We were both very excited to see the Welcome to Scotland sign and as soon as we crossed the border we headed west to follow part of the South West Coastal 300 route. Scotland now has a few established driving routes including the NC500, the SWCoastal 300 and the Heart 200 and there’s plenty of information available online. The country is also better set-up than England and Wales for motorhomers with plenty of stopovers available outside campsites and some have services for which a small charge is asked.
For the first part of this trip we followed the coastline from Dumfries to the Isle of Skye and then took a ferry to the outer Hebrides. Our overnight spots have mostly been car parks, some paid and some not and some with slightly better views than others! There are lots of little three or four van community maintained park ups where you are asked for a donation, usually between £5 and £10, to help with the upkeep. Some have water or toilets or are just in a perfect location and we hope that all campers do donate as suggested. We’ve also found clean water and toilet disposal points at leisure centres, ferry ports and even a local tip, so have never had any worries with filling and emptying the tanks.
We are lucky to be able to visit out of season as a lot of the roads are single track and in the summer are very busy, although travelling at this time of year means that a lot of places have not yet reopened after winter. Not needing to rely on electric hook-up also meant we could camp at remote spots or beachside where we’ve often been the only van.
Transport between the islands is via CalMac ferries. There were a lot of issues in the past couple of years for locals with visitors and motorhomes using the ferries so they have recently updated their pricing and standby policies. Motorhomes are now charged the same as commercial vans of the same length and are no longer able to use standby tickets. We had planned our trip to take advantage of the winter timetable but due to technical followed by weather delays on the Berneray to Leverburgh trip we nudged into the more expensive summer fares. CalMac no longer do hopper tickets so all legs are bought as single trips but this apparently doesn’t affect the total cost and changing bookings was really easy with very friendly staff on the customer service phone line. Our total ferry costs for Skye-North Uist-Harris-North Uist-Skye were just short of £240.
We started this trip by following the SW Coastal 300 route from Dumfries, along the coast of the Solway Firth and Irish Sea to Stranraer, from where we dropped down to the southernmost point of mainland Scotland on the Mull of Galloway. This was mostly following main roads but there was still plenty to see.
After a night overlooking the River Clyde at Greenock to the west of Glasgow, we went back to quieter places, parking up on Loch Lomond, Southend overlooking the Mull of Kyntyre and the southern end of Loch Etive. Whilst on Kyntyre we took a diversion to Skipness on a recommendation – found a great smokehouse and came out with salmon, kippers and wild garlic pesto. All very delicious! From there it was out to Skye for our first stop there.
We spent six days exploring Lewis and Harris which are two islands that appear as one on the map and are the most northerly of the Outer Hebrides. Southern Harris is very mountainous whereas north Lewis is flatter open moorland. There was so much to see on these islands: golden eagles on North Harris, ancient history at the Calanais Standing Stones and more recent history at Na Gearrannan, both on western Lewis. June did her most northerly dip in a beautiful little cove near the Butt of Harris.
Uist takes in eight islands from Berneray in the north to Eriskay in the south and all are linked by one main road. We spent most of our time at the northern end of the chain, mostly chilling out parked up next to the most amazing white beaches and marvelling at the sunsets! The circular walk around Berneray is worth doing, taking in beaches, heather clad hillsides, the old harbour and the seals. We did one walk on South Uist from East Kilbride to a hill overlooking Loch Boisdale – it wasn’t too far but exhausting trying to walk through deep heather and peat bogs!
We had two separate stays on Skye on our way to and from the Outer Hebrides. For our first stay we used Uig Campsite as we had washing to do and from there we explored some of the north west of the island in the van. We did some of the walk along The Quiraing, where a landslide has left a series of sheer cliffs and rock features. We noticed that since our last visit here, there is now a large carpark and a parking fee of £3 or £6 depending on length of stay (no overnight parking).
On our return we visited Gill and Ian, old colleagues of Bob’s and now more known for their art. We ended up spending three nights in their “Hide” overlooking Loch Snizort – the views were amazing both day and night when the clear skies showed the stars and the Milky Way.
We had a couple of nights of faint auroras which were nothing more than a glow on the horizon to the naked eye but captured by Gill on camera in all their glory (check out Gill Williams Photography on Facebook and Instagram for more awesome images). Ian paints and sculpts and prior to going to Skye we had both seen on Instagram (Ian.williams83) one of his Iceland inspired bowls and were glad to see them in his gallery, so purchased an early wedding anniversary gift to ourselves!
We had a day walking with Gill and she took us out to the headland at Loch Brittle when there is evidence of Viking dry docks and we found an ancient chambered cairn.
Whilst having a quick lunch we spotted a sea otter, which we swiftly named Colman due to the pork pie and mustard conversation happening at the time, on its lunch break. We are gradually ticking off the wildlife list! The weather was a bit crazy this day and whilst we walked in glorious sunshine, snow came in on the north of the island. It was hard to leave the following day after being totally spoilt for a few days, but armed with details of new places to explore it was back to the mainland to continue touring this beautiful country.
Castle Corner, Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries: £10 online donation. Parking is a clearing in the forest on a nature reserve. No EHU but drinking water tap and black disposal
Kirkcudbright Swimming Pool Aire: £10 donation for EHU (or £4 just for services) clean water, grey and black disposal. Easy walk to town centre.
Mull of Galloway: remote beachside parking down steep uneven access road. £5 to park. No services.
Battery Park, Greenock: Free. Leisure centre car park no services. Riverside.
Tarbet Pier, Loch Lomond: Free car park overlooking the loch but £5 donation requested for use of motorhome service point. Local cafe.
Southend, Mull of Kyntyre: Free car park, across road from beach. No facilities.
Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve, Appin: Free, no services. Overlooking Loch Etive and access to woodland walks.
Uig Campsite, Skye: £21 p/n. Hard standing pitches with EHU (grass and tent pitches also available). All services available plus laundry. Great for access to ferry.
Balnarald Bay, near Houghharry, North Uist: £10 donation. Grass beachside pitches. Water available at nearby house.
Kilbride Campsite, South Uist: £22 p/n. Hard standing pitches with EHU (grass and tent pitches available plus on-site hostel). Full services available including laundry and kitchen. Across road from beach and cafe on-site.
Clachan Sands Camping, North Uist: £10 donation. Parking on grass, beachside. Water tap available.
East Beach, Berneray: grass parking in the dunes. The area is divided but hard to see where! One side charges £10 and the other is free. No facilities.
Luskentyre North Beach Carpark, Harris: £7 donation. Small beachside carpark (but no real view). Clean water and toilets available.
Huisinis, North Harris: £10 to park overnight plus £3 to use black water disposal point. Hard standing car park next to a building with toilets and showers and a large room containing local information. Beachside and access to walking paths. Access is via a long single track road but worth it!
Bosta Beach, Breaclete, Lewis: £5 donation. Hard standing car park with toilets, behind dunes.
Port Stoth, Butt of Lewis: Free. Two concrete pitches overlooking small cove a short walk from the lighthouse. No facilities but we stopped at nearby Lional Sports Centre where for £4 you can fill up with clean water and dump black.
Rhenigidale, North Harris: Free. Hillside car park overlooking a sea loch. Picnic seating. No facilities.
Finsbay, Harris: Free. Hard standing car park with small picnic area. No facilities ( black water disposal available at Tarbert tip for £3). Overlook the village and loch – good for watching seals.
Baleshare Beach: Free. Hard standing and grass beachside parking. No facilities but amazing sunsets!