Campervanning in the UK has really taken off over the last few years, as people strive to escape the stresses of everyday life, get away from the crowds, and reconnect with nature. This is one of the most flexible and spontaneous ways to travel, giving you the ultimate freedom to explore at your own pace, on your own terms. Indeed, some travellers have even packed up their bricks and mortar life and chosen to become digital nomads, living in their vans and exploring the country at the same time. It’s all the rage on social media, and is becoming one of the most popular ways to journey, whether it’s for a short trip, or a total lifestyle change.
However, if you’ve never been campervanning before, it’s always a good idea to test the water before launching into anything more permanent, to make sure that it’s something you actually enjoy. Living in a van is a whole different ball game to having a house, with less space and fewer personal belongings being the main issues you will have to contend with.
The best thing to do if you want to dip your toe in the water is to hire a campervan for a week or two and discover whether van life is for you. Some companies rent out charming DIY motorhomes belonging to individuals who don’t use their vehicles all year round, whilst other suppliers have their own standard fleet for you to choose from. All campervans are different, so it’s important to do your homework and find a layout and size that you feel will best suit your requirements. Remember, larger vans will be more comfortable, but smaller ones will be able to access the narrower roads and take you on untold adventures. Deciding on a van model really depends on what the aim of your trip is!
As you get ready to take off on the open road, here are some fabulous locations in the UK to consider that are perfect for campervanning life:
If you want to really get off the beaten track and immerse yourself in the wilderness, then there’s nowhere that can beat Scotland. The remote mountains, deep lochs, and rugged coastline are just made for adventure, and exploring by campervan gives you unrivalled access to this incredible natural playground. Most people tend to make a beeline up to the north coast, where the scenery is second to none, and the beaches are secluded and crowd-free. The route is called the North Coast 500, and there are plenty of places where you can pull up for the night to make the most of those views.
However, there’s a lot more to Scotland than just the far northern reaches. The island of Skye is one of the most beautiful in the country, and can be easily accessed by bridge from the mainland. Or, if you want to jump on the ferry and do a bit of leisurely island hopping, the Outer Hebrides are a good bet. In fact the beaches of Harris and Lewis could often be mistaken for more the tropical climes of the Caribbean if it wasn’t for the temperature! Further south, the Scottish Borders are little visited despite being one of the prettiest regions in the country, with undulating countryside, ancient abbeys, and a turbulent heritage to discover.
The Lake District National Park in northern England makes a superb destination for a campervanning holiday. By day you can go hiking in the fells and boating on the lakes, then at night you can pull up at the top of a pass or beside the water and settle in for an evening surrounded by nature. The park is really well set up for tourism, and there’s plenty to do if you fancy a bit of a change from active adventures and exploring the great outdoors. There are museums, slate mines, and steam railways to check out, as well as one of the most scenic zip lines in the UK!
When it comes to food, being in the Lake District means you don’t have to put up with noodles and soup every day! There’s a thriving culinary scene in the area, so do factor in some stops to try the region’s most desirable delicacies. As well as enjoying a quintessential afternoon tea experience at one of the luxury lakeside hotels, make sure you pop into Grasmere to taste the famous gingerbread, and head down to Cartmel village for some of the best sticky toffee pudding you’ll ever eat. Finally, most supermarkets will stock the delicious Cumberland sausage, so pick some up and cook them in your van for breakfast one morning. Yum!
Spending nights under the stars surrounded by the dark skies of Northumberland is ultimate campervanning experience. There’s very little light pollution in this vast rural county, so the twinkling constellations and even a few planets put on a spectacular light display as soon as the sun has turned in for the day. If you’re travelling between October and March, you might even get to see the dancing green tendrils of the Aurora Borealis too! It’s a great way to end a day of coastal and countryside exploration.
Northumberland is famed for its castles and beaches, so the chances are you’ll be spending plenty of time beside the sea. The coastline at Low Newton, Embleton, and Bamburgh offer vast swathes of sand, which are perfect for kite flying, jogging, and even picnics when it’s sunny. And the best bit? Unlike much of the coast in the rest of England, you’ll never find the Northumberland beaches crowded. You may even have some of them to yourself at times! For an injection of history, check out the imperious Bamburgh Castle, or the stunning Alnwick Castle and see if you can spot filming locations from the likes of Harry Potter and Downton Abbey. Or for a bracing walk and some photogenic ruins, park the van at the fishing village of Craster and hike up to Dunstanburgh Castle where nesting seabirds put on quite a display during breeding season.
If you’ve ever wanted to pull back those curtains and wake up to sea views beside a golden sandy beach, then Cornwall is the place for you! There are so many quiet coves and hidden bays around this beautiful southwest coastline that you could easily spend a couple of months sleeping somewhere different each night. Some of the clifftop carparks do have height restrictions, so smaller campervans are a good idea if you want to take advantage of the best spots. If you’re into surfing, then there’s nowhere better to go in the UK than Cornwall, and it’s a great place to meet like-minded campervan travellers and bond whilst you catch those waves.
You’ll find some of the top beaches along the north coast, particularly around the Perranporth, Bedruthan Steps, and Gwithian areas. Meanwhile, Kynance Cove on the Lizard Peninsula is one of the most photogenic coves, and there’s some fantastic coastal path walking in this area too. If you want to get away from the crowds, head inland and explore the Great Flat Lode tin mine region, or pop down to Charlestown to discover pirate ships, movies sets, and some of the freshest seafood in the county.
When it comes to variety of landscapes, Wales is a country that has it all. Up in Snowdonia National Park you have all the lofty mountains and hidden valleys you could wish for, and over on the coast there are secret coves that only the locals know about. Meanwhile, the towns and cities are packed with culture and entertainment for when you want time away from the wilderness. Start your trip up in the hills with a hike up the mighty Snowdon, or ride the train to the summit if you want to save your legs. The views from up here are incredible, and give a true sense of the scale of the national park. Then head down into Llanberis to explore slate mines and treat yourself to a slap-up breakfast out at the famous Pete’s Eats.
After exploring the north, meander down to tranquil Ceredigion for gin distillery tours, castles, and steam railways. You’ll be far from the crowds here so it’s a great place for some off-the-beaten-track campervanning. Don’t miss the colourful houses lining the harbour in Aberaeron or the historic Devil’s Bridge in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. Finally, it’s always a good idea to spend some time on the sunny Pembrokeshire coast, which rivals Cornwall for it’s weather and beauty. Here you can hunt for hidden rock chapels carved into the cliff, go on whale and dolphin watching boat trips, and eat ice cream on the beach at the Victorian seaside town of Tenby. Does it get any better than this?
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