I have been an ogler of campervans for as long as I can remember. I size them up on the open road – that one’s a bit much with its electric hook-ups and tinted windows, check out the curtains on that one. And, of course, I’ve noticed in recent years, the number of vans that are clearly hire vehicles – with their stickers and logos tempting others to try. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Vans eliminate accommodation costs while adding not very much to your petrol bill. They give you all of the freedom of camping with none of the “oh, we’re basically sleeping on the ground”. My preferred van has always been a VW. They are the original, the classic, the ideal. With their child’s drawing geometry and familiar puttering sound of the air-cooled engine, for my money, there is no better campervan. And you don’t get much better than an orange, 1974 VW called Sally (they all have names, it’s the VW law) with all her original features in mint condition.
With a left-hand drive with four gears and a cruising speed of 50mph, I can’t lie, I had a moment of concern that trying to take Sally over the lunar landscape of Rannoch Moor to Glen Coe and beyond was perhaps foolhardy. But I needn’t have worried. Sally drove like a dream. Not fast, I admit, but steady and sure, giving me plenty of time to gaze out the window from the high driving position.
And as far as luggage was concerned, although there was a place for everything, those places tend to be titchy so the advice to travel light was helpful.
“Where shall we go?” is usually the question that begins the holiday planning process, but once you’ve got to watering the plants, packing the bags and setting off, it’s discarded just like all the Google searches of places you’d once quite fancied visiting. But when your accommodation is the vehicle in which you are tootling along the highways and by-ways and your kitchen emerges from a small wooden panel held in place by a plastic strap and a release button, you can go anywhere, do anything.
Actually, as a campervan novice it’s worth bearing in mind that this can be a little overwhelming. I’m not embarrassed to admit that we did quite a bit of deliberating about potential places to stop while actually driving past them. We hadn’t realised that we were so indecisive, but then again we’d never really faced that many decisions.
We did manage to stop at Glen Coe, though. There’s a walk through Glen Etive that we’d been eyeing up for a while and Sally seemed like the gal to take us to it. The drive was brilliant, the van handling the roads perfectly as we ambled down the hill, waving at other VW drivers.
We opted for a first night at the Red Squirrel campsite and parked in our bay; it was a delight to have Sally’s doors slung back, allowing us to be both out and in at the same time. And as it got dark, it was lovely to get snuggled up in the van, our wind-up lantern helping the candles along in keeping us bright enough to read.
The rock and roll bed – an original feature – was easy to pull out and a marked upgrade in the comfort stakes even from the swankiest of blow-up camping beds. And if you’re familiar with the excitement of unzipping the tent flap to see what the weather has in store for you, you’ll be pleased to know that peeping through the curtains of a van is just as good.
Heading away from Glen Coe, we made for the coast. A past camping experience at Arisaig left us feeling a little bruised after torrential rain basically chased us away. Surely a van would be all the protection we needed? Alas, arriving at Arisaig, we experienced ten minutes of fair weather before the clouds drew in. The islands dotted in the sea in front of us disappeared into the mist and cloud and before long it was pelting. As we retreated into Sally and stuck the kettle on, we vowed that one of these days we’ll see good weather on that stretch of coast.
But the disappointment doesn’t last in a cosy van. We were too busy trying to find the biscuits.
Prices for Sally are: Apr-May £80 per/night, Jun-Aug £100 p/n, Sept-Oct £75 p/n. All bookings must be for a minimum of three nights; www.classic-camper-holidays.co.uk