Carrie Lyell and Danielle Mustarde put the lez/bi camping stereotype to the test on a (queer) Scottish road trip
BY CARRIE LYELL. ABOVE: OBAN FERRY CROSSING
Four queer women, who’ve never been on holiday together, squeezed into a campervan, in Scotland, home of rain, in autumn? An ambitious route, covering more than 400 miles in just two days? What better way to put the “lesbians love camping” stereotype – and our friendship – to the test?
THE DRIVER – DANIELLE
“A native northeasterner, Scotland has always held a neighbourly place in my heart. My granddad was born in East Kilbride, just outside of Glasgow, and, for a short while, I even called Edinburgh home. What made this trip doubly appealing, however, is that I stan for VW campers. In fact, before I moved to London, I had one of my own – Big Red – a very gorgeous VW T4. Now we were being offered the opportunity to take a brand new “dub” for a spin across Bonny Scotland.
“So, my fellow crew mates and I: my girlfriend Caro (a native Parisian) and a couple of my most favourite Scots, Carrie and Sarah, prepared for what was sure to be a right canny ramble. The rest, as they say, is #DIVAtravel herstory.”
THE PASSENGER – CARRIE
“Despite living in Scotland for most of our lives, there are huge swathes of the country my wife, Sarah, and I have never seen. Partly because we’ve prioritised sunnier climes when we’ve had a holiday, but also because we don’t drive. Public transport only gets you so far.
“It was a no-brainer, then, when the opportunity to road test a VW campervan came along, and with my birthday coming up, we started thinking about where we might like to explore. And who we might like to explore with. Step in colleague and all-round top pal Danielle. As well as being an excellent driver and former VW owner, she and her girlfriend, Caro, are also excellent company and had told us they were keen to see more of Scotland – and so a plan was hatched for a weekend in late September. #softladsontour”
Our home on wheels for the weekend is a VW T6.1 Cromarty Campervan or Big Red II, as she’s christened by Danielle. We’ve been told she sleeps four – two on a rear RIB bed and two in the pop-top roof – but we’re slightly concerned. Is it going to feel claustrophobic? Are we going to kill each other? Thankfully, she’s hella roomy – there’s room to swing several cats and other lesbian paraphernalia, in fact.
Fresh off the train from London, Danielle and Caro pick her up from North Berwick and drive her to Carrie and Sarah’s Edinburgh pad. We start loading her up with supplies for the weekend, worrying that we might have packed too much, but Big Red II has more than enough storage for our bedding, food, drinks, musical instruments and much more besides. Raiding the various cupboards, we discover Big Red II comes equipped with pots, pans and everything else we could need for a weekend, so all that’s left to do is hook up Spotify to the Bluetooth, open Google Maps, and hit the open road.
We talk beforehand in our group chat about where we’re going to go, and plan a (very) rough route that will take us from Edinburgh to Mull via Loch Lomond and Glencoe, and back again. A 400-mile round-trip is admittedly a bit ambitious for what is, essentially, a weekend, but Caro, Sarah and Carrie promise to take turns keeping captain Danielle amused and awake, and we plan in plenty of (selfie) stops along the way to break the journey up.
CARRY ON CAMPING
For the first night, we decide to pitch up at Immervoulin Caravan and Camping Park, situated on Loch Voil in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park – the fourth-largest national park in the UK and home to no less than 21 Munros, including the mighty Ben Lomond. Wild camping is permitted here, under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but we play it safe on the first night and go for a designated campsite so we can each take advantage of the facilities (read: warm showers) before going into the wild on the Isle of Mull. If you fancy wild camping in Loch Lomond, make sure you grab a low-cost permit first.
After setting up camp, it’s time for a pre-birthday dinner at nearby Mhor 84, a cosy hotel and restaurant just off the A84. Bellies full, it’s back to base, where we draw the curtains and bed down for the night. Danielle and Caro take the top bunk, with Carrie and Sarah opting for the pull-out double bed down below.
The verdict? It’s surprisingly spacious – even with four adults – and very comfortable and cosy. Best of all? If you’re sleeping downstairs, you can practically turn the stove on with your big toe, meaning you can make your morning pot of coffee without leaving your bed. Perfect.
Peeling back the curtains the next morning, coffee in hand, to be greeted by cloud-hugged mountain views? Well, not much beats it. After breakfast, and one of those aforementioned hot showers, we head towards Mull – taking the scenic route, of course – and boy, she’s bonny.
