Highland Overland – Scotland
We go camping fairly often. We’re very familiar with packing up the car and heading out around the UK with our tent, bed, cooking supplies, plus all that other stuff you convince yourself you need to enjoy a few nights in the countryside. So setting off for a camping trip with just a small bag of clothes and a toothbrush each felt a little odd. This was going to be our first experience of staying inside any kind of camping vehicle (never mind on the roof of one!) and we were looking forward to the new experience.
Not having to pack all your own camping gear is one of the many upsides of embarking on a trip with Highland Overland. We were able to take an early morning flight from London to Inverness, safe in the knowledge that our car and all the equipment we needed would be ready and waiting for us just a short walk from the arrivals hall. We were met by Mark from the Highland Overland team and after a quick introduction to the features in the car we were on our way.
All the equipment you need for camping in the highlands
The car itself is a converted Nissan Navara and quite simply, it looks really cool. There’s an element of smugness when you park up in a carpark full of unwieldy white campervans with your sleek beast of a car, and the driving experience was much more comfortable than it would have been in a flat-sided van in which you can feel every bit of the Scottish wind. The car has all the features we’re used to, including in-built sat-nav, Apple and Android phone connections, reversing cameras, heated seats, and all the charging points you could possibly want to keep the batteries in your tech topped-up. Although it’s a large vehicle it’s lovely to drive and we found it easy to manoeuvre around the single-track rural lanes.
We chose to sleep in the vehicle throughout our trip, although we were told some people choose to drive between B&Bs instead. Setting up the roof-top tent takes less than five minutes as all you need to do is undo the latches and pop the lid up. Then you can add the rain cover which gives you a little more shelter when you stick your head out of bed in the morning. There’s a comfy mattress already in the roof-tent, so all you need to do is attach the ladder to get up there, throw in the sleeping bags and blankets that are provided, and you’re ready to get a great night’s sleep.
It’s clear that the Highland Overland team knew what they were doing when they chose the equipment that would be included in their vehicles. All the essentials you’ll need for camping and cooking in the Scottish Highlands are included and they’re of a high quality – for example, sturdy comfortable camp chairs and proper knives and cutlery, because no wants wants to try hacking through dinner with a plastic knife after a long day hiking. Everything has its designated place in the back of the car, which you can access through the back or the side, making packing up and moving on again simple.
Our driving route on the NC500
With the limited time we had available there was no way we’d be able to take on the full NC500 route, so we chose some highlights to visit. Crossing from Inverness towards the west, we stopped en route to visit Rogie Falls, which were a spectacular introduction to the kind of scenery to be found in this part of Scotland. Continuing west we reached the coast by driving over the famous Bealach na Ba, meaning pass of the cattle. It’s a narrow winding road that climbs to 2053ft, and on the day we visited the peak was extremely foggy and felt like we had driven into the clouds. Campervan drivers are advised not to take this route due to the gradient, which approaches 20%, so this is another advantage of using a Highland Overland vehicle. The reversing cameras came in pretty handy too, when we had to reverse into passing places while avoiding the sudden drop at the side of the road! We then spent the night camping in the beautiful Applecross Bay, where we were also lucky enough to see two highland stags not far from the roadside.
The following day we drove onwards to the Isle of Skye, which you can reach by crossing a bridge from the mainland. Our destination here was the Fairy Pools, a spectacular set of waterfalls surrounded by mountains. There are many hiking routes around this area and it’s easy to get away from the main tourist routes to take in the spectacular scenery. We camped not far from the Fairy Pools on the shore of Loch Brittle, where you can take a walk on the beach and catch the sunset if it’s not too cloudy.
On our final day we managed to catch two of the most iconic views in the Scottish Highlands – Eileen Donan castle and Loch Ness – as we made our way back to Inverness airport to catch our flight home. As always, we were left thinking that there is so much more to see and hoping that we can return to do more exploring in the Scottish Highlands soon.