When Wendy from Red Kite Campers got in touch asking if I wanted to take their new VW campervan away for a few days to try it out, I got pretty excited. I've been on a couple of campervan road-trips in Scotland already and I love the freedom of making up my route as I go along and parking up at the most beautiful places for a short stop or even a whole night.
That initial excitement soon turned to dilemma after dilemma. With so many rewarding journey options, I struggled to decide on a route! In the end I opted for a road-trip that would incorporate some of the best Highland scenery on Scotland's west coast. As I only had the campervan for 3 nights, I had to be selective in the places I could visit in order to reach a balance of having time to enjoy the adventure without spending too many hours behind the wheel.
The route I have featured below includes a few Scottish tourist classics with my usual mix of hidden gems thrown in. It is impossible to see all of Scotland in a few days but if you are short on time and big on scenic landscapes, my recommended 4 day itinerary should tick all the boxes. I've also included some extra suggestions if you have more time to spend.
If you are looking for a longer itinerary then my West Coast Scotland Road-trip blog covers a circular route around Wester Ross and the islands of Skye, Lewis and Harris which is ideal for a 10 -14 day trip.
DAY 1 - MILTON OF CAMPSIE TO GLEN SHIEL
APPROX 160 MILES
With no sign of the torrential rain easing, I decided that our planned walk in Glen Coe was best abandoned as our clothes were just about dry again after our earlier soaking at Loch Lomond.
Mr Adventures Around Scotland pulled our colourful VW campervan in to a layby near the mouth of the looming glen and we both hopped in the back, feeling quite smug that we had such a cosy shelter to wait out the worst of the weather.
The rain thrummed noisily on the roof as a pot of water bubbled away on the stove. As I poured two mugs of steaming hot coffee, I could just about make out the distinctive form of Buchaille Etive Mor through the sheets of water sweeping across the surrounding landscape. On days like this, the iconic mountain takes on a foreboding appearance as it guards entry to the gloomy glen beyond.
I've been to Glen Coe countless times and could number the times I've visited on a clear, dry day on both hands and this was definitely not one of those days!
Earlier that morning we had picked up our funky red and white VW campervan from Red Kite Campers in Milton of Campsie. As we arrived at the foot of the rolling Campsie Fells, we were greeted by blue skies and the promise of sunshine on our journey ahead - I should have remembered I was still in unpredictable Scotland!
After a warm welcome by owner Wendy, we were shown around our home from home for the next few nights and with some simple instructions on how everything worked, we trundled off with the excited anticipation of our road-trip adventure ahead.
Mr Adventures Around Scotland took the wheel, and as we headed for Loch Lomond I watched the urban scenery fade away, soon to be replaced by rolling hills and mountains. By the time most people reach the A82 road after Balloch, they put the foot on the accelerator and become totally focused on reaching their destination either along the banks of Loch Lomond or further north past Tarbert and I'll put my hands up to being guilty of that too from time to time. However, there's something about being in a campervan that encourages you to slow down and take your journey at a more leisurely pace.
Our first stop was at Auchentullich Farm Shop, which is exactly the kind of hidden gem that most drivers rush by. My senses were in overdrive at the smell of freshly baked bread and their own 'cow to cone' ice-cream. After browsing the well stocked shop, I filled my basket with tasty local produce for that night's dinner and we set off again for the 130 mile drive towards our destination for that evening in Glen Shiel.
Got more time to spend in Loch Lomond?
Our first soaking of the day took as by surprise as we enjoyed a short leg stretcher at the Falls of Falloch. A reminder that Scotland's weather is fickle to say the least, within 5 minutes of leaving the campervan, the blue skies turned to charcoal grey and the rain came down in torrents. Stupidly unprepared for a Scottish drenching, by the time we returned to the van we were so wet you would have thought we had stood underneath the waterfall. Fast forward five minutes as we turned north out the car park in the direction of Tyndrum, the blue skies had returned, go figure.
The Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum is used to soggy customers, usually walkers seeking out shelter after being caught out on the West Highland Way, so we didn't feel so bad turning up for lunch still a bit drippy. After consuming our extremely satisfying fish suppers (including an amazing gluten free version), we arranged for two slices of home-baked cake to takeaway, a little treat to look forward to later because it's not a real adventure without cake!
Soon we were back on the road and immersed in typical rugged Highland scenery with towering Munros and wild moorlands still holding on to their autumnal coats. As we reached the little collection of buildings at Bridge of Orchy I felt a pang of nostalgia as we passed the cottage my parents owned until a few years ago, next to the community hall and hotel where we had our wedding. It is merely a stopping place for most people but it is full of special memories for me.
Reaching the otherworldly peat bogs and lochans of Rannoch Moor, the clouds began to close in over the mountains and the heavens turned on several taps full force before we entered Glen Coe. An unscheduled stop in place of a walk, gave us time to press buttons and flick switches while we figured out all the workings in the rear of the campervan. The powerful heater was the winning find!
