This year, if nothing else, a lot of us have learnt to appreciate the opportunities for travel and adventure on our doorstep and nationally. I for one, have never really considered traveling in the UK, opting to travel abroad and believing that it would bring the most valuable experiences. One of the only positives of this horrible Covid-19 virus, is that it has made us explore locally and #Staycation2020 has become a worldwide phenomenon. Amongst many travels in the UK this year, one of my favourites has been wild camping in a van on a road trip around Scotland. Who knew how beautiful this country is! I have certainly never appreciated it as much as I do now, despite being half Scottish myself.
With Bumblebee (the van) loaded with supplies, the bikes on the back and a kayak on the roof, we set off on our amazing outdoor activity adventure around Scotland, Gerry Cinnamon playlist at the ready. Wild camping is legal in Scotland, which makes exploring so much more exciting, as you’re constantly on the lookout for an epic spot to settle into for the night. Our first stop was Loch Lomond, my dad’s home soil. We found the most amazing spot, our very own little private beach on the edge of Loch Lomond where we set up for the night. There are many of these around the Loch to chose from. The views were incredible, and truly enjoyed from the hammock. The water was clear and delicious, and we bottled enough to last us the rest of our journey. We enjoyed kayaking around the Loch and finishing the day with a BBQ on the beach watching the sun set. Make sure you have plenty of midgey spray to keep the beasties at bay! As any respectful traveller, we ensured we collected all our rubbish and left the area as we would wish to find it for the next explorers at every stop.
The next day we loaded the van and went on a drive to find some mountain biking trails, ending up at Glen Kinglass. As an amateur, this was tough for me! Red runs are not for the faint hearted, let alone black! For the experienced mountain biker however, it was exhilarating. I cannot complain though, as I managed to survive with nothing but a few scratches. There are so many locations around Scotland to go mountain biking, with trails for beginners right through to professional riders. I suggest researching the routes before trying it first in order to avoid a route you are not comfortable with or getting lost and having to do lots of extra miles uphill!
The route from Loch Lomond to The Isle of Skye is scenic and full of historical locations to stop at. We stopped at several; my favourite however, was Eilean Donan Castle. It has been featured in many films including Highlander (1986) and James Bond- The World is not enough (1999). The castle sits at the point where three Lochs meet and is surrounded by breath-taking scenery. The castle has a great history going back to the 13th century when it was built to protect the lands of Kintail against the Vikings. It was also involved in the Jacobite risings and was garrisoned at one point by Spanish soldiers who provided weapons and cannons from Spain, in support of the Jacobites against the English.
Onwards we went to the Isle of Skye. It is so much bigger than I anticipated, and we didn’t have time to see it all in the 2 days and 2 nights we had there. One thing that particularly tickled me on arrival were the warning signs for Feral Goats!! Feral goats are wild goats descended from non-native species that were brought to Scotland up to 5000 years ago and can cause serious damage to woodlands and scrubs, and not humans as I’d initially envisioned. Having overcome goat anxiety, we went for a long walk up the Fairy pools which are overlooked by the Cuillin mountains. The Glen has waterfalls and rock pools of crystal-clear water where bold wild swimmers and cliff jumpers brave the icy waters… have your swimming costumes ready! Glenbrittle is a popular camping spot, but we decided on a more isolated experience and parked up in the mountains by Talisker Bay. Unfortunately, the distilleries around Scotland were all shut due to the recent lockdown, so we had to make do to a wee dram of pre-bought Whiskey instead. We weren’t attacked by any feral goats during the night, but we were visited by a herd of intrigued wild roaming cows who came to see what the big yellow van was doing on their turf! After a good nose they eventually went back the way they came and left us in peace, miles away from any other humans. For future trips I will definitely be visiting The Fairy Glen and The Old Man of Storr for a good hike and some epic Instagram worthy photos.
Our next stop was Plockton, a beautiful village overlooking Loch Carron which is often referred to as the “Jewel of the Highlands”. It is a National Trust of Scotland conservation village. On arrival you are greeted by wild roaming Highland Cows which absolutely made my day, because who doesn’t love a Highland Coo! Being in Plockton felt like being on holiday in a tropical Island. It has palm trees due to the effects of the Gulf Stream which brings warm tropical water to the area. It also has secluded coral beaches where the water is lukewarm and a great place to scuba and snorkel. Plockton Bay is a great location for kayaking and exploring the smaller islands in the Loch.
After visiting family in Inverness for a few days we headed to the Cairngorms national park where we continued our outdoors adventures. We camped up by Loch Morlich near Aviemore which is a natural freshwater Loch surrounded by sandy beaches. We rode around the Loch which was a lovely flat, family friendly trail. There are more challenging trails locally for the mountain bike thrill seekers among you. After another BBQ on the beach, we sat swinging in the hammock, watching the stars come out while drinking hot chocolate…. Absolute bliss. In the morning we enjoyed a kayak around the Loch and up the joining lazy rivers. There is a local water sports centre that provides kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. There is also a ski and snowboard station at Cairngorm Mountain for winter fun!
And that was the end of our trip and beginning of a long drive back to Shropshire feeling completely shattered but with the soul nurtured and feeling content.
My next adventures to Scotland will include winter skiing, and in the summer, ‘Munro bagging’-climbing as many Scottish peaks as possible. There are 282 ‘to bag’ in Scotland. I definitely have to put my newfound hobby of climbing mountains into place and scale the tallest one in the UK; Ben Nevis which is 1,345m! Other future adventures that must be had in Scotland include; the NC500, an epic 500 mile road trip around the north coast of Scotland. Who’s coming with me? (once its legal to cross borders again!)