I’ve always wanted to go on a family camper van/motorhome holiday. There’s something about the freedom of driving around with everything you need that has always appealed to me.
It’s one of those holidays that divides people. You either recoil in horror at the thought of being in a confined space with your family for a week or two, or you see it as an adventure.
There were a few reasons why we hadn’t done it before but Big Bear’s sleep issue was a big one.
Cut to the end of June 2020 when it looked like England was about to ease the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, and we started to think that this was the year it might happen.
Big Bear’s sleep has thankfully improved in the last year so we started looking at our options. We found a six berth motorhome available a few miles from where we live and booked it for the end of July. It was the only week in the school holidays that it was free. Everyone else had had clearly had the same idea.
We decided to travel around the Scottish Highlands: a beautiful part of the world. Most importantly, it has lots of space for social distancing, unlike other parts of the UK. We planned a our stops based on the campsites we could actually book into at the time. While it wasn’t the most logical route, given our seven-day tight timeframe, it actually worked out well in the end.
Here’s how the week unfolded for a family of novices on their first motorhome holiday….
DAY 1: Paxton House, near Berwick-Upon-Tweed
We’d focused so much on the rest of the trip that by the time it came to our first night, we’d completely forgotten where we’d booked. So it was a lovely surprise when the sat nav brought us to a little caravan park in the walled garden of Paxton House.
The historic house is located in the Scottish Borders near Berwick-upon-Tweed. The best thing about the 15-pitch site was that we had access to the house’s 80-acres of grounds that sit next to the River Tweed.
After tea, we did a mile circular walk through the woods, along the river and back up via the adventure playground.
The fact that we had all this to ourselves was brilliant. The boys could run around and use the adventure playground equipment without worrying about social distancing. However, even during open hours I think this adventure playground would be good for social distancing. All the equipment is separate over a large area so all the kids aren’t trying to access one big structure.
Incidentally, the caravan park itself was great for families as you could see the kids at all times. It felt very safe but there was also room for them to burn off energy without disturbing anyone.
DAY 2: Rosemarkie
Our second day saw us take a 4.5-hour road trip to the village of Rosemarkie on the Black Isle Peninsula near Inverness.
The boys had an early start, which is always the way on the first morning of a holiday. They wake up full of beans and then we spend the rest of the day trying to calm them down. Luckily they both had a nap in the car. However, Big Bear was disappointed to have missed the Queensferry Crossing and the Forth Bridge.
Luckily they both woke up in time for our lunch stop at Queen’s View and the spectacular panoramic views overlooking Loch Tummel. It was worth the slight stress of wondering whether we’d made a big mistake taking a huge vehicle up a small road. Luckily it was quiet and at one point we saw a couple of articulated lorries, which reassured us.
TOP TIP: We arrived at our Caravan and Camping campsite near the village of Rosemarkie at tea time. One thing I’m glad I did with hindsight was prepare a few meals in advance. On days like this when we turn up with hungry children it’s easy to feed them.
We managed to secure a coveted motorhome spot just off the beach with an awesome sea view. The only downside was that there wasn’t space on the site for the kids to run around the campsite. It also wasn’t safe to let them go on the beach on their own, even though we could see the beach. Big Bear wouldn’t think twice about running into the sea fully-clothed and Little Bear’s too young.
Nevertheless it was a gorgeous spot and we were so lucky to be able to stay there for a few days. It’s a little off the beaten track so it’s a fairly quiet area and easy to social distance.
DAY 3: Fairy Glen Falls, Rosemarkie
The boys had a much better night’s sleep, with Little Bear sleeping until after 7am – unheard of – maybe it was the sea air.
We decided that after two days of driving we needed exercise so we packed a picnic and walked to Fairy Glen Falls. Fairy Glen Falls is an RSPB nature reserve near where we were staying in Rosemarkie.
The 0.8-mile woodland route leads to two pretty waterfalls. We read that it was a 30 minute walk from where we were staying at the beach. Three hours later (including a brief stop to eat our picnic) we arrived. Standard.
The boys headed straight for the shallow pools at the bottom of the last waterfall Not for long, though, it was freeeezing
While there were other people on the walk, it wasn’t difficult to stay apart and although there were a few narrow and slippery muddy sections, the walk was fairly flat most of the way.
DAY 4: Rosemarkie Beach
Who needs Spain when the sun’s shining in the Scottish Highlands?
Day 4 saw us venturing no further than 10 metres from our motorhome. The beach was pretty quiet for a hot day and the boys enjoyed playing in the sea and being buried in the sand (the ultimate weighted blanket). I lost mummy points for forgetting to bring a bucket and spade on holiday and there wasn’t anywhere nearby to buy one. Instead we played frisbee and made up a few games. Little Bear’s favourite thing at the moment is Batman so I wrote messages from the villains in the sand for him to read.
