Scenic Scotland

20140614_183043I  hadn’t realised Scotland was such a beautiful and easy country to road trip in, until we spent a week touring there ourselves.  My husband had recounted  his memorable West Highland way walk from Glasgow to Ben Nevis to me, complete with his experience of clouds of midges following his every step and the not so sunny weather.    Yes, I was happy to see green rolling hills and shimmering lakes, but a high of 17 degree in summer and red nasty little bites everywhere…  Well let’s not rush the planning….

I was however curious, and a much needed visit to a relative was the catalyst of this visit. Before we left the U.K, we decided we should visit my husbands relative and his fathers birthplace in Edinburgh.  However, once there,  we couldn’t resist exploring further, even though we were completely unprepared…having packed for a 2 day city visit instead of 8!

P1040796Campervan hire is not cheap at around 100£ per day, a bit less or more depending on what you get.  We happened to get a much better price because we were so last minute and we booked in person rather than via the internet.   We got all the add ons (GPS, 2 x kids car seats, linen/towels for a very good 20£ extra).   A good deal and a very cool VW camper – a new vintage, only a couple of years old, made in Brazil.

Any longer however,  and we were seriously considering buying a caravan to tow for almost the same price of a rental!   The replica  VW camper fooled most people including a couple of German tourists excited to see it still on the road, in mint condition!   Engine wise it had improved from the 60s, but camper design wise, it hadn’t changed much- but why should it…the old design fit out works quite well.

P1040650We spent 5 days touring the amazing countryside.   Scotland is pretty, accessible, and soooo easy. It is  wonderful with kids because every 20-30 kms there is something to stop and see and do….whether its a historic castle, a folk museum, a whiskey distillery ( for the older adults), a nature reserve, a farm reserve, a river, lake (loch) and a load of forest day or longer walks.

There’s a 90% chance of just pulling into any of the parking and picnic rest stops and finding a river, waterfall or lake to have fun at.  There are signs posted everywhere and even if you don’t speak Gaelic..there is English too!

Scotland is cheap to travel in if you have a fuel efficient car ( the VW camper was incredibly fuel efficient).  There are no road tolls to pay, it’s not a very big country so you don’t have to travel enormous kms to experience the countryside (we got to Garve, past Inverness and back).   It  is an affordable way to travel  if you are self contained.

While we treated ourselves to a couple of pub meals including the national haggis dish, we mostly  self catered.  If we had the cash,  staying in accommodation could be a real treat.  We  passed countless of amazing BnBs in beautiful and historic stone house buildings.  Instead we slept  in our camper van pretty much anywhere we wanted to.  After two big camping road trips through Patagonia and Morocco, Scotland was the one place we should’ve been camping in our tent.  Not only is Scotland made for tent camping with its ease of access to river and lake spots but it is what the locals do!!!!

The black water

Scotland has amazing access laws…there is virtually no such thing as “trespassing”. There is a Scottish Outdoor Acess code which basically gives you the right to be on most land and water ways. Not only does it give you access but it is  enshrined in law (see Land Reform Act Scotland 2003).   There are even access officers you can report to, just in case anyone tries to stop you!

Of course, with rights comes responsibilities but these aren’t too difficult to abide by. For instance, act safely and responsibly, take your rubbish with you, respect and care for the land, wildlife and keep your dog under control. Really what everyone should be doing regardless of where they are!!!

This legislation doesn’t just cover walking but also other activities such as canoeing, horse riding, wild camping and mountain hiking.   It is the best country we have been in so far when it comes to enjoying and experiencing all the  countryside has to offer, up close.   Why wouldn’t you walk/camp/tour Scotland….!

Given all this access you would think the state of Scotland’s  outdoors would be a mess, but its not….We saw one area with bottles left behind but this seemed to be the exception.  We have seen much worse in other countries.

So just  when we had decided to ditch our tent and go for a camper, we find that camping with a tent in Scotland is the  way to go.   We saw a number of people camping by various lakes, visible and obvious from the roadside.   We felt very safe and secure in our camper…no matter where we were. We camped in parking picnic places without a problem.   Once we saw a ‘no overnight camping’ sign, in another a height restriction barrier was in place which would  prevent motorhomes but not us  in a camper. We could access most of the lakes we stopped at, apart from the famous Loch Ness, the main access route had photo parking spots only.  Must be one way to keep campers safe from any overnight monster attacks!

Coming from Melbourne, the four seasons in one day is something we are used to.   Scotland’s weather is very much like that….a bit of rain, clouds and sun all in one summer’s day (think it would be more like snow, hail, darkness in winter!).   We were fortunate that the midges weren’t in such a biting mood….our first night was the worst but the rest of the time they were of minimal annoyance.

The famous Loch Ness

The lakes in Scotland are some of the best I have seen. They are accessible and beautiful. Patagonia had amazing rivers but the surrounding greenery and forests in Scotland make the lakes extremely scenic.

The biggest regret was that we had to return to the city much earlier than we wanted, playing by the rivers and lakes was good fun for the kids…our only hiccup….getting kids to bed before midnight…it’s light til late!!

While it was a shame to head back to the city so quickly, Edinburgh is a lovely city to have a wander in.  While there, look up your history and clan roots.. you might just walk away with a special funky dress, knit, gloves, picnic rug, tie, scarf and tights all in your or your husbands family’s tartan….for those special occasions or clan family reunions!