Scotland – a wild camp paradise

At the end of June, we entered Scotland. So excited for this chapter of our cycle-adventure! The first nights in Scotland we were welcomed by many midges. They were everywhere and smaller than we could ever have imagined. The bites were itching, and we noticed that our insect spray did not really work very well. Cooking was a real adventure while the midges enjoyed the heat of the pot. When we cooked water for our thermos bottle, we lifted the lid of the pot to put the hot water in the bottle. However, the steam killed all midges within 2 seconds, which resulted in them falling down in our cooked water. Not so great.

We planned a bigger stop in Glasgow to do some ‘work’ and shopping (among which: midges spray and insect hats 😉). As Glasgow is a big city, there were more than 30 Warmshower hosts. Even if we had been writing many messages in the days before, we entered Glasgow with more than 20 no’s. It was 17h30 when a message from a Warmshower host arrived, we were standing at the supermarket, not yet really sure where to sleep during the night. He texted: ‘you probably have a host already, but if not, our house is open for you’. We were so happy! After a few text messages back-and-forward we figured out the address. With some beers to celebrate, we arrived at our host.

After our stop in Glasgow, we drove through the ‘Loch Lomond & The Trossachs’ Nationalpark. It was so pretty and there were not so many people. The mountains looked so perfectly shaped, not peaky like the alps, but more rounded. The night before we set off to the ‘Outer Hebrides’ islands, we slept at a small campsite with 1 toilet, no shower. Actually, the campsite was closed. But the owner let us, 1 Belgian cyclist and another bike couple sleep there in our tents anyway. We shared some stories with the Belgian girl, who just crossed Ireland. Unfortunately, the 3 dogs of at the campsite were pretty scary, so we did not stay very long outside of our tents.

The Outer Hebrides were a magical place. We cycled over all the islands: Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis. Known for the bad weather, we of course had strong wind, heavy rain, and storms on the island. But, lucky enough, we also had quite some sunny days! The ferry from the mainland to the island Barra took 4 hours, we arrived in the evening and quickly pitched up the tent on the closest campsite. It was not very organised on the campsite, the owners were not there in the morning after, no reception building. We tried to call while we did not pay yet, but nobody picked up. We ended up leaving and sending a text message. Never got a response. As Barra was the smallest island, it was only a few kilometres to the next ferry leaving to Uist. Travellers as we are, we did not check the timetable up front. So, once we left the campsite, we noticed the last morning ferry was in 40 minutes. We raced to the ferry terminal and arrived just on time. Police who passed us by car on the way mentioned that they did not expect that we would make it; neither did we 😉.

Arrived on the next island Uist, we enjoyed the cycle route. Saw amazing blue ocean views, many seals and nature moving by the speed of the wind. We wildcamped close to the coast, behind a wall of rocks.

The next days on the islands were very windy, very salty, very rainy. But so great! The coldest nights of our tour so far were on the islands. As explained in the Instagram post below already: the days were fine, but our biggest worry were the nights in the tent, as the tent would shake so much!

So, night no.3 on the islands we knocked on a door and asked if we could camp next to their shed to have some shelter against the wind. The people directly said yes! Besides, we got invited for some snacks, which was so much food that we were full before we started our dinner. (We ate it anyway because all vegetables were cut already). Night no.4 we survived on a campsite, hidden behind some huge tents and the dunes. Night no.5 we knocked on a door again and asked for a piece of grass next to their garage. The guy said ‘oh, well we could also offer you a house, we do not have guests at the moment’. We were overwhelmed but said yes of course. After we installed ourselves and directly turned the wash machine on, the women came by and gave us a complete bag of food (!) We cooked a delicious dinner and made some oat-banana-pancakes for breakfast 🥞. After the breakfast, we chatted with the family in their living room. The nan, one of the oldest inhabitants of the islands, told us that we slept in her house for the night. She was very cute and kind. Fun fact: on the background in the living room, Boris Johnson got resigned from his job as prime minister (7th of July).

