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First taste of Vanlife!

What an amazing trip! 

To celebrate Stephen's birthday this year we wanted to do something a little different and to explore some further-away munros. His birthday is in January and Scotland still had a thick blanket of snow at this point so we thought we'd leave the tent at home and take a van! Thankfully Woody from Now Where Campers was still available so we packed up and set off for a 3-day long weekend to the Cairngorms.

A bit about the van

While we've both stayed in a motorhome before, this was our first time being in a van conversion and since we are in the process of converting a van ourselves, it was brilliant to see and use a finished one (albeit a different size and shape to our own!). The van is a custom-converted VW and you can tell its been designed with adventures in mind. The more compact size means it handles Scotland's often little and winding roads really well, so very approachable if you've not driven something bigger than a car before! 

The trip started with picking up the van - Lynsey and the team were fab and took the time to explain everything in the van to us in a clear and friendly way. We were also sent a guide of how-tos which was very useful for double checking things during the trip! 

Then it was time to transfer in all our stuff! I'll be honest, I was nervous that we weren't going to fit everything in but after unpacking the last bag we were so surprised at how much storage there actually is! We were able to fit more than enough clothes and food for our 3 days into the storage available. The bulk of the storage comes from under the U-shape sofa but the under sink units have a good amount of room too.

Woody is (of course) dog friendly and the boys were made to feel very welcome with loads of cute touches like a paw washer, bowls, ground stake & lead and a towel all provided :) All we needed to bring for them was their fleeces, leads and food! Being a dog friendly van, we would have expected to see a few stray dog hairs but it was incredibly clean when we got it (less so after 3 days of hiking with 2 dogs!!) which we were very impressed by. 

The trip

An Lochan Uaine
We headed to the Cairngorms to try and tackle 3 munros over the trip. Our first day was Friday and we headed to the starting car-park for Bynack More - Allt Mòr. The parking spot we had would have made for a great van camping spot and since the parking machine was broken, we parked for free! From here we walked past the insta-famous green Loch (An Lochan Uaine) and onto the munro. Sadly the conditions near the top just weren't safe to summit, but we'll talk more about the route in another blog post coming soon!

Back to the van and we headed to another spot for the night - the Loch Morlich car park. The car park is broken up into little bays with a few m of space between the next spot so it doenst really feel like a car park at all! We loved this spot and with a view out onto the Loch with the mountains behind, would definitely recommend stopping there! You do have to pay to park but it is just 2 pounds for the day. 

Loch Morlich car park

After watching the sun set we put the pop-top up on Woody to get a little more headroom. It lifts so high that 6'4 Stephen could put his hands up and still not touch the ceiling! There is even the option to use the pop-top section as an additional sleeping area (making it a 3-birth) but we just used it for the extra room. 

Then it was time to make a special birthday tea for Stephen - Fajitas!! We used the hob and the pans provided to cook then sat down to eat while watching Nexflix on the projector - yes, projector!! The table doubles as your base for the double bed between the U-shape sofa so its a really great size and gives you loads of room to spread things out. After dinner, we set the bed up and got an early night. 

The next morning started with making coffee (of course) from the very cool little bar in Woody using the coffee provided. We cooked breakfast, fed the boys and then headed off to explore a little more around Loch Morlich and started by going for a wander up through the forest that sits alongside the road. It brings you out at the sandy Loch Morlich beach where (of course) the boys both went in - amongst the actual blocks of ice - for a swim!

From the beach we continued a bit further until we got to the Pine Marten bar. We went in for some VERY good coffees and amazing chips and spent a good half an hour just looking at the walls around us. It is decorated with loads of cool hiking things and memorabilia - if you're in the Loch Morlich area its well worth a stop! After our refuel, we walked back back to the van and got ready to head to our stop for the second night. 

Coire na Ciste
We wanted to hike Cairn Gorm and Ben Macdui on the Sunday and so headed up the mountain to the car park. There are 2 main ones - the lower one is Coire na Ciste (it also functions as a campervan camp site during the summer months) and the upper one Coire Cas. We stopped at the lower which was slightly quieter, but after walking past Cas the next day and seeing it's incredible views, if we were to go back again we would choose the upper park. 

Dinner was, again, fajitas (wahoo!) and then we got an early night. Which was a terrible idea. When I woke up I had some messages from insta-friends asking if we had seen the aurora that night!!! Gutted. If you're heading up, make sure to check and see if it might be out! 

After kicking ourselves for missing it, we made coffees and had breakfast as the sun rose then set off on the hike. It was a big day (again, stay tuned for another blog post about it) and we had to jog a little at the end to make it back before sunset but it was SO great to be able to finish 8 hours of hiking by sitting down in a warm, comfortable van!

View from Coire Cas

After defrosting and getting changed into comfy clothes, we started the drive back to Edinburgh to return Woody. 

Overall we had a brilliant time away in Woody! It allowed us to go further than our normal weekend car trips and has given us so much inspiration for our own van build. If you are new to vanlife, the Now Where vans are a fab way to experience it, with a manageable vehicle size for newbies or for getting to remote places and a thoughtful, well designed build so you stay in style! 

Check them out on insta here