It was probably inevitable that I would return wanting a campervan. . .

(yes, I am the blurry gnome in the tartan blanket)

. . . unfortunately, my only prospect of owning one right now is winning the one currently on offer over at Dorset Cereals. But who can argue with the luxury and convenience of van camping, especially when this is what you see when you look out of the window?

(leaping lambs at dusk!)

The van is a VW T5 and it was brilliant – comfortable and really well equipped. I particularly like the fact that its exterior is so unassuming — it just looks like a common or garden van, but then you open the door and find a whole bloody house in there: stove, sink, tiny fridge, roomy cupboards, table, seating, comfortable sleeping options, and all so niftily designed. (We slept on the fold-out sofa which was fine — no clambering about in the extended roof space for me!) Given the wild camping purists that we ordinarily are, so much about the experience felt almost decadent: imagine being able to just drive away if you don’t like a pitch; to stand rather than crouch while cooking; to fire up the stove wherever you like, and to drink a proper cup of tea with fresh milk and everything. . .


We hired our van from Andy at Open Road Scotland whom I heartily recommend. Under my present circumstances, it was a great option and meant that we had a wonderful time away. The weather was, at times, superb; Islay is a truly magical place; and I have come back thoroughly refreshed and enlivened. It is so reassuring to know that, within significant limitations, I can actually still do some of the things that I love in the great Scottish outdoors. This Thursday, I’m off to the cardiologist: he is going to stick a tube down my throat to get a good look at the hole in my heart. If it is the right sort of hole, he can then make arrangements to cover it with a tiny umbrella, which will be fed in through a vein in my groin. With such things on the horizon, it is good to feel strong and (relatively) capable, which is certainly the effect of our fun island jaunt. (Um, did I mention that I really want a campervan?)

(happy van camper at Machir Bay)

As you can imagine, I have a few posts planned, and 9483574579 photographs to process, but here’s a few to be getting on with . . .

Many thanks, by the way, for your comments regarding the blog’s appearance. I’ve still to make up my mind completely about some things, and keep tinkering away. Further comments and suggestions are always welcome. Also, entries are now closed in the Mini Manu draw – when Tom returns from work this evening he will pick the winner by randomly selecting a number between 1 and 283. More soon!

PS I heart campervans.

71 thoughts on “vancation

  1. So glad that you enjoyed your vacation. I will be sending good, hopeful vibes for your medical appointment and your continued healing. Your courage, frankness, and strength are a wonder.

  2. I love the new blog layout, it really shows off the photos well and the larger text is much kinder to the eyes.
    Camper vans? Hmmm, I keep thinking about them too since the Shepherd’s Hut plans hit the dust.

  3. Now I too want a campervan– looks so much roomier than our pop-up on the bed of a pickup truck. (Oh, but that’s been so much fun, I won’t complain).

    What are the blue flowers?

  4. You manage to be incredibly stylish on any given occasion, it’s one of the reasons why I love reading (and looking at) this blog so much! I absolutely adore your stripey shirt combination. :)

  5. Wow, I’d love to see what it looks like inside the unassuming exterior of that van! Sounds like a wonderful trip ;-)

  6. Reading this and looking at the pictures makes me wish to get behind the wheel after 20 years as a non-driver! I have great memories of childhood adventures all over Europe on my family’s Ford Transit kitted out with checked curtains sewn by my nan and wooden (!!) benches made by a carpenter great-uncle where we stored everything and on which we slept. Best wishes for your appointment on Thursday.

  7. Looks like you had an amazing time… I’ve entered the Dorset Cereals comp too, as I lurve campervans – my Nan used to be with chairwoman of the VW Owners camping club, and I spent most of my childhood in camper vans travelling somewhere or other…bliss :D

  8. So glad you had a lovely holiday. A campervan tour of Scotland is on my wish list…

    Campers are the absolute business especially if one is a) not so well as one would like to be and/or b) have a small child!. We faffed about for years about getting one, and in the end hired a T5 to try out during the (awful, wet) summer of 2007, and we just took to it. In the end we bought a plain white 1 year old VW Transporter panel van and had a conversion done to T5 standard (which worked out a few thousand cheaper than buying a ready made camper). I do *love*my fridge, and our cosy bed, it still feels like a luxury hotel to us!

  9. Glad you liked your camping experiance in the campervan.
    It must have felt like you were betraying your self going in a van when normally you share pictures of hiking and wilderness camping. but the campers are fun. I know I gave up tent camping for pulling a camper behind when I got married. hubby thought he was too old too sleep on the ground. but we had a lot of fun over the years camping in our pop up. although I couldn’t cook inside it put too much humidity in the air and made the canvas go mildew-y.
    check out this blog if you haven’t already seen it she writes about her new camper and also about crocheting

  10. My parents had a VW camper van back in the early 60’s in which we traveled all over Europe. When we moved back to the U.S. we got another one; I even used it to go on Spring Break (a U.S. rite of passage for students in my day) to Ft Lauderdale during my university years. Now my husband and I have a decadent 33 ft caravan–for UK folks–that has many niceties…including air-conditioning (AC). Considering it was 92 degrees (33 celsius)and humid yesterday when we packed up from camping yesterday, AC is a total necessity in my neck of the woods. I don’t “do” heat.

