Camping in Scotland
I go tent camping in Scotland every year as it allows me to travel on a budget when I want to save my pennies but it also allows me to stay in some of the most beautiful spots in the country for free. There are some great campsites out there and they are especially handy if you need to freshen up with a proper shower, but personally, I enjoy the freedom of wild camping and choosing the view from my 'room'.
I often get asked about places to camp and particularly the rules about wild camping in Scotland so I thought I would put together this guide based on my own experiences. It covers all the basics for beginners or those planning a holiday in Scotland with their tent for the first time.
I've just returned from my latest wild camping trip to try out my new Vango tent and this time I went to Shapinsay, which is one of the Orkney islands. After a day exploring, I found the perfect (albeit windy) spot by the beach and this was my view. I think you'll agree it's a pretty good one considering it cost me nothing. If I was staying in a hotel, I'd be charged a premium for a sea view like this. I realise how lucky I am living in Scotland and having all this outdoor freedom.
My guide to camping with a tent in Scotland
If you are travelling on a budget or just want the flexibility that travelling with a tent brings, then Scotland is one of the best countries in the world for a camping excursion. In my book, spending the night under canvas is the ultimate accommodation experience when it comes to truly immersing yourself in the spectacular Scottish landscape.
With our extensive roaming and camping rights, there are many options when it comes to enjoying a tent holiday. If you're not sure where to start or where you can go with your tent, my guide covers advice on the following topics -
Choosing a tent
The most important thing for your camping trip is choosing the right tent. Forget supermarket bargains or cheap festival pop-ups, they are a false economy. Your tent is your accommodation, and ultimately, all that is protecting you from the Scottish elements is some material so it needs to be up to the job.
If you want a comfortable night's sleep it is worth buying the best quality you can afford which is suitable for your purposes. Not only will it last a long time, keep you dry and cosy, it will also make your life far less stressful when it comes to transporting, setting up and breaking down.
Some basic things you need to think about when buying your tent -
There are all sorts of extras that might be important to you like storage, doors, separate compartments etc so think carefully about what kind of trip you are planning before buying a tent and if possible visit an outdoor shop to get professional advice.
My latest tent is a Vango F10 Erebus 3 which was gifted to me to review (you can read what I think about it at the bottom of this article). I chose this particular model as is very compact and lightweight which is ideal for future bike-packing trips that I'm planning in Scotland.
I have bought tents from Vango before and have always been impressed with the quality and this was no exception. The company was established in Scotland in 1966 and have a long history of designing and manufacturing outdoor equipment. Needless to say their tents have been thoroughly tested in the Scottish outdoors and around the world so I have confidence in their products.
They have a wide range of tents for every style of camper so I recommend checking the Vango website out to see what options are available.
How to prepare for a winter road-trip in Scotland
As someone who undertakes frequent Scottish road trips at all times of year I have had the misfortune of experiencing more than one winter weather setback. Having been stuck in snow blocked roads, caught behind road accidents and diverted by landslides I've learned a few techniques that have helped make life easier by careful planning to avoid similar situations and helping me survive endless hours in the car after been caught up in unavoidable incidents. As the weather starts to worsen I thought I would share with you some of my tips for planning and surviving a winter road trip in Scotland.
It should go without saying to make sure your car has a winter service each year and before you set off make sure your oil, antifreeze and windscreen wash is topped up. It is better to use winter specific windscreen wash and carry an extra bottle as the salt and grit from the roads generally means you have to clean your windscreen more than normal. Check your tyres, including your spare and ideally take out some road-side assistance.
Here are my five other tips to help you plan ahead and potentially avoid any travel setbacks
1. if you are planning a long trip in a rural area then it is sensible to make sure you have a full tank of fuel as delays or diversions can lead to a longer than planned journey and petrol stations in rural areas can be hard to come by and have limited opening hours. It is useful to make a note of petrol and garage locations along your route in case you do encounter any problems.
2. Check the weather forecast not just for your destination but also your intended route as the conditions in Scotland can be dramatically different even over short distances. Before setting off I always check the Traffic Scotland website for any incidents or road closures and I personally recommend downloading the Traveline App which will keep you up to date with all road and transport information.
3. If you are not familiar with your route and don't have access to a SatNav then printing off a map of the general area you will be travelling to will be helpful if you do have to take a diverted road and need to work out new directions.
4. Let someone know your route and your estimated time of arrival as in rural areas you may not have a phone signal to let them know you are delayed. If you don't turn up when expected it will be easy for them to check for any incidents that may have caused your setback and if you do run into trouble without a phone signal at least someone will know where to look for you!
5. Make sure your mobile phone is charged up and that you have stored any emergency numbers you might need such as your vehicle recovery company or insurance company with your membership numbers.
Most of all allow extra time for your journey so you won't have to rush in difficult driving conditions, pay attention to roadside information boards and try and stick to main roads that will be gritted and clear of snow.
There are a few things that I would recommend keeping in your car throughout the winter as a survival kit if the worst does happen. Hopefully you won't need them but from personal experience being stuck for hours it is best to be prepared! Things I have in my own survival kit include
Thanks to Peter Johnstone for leaving a comment with these additional suggestions
Thanks to Val for also suggesting
Before setting off I also fill up a flask of hot water which can be used for drinks to keep warm with a couple of sachets of hot chocolate.
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