Ready, Set, Road Trip: Your 10-Step Guide to Camper Vanning in Scotland!
Are you planning to explore Scotland in a camper van? It's a great way to experience the country's stunning landscapes, charming towns, and rich history. But before you hit the road, there are a few things you need to consider to make your trip smooth and enjoyable. Here are 10 steps to prepare for a camper van trip in Scotland.
1. Choose the Right Camper Van
When it comes to camper vans, one size doesn't fit all. You need to choose a vehicle that suits your needs, budget, and driving skills. For the 2 of us navigating the often narrow roads of Scotland, the VW T6 California camper van from RoadSurfer fit the bill perfectly! It was easy to maneuver, included all the amenities we needed for a comfortable trip, including a kitchenette, 2 beds, heating, and storage.
2. Plan Your Route
Scotland is full of incredible destinations, but you can't see everything in one trip. Take some time to plan your route based on your interests, time, and budget. Some of the most popular destinations include the Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Isle of Skye. For our trip, we wanted to savor the ability to go "off the beaten path" while taking our time between destinations each day without having to drive 5+ hours at a time. Due to this, we chose destinations that (without any stopping) were only about 2 hours apart! This led to a trip that left us feeling fulfilled vs exhausted from going non stop.
3. Check the Weather
Scotland's weather is notoriously unpredictable, so be prepared for rain, wind, and cold temperatures. Bring warm and waterproof clothing, and check the weather forecast regularly. Keep in mind that the weather can affect your driving conditions and itinerary. We got lucky and experienced summer sunshine in the spring- but that also meant we got sun burned! Don't forget that being in the northern hemisphere means easier sunburns.
4. Stock Up on Essentials
When you're on the road, you need to be self-sufficient. Make a list of essential items you need to bring, such as food, water, toiletries, and camping gear. Don't forget to pack a first aid kit, a map, and a guidebook. On the road in Scotland, we had cellphone service for most of the trip- and our van had an excellent GPS system. We stocked up on food on day #1 that ended up lasting perfectly until our last morning. With that, we only ate out twice!
5. Learn the Rules of the Road
Driving in Scotland can be challenging, especially if you're used to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules of the road, including speed limits, roundabouts, and parking regulations. Take your time and drive defensively. While it was my first time driving on that side of the road, the many detailed road signs, smooth roads, and easy to handle vehicle made driving a lot easier.
6. Practice Safe and Sustainable Camping
Camping is a great way to connect with nature and save money, but it also comes with responsibilities. Make sure you camp only in designated areas, respect the environment, and dispose of your waste properly. Leave no trace and follow the leave-nothing-but-footprints rule. Scotland has an incredible 'wild camping' law that keeps the wide open spaces available for us to explore, but that also means having to follow the rules. Do not park overnight in an area that says 'no overnight parking', or on private property.
7. Embrace the Local Culture
Scotland has a rich and fascinating culture that's worth exploring. Visit museums, galleries, and historic sites to learn more about the country's history and heritage. Try local foods and drinks, attend festivals and events, and interact with locals to get a deeper understanding of the culture. We visited the historic battlefield of Culloden, and just happened to arrive. on the 277th anniversary of this bloody battle. As always, it's important to be respectful of the places you visit, as you may be standing on ground that is sacred to the people of this land.
8. Stay Connected
While a camper van trip is a great way to disconnect from the world, you still need to stay connected in case of emergencies. Bring a mobile phone, a charger, and a power bank. You can also rent a portable WiFi device to stay connected to the internet. While the vans have power and can be disconnected without driving or plugging in for about 60 hours- it's good to be prepared.
9. Budget Wisely
A camper van trip can be a cost-effective way to travel, but it also requires careful budgeting. Make a realistic budget based on your itinerary, transportation, accommodation, food, and activities. Consider buying a National Trust for Scotland membership or a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass to save money on entrance fees. For our 4 night / 5 day road trip around the country- we spent a total of $150.00 USD on gas + AdBlue emissions modifier.
10. Have Fun and Be Flexible
Last but not least, remember that a camper van trip is all about having fun and enjoying the journey. Be flexible with your itinerary, take detours, and embrace unexpected adventures. Don't stress too much about the small details, and enjoy the freedom and independence of the road! Some of our favorite parts of the trip were due to being curious about a certain road, or stopping at a scenic pull out then realizing just across the road was a public access trail that led to a mountaintop lined with sheep with one of the most incredible views.
I hope these tips will help you plan and enjoy your camper van trip in Scotland. For more information and inspiration, check out the following websites:
Visit Scotland: https://www.visitscotland.com/
Scottish Camping: https://www.scottishcamping.com/