Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ride The Highlands

A cool day yesterday with Graeme McLean from Developing Mountain Biking In Scotland and the awesome Lee Craigie.  Lee is the British and Scottish X Country MTB Champion, and she’s landed what she’s described as her “dream job”...  two weeks in a Big Tree Campervan, dashing around the Highlands and riding some of the best MTB trails and trail centres.

The idea is that, supported by us and DMBinS, Lee will ride these highland trails and capture the adventures on GoPro film footage and GPS records. DMBinS will then pull the whole thing together into an E-Guide of the top MTB trails in Highland Scotland.  Lee is being joined by various pals over the next two weeks, and will ride some easy stuff like the Glencoe Lochan track and the Bealach Brittle Loop on Skye... all the way through to epic adventures like the Corriyarick Pass in Laggan and the Torridon Coulags.  Lee did ask if we wanted to join her for some rides... we may say yes if it’s one of the (very) easy days!
It should all be great fun, and we’re delighted that we’re able to work with great organisations like Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, who are doing so much to promote this fantastic sport, and of course work with awesome athletes like Lee.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Highland Games - More Than A Game!!

Well, May is nearly upon us, and at Big Tree Campervans we get really excited about the start of the Highland Games season - Highland Games take place in dozens of local communities across the whole of Scotland from May to September.
For those of you not familiar with them, they involve a unique combination of culture, sport and social criac. At all the Games you’ll see a really wide range of events, from the heavy events (hammer throwing, tossing the caber, throwing the hammer, the shot) through to the light events (running, cycling, tug o war, highland dancing, solo piping). All these events ensure a wonderful sound and atmosphere against a backdrop of some marvellous scenery! Often there is a small admission fee, and there’s nearly always have some excellent food, drink, and other entertainment which makes for a fantastic day.
On your first visit to a Games, they can seem a bit chaotic, with lots of events taking place at the same time in different parts of the games field – you can often have athletic races speeding past a Highland dancing competition, with the drone of a pipes from the pipes competition in the background, not to mention the ‘heavy’ events like caber tossing and tug-of-war all happening right in the middle!

We really would recommend fitting a day at the Games into your Big Tree Campervan adventure, and as well as spectating, there are often vents which you can enter yourselves as a visitor – usually the athletic events which includes different length races, and always the fun children’s races!

To help you plan your visit to the Games, there’s a list of the dates on the Scottish Highland Games Association website, plus a useful map showing the locations of the various Games.

So, check out the dates, make some sort of a plan, and enjoy the Highland Games on your Big Tree Campervan adventure!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Amazing April Offers!

April can be a fantastic time for campervan adventures in Scotland, spring-like in the glens, but with snow still on the high mountains. We’re really busy this April, but we’ve also got the following last minute slots:

4-berth Elevating Roof Campervan April 22nd – May 2nd

2-berth Hi-Top Campervan April 21st – May 2nd

And here’s the great news.... book any three days during above dates for just £200. That’s an Amazing April saving of 30%!

If you want to add extra days, then you can combine your Amazing April days with a longer adventure, so if you want to hire a campervan for, say six days, three will be at the normal April rate of £100/day, and three at the Amazing April rate of £66 per day!!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Awesome Arisaig Adventure

