Category Archives: Family

Should we take a motorhome holiday in the UK? Part II – Top Tips

In my last blog post, I debated the pros and cons of taking a motorhome holiday in the UK. If you decided it was for you and your family here are some top tips and things we wish we had known before our first trip to the west coast of Scotland.

Top Tips:

Buy a detailed map of the area: do not rely on your smart device, signals can be intermittent, particularly in more isolated areas. Not only will it aid navigation, you can also annotate the map marking your favourite spots.

Wild camping is illegal in England and Wales, but checkout this website for wild camping in Scotland. One of the joys travelling north of the border is being able to camp wherever you want and having a real chance to get away from folk. For several nights we were the only ones around; at first our daughter was a bit frightened, particularly after dark, but she soon got used to the solitude, peace and the sounds of nature.

Take a portable charger if you’re planning to go off-grid for several days. On our first trip our mobiles ran out of charge so we couldn’t have made a call, even in an emergency.

Take dry shampoo/ wet wipes for extended wild camping. There’s nothing like being a bit feral for a few days!

Book into a campsite every 2/3 nights to refill the water tank and take a shower. Occasionally, you can find a water tap. We found one at a petrol station in Fort William and another in Skerray, a tiny fishing village between Bettyhill and Durness in the far north.

Book into a campsite the night before you return the motorhome as they will require an empty toilet (grey waste).

Bring basics with you – tea, bread, loo roll, kitchen roll, bin bags, teatowels and breakfast, cleaning products. Oh and a good, sharp kitchen knife – there are never any decent ones.

Stock up at a supermarket before heading beyond towns and into more remote areas. We ate nearly all our meals in the motorhome and stocked up in the large Morrisons in Fort William before heading up the west coast. There are more shops on the east coast, but once you leave Thurso to head west, shopping opportunities become sparse.

If travelling to Scotland in the summer, take midge spray: Avon ‘Oh So Soft’ moisturiser seems to work a treat or Smidge. If it’s windy, the little bleeders aren’t around, but on a still day they can be a nightmare. Despite two weeks north of the border, we only had trouble one evening in Applecross. I was pleased to be in a motorhome rather than a tent.

Dog stake is useful for campsites as most expect the dog to be on a lead at all times.

Take a wetsuit for splashing in the sea, rockpool jumping and canyoning. The water is cooler than down south. Brrrrrr.

An inflatable SUP is a good idea and gives you more options for water fun.

Take a wide selection of clothes from shorts and flip flops to winter jackets plus hats and gloves (yes, really) and waterproofs.

And most importantly, pack your sense of adventure with a good dose of humour and prepare to enjoy yourself more than you expected. Have fun!

Ta ta for now,

Kate.

Should we take a motorhome holiday in the UK: Part I?

I’ve not written a blogpost in a while, as it felt inappropriate at the start of the pandemic; most people were in survival mode thinking about jobs, their health and family. But with lockdown easing in the UK and media highlighting the possibility of holidays, it got me thinking about the potential for time away. Some people always travel abroad for their summertime break, and they’ve never considered that the UK could be exciting and adventurous. As a family, we have had two one-week trips to Scotland in a motorhome with one heading up the west coast, as far north as Applecross, and the other touring up the east coast and completing the Scottish 500 via John O’Groats and Durness. We combined wild camping with campsite stays. So what can you expect and is it for you and your family?

Yes, this is definitely for you….

We have a dog: it’s ideal, although campsites often require a dog to be on a lead.

Changeable weather doesn’t bother you: you can often have four seasons in one day, particularly in Scotland, with hail, rain, sunshine, fog and wind. No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes!

We love wild places: you can access remote places even in a motorhome which can be considerably larger than a campervan. In Scotland, the further north you venture the more wild the scenery. Wild camping is permitted, so you can pull up almost anywhere (check there are no signs prohibiting overnight camping.) We camped overnight at the back of the Cuillin Hills, Skye; famously busy, we arrived at teatime, squeezing into the car park, but by 9pm everyone had disappeared. After an evening hike up the paths beside the Fairy Pools we noticed the storm clouds gathering and spent a noisy, wind-battered, rain-lashed night before emerging to find the pools swollen and too dangerous for swimming. It was certainly a wild experience.

We’re on a budget: our first holiday cost £1300 for 3 people in the kids’ summer holidays and that included motorhome hire, petrol, food and eating out. Prices have gone up a bit over the last 3 years, but it’s still very affordable.

Like driving and discovering new places: you can drive as much or as little as you want. We usually moved every day and found new places to wild camp overnight. If you’re staying in camp sites then these would need to be booked in busier periods. With many people opting to stay in the UK, this summer, beauty spots are likely to be more crowded, so think ahead.

We want adventure in the UK: what does adventure mean to you? Often it’s about going to new places or trying new things. The UK has lots to delight everyone from high octane outdoor sports through to roaming the hills or strolling along a deserted beach.

The kids need to get off their devices! Depending upon your chosen travel plans you can get off-grid and away from wifi, the devices will be redundant. It might be a time to encourage outdoor photo ops which they can post on the gram when back online. Or, if you’re brave and optimistic, pack a board game and some playing cards!

