SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS - CAMPER VAN STYLE
Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Best family trip ever, hands down.
Hear me out...
you need to put a campervan holiday on your bucket list.
I honestly can't think of any cons to this camper van holiday. We loved it so much that we now have plans to do a camper van holiday in Norway and France and anywhere else that will allow it.
We wanted a trip that would be covid safe and that most likely wouldn't get cancelled because we really wanted something fun to do over our daughter's half-term break. We opted for a camper van because we would be self-contained for the most part, and taking our accommodation with us wherever we went instead of having to stay at different places each night.
We did a lot of researching and decided to go with Bunk Campers. They had the best availability, best prices and they were very easy to get to via public transportation. We chose one of their vehicles with a toilet because we knew during covid, toilets are sometimes hard to come by!
Would we go with Bunk Campers again? Absolutely! They were so thorough and covid safe. Their procedure at arrival was one client into their building at a time to sign the paperwork. They sanitized the pen after each use. They sanitized the camper van and also sprayed it with disinfectant right before we took possession of it. They gave us clean and wrapped linens. They went above and beyond cleanliness standards.
We opted to go the public transportation route because we don't own a car. I personally think that traveling by train is the most comfortable way to travel for all involved; so naturally we loved it. We took the fast LNR train from London's King Cross to Edinburgh and it took us just under five hours. The seat selection was socially distanced from all other parties and we had a table all to ourselves. We busted out our tablets and the journey went VERY fast.
After we arrived in Edinburgh, there was a bus stop right outside the entrance where we waited for a 274 or X24 bus. Both would get us to Bunk Campers. Payment is taken on the bus and you simply tell them which stop you need (Dunnet Way) and they charge you accordingly. It was a 40 minute bus ride through Edinburgh and out towards the airport. We hopped off at Dunnet Way and it was a three minute walk to Bunk Campers.
We got on the road, picked up our Tesco click & collect order, and were on our way.
Seriously SO EASY.
Now for the fun part- the itinerary!
DAY ONE- BALMORAL CASTLE & THE CAIRNGORMS
We arrived to our first location pretty late at night and were kind of nervous about parking the van. We downloaded the app Park4Night and Camper Contact and both were GREAT at telling us where we could camp for the night and if there were any costs associated with it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. We parked in the overnight car park at Balmoral Castle and woke up to these views.
We could NOT believe the autumn colors. We were in heaven.
Balmoral Castle was fascinating as it is the Scottish residence for the royal family. We weren't allowed inside as they were filming "something special" with a little *wink wink* from our tour guide. Turns out they were filming the last bits of "The Crown" while we were there!
It was cold and rainy- but oh so beautiful. I will probably say this over and over again...
but Scotland is BEAUTIFUL.
We ate lunch in our campervan and headed out through the Caingorms. We were determined to take in the beauty and stop off at a loch from some hiking before the day was done. Driving through the Cairngorms was pretty steep and windy, but we made it out alive... and even found ourselves at Loch an Eilein for golden hour.
It was a great walk around the loch, very flat and child friendly. Out on the loch there is a small island with a ruined castle on it! We busted out the drone to take some footage. Very cool.
*click on the arrows below to see a drone break in action!*
Hot Tip- Cooking in the campervan wasn't something we thought we'd enjoy, so we did sandwiches and crisps each day for lunch and pre-made soups and
bread rolls each day for dinner. It was SO quick and SO easy.
DAY TWO- BOW FIDDLE ROCK & INVERNESS
Bow Fiddle Rock was a bit out of the way, as it is all the way up on the coast... but after seeing the pictures I knew we had to see it and I'm so glad we did. We got there in the morning and there was no one in site. It was a beautiful day. We hiked down to the water, and hiked around the grass lands on top. This was a very magical morning.
We made our way over to Inverness and actually didn't spend much time in the city at all! Most of the indoor places were closed so we passed through Inverness and headed toward the MUST see thing at Inverness... Loch Ness. We had so much fun teaching the little one about the Loch Ness monster. We made up stories about how long she's been stuck there, why she's stuck there, and what she looks like. We took turns pretending to spot her as we watched the water from Urquhart Castle.
Travel Tip- Avoid driving into downtown areas with the campervan as some streets can get very small and narrow!