We’ve written before about this very very beautiful corner of Scotland, and the wonderful coastline of Arisaig is an area which does keep drawing us back for more Big Tree Campervan adventures.  This weekend, tempted by the excellent weather forecast for the north west of Scotland, Ed and I headed out that way for a ‘Dad & Son Mountain Bike Adventure’.
We first paid a visit to Applecross (I’ll write about that in a separate blog), but then nipped over the bridge to Skye, and caught the last ferry from Armadale across to Mallaig – a beautiful crossing made even more fun by watching the porpoises playing in the ferry bow wave.  It was early evening when we arrived in Arisaig at our friend’s Julie & Ian’s campsite, Sunnyside Croft.  We’ve recommended Sunnyside Croft to loads of Big Tree Campervan customers over the past few years, mainly because we do think their site is one of the best run in Arisaig.  It’s probably not the cheapest, but the again you get what you pay for... superb new facilities, an awesome welcome by people who really care about their customer service, a 2 minute walk to one of the loveliest beaches in Scotland, and a view out over Eigg and Mull to die for. For me, it’s worth every penny.
Ed and I spent a mellow evening cooking pasta, having a campfire on the beach, and then snuggling down to watch ‘The Italian Job’ on the DVD player. Nice.
Our plan for the next day was to take the bikes on the tiny ferry from Mallaig to the abandoned settlement of Tarbert which is opposite the remote wilderness of Knoydart.  From there it’s one of Scotland’s best mountain bike rides back along the shores of Loch Morar, eventually returning to Mallaig.  Only one problem.... the ferry doesn’t run on Saturdays. Doh!   It turns out the ferry franchise has changed, and it’s now run by Sea Bridge Knoydart.  Their website doesn’t have the up to date information on it just now (they only mention their service from Mallaig to Inverie in Knoydart), but they do run the service to Tarbert – best to ring Jon on 01687 462916 for details, and you’ll definitely need to ring him if you’re planning on bringing bikes with you... it is a very very small ferry!
Anyway, we went for ‘Plan B’ which was to drive out to Bracorine and then mountain bike as far as we could along the shores of Loch Morar before returning the same way.  Well, what a beautiful ride!  I would strongly recommend this to any competent mountain bike riders, and it’s some of the best single track which Ed and I have ever ridden in Scotland.  The setting on the side of the loch is very beautiful, the track ride-able for all but a few short sections, with plenty of swooping downhills and absorbing technical sections, with the drop down into the loch quite daunting in places.  The scenery though is simply stunning as you bike past abandoned crofts and wild wild countryside... overall a very very satisfying place to be.

Our adventure was cut short a wee but by Ed’s chain snapping twice, and then as we decided to turn back after about 2 ½ hrs riding, Ed crunched against a very large boulder and completely sheared his rear derailleur off!  Oh. So... we had one totally unrideable bike, 2 ½ hrs from the car, in the middle of nowhere!  Ed then came up with the brilliant suggestion of creating a ‘Mountain Bike Fixie’ – i.e. dismantling what was left of the rear derailleur, shortening the chain so the bike was in one single gear. Hey presto, 30 minutes later Ed was back in the saddle, albeit with quite a task to ride all the way back on some very technical ground in one gear.  His little 12-year-old legs were pretty tired by the time we got back to the campervan at the road head!

A few hours later we were back home in Bankfoot (after a quick stop for fish & chips in Ft William), and then both of us off to an early bed after a superb day’s adventure. Nice!

Friday, 22 March 2013

From 6 to 8

We've had an exciting day at Big Tree Campervans, as we've taken the plunge and ordered two more fab vans from the lovely folk at Wellhouse Leisure. So, we're delighted that that Holly (4-berth Elevating Roof) will be joining the fleet on Saturday 25th May, and Willow (2-berth Hi-Top) will be on Tuesday 18th June.

We've kept with the tried and trusted Toyota Granvia, which (ok we may be biased) we really do believe are the best vehicles around at the moment for conversion into luxury campervans. We're also really proud to continue the relationship with Wellhouse Leisure, who know almost as much about campervans as we do (joke!!). Wellhouse's conversions are superb, they listen to us about design tweaks, and their after sales service is excellent.

The two pictures aren’t of the specific new vans themselves, but they are the same style and colour as the wonderful new arrivals.

We've already had a booking for Holly in July, and all the details of the two new vans and all the rest of the fab fleet are on our website, along with the really useful Availability Calendar.

So, roll on the decent weather, and here's to a fun-filled campervan season!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Not On A Campsite - No Problem!!!