The views as we drive north towards Glencoe are nothing short of majestic and, despite a forecast of heavy rain the entire weekend, the sun is high in the sky. Scotland is really showing off for its visitors – she’s such a flirt. TLC might have warned against chasing waterfalls, but we can’t resist a picture stop at the magnificently-named Meeting Of The Three Waters. Approximately 3,000 snaps later, it’s back in Big Red II and onwards.
We’re hungry as we arrive in Glencoe, so decide to pull in and have a picnic on the banks of Loch Leven. As we’re scrambling eggs in Big Red II, a lovely gentleman comes over and offers us some freshly caught scallops to go with our lunch, and even the vegetarians among us can’t refuse. They are absolutely delicious. Pleasantly full, we wash up quick smart, and hit the road again, because we’ve got a boat to catch.
With around 10 crossings a day in the summer, the ferry from Oban to Mull is great for tourists and commuters alike. It’s super easy to book, even for us novices, and return tickets for four adults, plus Big Red II, totals a very reasonable £57. The journey takes just over 45 minutes, so we park up, grab some coffees and head above deck to try and spot some dolphins. They’re elusive, but we do manage to capture some excellent selfies. Job well done.
INTO THE WILD
Arriving on to the Isle Of Mull, our first port of call is the incredibly photogenic Tobermory – devastatingly too late to catch the local bakery, which we’ve been told is a must. We console ourselves with a wee dram in a local pub, before picking up some supplies for dinner and finding the perfect spot to spend the night.
We leave this gorgeous little town just as the sun is setting and, oh, what a mighty sunset she is. On more than one occasion, Danielle pulls the van over to the side of the road so that we can soak up the gorgeous colours playing across these most beautiful of Scottish skies. As we follow the winding road toward our pitch for the night (the precise location of which we’d rather not share because it’s ours, ok?), two deer suddenly appear out of the gathering mist and, honestly, it’s like something out of a film.
Taking a moment to watch the wild creatures skip over the blooming heather, we set off again, soon arriving at our destination – a stretch of white-sand beach glowing under the natural light of a clear sky. The Milky Way is clearly visible, and we stand transfixed as shooting stars dart across the big, black expanse overhead. We all agree we’ve never seen anything like it. (Is this for real?) That night, we cook up a pasta feast, crack open the low-alcohol beers, and sing like no one is listening (no one is – we’re the only people here). It’s dead lovely.
The next morning, we get up bright and early and hit the beach for a spot of wild swimming. It’s bracing, it’s exhilarating and it’s wonderful. Bar a couple of sheep, we’ve got the place to ourselves so we warm ourselves up with a pot of coffee and some porridge on Doris’ bench before packing up and saying goodbye to the most wonderful place on earth.
We take the long way round back to the ferry, marvelling at the beautiful Mull landscape, and chase a few more waterfalls as we go. Back on the boat, we catch a glimpse of those dolphins, and it’s the most perfect ending to the most perfect weekend.
THE BEST BITS
CARRIE: “Wild swimming, sunsets, dolphin-spotting, shooting stars, singsongs. Freshly caught scallops for lunch. Birthday teacakes on the beach. Waterfalls. Radio-request LOLs. Feeling self-sufficient.”
DANIELLE: “The driving itself, those long and winding roads are dreamy to navigate. Seeing a pod of dolphins in the wild on the ferry crossing – the first time I’ve seen them in waters off the British Isles. That and wild deer appearing through the thick mist on the Isle of Mull. Singing late into the night on our own, very-almost-private beach on the Isle of Mull, and falling asleep under one of the starriest skies I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
THE WORST BITS
CARRIE: “Not making it to the bakery in Tobermory before it closed…”
DANIELLE: “Only having three days to squeeze it all in.”
Is a staycation cheaper than jetting off on an all-inclusive? Not including the cost of hiring the van, we spent £215 – petrol, ferry tickets, food and drink, and the cost of the campsite – working out at just over £50 each. Proof that adventure doesn’t have to cost you the earth. And you don’t have to go across the other side of the world to get it.
CARRIE: “Where can we go next?”
DANIELLE: *Googles how feasible is it to live in a campervan full-time.*
To plan your own road trip, visit jerbacampervans.co.uk
This piece first appeared in the January 2020 issue of DIVA magazine, on sale now here.
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