brrr…winter campervanning in the northwest

brrr...northwest christmas 09

Another historic post,  for our Christmas РNW break last year Рwe tested Oswald to the maximum with a trip around the north west of Scotland (some of the most remote regions in Europe) in what turned out to be the coldest winter in 30 years.

He coped admirably – we only got stuck once although the deep snow did mean we stuck to main routes and didn’t get to explore off the beaten path much – mind you ‘main’ is probably a bit of a euphemism some of the single track roads were pretty hairy!.

Our flickr set tells the story in all the blinding white glory.

[flickr album=72157623037906591 num=30 size=Thumbnail]

culzean castle

A final trip with Mum & Dad took us to the ultimate historical lads pad – Culzean Castle located on spectacular cliff tops in South Ayrshire

Khmer lunch in the campervan added an unusual flavour to proceedings, before we checked out the stunning setting, views to Arran and the beautiful grounds of the house. Mum was particularly taken with the collection of dahlias in the walled garden.

Even with a full day we still missed much of what the whole site has to offer, so we’ll be ¬†back to check out the beaches and some more of the grounds.

loch katrine

More fun with mum and dad, this time on a very damp and miserable day we took a drive up into the Trossachs for a trip on the Loch Katrine steamer.

It was a beautiful craft, and great scenery even if we were cooped up indoors for most of the trip.

We treated ourselves to a long lesiurely lunch at the delightful Inn at Kippen once we had finished. Where the food was generally fantastic and the atmosphere perfect for a rainy afternoon.

the lakes weekender

Ullswater from Side Famr
Ullswater from Side Farm

The annual mountain goats weekender headed south this year to Ullswater in the lakes district. The campsite was the incredibly located Side Farm with amazing views across the lake (Above).

Eschewing the energetic hill walks or mountain biking expeditions to nearby Helvellyn Chhay & I opted instead for a more lesiurely sail on the lake in true Swallows & Amazon’s style.

Sailing on Ullswater
Sailing on Ullswater

Miserable weather on the Sunday kept us to a short lakeside walk before a languid afternnon tea in nearby Pooley Bridge. Oswald proved very popular with the kids who claimed him as their castle during the days.

north east coast

Chhay at the wheel

We spent four days exploring the Banff coast east of Inverness in our first proper adventure with Oswald. Claire joined us too so we got to test the upstairs bed!

The first day was spent getting Oswald over the Glenshee pass. Having stopped for a delightful lunch at the very prim and proper Dunkeld we had our first mechanical breakdown (an anti-roll bar) which a proper old school mechanic assured us was ok for the rest of the weekend. We struck more trouble when we went to pick up Claire off the train with the only road through being closed due to a collision between a police car and an ambulance!

We were wild camping over the weekend so spent a fair bit of time scouring for campsites and then looking for somewhere to shower the following day, but it was much more fun that being stuck in the fairly nasty caravan parks that characterise the Scottish countryside.

We reached the coast at Findhorn and had some great seafood in the village before checking out the hippies at the Findhorn Foundation. We then tootled east looking for a place to camp via a series of picturesque villages. We ended up in an isolated car park on the outskirts of Lossiemouth, with the benefits of the facilities at the yacht club nearby. After a sunset dinner we briefly visited the local bar before retiring in the face of a scary metal band at full volume. Our sense of isolation was broken at about 6 am by a steady trickle of golfers arriving for an early morning round so that by the time we were up we were completely surrounded!

The star of Local Hero
The star of Local Hero

East of Lossimouth the scenery became even more spectacular with tiny fishing villages clinging to precipitously to the base of steep cliffs. Partiuclar favourites were Portsoy with fantanstic old warehouses by the harbour, the incredibly tiny Crovie where the space at the base of the cliffs is only just wide enough for the smattering of houses and can only be accessed by foot, and our finishing point Pennan the star of 80’s scottish classic Local Hero.

oswald goes to the borders

Storage Sheds made from upturned boats.
Storage Sheds made from upturned boats on Holy Island.

Our first test of Oswald’s camping abilities was successful if a little disorganized. Taking off after work on a Friday without proper preparation was our first mistake, as was not practicing our packing – we spent a large proportion of the weekend rifling through the cupboards for the thing we needed for that particular Oswald transformation.

We were headed to the Borders region in Scotland’s south east. We had never been past Edinburgh before, except taking in the fantastic coastal views from the (about to be nationalised) East Coast Mainline but had heard some great recommendations for the region.

On the Friday night we made it as far as St Abbs, descending into the misty harbour to wild camp after a late dinner at the pub in Coldringham at the top of the cliffs that line this coast. As it is a diving centre there were even free showers – a deluxe setup for wild capervan camping.

Come Saturday morning with an early start to clear camp the mist was still thick as we picked out way along the coast through little harbour towns. We made it to the border at Berwick on Tweed for breakfast. Having already skipped through the coastal areas of the Borders we decided to push down into England to Holy Island.

Reachable by a causeway only at low tide the mist was still thick as we ventured across creating a spooky impression with water lapping at each side of the road and the occasional sand dune looming out of the fog. By the time we had wandered about the island, with its intriguing ‘boat’ houses and visited the amazingly situated Lindesfarne Castle (renovated by Lutyens into a beautiful summerhouse) the fog had finally lifted revealing the beauty of the island.

After a farm shop lunch and a little cruise along the Northumberland coast we made a quick dash to the incredible Cragside House (to make the most out of our newly purchased National Trust membership). Although we arrived too late to get into the house itself the grounds were impressive enough!

On the Sunday we pottered back into the Borders this time through the inland route passing through picturesque towns such as Coldstream, Kelso and Melrose. A quick stop in the sprawling Galshiels to check out the quirky (listed) modernist football stadium, before a long lunch and exploration of the delightful Peebles rounded off our trip.

stirling, dunblane & the campsies

oswald near the campsiesOur first test of Oswald’s capabilities – although we didn’t camp in him. A quick run over to Stirling to pick up a kilt with Claire and then a leisurely scenic route back via Dunblane for one of Scotland’s best bacon rolls and a quick stop for a cup of tea (below)

Chhay & Claire at foursies

our new arrival!

tim & oswald

We have made the somewhat suspect step of purchasing a 1980 vw campervan (via ebay of all places!)
It struggles to get above 50 mph – but is as close as a house as we have yet got with a cooker fridge and sink and space to sleep 4! Athough he is a bit rusty, and has many and varies squeaks and rattles he seems to run smoothly enough.
This should be the start of many exploratory journeys across Scotland and Europe to come (not to mention heartache and a steep mechanical learning curve), so should you be in the area sign up for a trip!

chhay and os