Campervans are everywhere in Scotland. So what is the big appeal?
In the beginning, when I first drove Fern the Campervan around in Scotland, I waved at all the other VW vans on the roads. But it became too exhausting. I just hadnâ€™t realised how many campervans there were until I owned my own.
And I reckon the numbers are still growing. Itâ€™s not only the V-dubs either. There are many other campervans, such as Toyotas, Mazda â€œBongosâ€ and even Ford Transit conversions, and from vintage style through to brand new.
For me, and I imagine for many others, the appeal is the freedom to travel and sleep almost wherever you fancy. In Scotland, we are blessed by an amazing Outdoors Access Code that allows people to camp in so many â€œwildâ€ spots.
Although this code doesnâ€™t strictly apply to motor vehicles there is a still a good tradition of wild campervanning. Informal off-road parking takes place in many parts of rural Scotland, often in well-established places, without causing undue concern.
Some communities, such as Calgary Bay on Mull and the island of Tiree, have established their own guidance for campervans and the use of designated overnight parking spaces.
Over the past six months of owning a campervan I have discovered that overnight parking is mostly easy to find as long as you respect peopleâ€™s property and park quietly and discreetly.
The joy for me and my partner is being able to pack the van after work on a Friday, drive north from Glasgow and stop for sleep at any point. We usually set a cut-off time of 11pm. There is no need to think about pitching a tent, booking a B&B or finding breakfast the morning.
And waking up with views of stunning Scottish countryside all around us is very hard to beat. The other day we were even given a unique alarm call by a small herd of jostling calves. They bumped against our van in a friendly manner and made us get up!
Convenience and spontaneity
Another campervan owner is Steven Jewell, an art teacher from Stirling. He hasÂ a modern VW T5 campervan, which he converted bit by bit and whenever he had spare money.
Steven says: â€œSurfing and adventures with my family are my two big loves in life so a campervan is perfect because at the drop of a hat, when the weather or surf are good, I can head off in the van.
â€œI love the freedom to travel when and where I want and with all that my family needs on board or attached to the outside, like surf boards or bikes.â€
Steven has two young kids so the family can all sleep inside the van. Pop-up extensions, cabin beds and tent attachments give extra sleeping room to campervans.
While some people opt for larger motorhomes, with such luxuries as showers and toilet cubicles, a campervan is a less-is-more purchase (or hire).
Campervans are small enough to be easily driven, both in terms of width, length and speed. My VW T5 is my only vehicle so I use it to go to the shops, drive to meetings and as weekend accommodation.
The vintage van enthusiasts
When I sent a photograph of my campervan to my mum she said she was disappointed. In her mind was a van with round headlights, a curved design and bright orange or pale blue paintwork. She was imagining the older style VW vans.
These are still a popular buy, or hire, but they do come with a greater propensity to break down and will guzzle more petrol.
Eight years ago, Neil Wright, of Glasgow, bought a run-down 1970s VW T2 campervan. After a lot of refurbishing he is the proud owner of aÂ beautifully up-dated and fully converted retro vehicle.
Neil says: â€œThe van was a total wreck but over the years I have completely revampedÂ it.Â Every year I add something or change something so itâ€™s like an on-going project for me.Â I love the look of the retro style van and many people stop me to ask about it.
â€œNow it has a pop-up roof with two bunks, a day awning and lots of accessories. The van has given me, my partner and our 12-year-old son lots of adventures. We use our van mainly for walking trips and going to festivals.â€
Campervans to hire
Not everyone has the spare cash to buy a campervan, so hiring is a great option. There are many companies offering vans to hire in Scotland (se the links below).
Other advantages of van hire include support, should you break down; modern and well-kept vans; advice from van hire companies; and the freedom to easily travel around Scotland.
Alison and Philip Clayton, from Northampton, enjoyed hiring a modern Toyota campervan from Perthshire-based Big Tree Campervans for a holiday on Scotlandâ€™s west coast.Â Last summer, they set off with their mountain bikes and sea kayaks on board to tour the area to the south of Oban.
Alison says: â€œWe both love the outdoors and have been keen wild campers in the past. These days I like a few more creature comforts, especially a hot cup of tea and a duvet, so the campervan was perfect.Â Itâ€™s the first time we have hired a van and we really loved the freedom to pick our own quiet camping spots.
“Every day we explored a different part of the coast and islands by kayaks, bikes or on foot.Â When we came back to the van each day it felt so luxurious to have our comforts rather than just a tent. Campervanning is definitely something we will do again.â€
Campervanning guide: Dos and don’ts
Simon Yearsley, owner of Big Tree Campervans, offers good advice for campervanners. He says: â€œIf we respect the countryside it will be there, in its beautiful state, for others to use and for centuries to come. If a few people start to abuse this then the Scottish Government might think about changing our amazing freedom to access countryside code. I always advise campervanners to follow a common sense guide.â€
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Use common sense and think whether the spot you have found is suitable for a vehicle and avoid fragile ground/sensitive habitats/beaches/grass verges.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Think about the cumulative effect of camping.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Avoid overcrowding. If another vehicle is parked in a secluded spot park somewhere else.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Use only biodegradable detergents and drain kitchen wastewater tanks in campsites at designated areas.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Carry a trowel to bury any human waste and urinate well away from open water, rivers and burns. Toilet paper should be bagged and taken away by you, not buried because animals dig it up. Also check out disposable â€œtoiletsâ€ such as Bog in a Bag
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Take away all your litter. Every single scrap of it.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Park in areas where signs state â€œno overnight parkingâ€, or within sight of residential houses, or car park bays and in-town car parks.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Light barbecuesÂ or fires unless it is safe to do so. They should be fully extinguished when finished and no evidence left behind.
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Empty any chemical toilet waste anywhere other than at a designated chemical waste area.
Top tips for campervanning
Hire before you buy: Many people loveÂ living, eating and sleeping in a campervan, but not everyone does. Try before you buy with a reputable campervan hire company. See:
Custom conversions: Buy your van already converted or go for a basic panel van and have it customised to suit your needs. See:
Tent extensions: Add extra living and sleeping space with an awning tent such as Vango Airway awnings for campervans. See Vango Airway awning review.
Campsites: Showers, toilet blocks and electric hook up make a campervanning trip even more luxurious. See:
The practicals: Roof racks, bike carriers, fridges, stoves, seat covers all make good sense for a campervan.
All the extras: Some of the fun of owning a campervan is kitting it out. Choose campervan designed crockery, cutlery and glasses and add bespoke cushions and curtains. See www.campervantastic.com and ebay.
Tell us about your Scottish campervanning trips.