I’d never thought of myself as a caravan fan. In fact, until a couple of weeks ago, the last time I’d set foot on a campsite (not including music festivals) I was wearing a Brownie uniform.
Given the choice between a hotel-based city break or a weekend in a field, queueing for the shower block, there was no contest – but that was before the coronavirus turned booking a holiday abroad into a game of Russian roulette.
Now, along with everyone else, I have embraced the staycation and – after spending my first motorhome weekend touring our beautiful country – I am a camping convert.
To be fair we weren’t exactly roughing it. Apart from the unsavoury task of emptying the chemical toilet, our four-berth Swift Escape 664 was a home from home, complete with TV, central heating, a fully equipped kitchen, warm shower, and very comfortable beds.
Me, my partner Gav and our six-year-old son Gabriel set off on our mini adventure on a Friday evening after work, and managed to cover 500 miles and three campsites by the time we returned home on the Monday morning.
We hired our motorhome from Swift Go in Livingston before driving to the Edinburgh Club site which lies on the banks of the Firth of Forth, 20 minutes from the heart of the city centre. Our hire included access to the Caravan and Motorhome Club, which has over 2,700 sites and locations across the UK and Europe.
Camping pitches cost from £8 per person per night and it’s advised you arrive early to bag the best spot. We got to Edinburgh at 6.30pm and there were only a couple left.
We spent the first hour with our noses buried in the motorhome manual, as we tried to work out how to plug into the mains, and sort the water and gas supply. My competitive nature kicked in and I felt a deep sense of victory from figuring out how to flush the toilet. Once we were all plugged and plumbed into the mainframe, I set about making dinner. As advised, we stocked up with groceries en route and I rustled up some pesto pasta and salad while Gav and Gabriel set up an al fresco dining area. We ate under a pink sky before turning in for the night.
The next morning we drove the 20 minutes to the bustling seaside suburb of Portobello. It was mid-morning and already busy with hipsters drinking coffee outside the beach-front cafes, families picnicking on the sands and some hardy souls braving the surf. We bought coffees at The Beach House and an ice-cream for Gabriel and went for a stroll along the front, taking in the sea air.
Afterwards we started the hour-long journey north, to the Balbirnie Park Club Site, in Fife. It is set within 400 acres of woodland and is just a 20-minute drive to some of the best beaches on the East Neuk of Fife. We stopped off briefly to bag our pitch and then headed straight out again to Elie beach where we spent a lovely sunny afternoon playing in the sand and paddling in the sea.
At teatime we headed to The Ship Inn on the harbour which is famed for its sea views and fish ‘n’ chips. It was packed out so we left our mobile number with the waiter who promised to call us as soon as a table was free. We killed time walking further along the beach and within an hour our table was ready. We had the best fish ‘n’ chips I have tasted in a long time and the view was hard to beat.
The next day we hit the road again. The three-hour drive towards our final night in the Bunree Caravan site, 10 miles outside Fort William, took us through pretty Perthshire countryside which gives way to the rugged beauty of the lochs and mountains of the Trossachs.
We broke the journey up with lunch in the Bridge Of Ochy Hotel which offers locally produced dishes and sandwiches. I had the Cullen Skink soup, which was creamy and delicious, and Gav scoffed his New Yorker Pastrami, ‘slaw, gherkins, cheese and hot mustard, in, well, a New York minute.
We arrived in Bunree as the sun was beginning to set. It is the perfect Highland retreat with easy access to guided mountain walks, including Ben Nevis where you can take a cable car to the upper terminal (2,300ft) for fabulous views of the Great Glen and the islands of Skye and Rhum.
This was by far my favourite campsite. The views across Loch Linnhe are breathtaking and Gabriel loved exploring the pebble beach, as we sipped a beer on the shoreline, watching the sailboats go by. One word of warning though, the midges are vicious!
In many ways a motorhome break is the perfect post-Covid holiday. You are essentially in your own personal isolation bubble and the club sites have been easily adapted to allow social distancing.
After the stresses of lockdown, it felt very freeing being on the open road and it reminded us of the jaw-dropping beauty that can be found on our doorstep. And, of course, there’s no two-week quarantine to endure when you get home.
It is £54 a year to join the Caravan and Motorhome Club, which gives you access to thousands of sites across Europe as well as a range of discounts from site fees to ferry crossings.Visit caravanclub.co.uk
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