First things first, I’ve never actually gone away in a motorhome! I was a keen boy scout and completed my bronze and silver Duke of Edinburgh Award, I’ve camped, love archery, hill walking and cooking on an open fire but I’ve never driven a modern motorhome.
As a child we holidayed every year in an apparent 4 birth tiny Robin caravan – we played connect 4, didn’t have a TV or Wi-Fi and the en suite consisted of dad peeing in a bucket of Dettol every night at 3.30am!
I have also owned numerous classic VW’s including a 1972 baby blue and white bay window but it was more of a day van to be honest and the engine was about as reliable as the heating system.
I’ve had quite a challenging 2017 but amidst the madness I had the pleasure of becoming friends and working with the gorgeous and talented Julia Bradbury for a new ITV show to be aired early 2017. It is based around affordable holidays and in particular camping. Julia identified that I was burning out a bit and kindly arranged for me to have a break. Now I don’t really have hobbies as my business is all consuming and to be honest I still get a buzz every morning going to my workshop but there is one thing I look forward to every year that doesn’t involve designing and making – Rugby!
I was fortunate to have been given ticket to both the Scotland v New Zealand game and the Scotland v Australia game, the trouble is being a Scot based in Bedford its tough to travel up and back for consecutive weekends.
The plan: to travel up in a motorhome and go exploring around Scotland for the week in between.
Friday 17th November
Final workshop tidy and making plans for the Reestore team in my absence. I don’t usually have time off so this is going to be tricky. Collected my new Benimar from the great team Marquis, Northampton, wasn’t entirely sure where I was going so just headed up the A1 towards Edinburgh, stopped at a friends house in Newcastle where I was able to hook up the electric. It’s like household central heating – got too warm under my faux fur rug – maybe I have over prepared – I feel like I’m cheating, its more comfortable than my houseboat!
I confess, dinner was a Costa coffee and a toast – I’m not quite self sufficient yet!
Saturday 18th November
Headed north up the A1 to Edinburgh, assumed camp sites would be empty this time of year so didn’t call ahead! Turned away from first two sites and ended up at a gorgeous little campsite in Musselborough called Drummagh. Made it into Edinburgh by taxi to watch Scotland nearly beat the all blacks! This trip is starting to get surreal, not only is camping more comfy than a 5 star hotel but Scotland nearly beating the All Blacks?!
Headed home to the van with haddock and chips… still not fending for myself! Schoolboy error, I failed to set up the heating in my rush to get to the rugby, only took 20 mins to warm up but will learn for next time.
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Sunday 19th November
Up fairly early given the amount of cider and wine consumed – fish and chips must have done the trick! Coffee grinder put to use, fresh brew and spent the morning doing sketches for my new book. Ventured in to Edinburgh to see the Christmas markets then off to see the William Wallace monument in Stirling- miscalculated sunset and arrived in the dark! Onwards to Perth where I pitched up next to the river in a car park – just running on gas for the first time, which worked a treat, I’m truly self sustainable 🙂
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Monday 20th November
Reports of snow from ground control (my mum) so popped into a retail park for hat, gloves and slippers! Accidentally bought breakfast rather than cooking it!
Before I left for my adventure I popped to Go Outdoors for their pre Black Friday sale – whatever that is and bought some new hiking boots and a fancy new multitool! Just as well I did as when I bought my new hat, gloves and slippers they had tags on, multitool to the rescue – yes!!
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Drive north on the A9 to Aviemore, I had been told about a loch side campsite nearby called Glenmore run by the Camping In The Forest team at the Camping and Caravanning Club – just wow, I’m parked on the beach by the side of a loch! This is probably the most beautiful location for a camp site ever – I’m in heaven.
Made a slap up pasta dinner, early night with Peaky Blinders on catch up – not exactly roughing it but proves you don’t have to remove yourself entirely from civilisation.
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Tuesday 21st November
Loch Morlich… Last night was so beautiful I’ve decided to stay here longer. Drive to Aviemore to go and find my late uncles house as I wanted to see if Jock the dog still lived next door. Visited uncle Billy’s grave then had a brew overlooking the mountains he so loved to wander before going back to Loch Morlich for a late night wander.
Wednesday 22nd November
Decided to empty the toilet, obviously as I know best and didn’t listen properly to the intro talk from the very knowledgable guys at Marquis I turned a few knobs, no problem as it emptied out perfectly then slid back in to the toilet easier than my houseboat. Phew!
