If you’re new to driving a motorhome in Scotland, here are some handy tips that could make the experience much more fun and rewarding.
Motorhome campsite tips
If you’re hiring your motorhome during the school holidays or other busy periods, it’s a good idea to plan and book ahead. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a beautiful spot where you’d hoped to spend the night only to find it’s full – especially if you have tired, hungry children or you want to stay several days. Booking in advance avoids that problem.
Whenever possible, park on hard standing. A motorhome is a heavy vehicle to try and drive off soft or muddy grass after a few days’ rain. Hard pitches tend to be flat, too, which definitely makes motorhome life more comfortable. It’s no fun if the plates are always sliding off the table, or you’re falling out of bed or pushed up against the wall. If you do have to park on a slope, it’s sensible to chock the wheels to stop you rolling downhill.
Making the most of the facilities
When you’re at a campsite with showers and toilet facilities, use them rather than the ones in the campervan. That way you don’t waste your own water or need to empty the toilet so often. The emptying points are usually near the toilet block but it’s wise to find out exactly where they are before you start lugging a full, heavy cassette around. A small trolley is a very useful investment if your motorhome hire company doesn’t supply one.
If you’re connecting your motorhome to the campsite’s electric supply, plug the cable into the van first, especially if it’s raining, to avoid the risk of electric shocks. And remember to switch the fridge over to the 240V supply, to save your battery or gas.
The usual procedure is to stop at the campsite office when you first arrive and book your pitch. If the office is closed, you can go and find a pitch and pay for it when the office reopens. Be careful: not all pitches that look empty actually are. Most people leave something on their pitch when they go out for the day – a chair or the electric cable are common – to show it’s taken. So if you see anything lying on a pitch, find another one.
Finding the best Scottish campsites for motorhomes
Many people think they can camp anywhere in Scotland because you can walk anywhere. But the laws that cover access don’t apply to motor vehicles: technically wild camping is not allowed. Having said that, you’ll probably get away with doing it for one night unless there’s a sign prohibiting it.
The good news is that there are plenty of fantastic campsites in Scotland, often with glorious views and plenty of space. As you head further north and west, you’ll find fewer people and more space. You’ll also find white-sand beaches and turquoise sea that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. (And rain. And midges. But the upsides outweigh the downsides.)
Perthshire and the Great Glen
Some of the biggest camping sites in Scotland get top reviews from campers. For example, Blair Castle Caravan Park, at Blair Atholl in Perthshire, is big but very well run. The facilities are excellent and there are plenty of outdoor activities on site for adults and children. You also get reduced-price entry to Blair Castle, which is well worth visiting, and you may be lucky enough to watch Europe’s last private army, the Atholl Highlanders, on parade. There are plenty of other facilities nearby for all tastes – everything from whisky tasting to bungee-jumping.
If you have children keen to hunt for legendary monsters, Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) lives very close to the Glen Nevis Touring and Camping Park near Fort William. No monster hunters? Walk the trails along the River Nevis, fish for salmon, climb Ben Nevis or meet the resident Highland Cattle. The site has its own restaurant and bar, shop, children’s play area and fishing. The site is big enough not to require advance booking, normally – but do check whether there’s any event on in the area that might mean it’s full.
If you’d prefer a somewhat smaller site in the same area then Cannich Woodland Camping, in Glen Affric National Nature Reserve, is also close to Loch Ness. It’s on a long-distance walking route and there are cycle trails locally. Glen Affric offers forests, lochs, mountains and wildlife to watch – yet the bright lights of Inverness are less than an hour’s drive away. On site, the showers are free, there’s an indoor sitting/TV room, a children’s play area, laundry facilities and a café.
Lochs and mountains
For mountains you can’t beat the Cairngorms (not in Scotland, anyway). There are various campsites to choose from, including Rothiemurchus Camp and Caravan Park, as well as the nearby Glenmore Campsite, which sits in the forest in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park. It may not have the sea but it does have Loch Morlich, where you can canoe or watch for ospreys and otters. Mountains surround you and there are walking and mountain-biking trails as well as serious mountain climbing. In winter you can ski downhill at nearby Aviemore or go cross-country along the walking trails. For a visit with a difference, head to Santa Claus’s Scottish team at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, just down the road.
Another highly-recommended loch-side campsite is Lomond Woods, at Balloch on Loch Lomond’s “bonnie banks”. It’s a 5-star site with fully serviced hard-standing pitches for motorhomes. Take a loch cruise, go kayaking or mountain-biking, indulge in a little retail therapy at the nearby Alexandria Shopping Village, have a meal at a loch-side restaurant… or just sit and admire the view.
Beaches and sea
Sands Caravan and Camping Park at Gairloch, in Wester Ross, is another well-run large site. The main attraction here is the sea, with views across to Skye and the Outer Hebrides. There are pitches on the sand dunes for tents; for motorhomes, hard-standing pitches with electric hookups are provided. There’s a shop, play area, TV and games room for wet days and a jetty for boats as well as full toilet, shower and disposal facilities.
A great west-coast beach campsite, well to the south of Gairloch, is Camusdarach near Arisaig on the famous Road to the Isles. On a hot day you could be forgiven for thinking you were a long way from Scotland – but here there are no crowds, no ice-cream sellers and no beach loungers. You’re practically in the water, and there’s plenty to do both on site and nearby: sea kayaking, boat tours, even the “Harry Potter” train – it runs past the site on the way from Mallaig to Fort William and back via the famously beautiful Glenfinnan Viaduct. If you’re a fan of Bonnie Prince Charlie, you should visit the Glenfinnan Monument , which marks the place where the clans gathered at the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Prince Charlie’s cave, where he’s said to have hidden after Culloden, is also nearby.
We hope our top motorhome campsite tips will have whetted your appetite to visit Scotland soon. There’s so much to see, we couldn’t possibly cover everything – you’ll just come and find out for yourself!