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Armchair Travels #1 – Leicester to Fort William

Me – wondering if I can swim over to Castle Stalker

Most of January 2020 was spent planning a six week writing/research trip to Scotland. Then Covid-19 struck and it became clear that we’d have to put our plans on hold. The first casualty was the Braemar Highland Games organised for the day before Dave’s 70th birthday. They refunded our money without a quibble. Sadly, our lunch at the Fife Arms, Braemar celebrating Dave’s BIG BIRTHDAY had to be cancelled, too.

our caravan wearing its ‘bra to protect from stone chips en route

The master plan had been to set off for Kendal on August 8th and wake up on the shores of Loch Lomond at Malarochy on August 11th – our 47th wedding anniversary. However, to quote Rabbie Burns – the well laid plans of mice and men gang aff a gley. Everything went pear/shaped and we had to cancel all our bookings. So, rather than put all that planning to waste, I thought I’d take you on a virtual tour of Scotland. In this post we’ll be travelling from Lockdown Leicester via Kendal to Loch Lomond.

So, make yourself comfortable and journey to Bonnie Scotland without leaving your favourite armchair.

I always know I’m home when I see this sign
Fancy spending the night in an old gunpowder quarry?

First stop – the Caravan and Motorhome Club site in Kendal built on the site of a 19th century gunpowder mill. Sounds horrendous, right? Wrong. It is a haven of peace and tranquility with a river running through it. There are lots of parking bays surrounded by woodland and you hardly notice the other campers because there is so much space and you park in tree-covered bays. I’d love to spend a week there writing and visiting the surrounding towns but, inevitably, Kendal is a stopping off point on the way north.

Two years ago we unexpectedly met Sharyn Farnaby and husband Rod on the campsite. Sharyn was one of the proofreaders of Take Me, I’m Yours so I was able to share the cover with her. (I’ve since changed the cover but you can read an extract of Take Me, I’m Yours/share and download here.

Although we weren’t able to wake up to a view of Bonnie Loch Lomond on August 11th, we derived great pleasure from reading the 200+ comments from friends and followers on Facebook. Forty seven years together – how did that happen? Loving’ the hairstyle, Dave, by the way.

Much as we love Loch Lomond it is another stopping off point on the way to the highlands and our all-time favourite campsite -Bioran Dhub- overlooking Castle Stalker. The thrill of waking up to a view of the castle every morning (see below) is spine chilling. If you ever rock up in Fort William check out Castle Stalker’s website and book yourself on a guided tour. Monty Python fans might recognise Stalker which featured as Castle Argh in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Visiting Castle Stalker a few years ago inspired me to write Girl in the Castle which is one of my best selling novels. Check it out here to read an extract/share/buy.

Over recent years, while staying near Fort William, we’d been keen to discover the exact location where some of SKYFALL had been filmed. Previously, it had been a closely guarded secret and we’d travelled the length of Glen Etive trying the find where the iconic shots had been taken. Last summer we found the GPS coordinates and set off bright and early to get ahead of the crowds.

Here is Dave standing by THE VERY STONE where Bond and M had posed a couple of years earlier. Dave has an electric screwdriver for raising and lowering the caravan wheels, not a Walther PPK. But a boy can dream, can’t he?

If you ever find yourself staying near Fort William, consider taking the Scotrail train to Mallaig. It crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct (aka the Harry Potter Bridge) and follows the same route at the Jacobite Express for a fraction of the price. The train is only in Mallaig for a couple hours, so buy the best fish and chips you’ll ever taste and eat them sitting on the harbour wall as you watch the boats going in and out.

What next from Lizzie Lamb?

I’ve finished my sixth romance – Penhaligon”s Highland Bride – and I hope to publish it very soon. You’ll be the first to know when I do.

Boot Camp Bride – Book Birthday Blitz

Boot Camp Bride is five years old this month. Recently I re-visited Norfolk and the sites which inspired the novel. I’d love to share them with you and, hopefully, remind you of what a great romcom Boot Camp Bride is. There’s a chance to win a paperback copy (UK only) or a mobi. download (worldwide) – details at the end of this blog, so join in the fun and you could be a winner.