When the deluge finally abated we carried onward to the iconic glen which was surprisingly quiet and ventured out for a walk around the peaceful Glencoe Lochan, an oasis of calm among the dramatic peaks and crags.
Got more time to spend in Glen Coe?
With the evening drawing in, we advanced north below the steel trusses of the Ballachulish Bridge, through the busy town of Fort William and gave a passing acknowledgement to the trio of bronze Commandos near Spean Bridge before reaching our final stop at Glen Shiel. We ate our dinner and savoured our cake in a layby below the mountains before climbing in to bed and falling instantly asleep!
DAY 2 - GLEN SHIEL TO THE ISLE OF SKYE
APPROX 120 MILES
The next morning we woke to clear blue skies and bright, white dustings of snow on the surrounding peaks. For my money, Glen Shiel is up there as one of the most beautiful glens in Scotland. Inspired by the view and fuelled up on rolls and sausage, we set off deeper in to the valley, past the site of a battle which was part of an early Jacobite uprising in 1719. The Jacobites, aided by a Spanish alliance were defeated by the Government troops but thankfully there were few casualties on that occasion.
Our destination for the day was the Isle of Skye and in my usual style of taking the road less travelled whenever I get the chance, we avoided the popular tourist route that passes Eilean Donan Castle and goes over the Skye Bridge. Instead we braved the hair-raising bends and inclines of the Mam Ratagan Pass, marvelled at the Five Sisters of Kintail, landed in historic Glenelg which has an unlikely twin on the planet Mars and traversed the narrowest point between the mainland and Skye on a cheery green and red boat which happens to be the last manually operated turntable ferry in the world. Take my word for it when I say this route is much more of an adventure and way more scenic.
Got more time to spend in Glenelg?
The Isle of Skye is much bigger than most people anticipate and certainly can't be tackled in a day, even with a trusty campervan, so it is best to be selective in what you want to see. For myself and Mr Adventures Around Scotland that meant taking the road to Elgol and joining a Bella Jane cruise to Loch Coruisk, one of Scotland's most isolated lochs by foot but easily reached on a 45 minute boat ride.
Even if I hadn't taken the cruise, the drive to Elgol would have been rewarding enough in itself. I've never been to Skye on such a beautiful day and the spikey peaks of the Cuillins were clearly visible throughout our journey. Munching sheep and playful lambs dotted the roadside and it truly felt like Spring had finally sprung, I may even have removed my jacket for the first time this year!
FURTHER READING -15 ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO ON THE SCOTTISH WEST COAST
I was a little apprehensive when I boarded the Bella Jane as we bobbed around by the pier but the journey was surprisingly smooth and I felt almost hypnotised by the approaching mountains that could have risen from the fires of Mordor. As we entered Loch na Cuilce the water turned an eerie green and I was even more convinced Sauron might be lurking in the shadows.
The towering black rocks and virdian water felt a world away from the bustling car park just across the water in Elgol and once our fellow passengers had dispersed there was a real sense of bleakness despite the blue skies.
We scrambled up some precarious rocks, seeking out the best vantage point to appreciate our awe-inspiring surroundings and as we enjoyed our packed lunch, I couldn't help but think how small and insignificant we really are compared to the power of Mother Nature. The setting is totally magical and if you get the chance I can't recommend this boat trip enough.
Late afternoon we were back navigating the sometimes precarious roads of Skye as we headed to the island metropolis of Portree. In the village square we met David who has recently started tours of Portree (use my promo code ADV1 for a 25% discount). We joined him for an amble around the colourful houses and up to a viewpoint overlooking the bay while we learned about the geology of the island and the history from Vikings to Clans and much more. I realised how little I knew about Skye and this was an enjoyable way to learn the history while visiting the sites.
With the promise of a spectacular sunset we jumped back in the campervan and found the perfect spot by the water to watch the dazzling orange glow as it faded behind the mountains. With a delicate amber glimmer still illuminating the landscape, we made our way south to the Sleat Peninsula as the last of the light gave way to the brilliance of the moon. We parked our mobile home by the side of the road and fell asleep to complete silence.
Got more time to spend on the Isle of Skye?
DAY 3 - ARMADALE TO BENDERLOCH
APPROX 100 MILES
An early start the following day saw us travel on the ferry from Armadale back to the mainland with a quick stop at the colourful fishing port of Mallaig to top up our supplies before continuing south along the coast. With such gorgeous weather we couldn't resist a beach stroll at the Silver Sands of Morar which was looking very much like a scene from a Caribbean travel brochure, only the chilly nip in the air confirming we were still in Scotland.
I was bursting with anticipation for the next part of the journey as we were heading to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula for the first time. I do love a travel first when every turn in the road is new to me and I'm unaware of what lies around the next corner, it invigorates my love of travel all over again.
