LIFE in a camper van conjures up images of wistfully gazing at sunsets through the window and parking next to windswept beaches, offering the freedom of the open road and a promise of the great outdoors.
Admittedly, my husband and I are more at home in the city. So when we picked up our modern Volkswagen T6 camper van from Rockin Vans in Kilmarnock, we were pleased to discover it comes equipped with mod cons including a fridge, small sink and gas stove.
Another confession: I’m far more used to being behind the wheel of a small hatchback than a large van.
However, within a short time our new home on wheels proved remarkably easy to drive, helped by features such as reverse parking camera and sensors. For that perfect road-trip feeling, there was a bluetooth sound system. My husband was tasked with choosing appropriate music.
After two hours of leisurely driving down the Ayrshire coast, we arrived at our first overnight camping spot next door to Culzean Castle, near Maybole. We were given a warm welcome and asked the crucial camping question: a pitch with a view or close to the toilets?
Opting for the first choice, our home for the night came with sweeping views across fields down to the coast. It was the perfect spot for gazing into the distance – except it was obscured by the rain battering off the windows.
But this is where having your transport, living space and sleeping space all in one comes in to its own. With plans for a long walk thwarted by the downpour, we simply headed out for a drive down the coast to Girvan and hunted down some comfort food in the form of fish and chips.
Back at the site, which is run by the Camping and Caravanning Club, it was a simple process to bunk down for the night. We hooked the van up to an electricity supply – it comes with a leisure battery for remote stopping places – and raised the pop-top roof to create some additional space.
This also houses a mezzanine-type platform for a bed for two. The cleverly swivelling front passenger seat turns round to create a sitting space and, after only a few minutes of head-scratching, the back seats and cushions were successfully converted into a bed. There were a few rookie mistakes – realising too late the chocolate supplies were trapped in a cupboard made inaccessible by the rearranged furniture and having to use rolled-up jumpers in place of forgotten pillows. But we were quickly, snugly, settled down for the night.
The next day, after a breakfast of coffee and porridge from the gas stove, we packed up and headed to explore Culzean Castle.
With the rain showing no sign of easing, a wander inside the National Trust property was perfect. Back on the road, the camper van again proved easy to drive – even when my phone’s Sat Nav decided to test our nerves by taking us down some unexpectedly narrow country roads.
However, we successfully made it to our next home for the night, another Camping and Caravanning Club site at Moffat.
It had the same excellent standards and facilities, with clean toilets and showers and a place to wash dishes. It was much bigger and busier than Culzean, but our pitch still had a flavour of countryside living. We parked up next to a bank of trees which was home to a family of rabbits hopping about, ignoring the bustle around them.
The advantage of this site is it’s just a short five-minute walk to the main street.
We had a pleasant stroll around before dinner, including a stop at the Famous Star Hotel, which dates from the 1700s and found fame as the world’s narrowest hotel.
Despite the constant patter of rain, we had another excellent night’s sleep in the van, and its insulation meant there was no need to turn on the heater.
As we packed up to head back to Kilmarnock to drop the van off, inevitably the sun came out for the first time.
The weather hadn’t been on our side and thwarted the dream of sitting outside watching the stars. But it was with reluctance we handed back our home on wheels.
We might not be the outdoor types, but a camper van offers the chance to take to the open road in comfort.
It’s definitely something you could get used to.
Rockin Vans has a hire fleet of campervans and motorhomes. For a week’s hire, prices start at £483. Visit rockinvans.co.uk or call 0141 404 8384.
The Camping and Caravanning Club has 106 sites throughout the UK. Price for a serviced pitch from £28.90 per night (based on two adults sharing a campervan or caravan). Visit campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
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