I had the first two weeks of September booked off work for what was originally supposed to be our Croatia-Montenegro-Albania adventure. Now that that obviously wasn't happening, we needed to come up with an alternative plan. We enjoyed our week in Scotland at the start of August so much that Scotland naturally came to the top of the list when were discussing places to go in the UK. In particular, we were conscious of the fact that, while we've explored a fair bit of the Scottish mainland now, we haven't yet been to any of the islands. I don't think we would ordinarily give up the opportunity to spend two weeks somewhere warm and sunny in favour of travelling to cold, wet and potentially midge-infested islands off the coast of Scotland, so if we were ever going to visit places like the Outer Hebrides, 2020 felt like the year to do it
The Outer Hebrides were my initial plan and I purchased a Bradt guidebook for the region, but Tim came up with a more ambitious itinerary which would involve fitting in the Shetland islands too, plus a brief visit to Orkney. The way things are at the moment it was difficult to know whether it was a good idea to go ahead and make bookings or not, but with about two weeks to go we decided to take the plunge. Nothing dramatic has gone wrong between now and then (touch wood!) so this morning we were able to set off as planned on the first leg of our journey, towards Northumberland.
It really doesn't feel like very long since we were last in Northumberland We had about five hours of driving ahead of us today, so last night I tried to come up with a plan for where we could break the journey. When we drove up to Hawick at the start of August, we stopped at a forest near Richmond, which felt like a good mid-point to the journey. Looking at a map of the same general area last night, I came across an idea for a walk we could do which would involve seeing two separate waterfalls. A Google Image search suggested that both would be more impressive than the rather uninspiring Dog Falls which we visited on our way back from Glen Strathfarrar a few weeks ago.
We left home around 10.45 in the end and, with a stop for petrol and another for McDonalds coffee, it was around 3pm when we arrived at the Bowlees visitor centre, where I'd read there was a big car park. It turned out to be a "donate and display" car park, which was an interesting idea, although we weren't able to donate very much towards our parking ticket due to an extreme lack of coins!
Leaving the car park behind, we crossed a bridge over as small river and then followed a footpath through a field.
It was only a matter of minutes before we turned a corner and got a view of the first waterfall, Low Force.
I had read that this was the smaller of the two waterfalls, so I was impressed by how big it was.
It reminded me a little bit of the Goðafoss waterfall in Iceland, on a smaller scale.
Although all the water we saw in Iceland was beautifully clear, and this water was a rather murky shade of brown!
The water was flowing impressively fast, though!
Once we'd finished admiring Low Force, the path led us across a narrow bridge called Wynch Bridge. It was built in 1830 and there were signs up saying that only one person should walk on it at a time, which didn't really inspire confidence
We made it across though and once on the other side, the path led us to another great viewpoint of the falls
From there the path led us along the side of the falls.
There were some really interesting rock formations...
...and some beautiful countryside views too
The route was a little bit rocky and muddy at times, but there was a clear path to follow.
After a couple of miles we arrived at a viewpoint for the second waterfall.
This is High Force, with a drop of 21m.
Definitely more impressive than Dog Falls
It wasn't a circular route, so once we'd seen the waterfall we needed to retrace our steps.
That wasn't a great hardship though as there were some lovely views on the way back too.
Before long we were back at Low Force and ready to set off on the remainder of our journey.
There were another couple of hours of driving between where we were in Teesdale and the hotel we were staying at in Northumberland. The Sat Nav decided to take us on a scenic but narrow road across the Pennines, where at one point I had to get out of the car to open and close a gate. It then tried to take us down an even smaller road which required crossing a ford, but we drew the line at that and managed to navigate an alternative way back to the main road!
We hadn't had any lunch, so once we crossed into Northumberland we found a village pub to stop and have dinner. By that stage we were only 30 miles or so away from the hotel where we're staying tonight in the village of Crookham, which is close to the Scottish border. I was just expecting a standard bedroom...
...so was impressed to find that we've got a little living room as well
It's been a long day of driving, but it's nice to be on holiday again and I'm feeling excited about the rest of the trip