Little did I know I was missing one vital piece of equipment – a caravan. It would become my travelling office/writing room/research hub and, as an added bonus, we could take our Hahn’s Macaw, Jasper, along with us. Much easier than trying to organise a parrot sitter. So, in 2014 we bought a two-berth ‘Leda’ off eBay to determine if the camping life was really compatible with being a writer. We weren’t complete camping novices - during the late 70’s we’d travelled through Europe to Athens, staying in a very basic two-man tent and roughing it.
We figured that compared to sleeping under canvas, a caravan would be the height of luxury
Our first foray was to Bo Peep Campsite, Oxfordshire, in order to check that the caravan was road worthy and to discover if we enjoyed the experience before we took a longer trip to Scotland. We loved it so much that upon our return we bought a slightly bigger caravan off eBay, for £1200, and a more powerful vehicle with which to tow it.
Me writing in the dinette with a stinking cold!
Mark #2 has a dinette; somewhere where I can leave my computer set up, spend a couple of hours writing each morning and then go off exploring pubs and tea rooms in the afternoon. I call it research, you call it what you like!
Luckily, we were able to sell #1 for caravan exactly what we’d paid for it . . . to a lady who wanted to park it on her drive and use it as a sewing room. Result.
Loch Lomand Ledaig Campsite
In September 2014 we embarked upon a research trip Scotland, checking out places I’d written about in SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS (published July 2015). I wanted to see first-hand where the USS Proteus had been anchored in Holy Loch, servicing nuclear subs in the early sixties.
Me with Scotch on the Rocks and Castle Stalker in the background
Vital details in my novel; details I had to get it right. It was in Holy Loch at Hunter’s Quay where some of the most voluble anti-nuclear protests took place. It’s there that the heroine’s aunt is hosed off the deck of the USS Proteus, and sets in motion a chain of events which have repercussions in the present day.
War memorial near Hunters Quay, Holy Loch
My ideal writers retreat on the shores of Holy Loch
It was on the side of Holy Loch that I found my perfect writers’ retreat. (see photo) In an ideal world, I’d buy the house and spend most of my summers there – just as well we have our caravan as back up; much cheaper.
Quirky road sign Wester Ross
The 350 mile drive to Scotland is a long one, especially if you’re towing a caravan, but this hasn’t deterred us. In June 2015 we returned, driving all the way up to Ballachulish, and then on to the Kyle of Lochalsh and over the sea, I mean bridge, to Skye.
Fort William High Street
The setting is idyllic and my heart swelled because my feet were on Scottish soil, my own country; one I had left when I was eleven years old, but which forever remains in my heart.
In fact, our trip was so inspiring that the plot for my next Scottish-themed novel – THIS HIGHLAND MAGIC – came to me, whilst exploring Castle Stalker, Appin. I could go on, but maybe that’s for another post?
Driving through the pass at Glencoe
On the ferry going doon the watter to Dunoon
I hope you enjoy the photos I’ve shared with you. We’re waiting for the school holidays to be over and then we’re off on another research trip – to the Dorset coast this time. Famous Five country – wish you were there?
Nearly forgot to include Jasper!
Editor: Lizzie is very kindly donating a signed copy of Boot Camp Bride. Details will appear on Competition page soon. Many thanks Lizzie!