In the words of a certain TV show, winter is coming. The leaves are starting to fall and the mornings are misty and chilly. We need to grab those last opportunities for camping fun before they become freezing, Bear Grylls-style survival activities. We decided to squeeze some autumn mini-adventures in while we still can, so off we went to Loch Lomond for the weekend. Milo’s main plan for the trip was to lure out the Loch Lomond monster (Nessie’s lesser known cousin) with shortbread. Mine and Stu’s was to relax after a crazy few weeks at work and Milo’s fourth birthday party carnage!
We found Cashel Campsite on the Cool Camping website (the source of many of our campsite finds, check it out) – it’s located on the eastern shore of the mighty Loch Lomond, the largest expanse of fresh water in Britain. We splashed out on a premium pitch right next to the loch (£22) – it was totally worth it, our view was incredible.
We pitched up and got down to the usual loch-side business of exploring, throwing stones, chatting to the ducks and pretending to throw Milo in the water. There was also plenty to watch in the way of people attempting watersports, with varying levels of success – Milo was pretty taken with ‘Waterman’ and his running-on-water superpowers (or a waterski-ier to me and you). We walked part of the Southern Upland Way that winds alongside the water, and ate too many blackberries. It was a gorgeous autumn day.
Back at the van Stu cooked up what will surely now become his signature ‘campervan curry’ (delicious) and we enjoyed the fact that the chillier weather meant keeping beers cold is not problem now! By about 8pm however, we were freezing, and the red wine we hoped would be a nice warming drink was freezing too – so wrong. We weren’t allowed to use our fire bucket here which was a bit of bummer (especially when you’re literally inches away from a LOT of water should a fire get out of control) but we persevered with the al fresco-ing. The stars came out and the moon was enormous that night, making the loch glow all silvery…it was pretty lovely.
As lovely as it was, we retreated in the campervan fairly early hoping that our combined body heat would have us warm in there in no time. Milo (Scottish-born hence well hard) was cosy in his his sleeping bag but me and Stu were cold under our duvet – many extra layers were needed! And I don’t know if it was an effect of the cold but I endured a cruelly high number of chilly, nocturnal peeing trips that night (everyone knows this is the worst thing about camping – why do we never learn that lying there in vain, pretending you don’t need to pee never works – it just prolongs the agony).
The next morning, we stuck our noses out into the nippy morning air and were rewarded with beautiful sunrise views over the glassy loch – it was calm and silent without a gust of wind. We warmed up with a few cups of coffee and some breakfast, listened to some music and enjoyed the leisurely morning with our lake views. I don’t know what you’d pay for a hotel room with the same view but definitely a lot!
After packing up in the sunshine, we headed further up the loch to Rowardennan, at the foot of Ben Lomond. Loch Lomond is so big you can never see all of it in one go, so it felt like we were at a whole new loch when in fact we’d just turned a corner of it. Even with quite a few visitors around, the beaches felt like Scotland’s answer to a castaway, desert island.
After our walk we headed home. Milo slept most of the way, weary from fresh air and running around. We were only away for a grand total of about 28 hours but it made the weekend feel SO much longer than normal. Mini-adventures are small in scale but big in impact – we arrived back home feeling relaxed and happy, with work a faraway memory.
Top Tips for an Autumn Mini-Adventure
- Keep travel time low – I reckon 2-3 hours max. You’ve not got long, you don’t want to lose all your precious weekend on the road – as fun as ‘I Spy’ is!
- Try and get home by late Sunday afternoon – you’ll appreciate the time to chill amongst your creature comforts before Monday morning…
- Thick socks, hoodies and a fire are your friends (and maybe wine, or rum – rum could be warming).
- Don’t try and cram too much in – keep it simple and relaxing and just enjoy the time together.
- If your van has heating or a toilet then you’re laughing (and I’m jealous!)
- It gets dark a lot earlier in autumn (I know, I’m a font of wisdom) – so don’t forget your lamps, torches and batteries if you’re not hooked up to the electric.
- If you’re camping with kids you might need a wee bit more entertainment than you did in summer when it was warmer and they could play out all hours – magazines, games and stickers are all good.
Autumn in Scotland is amazing. We’re definitely researching campervan heaters to try and stretch out our trips further into winter.
Have you mini-adventured? Did you manage winter camping?
Tell us where and how!