After living in London for 9 months, I heard so many times that London is not the UK. And that sounded reasonable, but my experience was somewhat limited. I have been to Scotland before (Aberdeen, Inverness, Speyside) and I had been to Dublin and Belfast. However, I wanted to experience the UK, and what is a better way than renting a motorhome and travel across all of the UK? Family loved the idea, and off we went for a quick tour of the UK.
We knew we wanted to see Southwest of England, Wales, and Wick in Scotland.
For sure this was going to give us a fair insight into the variety of this island.
For us, vacation is when the plans are not too strict, and we can adjust as required as we go.
Day 1 – Monday July 16th
London – Bristol
Today we picked up the motorhome just outside London. We were able to drive off with the motorhome very late in the afternoon, and we drove to the apartment in London to pick up our stuff. We left London around 7pm, and we followed M4 towards Bristol. This was just a transportation day, so we camped at a service station just off the motorway. Here we got to test the equipment of the motorhome and adjust to being campers for some days. You instantly get the feeling of freedom – being able to live wherever you want. Service stations are excellent for camping a quick night when doing transport days like this, and they do come with some nice features like grocery shops and restaurants.
Day 2 – Tuesday July 17th
Bristol – Tintagel
Waking up feeling relaxed after a good night of sleep, we immediately wanted to get moving towards the southwest. We continued on M5 before we took off on A39 towards Minehead. A39 has some impressive views. It is one of the most scenic routes we ever drove, narrow and steep, with postcard-like views.
We stopped in a small village called Lynmouth for lunch.
Beautiful small fishing village in Devon, it is located on the northern edge of Exmoor. Laid back and relaxing, we walked around for a while before continuing the trip.
As we continued the road was very narrow, and the scenery was breathtaking.
Following A39 towards Barnstaple, and passing Bude, before we got on B3263 towards Tintagel. Small villages and beautiful scenery the whole day.
We camped just outside Tintagel, and in the evening we went into Tintagel for dinner. It was very quiet and relaxing.
Being on proper camping, we got to test emptying the toilet tank and grey water, as well as filling up with water. Easy and straightforward.
Day 3 – Wednesday July 18th
Tingtagel – Saint Just
The morning started off slowly with breakfast in the sunny weather. When we travel like this with so many experiences every day, I quickly enter vacation mode. Very different from having a staycation at home.
After finishing the breakfast, we head off to Tintagel Castle.
The word Tintagel comes from the Cornish word Dintagel, and means “Fort of constriction.”
Tintagel will be the first castle on this trip, and we buy the English Heritage membership onsite. Driving through the UK we will stop at many sites run by English Heritage, and if you visit more than one, it is cheaper.
After getting our membership we walked to the castle. The weather was perfect – warm but not sunny. It was a fair walk to get to the castle, but what a great experience. You can feel the history in the air, and this place is linked to the legend of King Arthur.
As we have entered Cornwall, we have to try the Cornish Clotted tea before we continue the trip. Tasty. Clotted Cream is one of those things that is really hard to buy outside of UK if you don’t make it yourself.
Continuing the trip the GPS managed to put us into a really narrow road, where we had to turn around. For sure those roads where never planned to be driven by a motorhome.
Next, we managed to miss the exit towards B3266, and on the narrow, curvy road we meet a bus. We managed to fix that as well, and we had to go all the way to Bocastle to turn around. (still on B3263). Driving something more substantial than a car you have to be ready to change your plans on these roads. And read the signs as they indicate sometimes that a given way is not capable of carrying you.
This was really the day of the narrow roads. The GPS managed to take us for yet another shortcut, that was very narrow and interesting before we got to B3306. Drive was so tight we had trouble passing a tractor. We went all the way to our side, and he had to cut some bushes to give way. British drivers are helpful in the traffic.
