As the van was ‘campable’ (nowhere near finished, but definitely campable) we decided to go for our first weekend away! We packed up our things and straight after work we jumped on the M6 and headed north. We had picked out a spot not too far across the border, it only took an hour and a half to get there, an hour of which was on the motorway before we headed east for the remainder of the journey.
We passed through the town of Moffat, it was just a drive by but it seemed quite nice nonetheless. As we headed out the other side and continued along the road it began to feel more and more like our beloved Scotland! The hills started rising a little higher around us, there were patchworks forests scattered across the landscape and the road meandered between them following the burn that was marking its course through the valley bottom. It had been a nice day; the grass looked vibrant green and the evening light was twinkling off the running water of the burn – I find just being in this kind of environment makes me happy, I instantly felt like I was on holiday!
After not too long we turned off this road on to a smaller single track road, this road was significantly windier than the last and had a fair few pot holes along the way! Almost immediately we drove through a tiny village and over a small pack-horse bridge, after this is was just rolling fields, patchy forest and the odd isolated house. There are a handful of reservoirs in the areas and this is where we were headed, having never been to the Scottish Borders before we were unsure of where we would be able to park up for the night and knew we would just keep driving until we found somewhere.
We reached the first of the reservoirs, Talla, and the road took a very man-made left turn along the dam and then right turn to follow the body of water – after the natural winding of the road up to this point the almost perfect 90˚ angle of these bends really stood out in my memory! It was becoming slightly hazy in the valley with a light mist descending but the water was still, reflecting the changing light in the sky – the verges and tree had a rich colour but everything had a slight blue hue to it.
Following this narrow road we couldn’t see any great spots to spend the night, a couple of okay ones which we could always come back to but at this point we decided to keep driving. We reached the natural end of the water and the farm located there, driving past we could see our intended route rising up in front of us, heading up and over into the next valley. We have driven on all sorts of steep, bendy roads, mountain pasees much worse than this – however it’s the first one in the van and we were both interested as to how it would manage/handle. It was perfect, being a small van the engine was plenty big enough to drag it up no bother, no different if not slightly better than the car used to. It was a fantastically fun stretch of road, up and up turning this way and that, with a few of those dips that you can’t quite see over and have to just go for it, whilst not being sure if the road will veer suddenly in either direction. Much tamer than many of the roads we have driven on in the past but it felt quintessentially Scottish!
Coming down into the next valley was much like the last – rolling hills emerging from the still water, the single track road following its perimeter. It felt as though it was brighter, as though those clouds which were building just half an hour ago were breaking up slightly, or at least thinning out. We spied a decent spot by the water’s edge and headed in; it was perfect and decided to set up camp for the night! We got out the stove and cooked ourselves some long-overdue dinner, it was 9pm when we pulled up and neither of us has eaten since lunch. It was lovely to sit out on the grass, eating dinner with a brand new view to take in. The midgies, however, had also decided it was time to eat… us!
We packed everything away and got our bed ready for the night, at this stage in the van build it is just our trusty 5cm air mattress (which we used to use when sleeping in the car) and our sleeping bags. When camping we make sure we don’t sprawl out, it’s unsightly (in our opinion) to see vans with tables and chairs and all sorts of other things outside when the people are not even around. If we are not by the van, or we are sleeping within it, our footprint is no more than the van itself.
It was dusk but neither of us was ready to sleep so we decided to go for a wander along the shore line. It was rocky and obviously not made for humans to enjoy, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. The reservoir is full of bird life, there was continual movement of birds swooping around and the chatter between them – on this first night we noticed the gulls and the oyster catchers most prominently. We wandered along as far as we could, clambered on some big rocks, all of which were covered in bird poo, as they are obviously their usual perches during the day, and then headed back on ourselves. On the way back Callum glanced down just at the right time to avoid the nest he was just about to step on!
It was nestled between a couple of larger rocks, but still very exposed. They were the size of large chickens’ eggs, khaki green/brown with darker brown splodges over them. I wondered whether it had been abandoned due to how exposed the nest was, however touching the eggs with the back of my hand they were very warm, just goes to show how little human interference they are subject to (which is fantastic!) Realising the parents would be part of the swooping/squawking crowd above us we hurried on to avoid causing any more distress.
Getting back to the van, it was getting dark so we headed in for the night – ready to explore some more the following day!