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Electric adventures: E-campervan holiday in the Scottish Highlands

Written by Fiona

May 24 2023

What is it like to go on holiday in an electric campervan? I took an all-electric Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION camper for a three-night walking trip in the north-west Highlands of Scotland.

You can read my review of driving the electric Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION camper.

Out and about in north-west Scotland.

An electric camper adventure in north-west Scotland

As I drove from Inverness to Ullapool on a Friday evening at the start of a three-night walking weekend in north-west Scotland, I felt both apprehensive and excited. I worried that the electric charging wouldn’t work, that I would end up stranded without power and that the camper would feel heavy and slow.

Yet, I was also thrilled to be trying a new technology. I’ve noticed many more electric vehicles on the road in recent years and I was delighted to have the opportunity to test drive what is billed as the world’s first all-electric modular campervan.

I really liked the idea of an electric vehicle that can be used for daily trips locally, as well as a holiday camper.

Before setting off I’d studied all the relevant EV charge apps and maps to make a plan of where I’d charge the camper – and where I would drive, sleep and walk.

There are several useful apps – Charge Place Scotland, Zap-Map, Pod Point and BP Pulse – with information about the location of chargers, charging speed, availability etc. I found Zap Map to be most useful for locating the chargers. I then used Charge Place Scotland chargers for topping up.

Taking a holiday in an electric camper does require more planning than my own diesel powered van. To start with, the battery of the electric van – I was driving the 75kW version – even when fully charged gives up to 205 miles, compared to my own van that will drive many hundreds of miles more.

I am also very familiar with the how far my own van will drive when, for example, I have half a tank of fuel or a quarter of a tank, left. I was much less confident about the distance I could travel in the electric van.

So, before setting out for my adventure, I spent time working out where I might be able to charge the van. Fortunately, the Zap Map revealed there are more chargers than I expected there to be.

I hoped to use chargers at Ullapool and Lochinver and possibly Dingwall, too.

My plan was a couple of days of mountain hiking with friends in Assynt, which is one of my favourite areas of Scotland, and a night at Cromarty on the Black Isle.

Hiking the Assynt mountains

Assynt is one of my favourite places to walk. If you have never been, I urge you to add it to your bucket list.

The other-worldly Assynt landscape is dominated by Inselbergs, which is the geological term to describe the many isolated peaks – or “island mountains” – created from Torridonian Sandstone some 1000 million years ago. In all directions, the views of mountains against a backdrop of coast and ocean are breath-taking.

During my “electric adventure”, I hoped to hike from Inchnadamph to the Munros of Conival and Ben More Assynt on the first day. The next day, I planned to reach the top of Stac Pollaidh if the weather – and my nerves – allowed.

I enjoyed a takeaway meal as I charged the van at Ullapool.

First charge stop: Ullapool

The coastal town of Ullapool is popular with tourists and it also has a ferry port that serves the Outer Hebridean islands. A quick check of the Zap Map app on the Friday evening as I arrived revealed that one of the EV charge points was busy. Instead, I simply headed to another, located in a large car park near Tesco supermarket.

The time limit for charging is 45 minutes (there is a £1 surcharge per minute after 50 minutes). As the battery was being boosted by 71 miles, I enjoyed a takeaway tea from the Seafood Shack. I also took the opportunity to shop at Tesco for a few items.

I was quickly realising that the best way to “do a charge” was to make use of the charging time for other activities, such as eating and shopping. A friend often goes for a walk or a run while their e-car charges.

Once I’d made use of the 45 minutes of charging, I headed to the Inchnadamph area for a van sleepover.

Sunset views from the campervan.

Drive, park, sleep, walk

My friends had booked ahead to stay at a hostel, Inchnadampth Explorer’s Lodge. In the EV camper, I could be much more independent. I have long owned a campervan of my own and I love the mode of travel. 

A camper allows you to be spontaneous. There is no need to book accommodation, nor worry about what the weather will bring, because you can set off at a moment’s notice and in whatever direction you fancy.

A campervan is self-contained with all the essentials – and a fair few luxuries – to provide a home-from-home on wheels. 

Smaller vans, such as my own VW T5 and the Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION are easily converted from a vehicle with seats to a place to cook and eat – and then to sleep.

After a supermarket shop and stock of the van, you can head off for many days of adventuring, whether you choose to stay in campsites or go off-grid.

For my first night, I found a quiet spot to park overnight and enjoyed a superb coastal sunset.

A few words about camper nights 

It’s important that you park and sleep responsibly – and with respect and thought for others nearby.

Many people choose to book into a campsite and there are plenty on offer in the Highlands. There is also a growing network of more basic “aires”. An aire is a place to park up overnight in a camper or motorhome and with a few basic facilities. There is normally a small charge.

To find a list of aires see UK Aire, M H Aires Stops, Brit Stops and Park 4 Night.

