Ok, here's a sort of diary. It's a bit hurried and unedited as there isn't much time . . .

Saturday 10th September 2011

Left home at 0920 Easy journey - M1 - M18 - A1 to Darlington when we stopped for picnic lunch around 1230.
Found a very nice picnic area by a weir on the River Tees. Water was golden brown, presumably from peat on the moors. A local stopped and chatted, told us the tall chimney behind the trees was from the old pumping house that used to pump Tees water into Darlington - it was the first pumping house in the world.

Back on the road and into Newcastle. Saw the Angel of the North on the way in so doubled back to have a proper look. It's quite a beast. 200 tonnes of steel on foundations that go 30m into the ground.

Back on the road again when Dad spotted on the map that we'd crossed the path of Hadrian's Wall. We hadn't even considered it, we all thought it was further north. Doubled back a bit and headed west to where it could be seen. Drove miles along a road that was supposed to follow the wall, but saw nothing. Eventually found a bit with a notice on it in the middle of a field. Went and had a look but it was bit tame really. Got a bit bothered by some over-friendly bullocks in the field.

We stopped and phone-booked ourselves into a Travelodge in Berwick-Upon-Tweed as time was getting on after our major detour and we didn'want to be stuck. Returned to Newcastle and back onto the A1 north.
Turned off towards Bamburgh to see the Farne Islands. Surprised to find a spectacularly huge and imposing castle there high on a hill close to the shore. Bamburgh was a really nice looking historic village.

Went south a bit along the coast until we found a path that went all the way to the beach. Farne Islands could be seen very clearly - they were closer to the shore than I'd expected. Nice views.

Turned north again and went to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Had to cross a 1/2 mile causeway that had been underwater an hour previously to get to the island. The single road stopped after 1 mile at a big carpark. To get further you had to walk or get a bus (no sign of buses though). It was getting late - about 7pm now, so we grabbed some long distance photos of the abbey and headed off the island.

Stopped before the causeway for a sunset photo. Heard some odd moaning/howling sounds. Thought it was probably the wind in the poles that ran parallel to the causeway. Then thought it must be a kennels or something on the mainland - but even that didn't seem right. Dad recognised the sound, got his binoculars out and found a colony of maybe 50 seals near and on a sandbank about halfway across to the mainland. Great find!

Drove into Berwick-Upon-Tweed to hotel and booked in - 65 for 3 in a room. Quick tidy up and out to find some dinner. Into town, found very nice Castle Inn and had very good meals for just 30 inc. 1 round of drinks. Back to hotel and in bed by 11pm - knackered.
A great day. Weather was pretty good all day, decent amount of sun, plenty of cloud and one brief torrential downpour. Saw lots of unplanned great things and still made good progress - did 390 miles today! Cheap and perfectly adequate lodgings and a cheap and very nice evening out.

390 miles today: 390 miles total

Sunday 11th September 2011

Up in pretty good time and had a quick tour of Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It's a nice historic place - once a walled city - with lots of great old buildings and a long, high viaduct still used by trains.

Started up towards Edinburgh. Stopped in a layby just over the border for tea and croissants breakfast. Noticed that we could, with binoculars, see right back to Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castle from the high viewing point.
Took a quick detour to see St Abbs - a well known dive site. It was a lovely quiet little harbour with lots of dive and fishing boats - very quaint.

Back on the road and into Edinburgh. Drove around a bit to get our bearings and finally parked up - free on the roadside very close to the centre! Walked right round the castle mount and through the very nice Princes Street gardens. Walked up to the main castle entrance for photos and it was blowing a GALE! The attendants were looking worried as things were starting to blow about - it was looking like it could get dangerous, and worse is expected tomorrow. In general the weather was lovely - sunny and warm in the low, sheltered gardens. Nice general wander around the great historical buildings. Stopped to watch a Samba troupe doing their thing - very contagious rhythms! And finally back to the car a bit footsore after 4 or 5 miles.

Headed off towards the Forth Bridge. Detoured to Queensferry, right under the bridge for photos, and of the railway bridge too. Got a bit wet here - one of the few times so far it's rained when we weren't in the car - not too much though.

