my opinion. Especially Tobermory – such a picturesque little town with a calm and peaceful feel to it. Definitely going back.

Relive ‘Afternoon Sep 11th’

13th Sept 2018 – Silversands Caravan And Campsite

Our next stop involved a further ferry. This time from Tobermory Ferry – Mull to Kilchoan Ferry back on the mainland. We then drove up the west coast to Portnaluchaig and the Silversands Caravan And Campsite. This was a stop over before we took another ferry from Mallaig to South Uist, but as it’s name suggested, the beach was a fine white sand and the views superb, so we took a walk with Finlay.

Relive ‘Afternoon Sep 13th’

14th Sept 2018 – Kilbride campsite

The Mallaig Ferry to Lochboisdale on South Uist was the longest of our ferry journeys this trip at just over 4 hours. Finlay was by now used to the routine.

Kilbride campsite, as with almost all of South Uist, was fairy flat, treeless and windy. Admittedly it was the autumn, but there’s little to shelter from the elements. The cafe at the campsite serves a great breakfast and the site has direct access to another stunning white beach just outside to door of the motorhome.

15th Sept 2018 – Balranald Campsite

We then moved up the island to North Uist and the Balranald Campsite. Another stunning location however our pitch was facing across the direction of the wind. We didn’t get much sleep that night. We soon cheered up in the morning though. Another stunning beach just outside to door of the motorhome that we took advantage of with a refreshing 3 mile walk.

Relive ‘Afternoon Sep 15th’

16th Sept 2018 – Laxdale Holiday Park

Our next island hop was to Lewis and Harris. We took the Berneray Ferry to Leverburgh and then meandered up the island to Stornaway (Laxdale Holiday Park) . It was quite late when we arrived at the site, but it wasn’t a site we felt comfortable with. Our initial impression was that it was too crowded and had no views or atmosphere – maybe we had just been spoiled. Anyway, instead of spending 2 nights there we left for the early ferry the next morning back to the mainland.

18th Sept 2018 – Blair Castle Caravan Park

The ferry landed at Ullapool and after the disappointment of Stornaway and the weather forecast of another storm coming in, we decided to skip the journey up to Durness and head straight to Blair Atholl (Blair Castle Caravan Park). Blair Atholl is a village at the southern edge of the Cairngorms Nation Park and has been a go-to place for us for more than 20 years. We discovered it on a motorhome trip when the kids were tiny and have been going back once or twice a year ever since.

Relive ‘Afternoon Sep 17th’

The campsite is in the grounds of the Castle and is the best site we know of. We have used the motorhome pitches, static caravans and latterly the Woodland Lodges – all on numerous occasions. At Whit, the Castle hosts a Highland Gathering where the Atholl Highlanders (the only private army in the UK) parade through the village with their guns, pipes and drums, culminating in Highland Games. The true flavour of old Scotland, especially when mixed with Abroath Smokies and a wee dram (or three).

Relive ‘Afternoon Sep 18th’

One of the highlights for us is the availability of an abundance of walks starting right at the camp site. There’s nothing better than 10 miles in the hills followed by a few pints and a pub meal next to an open fire in the Atholl Arms – Bothy Bar.