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Issue 36 - Your home on the road

Scotland Magazine Issue 36
December 2007

 

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Your home on the road

In the latest of our series on accommodation in Scotland, Richard Goslan tackles the controversial caravan.

Nothing divides opinion quite like the humble caravan. It’s a bit like George Bush’s mindset on his “war on terror” – you’re either with us or against us. And if you’re stuck in a tailback on a narrow Highland road caused by a caravanner who’s barely touching 30mph, it’s easy to fall into the former group.

But for those who are doing the towing, with the ability to stop wherever they please and still have all their creature comforts around them, it’s hard to imagine why you would ever want to splash out on an expensive hotel or B&B again. And when you consider that Scotland has some of the most scenic sites imaginable, maybe it’s time for the anti-caravan brigade to take a deep breath and consider what they’re missing out on.

There are countless reasons why caravanning is more popular than ever in Scotland.

Of course, there’s the ability to travel with your own little home from home, with everything you need for your trip stowed away on board, and no need to laboriously pack and unpack at every new destination.

There’s the knowledge that throughout Scotland, there are more than 500 licensed caravan sites to choose from, so if you’re running behind schedule and want to change your plans, you’re always going to be able to find an alternative spot to spend the night.

There’s the financial factor, of course – most caravan sites cost between just £12-£26 ($25- $54) per night for a pitch which will provide an electric hook-up and all the facilities you could wish for.

Environmentally, you’re minimising your carbon footprint by avoiding taking a plane journey and its emissions of CO2. And who wants to get on a plane nowadays anyway, unless they absolutely have to? Security is a nightmare, travellers are more stressed than ever, and on budget airlines you have to fight for your seat – and then fork out even for a cup of coffee, before disembarking at an airport nowhere near your final destination.

Scotland could well be described as caravanning nirvana. As well as relatively quiet and well-maintained roads throughout even the most remote areas of the country, we also seem to reserve some of the best patches of land specifically for our caravan sites. Take Invercoe, for example, just outside the village of Glencoe and right on the shore of Loch Leven, surrounded by the peaks which draw climbers, walkers and history buffs from around the world – it’s the best location in the entire area.

Or how about a pitch near the famous Local Hero beach of Camusdarach at Arisaig on the West Coast – where the views reach across to Skye, the small isles and Knoydart, and the family is just a matter of steps away from the silver sand beach and Caribbeanstyle blue water.

And if you haven’t been in a caravan since childhood, you’ll be amazed by how much they’ve changed. Nowadays, vans come with electric hook-ups, flushing toilets, hot and cold running water, fridge-freezers, microwaves and more. Top-of-the-range models even come with walk-in showers, heated towel rails and flat-screen televisions.

It’s no wonder membership of the Caravan Club grew by 57,000 households last year in the United Kingdom, the 11th year of record membership. Having just celebrated its centenary year, the club now represents one million caravanners in the UK, with 60,000 of those coming from Scotland.

Perceptions of caravanners have changed dramatically, according to the Caravan Club’s Fiona Bewers.

“I think people really appreciate the freedom that comes with caravanning – they can go where they want, when they want, they can avoid hotels’ schedules and have total flexibility in their holiday.

“It does appeal to all ages too, because young families are able to take their kids’ bikes and toys along with them easily. And we’re now seeing younger people clubbing together to buy a caravan in which they can go off together to festivals or elsewhere.” The Caravan Club has 29 affiliated sites in Scotland, with another 150 ‘certified locations,’ smaller spots with space for a maximum of five touring vans. Although non-members can use the club’s main sites, a membership of £35 per year gives you access to 2500 members-only locations throughout the UK. There are also hundreds of independent sites in Scotland which you can easily track down on the internet. Many of them have fellow caravanners’ reviews and a complete list of their facilities, to give you a clear idea if it’s the kind of place you’re looking for.

If you don’t have your own caravan, it is possible to rent one and attach it to your car – companies such as Bridge of Allan-based Sidewaulk Camper Hire have a range of options, with a four-berth touring caravan for about £400 per week in high season.

If you are flying into Scotland for a holiday, however, a campervan may be the best option. You can rent them for around £650 per week in high season from companies such as Inverness-based Highland Campervans, which will provide everything you need to hit the open road in search of your own perfect pitch.

And if you really want to keep in with the locals, just remember to pull into the side of the road every so often. You’ll let them on their way a little quicker, and give yourself more time to soak up those views.

Ten of the best
Bunree, Onich near Fort William
An award-winning Caravan Club site on the banks of
Loch Linnhe
Tel: +44 (0)1855 821 283
Brighouse Bay, near Kirkcudbright,
Dumfriesshire

A winner of the David Bellamy Conservation Gold
Award, with extensive family-friendly facilities
Tel: +44 (0)1557 870 267
Clachtoll Beach Campsite, Assynt
Footsteps to the beach and not far to the mountains
of this dramatic Highland wilderness
Tel: +44 (0)1571 855 377
Craigtoun Meadows Holiday Park, near St Andrews
Ideal for golf lovers and for the clean, sandy beaches
of the Fife coastline
Tel: +44 (0)1334 475 959
Glenmore Caravan and Camping Site, near Aviemore
Tucked into the pine forests on the side of Loch
Morlich in the shadow of the Cairngorms
Tel: +44 (0)1479 861 271
Hoddom Castle, near Annan in Dumfriesshire
Set in the grounds of a 16th century Border estate,
ideal for golfing and fishing
Tel: +44 (0)1576 300 251
Invercoe, near Glencoe
Aperfect location at the head of the awe-inspiring
Glen Coe
Tel: +44 (0)1855 811 210
Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Site
Ideal for visiting Edinburgh, located in a 200-acre
private country estate south of the city, with views to
the Pentland Hills
Tel: +44 (0)131 664 1533
Rosemarkie, Fortrose, Moray Firth
Voted Caravan Magazine’s best Scottish site in 2006,
Rosemarkie has superb views across the sound to
Fort George and the Grampian Mountains
Tel: +44 (0)1381 621 117
Silversands Caravan Site, near Arisaig
Close to one of Scotland’s best beaches, and with
views worth much more than the site fees
Tel: +44 (0)1687 450 269

Contact
Caravan Club
Tel: +44 (0)1342 326 944
www.caravanclub.co.uk
Highland Campervans, Inverness
Tel: +44 (0)1463 798 009
www.highlandcampervans.com
Sidewaulk Camper Hire, Bridge of Allan
Tel: +44 (0)7890 145 896
www.camper-hire.co.uk