Motorhomes and assorted ‘wildlife’.

Motorhome mayhem. I’m part of the problem.

Did I miss the memo that said it’s ok to stay away from home overnight if you’ve got a campervan or motorhome? No, I thought not. Till the rules change on Monday, they are clear – we can travel across Scotland to visit family and friends, but we can’t stay overnight, even in our own self-contained accommodation.

It feels like a daft restriction – where’s the harm if you have your own bathroom and cooking facilities on board? But when you realise that facilities are yet to open, it makes sense. Because a motorhome or camper is only good for a night or two before its waste tanks start filling up. And full waste tanks need to be emptied. The last thing we need is the return of ‘dirty campers’, even before the season has officially started.

I realise I’m at risk of incurring your wrath…

Parked up enjoying the view at West beach, Hopeman.

With the number of vans I’ve seen heading north these past few days, I’m almost feeling foolish for having stuck to the rules. But I refuse to be part of a problem that has caused stress and anxiety in so many fragile communities across the north of Scotland, particularly around the route of the NC500.

Motorhomes and campervans polarise the population almost as much as cyclists do, and I realise I’m risking the wrath of many by admitting to being both. But until you’ve travelled by van and understand the sheer joy and freedom of having everything you need with you at every turn of the road, it’s impossible to understand the attraction. We only tried it because I was asked to write an article for a magazine, but our trip to Caithness four years ago was such a success that we bought our own van. It’s the best investment we ever made, even if it has lain unused for most of this past year.

…but I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel

I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel. Our van has been exactly where it should be since before Christmas – parked up outside our house. With clean sheets on the bed, teabags and biscuits in the cupboard, and wine in the fridge, we are ready to go as soon as possible after restrictions lift. Thankfully, we’ve got our first few weekends’ worth of campsites booked, because Scotland is rapidly filling up. Without advance reservations, many visitors may find themselves stuck for somewhere to park for the night, and for somewhere to empty and refill their tanks. And that’s where the real problems start.

Motorhomes are already illicitly creeping north – apparently unchecked. I wish they’d heeded the restrictions and stayed home until after 26th, but I can hardly blame them. We live in the most beautiful part of Scotland, and no-one has taken responsibility for checking their right to be here, or turning them back.

Which is why I wholeheartedly back the many planning applications that are going through just now to create sites and service facilities across the region. Because this year there will be more motorhomes than ever. We might be tempted to head south instead…

Majesty on the wing

Bliss on the water, even before the ospreys made an appearance.

I know this is hardly going to discourage visitors to the Highlands, but on a blue sky day in the middle of last week, a friend messaged asking if I was free to join her for a paddle. For a split-second my diary looked too full, then I awarded myself a long lunch and jumped in the car. We headed out onto the water, two kayaks pushing side by side through the calm, clear water of the loch. It was perfect. This was a cake that needed no icing whatsoever. Then we saw them – a pair of ospreys. Expertly fishing, then soaring high above our heads.

It was astonishing. Such majesty on the wing, such elegance. An unquantifiable treat. It barely felt real. Ospreys right there, and less than half an hour’s drive from Inverness. No wonder the tourists come. I would, if I didn’t already live here…


Aldi UK’s suggested packaging update. #FreeCuthbert Image: Aldi UK

Who knew there would be such a furore about an iced swiss roll with eyes? Only in Britain, where we litigate over whether Jaffa Cakes are cakes or biscuits, would M&S be suing Aldi, alleging the latter’s Cuthbert cake is a blatant rip-off of the former’s Colin the Caterpillar. Why M&S chose to pick on Aldi, when every other supermarket produces a knock-off Colin, is something M&S are keeping to themselves.

Already Aldi are winners. With all the publicity, they are planning to bring Cuthbert back as a fundraising caterpillar cake, and their Twitter account has been magnificent.

#FreeCuthbert. I know who I’m backing!

This column is published by Highland News and Media in six of their newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, or subscribing online. 

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