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Experts share their tips for exploring the UK by campervan this summer

From the best booking sites and resources to the UK’s most van-friendly touring regions, our guide to campervan travels is the perfect tool for anyone looking for a unique way to explore the country’s wilder corners.

Published 9 Apr 2021, 08:06 BST
A blue VW campervan parked on the shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland.

A blue VW campervan parked on the shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland.

Photograph by Alamy

Campervan rentals in the UK have been given a big boost by travellers seeking private accommodation that allows open-road freedom between lockdowns.

Joining the established car hire players in the market, a number of boutique operators now offer revamped retro rides, and several van-sharing websites have a wide choice of privately owned vehicles. Rentals run the gamut from all-mod-cons family-size motorhomes to rustic 1960s VWs. Companies include Barell of MonkeysBunk Campers, Quirky CampersYEscapa and van sharing communities such as Camplify and Camptoo.

Bear in mind that while you’ll have the freedom of the road, you can’t just park up and camp anywhere. Given the current popularity of camper trips, and domestic travel dominating this summer, you’d be advised to book pitches well in advance via such resources as The Camping and Caravanning Club, or Pitchup.

Founded in 2019, Indie Campers is now one of Europe’s largest campervan rental companies, and its top tip for planning any trip is to be flexible. “Estimate the route you want to take, and book campsites in advance to be safe,” a spokesperson says. “Nevertheless, don’t forget to leave room for impromptu activities, and enjoy each moment as it comes.”

The company recommends a tour of the beaches and villages of Devon’s 22-mile ‘English Riviera’: “You can explore the historic island of Bigbury-on-Sea, the three-mile-long beach at Torcross and sandy coves at Salcomb. Or a bit further north, the Jurassic Coast is perfect for a few days of relaxation with coastal walks, endless clifftop views and charming villages. Don’t miss the old town of Corfe castle, cliff walks at Old Harry Rock, as well as Durdle Door and Lulworth cove.”

Further north, the Fife coast just beyond Edinburgh is both Scotland’s sunniest spot and home to its longest continuous coastal path, a superlative 117-mile option to do more than stretch your legs between drives. “Stop at the quintessential Scottish village of Culross, the castles at Aberdour, and the beaches at St Andrew's West Sands and Kinghorn — all highly recommended, particularly for family adventures.” 

Campervan rentals in the UK have been given a big boost by travellers seeking private accommodation that allows open-road freedom between lockdowns.

Photograph by Getty Images

Founded in the US in the 1950s and specialising in European VW camper rental, AutoEurope now offers car and van rentals worldwide. Its website allows you to compare the prices, models and equipment offered by a number of different rental companies to find the best options for your trip and budget.

One suggested route offers ‘the best of the south-west’, starting from the beach town of Bournemouth, heading west along the coast through DorsetDevon and into Cornwall if time allows. Alternatively, take the north coast into Somerset, perhaps followed by a couple of nights in the Cotswolds.

It also recommends using Brit Stops to book pitches. “Several enterprises seek to bring UK campervan users and landowners together, with Brit Stops considered one of the most innovative,” says AutoEurope’s Mark Harding. “Launched in France and later extended to the UK, it provides a no-frills campervan parking service in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, offering travellers the chance to stay at farms, pubs and community centres free of charge.”

Another useful resource is Take the Slow Road, by Martin Dorey, a book that suggests dozens of inspirational and lesser-known itineraries around the UK by campervan.

Published in the May 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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