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Blurb? I’ll allow one of my latest reviews to do the talking for me –

“Charlee is forced to attend a boot camp to get a scoop for the magazine she works for. I adored the situation set up for this story – such fun! The author is very clever at painting her characters and adding poignant brushstrokes of humour and vulnerability. Oh my, Charlee’s anecdotes will chase away the winter blues! Charlee guided me through her adventure, and I could not stop laughing. How does Lizzie Lamb manage to combine humour, adventure and romance? Charlee was feisty, fun, intelligent and clumsy – perfect. Undeterred by the alpha male, she managed to fight him with wit and stubbornness. Lizzie Lamb’s characters and style of writing sparkle in Boot Camp Bride. This romantic comedy is classic gold: it is the equivalent of comfort food and a good night out with friends.” 

As the tagline says – meet Charlee Montague – your new best friendThis is how I imagined her and delicious alpha hero, Raphael Fonseca Ffinch (aka Rafa)  . . .

Noel Coward was not a great fan of the county and quipped: awfully flat, Norfolk. That’s what I thought the first couple of times I visited Thornham where the novel is set. But after a time, I started to understand the appeal of this beautiful landscape. Here’s what Charlee thinks as she looks out across the marshes for the first time, Rafa at her side. windmills on the fens 2018-09-26 14.23.31

Now she was out of the wind and the sun had come out, the marshes didn’t look so grim after all. There was a stripped back beauty to them, she could see that, and the flocks of birds heading for the feeding grounds down by the shoreline ensured the view was ever changing. And she had to admit, just sitting there, eyes closed, face soaking up the weak January sun, was the perfect antidote to the last couple of manic weeks. When she glanced at Ffinch he was scanning the marshes through his binoculars, his cup of hot chocolate untouched on the bench beside him. Why did she get the impression it wasn’t the birds he was watching so intently? ‘What’s out there?’ Charlee asked, slipping on her sunglasses against the almost overwhelming expanse of bright blue sky that filled three quarters of the landscape. ‘The Wash. And over there you can see the wind turbines on the shoreline at Skegness.’ Charlee followed his pointing finger and squinted at the distant shore where almost a hundred huge turbines were turning like quiet ghosts.

the lifeboat inn

Boot Camp Bride is set in Thornham, near Hunstanton. The Lifeboat Inn, an alleged haunt of smugglers, doubles for The Ship in the novel. This is where Rafa and Charlee  spend their first night together – strictly business, natch – very much aware of a growing physical attraction.  lifeboat stairs.jpg

“Charlee and Ffinch climbed the stairs to their respective bedrooms. Charlee was rather unsteady, a combination of vertiginous heels and the quantity of wine she’d consumed. She pulled a face and groaned, thinking of the hangover she would wake up with and the windswept salt marshes dashing ice-cold rain and sleet into her face. Ffinch walked up the stairs behind her, his hand resting lightly on her waist as if keeping a loving eye on her, whereas in reality he was holding her upright. Bidding the other guests goodnight, he whispered in her ear. ‘Smile, for goodness sake. You look as if you’re going to your doom, not a night of passion in The Ship’s best room. Stay in role.’ ‘I’m concentrating on my balance, if you must know, and,’ Charlee whipped round as his words sank in, almost falling backwards into his arms. ‘A night of passion, now hold it right there, mate. It’d take more than two glasses of champagne -’ ‘Half a bottle of Rioja, a sticky with your pudding and cognac with coffee – to do what? Make the thought of sleeping with me more palatable?’ Although he kept a straight face, Charlee detected banked down humour there.”

My friend Joan and I sitting in the hall of The Lifeboat Inn. It was at her and husband Roger’s place in Thornham that the idea of Boot Camp Bride first took shape.

It was easy to imagine Thornham Manor as the phoney Boot Camp for Brides – the front for drug smuggling on the marshes. At high tide it would be easy to land contraband on the nearby quay without arousing suspicion. jlnbqYou can also read an extract HERE

Boot Camp Bride is also available as a paperback and would make an ideal Christmas/ birthday present for someone who enjoys reading romance with a light sprinkling of humour and quick fire dialogue. Oh, and there’s a classic VW Camper Van featured in it, too. What’s not to like?

If you’d like to enter Boot Camp’s Brides Birthday Competition, all you have to do it FOLLOW my blog and/or share this post on any of the links below. The winner will be notified by email.

And, finally – If you’d like to read more about Rafa and Charlee’s adventures, download  a copy of Boot Camp Bride – It’s 99p/99c from Wednesday 21st November for one week.  

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