Readers of top travel books “Rough Guide” voted Scotland “The Most Beautiful Country in the World” in 2017. So this could be the year you should visit Scotland before the rest of the world gets here.
If you live in the UK, with exchange rates being as they are, it’s a great year to get to know Scotland better.
If you’re travelling from outside Great Britain, there’s a good chance you’ll get more pounds for your local currency in 2018 than previously.
(Which aren’t in Edinburgh or Glasgow, or even on Skye!)
Edinburgh and Glasgow are both amazing cities with great architecture, galleries, history, people to meet and places to go. But what if you have time to spend elsewhere in this beautiful country and you’d like to know where the locals would go?
Most of Scotland’s population live in ‘the central belt’ and since 2013 many of them have been flocking to marvel at the world’s largest equine sculpture: The Kelpies. Designed by sculptor, Andy Scott, the two horses’ heads are built over 30ft high in steel. Situated in Helix Park in Falkirk, a five minute drive from Vintage VW Campers HQ. The nearby Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat-lift, which links the Forth & Clyde with the Union Canal and is also a must-see when in the area.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is on our doorstep, just under an hour’s drive brings you to the bustling town of Callandar. Several lochs are in this area providing fishing by permit or other water sports activities. The walking and wildlife watching opportunities here are also fantastic. The Park has become so popular with locals that a byelaw has been passed preventing wild camping in the area; fortunately, there are plenty great campsites to choose from.
A three hour drive from Falkirk will bring you to another favourite town, Oban. Oban is a fun port town with opportunities to buy seafood from the pier, take a hike up to McCaigs Tower to see the amazing view. Visit the Oban distillery and take a boat trip to watch seals or take a ferry to Mull, which is a great island to camp on. A boat trip from Mull or Oban brings you to the famous sea cave, Fingal’s Cave on Staffa.
Also a three hour drive from Falkirk will take you north to Lochaber and Scotland’s most famous glen, Glencoe. The drive through Rannoch Moor, just before the glen is similarly spectacular. Glaciers and volcanoes formed the breath-taking scenery around here. Glencoe mountain resort is great for thrill-seekers; hiking, climbing, mountain biking and skiing are all popular pastimes here. There is a National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre to help you discover the history of the Glencoe massacre.
A further two hour drive brings you from Glencoe to Arisaig. Arisaig is a small village at the start of sandy coastline which runs up to the Sands of Morar. Not only are the white sand beaches stunning but the views to the Isles of Eigg and Rum are similarly so. A perfect spot to catch an amazing sunset from the many great campsites along the shoreline.
If you have time to drive the North Coast 500, then do not miss Sango Sands, a mere 259 miles from Vintage VW Campers HQ is this other-worldly beach at Durness. As you are now at the end of the Scottish mainland, you could say you are at the end of the earth in some respects. The beach is surrounded by cliffs and conveniently at the top of those cliffs is a great campsite. Durness is the village where John Lennon spent his childhood holidays and understandably had to bring Yoko for a visit in later life. Also check out nearby Balnakeil Beach and Craft Village. Be sure to have a hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain.
So now only the sea separates you from the Orkney Islands, the nearest port from Durness is Scrabster, but you can also take ferries here from Aberdeen or Gills Bay. The west Orkney mainland is a magical pre-historic landscape protected by its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Ring of Brodgar standing stone circle was built between 2500 and 2000 BC and its unconfirmed purpose adds to the mystery. The nearby Skara Brae was built in 3200 BC and is an amazing Stone Age village.
From Ullapool or Skye you can catch a ferry to the adjoining islands of Lewis & Harris, once again history and beaches are two of the main attractions here for many. The Callanish Standing Stones are as unexplained and magical as the Ring of Brodgar is. The west coast Harris beach of Luskentyre regularly appears in lists of top beaches of the world and it is indeed stunning but do not miss Ardroil Beach in Uig Bay on Lewis. Like Sango Sands it has an ends of the earth feeling and given there’s not much between here and America except ocean, you can understand why.
Back down the country, this time on the east coast is the charming East Neuk of Fife. Just over an hour’s drive from Falkirk brings you to this stretch of coastline, peppered with quaint fishing villages and beaches. Neuk is the Scots word for corner and this is indeed a very special corner of the world.
So most people have now heard of the North Coast 500 but did you know that the West Coast 400 is now a packaged adventure roadtrip you can dip in and out of covering Oban to Campbelltown? We also have a South West 300 roadtrip and this takes in stunning drives like The Devil’s Beeftub and favourite spots like Moffat & Kirkcudbright.
I have a deep, life-long love of Skye, having holidayed here in the 70s and every decade since. It is the most popular location for Vintage VW Campers guests to go but it can get crowded in summer months and I’d recommend going here in Spring or Autumn if you can.
We have other itinerarysuggestions and recommended campsitesto help you plan your roadtrip. Or choose your favourite campervan on our fleetand get bookedwith us for an adventure of a lifetime.
(Our featured images above are kindly supplied by Nathan Green from SoonlyWeds.)
As lots of you were wondering what the VW Campervan experience is actually like. We thought we’d delve into the travel journals, which are kept in our campers’ gloveboxes and spill the beans. These have previously only been shared with people hiring our kombis, so for the first time ever we open up to the public excerpts from the secret diaries of Lola, Blondie, Ziggy & Oor Wullie.
After all, our previous customers are best placed to inform you what to expect when touring Scotland in a Vintage VW Camper.
