Discover Scotland’s coolest campsites, says Robin McKelvie
I once thought camping was something best left to scout groups. Then I was commissioned to research the book Cool Camping: Scotland. Over the course of writing two editions I have been blown away by the great campsites dotted around my native land; locations that qualify as cool due to their sweeping Atlantic beaches, ancient forest areas or aromatherapy oil-infused saunas and funky hammocks, rather than any official rating system. Here are my favourites:
Best for Getting Away from it All
There are not many campsites worth losing your car over, but Applecross is one. My car engine surrendered as I attempted to tackle Scotland’s highest road, the Bealach na Ba (The Pass of the Cattle), to get to this ultra remote spot.
If it happens, you won’t mind later when you are taking in the epic views across to the Isle of Skye and the rugged Cuillin mountains. Sipping on a cold Scottish ale here on this grassy meadow as the sun bursts over the jagged Cuillin ridges and smoulders into the Atlantic, the modern world feels very far away indeed.
Best for Cyclists
Where? Comrie Croft
Tucked away in serious cycling and mountain biking country in Highland Perthshire, Comrie Croft even have their own trails and rent out bikes. This innovative self-styled ‘eco-camping’ retreat boasts the snug treat of staying in their Swedish kata tents. Scotland has been voted the world’s number one mountain biking destination, and in this corner of Scotland it is easy to see why.
Best for Trees
If you love trees – no, I mean really love trees – then Rothiemurchus is the site for you as you can pitch right amongst the ancient Caledonian forest that used to cover Scotland. Wake in the morning to the sounds of a gushing burn (stream) as your nostrils fill with the aroma of pine needles. The surrounding Rothiemurchus Estate boasts silvery lochs where you can take out a boat and you can also hire a bike to explore the forest tracks.
Best for Chilling out in a Hammock
Where? Lazy Duck
If you are into laidback cool then the Lazy Duck, a bijou four-pitch site, is the place.
The moniker emanates from the resident Aylesbury ducks who are so lazy they cannot be bothered to hatch their own eggs. Humans tend to feel similarly relaxed here with hammocks tempting in the heather, a Tarzan swing made out of an old boat buoy, a sauna soothed by essential oils and an unusual outdoor ‘bush shower’, – an ambitious attempt to bring a slice of Africa to the Highlands.
Best for if You Want to Cheat a Little
Where? Mabie Forest
To the south of Glasgow, Mabie Forest is perfect for those who want to cheat.
You don’t have to struggle to pitch your tent as you can stay in either their Iron Age roundhouse reconstruction or their tipi.
Both are ideal for groups as you can hire them for exclusive use – the roundhouse sleeps 16. There are a range of walks in the forest and a high rope course at the site, as well as a web of tempting mountain biking trails.
Best for Walkers
Where? Red Squirrel, Glencoe
Tucked in perhaps Scotland’s most scenic glen, Glencoe, this campsite is surrounded by mountains. There is everything from easy low level walks, to rugged trails and on to serious rock climbing.
The legendary Clachaig Inn awaits in the evening with hearty portions, ales and tall walking tales by a roaring log fire.
Best for Beach Lovers
Some of the finest sunsets in Europe melt across the sands here. Enjoy the fiery oranges and reds with a backdrop of the Small Isles. A bit low on facilities, but with a sweep of pristine sand and those views, you don’t need much else. With mile upon mile of unspoilt white sand you can easily find your own slice of idyllic beach.
Best for Wild Camping
Where? Glen Etive
For real outdoor types, wild camping is the only way to go, just choosing a site in a remote spot and pitching your tent. Scotland has long enjoyed a relatively liberal attitude to camping and land access compared to England and Wales (see mcofs.org.uk for the ‘rules’). Glen Etive is wild camping heaven.
Just leave the main Road to the Isles and tumble down the glen towards Loch Etive and you enter a world where man feels very small.
» Cool Camping: Scotland is available discounted through insiderscotland.com