Even when lockdowns end, it can be a little bit unnerving to get back into visitor attractions as you never know if the virus will rear up in a restaurant or tourist centre. Of course, most of them are putting the necessary precautions in place and the government won’t (or shouldn’t) tell anywhere to open before the risk can be adequately managed.
So what if you want to travel, or just take a day out, solo or with a buddy using as few attractions as possible? Here’s some of my picks for idyllic wild camping techniques and a scenic drives up and down the UK with a couple of examples to get you started.
Wild camping is a great way of experiencing a new environment in a low-risk way. You don’t even have to go far from home, just drive to somewhere idyllic and isolated enough for you to feel safe.
Wild camping is legal everywhere in Scotland, although if you are planning to camp in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs national park between March – Sept you will need to obtain a permit from the council. If your trip is in the rest of the UK, or anywhere in the world, a good general rule is to seek the landowner’s permission to camp or brush up on local legislation before you set off. If you’re setting up a campfire, make sure it’s legal to do so and starting a fire will not be destructive to the local environment.
If you crave the creature comforts of home, camping doesn’t need to be barren. You can obtain a decent quality 2 man tent from most hardware shops for around £30/£20 which is an investment for future trips and spend a little bit more sprucing up your tent. Some people like to take a clipping of an old carpet to use above the groundsheet, keeping the heat in a little better and increasing comfort inside. You can use a beach windbreak around your tent’s awning to give you a little more privacy and protection from the elements and most will have a hook at the centre of the roof from which to hang a lantern. If you’re in Scotland, remember to take mosquito spray and a net in summer. A little camping stove and a couple of pans will service you well for making one-pot pasta dishes and cups of tea and coffee in the morning – no need for sandwiches made 3 months in advance. You can even try taking your duvet on top of your airbed, instead of a sleeping bag – just don’t be afraid of popping it in the washing machine when you get back!
If sleeping wrapped in canvas isn’t your bag (get it?), you can always try car camping. This is where you use all the basic equipment from a tent, but use the car as your base instead. It’s a good alternative if you don’t feel safe in just a tent or it’s just that bit too nippy. This might work better if you have a slightly bigger car, but even a small vehicle is surprisingly accommodating for a solo trip.
All you need to do is fold your rear seats down, and try to create a level surface between the folded-down seats and boot floor. Then slide in an airbed – most singles will fit with ease but you might need to conceal your stuff beneath a double, using a suitcase or similar as a type of headboard. Then, just like in a tent, fit your creature comforts – a little stove to use outside the vehicle, some nice cushions and blankets, etc. Most cars have a 12 volt socket in the dashboard or boot that you can use to power a cooler to keep food and drink fresh.
Just remember to use it sparingly as they are something of a battery drainer. A good tip is to bring a sheet or screen to put it front of your windows at nighttime for privacy. Again, remember to consult the local legislation to see if parking overnight is legal.
A day out doesn’t have to be regimented and the destination firmed up months in advance. Sometimes it’s nice to acquaint yourself with the capabilities of your car and enjoy some of the beautiful scenery accompanying UK roads. Just make sure you are paying attention to the road, however nice your surroundings might be.
The Hardknott Pass, in England’s Lake District, is one of the steepest roads in the country, with a gradient of about 33%. It’s inaccessible in winter and single track in summer so take care if you do decide to take it on and think about whether your car is fit to do so.
The road used to serve a Roman fort, the remains of which still exist and can be visited just off the pass. It was known as the loneliest fort in the Roman Empire; so visitor numbers are now likely much higher than when it was built! The road goes from Eskdale to the Duddon Valley; apart from the obvious attraction of the area (…lakes,) there is also a heritage steam railway nearby, several National Trust properties, a car ferry across Coniston Water and plenty more. It can be nice to take a day simply driving around the Lake District with no particular aim, and seeing what you discover!
Three Lochs Forest Drive
One of the main pulls for tourists in central Scotland is the Trossachs Trail, a looping drive near Stirling in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs national park. Near the Aberfoyle visitor centre, you will notice a small sign reading ‘Three Lochs Forest Drive.’ Drive up past it (in summer between 10-5) and you will be able to go through a metal gate leading to a gravel track.
In summer, you can camp all along this quiet road, which is great for safety as the Forestry Commission are responsible for looking after the area. The path itself also has many areas to stop and take a quick walk, and generally doesn’t attract the crowds of the larger lochs with direct road access.
The three lochs – Lochan Reòidhte, Loch Drunkie and Loch Achray – can be accessed easily from handily placed parking spots and the vistas are some of the most fantastic it’s possible to access by car. You don’t need a 4×4 as the track is accessible for all vehicles and there’s no need to worry about the width of the road as the route is one way, acting as a shortcut through the Trossachs trail to Callander.