    Glad the camper van gave you the support you needed to get back to the great outdoors.

  11. I love all the photos and updates! Thanks for posting. I use to own a VW Vanagon. It wasn’t the pop-up camper … but just a regular one. We loved it. Drove it everywhere and camped in it all the time. When it died … it was a sad day!

  12. Oh, how wonderful. My Dad is a VW camper van…collector? He and his brother routinely buy them and fix them up. Actually I think he has some old VW truck right now that he’s working on. I’d totally enter the Dorset drawing, if I didn’t live here in the US.

    The blue flowers are just the perfect color. Can’t wait to see more photos!

  13. Living it up in the VW looks like a load of fun; the wide smile gives it away. Just the sort of pre-cardiologist medicine to create a heady mix of euphoria and ease with which to tackle life, it certainly seems to work with the leaping lambs too. Looking forward to more photos, and good luck for Thursday.

  14. Oh wow, your post made ME feel better! I too would heart a campervan, but I am thoroughly happy with the half-owned caravan, we currently have. Just need some time to go away in it, now! Much love, x

  15. I am so glad you got a chance to get out and away for a bit of vacation. And proper tea :-)
    Waiting this side of the Atlantic to see how your doctor’s visit went.
    Take care!!
    Camden Maine USA

  16. So happy to hear that your experience was good (wonderful, indeed if I have to judge by the photos). Looking forward to reading more about your first luxury camping trip ;)

  17. You seem so encouraged and upbeat in this post. It’s good to see that you are out and about and doing something you have enjoyed doing in the past within the limitations of your present condition.

  18. Hi Kate – your enjoyment radiates from the photos!! I have to admit I’m a 5-star hotel kind of girl (!) but I could almost be tempted to try a campervan (and now I’m singing Robbie Williams …. Jesus in a campervan)!! Regards, Anne

  19. Himalayan poppies, sigh. So lovely. So won’t grow down here in balmy Cheshire!
    Glad you had a good time. We’re off to Skye at the end of the month – but he already knows there’s yarn in them there hills.

  20. I’m so glad the campervan let you get out and enjoy Islay!

    Good luck with your appointment with the cardiologist. It all sounds terribly scary to me, but I hope everything works out with that tiny umbrella!

  21. Ahhh, the wonders of a motorhome. There’s a lot to be said for not carrying all your possessions on your back :-)

    And for those asking, the blue flowers are indeed blue poppies – Meconopsis. Probably M. betonicifolia but I’m not certain. And they are a Bugger to grow. If you’re south of the Scottish Borders, then you can probably forget it :-)

    Kate, having tubes stuck in me is one of those makes-me-run-screaming-for-the-hills things. Your fortitude is staggering, and makes my swollen sinuses pale into their true insignificance x

  22. Really cheering post, Kate. My husband had that procedure – swallowing the heart scanner – and it seemed to fit in the category of discomfort. He did have a sore throat after it, but nothing serious. I’m sure that, after what you have been through already, it will seem doable

  23. Kate, you absolute star. Hooray for the joy of a proper cuppa in the back of a van in a field – I love it too. Little stowaway hidey-holes and beds that appear from nowhere and small curtains and THAT VIEW when you open said curtains…

    I am so pleased to hear you so palpably full of beans – it comes across in your prose. Very, very best of luck with the heart thinger. I rather wish the little umbrella could be polka dot print or something…! x

    p.s. dead jealous of the van. Makes my Mini-with-tent-in-back look positively antediluvian…

  24. It sounds like your having a fantastic trip and you can’t forget the great yorkshire teabags. We absoulty love that brand. We’ve recently been on a caravan holiday to the seaside which i’ve never actually done before and it was super i fully enjoy myself. I’m loving the new layout for the blog it’s looking super :) x

  25. Ah, the camper van, the hills, and the sea all look lovely — especially in all that sunshine! I’m so happy you got such a rejuvenating break. You have inspired me to plan a camper van trip, as well. My son has been begging me to take him and our dog on a camper van trip to the Grand Canyon. This being a bit far afield (approx. 3,000 miles), I’m thinking a camper van trip through the Blue Ridge Mts of Virginia might be more in line — though there is that cheap flight into Flagstaff and…..How lovely to spend the night in the desert.

  26. Glad to read that you had a great time, and wish you well for the meeting with your cardiologist.

    Did you like the John Shuttleworth Yorkshire Tea adverts?

