By motorhome through Scotland – the dream destination for very many motorhome vacationers. Scotland makes up about one third of the British Isles. From north to south it measures about 440 kilometers, from west to east about 240. There are exciting and beautiful cities there, such as Edinburgh, but rather we appreciate the diverse remoteness of the rural areas. There are deserted landscapes with hills, mountains, stones, moors, coasts and castles. But beware. The Scottish virus is contagious. You can hardly get rid of it.
On this page we have collected the most important tips for a motorhome trip through Scotland. Surely there is much more to discover, but from our experience especially the route tips are a good start for the Scotland beginner. Have fun reading our guide for Scotland.
What is the best time to travel to Scotland by motorhome?
Scotland has its beautiful sides throughout the year. I have actually seen photos of a camper during a winter trip. Great pictures, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone. When planning your RV trip to Scotland, there are a few things to consider. The weather has to be halfway suitable, there should be less people on the road and we don’t want to be on the road when the infamous midges have their wedding. Let’s have a look at the points one after the other.
Temperature and rain
Sure, the winter months January and February are the coldest, the average temperature here is about 3°C (Edinburgh). The warmest months are June, July and August with an average of about 14°C. If you take a closer look at the spring and autumn months, the temperatures range, for example, in May from about 5 ° to 14 ° C. Scotland, and especially the western coastal regions, is characterized by its location by the warm Gulf Stream. This leads to a very temperate climate, so mild winters and not too hot summers. If you want to go to the west, where the Highlands are located, you have to expect changeable weather. And also with more rain than on the east coast. May and June are also the driest months of the year in terms of rainfall.
We were horrified to see the pictures on Facebook last year (2017) where one of the most beautiful places in Scotland was parked up by endless lines of cars during the high season. The Isle if Skye in particular seems to be barely able to withstand the masses of people here. I think all of us, including you, don’t want to be surrounded by hundreds of other tourists, so let’s take a look at how many tourists are in Scotland and when. Enlightening for this is a statistic of visitor numbers and occupancy rates of hotels and campsites.
The first thing you see in the numbers is that many campgrounds are closed during the winter months. So for all winter drivers, it will be more difficult to find places to stay with equipment. On the other hand, it is also clear when it is best to avoid the big rush of visitors: in the months of April, May, September, October.
Midges – the mosquito plague
Before our first trip to Scotland, we heard a lot about the potential midges plague. Midges are a very small type of mosquito that can bite you, causing skin irritation. Or they can just be a nuisance when a swarm is buzzing around you. Midges are in season from April to October. So whether you will experience these mosquitoes, and if so how much, depends on the timing of your trip, the location (more in the west than in the east) and other environmental factors. What mosquitoes don’t like is wind, dry air and brightness.
At the end of the day, however, it was actually unpleasant on only one day, on September 6 in Sligachan. But maybe we were just very lucky. The mosquito nets on our windows were not always enough. We added some tape around the edges of the hatches to make sure they were really tight and the little mosquitoes couldn’t slip through.
How can you protect yourselves from the critters? Well, first of all, don’t drive in the months of the midges season – and if you do, rather in the marginal months. Of course, there is also mosquito repellent, but we can’t report any personal experience. According to the Internet, our “Antibrumm” should also help. What I can recommend you in any case is the midges forecast from Smidge,
Conclusion best time to travel
What is the best time to travel to Scotland? If you take all factors together, from our point of view the best time to travel is the beginning of May or September. Less midges, less tourists, higher probability of dry weather and still acceptable temperatures. Nevertheless, don’t forget jackets and sweaters!
How to get to Scotland?
Many roads lead to Glasgow, which can be called the starting point of a trip by motorhome to Scotland. But let’s take a look at what route alternatives there are from Germany. The first basic decision is whether you prefer to take a longer route by car or stay longer on a ferry. Here we have plotted the usual routes with the ferries:
The driving route through England with a short ferry
The classic: If you don’t mind long driving and you want to see England on the left and right side of the route, then take the short route between Calais and Dover, or between Calais and Folkestone if you want to take the Eurotunnel. As you can see in the map above, it’s then about 770 km to Glasgow in Scotland.
- You can see the country while driving through
- You don’t have to move to the “ship hotel” for one night
- Master and mistress stay with doggie in the car (at the Eurotunnel).
- A lot of “mileage eating”
- Depending on the time of day necessity of an overnight stay in between
- Ferry or Eurotunnel?
From Calais you have the choice between the fast Eurotunnel and the classic ferry. Both variants have their advantages and disadvantages. If you don’t have any problems with driving deep under water, you should try both.
After waiting in the assigned lane, you drive into the belly of the ferry and are briefed on centimeters. You then have to leave the car immediately and go up stairs to the passenger deck. Here one has the possibility of a round walk with various seat and shopping possibilities. In the restaurant you can get something to eat. You can also take a walk on the smaller outside decks and enjoy the view. So you can experience the approach to the White Cliffs of Dover live.
