Our first night is a hit, and we celebrate with a hearty breakfast alfresco (seated at the picnic table and chair set provided with the motorhome), enjoying Scottish black pudding, fried haggis and baked beans. The plan is to head to Loch Lomond National Park, breaking up the journey with crumbling old castle tours, as you do in Scotland.
First up, we stroll through the grounds of humble Midhope Castle (a must for fans of the Outlander television series), then it’s onto the imposing Stirling Castle, which has dominated this landscape since the early 12th century.
Tip of the day: You can’t drive seven-metre motorhomes into the heart of ancient medieval towns and expect to find a park. In future, we park at the edge of town. Second tip: Book well ahead with your campsites during summer, as they tend to fill up at popular times.
We end up “wild camping” in a field for the night. This is fine to do now and then if you’ve got sufficient battery power and water, but these resources need to be replenished soon after at a paid campsite with facilities.
Day 3: Conic Hill hike and exploring Loch Lomond
We’re here to explore the West Highlands on foot, so take a day off from the road. With sandwiches prepared in our onboard kitchen, and containers of fresh berries gathered by the kids, we make our way up the winding forest path towards the summit of Conic Hill.
Once we break the treeline, there’s an incredible view of where the Highlands actually begin – you can see a clear change in the landscape as the chain of mountains erupts through land and Loch alike, forming little islands.
Day 4: Loch Lomond to Glencoe, 143km
The kids have gained some confidence from their first highland hike, so next it’s off to tackle what, for me, is the absolute gem of this region, the Glencoe valley and the Three Sisters.
We stopped off first at the Artisan Cafe (in a converted old church) for a Father’s Day lunch of bacon and cheese scones. It’s on this leg that I notice another bonus to motor-homing: You always have a great view given you’re so slow, there’s rarely anyone else in front of you.
Day 5: Glencoe to Loch Linnhe, 12km
Hiking the Lost Valley is a trip highlight – and that’s a high bar. Local legend has it that the area’s resident Clan MacDonald once hid their stolen cattle in this seemingly inaccessible valley. Climbing between two of the Three Sisters, you’re surrounded by the Glencoe Valley, with waterfalls on all sides and beech forests swaying in the wind.
Originally from Bavaria, Eli teaches Marianna and Rosalie how to tackle rocky mountain paths. By the end of the day, their mum is a superhero with special powers in Marianna’s eyes.
Day 6: To Mallaig and back, 160km (return)
Today it’s time to satisfy our inner nerds and chase a train. Specifically, to try and spot the ‘Harry Potter train’ as it crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Getting ready is slow this morning, however, as the kids have serious activity hang-overs from the previous day’s mountain climb; We miss the train on the bridge. All’s not lost once we’re finally on the road, and notice groups of people dotting the hills along the train line, which runs parallel to the road. We pull over and jump out – as the Jacobite Express (its real name) steams into view from behind a hill. Cue much cheering and photo taking. Following the train to its destination, the sea-side town of Mallaig, we feast there at the Fishmarket restaurant on local seafood, langoustines, mussel pots, and the most delicious hot chips.
Day 7: Loch Linnhe to Portree, 189km
It’s a long drive now to the famous Isle of Skye, something that’s been on Eli’s and my bucket list for years. We lose a side mirror to an oncoming motorhome, then gain a fun experience exploring Eilean Donan Castle.
Day 8: Portree to Old Man of Storr, 11km
You’ll never get bored driving through the Highlands, but the Isle of Skye somehow steps it up a notch. We base ourselves in the island’s main town of Portree for the next three days, for easy access to surrounding walks. First up is the steep ascent to what’s known as the ‘Old Man of Storr’, an otherworldly rock formation straight out of a Game of Thrones set.
That evening, while playing with the girls at the campsite and watching sheep in the field next door, we hear that the Queen has passed, and in Scotland too. We take a moment.
When it’s time for bed, we pop the skylight open; the girls stick their heads out like little rabbits and stargaze from their bed at the back of the motorhome.
Day 9: Portree to The Fairy Glen, 26km
The nearby Fairy Glen is yet another fantastical landscape of tumbledown hills and valleys, with twisting paths, and an oh-so-Celtic spiral rock garden. We finish the day at nearby Duntulm Beach, searching for fossilized dinosaur footprints below the ruined castle on the headland.