We camped at Trevaylor Caravan&Camp. It is a simple camping, but super-friendly and such a great location. After some taco and we took an evening walk. We walked straight into a World Heritage Site of Cornish mining (tin). Spectacular views in the sunset.
Saint Just – Cardiff
Waking up to beautiful weather the girls wanted to go to the beach. We went to Sennen Cove, and the girls had a swim in the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches are beautiful, and not crowded at all. Around 25 degrees in the water.
After some beach fun, we drove to Lands End, but that was too touristy for our liking, so we turned around and drove the beautiful B3306 to St Ives. These roads are so beautiful that you really feel like driving inside a postcard. Narrow, views of ocean and cliffs.
St Ives is a gem. The city beach is so huge you almost get lost looking it. It’s a city with many artists, and you can see why the creative minds of artists love St Ives. Had a tasty Crab Sandwich for lunch.
Getting late in the afternoon, we took A30 up to M5 around Exeter. Then we followed M5 to Bristol, where we drove the toll bridge on M4 over to South Wales. At midnight we camped at service area east of Cardiff. Tomorrow we will see what Wales is all about!
Cardiff – Snowdonia National Park (Betws-y-Coed)
I woke up early and got to enjoy my Starbucks before we headed to Swansea.
On the way, we had to stop at a camera store as I had forgotten my camera charger. Luckily they had a charger, and I could continue taking photos for the rest of the trip.
Arriving at Swansea we camp at the beach, and we enjoy our lunch in beautiful weather. For sure – South Wales has beautiful beaches too!
After enjoying the beaches of Swansea, we headed north. We had a quick stop in Ffairfach for grocery shopping before we continued North. We continued up to Aberystwyth, where we took A470 into Snowdonia National Park. The weather was getting rainy. For tonight we had decided to camp inside Snowdonia at Riverside Touring Park Camping in Betws-y-Coed. They told us that we had to arrive before 5pm, so we had to drive as quickly as possible to get there in time. We had to drive around through Rhyd-y-sarn due to a low bridge, and we arrive 4.55pm. 🙂 The rain is pouring down, so we just get to do a small walk around the village before enjoying a slow evening in the motorhome.
Betws-y-Coed Snowdonia National Park – Callander (outside Glasgow)
Getting up and doing the regular routine. Coffee and planning today’s route, before enjoying the breakfast. The rain has stopped (for a short while), so we do a quick tour of the village before we headed off on A470 towards Colwin Bay.
I really enjoy the slow atmosphere in the villages, and they come with a lot of interesting, locally crafted or produced stuff. If you like handcrafted, unique things, then the small shops rarely disappoint.
We have a long drive today, as we head towards Glasgow and Scotland. From Glasgow, we continue towards Sterling, and we head towards Doune on A84, stopping at Callander. Another small place, with excellent camping. Funny how the English language also changes as you travel around the UK, just as we have dialects in Norway. The weather is grey, but not rainy, so we get to walk around and have a look at the village and the camping, before heading to bed.
Callandar – Brora
This is a day where we will drive next to the Lochs, and we will stop at Loch Ness. The plan is to get close to Wick in Northern Scotland before the evening.
After breakfast, we head towards Fort William. We drove next to Loch Leven, Loch Linnhe, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and then Loch Ness. An interesting observation is that you can actually sail across here with a boat, like a shortcut from the North Sea, cutting across Scotland. No trip near Loch Ness is complete without looking for Nessie, and a visit to the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. We tried really hard to spot Nessie, but we were unfortunately not able to find her. We did, however, feel sympathetic to those who had to spend time in a small submarine looking for her.
In the late afternoon, we headed towards Wick. Nature as you get up north in Scotland reminds me of Norway. You can see everything you expect. Castles and sheep. We end up camping in Brora, about 1 hour before Wick. This is a friendly and nice camping ground next to a golf course. Even the weather was a bit overcast, we could still see some sun getting through, and it was magical evening listening to the waves.
