If you want to see the best scenery and views, you’ll find them among the Scottish mountains, though even the largest mountains are often referred to as “hills”. Most of the roads don’t go over the tops of the mountains, they go around and between them. If you’re touring Scotland in a motorhome you’ll probably be glad of that, as the hill roads are often narrow and twisty.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get to the top of the mountains, though. Scotland has “right to roam” legislation, which means that you can walk anywhere you like, providing you do no damage and you keep dogs on leads. If you are in an area where shooting or deer-stalking take place, it is wise to ask at the local pub or post office to find out if it is safe to walk locally. Often there will be notices attached to fences, giving a phone number you can call to see if it’s safe to go hill-walking that day.
Always carry a large-scale walking map, wear good boots and carry a sweater and waterproofs even if you don’t think you’ll need them – the weather can change fast. A torch and emergency food supplies are also sensible, as is some way of attracting attention in an emergency; don’t rely on getting a signal to your mobile phone.
The Cairngorms: whisky country
The road across the Cairngorms National Park, from Ballater to Grantown-on-Spey via Cockbridge and Tomintoul, makes a beautiful drive. It is very high – it’s always one of the first roads to be closed when heavy snow falls – and the views are spectacular.
If you’re interested in whisky, the names Tomintoul and Grantown-on-Spey will have caught your eye; the northern Cairngorms are the centre of the Speyside whisky production area. Glenlivet, Tamnavulin, Knockandu and Tomatin are all close by. You can visit them and the other famous Speyside distilleries and enjoy a whisky tasting at the end of your tours.
There are several Munros in the Cairngorms ranges. Munros are Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet (914.4 m) and serious climbers try to climb all 282 of them, a practice known as “Munro-bagging”. The fastest person to complete the challenge so far did it in just 40 days!
The Highlands and Skye
To see the Scottish mountains in their full glory, take the Road to the Isles right through the Highlands from Loch Ness to Skye. The route takes you past several Munros, while on Sky you will find the beautiful Black and Red Cuillin ranges (pronounced “Coolin”) among other attractions.
The most famous Munro – the highest mountain in Scotland and, indeed, Britain – is Ben Nevis, south-east of Fort William. It stands 1,344 metres above sea level at the western end of the Grampian Mountains. The Grampians run eastwards from Fort William through the Highland region of Scotland and Perthshire to the Angus Glens.
The Angus Glens are well worth a detour, but be warned: the roads here are very narrow, often wide enough for only one vehicle, so keep a look out for passing-places and don’t park in them!
The Southern Uplands
If you prefer your mountains rounder, head south for the Southern Uplands range. Although officially in the Scottish Lowlands, these hills are still of formidable size. A long-distance path, the Southern Uplands Way, traverses them from Portpatrick in the south-west to Cockburnspath on the east coast near Dunbar. You can pick up the path at any point, and many camping sites lie conveniently close to it. A beautiful short section is the one from Saint Mary’s Loch to Traquair, where the Castle is worth a visit. The views here may be softer than those in the Highlands, but they are no less beautiful.
Wherever you travel in Scotland, you’re never far from a mountain or two. Whether you’re interested in an active adventure holiday or just want to look at the view, a campervan is a great way to get up close to the hills. Go north, go south – it doesn’t matter. The Scottish mountains are waiting to welcome you.