Campervan and the West Coast of Scotland

If you follow us on our socials, you’ll know we recently went to Scotland. It should have been our wedding but covid made sure that wasn’t happening. So we hired Fred, our campervan from Camper Holiday and off we went.

I stupidly left it much later than I would have liked to get things booked in. And because everyone seemed to be going to Scotland for their holidays this year, it wasn’t unsurprising that I struggled to get the ferries booked. Because of this, we had to change our plan slightly.

Originally we wanted to do the NC500 but even with 2 weeks I felt like this wasn’t enough time. Most of it would have been spent driving and we decided to stick with the west coast of Scotland and the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Our first stop was just south of Dumfries in a small place called Glencaple, where we did our first wild night camping! We used the app Park4night to find this place (and many others during the trip). The scenery on the drive up, I was already amazed with.

Our sunset from our first wild night camping in Glencaple

The following day we drove to Oban where we found the most beautiful campsite. I actually thought it was one of the nicest campsites we stayed at for the entire trip. It was called Seaview, just north of Oban. It had a little walk down the beach, nice big pitches, beautiful scenery and the place was incredibly clean.

Our next destination was Isle of Mull where we blessed with the weather! Winston was absolutely fantastic on the ferry and we took every opportunity to continue with our training. It’s important to note that a lot of things are closed on a Sunday on the islands, including petrol stations.We didn’t really have a plan for Mull, so off the ferry, we drove towards Tobermory, the island’s main town. Famous for its colourful houses and the kids TV show, Balamory, where we had a little wander round.

Isle of Mull – Tobermory

It was still very early in the day, so we then drove right around the North of the Island to arrive at Calgary Bay. The most beautiful white sand, turquoise clear waters and the beach was huge. The amount of parking was small but we waited and preyed on anyone looking to leave.

We moved onto our campsite, Pennygown which was very nice and included one of the most stunning sunsets we had seen. It was only at this point that we had a few midgies, not enough to cause issues, but enough that Tom got quite a few bites whilst he watched the Euro Final outside (with no spray on).

Sunset at Pennygown campsite

The following day, we took a trip to the South of Mull and to another (very short) ferry crossing over to Iona. Many people had suggested a day trip to this Island and I have to admit, the beaches were absolutely stunning. We had lunch in St Columba Hotel (one of only 2 hotels to serve food on the island) and enjoyed a walk down to the far end of the Island to enjoy to white sandy beaches. We returned to Pennygown for our final night in Mull before returning to the mainland the following day.

One of the gorgeous coves at Iona

Our ferry had been delayed due to something needing repair on the ferry back to Oban and we were suggested to get another ferry from Fishnish to Lochaline. Actually, had I known about this ferry, I probably would have booked it as it served us better for our next destination – The Glenfinnan Viaduct, otherwise known as the Harry Potter bridge.

It was busy when we arrived and instantly it was obvious this had became more of a tourist attraction than I think I realised. None the less, we made our way up to the bridge and although the steam train went past when we got back down, it was still nice to see it. From here, we made our way to Kinlochewe where we picked up the NC500 route which absolutely deserved to be part of that route and the scenary was just incredible. No amount of pictures, videos or description will give it any justice and the feeling you have driving through this incredibly vast landscape.

This was probably one of the weirdest campsites (Kinlochewe Camping) we stayed at which surprised me given it was part of the caravan club, but I have to say, it just felt like a big car park. No grass outside your pitches and although the facilities were all there, the covid regulations were very different in every campsite we stayed at so there was a severe lack of consistency. This meant at this campsite, I spent so much time queuing to go to the toilet or the shower and when they were closed for cleaning (for an hour and a half) there was no other facilities to use. With this also being one of the most expensive campsites (as we aren’t members of the caravan club) I was a bit surprised. However, the place was friendly and clean and accepted it. On this night, we had decided to treat ourselves and head to the Kinlochewe hotel for tea and oh my was it good! It was even dog friendly so we were able to bring Winston with us and even nicer that we both got to have a drink as it was walking distance back to the campsite.

