For several reasons my husband, 3-year-old daughter Cleo and I decided to holiday in the UK this year. Some good friends have recently moved to Newtonmore in the Cairngorms National Park, so we built our holiday around visiting them. However, me being me the plan quickly escalated in to a full-on road trip around Scotland. In our pre-child life, my husband and I have great memories of traveling in a campervan throughout Australia and New Zealand as well as in a full size super RV around California, so this seemed like the best way to do it. I love motorhoming – it is a great way to travel giving freedom to explore but with the convenience of your own home from home, plus we knew Cleo would enjoy the adventure too.
We opted to fly up to Edinburgh from London as I didn’t fancy the 7-hr drive with a 3-year-old in tow. Here we based ourselves in the simple yet comfortable Hotel Cairn, a 15-minute walk to Central Edinburgh. Our spacious family room accommodated us all in a king and single bed (not the double plus sofa bed found in most hotels) and there was a great daily breakfast included alongside a thoughtful basket of goodies in the room upon arrival.
A jam-packed two days saw us climb Calton Hill, visit the National Museum of Scotland, take an open-top bus around the city and meet the UK’s only pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. Edinburgh is a family friendly city, and this was the perfect itinerary to keep the whole family happy but for anyone contemplating a city stay with a pre-schooler I’d say two days is enough – it was exhausting for us all!
THE ROAD TRIP BEGINS
After our three nights in Edinburgh we picked up Nobel our family-motorhome and home for the next eight nights. Equipped with a double bedroom, bunk beds, kitchen with oven and fridge plus toilet and shower it is the perfect home on wheels. (Visit my Facebook page @RebeccaBerzinsTC for a video tour inside the van). From Edinburgh, we headed to our friends driving though the rugged scenery of the Cairngorms National Park.
The next day, whilst the boys headed off to tour a local whisky distillery my friend and I took the kids to the Highland Wildlife Park, where the UK’s first polar bear cub for 25 years has just been born. With snow leopards, wildcats and Japanese macaque alongside many other animals the park is well worth a visit for wildlife lovers and it was a great day out.
LOCH NESS TO FORT WILLIAM
Leaving our friends behind next we went Nessie hunting! I was pleasantly surprised by Loch Ness, which I expected to be overrun with tacky tourist exhibits. Whilst there is no shortage of Nessie themed souvenirs the area where Urquhart Castle sits on the shores of Loch Ness is a beautiful site to explore, plus Cleo had a great time looking out for Nessie and deciding whether she’s real or pretend.
Driving south down the west coast of Loch Ness the next day we arrived in Fort William just in time to catch the train to Mallaig. This part of the West Coast Railway it is widely considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world travelling over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (made famous by Harry Potter). You can choose to travel by the traditional Jacobite steam train or the regular Scotrail train. We chose the latter as the views are the same although the steam-train did look like an experience in itself.
Sat at the foot of Ben Nevis, Fort William is an ideal base for many scenic hikes suitable for all abilities. Wanting to enjoy the scenery but without the physical excursion we took the Nevis Range Scenic Mountain Gondola cable car up to Aonach Mor before taking the scenic yet relatively accessible walk from the top Gondola station to Sgurr Finnisg-aig (approx 45min return walk) to enjoy some fresh mountain air and admire the views.
OBAN TO LOCH LOMOND
After this the jaw-dropping scenery continued at a fast pace as we drove from Fort William down to Oban taking a detour via the Glencoe Valley – surely one of the can’t miss drives in Scotland.
The coastal town of Oban is a popular tourist centre and gateway for ferries to several of the islands including Mull & Iona. Here we feasted on the freshest seafood at the infamous Oban Seafood hut – a no-frills green hut located at the end of the pier and the next morning, we took a boat trip through the Sound of Kerrera. The sun made an appearance and we enjoyed calm seas and views to the Hebridean Isle of Kerrera giving us just a taste of why the West Coast of Scotland is so popular. I am already itching to return to explore more of the islands.
Moving on from Oban we travelled down the west coast of Loch Lomond staying in the beautiful waterside campsite of Loch Lomond Holiday Park. My favourite thing about travelling in a campervan is when you find little gems like this allowing you to park up amongst such stunning scenery. I could have lingered for hours at the An Ceann Mor lookout at Inveruglas just up from where we were staying - the view from this architecturally designed structure was postcard worthy.
Our next stop, the town of Balloch of the south side of the Loch was not much to write home about compared to the other places we visited on the trip however the SEA LIFE Loch Lomond Aquarium proved to be the perfect treat for Cleo after a busy few days of driving and made for an ideal final stop before heading home.