How to rent a motorhome and go on an open road adventure
It was strange not having packed for a family of five. Every time I opened a door of the van, I expected an avalanche of stuff to come out. But after 23 years of family vacation, we were just the two of us this time.
As new empty nests we were exploring the West of Scotland in a rental campervan. Strolling along winding roads and stopping for copious cups of tea would barely quicken the pulse of your average teenager. Maybe that’s why it was so happy; we could do whatever we wanted. The first stop was a campsite near Fort William.
Rather than feeling pressured to climb Ben Nevis, we strolled through a nearby forest, cooked an impressive paella on the van’s gas hob, and slept soundly in the comfy double bed. (It’s telling that my husband and I have reached the point in life where we not only have National Trust membership cards, but also place a high value on a good night’s sleep.)
We took the family camping trips, squirming uncomfortably on rocky ground and sleeping in our coats, feeling like only one night lasted a week. I used to be of the opinion that the only motorhomes worth boring were these adorable vintage VWs. “The ones you see nicely broken on the hard shoulder?” As my husband says.
However, I have come to accept that I am not the young Joni Mitchell in Crete from the 1970s, but a middle aged woman with sciatica in Scotland today. So it was exciting to see that in our modern four-berth van everything (heater, stove, shower) worked perfectly. We even checked the box for the additional option of an electric blanket. Do you hear that, kids? You might think we’re boring with our thermos and our birding book, but we know how to live.
From Fort William, we crossed the Ardnamurchan Peninsula to the westernmost point of the British mainland. Progress was pleasantly slow on the mostly single track road, until we were rewarded with the beautiful sands of Sanna Bay. Turning south we spent a night in the village of Ardfern, overlooking Loch Craignish.
One of the many advantages of the motorhome is the fact that you can do just fine in the most basic campsites (here there was only a toilet and an honesty box). If you prefer an off-grid approach, you can even stop at a quiet spot for the night.
However, keep in mind that Scotland’s outdoor access code, which allows wild camping, does not extend to motor vehicles. Be aware of the “no overnight camping” signs and ask permission if you plan to stay overnight on private land.
Having our route mapped out and reserving campsites in advance did not detract from our wonderful sense of freedom. No more “cheating” by picking up prepared meals to heat in the van. No one judged our survival skills. We hadn’t failed because no one had emptied a trout.
Campervanning gives you that back-to-nature feel without the trouble of hitting tent stakes – not to mention the inevitable blame game when it turns out no one has packed the essential mallet.
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 our spending an entire day hanging out through the many second-hand bookstores in Wigtown and retiring to read in bed at 9.45pm. But for us, it was the perfect introduction to vacations in an empty nest. And it was worth the wait.
Fiona rented her motorhome from atlashiredrive.fr, based in Glasgow. Prices start at £ 154 per day. Find campsites on Scottish camping and check the guidelines for informal (off-site) camping at Campa.
Jonny Cooper, 36, and Issy White, 38, Dorset
“Our trip was more like an adventure than a vacation”
Jonny Cooper, 36, took a ride in a recently converted motorhome with his partner Issy White, 38, and their children Benji, five, and Sebby, three.