We meandered along rocky coastlines and trampled to the top of a heather clad hill for a surprisingly extensive view towards Eilean Shona which obscured the sight of our next destination at Castle Tioram. The ancient ruined fortress of the Macdonalds sits perched on the strategic rocky tidal island of Eilean Tioram, a striking feature in the otherwise wild and beautiful coastal landscape. Fortunately our visit coincided with low tide and we ventured across the sodden sandy bay to take a closer look. Warning notices advise against entering the building which is in a dangerous state of repair but act as a poor deterrent against intrepid history hunters. The interior is a foreboding place which is gradually being reclaimed by nature and I'm sure the stones that remain have many a tale to tell.
As we rejoined the main road to Ardgour, the contrast between the sparsely populated route we had entered the peninsula on, and the increasing signs of population with neat houses and manicured lawns as we neared the ferry connection to the mainland, was stark.
Had time permitted I would have loved to reach the most westerly point on the British mainland at Ardnamurchan lighthouse or explored the oakwoods at Sunart, however it is always good to leave a place with a promise of new adventures in the future.
Boarding for the short crossing on the Corran Ferry I couldn't help but think our road-trip was taking on a maritime theme as this was our 4th boat trip in 3 days, with each one providing it's own unique charm.
A mere 5 minutes later we had avoided a long drive around the peninsula and were back on four wheels again following the scenic coast road south past Castle Stalker to our overnight stop at Benderloch.
After 2 nights of wild camping we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite on our final night and after reading the glowing reviews of the Seaview Camping Park in Benderloch, we rolled up to a cheery welcome and a pitch with an open view towards the water- result!
I've stayed in quite a few campsites over the years and can honestly say that this is the best yet. Quirky sculptures and artwork, spotless communal areas, new individual shower rooms, thoughtful extras like frozen meals and a pathway to the beach is why this place deserves all those 5 star comments.
An added bonus was the short walk to the family run Hawthorn Restaurant which looks like an unassuming house from the outside with nothing more than a menu at the bottom of the drive to indicate what lies within the white, stone cottage. Despite being off the beaten track it was busy with diners and we enjoyed a tasty meal at great value.
Not only did we treat ourselves to eating out on our last night, we also freshened up with a long, hot shower before opening a bottle of wine and enjoying our last west coast sunset from the comfort of our wee mobile shelter. Anyone who saw my Instagram Story will also know we had some fun with the campervan 'disco lights'!
DAY 4 - BENDERLOCH TO MILTON OF CAMPSIE
APPROX 97 MILES
I always feel quite sad when an adventure draws to an end, especially when it has been so memorable. On our last morning we decided to keep making as many memories as possible by taking a slightly longer but more scenic route back to Milton of Campsie.
Heading towards Inveraray, I jumped out for a compulsory photo of Kilchurn Castle which was looking as atmospheric as ever and at Inveraray we had a quick breakfast before continuing on to the popular viewpoint at Rest and be Thankful. The iconic winding road was buzzing with motorbikes and the car park was bustling with coach tours, reminding us that we were quickly closing in on civilisation again.
Soon we were retracing our route in reverse alongside Loch Lomond and before we knew it we were pulling back in to the driveway at Red Kite Campers. Our final morning seemed to pass in a blur, albeit a picturesque one.
Although we only had the campervan for 3 nights, we managed to pack a lot in and it only reinforced my opinion that travelling by campervan is the best way to enjoy a road-trip in Scotland.
Got 2 more nights? Head to Ullapool and the Coigach Peninsula
Currently Red Kite Campers only have one VW campervan so you are guaranteed to have the same vehicle as me when you book.
The fridge is a good size for storing a couple of days food and the cooking facilities were great for us, with 2 hobs and a grill which was ideal for breakfast toast and cheese. The fold down seats in the rear make a comfy and cosy sleeping area, with extra room in the roof bed if there are more than 2 of you. There was also lots of handy storage space which meant we could keep the van nice and tidy.
We only needed to put the heating on a couple of times and when we did, we switched it off after just a few minutes as it heated the place up really quickly.
Handy USB chargers are dotted about the van which meant all our devices stayed fully charged and a variety of lighting options allowed us to adjust them as needed. The most fun feature is the colour changing mood lights (or disco lights as I preferred to call them) which turn the campervan in to a glampervan at the press of a button!
It also comes with all the usual extras you would expect like cooking utensils, Sat Nav and vehicle support.
I've rented a few campervans over the years and can honestly say this has been the best yet, with a high standard finish and well kitted out interior.
Visit the Red Kite Campers website to check availability and plan your own Scottish road-trip adventure.
Disclaimer - On this occasion I was very kindly provided the use of a campervan by Red Kite Campers for the purpose of this article, however as always all opinions and experiences are my own.
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