How to visit Scotland by motorhome or campervan?
Are you planning to go to Scotland this year? When you come to visit Scotland in a motorhome or campervan, you realize that the name Great Britain was not stolen: a rugged Scottish coastline with nearly 800 islands, breathtaking landscapes, hundreds of lochs (lakes) set in impressive fjords, a paradise of nature, historic towns mixing old and modern, pubs with hundreds of varieties of artisan beers and, to top it all off, a welcoming and friendly population, with whom you are bound to enjoy your stay.
By visiting Scotland in a motorhome or campervan, you can travel the roads of this unique country in Europe, from Edinburgh to Glasgow, via the Highlands and the famous Isle of Skye, Speyside or the Lowlands region, all while sleeping in the heart of nature on a dream spot, where you want.
This country, sometimes forgotten by tourists, could even be renamed “Spotland” instead of its official name Scotland, because the sites and lights it offers are so impressive. In May 2019, we went to visit Scotland in a campervan equipped for 6 days: freshly back, we can guarantee that this country gives you only one desire: to return there! Here is our mini-guide to visit Scotland in a motorhome, campervan or van.
Idea of itineraries in Scotland by motorhome
Your itinerary will obviously depend on where you will be leaving from. If it’s from the US, then you are likely to land in London because of the more affordable flights. From there you can rent a motorhome or campervan or you can get to Scotland first and rent one there. However, you can find direct flights to Scotland from JFK, Philadelphia or Chicago.
If you land in Edinburgh or Glasgow, we strongly recommend that you rent a motorhome or campervan so that you are absolutely free to travel, without being confined in a hotel room, and so that you can bivouac quietly by the lake or at the foot of a hiking trail.
Scotland, perched to the north like Britain’s ruffled headdress, covers an area of 78,772 square kilometers. It is therefore a large country that takes time to be crossed, especially since the roads are rather narrow. Whether you come to Scotland by motorhome or campervan for 7 days, 10 days, 15 days, one month or more, it is better to plan your itinerary according to the length of your stay, at the risk of spending your time on the road and missing the country’s must-see attractions.
Are you finding yourself lost in the planning of your trip, with so many things to do and see? We understand, it can get tricky when there are so many different options and not all are compatible. Here is a mini guide to help you with plotting out your itineraries depending on the time you can stay:
- 5 to 7 days: Edinburgh (one or two days), Glencoe, hike on Loch Leven (The Pap of Glencoe), Skye Island (hike: The Old Man of Storr and/or The Quiraing), Fairy Pools Falls, Glasgow,
- 15 days: same route, plus the Speyside region and the Whisky distilleries route (Dufftown, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Knockando, Cardhu, etc.), Aberdeen (Brewdog breweries), Inverness, Perth, Stirling, Glasgow,
- 30 days: same itinerary, plus Thurso, the castles, the Glenfinnan viaduct, the Isle of Mull, the Isle of Islay, return to Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat.
This list is only indicative and far from exhaustive on everything that needs to be done in Scotland. We strongly recommend that you travel to the Isle of Skye and Glencoe by motorhome or campervan to visit Scotland. If you like hiking, warm your calves up a bit as the trails can be steep in places, but once you get to the top, you can enjoy breathtaking views with surrealist lighting effects. When hiking, don’t miss the famous “Old Man of Storr” and “The Quiraing”, both impressive. And of course, these only work if you are leaving from Edinburgh but it should be easy to adapt them to your own trip to depart from wherever you are landing or leaving from.
How and where to rent a motorhome in the UK?
It is now easy to rent a motorhome in the UK How? By using contact platforms between tenants (yourself) and private motorhome and campervan owners such as Yescapa for example.
How does it work?
Start by choosing the motorhome in your city.
- Be sure to choose unlimited mileage, which is almost always advantageous check the number of beds available.
- Apply online for a rental and share your travel information (dates, rental options, mileage, etc.) with the owner.
- If your request is accepted, you will have access to the owner’s contact details after payment to set up a first meeting.
- On the day of departure, present your driver’s license and pay the security deposit.
- The inventory of fixtures is carried out and a rental contract is signed between the two parties. On the way back, after having made an unforgettable road trip, sign off on the departure inventory and you’re done!
Compare options for your campervan hire
How and where to rent a motorhome directly in Scotland?
Before landing to visit Scotland by motorhome, it is recommended to make a reservation online. And yes, it would be a shame to arrive in Edinburgh, Dundee or Glasgow and discover that there are no vehicles available in any agency, or worse, that rates have skyrocketed.
To hire a motorhome or a campervan, we recommend that you use a rental platform for motorhomes and modified campervans online. These sites are now numerous to target the road-trip and wilderness camping market. The concept is simple: you choose the desired vehicle – depending on the daily price, the type of campervan, the equipment of the vehicle – you send a rental request to the owner.
Last step: after the online payment, you receive a confirmation email and you are off to visit Scotland in a motorhome!
Driving in Scotland in a motorhome: the traffic rules to know.