At the same time we’ve identified ten points that many of our customers ask before they come or comment on after their trip.
How long does it take to drive the North Coast 500?
We recommend minimum 1 week to enjoy this in a T2 Volkswagen.
We’ll kick off with Lola’s most recent NC500 tour, earlier this month. And a summary of how our customers found the experience.
“Lola was cosy, comfortable, lovely to drive and extremely popular with fellow travellers. We couldn’t ask for a better holiday companion.”
Why does everyone wave & tell you their own VW story?
Because by getting behind the wheel, you have just joined an international VW club. You will be like a magnet wherever you go in your T2 and it’s Volkswagen law that you wave at any other VW Campervan you pass on the road.
“A lovely lady talked to us in the ferry queue- she has her own Lola on Colonsay!”
“We had admiring waves everywhere we went and Oor Wullie made lots of friends”
What’s the weather like in Scotland?
There’s a good chance you may experience 4 seasons in one day. We live in a country where it’s possible to get hurt by hailstones and sunburn in one day.
“Barra here we come! Bumpy ferry ride with no visibility but stunning sunshine when we arrived at Castlebay and found the beachfront campsite at Borve- highly recommended.”
Where should I go on a tour of Scotland?
Skye is by far the most popular destination for our guests but Scotland has plenty other exciting places to go as well. We offer as much or as little help as our guests want in planning itineraries and routes. To make up your bespoke itinerary we need some pointers on your interests, or where you’ve been before. We love beach and lochsides and will always try to direct you to locations that are amongst the most stunning in the world.
“We spent the day on the west of Harris, enjoying fabulous beaches”
“We could see the sea while sitting inside Ziggy enjoying a warm soup and good book.”
“At Arisaig we found white beaches and turquoise water.”
Where should I camp & can I camp anywhere?
Scotland has a vast selection of varied campsites and our list of recommended campsites grows daily. You can camp anywhere in Scotland (except the east side of Loch Lomond between March and October) but you must follow the Outdoor Access Code and be responsible.
“We travelled up north to Durness, where we spent the night wild camping on the shores of Balnakeil Beach”
“…before taking Lola east to the haven of Lickisto Blackhouse Campsite- an idyllic spot”
What is it like inside a VW Camper?
The driving experience is more challenging, modern cars drive you, you drive a T2. There usually isn’t as much storage space as in a larger motorhome, so everything packs away very neatly. Such as our hidden tabletops, tripods for al fresco dining table and the well for your indoor table.
“We’ve really enjoyed the fun of camping with Lola, meeting lots of other campers, testing our tidying skills, working out how to organise ourselves, taking our time on single track roads and learning to drive properly again!”
Can we cook inside the campervan?
All of our campers have gas cookers, sinks and fridges or coolboxes.
“We used the BBQ you supplied most nights and cooked meatballs & spaghetti inside one night. The campervan cookbook you gave us was inspiring.”
Is there an ipod connection?
Our stereos all have ipod/phone connections (cable supplied) and all gloveboxes have at least one CD in them.
“Driving along the country roads in Blondie, listening to Blondie was perfect, we wish she was ours.”
“I dreamt a long time about driving up the steepest road in GB. Driving Ziggy up the pass to Applecross while listening to David Bowie was a dream come true”
We include optional extras but beware of the awning, unless you are staying in the same campsite for at least 2 nights.
“The Awning! It took us 3 hours to put up!!! Lots of “debating” went on 1st about how to do it. LOL. We got there! 1 hour to get down and packed away. Worth doing if you’re not moving around for all the extra space, it’s massive!”
Can I hire a VW Camper for my Wedding?
Although Meg, our splitscreen microbus is chauffeur driven for weddings, our bay window campervans are perfect for self drive weddings & honeymoon. It’s also worth noting that if you use Meg for your Wedding, you can have 20% of a self-drive bay holiday anytime up to your first Wedding Anniversary, as a wee gift from us. As we offer campervan gift vouchers you can even put them on your Wedding Gift List.
“We whizzed Ziggy off to Dunoon to hand in our marriage certificate and then went round Loch Fyne”
If you have ever wondered anything we haven’t covered in this post, about the Vintage VW Campers experience, then please email your questions to [email protected]
If you’ve heard enough and you’re ready to choose your campervan then start your journey here.
Well that’s what it tells us in our diaries for Sunday, so I’m happy to go with this plan.
“What do you mean the clocks are springing forward, making this Spring?”
If you are anything like me, you will optimistically be looking out flip-flops (actually mine have never been put away) and dreaming of sunny roadtrips and BBQs.
As our fourth holiday hire of the week buzzes out of our forecourt, I’m still wondering where the winter months went.
When things quietened down for us in October, we took to the roads ourselves on an adventure to Orkney in Lola. At that time the winter months stretched ahead with more than enough time to do all we wanted in readiness for Easter 2016.
Now it is upon us and most of what we hoped to achieve is completed; we are loving being back to what we do best: looking after our guests and sharing the joy of our VWs with them.
I have to say Solway Campers & Raptor Restoration have worked so hard on our campervans over the winter months that they have been mechanically and cosmetically maintained to an enviably high standard. New parts galore have been lavished on them (as my Bank Manager knows only too well!)
Those air-cooled engines are now chugging up the Bealach Na Ba, along the North Coast 500 ,down the Northumbrian Coast and over the sea to Skye; spreading smiles, waves and happiness wherever they wander.