In the evening, Big Bear and I went dolphin spotting. The end of the beach – Chanonry Point – is one of the best places to see dolphins in Scotland, particularly on an incoming tide when they play and chase fish in the strong currents.
He lasted 45 minutes and then insisted we head back so sadly we didn’t see them this time.
DAY 5: Rosemarkie to the Isle of Skye
After the disappointment of not seeing any wild dolphins with Big Bear, I got up early to try my luck again.
This time patience paid off and after about an hour a group of dolphins swam in and started playing in the water nearby. The pictures I took were terrible as the sun made it impossible to see exactly where to point the phone. You’ll have to just believe me when I say it was a pretty spectacular sight.
Fun fact for you: The resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth is the most northern colony on earth. They are also some of the largest in the world, measuring an average of almost 4 m (13 ft) in length. In other parts of the world they are roughly 2.5 m (8.2 ft).
The rest of the day saw us drive 3.5 hours through some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever seen. We drove through Loch Ness, to get to our next destination on the Isle of Skye.
We’ve seen some pretty impressive contenders for most scenic road in Britain this week but high up there is the A87. It was so good I forgot to capture it on camera.
Our Caravan and Camping site overlooking Loch Greshornish was a lovely location, although very windy. It was located in the middle of nowhere but handy for travelling around during the day. There were no toilet or shower facilities available on the campsite, which had opened that day following lockdown so I was glad we were in a motorhome.
DAY 6: Isle of Skye
Our one day on Skye didn’t go according to plan.
It started off well at the Fairy Glen – a magical landscape in the hills above Uig, created by a landslip. We had fun running up and down the hills and flying our kite.
Our next stop was Al Corran – a beach where dinosaur footprints can be seen at low tide. And this is where we came unstuck.
We’d been really careful not to take any risks with the motorhome up to that point. We’d parked on the main road to the Fairy Glen and walked up the single track road that led to the attraction. We hadn’t attempted to go down the narrow pass to the Quiraing – a must-see geological phenomenon on the northernmost summit of the Trotternish.
Yet here we were on a single track road on the way to the beach unable to go forwards or backwards. I ran down the road to check if there was a chance it became wider as you got closer to the beach. It didn’t. While I was there I saw a family pointing and taking pictures at the point where we were told the dinosaur footprints could be seen. I nipped over after they’d moved away and took a quick picture, just in case it was a footprint, and ran back up the hill to the motorhome. We did a 35-point turn, managed to get ourselves back on the main road without encountering any oncoming traffic and vowed never to do anything like that again.
The Bears took it pretty well, although Big Bear was disappointed as he wanted to paddle.
Further down the road we decided to stop briefly at The Storr – the famous rocky hill on the Trotternish peninsula. This wasn’t in the original plan but as we found a parking space, it felt like too good an opportunity to miss.
As soon as we got there, there was a huge downpour and The Bears didn’t want to move. So I walked as fast as I could up the hill to see if I could catch a glimpse of the famous Old Man of Storr rock without going too far. No was the answer, so I headed back down.
At that point we decided to cut our losses and try to rescue the end the day with fish and chips at Portree, Skye’s pretty capital. As if by magic, the rain cleared to reveal sunshine and we sat down and ate fish and chips at the harbour, watching the boats come in.
We loved Skye – the scenery is truly as stunning as everyone says it is – but when we go again we’ll take a car instead. A six-berth motorhome was severely limiting and nobody wants to be the idiot who gets stuck going somewhere they shouldn’t, right?
DAY 7: Leyburn, North Yorkshire
Our mini tour of Scotland ended with an 11-hour drive from Skye to Constable Burton in the Yorkshire Dales.
We’re lucky that the boys are – on the whole – pretty good travellers on a long journey. Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments but generally they’re happy on the move.
We took the scenic route back down to Yorkshire, via Fort William, Glencoe and Loch Lomond. That was part of the reason why the journey took longer than we hoped. That and the fact we kept having to stop to take pictures, eat lunch and go to the loo.
Our final campsite was in the grounds of Constable Burton Hall, near Leyburn. It had a lovely big safe space next to the pitch for the boys to run around in after our epic drive.
A motorhome holiday is hard work but if it’s adventure you’re after then it’s a good choice. That was definitely what we were looking for after lockdown and I’m glad we were able to do it in a safe way. We barely spoke to or went near anyone else for the whole week.
Have you been on a campervan holiday?