Campervan & Motorhomes for Hire in Scotland
Frequently voted among the most beautiful countries in the world, Scotland has it all. From historic cities to untamed wilderness and scenic views at every turn, it’s an excellent choice for your next driving holiday. Scotland is very well set up for campervan travel, with a number of established tourist routes and plenty of exciting detours along the way. Here is everything you need to know about travelling Scotland by campervan.
Scotland by Campervan: The Essentials
Campervan Hire in Scotland is Easy!
Unlike in other parts of the world, in Scotland campervan hire & motorhome hire is the same thing. The only real difference is motorhomes are usually considered to be bigger vehicles. In the US this would be refereed to as “RV rental Scotland”. It’s very easy to hire a campervan in Scotland. While rules vary from company to company, most will happily rent a campervan to anyone over the age of 25 with a valid driving licence. While there aren’t quite as many, there is a good selection of companies who will rent their vehicles to people under 25, though you should expect to pay a young driver’s surcharge.
Driving a Campervan Hire in Scotland
Driving laws in Scotland are nothing out of the ordinary, with the usual rules surrounding always wearing a seatbelt, adhering to the speed limit and not using your phone while driving. However, it’s worth pointing out that Scotland has among the most stringent drink-driving laws in the world. The legal limit in Scotland is 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 milliliters of breath (or 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood), meaning that just one drink could push you over the edge. So if you have been sitting around the campfire drinking beers until the “wee hours”, be sure its safe to drive the next day before you head off. Never drink and drive!
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Best Time of the Year to Visit Scotland by Campervan
You are never guaranteed good weather in Scotland, where in some parts it rains on average 250 days a year. Spring and summer will naturally offer the best chances of good weather. However, summer is often heaving with visitors (particularly on the National Tourist Routes) and midges are out in full force, making outdoor activities slightly less enjoyable.
An autumn visit may be a good compromise, bringing quieter roads and beautiful surroundings (you may be able to find better deals on camping, too). Temperatures are only slightly cooler than summer and still very comfortable, providing you bring along plenty of layers should Scotland’s unpredictable weather take a turn for the worse.
Winter is probably best avoided, as some attractions and campsites will be closed, and some roads may be covered with very heavy snow. In December, January and February, the average maximum temperature in Scotland is a mere 5°C (41°F), making sleeping in a campervan a rather unappealing prospect. However, if you do opt to visit during this time, a good set of winter tyres is an absolute must. For more information, take a look at Police Scotland’s winter driving advice here.
Where to Park a Campervan in Scotland
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Scotland is unusual for the UK in that it allows wild camping, and so many people get the impression that you are able to park your campervan wherever you want. However, the often-quoted Scottish Outdoor Code does not apply to motorhomes and campervans.
Thanks to the irresponsible few who leave their rubbish and waste behind, more and more areas are introducing restrictions forbidding overnight parking. However, as long as you apply some common sense you should have no problems finding somewhere to stay for the night.
Here are a few simple guidelines to follow:
- Check for any ‘no overnight camping’ signs
- Always ask permission from the landowner if you can
- Be prepared just in case you are asked to leave
- Don’t block access to any fields
- Stay well clear of buildings (unless you’ve asked first)
- Don’t stay more than one night in any given spot
For an extra sense of security or access to facilities, you might prefer to spend the night at a campsite. There is a plethora of campsites across the whole of Scotland, varying considerably in both standard and price.
The best option for finding a suitable campsite on the go is to use an app like WikiCamps. The app contains the largest database of UK campsites, all helpfully plotted on a map. At a glance, you can easily see the facilities available, as well as photos and reviews from other campers. You can even take the maps offline so you can find a campsite without any signal, and the handy route tracker will show you the way and tell you how long it will take to get there.
If you plan to travel during the peak summer season, it’s a good idea to book your campsites ahead of time to avoid disappointment.Though there is a lot of choice, Scotland isn’t a huge country and camping spots can get filled up fast. To find available campsites, you can use websites like Pitchup, Cool Camping or campsites.co.uk and filter for ones that accept campervans.
