We Go "Ready Camping" in Scotland...
Claire Donnelly goes with her family on
a Ready Camp holiday to the shores of Loch Lomond.
BY CLAIRE DONNELLY
It wasn’t the most inspiring start to our family camping holiday…
After hours driving through teeming rain (with a queasy seven-year-old and an excited eight-year-old in tow), we arrived at our campsite to find it was in fact, a golf club.
How we laughed when we finally tracked down our real destination - the pretty Camping and Caravanning Club site a few miles away at Luss, on Loch Lomond - and the manager cheerfully informed us that satnavs always take people that way.
Oh and while she was breaking the good news, did we know it was going to rain all week? Grrrr…
While I stared glumly at shelves rammed with super-strength midge repellents, giant midge candles and even midge-proof face masks - never a great sign - a random man popped in the office to say he couldn’t understand why anyone would holiday here as the weather was always so awful.
Brilliant. As we drove round to our pitch, still battered by rain, midges baying for blood at the car windows, I thought about calling the whole thing off and heading home to watch Corrie in the warm.
But when we spotted our tent - and caught a glimpse of the amazing Loch views surrounding us - I managed to push all thoughts of Weatherfield aside.
Myself, my husband, John, 43, and our two sons, Frank, eight, and Stanley, seven, had travelled here via a stay with family in Glasgow to try out a new ‘Ready Camp’ glamping experience.
Launched by the Camping and Caravanning Club earlier this year, they’re hosting the safari-style tents at 17 UK locations.
The idea is no fuss camping - a ‘turn up and enjoy’ trip where all the essentials are provided. All you need is a duvet and some clean pants.
"Luss is an ephemeral, changeable place..."
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done lots of yurt-y type, posh camping before and it’s not quite that. There are no wood burners (campfires are banned on club sites), no colourful rugs or candles creating a romantic, atmosphere - the Camping and Caravanning Club don’t really do bohemia - but our Ready Camp tent was immaculately clean, superbly practical and as we can confirm, very, very weatherproof.
It was huge - big enough for us to stand up, cook and lounge about in - and there’s WiFi, so we could all sneak looks at BBC Sport, Facebook and tedious work emails while boasting about getting away from it all.
Two separate bedrooms with real beds and spot lamps, meant we could play cards, read or get drunk in the living area at night without having to worry about disturbing the kids.
As well as a sofa, dining table and chairs, the stainless steel kitchen came complete with all the bits and bobs a camping family needs - fridge, kettle, toaster, pans, crockery, cutlery, super-sharp knives, a torch and a corkscrew. A lit deck offered somewhere to sit and admire the view - whatever the weather.
And what a view. The tent opened directly on to what has to be one of the Scotland’s, no the world’s most tranquil landscapes - the vast and stunning stillness of Loch Lomond, framed by hulking, tree-edged mountains and on this day, a glowering slate-grey sky.
It proved an amazing backdrop to what developed into a truly uplifting week. The kind of trip that makes you think you might just sack off the day job, sell up and just keep on camping. Days filled with nothing more taxing than a choice of ice creams or which bike trail to take through the woods.
After that rubbish, rainy first night (we hunkered down Enid Blyton-style with lashings of hot chocolate, sausage butties and a few games of cards) - the weather started to improve and the boys were finally able to enjoy the great outdoor space.
Luss is an ephemeral, changeable place - under cloud it can seem gloomy and moody but when the sun shines it shimmers in to a more vibrant kind of life.
By the next day our campsite looked lovely - green, sprawling and only a little bit soggy.
The children only had eyes for the Loch. Whether it was playing ‘water football’, feeding a family of friendly ducks or just skimming stones in the twilight (it stays light here until well after ten), they spent most of their time in or beside the water, while we sat about on rocks or the deck reading and drinking beer (John) tea (me).
"I’m pretty sure we looked like idiots..."
When we did manage to get them to put shoes on and venture out, or bad weather stopped play altogether, we strolled into Luss or took to the A82 for some sightseeing.
We’ve spent many happy holidays - before and after children - in and around Loch Lomond and we still love finding new things to do.
Luss itself was just a short, five-minute walk way. Charmingly pretty, it’s a great place to take the air, book a boat trip or enjoy dinner by a roaring fire, lovely even in July. The Loch Lomond Arms pub is particularly good and does pub food for £10 - £15 a head - including giant portions of fish and chips, haggis and even veggie haggis suppers.
Beyond the main street, made up of dinky former fishermen’s cottages and a cutesy gift shop (Nessy fluffy toys and Scotland snow globes were the boys’ favourites), we peeped into an 18th-century church before crossing the river into stunning open fields.
Here the grass was high and the sun beautifully bright - perfect for a game of kids versus parents hide and seek and a happy hour climbing amongst lolling, fallen trees.
The next day we took to the road, keen to beat the returning rain and see more of the north.
Our children weren’t thrilled by the thought of checking out a ‘green’ power station but when we told them we’d be heading inside a hollow mountain, they soon perked up.
Cruachan Power Station, 19 miles east of Oban (A82 then A85), uses water from Loch Awe to generate electricity. As you make the guided journey into the heart of the mountain, driving deeper and deeper through strange granite tunnels, it’s easy to imagine you’re entering the lair of a demented Bond villain.
Luckily we were greeted by nothing more sinister than a chirpy tour guide called Chris and another gift shop - this time rammed with ‘precious gems’ for the kids to waste their money on.
By Thursday the sun was shining again so we decided to stay above ground, heading back down the A82 to Loch Lomond Shores, what the Americans would call a ‘leisure village’ in Balloch.
It’s a place for hiring things - bikes, pedalos, kayaks - then collapsing in a heap while your kids spend the rest of your cash on the dodgems. Or maybe that’s just us.
We opted for a four-person bike. At £17 an hour it isn’t cheap and I’m pretty sure we looked like idiots - more than one person laughed as we trundled by and, at one point, we accidentally left the path and found ourselves dodging cars on a major road - but the kids loved it and as we laughed and panted our way round, so did we.
Feeling confident, we upped the pace on Saturday, booking a mountain bike each (£40 gets four bikes for three hours) and spending a glorious morning exploring Balloch Country Park. Watching the boys screaming with joy and fear as they freewheeled it down a giant hill was priceless and by the time we sat down to enjoy our Lochside picnic we were ready for a break.
We rounded off the trip with a traditional final ‘treat tea’ - a swanky starters, main AND dessert dinner in one of Luss’ most talked-about restaurants.
At the Duck Bay Hotel, four miles down the A82, we feasted on locally-caught fish and seafood, giggled at the obvious first-daters and watched jet-skiers tearing up the Loch through the giant picture windows.
Sporting over-sized shades and the slightest hint of a Scottish tan, Stanley spoke for us all when he said it had been an ace but unpredictable stay in a wonderfully wild place.
As he put it: “It was rainy, then sunny then we started having a lot of fun. Can we stay?”
THE PRACTICAL STUFF...
Claire and her family travelled from Manchester by car, via Glasgow.
Ready Camp prices start at £20 a night in low season, rising to £80 per night, in high season.
For more details and availability see: