It felt strange not packing for a family of five. Every time I opened a door of the van, I expected an avalanche of things to fall out. But after 23 years of family vacation, this time it was just the two of us.
As newcomers, we explored the west of Scotland in a rented campervan. Winding its way down winding roads and stopping for a long cup of tea would barely quicken the average teen’s pulse. Maybe that’s why it felt so joyful; we could do what we wanted. The first stop was a campsite near Fort William.
Instead of having to climb Ben Nevis, we walked through a nearby forest, lit an impressive paella on the gas stove in the van and slept deeply in the comfortable double bed. (Significantly, my husband and I have reached the stage in our lives where we not only have National Trust membership cards, but also value a decent night’s sleep.)
We did the family camping trips, writhing uncomfortably on rocky ground and sleeping in our coats, feeling like a single night lasted a week. I used to think that the only campervans worth the effort with were these adorable vintage VWs. “The ones you see charming on the hard shoulder?” As my husband says.
However, I have accepted that I am not young Joni Mitchell in 1970s Crete, but a middle-aged woman with sciatica in Scotland today. All the more exciting that everything in our modern four-person van (heating, stove, shower) worked perfectly. We even checked the box for the optional extra of an electric blanket. Do you hear that, children? You’d think we’re bored with our thermos and bird watching book – but we know how to live.
From Fort William we drove over the Ardnamurchan peninsula to the westernmost point of the British mainland. On the mostly single-lane road, it was pleasantly slow until we were rewarded with the wonderfully rolling sand of Sanna Bay. Turning south, we spent one night in the village of Ardfern overlooking Loch Craignish.
One of the many advantages of campervaning is the fact that you can cope perfectly with the simplest campsites (there was only one toilet and an honesty box). If you prefer an off-grid approach, you can even stop in a quiet place for the night.
Note, however, that Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code, which allows wilderness camping, does not extend to motor vehicles. Look for no overnight camping signs and ask for permission if you plan to stay on private land.
Having planned our route and booked campsites in advance didn’t detract from our wonderful feeling of freedom. “Cheating” by taking ready meals to heat in the delivery van was also not the case. Nobody judged our survival skills. We didn’t fail because nobody gutted a trout.
Campervanning gives you the feeling of getting back to nature without hitting tent pegs – not to mention the inevitable blame when it turns out no one has packed the essential hammer.
From Argyll we ventured further south to the rugged coastline of Dumfries and Galloway. I’m not sure our young adult offspring would have tolerated us spending an entire day snooping around Wigtown’s many thrift bookstores and retiring to bed at 9:45 p.m. But for us it was the perfect introduction to vacation with empty nests. And the wait was worth it.
Fiona rented her campervan from atlashiredrive.co.uk based in Glasgow. Prices start at £ 154 per day. Find campsites at Scottish Camping and read Campa’s guidelines for informal (off-site) camping.
Jonny Cooper, 36, and Issy White, 38, Dorset
“Our trip was more of an adventure than a vacation”
Jonny Cooper, 36, took his partner Issy White, 38, and their children Benji, five, and Sebby, three, for a spin in a newly converted motorhome.