If you are from the UK or even Scotland, this part won’t teach you much and is rather aimed at overseas visitors from the US, Canada, Australia and other English speaking countries that have been captivated by Scotland.
As you might have guessed, in Scotland you drive in the left lane, as it is everywhere else in Ireland and the United Kingdom. It is not difficult to drive in Scotland but we must be very careful because all our driving reflexes are reversed. Gearbox and hand brake on the left, driver’s seat, crossings and overtaking on the right, roundabouts are clockwise… Driving in Scotland requires an additional level of concentration. While it is easy to adapt to left-hand driving by car, Scottish roads are not wide. The road network is in very good condition but the crossing is sometimes difficult, especially between a motorhome or a fitted campervan and a bus or heavy goods vehicle.
There are only three major highways in Scotland, connecting Glasgow to Inverness (the A82), Thurso to Edinburgh (A9 and M90) and Glasgow to Edinburgh (M8). You will use them when visiting Scotland by motorhome or campervan as these roads cross major tourist attractions such as Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Loch Ness and go to the Highland Islands. They are very busy and are also two-way roads.
So be careful if you aren’t accustomed to the width of the vehicle! In addition, on the country’s secondary (isolated) roads, there are very many “passing places“, small spaces on the edge of the road to allow vehicles to pass each other. Don’t worry, Scots are generally very courteous and calm at the wheel, despite some speed lovers.
Traffic regulations are essentially the same as in the US, except for a few nuances typical of the United Kingdom: no priority on the right. It is necessary to refer to the marking on the ground, which very often invites to slow down (slow or reduce speed now markings are frequent) or to give way. Of course, you must have your driver’s licence, registration card and vehicle insurance at your disposal. The speed limits are indicated in Miles per Hour (MPH) and these are:
- In urban areas: 30 mph (48 km/h), sometimes 20 mph (32 km/h) near schools,
- Outside urban areas: 60 mph (96 km/h), sometimes 40 mph (64 km/h),
- Separated carriageway roads: 70 mph (112 km/h).
Speed limits and directions are often indicated on the roadway: you can’t go wrong! Be careful, it is not uncommon to cross sections where the speed is controlled by automatic radars. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level is 0.5 g/l, i.e. two glasses. Although the beers in the pubs are excellent and low-fermented, giving them a rather low alcohol content, beware if you have to drive!
Please note that there are no toll roads in Scotland. You can drive without paying, but be careful with animals on the road, especially at night. Cows, squirrels, hinds, reins and deer come out of the forests at nightfall to drink from lakes and rivers. Be extra careful at nightfall: deer, which are common in Scotland, are almost twice as heavy as wild boars… In the Highlands during the day, it will not be uncommon to see a few sheep grazing in a slope or crossing the road. Therefore, it is better to drive at a walking pace if you have seen some nearby and be ready to brake quickly, and that will also let you enjoy your surroundings just a bit more.
Motorhome areas in Scotland: where to park?
Where to park during a road trip to visit Scotland in a motorhome or campervan? Almost everywhere in fact. For many travelers, Scotland is THE country of for road-trips in Europe. Scotland’s population density is 67 inhabitants per square kilometer, but 70% of the population lives in the Lowlands between Glasgow and Edinburgh. You can therefore park almost anywhere on this vast land of unspoiled nature. Moreover, you can park and sleep wherever there is no ban. You will sometimes see signs indicating “no overnight parking”, and you should be mindful of them, but otherwise you are allowed to stop for the night.
While it is tolerated to camp off the beaten track or to bivouac on the side of the road, near a lake, in a car park etc…certain bivouac rules must nevertheless be respected if Scottish law is not to imitate the harsher law prevailing in Austria, Hungary or Germany in this field. A basic rule: leave nothing behind. It is better to leave an already borrowed “spot” to look for another one and avoid overcrowding (and possible pollution).
There are places to park to sleep almost everywhere, between car parks or roadside areas. As in all countries, it is recommended that you avoid parking too close to homes or, if possible, ask the owner of the land for permission first.
What is the best time to travel by motorhome in Scotland?
Scotland lies at 57°N latitude: its climate is humid, temperate and oceanic, influenced by the Gulf Stream. As a result, rainfall is abundant all year round, especially in the western and northwestern Highlands. Snow is frequent in winter, without holding along the coasts. The best time to visit Scotland in a motorhome or campervan is therefore in summer and late spring, although nights can be cool even in July and August.
Unlike other destinations, the wind will be your best friend here. Because sheltered from the wind, wetlands (predominant in Scotland) generate clouds of small voracious insects that drive their victims mad: the midges, also known as “Highland mosquitoes”. They proliferate between May and September: cover up because you will certainly have some!
During our road trip, we had up to 27.5°C in Glasgow and up to 25°C on the island of Skye, without a single cloud, walking on completely dry bogs: it does not always rain in Scotland! Visit Scotland by campervan in June if possible: when the high season has not yet started.
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