One of the many stops on the NC500 route

Our next day took us up to Ullapool. We picked up the NC500 route and once again, it was just epic. We kept stopping to look at the view and enjoy the peace of it all. We arrived in Ullapool, stocked up on our food and then had lunch in the The Seafood Shack which was well worth the queue. We moved onto our next campsite, Ardmair Holiday Park. We were quite exposed to the weather here and unfortunately the pitches weren’t as flat as it first seemed. I also expected easy access to beach but the very large boulders make it more difficult than I thought. As we only stayed here one night, when we left the following morning, we noticed a decent sized layby right outside the campsite entrance which was filled with campers and motorhomes. Had I realised this, I probably would have saved myself the money and stayed here instead. Although there are codes on the toilets and showers, there are many signs asking for the codes not to be given out as I suspect using the facilities from this layby is common.

The Woof family on board the ferry!

We were scheduled for the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway and arrived early at the ferry so we could go and get some breakfast, which I expected more cafes to be open as there hundreds of people looking to do the same. The ferry over was a long one at 2.5 hours but we eventually arrived and my first stop was the Harris and Lewis Smokehouse. I couldn’t tell whether it was open as their website had stated the restaurant would not be reopening post covid. Anyway, I found a member of staff that just happened to be leaving and although they were completely closed, they were able to give me some packets of smoked salmon and I had never been more grateful. They were literally the nicest people ever and I stayed chatting to them for ages! I even had to text Tom to let him know I was still alive I’d been gone that long.

What an incredible selection of salmon we got to! Having now eaten every last bit, I can highly recommend it! Especially the lightly smoked salmon with the seaweed butter. We absolutely will be buying more and you can find it here.

Stocked up with Salmon, we drove down to the Callanish Standing Stones and Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. It was nice to do something a bit different and the weather wasn’t really on our side at this point either.

Our stop for this night was a small place called Bothag Bhuirgh which was very hard to find because it’s at the back of someone’s house which we didn’t expect from the photos. They have 2 pods and 2 shower/bathroom pods too as well as the camping field. We were the only campers there so able to find a nice flat pitch (no electric) but very exposed to the wind and rain that had started to come in. The shower pods were incredible and definitely one of the nicest we’ve had during our stay. There was a little barn area where there was kitchen and laundry facilities, all ran on an honesty box.

The following day we were heading South to Harris and the famous Luskentyre Beach. We stopped at the Harris Gin factory and obviously picked up a bottle before we parked up at our wild camping spot by the West Harris Trust. Whilst the rest of the UK baked in a 30 degree heat wave, I can confirm that this weather was not in the Outer Hebrides and we were actually working with wind, heavy rain and low cloud. So when we arrived at the famous Luskentyre beach, it could not have been more of an Instagram vs Reality moment. Because quite frankly, I couldn’t see the beach. The mist of the rain, the dark clouds and the lack of sun completed dampened the colours of the beach. And although I could see the turquoise colour of the sea desperate to show me its colours every now and again, it was clear, today was not the day.

The famous Lyskentyre beach!

After a bit of chill time in the van, we got out for a bit of the walk and discussed what to do next. We weren’t due to get the ferry back to the mainland for another 2 nights and we weren’t really sure what else we could do on Harris and Uist if the weather stayed like it was and was forecasted too. After much research online, I managed to find us a couple of ferries that would get us back to the mainland for the night. The downside was it was a 20 minute journey and 20 minutes until Check in Closed and we were not ready to actually leave. So, we did the quickest set down ever, literally threw everything in the van and darted down to the ferry! We made it! However, we still had another journey and another ferry to catch. Thankfully the staff on the ferry were so nice, let us get off first and drove down to the other port to catch the final ferry back to Uig, Skye. Throughout all of this craziness, Winston was amazing. I fed him in the van whilst we waited for the first ferry and he slept for most of the second ferry journey! It was near 11pm when we arrived at Uig and we stayed at the campsite right near the ferry which was brilliant. We paid in the morning and just grateful to get some sleep.

In amongst our complete change of plans, we had no idea what to do on the Saturday 17th July, our would be wedding day. Safe to say I felt quite emotional waking up on that morning, knowing that we should have been in Italy with all our friends and family, getting ready for our special day. And instead, I was in a campervan, with the wind and rain, not getting married or not getting ready. Thankfully, Instagram came to our rescue and we found a nice hotel to stay in for the night, The Flodigarry.