  27. Good luck with the Dorset Cereals draw! I can see how happy that RV made you!

    And also good luck with your cardio appointment. You look really strong and full of energy to me!

    Cheers from Toronto


  28. Very much looking forward to more pictures – if that’s the sample!
    Yay for camping under any circumstances…come try it in Canada…it’s nice here, too!

  29. Thank you for giving me a vicarious trip to Islay! I thoroughly enjoyed this post and I’ll be cheering you on this Thursday. It is amazing what cardiologists can do! My husband’s aunt had a mitral valve repair done in Boston last summer and she is now better than her old self!

  30. Oh, how nice to be outside, alive, smelling the wind and the sea, and seeing everything! I love car camping – I’ve woken up in a snowstorm or two – and sure appreciate the warmth of a cup in the morning.

    My two cents – don’t have the sashiko on the sides. I like the solid colors. Just keep changing the header for amusement.

  31. Yay! :) And I think it was a similar picture, probably of Bowmore, that first drew me to your blog. And then to find out that you knit, too? And hike? And drink tasty beer? Your trip out and about sounds fantastic and there’s something great (even if it is a luxurious thing) about cooking with greater ease.

  32. IIslay looking beautiful and soul restoring as always….even when your tent is flapping you in face as you sit in your sleeping bag on a July afternoon waiting for rain to stop so that you can walk Kintra beach .
    So lovely to see the photos and share your trip. I’m going next week…ooooh the anticipation is even greater now that I’ve read vancation! No tent or campervan this time…staying with friend.
    DH & I spent some time at Volksfling this weekend which reaffirmed our need to get on with finding the camper van. Anyone not entered the Dorset cereals comp….can do so for me!
    Beautiful Meconopsis. They grow them in Biggar Park Garden just 5 mins walk away
    and at Dawyck only 10 miles from here
    I have failed several times with bought plants …don’t have the woodland setting. Biggar Park has open day this Saturday afternoon so I’ll fill my eyes with gorgeous blue then.
    Hope Tom enjoyed Jura race. Will be thinking of you on Thursday

  33. I know this probably sounds silly and trite, but if I won the lottery I can’t think of anything that would give me more pleasure than to gift you a camper van. Since the odds of me winning any sort of lottery are slim to none, I suppose this is silly, but I just wanted to say it.

  34. no, no – I hate to correct you, this is YOUR blog after all, but that is not your Only prospect of owning a camper. If I win the Dorset camper, you can have mine!

    I’m so happy you enjoyed van camper adventure. I thought about you this weekend, while we celebrated Memorial Day, I hoped you were really enjoying yourself. I’m so happy to see that you were.

    Good luck on Thursday, I’ll be thinking of you and Tom.

    How was Tom’s race? What is the delicate blue flower you photographed?
    Alright, it’s “bedtime for birds” as we tell my brother’s parrot when we put her to bed. Good night from Philly.

    Hooray for your fantastic weekend and the excitement it portends!

  35. I like the new look!

    Wow, that campervan is DA BOMB. So glad you guys had a wonderful time. Are those Himalayan blue poppies??? I’ve never seen them in person before–too hot & humid here in N.C. for them. Amazing.

    Hope your tube-throat day goes well, my fingers are crossed.

  36. well, all of us can be scouts for any camper van contests out there in the world…personally, I’d rather have some of those poppy flowers!

  37. OOOh, you make me long to be back in Islay. I will have to wait until September. I do look forward to seeing your photos. Funny your VW campervan love; I have been thinking that when my present vehicle dies, I might get one for myself. It is wonderful to be able to wake up and just drive off, no tent to pack up. Glad you are getting out and doing some of the things you love regardless.

  38. Your tartan scarf is fantastic – am loving the combination with the stripes. I love how you always look stylish and colourful even when dressing practically for outdoor life.

  39. My partner and I drove around Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France in one of these back in 2003. It was a truly wonderful experience, for all the same reasons you found. And because it looks like a garden variety VW, you can park it anywhere and not look like you are camping. We parked along the Rhine in Basel for 2 weeks and didn’t get a parking fine! I’m glad it has enabled you to do something you love so much. Best wishes.

  40. Hooray for you! So glad you and Tom had a wonderful time on the road. You look like such a happy gnome in the pictures. I look forward to seeing on bazillion of them.

  41. Fantastic! You don’t have to give up your lifestyle… Just have to think outside the box! Or inside the camper-van.

  42. I grew up going on vacations in our VW camper (in Northern California, the coast I think has some similarities to Scotland). It was just my mom and me, and at 12, it was super mortifying. Thanks for bringing back the memory of waking up to the most spectacular views, though, it really was the best in that regard! Of course wasted on a 12 year old. Your blog is wonderful!

  43. Well it does suits you, a campervan that is, not that odd blanket you’re wearing…
    You look great, and I love your glasses!
    groetjes Cindy

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)