No, this isn’t your thing……

We love shopping: hmmm, have you ever tried to park a large motorhome in a city centre car park? No? There’s a reason for that. Tourist hotspots often have shops selling arts and crafts such as the BalnaKeil Craft Village in Durness, but serious clothes shopping isn’t an activity on the agenda for this type of holiday.

We eat out loads: depending upon where you go there can be some wonderful high end restaurants – think Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall – but these are not plentiful. Often, there are small, artisan restaurants using local produce such as the Applecross Walled Garden, but the more remote you wander the less fine dining there will be.

We want wall to wall sunshine and heat: see changeable weather doesn’t bother you, above…..

Wifi is everything: if being contactable, and online, 24/7 is important then this probably isn’t your type of holiday. The more isolated you travel the less chance of connectivity. In some parts of Scotland, we didn’t even have a phone signal let alone wifi. But, if you do need to electronically check in, you can often find a coffee shop with free wifi or the reception area of a campsite/ caravan park will have a signal.

Getting dressed up is all part of the holiday: if your definition means high heels, designer handbag and full face of make-up then you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re talking walking boots, waterproofs and rucksack you’re in for a treat!

If you have answered yes, this is definitely for you and your family, then checkout Part II of my blogpost which I’ll release later on this week. It will be full of top tips. In the meantime, keep an eye on the media. England opened campsites and caravan parks on 4th July, and Wales and Scotland are expected to open in mid-July. If you have decided to bite the bullet and travel abroad, good luck and stay safe.

Kate.

How to be eco-friendly when snowboarding or skiing.

With Extinction Rebellion making recent headlines as well as the documented actions of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage climate activist, splashed across the media, you may ask yourself what can I do to reduce my own impact on the environment? And specifically, what can I do in relation to my beloved snowboarding and skiing which are not exactly known for being carbon-friendly past-times?

It can feel somewhat disingenuous travelling to the Alps to partake in snowsports knowing the environmental damage that this can cause. We all have choices and it’s unlikely that you’ll be giving up a favourite activity anytime soon, so what changes, big and small, can you make to minimise your impact when planning a winter holiday and whilst in-resort. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Mode of travel: this is the ‘biggy’ because we all know that flying leaves a large carbon footprint. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy/ DEFRA a long haul flight emits 102g of CO2 per person per kilometre travelled, whereas a car with 4 passengers is 43g of CO2 and the Eurostar is 6g of CO2. If you really want to make a difference, this is the one to focus on. Checkout the company Snowcarbon, an independent company, who specialise in train travel to ski resorts from London.

2. Choice of resort: to cut down on travel (see above) select a resort that is closer to you. Check your resort’s environmentally friendly credibility: recycling facilities, renewable energy use, low carbon emissions and eco-friendly building

Traffic-free Avoriaz

design. The Grand Massif in France encompassing several resorts, including Flaine, was the first areas to be awarded ‘Green Globe’ certification. Other places are car-free such as Avoriaz in France and Saas Fee in Switzerland. The Swiss resort, Laax set up a Greenstyle Foundation aiming to be the first self-sufficient ski resort, and Kaprun’s ski lifts, in Austria, operate on renewable energy. Chamonix has developed a climate and energy action plan, and has also been awarded the Flocon Vert (green snowflake) by Mountain Riders Association who help snowboarders and skiers identify resorts committed to sustainable eco-development.

 

3. In resort:

    • Eat locally produced food to cut down on transportation and packaging.

      Local scran!

    • Eat less meat; go ‘veggie’ for one or two meals. Tartiflette is meat-free and will use local ingredients, too.
    • Bring your own shopping bags. For years, in France, if you forgot your shopping bag the supermarket would charge one euro to purchase a reusable bag. We still have some from Champion that we bought over 10 years ago.
    • Use a flask that’s reusable rather than a single-use plastic bottle.
    • Take rubbish home. Do not litter the slopes and pick up any litter you do see. I’m sure you’ll have heard about the non-profit #2minutebeachclean, to help rid our coastlines of plastic and marine litter, so what about #2minuteslopeclean?
    • Use local transport. Do not hire a car when free resort buses are available.

4. Other helpful actions: there are plenty of other things you can do, too, such as:

    • Ask your tour operator about their environmentally friendly policy.

      This jacket has been repaired at least twice.

    • Contribute towards a carbon offset programme.
    • Take up alternative wintersports such touring, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
    • Buy environmentally friendly clothing such as those developed by Picture Clothing who use organic materials as well as recycled ones.
    • Mend clothing rather than buy new. Patagonia’s ‘Worn Wear’ programme encourages people to repair their gear rather than replace it. And as part of their Continuum Project, the UK outdoor company, Alpkit, will donate old, unwanted outdoor clothing to those in need.
    • Support charities such as Protect Our Winters (POW) who encourage people to take positive action to reduce their carbon footprint.

Whilst large-scale, global changes are needed and action is required by governments across the planet, we can still play our own part. We all love the mountains but the very action of getting to, and staying in, the places we cherish causes damage. By committing to one, or several, of the above we can start taking personal responsibility for our environmental impact. I want my daughter and her generation and beyond to continuing enjoying these magical places, so I am now going to begin some new practices and continue with those I’ve already started. As Greta Thunberg has said, “…imagine what we could do together if we wanted to. Every single person counts. Just like every single emission counts. Every single kilo. Everything counts.” What will you do?

Ta ta for now,

Kate.