Travel: Scotland in a campervan

by little red pen

29 April: Edinburgh | Glasgow | Stonehaven
A day of logistics. Travel by taxi, train, and foot. Lots of luggage, seven people, two campervans, and slightly out-of-date satnav systems. We camped in Stonehaven, on the road beside the beach.

Memorable moments:

  • our first ready meals (surprisingly really not too bad)
  • tucking up in camp beds for the night
  • a night-time symphony of boy racers and trumpets on the beach (random, I know), mingled with the steady swoosh of the sea
  • a cold, “invigorating” morning shower in the campervan.

30 April: Stonehaven | Aberchirder | Ordiquill | Knock | Nairn
After a bit of a run in the playground, we set off to Aberchirder. Back roads made for a slow and nerve-wracking drive, but we got to Aberchirder in time for a late pub lunch.

P1040893We walked up and down the main street and found what might have been Dad’s grandfather’s inn — only it didn’t have the requisite three storeys, just the right name. Everyone we spoke to said that Aberchirder is struggling; almost all the shops have closed, and the streets have a drear, deserted feel. Better was the old cemetery at Ordiquill — a quiet resting place with a fair collection of Wilsons and a good view of Knock Hill.P1040892

We made it to Nairn for the night. Nairn is a pretty town, with an attractive fishing harbour and a good beach. The camping ground manages to be positioned between the two, without taking advantage of either. Evening walk saved by nesting birds and a heron, grey as a wish in the falling night.

1 May: Nairn | Culloden | Balmacara
To Culloden this morning, a boggy, bare, windswept battlefield dotted with stone memorials and with rows of red and blue flags showing the front lines of the English and Jacobite armies. Saw skylarks and pied wagtails, and had a moment of solidarity with Highland cows. I know what it’s like to look out on the world from beneath a sweep of red hair.

P1040916We talked to a guide about the family story: a farmer and cattle drover from Knock tied to a cannon wheel and forced to show Cumberland’s army a route to Inverness. So hard to know how to read this — as betrayal or tragedy, cowardice or a missed opportunity. What was he thinking? What calculations, balances of loyalty, concern for his family, political affiliation, fear, anger, disgust did he have to weigh? What of this story has seeped into our family blood? Where does it come out?

P1040949We headed for Skye after that, but called it quits at Balmacara, where the late sun shone on a perfect little camping ground — white buildings with tiled and wooden bathrooms, hand-painted signs, a kind and thoughtful warden, trees, grass, and the long, hill-ranged loch across the road.P1040950

2 May: Balmacara | Skye | Sligachan
Rain. And wind. Good lunch, but.

3 May: Sligachan | Lagganbeg
Another long day of navigating very narrow roads and small towns, driving through highland passes and along lochs to Luss. No sites available there, so we continued to Lagganbeg.

Everyone well over campervanning by now, but the rain did stop in the evening and our highland blanket is cheering. Beautiful landscapes.

4 May: Lagganbeg | Glasgow | Edinburgh | London
Um, yes. Punctured a tyre driving out of the campsite. Long negotiations with the hire company and the rest of the family, who were on the way to our 1pm train from Edinburgh to London. Ditched the campervan and took a taxi to Glasgow. Have never been more relieved to drive away from something in my life. Detours on the way to get cash and figure out where we were going. Swift transfer to another taxi. Tense and proficient drive to Edinburgh, including roadworks. Cost = gulp. Arrived at station with six minutes to spare. Everyone made it onto the train. Long journey to London. Flat above a pub and a bit inadequate.P1050015