Campervanning The Scottish Highlands

Scottish highlandsSo…we are sort of obsessed with campervans. It’s true, we often fantasize about buying our own 2-berth camper with a 3L turbo, multi-burner gas hob, built-in BBQ, and panoramic windows so we can motor off and HoneyTrek forever. This fantasy was first propagated by our road trip around New Zealand (blog coming soon!) but it was solidified by our 975-mile, four-day rally through northern Scotland. To take on the Scottish Highlands in mere days was ambitious to say the least, but the unbelievable beauty in the far reaches of the UK kept us pushing deeper into the wild.

 

Inside a Big Tree CamperFor our whirlwind journey we chose Big Tree Campervans, named after Scotland’s “Big Tree Country” of Perthshire, the company’s home county. Big Tree is a small family-owned business with big heart! They gave us a slew of tips and maps to make sure we hit all the best spots in the Highlands and stocked our fridge and cabinets with everything we needed from linens and pots to milk and eggs–even a surprise bottle of champagne and brownies! Our Toyota Granvia or as Big Tree lovingly calls it, “The Larch,” was just the right size for two, easy to drive, and had all power we needed to take on the rugged North!

 

Highland cattle ScotlandScotland as a whole has beautiful countryside, charming towns, and dynamic cities but for raw wild beauty, it is all about the Highlands. This is one of the most sparsely populated areas in all of Europe, buckling with mountains, doused with lakes and peppered with medieval castles and historic homes. You see more shaggy cows (Highland cattle are the cutest!) and sheep than you do people, and if you do meet someone they likely speak Gaelic. It’s a magical land and our goal was to see as much of it as humanly possible!

 

Scotland Coastal Road TripOur Route: Pitlochry through the Cairngorms National Park, to Inverness city, up the east coast to the northeast corner of John O’ Groats, along A99’s craggy coast, dipping down to Ullapool, cutting inland at Balmacara to Loch Ness and back. Phew!

 

Blair Castle interiorJust beyond the Big Tree office, there is the 11th-century Blair Castle. We had barely begun the road trip but we couldn’t resist stopping to see this fully furnished medieval lair. Thirty rooms are open to showcase the space and decor across the ages, including the ballroom with its hundreds of mounted antlers.

 

Waterfalls in ScotlandThe Cairngorms is the largest national park in Britain, spanning 1,748 sq miles. The mist shrouded the mountains so we got out for closer inspection. We hiked along a waterfall, hopping from rock to rock, convinced we’d run into a gnome or something from Brothers Grimm.

 

Boating the Scotland LakesWe saw far too many beautiful places in the Highlands to include a blog photo of each, so be sure to see the slideshow for our time in the big Highland city of Inverness (a whopping 80,000 people), our night on the beach outside Dornoch, which all happened before we got to the North! The North Coast is where rocky cliffs crash into the sea and heather-covered hills roll from one to the next with lakes nestled in between. When we say lakes, we mean LAKES…Scotland has more than 31,460 freshwater lochs and the Highlands hold the majority!!!

 

Castle of MeyRounding the northeastern bend of Scotland, we came to the Castle of Mey. Unlike the other castles of yore, the Queen Mother summered in this one from 1952-1996. Today it’s a museum that’s more like taking a tour through her private life than the castle itself. Judging from her VHS collection, she was obsessed with Fawlty Towers.

 

Durness Beach in a CamperQuite possibly the best part about campervanning in Scotland is wild camping. This means you can park your car for the night in any location—be it a beach, lake, cliff, forest—as long as there isn’t a sign saying otherwise. Unlike sleeping in a RV parking lot, it’s like staying at an exclusive hotel, choosing the room with the best view possible–but ditching the neighbors and not paying a dime! What could be better? When we laid eyes on Durness beach, had to call this exquisite place home for the night. We cracked a bottle of wine, cooked a gourmet meal on our two-burner stove and watched the sky turn from sunset to stars…perfection.

 

Hiking in DurnessBefore driving off to take on the rest of the north coast, we did a hike around the cliffs and beaches of Durness (that little dot top left is Anne). If you get up to this area, be sure to visit Smoo’s Cave!

 

Scotland CoastlineHeading south we wanted to take every winding ocean road possible. Even though each detour added hours onto our journey, it was worth it! We got as far south as Balmacara before we had to start making our way inland.

 

Loch Ness CastleCall us suckers but we made a stop at Loch Ness to see if Nessy would rear her head. The legend of the Loch Ness Monster stems from a newspaper article that ran in 1933 when some tourists claimed to see this serpent-like thing emerge from the water with a victim in its mouth. Word spread across newspapers worldwide and the myth was born. We never saw the beast but seeing the second biggest lake in Scotland and its castle was a win!

 

Big Tree Campers ScotlandEven with over 1,600 kilometers under our belt, there was so much more we wanted to see in Scotland! We returned to Big Tree HQ feeling like fools for only booking three nights. We might just have to rent another camper-van to see the rest of this beautiful country…stay tuned!

 

BigTreeCampers invited us to take their campers for a spin, and as always our opinions are 100% HoneyTrek!

 

Scotland Campervan Slideshow
SEE MORE PHOTOS IN OUR
SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS CAMPERVAN SLIDESHOW

7 thoughts on “Campervanning The Scottish Highlands

  • November 10, 2014 at 12:32 pm
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    Oh that sounds like a fantastic trip. Thanks for the idea. Mike’s heritage is Scottish and he has always wanted to take a trip like this to do some genealogy research.

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    • November 10, 2014 at 7:09 pm
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      Doing a genealogy/sightseeing trip by camper would be fantastic! It’s the best way to see Scotland. There are so many remote, beautiful places that would never have hotels and would be too rugged for the average camper…so the campervan saves the day! You get get way out there and still have the comforts of home. We have plenty of tips on Scotland when you decide to go…just let us know!

      Reply
  • November 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm
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    Wow! This looks amazing, I love all of your beautiful photos! So green and the castles-it’s just as I imagined Scotland to be! I’m definitely adding this to my lifelist!

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    • December 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm
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      Thanks, Anna! The castles kept popping up from perfect fortresses to ruins you could climb and explore. So glad it has made your long lifelist!

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  • November 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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    Oh wow, aren’t the landscapes of the Scottish Highlands the perfect place to explore by camper! Your experience has inspired me to add the region to my travel bucket list. It’s so funny how you always look to travel to locations on the other side of the world, instead of explore your own backyard. I hope it make it to Scotland one day soon, and if I do I know how I need to travel when I’m there! In a Big Tree Camper!

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    • December 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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      The Scottish Highlands are amazing…and yes, definitely explore them by campervan and go as far into the wild as you can! Big Tree’s van was great and Sarah and Simon were so helpful!

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  • October 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm
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    I did a more extensive 5 week trip to the Highlands , on my own with my beloved dog, not bad for a 69
    year old lady in a 16 year old ford transit , as you said it is the most amazing experience and stunningly
    beautiful and most of the way the roads are there just for you.

    Reply

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