Popular Campsites and Caravan Parks in Scotland
Popular Campsites & Caravan Parks Around Scotland
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh & Mikki Wells
Scotland is not well known for its reliably warm, camper-friendly weather, even during summer, but it is a myth that it is very much wetter and colder than the rest of the UK.
Apart from parts of the west coast, which are certainly prone to overcast skies, frosty drizzle, frequent showers and occasional torrential downpours, Scotland on the whole enjoys a temperate (if maddeningly unpredictable) climate for most months of the year. That said, ‘roughing it’ in Scotland between November and March is usually inadvisable, and in any case, the majority of campsites will be closed off season (This can be frustrating, as Scotland can actually see unexpectedly gloriously sunny days in early spring, and even into late Autumn before the clocks go back and the days become noticeably shorter. Likewise, ground frost and even snow is by no means unheard of during May and June!).
Inevitable jokes about unfavourable weather aside, Scotland is indisputably a country with stunning landscapes, sweeping coastlines, breathtaking scenery and fascinating history and wildlife, making it perfect for campers and nature-lovers. Indeed, Scotland has some of the very best nature has to offer, from lochs and lakes to munros and mountains and from sandy beaches to sprawling verdant countryside and peaceful woodland walks.
If you have a caravan, camper-van or even just a leak-proof tent, a warm sleeping bag, a torch and a functional camping stove (not to mention an open mind and a robust willingness to forgo certain luxuries), here’s a selection of Scotland’s best campsites, glamp-sites and caravan parks, in alphabetical order, along with their facilities and local attractions/activities. Before heading off - please always check that sites are open for business - especially between October and April.
1. Banff Links Caravan Park, Aberdeenshire
Closed November to February, over 130 pitches, well-behaved dogs welcome
Banff, Inverboyndie, Aberdeenshire AB45 2JJ
This popular site has received glowing reviews in the past. Touted as “one of the sunniest, driest towns in Scotland”, Banff is a popular destination for surfers and families, and the site itself is located on Banff Bay, about a mile from the centre of town with its range of shops, services, quality seafood restaurants and tourist attractions. Banff Links Caravan Park has its own shop as well as 133 pitches, including 41 “fully serviced seasonal stances” and 38 “touring stances with electric hook-up”, plus toilet and hot shower facilities and a large play area for the kids.
2. Clachtoll Beach Campsite
Closed November to March, 40+ pitches, booking necessary in summer. Well-behaved dogs on leads welcome
134 Clachtoll, Near Lochinver, Sutherland IV27 4JD
If you want the ultimate ‘back to nature’ experience, Clachtoll Beach Campsite, located on 2.5 acres of land six miles north of Lochinver village, is the ideal campsite for you. As well as extensive designated areas to pitch your tent, there are 20 serviced pitches for caravans and motor homes (water and electricity hook-up supplied) and the small secluded beach is located just a short stroll away. There are well-maintained shower and toilet blocks and laundry facilities on site. The campsite is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with a huge variety of surrounding landscapes to hike, climb, admire vistas and watch wildlife: badgers and deer in the woodlands, grouse and sheep in the moorlands, seals and otters along the coastlines, and dolphins, porpoises, seals, basking sharks and minke whales can often be spotted out to sea. With cliffs, coasts and mountains, the area is truly a rambler’s and bird-watcher’s dream. The nearest village of Lochinver has a range of stores and services, including a bank, tourist information centre, supermarket, newsagent, post office and petrol station.
The campsite’s official website, which has extensive tips and advice for visitors, also boasts that the area has “some of the most unique and oldest geology in Britain and in some cases Europe; sandstone, quartz, dolomite, limestone and Lewisian Gneiss all play a part in the make up of the landscape.... Lewisian Gneiss is the oldest type of rock found in the area at about 3 billion years old”.
3. Comrie Croft Eco Camping
Braincroft, Crieff, Perthshire PH7 4JZ
Open all year including Christmas and Hogmanay. Comrie Croft also has hostel and luxury camping (or ‘glamping’) facilities and has won a number of awards, including a gold Green Tourism award.
