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My Easter Week Holiday Camp Experience

Grannies Heilan Hame from Parkdean, near Dornoch, Scotland

Grannies Decking View 2

With images of gorgeous beaches, sunshine and fun holidays, Parkdeans Grannies Heilan Hame boasts an entertainment schedule that will keep the kids amused and happy for days on end.  We’ve been here before and I have mixed feelings about it, but for the sake of the kids, I psych myself up once a year or so for my personal hell which is the holiday camp.

In previous visits, we’ve either been in cheapie accommodation or taken our own van.  At this time of year, it’s usually been freeze in April in a cheap van, or keep warm in our own van but sacrifice on space.

This year, we splashed out.  Our own caravan hasn’t been dewinterised yet and I refused to go in the cheap freezing accommodation that we’ve experienced before.  It was miserable being cold for a whole week.  The cheaper caravans say gas fire in lounge and heaters in bedrooms, but in reality, if it’s snowing and cold, they don’t even take the edge off in the bedrooms.   Three years ago we went to Dornoch and were lucky enough to get the last heater in a hardware shop to top up the heat (it was really bad snow in April that year).  We didn’t go up for the next year.

I was a little worried as we popped off to stay in the most expensive caravan Parkdean were renting out.

The lounge was comfortable and the kitchen was about the size of the one in our last house, so that was all good.

Grannies Caravan 1

Grannies Caravan 2

On first impressions, I sighed a relief at the central heating in the van, the huge fridge freezer, the lovely clean smelling beds, sheets and pillows, a decking with patio and chairs and an unforgettable sea view.  Actually, it was more than a sea view as we were literally just a few feet away from the breaking waves when the tide was in.

Grannies Heilan Hame 3

Grannies Beach

When the tide was coming in, the sea was very close indeed.  Literally about 20 feet from the decking.

Grannies Beach Tide Coming In

Was the accommodation worth it?

To me, it was. I spent quite a while just watching the waves, the sea and I’d forgotten how much I used to take a sea view for granted when I was growing up.  Our first night was windy and snowy and I loved watching it over the waves while nice and toasty in the van. I’d have to say the view was my favourite thing of the whole week.  I grew up next to the sea and spent a fair while offshore, so the noise of the sea was calming and aided sleep for me, but it kept everyone else awake as they’d never experienced the roar.

Grannies Heilan Hame 1

The kids liked the arcades and I managed to avoid going to the entertainment for a few nights and just curled up in front of the view with a hot drink and my kindle app for company. That’s my idea of bliss.

Middler loved the Sid and Lizzie kids entertainment, but he seemed to be much more aware of the size difference between himself and the little ones bopping away on the dance floor. He wanted to join in with the little ones as that’s where he is emotionally but his growing awareness of his difference is becoming more obvious.   The evenings are what evenings are in entertainment centres.  A bit of singing, some wobbly sozzled folks, a bit of kids shows and some disco stuff in between visits to the arcade.  It’s not my cup of tea, but the kids love it.

The kids did enjoy running about and the arcades easily swallow more change in an evening than most people earn in a month, so they had to be rationed as an activity.

Being right on the beach, middler could potter among the rocks in front of us when the tide was out and be in complete safety.

We could watch him from the van and shout if he got too close to the water.  It was perfect.  He was a little overwhelmed with going down the steps on his own, and was back at the van every 5 – 10 minutes to make sure we were still watching him.

Littlest and elder spent much time playing footie at the goals behind the sales caravans and made friends with kids from Embo who walked through to use the park.

Eldest met a girl from his year at school and arranged a date for the first week home.  How they grow up so quickly I have no idea, but it didn’t stop him helping his brother and digging for hours in the sand.

Grannies Heilan Hame Digging

We didn’t eat in the entertainment centre as we made food in the caravan most of the time unless we were out and about.   We did use the fast food place once, but it wasn’t terribly good.   I think we suffered on the eating out score this week, but the restaurant we visited in Ullapool more than made up for it as that was excellent.

I didn’t like the swimming pool last year as it was filthy (old photos on Instagram if anyone wants to see those) so we didn’t venture in this time round.  There were a fair few improvements to the bar and the entertainment centre looked in much better condition than it was last year.  There were some more things in the kids play area and the space for kids to play in around the vans and at the park and beaches knocks the socks off the space they have to run around in on the Nairn site.

The arrival sheet said that beds would be made up on arrival as a new service, but it wasn’t done.  I didn’t read that until after I had made the bedding up, so it was no bother really as I wasn’t aware they should have  been done.

