Monday, 4 August 2014

Scotland Road Trip 2014

Our route

We have just returned from a crazy 1762 mile, 8 day road trip around Scotland, so here's a 'little' blog covering the highlights of what we fitted into the week.

There was never any question as to whether we would attend Piratemania and the UK Mega Event we just weren't sure at first how we would fit them both in.  So Mark came up with a mad idea that we could travel up to Piratemania and then from there continue on to Scotland, drive all over Scotland, finding all the wherigos and as many virtuals and webcams as possible then come back down to Ayr for the mega a week later.  Sounds insane but heyho, when have we ever done anything remotely sane when it comes to caching and road trips?    So basically I left all the planning to Mark and over the months the plans started to fall into place.


Our original idea had been to leave home after work on Friday 25th July, head up to Piratemania and camp overnight to break the journey before continuing on up to Edinburgh, but after our experience on the M6 going to Isle of Man a few weeks ago we decided there'd be little to be gained as the journey would take more than twice as long so we decided to leave very early Saturday morning and we're so glad we did as the roads were completely dead and the journey straightforward.

Our first stop off was in Norley in Cheshire to do the wherigo there.  The village was really quiet with just a couple of dog walkers, one of them asked if we were lost and told us where the nearby shops were just in case we were looking for them.  We completed this in around 30 mins and then we were back on the road and heading to Mossley in Greater Manchester to do the Church Micro wherigo.  That was soon completed after an enjoyable walk around a very interesting church then back to the cachemobile.


We have attended all 7 Piratemanias so really didn't want to miss this one, but unfortunately we couldn't stay long as our itinerary was so tight as we had to travel up to Edinburgh to check in at our accommodation in the evening, also two new wherigos had been published in time for Piratemania and not doing them was not an option .


We left Cartmel a little earlier than originally planned in order to allow enough time to do them.  We enjoyed chatting to other pirates and after having a late lunch we decided to go off and do the wherigos that had been set for Piratemania - Blackmoustaches Treasure and Blackmoustaches Island, this was quite a walk in the heat of the day, dressed in our pirate costumes and we certainly got some funny looks from some fishermen and a group of girls that were having a picnic near the reservoir - but after all this time of being pirates we really have no sense of embarrassment.  We were quite glad to get back to the car as we'd forgotten to take water or sun cream with us.

The next planned stop was Coniston to do the webcam there, we are currently UK's top webcam finders so this was obviously on our todo list, we just hoped we'd be able to get a signal - arrgh picture wouldn't load on phones and no available wifi - just as we were about to ring for help the picture loaded and all was good again.

Then after a few other stops along the way we arrived in Edinburgh.


First stop, Holyrood Park to play The Lost World wherigo.  After discussing this wherigo with another cacher at an event earlier in the year we realised it wasn't going to be a 'walk in the park' so we made sure we were very well prepared.  Luckily we made all the right choices during the game, apart from the bit where I was killed by falling into a chasm but luckily I was able to regenerate and rectify the mistake I'd made.  It really was a thoroughly enjoyable wherigo in a lovely area.

When we last visited Edinburgh back in 2010 we didn't have time to climb to Arthur's Seat so this was definitely on the to-do list and really worth it for the fantastic views over Edinburgh.

Next on the planned list was Park Adventure wherigo, in Braidburn Valley Park in the Morningside area of South Edinburgh.  This wherigo was quite challenging and we were about 1 1/2 hours into it before we made any real progress, then we picked up something that helped us and it was plain sailing the rest of the way.  I had a few problems which meant I couldn't complete it on my iPhone so we continued with Mark's Samsung, we suspect this was more to do with the chain of events rather than a fault with the player.  The Oregon just didn't want to play it at all. Although frustrating at times after persevering for so long it was rewarding to finally get the coordinates.  If anyone had been watching us they'd have wondered why we were going round and round in circles and backwards and forwards for so long in the park but we don't think anybody really cared.

Next stop - Harry's Son wherigo - What can we say, this wherigo was a brilliantly frustrating RPG.  I came to a very sticky end quite early on in the game (don't you just hate it when that happens?) so had to restart. We thought we'd visited every zone and after a bit of head scratching and going backwards and forwards we thought we'd reached stalemate then a chance encounter with another character in the game gave us an idea on how to continue and it was plain sailing after that.  A great sense of achievement to complete it.  While we were going around the park we watched a really cute dog that had been trained by its owner to pick up litter and put it in the bin - so clever!


Checked out of our guest house and headed towards Dundee to do Dundee Law virtual.  When Mark pointed to the hill we needed to be at the top of I assumed we'd have a long climb to the top so was quite relieved when the spiralling road took us right to the top. Fab views spent ages admiring them before jumping back in the car to Arbroath to do another couple of virtuals and then on to Fraser's Final Spot.

Before the end of the day we also found another webcam in Aberdeen, a Snakes and Ladder Wherigo which didn't take long as we've done quite a few of those now then we checked in at our accommodation in Aberdeen before going out for an evening bike ride and a few caches in a nearby coastal village.


We left Aberdeen and headed towards Inverness, stopping off to do four virtuals along the way, stopping off in the Cairngorm National Park to do a webcam where the temperature had dropped considerably to 10 degrees and there was snow on the mountains.

That evening we travelled out to Chanonry Point to do the wherigo.  The wherigo itself was very straightforward with easy questions along the way and the location was simply beautiful with so much marine wildlife.  About half way round we were amazed to see dolphins leaping out of the water, wild and free, just how they were meant to, this really was a highlight of our holiday, seeing dolphins literally feet from the shoreline is something we've never experienced before but apparently Chanonry Point is supposed to be the best location in the world from which to view them from the shoreline.


A very early start and off to John O'Groats, stopping off to find a few haggis highway caches and others along the way.

