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Scotland in the Spring

Updated: May 27, 2022

"Enjoy the journey, life is for the travels" a friendly farewell offered as we left a campsite near Mallaig .....Or as our mate Cat put it "adventure before dementia"

Spurred on by images of wild primrose, sea spray, fog, highland cattle, whiskey and black cloaked widows, we head for the highlands. This is the stuff of our #vanlife dreams.

Ahead lies an adventure on the road, haggis and neeps, new friends, and best of all, tales of the unexpected.

First stop Millarrochy Bay campsite on the unspoiled east coast of Loch Lomond

A feature of our trip has been water, and each site seems at least as beautiful as the last ....

Considering Billy Connolly believes that there are only two seasons in Scotland, winter and June , we have infact been so lucky!

We've also seemingly managed to stumble from one beautiful location to the next and found the best spots to stop.

Above : The rocky beach of Loch Lomond South East shore line.

We took a picturesque, pretty, shortish but steep walk around Conic Hill from here:

Then we drove on around the Loch for a night at it's northern reaches. Again beautiful shore side views at the Ardlui hotel - which looked a bit shabby as a hotel and from the road the campervan site also looked pretty horrible, but was in fact really good - great staff - lots of American tourists to watch in the bar, good food. "Och, No problem at all, just give me a wee minute " rang out memorably all evening !

From Ardlui we headed on up into the Highlands. Passing the Trossacks along the beautiful bleak A82 and on through incredible highland scenery.

Stopping to hike for the day - described as "moderate" around Stob Coire . We can report back that a 5 hour, 10 mile walk, with over 800m of elevation, is not moderate, it's fuckin hard , but it was one that gives an incredible introduction to the Highlands with their damp springy mochair consistency. It was a tough day but the rewards massively outweighed the aching muscles! Take a look at the photos, definitely worth it:

After our hiking we found Invercoe campsite on the shore of Loch Leven at Gencoe, where we again had a stunning Loch side position. End of April, to start of May we were blessed to have had some great weather, but also no midges! What a sunset we had there!

Leaving Glencoe, our next destination is the silver sanded coast at Arisaig. The journey along the Loch sides winds through glorious Scottish scenery to Fort William. Then after much needed shopping, (food seems something the Highlanders have little use for!), we moved on to ArIsaig. (Beware shops are few and far between. )

Dunes, white Sandy coves, surely this is one of the most beautiful places in the world? The sun was out. The view across to the Isles of Muck, Rum, Eigg and Canna was glorious. Just impossible to over egg the view, pun intended. (I thank you! )

And, to top it off, we had the most spectacularly glorious unfiltered warm golden orange Scottish sunset:

Understandably, our first stop here at Camasdurach beach has been used as a film location for many films including a favorite of mine the multi-award winning Local Hero ,filmed back in the 1980's. Our preferred site there, only had space for one night, and by now we wanted to sit and enjoy for another day, so we upped sticks and headed just minutes down the road to Invercaimbe Campsite, what a find! What an unexpected night!

I was drawn like fly to the beach firepit. Within seconds it's host Jamie invited us to pull up a chair. Like so many people living an alternative lifestyle, he's had some recent sad times, but clearly an incisively clever man he's finding his way through life with a resolute smile, a friendly nature and a ready Scottish wit!

Louise with Old Bill, Jamie and Iain. Campfire and our new friends.

Of all the people to stumble across on a beach in Scotland, who better than Jamie's mate, Iain M M Johnstone. (I tracked him down on the internet afterwards) The son of the Queens gillie, (her personal hunting and fishing guide at Balmoral). An interesting man is perhaps understatement! Perhaps late 50's, he grew up in Ballater, now a top end fishing guide, mountain rescue specialist, published author of several books on Scotland, raconteur, and very funny man. Tales of the Big Yin, parties at Balmoral, and celebrities moving in royal circles. I confess a quarter bottle of brandy may have lubricated my enjoyment. But it occurred to me that this is what travelling is all about. I loved his stories! A party in Balmoral saw him playing a old classic Scottish folk song on his fiddle called "tatties and herrin'" (hit the link to listen, it's good!) and at the end Billy Connolly turns to Steve Martin (.. shameless name dropping!) and asks "Steve buddy , why are you crying?" , to which the American comic replied "Oh my god Billie, that song, it's so sad! Daddies in Heaven!" ... the stories kept coming.

We made our excuses at 1am when Octogenarian Bill, a Manchunian former rag and bone man, celebrated his third bottle of red wine by casually shitting himself. Perhaps it's not all fun on the road!

Early the next morning, before you could say "incontinence trousers", we were out of there!

Headed for the Isle of Skye, we hopped on the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale. Before the ferry left we had a fabulous lunch of Haddock and Mussels in Mallaig from The Cabin.

The Hogworts express steam train still runs out of Fort William and finishes, loaded with excited American tourists at Mallaig - it's pretty impressive to see it under full steam.

The crossing to Skye was a smooth drive on drive off experience, unlike that remembered by my father-in-law Tony who in 1957 travelled the same route. He swears blind that his car was lifted onto the ferry in a net! They would struggle with 3.5 tons of Nessa!

Off the ferry and on to The Isle of Skye.

We chose to drive the length of Skye to Dunvegan, partly to see the island, but mostly to head straight for our two night stop over. Aptly named Kinloch site , after 7 days one kin Loch starts to look like the next! No really, again our planning guru Louise played a blinder!


another Kin Loch!

Saturday came with very much expected, but most unpleasant change in the weather! Rain, cloud, fog, and wind! Van rocking, deafening wind. But it gave the opportunity to hunker down under the duvet with a blanket around the shoulders and catch up on our travel diaries ......