At the Eurotunnel, the approach is not much different, only then you turn sideways into a railroad carriage and continue to drive forward until there is no further to go. When all the cars are parked, the rolling gates in the carriage close and the train starts moving. During the ride, you can only see the lights in the tunnel flashing by. After about 20 minutes, the gates open again and the cars exit to the front of the train.
What speaks for the Eurotunnel:
- Travel time through the tunnel only about 30 minutes
- Animals stay in the car
- Especially with camper a comfortable travel
What speaks for the ferry:
- Cheaper than the tunnel, but longer (about 1.5 hours)
- Possibility of a walk with snack possibility
- In good weather view on the approach to Dover
Long ferry to Newcastle
Besides the short ferry route, there are two longer routes. Some campers like to use this alternative, because you save a long drive through England. With the ferry from Amsterdam to Newscastle you are almost at the Scottish border. From there it is another 240 km to Glasgow and only 170 km to Edinburgh. The ferries drive over night, why one must book also compellingly a cabin in addition.
DFDS offers the connection Amsterdam – Newcastle, P&O Ferries has a medium-length connection in its program, namely from Rotterdam to Hull. Unfortunately, we cannot give you price examples here. There are so many different options, especially for the cabins. Just try it out, on both websites you can calculate connections.
When and how to book cheapest?
It is not possible to give a blanket answer as to when and how a ticket is cheapest. Booking in advance is often cheaper than at the ticket counter in the ferry port. However, this is not always possible. Especially if you have not fixed the vacation trip to the exact day. The outward journey can perhaps still be pre-booked, the return trip then already less. However, there are also reports that you have to wait longer for free seats if you arrive at a time when all ferries are fully booked. Also, you should look carefully at what time you want to go. Our experience has been that the more nocturnal times are cheaper than the daytime ones. And of course it is also true that the low season is cheaper than the high season.
As you might expect, our German plug does not fit into the usual UK sockets. That means you can’t plug in your hair dryers after the shower in the sanitary building without an adapter. What does fit, however, is the blue CEE plug at the campsite. So shore power is provided. At least we have not had to experience any other plug-in possibility at a campsite. Who wonders what cables are needed for this, I recommend our article on the right power cable for the camper.
How does driving on the left work?
This is of course a point to think about. Before I left for my first motorhome trip to the UK, my brain was full of good advice, but first and foremost “it’s not hard, it works automatically”. Well. In the end it worked out. But then it did not go so completely automatically.
It actually begins quite gently. You leave the ferry or the tunnel train and drive behind the person in front of you. Soon you get onto the multi-lane highway and already there your brain has to adjust. It is unusual to have the central reservation on your right and you are almost frightened when a truck turns onto the highway to your left.
It only becomes dangerous when you start not paying attention and drive intuitively, on instinct. For example, when leaving gas stations, after turning around in the city, or when driving off after spending the night the next day.
Tips for low-stress left-hand driving
- At the beginning, get behind slower moving trucks and get used to driving on the left.
- Very unusual for us is to look where the traffic might come from. In the traffic circle traffic comes from the right and when turning also from the unfamiliar side. So you have to be careful here.
- Overtaking on the highway feels like our forbidden right overtaking. But you get used to it.
- Pay special attention when turning: our left turn with oncoming traffic is here the right turn! Accordingly, there are right-turn lanes.
- Attention traffic circle! The turning direction is of course also the other way around than here. The outermost lanes are often the turning lanes, turning at the next exit.
- When swerving: Intuitively, we would always pull over to the right to swerve or let through. However, you need to get in the habit of doing this on the left as well. Especially with the Scottish small roads important.
- A little side note: The English not only drive on the left, but they also walk on the left. The first time I walked through the front doors of a rest stop, I spontaneously dodged people on the right and promptly swam fully against the flow. So it’s like at Ikea, when you turn around during the tour to get something you forgot. So left-hand traffic seems to apply here as well.
Single lane roads
The more you venture into the Northwest, the more often you encounter the single lane roads called “Single Track Roads”. Especially the routes into the remote towns are often single track. But what do you do when one is coming your way? There are stopping bays, “passing places”, at more or less regular intervals to take evasive action. To make things easier, there is also much less traffic than on the main routes.
This is how it works:
Look ahead and drive very slowly and extremely left at blind spots (like before the crest in the picture above).
As soon as you see someone coming towards you, check immediately whether you or the other person has the next passing place on his side. You can see the often diamond-shaped white signs very well.
The one who has the next bay on his side of the road (on the left!) stops there and lets the other one pass. Concretely: If there is a bay on the right, you do not drive into the bay on the “wrong” side, but wait on the left side of the road until the other person drives in and lets you pass. So it has always worked great for us.
Problem cases are rather the tourists in their rental cars, who do not know how to behave properly. And if you see that you are slowing down someone faster behind you who is not passing, then pull over to the left and let him pass. Remember: Always say thank you and wave!