John O'Groats

This was just as the guide book had described 'a tourist trap with a couple of tacky gift shops and a ramshackle hotel'.  For some reason this is a place I have always wanted to visit, ever since my childhood, where we would always holiday in Devon and Cornwall and my friend sent me a postcard from John O'Groats and I remember thinking what a long way from home it was and that I'd really like to visit one day.....

Well I'm glad I've ticked it off the bucket list but it was nothing to really write home about - although I did send a postcard home complete with Scottish stamp and John O'Groats postmark.

Nearby Dunnet head was far more impressive. Dunnet head is the most northerly point in mainland Britain, there is an impressive lighthouse and more importantly a trig point at the viewpoint.  Then next on the agenda was a trip to Dunnet forest to do a virtual and a few of the caches there.  It was at this point we spotted a familiar name in the log books - Walktall - a local cacher to us that we have known for a few years had visited that very day!

It was then time for the mammoth drive back to our accommodation in Inverness, which was a little over 100 miles, stopping off to do a brilliant virtual in Thurso.


The plan for today was to stay in the local area in Inverness and find local caches, but the forecast was for rain all day so we decided it would be easier to just go for a long walk instead of any jumping in and out of the car and driving around. So we headed over to Dunain Hill where I'd spotted a trigpoint and a nice looking series.  It turned out to be an excellent walk in a beautiful forest.

I haven't mentioned the weather much, well, after weeks and weeks of heatwave at home it was a little disappointing to leave Piratemania in the blazing heat to find it was raining in Scotland, in fact the whole of Scotland rained on and off for most of the week, mostly on but as the famous quote says 'There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing' so we just got on with it and took our waterproofs everywhere.  But rather annoyingly we had planned to camp for two nights at Mega Scotland but the forecast was for heavy rain - we had been hoping for good weather and I'm afraid to say I'm a real fair-weather camper and the thought of pitching the tent in the pouring rain filled me with dread - so while we were on the free wifis in pizza hut (our only 'meal' out of the week!) a quick search on and we found a good deal on one night at the hotel right next to the racecourse in Ayr, so in a split-second we decided to forget the idea of camping and stay for one night only and go home a day earlier than planned as the weather forecast was for heavy rain all weekend.


Checked out of our hotel and travelled from Inverness down to Ayr, stopping of to do a virtual in Stirling before checking into our hotel and going off to find a couple of local virtuals, Brig o Doon and Electric Brae.  Early evening we headed off to Eglington Country Park to attend the Highland Games event where it was lovely to chat to lots of other cachers - and a lovely surprise to bump into our caching friends from the Isle of Man, Stillroaming.

Highland games in full swing


UK Mega Event 2014 - Ayrshire and Arran

Our 21st Mega Event!

Before heading to the event we decided to complete the Lab caches - we had our bikes with us so cycled to the ones in Ayr and then headed back to complete the ones at the mega event venue and completed them in time for the event opening and we were able to do the last two inside the event.  Mark was very pleased to find we were first on the leader board to complete them all.

The time just flew by at the event, it was lovely to speak to so many people, some we only really ever see at mega events and also it was lovely to bump into some more of our Manx Geocaching friends that we met at our event on the Isle of Man

We are in a very small group of cachers, that have attended ALL the UK Mega events since 2008, the others being Stevo185, Dobunnis, The Westies and Darapotter, it's always good to meet up, and we love the friendly rivalry and banter over whether everyone will be able to make it and whether anyone will drop out of the group.  All good fun.

The highlight of the event has to be Mancunian Pyrocacher aka Deci unveiling his very impressive TB.

After a few hours of chatting and shopping on the stalls we decided we'd make a move and start the long 380+ mile journey (that's including the detour for an FTF near Cheltenham - see below) to home.

A brilliant but tiring trip with so many fond memories.


Also on our trip we had a few caches to find for the Finding Harrison -  Challenge Cache and here's a little bit about the epic challenge.

This challenge cache requires finding a cache on each of the main lines of longitude and latitude in the UK.  The cache owner has allowed a margin of +0.999 minutes so, for example, a cache at  W002° 00.999 would be allowable for W002°  but one at W002° 01.000 would not.

Don’t recall when we first noticed this cache but it was probably in December or January and when we checked our stats we realised we were six short.  Not great but could have been a lot worse.

N50° N51° N54°, N57°, N58° and E001°
Arrghh! We’d been to Cornwall in October (before the challenge was published ) and Kent in November!

Notes on the cache page suggested there would be a bit of a rush for FTF and we guessed that other cachers would also be finding some of the northern caches while in Scotland for the Mega so decided to start working out how to tick off the missing lines before then.

E001° – A detour off the M20 on the way home from a caching trip to Germany in April

N50° & N51° - We are quite keen on Wherigos and when a new one was published in Cornwall in April we decided we now had two reasons to go there so we popped down for a weekend in June stopping off near Taunton on the way to get N51° and N50° on the Lizard
So far so good.  We would be able to tick off the remaining three ‘on the way’ to the Mega in Ayr
N54° – easy, a detour from the M6 on the way to Piratemania

N57° – a detour while travelling from Edinburgh to Aberdeen

N58 ° – Just off the A9 North of Inverness on 30th July - Challenge complete!

A chance meeting with local cachers Dobunnis at the Mega confirmed our suspicions that they had the same plan and they had found their final qualifying cache at N58 ° on the 29th July but they weren’t heading back down South for another day or so.  So, we then had to decide when to go and find the cache... it will come as  no surprise to know that we decided to go ‘on the way home’

Took a little while to find it as the hedge had become somewhat overgrown in all that time but I soon spotted the tell-tale sign and the cache was in hand complete with blank log sheet.

FTF on Finding Harrison Challenge

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