Arguably one of the most tranquil, green and beautiful campsites in Scotland, if not the whole of the UK, Comrie Croft offers an agreeably ‘wild’ and bohemian camping experience, with the best of nature located right outside your tent (wide open fields and birch woodland), and excellent eco-facilities including hot showers. Comrie Croft is situated in an ideal area that is, according to the Scottish Camping Guide, “off the beaten trail where the highlands meet the lowlands”, with gorgeous hike and cycle routes all around. Camping here can genuinely be an entirely comfortable and pleasant experience, even in winter, as there are five large Swedish kata tents available for hire, which are kitted out with super-warm sheepskins, wood-burning stoves and all the basic camping equipment you could need (just bring your own towels, pillows and sleeping bags). Campers have access to firepits (firewood available on-site) and there is a kids’ adventure play area and a coffee/snacks shack, where campers can also get hot water and the use of a microwave.
4. Glenbrittle Campsite, Isle of Skye
Carbost, Isle Of Skye IV47 8TA
Open 1st April - 30th September
Ideal for hill-walkers and rock-climbers and all lovers of the Great Outdoors, Glenbrittle is located on Skye, beside the beautiful beach of Loch Brittle, at the foothills of the majestic Cuillin Mountains. This popular but tranquil campsite has 360-degree breath-taking views, so whichever of the 250 pitches you select you are guaranteed stunning scenery. Facilities include a well-serviced toilet block with showers and a shop selling basic supplies, food and camping/climbing equipment... electric hook-ups are also available. In 2010, Glenbrittle was voted number one campsite by the Daily Telegraph. Also on the Isle of Skye, in the heart of the Cuillins, there’s the Sligachan campsite (www.sligachan.co.uk/camping/).
For more information about the area, see www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/skye/glenbrittle/index.html
5. Horgabost Camping and Wild Camping, Isle of Harris
Horgabost, Isle Of Harris, Hebrides HS3 3HR
Closed November to April
Website: the campsite has no website but you can find details and camper reviews at www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/reviews.asp?revid=8648
Just under 50 miles from Stornoway on the west coast of Harris, this basic, isolated but indisputably idyllic beachside campsite has received glowing appraisals from delighted campers, many of whom return year after year. According to www.campsite-review.co.uk, “...During the summer, a ferry runs from Uig on the Isle of Skye, to Tarbert on Harris, twice a day except Sundays. The crossing of the Minch takes 1 hour 35 minutes.” A review featured on www.sleepout.eu describes Horgabost as a “dream location for camping”. There is a camp shop and snack van at the entrance and the toilets and showers are located in a portakabin in the car park – showers cost £1 a time. Payment for pitching at the Horgabost site is via an 'Honesty Box' so have some cash with you.
For five other campsites on Harris please visit the West Harris Trust website at www.westharristrust.org/camping-2/camping/.
6. Kinkell Braes, St Andrews
St Andrews Holiday Park, Kinkell Braes, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8PX
Although there are pitches for tents, this campsite has a choice of well-appointed, spacious static caravans available and is therefore suited to campers who would rather avoid the bugs, damp and cold so often afforded by sleeping under canvas, and who like to have access to at least a few of the mod cons of home. Kinkell Braes is located right by the beach (East Sands) with direct access to the 150km Fife coastal path, and is a short drive from the historic centre of St Andrews with its range of shops, services, eateries and tourist attractions. On site there is a pub, restaurant (Bay View), takeaway, small supplies shop, games room, big screen Sky TV, kids play area and launderette. Caravans are kitted out with home comforts and appliances such as fridge/freezer, television set, oven/hob and microwave as well as private bathrooms with hot showers. If you cannot bear to leave your communication gadgets behind, wifi is also available free of charge. Well-behaved dogs are generally welcome, also free of charge.
7. Lochranza Caravan and Campsite, Isle of Arran
Isle of Arran, North Ayrshire KA27 8HL
Open 21st March to 28th October; 60 pitches. Dogs welcome
Nestled among lush highland greenery and undulating landscapes at the northern point of Arran, the most accessible of Scotland’s islands, Lochranza is the place to go for uninterrupted enjoyment of “dramatic mountain ridges, bubbling burns and the changing tide around the medieval castle”, offering visitors opportunities to spot the region’s eclectic wildlife (particularly during spring and autumn)...Golden eagles in the sky, red squirrels in the trees, red deer throughout the woodland and porpoises in the sea. According to their website (as above), Lochranza is a “photographer’s dream, in all seasons... In the summer months, visitors are welcomed in a lively programme of concerts and ceilidhs in the village”. The campsite welcomes tents, caravans and motor homes and has level pitches, hardstandings and electric hook-ups available for up to 60 camping parties. Next to the site is a golf club, a cafe and a small shop. As well as the requisite hot showers and toilets, there’s a launderette, a camper’s lounge and a covered dishwashing area. Campsite proprietors and friendly Arran enthusiasts Nigel Wells and Kathryn Mawson are only too willing to offer campers local advice and recommendations: routes for the best walks and bike rides, places of interest, activities and seasonal attractions. A good bus service provides round-the-island transport.