Walk around loch morlich at 9am – slight drizzle but I had my trusty multitool, a flask of tea and 4G signal! I got a bit lost even though I had to just keep the water on the same side! I returned back to get nice and cosy, warm up and have a wee wee (that’s Scottish for small toilet break!) noticed the toilet wasn’t flushing so opened the trap door outside only to discover the knobs I had turned had been to open and close the trap door, as I removed the cassette the toilet removed its contents all over my new hiking boots! Shower time – fortunately the wash facilities are amazing. Will consider listening in future.
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I am trying to avoid social media but yesterday posted a picture of this loch on twitter and an old friend got in touch – Walter runs a gin distillery 10 miles from Aviemore called Inshriach. He and his wife invited me for a tour and lunch – perfect!
I was invited to see the distillery, checked out his vintage automotive collection and shared a gorgeous home made lunch. We discussed Shed Of The Year in depth and reminisced about him winning in 2015.
I then travelled to near Glasgow to spend the night with my family, the A9 is notorious for traffic – this isn’t helped when a Jaguar parks itself in the barrier sideways, normally in this situation I would get frustrated but I’m in my camper so I simply pulled in to the lay-by, stuck the kettle on, had a cup of tea and a wee! This is the most smug I’ve felt all trip, looking out at the mere mortals in their cars!
While cruising through the beautiful Scottish countryside I decided to play the Braveheart soundtrack – felt a bit emotional and proud of my gorgeous home nation. Thanks Mel.
Family liked their gin present! All of it!
Thursday 23rd November
I had a lazy gin beaten start followed by breakfast with the family, black pudding, potato scones and square sausage – why do we wrap our sausages in skins?! I then made my way back up north to another Camping and Caravanning Club site called Loch Ness Shores Foyers which had been recommended to me by several campers at Loch Morlich. It did not disappoint – the toilets are more like those found in a Shoreditch members club, beautiful site, fantastic views and an airstream diner! Although I did resist and instead made dinner and drank gin in my camper, starting to really enjoy my own company now and wondering why I’ve not done this sooner.
Friday 24th November
Hiked up to the Foyers Falls, sat in a cafe admiring the snow then made the slippery decent down, packed the van and headed south to Loch Lomond Trossachs Park, set up camp in a dark car park opposite a police station.
Saturday 25th November
Woke up surrounded by mountains and covered in snow!
Headed to Musselborough back to my first campsite. Pitched up, kilt on, taxi arrived, into Murrayfield for the game, Stuart Hogg injured himself in the warm up so assumed my incredible luck had come to and end – smashed Australia! Drinking, Christmas markets, food and back to a nice warm motorhome – perfect day.
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Sunday 26th November
Made the slow journey home, no rush, stopped for tea, wees and little rests, drove past over priced service stations in favour of jumping in the back and making my own coffees and snacks.
So what did I learn from my experience? Firstly that I love the great outdoors and the back to basics life style. I enjoy the freedom to explore and due to the fact that my work life is so planned out by the minute and my diary managed by everyone around me, I thrived on not making plans.
I also realised that its very healthy to get away on your own occasionally, switch off from social media and engage with nature. I tended to stay on a campsite one night then free camping the next, just to ensure I had plenty of fresh water on board, an empty toilet and could keep fully charged and minimise my reliance on the solar panel and gas bottles. I needn’t have worried as I only actually used half of my gas supply which was incredible.
I thought a lot about homelessness, occasionally I would refer to my travels as roughing it, I really didn’t – I was in a hotel on wheels, there are people sleeping rough on the streets every night – they are roughing it, we have converted my old family caravan into a mobile soup kitchen, I’m determined to take this out even more frequently after this experience.
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I must confess that before this road trip I thought motorhomes and caravans were for people of a certain age! How wrong could I have been?! The Benimar van was very plush indeed with cream leather, contemporary fittings and LED lighting – who knew they even come with full central heating! I’ve been a lover of small space design, sheds and upcycling for years but never fully appreciated how many genius space saving ideas go into the caravans and motorhomes we see on our roads every day!
I would however recommend the following items as part of your ‘survival’ kit:
– hand coffee grinder
– french press
– fleece lined wellies
– a onesie
– wooly hat
– tonic of course
– Nice comfy backpack
– bluetooth speaker lantern
I would like to thank Julia Bradbury for encouraging me to go on this adventure, The Outdoor Guide for arranging everything, The Camping and Caravanning Club for blowing my mind at the quality of their wash facilities and the outstanding views, finally to the team at Marquis, you have changed my perception of motorhomes forever, they are not just for retired school teacher. They allow us to explore our beautiful planet in comfort and security, remind us how lucky we are and this one helped me to clear my mind and look forward to a very exciting 2018.