Country Summary – Scotland, the most beautiful place in the world?

We have managed 6 weeks and 2 days in Scotland on this trip, covering only a small part of the country and even then managing only a small sample of what is available in each area we have visited.

While we were here Scotland was proclaimed the most beautiful country in the world. Is this correct? Well we haven’t been everywhere, but Scotland is the place we keep coming back to again and again; without ever getting bored and despite the sometimes awful weather. In fact the occasional prolonged period of rain just makes any respite feel full of possibilities.

With the sequence of low pressure systems working their way over the UK we certainly had our fair share of bad weather on this trip and that modified our plans with less kayaking, fishing and mountain walking and more cycling, coastal walks and tourist attractions. Sadly we didn’t see the Northern Lights, despite two solar activity spikes while we were there; the weather was too cloudy where we were.

A few stats

Number of nights spent in Scotland: 44

Number of different overnight locations: 32 (of which 5 were campsites and the rest were parking spots, most of which were free but 4 were paid)

Average ‘camping’ cost per night: £3.22

Average total spend per day: £20.48. This seems very little compared to our costs while in Wales, but just happens to reflect that we did not have to buy any Motorhome stuff while we were in Scotland.

Number of miles driven: 1450 miles in Scotland. Our average fuel (in)efficiency was 23.01 MPG which we were pretty happy with given the roads we were driving on. Our cost per mile was 23.4 pence, which reflects the high cost of fuel in the highlands as well as our fuel efficiency.

Finding overnight locations in Scotland

For overnight locations we mostly used the information available through the fantastic Scottish Motorhome Wildcampers facebook forum, we also used http://searchforsites.co.uk, and our OS maps to identify possible locations. For campsites we used UKCampsite.

You should not get confused between motorhome parking and the right to ‘wild camp’ via the Land Reform Act. Access to land in motorised transport is not covered by this legislation and so you are subject to parking byelaws or landowner’s demands. Having said that, there are a multitude of publicly accessible parking spots as well as parking locations on private land (National Trust for Scotland, RSPB, Forestry Commission and Scottish Heritage are a few of the bigger landowners who have been known to tolerate motorhome parking – often on an informal basis and not consistently at all locations). 

You can find the map of the parking locations we have used here.

While in Scotland we became increasingly aware of the pressure that some believe is being exerted by the volume of motorhomes on the road using (or abusing) facilities. There was a fair amount of content in the Scottish press on the subject, it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

Driving in Scotland

Scottish highland roads may be single track but they are also blessed with a multitude of passing places that are well signposted, usually with white squares or diamonds on top of posts. The majority of road users know how to use passing places not just for passing people coming in the opposite direction but also to allow overtaking. We found our reversing camera invaluable for keeping an eye on vehicles approaching from behind (as well as helping us reverse into the passing places) and our only caution was to avoid being forced into passing places that were too soft to take Bertie.

We had half a dozen ferry crossings on the CalMac ferries, all of which were very easy and there are always plenty of helpful staff around if you have any questions. Different ferries have different rules, some ask you to pay on board and some ask you to pay in advance at the ticket office, some accept bookings for specific crossings and some operate on a first come first served basis. All the relevant information can be found on their website where you can also buy tickets and book crossings (where it’s possible for that particular service). The CalMac ferries operate a Road Equivalent Tarrif (RET) which is meant to make the fares equivalent to driving the same distance, it means the crossings are very reasonably priced. Motorhome prices vary according to motorhome length – under 6 meters, between 6 and 8 meters and over 8 meters (including bike racks/boxes etc) – height does not make any difference. We did need help to avoid grounding on one ferry crossing (Tobermory to Kilchoan), but the staff are very practised at placing boards under wheels. If you want to avoid grounding then choose a crossing as close to high tide as possible, but if you cant then don’t worry, you’ll get help.  

Best Bits

It’s always difficult to pick the best bits of any trip to Scotland, any visit is made up of every experience not just a hand picked selection. But if forced to pick out some of the best moments.

Dumfries and Galloway: One of our unwritten rules for our adventure is that we should go to places we’ve never been before. Dumfries and Galloway was a revelation, only just north of the Lake District but so much quieter with beautiful coastline, high rounded hills, mossy forests, castles and abbeys (oh and a lot of bogs, don’t forget the bogs).    

Seafood: No trip to the west coast would be the same without a good sample of seafood; fish and shellfish are plentiful and scrumptious whether as part of a fish supper eaten with your fingers or a more upmarket seafood platter.

Falkirk: Falkirk gets the prize for the best all round day out with the Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel and mountain biking, all in an industrial town.

Otters and Sea Eagles: We saw numerous otters in Scotland, probably the best day was when we saw both an otter and a sea eagle in close proximity on the isle of Mull.

Torrisdale Bay: In a country full of scenic places this was one of our favourite spots to sit in the van and watch the sea.  

The standing stones on Arran: In a dramatic setting of moorland backed by jagged mountains this collection of standing stones just kept going (and we could have walked further and found more).

Other stuff

We visited a fair few castles and other historical locations. Historic Scotland has plenty of free attractions but if you want to see the bigger places then it is worth buying a membership or a tourist pass. An annual membership is £47.25 and depending on where you go could pay you back in half a dozen visits.

Although Ordnance Survey maps cover Scotland, because of the difference between Scottish and English land access rights the approach to marking paths is different. This means that there are a lot of paths which just aren’t shown on the map. There is an amazing resource online at walkhighlands.co.uk, which has many walks of all different grades across the whole of Scotland (not just the highlands).

 

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