Day 10: Portree to Glencoe, 200km
Another long drive day, punctuated by a visit to the dreamy Fairy Pools – a series of waterfalls and pools located a 30-minute drive from Portree. Truly the stuff of fairy legend, the waterfalls tumble into crystal clear pools along the River Brittle. We bid farewell to this magical island, leaving via the Skye bridge.
Day 11: Glencoe to Strathyre, 160km
Time to chase another cinematic moment; this time it’s James Bond’s drive through the highlands Skyfall (2012). The scene was filmed on a long, winding single-lane road to Loch Etive. A challenging drive, but the scenery is worth it. The Loch at the end is lonely and beautiful, and we have it to ourselves as we set up for lunch along the shore.
Given all the driving of the past couple of days, Eli and I are ready for a relaxing evening, and pour more than a few glasses of our single malt whiskey – this time, the Speyside. (The Ben Bracken didn’t survive past the first week.)
Day 12: Strathyre to Beecraigs Country Park, 90km
The town of Callander charms everyone with its village high street, and we pull over to explore. Opting for a quality looking pub, we decided to finally give one of the most famous Scottish dishes a try. The mood is sombre with rolling television coverage of the Queen’s passing. I’ve ordered the Haggis, neeps and tatties (Haggis with boiled turnips’ and potato), and am pleasantly surprised by the Haggis: I’d expected the sheep’s stomach to be a jiggly Dr Seuss-style creature on a plate, but it’s more akin to a pale black pudding that’s been sliced.
Day 13: Beecraigs Country Park to Edinburgh, 33 km
We end our road trip where we started, having had such a great experience at this campsite on the first night. There’s a sense of sadness it’s all over, even the once colorful wild flowers have faded since our last visit. The mood is lifted somewhat when a fellow motorhomer next door tells us of a baby highland cow that we can go and see in a nearby farmer’s stable.
The next day, our five-year-old cries when we hand back the keys to the motorhome at the depot. To be honest, I think we all shed a small tear.
Arriving at the steps of Gleneagles Townhouse (at one of Edinburgh’s finest addresses, Saint Andrew Square), is a great feeling from the moment you’re welcomed inside the newly opened hotel.
The concierge hands gift boxes to the kids, each containing plush squirrels, inspired by those who live in the park opposite.
Adults aren’t left out either; our room has a collection of pre-mixed cocktails, inspired by the six statues that adorn the facade of the historical building, which was once a bank: The Sailor, Merchant, Engineer, Scientist, Gardener, and our favourite, the Architect, consisting of Hendrick’s gin, Cointreau, Campari and Vermouth.
Gleneagles Townhouse, with 33 luxury rooms, is the first city outpost of Perthshire’s renowned Gleneagles Hotel. Essentially, two neighboring buildings have been combined into one harmonious hotel, the first building being a 1780s sandstone townhouse, the other the former British Linen Bank, built in 1846.
Gleneagles weaves a contemporary edge into the heritage buildings, giving a relaxed vibe to old-world luxury. Our room’s enormous bathtub is an instant hit after weeks of camp showers. After cleaning up we dine downstairs at the Spence, the heart of the place, serving traditional dishes from morning to night, everything from smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and sourdough to Scottish sirloin with Yorkshire pudding. On entering Spence, I don’t know where to look first – the ornate pillared walls or the domed glass ceiling: both original parts of the bank. The seasonal menu is served up by award-winning local chef Jonny Wright, and features the best of Scottish produce. Expect mountains of seafood, such as the West Coast crab crumpet and the Isle of Mull scallops. These worked surprisingly well with more hearty fare like the corn-fed chicken breast, a hit with the kids. What we didn’t expect was the dessert trolley, so old-fashioned, so tasty, so fun.
With the girls asleep and a babysitter on duty, we head up to Lamplighters rooftop bar, overlooking Saint Andrew Square. The views are as good as the cocktails in this cozy members- and guests-only retreat. What a way to farewell Scotland.
Need to know
- Stay Gleneagles Townhouse room rates start from £450 ($797) for a House room. For more information, see: gleneagles.com
- Motorhomes | Bunk Campers campervan and motorhome specialists can be found throughout the UK and Scotland. The company has various sized motorhomes: Ours was a four-berth, for the daily rate of £120 ($212); see bunkcampers.com