Brora – Wick – Speyside (Dufftown) – Stirling
We had to do an early start as we had a long drive today and a lot of things we wanted to see. Wick and Caithness have been on my bucket list for a long time due to my heritage being from there. Being back at the place your ancestors left a couple hundred years ago gives you such a calm feeling. And with all the old buildings still existing, you think about that they walked around here.
As I did my research about Wick, it was actually a lot of Norwegian connections, all the way back to when it belonged to the Norwegian Earl and was administered as part of Orkney islands. For sure this period ended in 1266 – but the name Wick is actually of Norse origin, and means “Vik” in Norwegian. That translates to Cove in English.
Old Wick Castle, commonly known as “The Old Man of Wick” is thought to be built by Harald Maddadson around 1160.
Under second world war pilots flying from Wick engaged in strikes against Germans in Norway and the North Sea. In fact, Wick itself was attacked six times by the Germans.
Today Wick is a small city with a population around 6900 people. It has an airport (Wick Airport) and also a Whisky distillery named Old Pulteney Distillery. In addition to the Castle of Old Wick, it has the World Shortest Street!
That’s right. The street Ebenezer Place is 2.06 meters and consists of one door.
Wick is as far north as we go, and after a short while we turn around and start driving south.
With so many castles everywhere we also stopped at Dunrobin Castle. Dunrobin Castle is a home in the Highland area of Scotland. Its the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. Even though it goes way back to the middle ages, the present building and gardens are from the mid to late 1800s. And it is a stunning place with a perfect garden. When we arrive, they play the bagpipes outside, and we listen before entering the castle with 189 rooms – the largest in the northern highlands.
The next area we want to explore is Speyside – an absolute favorite area for a whiskey lover. We drive to Dufftown, and we enjoy a coffee at the Glenfiddich distillery before we have dinner at Seven Stills. Such a great place with friendly people. As the chef came out and sat down with us, we learned a lot about the area. This is my second trip here but for sure not the last. I love this place. Slow and relaxing with a great atmosphere.
We had a great time – but after dinner, we had to get going.
I really enjoy driving the motorhome, and the girls seem to enjoy as well. We discussed stopping in Edinburgh but decided to skip it and instead do a weekend there later. So we drove to Stirling and arrived at midnight when the rain was pouring down. Good night.
Stirling – Nothingham
Today is castle day! Our last full day, and we started visiting Stirling Castle.
Stirling Castle is a royal palace, and you get back to the renaissance kings and queens world when you enter. Compared to Tintagel and Old Wick Castle, this is a new and complete castle.
From the royal castle in Stirling, we continued to military fort castle in Carlisle. Carlisle Castle is that it is near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, and given the proximity to both the border between Scotland and England is has been the center of many wars and invasions. The construction goes way back (it used to be an old Roman fort). The current Keep goes back to somewhere between 1122 and 1135. That’s proper old 🙂
The last castle of the trip was Brougham Castle. Here the Romans built the fort Brocavum at the intersection of three Roman roads. This castle was a more broken, but still, enough was left for walking inside and around.The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed relaxing at the castle.
Now, as we headed down south towards London, there was only one crucial stop left. And that was Doncaster. Doncaster, you might ask. Well, Doncaster is the hometown of Mr. Louis William Tomlinson, as any One Direction fan will tell you. And believe me, I had three of them with me. I am pretty sure he was relieved when the motorhome drove away and did not camp there for too long 🙂
After a long drive, we camped near Nottingham. This was a simple farm camp, but all we needed to empty our grey water and toilet box. Enjoying late dinner in the motorhome before going to sleep.
Nothingham – London
Sadly, all great trips have to come to an end. And today we have to return the motorhome. After getting breakfast, we set off towards the apartment.
The trip was excellent, and we would have loved extended it. There are two significant learnings:
- Traveling in a motorhome is really comfy and enjoyable.
- The UK is a fantastic country for vacation.
And that’s it – for this time!