To this point we've driven 650 miles, and been on the road 8 days

Next we are off to explore Skye, then take Nessa to meet Loch Ness!

Skye is rugged and beautiful. We headed for the Trotternish penninsular after a walk and to see Dunvegan castle

I was worried about driving on the single track roads in Skye, but the reality is there were loads of passing places and we found the driving easy and the views great. Passing the old man of Storr, the Quairang and stopping briefly in Portree. Again sadly, struck by the lack of food outlets, complete pub poverty, and really the basic lack of opportunism to fleece the hoards of tourists (us included) loaded down with cash and only the Co-op and some run down tea rooms to compete!

View out from the northern tip of Skye up towards the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis and Harris.

The Fairy pools near Glen Brittle on Skye.

We waved goodbye to Skye as we headed out to the mainland at the Kyle of Lochalsh

We were now bound for Loch Ness, where for the first time on this trip we went off grid, parking near the River Oich at Fort Augustus, in the trees. Very liberating!

Honestly we loved looking at Loch Ness but the journey here was the best bit! Fort Augustus provided a greasy breakfast with 1970 style sausages! The journey along the less trodden Southern shore road was impressive and Ness is BIG!

Caledonean canal at Fort Augustus

If you look very closely at this image of Loch Ness, while tripping on acid, you may spot a monster! Otherwise there is no chance. Passing round Inverness we moved on to The Loft - a working farm campsite - which infact was far from lofty, given the glorious views we had become accustomed to. It's a much flatter seaside area near Forres in Moray. To be frank we found this area a bit underwhelming and decided to head for the Grampians and Cairngorms. British seaside wherever it is, when it's mildly drizzling, is at best depressing. The mountains in the same weather somehow much more romantic and inviting. Nonetheless it was a functional stop over and I am pretty sure we didn't see the best of it.

We wove our way on B roads through beautiful countryside heading for the River Dee and Ballater. We hiked around the Eastern Balmoral route during the day, and ended up at a rather formal campervan site in town.

the Royal Kirk on the edge of the Balmoral estate

So now the confession: By now, we wanted a good bath, an expensive bed and a bucket load of overpriced hotel style attention!

After 11 nights in Nessa, and with absolutely no disrespect, we needed some luxury. Louise found the Inn at Loch Tummel

Dog friendly, reassuringly expensive, the softest beds, the highest thread count sheets, the "bath package" with bath salts and champagne, the whitest softest dressing gowns, the finest wines and the dazzling views. Costing exactly twice what we paid for accomodation for the entire two weeks in Nessa - this was the most richly earned hotel break, possibly ever. We liked it! The drive there was spectacular, through the Cairngorms and Grampian mountains. We hiked a while near Glenshee. But the hot bath call was loud, and we arrived exactly 15 seconds after check in time and pretty much got our moneys worth!

The Inn at Loch Tummel

Before we pushed off the next morning we went for a reviving walk around the slopes of Loch Tummel. Sadly time was now against us and we had decided to head back across the border to England.

We loved Scotland, we are more deeply in love with Van Nessa. Would we recommend this route? Hell yes! Were we sad to leave? - mixed feelings - every adventure has to end and this one is drawing to a close. It will take us a couple of days driving home, we will stop overnight in Northumberland in Corbridge on the Tyne, where a pub will allow us to sleep overnight in their car park so long as we eat in their restaurant!

Finally a selfishly nostalgic sideways detour to Grimsby to see where I was born and last visited in 1966. More on that in a future post no doubt?

What of vanlife? We are still besotted with the freedom of the road. But we have learned we do like it sunny! We also really don't like motorhome parks. We don't like motorhome owners. We prefer a field and grass to hard standing, however practical it is! We got a special buzz from staying free for the night. We need at least every other day to have internet, and being without phone signal induces anxiety. Watching a movie in the van is virtually impossible because it's so comfy one of us will inevitably drop off to sleep. We've learned a few more things about Nessa that need sorting out and will cost us to fix. Plus, when budgeting for a trip, set aside £502.50 for a proper night of luxury in a hotel every 14 days!

But more importantly, what of Scotland?

Multiple great things, fabulous facilities for #vanlife, friendly people, the most incredible scenery, fantastic beaches, superb walking and hiking, castles, Lochs, plus we were blessed by predominantly good weather, we survived without a single midge encounter. 1600 miles round trip some of the prettiest roads in the world!

Downsides, the entire nation lives on carbohydrate, fruit and vegetables are clearly not available outside major conurbations, the Co-op is the only shop, there is not a cafe or restaurant in the country that looks favourably on letting dogs in, the white stick trick being the only conceivable way of getting a table with Reggie. Felt certain Scotland would be the home of the friendly cosy pub. Turns out that is very much not the case. Did find some seedy unpleasant social clubs with freshly punched plaster walls where disharmonious drinking whilst watching Rangers v Celtic was very much the order of the day! Otherwise dream on and head south! On return to England we stopped in Corbridge where we counted more decent pubs than on our entire Scottish adventure. The weather can dampen the joy. Midges would have likely seen us back across the border earlier!!!

Harder to explain, but also annoying, there are an irritatingly large number of tourists there!


David Price
David Price
May 06, 2022

Oh my God you two. Epic trip. By far my favourite blog so far. The pictures, the real distances covered and seeing the emerging love of the life is making me so jealous I could cry. Keep ‘em coming. X


Harry Watts
Harry Watts
May 06, 2022

Sounds like a proper adventure! I can confirm, even on Acid I can't see Nessie in your photo.

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