DAY THREE- EILAN DONAN & ISLE OF SKYE
First off- a little about logistics. Each day we spent an hour getting to our first location and then another hour getting to our second. It was quite a bit of driving, but again, it was fine because kids can lie down or you can pull off anywhere and everyone can take a nap. Here we are at one of MANY laybys where we would have a snack, a nap and/or a drone break.
Eilan Donan is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, and it didn't disappoint. It was smaller than I imagined, but it's location out on the water can't be beat. It is very striking. AND they had a great kids scavenger hunt. Win!
Quick lunch in the campervan, and away we go!
We hiked the Fairy Pools trail, which is a favorite among visitors to the Isle of Skye. The falls were beautiful and the pools were a brilliant shade of blue. Unfortunately the little one had a stumble on the way down and pouted the rest of the walk, so it kind of tainted the magic for us. I hope your hike to the Fairy Pools is a little more successful!
Also, while we were there the Isle of Skye was an other worldly shade of orange which was so crazy and unique but can you imagine it in the summer all green?? I think we'll have to go back and experience that as well.
Travel Tip- The bridge to Isle of Skye is really close to Eilan Donan BUT you can also take a ferry if you choose; from Mallaig which gets to Skye from more of a southern route. The ferry sounds so fun but it didn't work with our itinerary.
DAY FOUR- MORE ISLE OF SKYE
We woke up early and got started on more Isle of Skye goodness. This place is just loaded with so many things to do. You could easily spend four or five days here and we only had two! We started with Old Man o' Storr as it's probably THEE most popular hike on the island. We got there before the car park was busy and started up the mountain... and it was UP.
The Old Man was hiding behind clouds nearly our whole way up... but it made for a rather mystical feel to the whole thing. It would pop out every now and then, and then hide back behind the clouds. We dragged our kiddo nearly the whole way up, but it isn't very long- and it's totally worth it. The views from the top are incredible, and the Old Man towers on the hill side.
Our next hike was off the beaten path for tourists... but not for paleontologists! Isle of Skye is home to many dinosaur footprints and the walk out to Brother's Point hosts lots of them. While they were a little tricky to find due to our untrained eye, we looked down at the rock on the coastline and imagined we were finding dinosaur footprints, too.
*This blog has a great post on how to get to the trailhead for this hike!*
DAY FIVE- THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS
We're kind of Harry Potter fans. Ok that's an understatement. We're super obsessed and love anything Harry Potter and throw him a birthday party every year *eek*. Creepy? Maybe! But it's a story that we love and have grown up with and so getting to ride over the Glenfinnan viaduct on a bonafide steam train was pretty bucket list fulfilling for us. Tickets sell out pretty far in advance, and it doesn't run year round- so check out the schedule here.
It was perfect. They came around with the trolley and sold chocolate frogs, we got to watch the Scottish landscape roll by, and we got to pretend we were witches and wizards going to Hogwarts. So much fun.
We even went back to the viaduct the next morning to watch the train cross again. Nerds.
Travel Tip- If you just want to watch the train come over the viaduct, head to the Glenfinnan Viaduct visitors center. There is a paid car park and a walk to the viaduct viewpoint. You can watch the train cross over the viaduct which is highly anticipated by everyone standing on the hill! Check the schedule to make sure you are there at the right time. The train gets to the viaduct about 30 minutes after leaving the station in Fort William and it is a 10-15 minute
walk up to the viewpoint.
DAY SIX- DRIVE BACK TO EDINBURGH
And that's a wrap! It was a long and rainy drive back and we were sad to say goodbye to our campervan. We couldn't believe the fun we had on this trip in our tiny accomodation that came with us everywhere we went. It was a trip we'll never forget.
Travel Tip- For this trip, I planned out our itinerary and then used the camper van apps to make sure I could find pull-outs or places to park the campervan that were relatively close to our current location or to our next days location.
This saved SO much headache of trying to find a spot last minute
(which also happened) but at least I was familiar with what was around.
Pros- Sleep wherever you want.
Eat wherever you want.
Nap whenever you want.
Go wherever you want and you always
have your gear with you.
Cons- Emptying out the poop.
But totally worth it.