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Europe, here we come….

And so our last planned trip of the year just kicked off! The fact that the journey has been thought through meant that we knew from the 'get-go' which way to turn when leaving our drive, and so left it was to head south! Could this be our best trip yet? Doubtful, but it is Iona's first time abroad, woo woo!

Our first stop was at what is becoming a favourite location when heading south: the Hopetoun Arms Hotel in Leadhills, run by the affable Rab and Rachael! We were made to feel very welcome and enjoyed a lovely meal before settling down for the night. In the morning we set off from the heights of Leadhills, and we moved on via Moffat and the Grey Mare's Tale to Bonchester Bridge, where we booked into the campsite for the night. Our last visit to this village was back in July 2022 when the temperature was around the low 30 degrees, and we sat outside the Horse and Hound pub in the beer garden; however, on this occasion, we sat in the bar as the weather was dreich, and the temperature hovered around the 16-degree mark!

After a comfortable night, we struck camp and headed to South Shields, where we had arranged to meet an old friend, Steve. As we traversed the Cheviot Hills, we stopped off for lunch in a pleasant clearing in a forest in the Northumberland National Park, which was very pleasant and peaceful. Having enjoyed flavoursome bacon and eggs, we set off to Newcastle on the east coast, arriving in South Shields at about 16:00, where we met with Steve and parked Iona on his driveway.

After a catch-up over a coffee, we wandered along the shorefront, then settled into a great wee bar, where we enjoyed a pint accompanied by some classic music before moving on to a local Indian restaurant for dinner. After an enjoyable curry, we returned to Steve's house for a nightcap before heading out to sleep in Iona.

The following day, we had arranged to meet with a couple of friends from Glasgow at around 15:00 and board the DFDS ferry to IJmuiden, from where we would drive east to Amsterdam. As it transpired, Nadia and I arrived just as the vehicles were being waved aboard, so we were well ensconced in one of the onboard bars when Jim and Jackie caught up with us. After a catch-up, we decided to head to the buffet kitchen for dinner, and then we returned to our cabins for a catnap before meeting for the 23:00 showing of Meg 2: The Trench! All I will say is that it turned out to be 1 hour and 56 minutes of my life I will not get back! Once the hokum had reeled to the end, we returned to the late-night bar for a nightcap, which seemed to be becoming a feature on this trip!

Sunset over England

Finally, we settled in our cabin for the night; however, the swell of the sea kept me awake, and it was well into the early hours before I managed to drop off. Unfortunately, the sea continued to rise and fall, becoming more manic in the process and by about 4:00, I was awake again, hoping that Iona's hand break would hold! And so, after a fitful sleep, we gathered for a coffee and croissant before returning to the hold to find that the hand break had indeed held. We were eventually disgorged onto the pier in IJmuiden, where we caught up with Jim and Jackie before driving the 45 minutes east to the campsite we had booked for the next four days in Amsterdam!

Follow our route here:

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