Last summer, my boyfriend and I went on a 10-day road trip around Scotland. It was absolutely incredible, relatively affordable and I would definitely recommend it. I feel like UK based holidays are going to be more popular this year, and this was a relatively quiet, crowd-free holiday, especially if you choose less popular stopping places. On some walks, we barely saw a soul. I’ve split this up into four parts so I can talk about places in detail and add loads of photos. We left on the 17th of August, returning home on the 26th. We chose August to have the best chance of having good weather (ha!), but that didn’t really happen.
We started in Galloway Forest Park, then headed north along Scotland’s east coast, along the north coast to John O’Groats and back down to Edinburgh. The top section of this very roughly followed the path of the NC500. We strayed off the well-trodden path only occasionally, when we wanted to join a faster road to get to the next destination quicker. We also made a few detours to see things or to find accommodation. We mostly chose this way round to avoid Edinburgh during the Fringe, when accommodation is really expensive.
We chose this holiday partly because it was an affordable way to go on holiday for a long period of time! We took a fair amount of food with us, mostly cans and things that are easy to heat up on a camping stove. And of course, a lot of Oatly Barista. Whilst we were away, we split campsites etc half each and paid for every other tank of petrol. I paid for 3 tanks of petrol, at around £40 each. Each campsite was around £15. We also stayed at a few camping pods and one B&B to break up the camping.
Of course, you could do this really cheaply by wild camping every night. Honestly, the lack of toilets and showers put me off, and after one failed attempt we didn’t try again (more on that later). Had it been nicer weather, I think we’d have been happier to look for more places to wild camp.
Day 1: Sheffield – Aria Force – Ballach O’Dee
We set off from Sheffield early and headed towards the Lake District, to break up the journey a bit.
We decided to go for a walk around Aria Force because the waterfall is gorgeous and there’s a chance you can see red squirrels (which I still haven’t seen in this country!).
From Aria Force, we carried on up toward Galloway Forest Park, and our campsite Ballach O’Dee. We arrived around 7pm, so, unfortunately, didn’t have time to spend doing anything except put up the tent, lighting a fire, eating and having a few gins. There was some kind of country music festival going on, with a lot of people in cowboy hats and American flags. It did keep me awake for quite a long time, so perhaps something to be wary of. It was a gorgeous campsite though and has a fair few glamping options too. It was also one of the only campsites which let us have a fire. Galloway Forest Park is a dark skies park (perfect for stargazing!), so the sky around the campsite was also really clear which was beautiful.
Day 2: Ballach O’Dee – Galloway Forest Park – Girvan – Loch Voil (flooded!) – Glen Dochart Holiday Park
From the campsite, we headed to Galloway Forest Park for a wander. We wanted to walk around Loch Trool but ended up on a beautiful but very wrong path. It was still a nice morning walk, however.
We then headed towards Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We stopped in Girvan on the way to pick up some food from the supermarket and also get some fish and chips. I wouldn’t say it was the prettiest stretch of coast but the chips were delicious.
Upon arriving at Loch Voil, we realised there was an issue. We had purchased a wild camping permit here for £3 to camp on the shore of the loch, which is very popular and sounded incredible. Unfortunately, the area we were meant to be camping in was underwater. The water level of the loch had risen so much that the land now pitched almost vertically from the road straight into the water. One space out of the four we could have chosen had mostly survived, but the people pitched there were also at a steep vertical angle, wedged between some trees. Their car was also parked hanging off the road at a scary angle. We convinced ourselves the good spots must be further up and carried on – until the road also abruptly ended and was underwater. After driving up and down the same narrow stretch of road a few times in the pouring rain, we admitted defeat and headed back to an area with phone signal to find a campsite. Most seemed to be either full or flooded, but luckily the owner of Glen Dochart Holiday Park was still around when we arrived at around 8pm and took pity on us. We were the only campers, due to the horrible weather, but the campsite was not at all flooded and we basically had the toilets/showers to ourselves!
Day 3: Glen Dochart Holiday Park – Loch Lomond – Glencoe – Camping Pod Glen Nevis
On day 3 we headed to Loch Lomond to go Kayaking! Kayaking on lochs/lakes is one of my favourite activities, so we headed to Luss Beach Kayak Hire and hired a kayak for 2 hours, and some wetsuits. We didn’t book ahead. This was £35 for the kayak and £2 each for the wetsuit hire, which I think is good value. Be aware you still usually need cash for things like this – we had to walk back into the village to get cash. There are also toilets and a few very nice cafes/cake shops in the village!
The kayaking was one of my favourite moments of our holiday. We paddled to a small island and pulled it ashore so we could have a swim and relax. It is surprisingly tiring though, and we did find ourselves racing back to the beach before our two hours were up.
From Loch Lomond, we headed up towards Ben Nevis via Glencoe, which took around 2 hours. I wish we’d had more time to explore Glencoe, we briefly got out of the car but it was raining heavily and freezing. This was a really pretty stretch of road though.
We had booked a glamping pod at Glen Nevis Holidays, located at the foot of Ben Nevis.
We chose the 2-bed pod which had underfloor heating, a sink, kettle, fridge, and a front porch with the most amazing mountain views. This was probably one of the nicest pods we stayed in.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the first few days of our holiday. I’ll also be writing about climbing Ben Nevis on day 4, and then what we got up to on days 5 – 10, so keep your eyes peeled!