After the Outer Hebrides we cycled through the Scottish Highlands. The first night on Scotland mainland we slept at a Warmshowers host. They were not home themselves in the afternoon, so they did hide the keys for us so we could enter the house. This might sound crazy for you as a reader, for us it was crazy as well at the beginning, but we are so used to the kindness of the people nowadays. Which does not mean that we take it for granted, it is still very much appreciated! We had a very nice evening together with our hosts (later on we hosted them in France, more about that later!).

We entered the Cairngorms National Park. The first night in the park was a bit a struggle with finding a place to sleep. We cycled to a lake, which seemed perfect in our opinion. And as you are legally allowed to wild camp anywhere in Scotland, we thought it would be no problem. So, we knocked on a door to ask for the only thing we still needed: water. Nobody seemed to be home. Then a car arrived, we forgot the brand (as we don’t care about cars really), but it looked expensive. A family of 3 came out and looked sceptic at us. We, as happy as possible, asked for a little bit of drinking water. The women directly said yes, which seemed to be not appreciated by the man. She went inside with our bottles. We were in front of the (castle-like) house and thus talked a bit to the man. After some small talk we asked if he knew a good place for wild camping around the lake. He said no and mentioned that it is not allowed to wild camp here because this is all his land. We were a bit shocked because of the direct tone. And as the lake was huge, we could not believe it was all his land. Later he said, ‘and anyway, I would not know a spot because this is only my temporary home, we actually live in Singapore’. Okay, he just wanted to point out that he is rich, clear. We took our drinking water and left. A few kilometres after, we pitched up our tent out of his view, directly at the lake. Even though it was very pretty, he ruined our mood a bit.

People often ask us what our favourite memory is, we try to explain them that every day is different and special. But if we need to mention something, our stay at Loch Morlich is one of our most special memories. It was high season, the middle of July, when we arrived at Loch Morlich, a lake in the National Park. There were many tents pitched up already, so we did the same. We camped next to the beach and directly took a swim when we arrived, including washing ourselves. The evening was just perfect, the sunset beautiful. The next morning, we decided to stay another night and enjoy the sunny day 🌞. As there were many campers and watersport people around, we trusted to leave everything on the beach inside the tent and went for a hike. It felt quite exciting while even though we don’t own much, it is very important to us and if something gets stolen, it could cause some real problems. (Especially in Scotland as there are not so many shops…) But, after a great 2-hour hike, we luckily found everything untouched. That evening, we made burgers (yes, we do eat meat once or twice a month) and drank a huge bottle of beer. It felt like vacation.

The last days in the Scottish Highlands were amazing. We had good weather and enjoyed the possibility of camping anywhere we wanted. We drove the ‘Pass of Drumochter’ at 462 metres, cycled through Moorland and enjoyed the hilly landscape for days. As we both like swimming/water a lot, we always looked for a wild camp spot close to a lake (Loch in Scottish). We were pretty successful every evening. Besides the midges, the highlands were full of ticks in the grass. We both got a few tick-bites, so we checked ourselves every evening before jumping in our sleeping bags.

After a few days without a real shower, we texted some Warmshower hosts. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to be available and besides, there were no campsites in the nearby. We thought it would be another evening without a shower until one of the hosts we wrote connected us to their friends. A great surprise, we spend 2 nights at their house and had a great time. Such friendly people again. They even drove with us to the local pub, which was basically a small living room. It was packed, most people were standing. Four people of the village played different instruments together and sang many songs. With some songs, the whole pub was singing with them. We enjoyed it a lot to be part of this local community in the pub. An evening to never forget…

At the end of our tour through Scotland we could sleep two nights at the same hosts in Glasgow again. As it was people of approximately our age, it felt like visiting our friends again. We joined them and a group of their friends for swimming at a nearby lake in the evening. Shared food together, always had interesting talks and lots of laughter. From Glasgow we took a train to Cairnryan – from where we took the ferry to Ireland the day after.

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