Some months ago my brother, my father and I planned a trip with the goal of bringing back great memories. Life is all about timing and the time had come for us, a close-knit trio with very different personalities, to go on an adventure. By establishing a list of common interests we decided that our destination would be Scotland. And to my surprise my father suggested we should rent a van for our roadtrip! What a great opportunity to explore this country full of history and having my family experience my nomadic lifestyle. A few Google searches later, everything was organized for a memorable road trip through the country of millennial castles, sheeps and whisky!
After a few days of sightseeing in Edinburgh, we finally took possession of our mobile home at Bunk Campers, one of the most popular van rental companies across the UK. We headed east to St-Andrews, a city well known for its golf courses and its university founded in 1413. It is possible to sleep in the parking lot of the long beach on the west side between the golf course and the sea. If you prefer a different option, you could book a campsite on an organic farm 30 minutes outside the city at Pillars Of Hercules. This cool cafe serves excellent food and have great campers facilities!
Scotland has a beautiful wild camping culture, the rule is simple; it is possible to camp wherever you don’t see a sign saying it’s forbidden. There are also very nice RV parks and for our second night we tried the Blair Castle Caravan Park to cross the Cairngorms National Park the next day. The little cafe next to the watermill at the Blair Atholl village is worth a visit, arrive early to get your freshly baked bread.
After a little stop at the historic Battlefields of Culloden (any Outlanders fan over here?), I absolutely wanted to drive on part of the famous North Coast 500 road. One day I will make this 500 miles scenic route with a Land Rover Defender, but on this trip riding a small portion will have been enough for my father’s nerves! You should know that this mountainous route runs along the northwest coast of the country in a single track mode for the most part and it is not uncommon to have cliffs without any shoulder! Personally I really enjoyed it but I think my co-drivers felt better when we stopped at night. Later at night around the firepit, the pasta meal with a breathtaking view of the Highlands was well appreciated.
We went through Torridon, Fearnmore, Applecross and Lochcarron and this segment of the NC500 is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever done. It is recommended to have good driving skills and you might want to check the weather forecast before you venture there. Do not worry about finding places to camp, the question will be more to know which spot is the most epic!
We then continued our journey to the picturesque Isle Of Skye where we had booked in a recently awarded one star Michelin restaurant named Loch Bay Restaurant. We arrived without any expectations after a long day of driving. We were impressed by this emotional culinary experience revealed by Chef Michael Smith and his wife “Madame Laurence”! Before crossing the Skye bridge we stopped by Eilan Donan, the most interesting castle we visited during the trip.
As a sommelier my brother could not go to Scotland without visiting a whisky distillery! Although many of these offer visits a bit too commercial, we toured the Oban distillery where they still use a traditional technique to produce their famous single malt. The pretty town of Oban is also the starting point for several ferries going on a series of islands.
If the Isle of Skye is the most popular, the Isle of Mull is just as beautiful and wild. Again crossing over Mull you commit to a few hours of single tracks roads but after surviving the NC500 this will seem like a breeze! I recommend sleeping at the Calgary Beach on the west side where with a bit of luck you will have a fabulous sunset. There is a wild camping spot with toilets and fire spots towards the south end of the beach.
And as any adventure must come to an end, it was time for us to return to Edinburgh to catch our flight. We took the ferry to Lochaline on the way back, which made us go through the Glencoe mountains, a climbers paradise where I’ll have to come back one day!
I was very surprised by this country which has much more than castles and whisky to offer! The outdoors is part of the culture and the van is the best way to discover the islands, mountains, beaches and landscapes.