We had a little drive round Skye and headed up to the Fairy Glen for a walk, then down to Dunvegan for some lunch and then to the hotel. The hotel itself was lovely, although I had a bit of a negative experience whilst trying to book it the day before. James and Rob (I’m pretty sure this was their names!) the two staff members were incredible. Took all our bags from us an put them in our room, gave Winston a bed and some bowls in the room too and were just generally nice people. We had a really nice evening. The food was absolutely incredible (although very highly priced and unsure if the balance was right here on reflection) however it was amazing, so we’ll breeze past this point. It became very apparent that the person I had spoken to the day before to try and book our room, was one of the waiters who, if I put it politely, literally couldn’t care less and really put a downer on the experience. We again, ignored this as we were having such a good evening and brushed it off. We were the only ones staying in the hotel that evening and again, I’m not sure the room justified the cost of it. I won’t lie, I was hoping they may have upgraded us as they knew it should have been our wedding day or made some effort but I was disappointed that there was nothing.

The following morning for breakfast, it was unfortunately the ‘couldn’t care less’ guy that was serving us. I had to make Winston bark several times (thank god for teaching him that skill) in reception before he finally came out the back to see to us. We sat for breakfast, ordered and initially brought the wrong drinks. When I mentioned I had asked for a tea, not a coffee, the guy tried to argue with me and say I asked for a coffee. Never in my life have I drank coffee, so I knew full well I hadn’t. We ordered our food and honestly, couldn’t believe the difference in standard from the dinner the evening before. Tom had french toast which was just eggy bread with some bacon and I ordered the full scottish breakfast to which I felt the sausages were cheap, the poached eggs would have been cooked better by my 9 year nephew and the bacon was undercooked and just awful. Because of this, I hardly touched my breakfast and the chef came out to see me. It was the same chef from last night but he either didn’t like doing breakfasts, or this is fact was not him but came out to resolve.

As we packed up and left, James was in and was just lovely again, making the experience end on a high. this hotel has the potential to be absolutely amazing, but there’s just a few details that need to be ironed out to charge the price they do. Would I eat dinner again here, yes, absolutely. Would I stay? No.

From Skye we honestly didn’t know where to go next. The weather forecast wasn’t looking any better for Scotland whilst the rest of the UK basked in the heatwave. We decided to make our way down to Fort William which was still a 4 hour drive and see what to do next when we got there. We drove through some more amazing landscapes and arrived at Fort William for lunch and a stretch of the legs for us all. We couldn’t see much due to the clouds but we did manage to see Ben Nevis on the drive North a few days back. We stopped off at Glen Coe for a walk around the beautiful Lochan before making the decision to drive South until we hit some sun.

Glen Coe Lochan

We found a perfect little campsite just outside Penrith. We didn’t arrive until late and the simplicity of this campsite was absolutely perfect. It was nice to have some warmth and watch a gorgeous sunset. We’d decided that we would spend the morning in Derwentwater before heading home to have a few day trips with the van, and to relax and enjoy the sun.

Winston enjoyed the coolness of the water, we had a really nice breakfast to go and then headed home! I was sad to finish our trip a few days earlier than planned but I also know it was the right thing to do. I spent our last couple of days with the van going out paddleboarding in Snowdonia and down the Llyn Peninisula and enjoyed the campervan in a different way than what we had. I am disappointed that the weather wasn’t totally on our side, especially on the Outer Hebrides as I found there really isn’t much to do when the weather is against you. I’m so happy that we finally did our Scotland trip as it’s been something we’ve wanted to do for years. You could tell that it was suffering from covid as many places were still closed or not reopened and it was shame to see. The other main thing that we both noticed is there wasn’t a lot of ‘Scottish’ food or drink on the menus. Everything seems very chain based and/or Burger and Chips which we would have loved to have eaten more fresh, locally sourced food. Especially on the Islands.

A stop off near Dervaig

We absolutely loved life in the van and hiring one was perfect. Ian and Jo from Camper Holiday were amazing with my thousand of questions, everything we needed was already in the van so it was literally just clothes and food that we took. We have thought about buying a van so hiring one gave us an indication into what life would be like with one. We found things that we loved about it (leather seats is a definite need for us – SO much easier to clean!) and things that we would look at alternatives with if we were to buy our own.

We’re definitely glad we did the trip and I have no doubt we would go back in the future! Any questions about Scotland, campervanning or dog life, drop us a line but for now, it’s ‘see you later, Fred.’

Published by Winston.Woof

Find us on Instagram @winston.woof and check out those famous eyelashes!

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