What better way to see Scotland than through the bug-splattered windshield of a converted minivan (with a giant orange “Spaceships” logo painted all over it, so as to eliminate any sense of stealth), during the spring wildflower bloom and an uncharacteristic 10 day stretch of sun?
Truly, this camping trip across Scotland will go down in the books as one of my favorite journeys of all time. Camping inside a cozy van with a remarkably comfy bed protected from the elements, proved to be better than I had imagined. The cherry-on-top is Scotland’s “right to roam” law meaning we could basically put it in park wherever we saw fit as long as we weren’t obnoxiously encroaching on someone’s backyard.
Once we got over the sheer weirdness of being able to camp for free virtually anywhere, it became really fun and liberating to pick amazing places on the map and then actually spend the night right there! We found ourselves sleeping right along the shore of the magnificent Loch Lomond, a stones throw from the magical island Castle Stalker, on the secluded white sands of a secret beach town (that I want to keep from becoming touristy so I won’t mention the name), right in the middle of the vast Quirang landscape on the Isle of Skye, a few steps from the Fairy Pools, and on the shore of a surprisingly alpiny lake in the Cairngorm mountain range.
We also became adept at cooking our go-to camping meal every morning (and a slight variation at night), which was a salmon-olive-kale-avocado-egg scramble. Usually we ate lunch out (my daily haggis or cullen skink fix), and our tiny “refrigerator” in the van was large enough to hold a few other perishables like yogurt and almond milk, cheese, salami, etc.
Yes, we got kind of dirty, and no we didn’t shower very often- although we did treat ourselves to one night in a BnB half way through our trip and I spent almost the entire night standing under the hot water.
Before the trip, we spent an hour or so looking at places on the map and Google-image-ing them but we really didn’t plan out the entire route at all. After we picked up the van and got over the first hairy half hour of repeatedly hitting the left curb and screaming, our first stop was a petrol station where we picked up a map of Scotland.
Using that as our guide, we found way through the central Highlands and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, from Oban up to Skye on the West Coast, all around Skye, then across Scotland through Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park, and finally from Cullen all the way down the East Coast to Edinburgh. We usually chose our campsites the day of by showing up in yet another beautiful place and driving around till we found the right place to sleep. Our worst night of camping was our last, as we were outside Aberdeen which is a large city and wound up paying to stay at a caravan lot (slash soccer field), so that I could use the shower.
None of the below photos do the experience any justice but I hope you enjoy getting a little taste of our camping adventure across Scotland!
A very chilly sunrise alongside Loch Lomond. Shockingly I saw people polar swimming here the night before; their skin was lobster red from the cold.A truly magical night at Castle Stalker, on the East Coast of Scotland. Met the nicest man here, Stuart, who invited us to camp on his land and use all of his facilities. We decided not to though, because we found a sneaky spot just a stones-throw away from the Castle, and who could pass that up?Said sneaky spot by Castle Stalker, and me braving some seriously polar temps in the name of art.A heavily trafficked but undeniably magical corner of Glen Coe, in the Highlands. You make recognize this from the Harry Potter movies- it’s the Glenfinnan Viaduct and if I had more patience, I might have seen the steam train called the Jacobite Express cross it!We pulled up to this jaw-droppingly beautiful and secluded beach just before sunset and had this view all to ourselves. You can’t tell from this photo but the water was crystal clear tropical blue, and the sand was white and finely grained. We jumping out of the car and ran straight onto the beach, laughing and skipping around like the children we are deep down.Cooking up that morning’s scramble alongside a gorgeous beach. It actually did rain here for a few minutes, which might have been the most rain we experienced throughout the entire trip.The ferry from Mallaig (mainland) to Skye.Our beloved Spaceships van! We decided to cook breakfast here that morning.This is what my hair looked like after 10 days camping. It still hasn’t quite recovered.A view of the Black Cuillin hills from Sligachan.The Old Man of Storr! Such an interesting and gorgeous hike.I found a cliff to teeter on at Storr.One of my favorite things about the Scottish countryside is the picturesque white croft houses with their twin chimneys and starkness.A moment of sheer sunrise bliss in the Quirang.Me giving the Quirang an air hug because I love it so much.The abandoned innards of Neist Point Lighthouse. The door and window had been blown out and papers and rust were everywhere.Neist Point Lighthouse.Another view of this spectacular jut of land.This highland cow had swagger. Seriously, it flaunted its stuff and posed for the camera like it knew what was up.The infamous Eileen Donan Castle has an impressive museum inside of it. In particular the kitchen has been recreated with an absurd attention to detail to look as though the staff were frozen in the middle of preparing a giant feast. It looks so real! This bridge in a town aptly named “Carrbridge” was built for packhorses in 1717, the oldest bridge in the Highlands. It’s surprisingly wide across and there are no barriers to prevent tourists from walking across it/damaging it further, but I didn’t try. Apparently jumping off it into the water is a favorite pastime of the locals…I’m not that adventurous.
A super cool bird refuge on some distant piece the Eastern coast of Scotland… We ventured here in the hopes of spotting some puffins but either our eyes are not good enough or they were too far away to see (left the field glasses at home-darn!).After passing field after field of yellow flowers I finally took a chance on our last day with the van to run through a vast field of rapeseed, because I just couldn’t resist! (The farmer did catch me but was pretty nice about it, in a bemused sort of way).Rattray Head Lighthouse is not easy to get to!! At all! But we made it there!
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks so much for reading! Hope you enjoyed. 🙂