8. Loch Tay Highland Lodges, Perthshire
Milton Morenish Estate, by Killin - Loch Tay Perthshire FK21 8TY
Loch Tay Highland Lodges is a recently improved and eminently picturesque and peaceful lochside camping/glamping complex with plenty of activities provided on site during peak season (including mountain biking, sailing, kayaking, fishing, archery), and is ideally located to explore some of central Scotland’s best sights by car, bike or on foot. Providing a range of accommodation from wigwams to chalets (your choice will be dictated by your party size, budget and personal preference), the site has a restaurant (closed off-season), laundry facilities, boat and bike hire, kids’ play area and campers’ kitchen, which is open from 8am until 10pm.
9. Marthrown of Mabie, Dumfries
Mabie Forest, Dumfries DG2 8HB
Surrounded by a network of stunning hiking and mountain bike trails for lovers of the Great Outdoors, Mabie Forest is no ordinary campsite – its gorgeous woodland camping area contains numerous perfect pitches for tents, including a few family-sized pitches, and offers a private outdoor shower, designated washing up and cooking areas, a dry composting toilet and urinal. If you turn up without a tent, you can hire one or – and this is another feature that sets Mabie apart from other campsites – for £15 per night, you can relive the authentic ‘hunter-gatherer’ experiences of our ancient ancestors by booking one of 16 beds around the cosy central woodburner in the reconstructed Iron Age roundhouse. Alternatively you can sleep in one of eight camp beds in the neighbouring canvas tipi (which is perfect for large families or groups of mates), and there’s also a Mongolian yurt and woodland bunkhouse. This unique site also offers campers a high ropes course, a sauna and a hot pool (all free of charge for resident campers), and according to the website,”...many seasoned campers have referred to this site as having the joys of wild camping with the convenience of facilities and no risk of being moved on!” Because the main camping area is in the middle of a forest, open fires and barbecues are not permitted. The Cool Camping web review states: “...the family team behind Marthrown has made an effort to recreate other earthy features, which fit neatly into today’s vogue for all things clean and green... The surrounding forest, which is alive with red squirrels and woodpeckers, is one of the best locations in Scotland for mountain-biking. You can hire a bike from the cycle centre and explore the forest, which has been opened up as part of the excellent Seven Stanes programme (www.7stanes.com)... Whether you are in one big group, or just sharing space with complete strangers, there is a real sense of community and of getting back to basics. Taking a starlit stroll and then walking back to the welcoming and gently smoking arms of the simple dwelling is a strangely comforting experience that people have been enjoying for thousands of years... ". You can also get breakfast or a light brekkie and 3-course dinners for very reasonable prices.
It is possible to hire the entire site, which means Mabie is also a popular choice for couples looking for a beautifully bohemian alternative wedding venue.
10. Rothiemurchus Camp & Caravan Park, Aviemore
Coylumbridge, by Aviemore, Inverness-Shire PH22 1QH
Closed 1st-30th November
Hailed as the “gateway to the Cairngorms”, about a mile from Aviemore, Rothiemurchus allows campers to cosy down among the indigenous Caledonian forest in a well-serviced, peaceful site, and “if waking to the scent of pine isn't enough, you can also pitch next to one of the burns (streams) that trickle through the campsite”. The site has a modern shower block, which is operated by keycard, and the location means you can enjoy a whole host of activities, from bird-spotting, sightseeing and hill-walking to sailing, mountain biking, mountaineering and even ice climbing. The Rothiemurchus Estate, which is open 364 days a year, includes a farm shop, a fishery, a card/gift shop, Druie restaurant/cafe, Loch an Eilein gallery and visitor centre. A review on www.ukcampsite.co.uk from Spring 2012 describes it as “an idyllic location for a relaxing break...one of the best sites we've stayed at for the sheer feeling of well-being...” Nearby attractions include Loch Morlich, the Cairngorm Mountain Railway and the Strathspey steam train. For kids, the Highland Wildlife Park and Landmark Outdoor Activity Centre are both a short car journey away.
Other online resources for campers and caravaners:
Tours of Edinburgh offer photographic and walking tours of Edinburgh. If you'd like to find out more, please Email or phone David on 07400 705 357.
This article was written by David Wheater & Mikki Wells.