Campsites in Scotland
In Scotland there are very good camping sites all over the country. Of course the less, the more lonely the area becomes. We have found that the quality of the sanitary facilities decreases sharply with the attractiveness of the location of the site. The coolest sites with the best views had the worst showers. Otherwise, campsites in Scotland are quite okay, but you should not expect luxury sites with washrooms and swimming pools. But that does not count in such a vacation anyway, it is the landscape, what counts. The campsites in Scotland and their audience are rather alternative – at least on most sites where we were. You see more VW Bus as a camper luxury thick ship, also many small cars or motorcycles with tents.
There are also clubs and membership cards in the UK that are quite profitable. One of the biggest clubs is the “Camping and Caravaning Club”, or the “Carvaning and Motorhome Club”, which runs a great and recommendable site on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Often a membership is a prerequisite to be allowed to stay overnight on the site. At Loch Lomond, for example, we were turned away once. You had to be a member for 24 hours to stay overnight. When staying overnight on several of these member sites, a membership is of course worthwhile. However, we got – without becoming a member – with our Camping Key Europe card from ADAC on a club site discount.
Brit Stops: the pitch alternative
Motorhome sites in Scotland, as we know them from Germany, there are very few. What offers itself as an alternative to the full-fledged campsite but is “Brit Stops”. This is a similar concept as “Landvergnügen” with and in Germany or “France Passion” in France. One buys the annual pitch book, sticks the sticker on the window and can stay at a pitch for up to 24 hours free of charge. Of course, the hosts hope for customers from the campers for their local business. Often these are restaurants, farms or farm stores with regional products. We tried this once and stayed in Sherwood Forest in the parking lot of a local restaurant and had dinner there. It was ok for one night, it was a paved parking lot next to the house with no amenities.
More info at https://www.britstops.com/
Highly recommended campsites
During our road trips through Scotland we have seen and used several campsites. Most of them were very good, although the quality of the sanitary facilities is often rather below average. The great location made up for a lot. A few recommendations we would like to give you here – of course completely subjective!
Sunnyside Touring Caravan Park in Arisaig
A small site at the western end of the “Road to the Isles” north of Arisaig on the west coast with a fantastic view of the sea and super sanitary facilities with washing machine and dryer.
A natural place in the heart of the Isle of Skye with a rather alternative character and a fantastic view of the mountains. A perfect starting point for walks on the Isle of Skye. Unfortunately the sanitary facilities are old and worn. Large tent meadow.
Edinburgh Caravan Club
Very decent site from the Caravaning Club on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Optimal starting point for exploring Edinburgh, bus stop in front of the site. Here you should book in advance, the Camping Key Europe card is recognized as a club card.
More campsites in Scotland
If you want to see more tips for campsites and photos, check out the article in our Scotland trip report. Here we have described the accommodation and camping sites we used during our last trip in 2015.
Recommend beautiful routes
Loch Lomond and Glencoe
At Alexandria at the south end of Loch Lomond the Scottish feeling begins. Along the loch on a narrow, winding road leads directly into the Highlands. Soon you reach the beautiful valley of Glencoe. A detour to Loch Etive (“Skyfall”) is possible if you dare to drive the narrow single track road. Much too fast you pass Glencoe, which is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Take your time here!
Road to the Isles, from Fort Willian to Mallaig
Perhaps the most beautiful road in all of Scotland: the Road to the Isles. It starts in Fort William, the “capital” of the Highlands and passes many beautiful places, for example the highlight Glenfinnan with the world famous Harry Potter bridge. In Arisaig you will encounter the beautiful west coast and reach the end point of the road in Mallaig. In the truest sense of the word, because from here you take the ferry to the Isle of Skye. The Road to the Isles is also a section of the West Highland railroad line with the famous Jacobite Train, which is actually called Hogwards Express.
Isle of Skye – roundtrip
From Sligachan you turn west and reach the coast of the island at Dunvegan Castle. A top highlight of the trip is Neist Point with its lighthouse at the far west end of the Isle of Skye. The round trip goes around the northern tip of the island and passes the Old Man of Storr. Alternatively, you can cross the northern tip on narrow roads near Uig and enjoy the incredible view at Quiraing. With Portree you will experience the largest town on the island before you leave the island on the east side via the Skye Bridge and visit the Eilean Donan Castle near Dornie.
North Coast 500 – from Ullapool to John O’Groats
The Northcoast 500 is the Scottish answer to Highway 1 in California. If you like it remote and dramatic, you can’t miss this route. It actually starts further west at Applecross, but even the stretch from Ullapool has enough potential for an unforgettable experience in the Northwest Highlands. At John O’Groats you will reach the northernmost point of the British main island.
East coast – from Wick to Inverness
For all the joy for the Highlands in the west, the east coast also offers all sorts of sights. On the way from Wick to Inverness at Loch Ness there are some castles. At Fortrose you can watch dolphins with a little luck.