When it comes to more ad-hoc overnight lay-by parking, the laws vary across the UK. There’s no specific legislation that stops you sleeping in these spots overnight, however, if the local authority forbids it, the police may come and move you on.

I do park off-grid and make use of aires where I can, as well as some discreet lay-bys and car parks. But I won’t tell you where I park, just like I won’t tell you where I wild camp. I think this is all part of the adventure of campervanning and camping in Scotland.

My aim when parking overnight in a campervan is to make sure I am away from people’s homes and main roads, where possible. I don’t park on verges or where I might draw attention to myself. I always take away all rubbish etc. I also prefer, if I can, to park after dark and leave as early as I can. 

Mountain hiking… right from the van

A camper also allows you to sleep close, or next, to, your chosen walking route. I enjoy waking up, eating breakfast at the van and then easily and quickly setting off for my day’s chosen hike.

At the end of the walk, it’s great to be able to change clothes, eat a snack and have a cold drink from the fridge, or make a cup of tea. I love a campervan for a convenient changing and cooking place, as well as for driving and sleeping.

Walking with friends.

Sun, friends and a hike in the mountains

I’ve walked a round of Munros – 282 Scottish mountains with a height of at least 3000ft/914m – but I can’t fully recall when I last walked to the summits of Conival and Ben More Assnyt. I think I remember it as day of mixed weather and the views were hit and miss.

Brilliantly, my recent electric campervan adventure coincided with a weekend of sunny and bright weather. This meant that the 20km walk, from Inchandamph, was a filled with incredible vistas across the superb Assynt landscape and further afield to the coast and west coast islands. 

I was joined by friends Cath, Claire, Geraldine and Rachel and we followed a well-trodden path for much of the route.

To start with, we headed through a beautiful gorge, ascending beside a fast-flowing stream of gorgeous clear-water pool and rush waterfalls.

It wasn’t until we gained some 600m of elevation that the first summit of Conival became apparent. Then began the steeper ascent on a rock-strewn path to gain the top of Conival at 987m.

From Conival, we could see a long ridge heading east. At first, we descended on the ridge, then we climbed again to reach the top of Ben More Assynt at 998m. It didn’t seem to take too long and as we walked and talked, we also thoroughly enjoyed the great vistas. As I have written, Assynt truly is a place with an amazing landscape.

From Ben More Assynt, a southern outlier summit could be seen. This peak is classified as a Munro Top, which I was also keen to bag. My friends agreed to accompany me to the 960m top and while it added another 2km to the route, plus a short scramble on the way there and back, we were all happy to make the most of the great conditions and to enjoy even more spectacular views.

To return to the campervan, the route took us back over the Munro summits of Ben More Assynt and Conival. This meant that in total we walked to five summits and climbed a combined elevation of 1455m.

You can imagine how fatigued I was by the time we descended back to the gorge. My weary legs were very grateful for a thigh deep paddle in the icy chill waters of the river Trallgill as we approached Inchandamph again.

While it had been a long and tiring outing it was also hugely rewarding. In my opinion, there is little to beat a big day in the mountains, walking and chatting with friends and taking in breath-taking views beneath a blue and sunny sky.

A van dinner – and another sunset

The Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION  proved to be a lovely place to hang out after the walk – and overnight. After the group walk, I drove to another quiet spot close to the sea, parked up, switched off the engine and headed into the back of the van.

The camper has a large fridge and that meant I could easily store lots of essentials, plus a few luxuries, such as a bottle of wine. My evening meal was a home-made quiche – thank you to my hens for the eggs – that I re-heated in the microwave, plus a van-made salad. 

The van is quick to set up for cooking and eating and I especially liked the pop-top. My own van doesn’t have a pop-top, which means I can’t stand up inside. It was a delighted to be able to walk around the van without hitting my head!

Both the driver’s seat and the front passenger seat swivel around to face the inside of the van, which makes the internal space feel more roomy.

After washing up my plates and cutlery in the mini van sink, I enjoyed a deliciously chilled glass of wine. As I sipped the wine, relaxing in a comfortable seat, the sun set over the sea. There are few places to beat a west coast Scotland sunset, especially when you are off the beaten track and you feel like you are enjoying your own private viewing.

The van’s leisure battery offers plenty of useful power. I was able to fully recharge my phone and sports watch and I found I had enough 4G network access to be able to check the internet for the next day’s weather. It looked a lot more promising than previously forecast.

The camper’s bed is easy to pull out to horizontal and I climbed under my duvet feeling a great wave of tiredness. Sleep came easily and I awoke early, but well rested.

Lochinver chargers.

Breakfast and a charge up at Lochinver

The coastal village of Lochinver – famous for Lochinver pies from the Lochinver Larder! – provided the ideal location for a van breakfast (boiled eggs and bread soldiers, plus fresh coffee) while I gave the Toyota Proace another battery boost.