Where To Go in Scotland by Campervan
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Scotland has 12 established National Tourist Routes which are popular options for campervan travel, meaning that planning your trip couldn’t be easier. Here are a few of the best routes and how long you need to drive each one.
North Coast 500
The newest of the tourist routes is Scotland’s answer to Route 66, stretching 500 miles along the north coast. The route begins in Inverness, winding along to John O’Groats and on to Durness in the Scottish highlands. Along the way you’ll find white sandy beaches, soaring mountains and breathtaking lochs, making it one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Highlights along this route include:
- Stac Pollaidh, a hikeable mountain in Wester Ross with spectacular views from the top
- Ardvreck Castle, crumbling 15th century ruins on the edge of Loch Assynt
- Balnakeil Beach, a wide, sandy beach with impressive dunes and spectacular sunsets
- Smoo Cave, an ancient limestone sea cave with a 50 ft high entrance and a majestic, cascading waterfall
- Chanonry Point, a narrow peninsula on the Black Isle that’s the perfect spot for dolphin watching
While the official itinerary suggests taking 5 to 7 days to cover the North Coast 500, you’ll probably want at least a week and a half to take in everything this exciting road trip has to offer.
South West Coastal 300
With gentle coastlines and green rolling hills, this other relatively new route covers the country’s less-visited south western region. Though less dramatic than its north coast counterpart, the South West Coastal 300 is just as beautiful and is absolutely packed with things to see and do.
Highlights along this route include:
- Caerlaverock Castle, a triangular, moated castle first built in the 13th century and situated on the edge of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve
- Kirkcudbright, a charming fishing town with a strong art and craft heritage
- The Mull of Galloway, Scotland’s most southerly point where you can enjoy a clifftop walk and climb a lighthouse
- Logan Botanical Gardens, a plant paradise packed with exotic species from around the globe
- The Grey Mare’s Tail, one of the best hikes in Scotland with spectacular views and the 5th highest waterfall in the UK
A good option for those on a tight schedule, the South West Coastal 300 can be completed in just 3 or 4 days, or enjoyed at a leisurely pace over the course of a week.
North East 250
This circular route gives you a great overall view of Scotland, with quaint seaside villages, castles and mountain passes. It’s located up in the Scottish highlands, looping down to Aberdeen and through the Cairngorms National Park and can be joined at three points allowing for flexibility. Offering the perfect blend of countryside and coastline, there’s plenty to see along the way as you forge your path through the heart of Scotland.
Here’s what you can expect to find:
- Ballindalloch Castle, also known as the ‘pearl of the north’, and a fine example of a Scottish Baronial castle
- Portknockie, a cliff top village with incredible views across the Moray Firth and home to the iconic natural sea arch Bow Fiddle Rock
- The Cairngorms mountain range, including 5 of the UK’s 6 highest mountains and awe-inspiring views to boot
- Aberdeen, full of cultural highlights including galleries, museums and the Queen’s private residence
- The Glenlivet Whiskey Distillery, one of many distilleries along this route and in continuous operation since 1824
Scotland is a fantastic destination for enjoying a wealth of experiences and sights into a fairly short trip. With plenty of well-documented routes ready for you to take on, it’s also a great choice for first-time campervan travellers, taking much of the guesswork out of the planning process. With ample opportunity to get up close and personal with nature and legendary landscapes that can’t fail to impress, Scotland also boasts endless attractions that will keep you entertained every step of the way.
Visit Scotland – The official consumer website of VisitScotland, Scotland’s national tourist board.
Scottish Police – The scottish police service
Wikicamps – The ultimate camping companion for your smart phone, tablet or Windows PC
Pitchup – Over 3000 campsites available to book online
Cool Camping – Another good campsite booking platform
Campsites.co.uk – Decent resource for UK specific campsites
Frequently Asked Questions:
About the Author
Karl O’Brien is a writer and adventure traveller from Dublin, Ireland. He has been travelling the world since his late teens. His adventures have taken him to the far reaches of the globe including most of Europe, North & South America, New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia and the Middle East. When he is not planning his next adventure Karl can be found building and renovating campervans.