A family motorhome holiday always sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? You just jump in the campervan, drive off and go wherever you please; the kids can go to bed before you arrive at your destination if necessary, there are no hotel costs, no set meal times, no scheduled excursions…. Pure freedom.
Family motorhome holidays can definitely work out like that – if you do a fair bit of advance planning and take plenty of time to stop and look around.
But never has “Are we nearly there yet?” seemed so irritating as when you’ve all been cooped up in a motorhome together for six hours at a stretch and you still haven’t found anywhere decent to stop for the night.
And no, you can’t tuck little Freddy into bed while the van is still in motion – not unless his bed has a seat-belt attached.
So what’s the best way to plan your family motorhome holiday so you all come back feeling as though you’ve had a good time and still speaking to each other?
First, make sure you have a really good map of the area you want to visit and know how to read it. Don’t rely on sat-nav to get you where you want to go unless you know the precise coordinates. Also, do make sure the road is suitable for the height and length of your vehicle and be prepared to stop if the voice is telling you to go down a road that’s obviously wrong (you’ve heard the stories…).
Have a good list of campsites. Don’t rely on your mobile or tablet – reception isn’t great in large areas of Scotland. Have a paper copy, or at least download and save all the details to your device before you set off so you can read it even if there’s no wi-fi or mobile signal.
By all means wild camp – it really is one of the great joys of motorhome holidays in Scotland. You can also stop in most lay-bys if you need to, though it’s worth making sure the space really is a lay-by: you won’t be very popular if you camp in a passing-place on a narrow road.
But sooner or later you’re going to need electricity and maybe pumping-out facilities and life is much pleasanter if you know where to find them well before tea-time.
If the kids have been cooped up in your motorhome all day they’ll want to let off steam when you park up. You’ll probably want to stretch your legs too. Taking bikes with you is a great way to do that – the kids can just ride them round the caravan park or you could take in a nearby mountain bike route.
Or try wild swimming in the sea or a loch – wetsuits would be a good investment for these colder northern waters. Or just go for a walk: following the line of a burn (stream) wherever it takes you is one of the great free pleasures of life. Scotland’s scenery is worth exploring, wherever you are.
And the evenings are long – you’ll get as much as 21 hours daylight in the far north of the country in mid-June – so you’ve plenty of time before the light goes.
Taking a whole day off driving every few days is a good idea. Apart from being a great cure for cabin fever, there’s so much to see in Scotland that it would be a shame just to whizz past it. There are hills to climb, beaches to explore, castles to clamber over, dolphins and whales to spot.
There will probably (sorry to break this to you) be rainy days. But there’s no need to spend them in the family motorhome honing your Scrabble skills.
Wherever you are in Scotland, you’re never far from a museum, magnificent house, ruined castle, shopping centre, historic ship, farm shop, pub, ice rink, lighthouse or art gallery: there’s something to keep you and the children happy within a couple of hours’ drive of anywhere. This is where a good guidebook comes in useful.
A rainy day’s a great time to go rock-pooling or snorkelling at the beach or take a white-water rafting trip (you’re going to get wet anyway, so why not go the whole hog?).
With good wet-weather gear you can actively enjoy being outdoors in the rain. You could go for a walk in the woods, visit a bird-watching hide or take a ferry out to one of the hundreds of small islands off Scotland’s west coast.
And, since you’re travelling in a motorhome, when you finish you can make a hot drink, get dry and change your clothes – unlike the poor folk in cars who have to drive home first.
There really are a lot of advantages to taking a family motorhome holiday, when you come to think about it. Bikes hang on the back, wetsuits dry in the shower, boots are easy to stow away: you’ve got everything you need for rain or shine – just as long as you’ve done your planning. Bon voyage: Scotland’s your oyster!