The view and the placement of the van this year really made it worthwhile for me.  I’d have been happy to be there without the entertainment centre, but it did come at a hefty price of £499 for the week to get a caravan with double grazing, central heating and a great view.

Would I go back – maybe not next year as I’d like to do more of the West of Scotland next April, but yes, I would.  I’ve been spoiled view wise this time round.

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Flood Alert Dramatics

A couple of weeks ago, with the van on a campsite, the threat of flood water in the van was getting higher. The kidlets had told each other scary stories, ranging from dying under tonnes of dirty water, to hearing screams coming from the direction of the river.

The water was very dangerous and the flood alert was in force for the area on the Monday. Local disabled residents were evacuated, and the caravan site was sitting smack bang in the middle of the flood plain. We took an early evening walk down to look at the raging river, and I couldn’t get close enough to get a good photograph of the river, and all roads in and out were closed.

We sneaked across the football field, as close as we dared and although we could spot the raging river, we didn’t dare go close enough to get a decent one, so the flooded children’s playpark is the best that I could do. The raging water was terrifying. It certainly opens your eyes to just how awesome the force of water actually is, and I am someone who spent much time in the middle of the north sea on oil rigs in her youth.

At night, we packed a couple of bags, and I had them sitting at the door of the van, just in case the river had a major flood. We were told that the “flood man” would let us all know if the river began to rise again. The rain seemed to thankfully be slightly easier that evening, and we hoped that the rain would stay lighter upriver so that it didn’t head down towards our precious van again. There were major floods here a few years ago, and lots of fears that it could be repeated.

I had my alarm set for every two hours so that I could keep an eye on the flood alerts, and check out the window to see how it is going. I intended to pop out to the bottom of the site a couple of times during the night to see if they were under water. I never got that far. Thankfully we were at the highest up point on the site, so in less danger than the vans and tents further down the site.

The kids thought it was an adventure, and we all slept in joggers so that we would be able to get out at short notice if the knock came at the door.

I didn’t sleep well at all that night, and littlest woke up about 6 times during the night in terror. He sleepwalks, although it is not as often as it used to be. In strange places, he always has to sleep close to an adult so we hear him on the move. Several times, he ended up sitting bolt upright, in absolute terror shouting “mum, why aren’t you saving me?”? I guess I can get the gist of the nightmare. He faced the door of the caravan and it was not very nice to see hs terror & knowing he was still in his nightmare with eyes wide open.

Thankfully, the danger passed, and with it the last of littlest night terrors.



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Vlogging – My Home from Home

I don’t think I have got the hang of this properly yet.  If someone has some tips for embedding the videos, please feel free to email me, or let me know.    The videos that come up after my one has played are not mine.  Youtube put them there.  


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My Home From Home

We have a caravan.  Yes, we are one of those families, who you see hogging the inside or middle land on a motorway, dawdling along at 50, and holding up the traffic.  Five years ago, Mr Scottish and I were of the opinion that the average caravanner was put on this earth to be the scourge of all other motorists on the road.  Mr Scottish would happily shake his fist, and rant that caravans shouldn’t be on the road (ala Jeremy Clarkson and James May style).  Now he is the one that everyone else is shaking their fist at.  It always makes me laugh.

Special needs children meant that they couldn’t cope with crowded airports, long queues, and being away from their own beds etc.  We tried camping in France and it was an instant hit.  Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, we tried it again via hired caravans in Scotland and yahey, the kids loved it.  The outdoors, being at the bottom of mountains, and just riding their bikes all day, or playing with other outdoorsey type children was what they enjoyed.

We tried a couple of commercial sites, and although Mr Scottish liked the evening pint, and the kids do like a bit of entertainment now and again –  I absoulutely detest those sites.  I agreed to compromise with one week a year where I suffer the holiday camp style entertainment.  The rest of the time I love.

We ended up with a caravan as I couldn’t cope without my hairdryer, or my straighteners (frizzy hair).    The last straw was having no cooking facilities, nowhere to sit, no heating, damp bedding, and no toilet and watching all those nice and comfortable in their vans.  I decided that if everyone in the family was going to enjoy this lark, and we were going to go away every school holidays for now, then it would have to be in comfort.  I was not prepared for how much I would love the kick back in the middle of nowhere type of holiday at home in Scotland, but I do.

Introducing the Peg.   You might just hear quite a bit about her this year.  Who else braves the UK weather in canvas or tin tents?