Again there was a 45-minute limit but this time the charge provided an extra 100 miles. It was the same speed of charger as Ullapool, but for some reason I got an extra 30 miles of charge in the same time. This gave me the confidence to know I would be able to drive to Stac Pollaidh and then back to Ullapool and on to the Black Isle.

En route to Stac Pollaidh.

Stac Pollaidh ridge and summit

Anyone who reads this website will know I am not keen on exposed ridges. However, I was determined to join my friends for an ascent of the small but iconic mountain of Stac Pollaidh. Let’s just say it was scary at times, but it felt like an awesome achievement to get to the 612m top.

Read about my run-hike of Stac Pollaidh.

The drive from Lochinver to Stac Pollaidh led me along a narrow and winding tarmac road that undulated through the remote and ancient landscape. I was grateful for the charge boost at Lochinver, although I needn’t have worried in the end because I had more than enough mileage in the battery to reach the car park and then return south to Ullapool.

A third charge at Ullapool

It would have been possible to return to Inverness without another charge but I was keen to extend my weekend trip with a visit to the coastal settlement of Cromarty on the Black Isle peninsula.  

There were alternative charge points in locations such as the new Corrieshalloch Gorge Visitor Centre, Strathpeffer and Dingwall, but Ullapool offered a convenient place for lunch in a cafe and a wander around a bookshop. 

It struck me while journeying in the electric camper that while there is a requirement to stop for battery charges, you also have more time to visit villages and towns that you might ordinarily drive straight through. I liked being able to explore Ullapool’s cafes and shops.

Cromarty views and another walk

Cromarty is located on the northern tip of the Black Isle and on the southern shore of the Mouth of the Cromarty Firth. The village, which grew up around an 18th century fishing industry, is appealing with narrow winding streets lined with cute cottages.

There are some lovely places to eat and plenty of historical attractions, such as Cromarty Courthouse Museum and a birthplace cottage and museum, which reveals the life and work of the inspiring Scottish geologist Hugh Miller. 

The views from Cromarty are unusual. The Cromarty Firth is home to a number of oil rigs. The rigs aren’t drilling there, but they are either in the process of being decommissioned, or they are being kept in a sleeping state, ready to be moved back to the north sea should they be needed.

Some people find the views of the rigs incongruous and unattractive against the picturesque coast and hills, but I rather like the seaside vista that is a quirky juxtaposition of industry and nature.

I parked along the coast from Cromarty in a lovely peaceful spot for my third night in the electric camper. I enjoyed a different view compared to the west coast, of rigs, milky calm sea, clouds and the hint of a sunset.

During the night the weather changed and the wind picked up. As I slept inside the van, warm and cosy, I could hear the waves cascading against the shore. I awoke to the first rain of my short holiday.

I was slow to get going, perhaps because I knew I’d get wet when I stepped out of the van. I took my time over my breakfast – fried egg on bread and a large cafetiere of coffee – and I did a few hours of work before braving the outdoors for a short walk to visit fascinating Cromarty Cemetery.

I returned to Inverness for another charge of the Toyota Proace camper. After days of driving the electric vehicle I realised I was feeling a lot more relaxed than when I started out.

The reduced stress was partly because I always feel so much more content when I am able to adventure in the great outdoors and also because I was now more confident with the van’s battery charge and available mileage.

Final thoughts on my electric camper adventure

I confess that before I set off for the adventure I was quite anxious about driving a fully electric campervan in the Highlands of Scotland. I wasn’t familiar with EV charging and I worried the chargers would not be available, or I would run out of charge between each point.

The journey did require some planning ahead to ensure there were useful charge points. I was also much more aware of mileage “used” as I drove. But once I’d set off, it all worked out very well.

Overall, I was very impressed with how well the e-camper drives and the facilities of the Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION vehicle. It’s great to also have the versatility of being able to use the vehicle as a seven-seater or as a van.

I think that the infrastructure of EV charge points needs to grow to make it easier and slicker for people to charge vehicles. Plus there is a cost factor. I was surprised that the electric charge costs were not cheaper.

Thee are also plenty of environmental debates and arguments to be had about buying a brand new vehicle and the benefits, or not, of electric transportation. I’ll leave this for a discussion over a beer or two with friends. There are plenty of articles on-line on the topic.

To conclude, if you are in the market for a new vehicle and you hope to buy electric, then having transport that works as a large car, a van and a camper might well appeal. The Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION does all of this and I greatly enjoyed the experience of taking it for an adventure for a few nights.

You can find out more about my test drive of the e-camper in the north-west Scottish Highlands with pros and cons and some tips.

Note: I was loaned the Toyota Proace Eco REVOLUTION camper by CampervanCo to drive and test in return for an honest review and article. The trip didn’t cost me anything.

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