Over the bridge, nice views all the way, and headed north west to enter Dundee from the Tay Bridge. Didn't stop in Dundee, went straight through to Arbroath to start looking for somewhere to stay.
Arbroath was interesting in a dour well-past-it's-best fishing town sort of way. It seemed to be hanging in there though and looked like it might survive. There was something about it I sort of liked. Decided to push on a bit further into Montrose.
Montrose was uninteresting in a dour well-past-it's-best sort of fishing town sort of way. It was dead. We looked around for somewhere to stay as it was getting near 7pm, but no joy.
Pushed on further looking for farm B&Bs out in the wilds. Found one just before St Cyrus for 30 each in one room. Very friendly and very nice room. She recommended restaurant/pub grub in St Cyrus 2 miles down the road. We all had the Balmoral Chicken (stuffed with haggis and served with tatties and neaps). It was very nice, quite a posh-looking meal, and good value again - 45 with a round of drinks.
Back to B&B around 9:30 to sort out luggage a bit, charge the gadgets, and write diaries. Bloody laptop still playing up but managed to get on the wifi and email the famiy. Might just be able to make an on-line diary with a bit of luck and fiddling and persistence.
Great day again. Edinburgh is a lovely city - so much history, and some interesting detours. Travelled 170 miles, so good progress again. Weather not as good - we had lots of sun in Edinburgh but the wind is getting strong and the rain is getting heavier and more frequent. Forecast for tomorrow is bloody terrible. The outer reaches of Hurricane Katia are sweeping across Scotland!

170 miles today: 560 miles total

Monday 12th September 2011

Up for an 0830 full english. Shared our table with a German family who seemed very nice. Very good breakfast - a great B&B. Weather's not great, wet and windy, but not as bad as forecast.
On the road and up to Dunnottar Castle. Weather brightened up again - strong winds but mostly sunny with a spot of drizzle. Fantastic place - loads of pics of the terrific castle. Saw seals in the bay on both sides of the castle. Bumped into the German family a few times.

Carried on along the coast towards Stonehaven but the road was closed - maybe the weather, don't know - so had to turn back and use the main road. Headed west into The Cairngorms with the road following the wide and fast-flowing River Dee. Stopped to see the river and watched a bloke fly-fishing.

Stopped again to have a look at a nice suspension footbridge.

Lovely views and a lovely road through Ballater, past Balmoral and into Braemar. Extremely green, loads of trees and mountains and heather - really spectacular. Had a quick look at Braemar Castle and Braemar.

Decided to venture up a 6 mile dead-end road to Allanaquioch that looked interesting. It was fantastic again - more of the same, but fantastic - up one side of the Dee and back down the other until the road was closed due to an unsafe bridge. Turned around and it was just as nice on the way back.

Back towards Balmoral but turned north up another little road before we got there. It took us right up into the mountains where it was really blowing a gale. We had to be very careful with the car doors in the frequent photo stops. Saw a fantastic rainbow, very bright and we could see it touch the ground - we seemed to get VERY close to it - could almost see the pot of gold.

Lovely driving roads - smooth, twisty, up and down, and mostly deserted.

Came out of the north of The Cairngorms and started looking for somewhere to stay. Sandy phoned Dad while we were looking - he's found us a cottage for tomorrow night in Lossiemouth. Arranged to visit them late afternoon-ish. Didn't take long to find a nice B&B in Aberlour where we have the ground floor of a house to ourselves for 35 each. Nice living room with TV, armchair, settee and a rocking chair ! One huge bedroom and a huge bathroom - very nice. Friendly lady brought us out some homemade cake for supper.
Walked up the road to the Mash Tun pub, and all had a great meal of Pan-fried pork in pepper sauce - 41.
Another great day. Very lucky with the weather again - we've had strong winds all day, very strong at times, lots of rain but mostly only fine horizontal drizzle and mostly when we were in the car, and far more sun than we expected. Drove 167 miles through terrific scenery.

167 miles today: 727 miles total