You’d be forgiven for thinking that Scotland is all about the Highlands – it’s arguably the most well known area of the country, with famed Munros like Ben Nevis and legendary lakes such as Loch Ness. However, aside from this dominating wilderness of remote Scottish uplands, you’ll also find a coastline that, in parts, are as untamed as the hills and, elsewhere, as emerald green as exotic waters.
Of course, if you’re after a little bit of civilisation, you’ll find that too – not just thronging the streets of Glasgow or the cultural spaces of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, but in the regional towns of Stirling, St Andrews, Perth and Inverness.
But don’t miss out on Scotland’s national parks. The Cairngorms, Britain’s largest national park, covers much of the Highlands, while Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park offers the largest freshwater expanse in mainland Britain and great swathes of forest, perfect for taking to the tree-lined paths on foot or by bike.
Things to do
1.Catch up on some culture in Glasgow with a walking tour to spot the Art Nouveau work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A great starting point is the iconic Glasgow School of Art, not forgetting Mackintosh House or The Willow Tea Rooms.
2.Have a paddle in a canoe along the Caledonian Canal. Select from a three- to four-day trek to cover the full distance or hire a kayak for a day. There are plenty of activity companies offering guided kayak trips too, if you’re not confident to go it alone.
3.Visit the free-ranging Cairngorm Reindeer Herd near Aviemore. Britain’s only herd of reindeer, the animals roam the mountains so you’ll see them in their natural environment, and, maybe, have the opportunity to feed them. During the summer months there are half-day reindeer treks across the mountains.
4.If you’d prefer to see lake, forest and mountain from the air, take a scenic overhead tour of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, taking off from the waters of the loch in a seaplane.
5.Nominate a driver and explore the world of whisky on the Malt Whisky Trail around Speyside. You’ll come across famous names like Glenlivet and Glenfiddich alongside lesser known, but no less charming, distilleries like Strathisla and Cardhu.
When to visit
Annual events include things like the mighty Burns Night on 25 January, the anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s most loved writer, Robert Burns. The Scottish Snowdrop Festival takes place throughout February at various locations around the country, but particularly in Dundee and St Andrews.
May is Whisky Month, with related events across the country, particularly on World Whisky Day. And at the beginning of May it’s the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a combination of drinks all round with music, comedy and local crafts. Later in May is the Cairngorms Nature Festival, providing opportunities for visitors to get up close and personal with nature in the national park.
Taking place countrywide, although predominantly in the Highlands during the summer months, are the Highland Games and Gatherings. While in the towns of the Scottish Borders, summer sees the Return to the Ridings, one of the oldest equestrian festivals in the world.
St Andrew’s Day, 30 November, is deemed a Bank Holiday with many events laid on. And let us not forget Hogmanay, which sees out the old and brings in the New Year. Edinburgh, in particular, holds the focus on New Year celebrations, but then the city has become the capital of festivals.
The most famous is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August but the city also hosts the Edinburgh Science Festival (April), the Edinburgh Children’s Festival (May), the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June), the Jazz and Blues Festival (July), the Art Festival (August), The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August), the International Festival (classical music, dance, theatre and opera – August), the Edinburgh International Book Festival (August), the Mela Festival (August) and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (October).
If you intend to take your motorhome and visit Scotland, use the M6/A74(M) and the M8 for the west of Scotland and the M90/A90 for the east to Aberdeen. The M8 links Glasgow and Edinburgh. Thereon north, the roads are predominantly single carriageway, but for the dual carriageway to Aberdeen. Many roads in Scotland make a pleasurable and scenic drive, but plan fuel stops carefully, as there can be large distances between service stations. Check with your destination campsite for any difficulty with access when driving a large coachbuilt once off the main roads.
There’s no hard and fast rule to motorhome parking and access within Scotland – some areas and towns actively promote access, such as Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. Many of the islands within the Inner and Outer Hebrides issue information on their websites about motorhomes and where to park or camp overnight if not using main campsite facilities. Other towns and cities, such as Dundee, request that you phone ahead to enquire about parking before arrival!
For Edinburgh, park and ride facilities are your best options for day trips. Of the seven park and ride car parks around Edinburgh, Hermiston, Sherriffhall and Straiton are not suitable for ‘vans, with height barriers at 1.9 metres.
You’ll have few problems getting to Glasgow, even if you’re staying some way out. The Strathclyde region is riddled with public transport options, including a park and ride system. The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport website is useful for planning any journeys, or locating park and ride facilities.
Cheap overnight stops
Our Practical Motorhome Nightstops Scheme is still making in-roads within Scotland and we’re hoping to add more soon. A great place to stop overnight within the scheme is The Old Stables Inn near Moffat. It’s open all year and is free to stay if you’re dining or drinking in the pub. Being close to the A74, it’s a great en-route overnight stop north and south. There are also two Nightstops on or close to the North Coast 500 route, including one near John O’Groats.
You’ll also find a dozen or so sites within the BritStops scheme, including a couple in the Outer Hebrides. Most are pubs and farms but you’ll find a few useful attractions too, such as the Lecht Ski Centre (though closed to motorhomes staying overnight during the ski season) and the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife.
On some of the islands, look out for Croft Sites; these are cheap overnight stops, essentially in people’s gardens, to prevent motorhomes from wild camping and, in so doing, damaging the environment.
And, don’t forget our Top 100 Sites, which includes fabulous campsites and parks across Scotland.
Plus, you can ‘wild camp’ in a motorhome for up to three nights in designated locations within the Camping Management Zone in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Bookings must be made in advance but are as little as £3 per night.
Local transport links
Three main operators (First, Stagecoach and National Express) plus a number of independents run local bus services between the main cities, towns and villages of Scotland. A useful website to see timetables is www.travelinescotland.com.
Caledonian MacBrayne operates all the main services to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, sailing to over twenty destinations. Not all ferries provide space for motorhomes though, with some limited by height and length, so best to check before pitching up at the port. Island Hopscotch and Island Rover tickets provide discounted, unlimited travel for those wishing to island hop.
Northlink and Pentland Ferries operate services where you can take your motorhome to the Orkney Islands. There’s a passenger-only ferry from John O’Groats to South Ronaldsay during the summer months.
If you liked this… READ THESE:
Best campsites in Scotland with sea views
First-time motorhome tour to Scotland
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.
Many roads in Scotland make a pleasurable and scenic drive