The UK has plenty of good spots, many of them unexplored and few of them as beautiful and dramatic as the sights you come across north of the English border. It’s time to think about exchanging the 5-star hotel rooms for 5-star views instead and go wild camping in Scotland.
The North Coast 500 will be top of many people’s lists this year as people look more towards domestic travel, but despite its clever label as Scotland’s answer to the famous Route 66, it doesn’t mean you should spend all of your time on the road, driving from campsite A to campsite B.
You don’t even need to worry about campsite C, or D – E,F,G… you get the gist – but look around you, you’re in Scotland, go wild camping and practically anywhere can be your home for the night!
If you can afford yourself the luxury, it’s a great idea to add a couple days more onto your trip to what you think you’ll need. That way you can spend some time exploring to find the perfect camp – and that’s when Scotland really comes into it’s own and makes you realise why it’s constantly mentioned in the same breath alongside some of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Anyway, you’re probably here for the inside track about getting off the beaten track, right? So, let me tell you about three of my favourite wild camping spots from my most recent visit to Scotland.
After a 20 minute drive around the Loch on a single track road, we decided to pull into one of the passing spots – there was a number of them in a relatively short distance so we deemed this as a safe enough place to leave the car and explore on foot. A short foray through some marshland led us to an old and rickety bridge with half it’s lats missing (it was at this point I realised flip flops probably weren’t the best choice to explore in) – naturally we crossed the bridge and through the other side of the trees opened up to a gorgeous little beach with a stunning view across Brora loch. Is there anything better than sitting around a fire on a beach with your friends?
If you’ve never experienced the drive from Ullapool to the Gairloch area, then make sure you find an excuse to go and do it – and bring your camera! A breath-taking coastal journey, with plenty of potential camping spots – so keep your eyes peeled!
We decided to drive through until we reached Red Point Beach – again the final 20 minutes of the trip a fun, if not slightly daunting drive down a winding, single track road which you’d be forgiven for thinking was leading nowhere.
At the end lies a small car park a short walk away from the dunes and the beach – a quick scout around and we found a great bit of land to pitch our tents on – and the view wasn’t too bad either.
A dip in the sea and an evening on the soft sandy beach before the short walk back to our camp on the hill to watch the sunset – some spot and pretty good value at the £0 we paid for it.
One of the most important wild camping tips – second only to bringing midge repellent – is to be flexible! We arrived in Shieldaig for the sole purpose of kayaking and then moving straight on towards Applecross. Sadly the weather meant our kayaking was cancelled so naturally we ended up in a local pub to decide our next move – several card games and zero plans made later we decided to carry on driving through the village and have a look around.
We took a turn onto a dirt road that I’m still not convinced was intended for cars and slowly drove around the snake-like bends as they got steeper and steeper. Eventually we stopped for a couple of minutes, giving me chance to run ahead of the cars and scout out to see if all this was worth the trouble and if it seemed there might be light at the end of the tunnel – or a decent enough spot to pitch up at the end of the road, in our case.
The dull, heavy clouds seemed to clear simultaneously with me getting to the top of a vantage point, unveiling crystal clear waters and mountains to almost rival anything I’ve seen in previous travels to the likes of New Zealand or Canada even! Needless to say we found a safe place to pull into and leave the cars and trekked down the hill of boggy marshland to the shores of Loch Shieldaig. Undoubtedly one of the best morning views I have ever woken up to.
By Alex Mulvey