Here is a short account of our recent holiday to the Highlands in a hired camper with the pictures telling the other half of the story.
Our first holiday since summer 2020 but as usual it isn’t a lounging around type of affair. We tend to end up more fatigued by the end than at the start – a good type of fatigue.
Fiona had some more Munros to bag in her quest to complete them all by summer 2022.
We hired a campervan for the trip and left Edinburgh on Saturday evening, parking up on the side of Loch Lochy (pictures above) for our first night. We rose to a beautiful morning and drove on to Shiel Bridge. The closer we got the lower the cloud got. Thankfully by the time we had parked up the weather was improving and the forecasted 80 % chance of cloud free Munros was looking more likely.
The target for the day was Beinn Fhada (pictures below). We had a circular route planned but ended up doing it as an out and back as it was more of an afternoon walk and we still needed to drive round to Loch Quoich to be ready for a big day on Monday.
Beinn Fhada turned out to be a stunning day, some clouds about, little wind and lots of sun which kept things very warm. As a mountain it offers great views and what I particularly enjoyed was that it was very varied on the way up too. We completed this as a walk to save ourselves for the next day. It still ended up being over 20km in total.
The drive into Lock Quoich was slow (single track road) with the motor home but no issues with very little traffic. We were parked up by 8pm, dinner and then bed. (pictures below)
Having been the only vehicle in the car park when we parked up, it was pretty full (3 other cars) by the time we left the van for the 3 Munros we were planning that day. Bit of a surprise for a Monday morning we felt.
Weather was overcast but calm. Run day today as opposed walk yesterday. We had a lot of ground to cover. Fiona’s calculation was around 26km and over 2000m of climbing. With a few changes to our route we ended up doing just over 30km and 2200m of ascent.
The first Munro (Spidean Mialach) ascent was a bit of a slog but from there on everything else we did was on good paths. We ticked off the 2nd Munro (Gleouraich) within an hour of the first and then had a great descent back to the van. A couple that we had passed suggested that we could do the third one there too, which was exactly our plan. As we passed the van, the car park was even fuller. We didn’t stop for tea though but jogged down the road to the start of the 3rd Munro (Sgurr a’Mhaoraich). Straightforward ascent of this one too but a long lumpy ridge before we got to the summit. The original plan had a different descent off the 2nd Munro and then a different ascent up number 3 making all of this into more of a loop. It may have included some tricky bits on less easy tracks. Considering the size of the day we opted for the easier options even if it may have been a bit longer. (Munro day pictures below)
Pretty tired by the end of the day, but nice to have the motor home at the bottom of the hill, so we could just get the camping chairs out and enjoy the view over beer and snacks before dinner.
Next day (Tuesday) was transition day to the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Plan A was to do 2 Munros by Glenfinnan but we were neither inspired by the weather nor did we really feel physically ready for another Munro day. So we trundled off to the peninsula, had a short walk by the singing sands and parked up at Resipole Farm Campsite where we would stay for the next 3 nights. Short walk in the evening for the sunset and a great evening for a BBQ too.
Wednesday it was back to big day action. I had my eye on a mountain bike loop that would involve Cona Glen and Loch Shiel. The campsite wasn’t too far (11km) from the start of this. Well, by the end of the loop it was a lumpy 11km we could have done without.
It is a gravel bike route really but the crux of the route needed a mountain bike. Unfortunately we struggled on that even with a mountain bike so maybe it was a gravel bike route where you carry the bike for around 3km. Everything else was either very rideable land rover tracks or tarmac.
Started out from the campsite to Strontian where we got onto the loop which took us on the main road to Ardgour and then North to the valley bottom of Cona Glen. The ride up the glen is beautiful and pretty gentle (very gentle for a lot of it even). It rises 200m over 10km. Thereafter it rises another 200m over the following km. We were around 50km into the ride by then and had done the 2nd climb of the day. The first was very gentle out of Strontian. I was looking forward to a fun descent which hopefully Fiona could ride some of too. It was unfortunately rather rough and we had to take our time. Thankfully the views made up for it. Once beyond those 3km we were back on land rover track (or huge forestry commission tracks really). Round the head of Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan and then a great ride down the side of Loch Shiel to rejoin the tarmac road at Polloch. The chevrons on the map to get over the pass from Polloch didn’t disappoint but we could have done without them by then. I sped off down the descent to get the kettle on for when Fiona got back to the van. A long day out with 110km in distance and 1600m of climbing and over 9 hours camper to camper. Thankfully a beautiful day for it (well we wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been). We didn’t help matters by starting out quite late (i.e. ‘we’ll leave when this rain stops’).
The following day we were both feeling the fatigue from the big Munro day and the big cycle day. So we only did a short cycle of a mere 45km (the plan was longer but we – Fiona in particular – had had enough). Somehow that still included 700m of ascent even though we never got over 60m above sea level. We visited Ardtoe and Tioram Castle and had coffee and cake at Tioram Café. The wind had also picked up and there was a bit of rain so all was good for an easier day which we ended with watching the Giro d’Italia and playing games in the camper for our final evening.
Next morning we drove round to Glenborrodale for a run up to a Loch nam Fiann which is around 350m above sea level and provided some nice views. It was windier that day again which meant that our last chance of doing the Glenfinnan Munros had now gone too (it was too far to do it in a day from the campsite, so had to be on the way there or on the way back). The Glenborrodale run was the Munro replacement. It meant we got home at a reasonable time and could unload the camper before returning it the following morning.
It was a brilliant holiday, typical us with not much of a restful moment in there but we found some balance between extremely big days and lighter ones. It may not have been a warm May but we picked some good weather days to be away.
First time we’ve had one in a camper van since we’d borrowed my parents’ camper over 10 years ago to go to Croatia (from Austria). I have used BunkCampers before to have a camper for the Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race. Their rates are good as well as their service and the quality of campers. We had a short wait when picking up this year as it was a busy Saturday but return was very slick a week later. It is definitely a great way to spend a week away with less strings attached.