I had a fairly humble bucket list upon moving to Edinburgh; I wanted to see the sites that inspired J.K. Rowling to write Harry Potter, learn to like whisky, visit the highlands. I have now been to every site even vaguely related to Harry Potter, I am an avid whisky drinker, and I went on one adventure with two of my very best friends in the Highlands of Scotland. More specifically, I went on an Isle of Skye camping trip that was one of the most stunning, exciting, and laughter-filled adventures of my many years of travel.
Finding the perfect vehicle for our epic Isle of Skye camping trip
Chelsea has always been my most willing travel companion. We met in Italy, where we were both equally excited to puddle-jump around Europe. Then she joined me for a few weeks during my Costa Rica journey. And when I moved to Scotland, she was the first person (after my mom) to book tickets.
We went back and forth on what to do during her visit. Edinburgh was a given, but did we want to head to another European country? Or explore the countryside of the United Kingdom? Once we narrowed it down to the UK, we still had an endless list of possibilities. But after some thorough research we settled on the Isle of Skye.
The next decision was how to visit the Isle of Skye. We spent some time looking into trains and hotels, but it was too expensive. Joining a guided tour felt too limiting. Then I discovered Wicked Campers. It was perfect. We could rent a camper van for less than the trains and hotels would cost and we would have to freedom to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we felt like. Plus, the campers themselves were sick. Ours was one of the most toned-downed options and it was covered in rock-n-roll quotes. My personal favorite (and the one I was secretly hoping to get) was the one painted like the Scooby Doo mystery van. Though the one with dancing mushrooms that said "Drop Acid, Not Bombs" was also a good contender.
Once we had the van, I set to work on convincing my roommate, Kaitlyn, to join us. Partly because I love her; partly because I wanted the whole thing to be that much cheaper. Convincing her was really just a matter of asking her if she wanted to go on an Isle of Skye camping trip. Soon we had our team and we had our transport. The next step? Our game plan.
Creating an itinerary for our Isle of Skye camping adventure
Lucky for us, the Isle of Skye is relatively small. Instead of creating a full itinerary, we settled on a list of priority stops. We (*cough, cough* Chelsea did all the work *cough, cough*) did a ton of research and made a long list of all the worthwhile stops on the Isle of Skye. Then we went through that list and stared our priorities. Then we mapped it out, created a vague route, and hit the road.
One thing that made the itinerary aspect of our Isle of Skye camping trip particularly easy was the fact that there are little-to-no rules about where you can or cannot camp in Skye. So we didn’t have to map out camping stops. We could just drive until it got dark, find a place to park, and set up camp for the night. This turned out to be easier said than done, but more on that in Part Two.
Hit the road Jack, and stop a million times because everything is so goddamn beautiful
We left Edinburgh around 10am and immediately felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. The city dropped away and endless fields of bright yellow rapeseed filled the horizon. The number of cars sharing the road decreased exponentially and soon it felt like we were the only people in all of Scotland.
The first hour or two of the drive was spent with windows down, music blaring, and three excited women yelling, “look at that” every time anything slightly pretty popped into view. We rocked out to the most eclectic playlist you can imagine and enjoying the feeling of freedom that came as we drove further and further away from dissertations, work emails, and all the other responsibilities we'd left in Edinburgh.
We drove on until we reached Finnich Glen. It was the first of many stops.
We have Google to thank for our awareness of Finnich Glen. It comes up pretty high in the search results when you google "coolest spots in the Scottish highlands". Finnich Glen is colloquially known as "The Devil's Pulpit" because of the scarlet waters that fill the creek. Legend has it Druids used to host blood sacrifices here.
All of this is easy enough to find on the internet. What is not as easy to find is the exact location of the Devil's Pulpit. Kaitlyn, Chelsea, and I wandered across what we think may have been private farm land, climbed over some menacing fences, and convinced ourselves we were lost quite a few times before eventually stumbling upon the staircase that led to the famed Devil’s Pulpit.
One steep descent later we found ourselves ankle-deep in ice cold water, surrounded by 20-foot tall, russet-colored, moss-covered rocks.
We spent an unnecessarily long time exploring the Devil’s Pulpit. We walked from one end to the next, stopping frequently to take photos—every corner was so much more breath-taking than the last!—and admire the shocking beauty of the place. It was unlike anywhere any of us had ever been before. We made friends, I climbed (and fell off of) rocks, we splashed in the water, and we had one hell of a pit-stop.
After the Devil’s Pulpit we hit the road again, but soon our tummies were rumbling, so we stopped for some very traditional Scottish food at a place called, “Wayfarers Restaurant”. It was the perfect opportunity to refuel- both our bodies and our phone batteries. Then it was off again!!
Until we just had to stop at the turn off that gave us views of Ben Nevis and the striking scenery of the highlands.
But seriously, it was time to hit the road if we wanted to get to Skye before dark.
Ohhh, but look! The sunset! A castle! A cute dog! A lamb!
The reasons to pull over were never-ending. There was so much to see; the highlands were even more beautiful than any of us had expected. However we did eventually (miraculously) make it to the Isle of Skye. By this time, it was well past dark. We were hungry and tired and needed to pee. We also needed to find a place to park.
Finding our first camping spot for our Isle of Skye camping trip
One of the nice things about planning an Isle of Skype camping trip is that you can camp overnight almost anywhere on the island. However, when it’s pitch black and you are in a foreign country in a rental van, it’s hard to distinguish between the 80% of acceptable parking spots and the 20% of illegal parking spots.
After we drove by a number of signs that said “No Campers” and decided against a few turnoffs that felt a little too close to traffic, we found a parking lot at a port. At this point it was so dark we could hardly see anything, including any signs that might warn against overnight parking laws. Our exhaustion and hunger beat out our concern for legality and we parked the car. Plus, we were doubtful that cops really existed on this tiny little Island.
We made some pasta in the back of our car before walking up the street for some whisky and gin at a local pub, then it was back to the van for the first night of our Isle of Skye camping trip. We cuddled close in the double bed in the back of the car, threw on some blankets to fight the Scottish weather, and went to sleep.
Our epic Isle of Skye camping adventure had officially begun.
Want to know if we got in trouble for parking in a random parking lot? Aching to hear more about our epic adventures? Dying to see some photos of the Isle of Skye? Check back soon for Part 2 of my Isle of Skye camping trip! You'll meet The Bitch Brigade and the Radio Ghost and join us as we explore fairy pools, waterfalls, magical glens, haunted cemetery parking lots, and some roads that 100% caused my life to flash before my eyes.