At this time of year, we get loads of enquiries from folk who are not sure where they can 'camp wild' with a Big Tree Campervan. A campervan trip is a great way to explore the vast, rich and varied natural beauty of Scotland, and whilst there are a few sites which stay open all year round (check out the Scottish Camping website which you can access through our Links Page) there are also lots of fantastic opportunities to "camp wild" with your Big Tree Campervan - you'll never find an approved list of all these places, as that would direct too many folk to the same spot and ruin it very quickly.
So, as the season starts to ramp up, it's timely to remind folk about the great advice we give our Big Tree Campervan customers when they ask the question: "Where can I wild camp?"
A couple of years ago we teamed up with a few other campervan rental companies, and also folk such as Scottish Natural Heritage and Visit Scotland to produce these simple, commonsense guidelines about camping wild with campervans in Scotland.
If you follow these guidelines, you'll hopefully enjoy "camping wild" on your Big Tree Campervan trip, and help support a sustainable way of experiencing Scotland. That way, we'll all be able enjoy the freedom of of camping wild for many years to come.
Access RightsScotland is rightly proud of its access rights; however when you're looking for places to 'camp wild' in a campervan or motorhome, it is important to bear in mind the following key points:
  • Scottish access rights and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code don't apply to motor vehicles.
  • The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that you can drive a vehicle up to 15 yards off a public road for the purposes of parking, but this does not confer any right to park the vehicle. Most un-metalled roads, unfenced land and beaches are private property, and you don't have the right to park unless it's authorised by the landowner by verbal agreement or signage.
  • In practice, informal off-road parking takes place in many parts of rural Scotland, often in well-established places, without causing undue concern.
  • Some communities (eg Calgary Bay on Mull, and the whole island of Tiree) have established their own guidance for campervans and the use of designated overnight parking spaces... if you're in such a place, follow the guidance!

Common Sense Guidance - Do:
  • Use common sense and think whether the spot you have found is suitable for a vehicle.
  • Think about the cumulative effect of camping in the 'fantastic secret place which I'm sure no-one else has ever been'... it is very likely that others will use the same spot, not just you!
  • Take great care to avoid the fragile ground/sensitive habitats, (eg wild flowers rich machair on the Western Isles) - never drive down to beaches or onto grass verges as it destroys the habitat.
  • Avoid over-crowding. If another vehicle is parked in a secluded spot, try not to park right next to them and find your own spot elsewhere.
  • Use only biodegradable detergents and drain kitchen waste water tanks in campsites at designated areas. If it has to be emptied in the wild, keep away from watercourses and be aware that animals will be attracted to the scent.
  • Carry a trowel to bury any human waste and urinate well away from open water, rivers and burns. Toilet paper should be bagged and taken away with you - not buried (animals dig it up).
  • Do a full 'litter-pick' before you leave, taking all your rubbish, and any you found there already, and disposing of it properly when you're back in 'civilisation.'
  • Support a sustainable tourism industry - buy groceries in local shops.
Common Sense Guidance - Don't:
  • Park in areas where signs state 'No overnight parking'
  • Park overnight within sight of people's houses, even in car park bays.
  • Block access tracks to estates and fields.
  • Light BBQs or fires unless it is safe to do so, and you can supervise it properly. They should be fully extinguished when finished and no evidence left behind.
  • Empty any chemical toilet waste anywhere other than at a designated chemical waste area. The majority of campsites have facilities for emptying a cassette toilet. Most public toilets are not suitable places to empty chemical toilet, as it upsets the sewage treatment process.

At Big Tree Campervans we're really proud of the fact that supporting a sustainable and fun way of experiencing Scotland is at the heart of what we do.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Fort William Mountain Festival Film Competition: 'The Van and The Clan'

So, the results of this fab film competition are in, and we're a) sorry we didn't win, b) delighted to have been shortlisted and c) really pleased for the winner which was James Dunn’s brilliant film ‘When’.  We know James really well and he’s another hugely talented filmmaker, and in fact he’s responsible for two of the other films you can see on the Big Tree Campervan video wall – ‘Greg Boswell’ the profile of the talented climber, and the two ‘STS on The Ben’ films.

You can see Jame's film at the Fort William Mountain Festival which is on this week, and is a fantastic celebration of all things 'mountain'.    

So, congratulations to James, and also to Paul MacDonald for producing ‘The Van & The Clan’.  Paul's film is we think, one of the best wee films we’ve seen in ages, and it really sums up the spirit of a Big Tree Campervan adventure in Scotland.

We really enjoyed working with Paul on ‘The Van and The Clan’, especially the day when Ed and I were at Laggan Wolftrax filming and riding with Paul and the awesome Duncan Shaw and Ricky Crompton... thanks guys!

So, if you’ve got any ideas on some cool themes for short films involving beautiful Scotland and brilliant Big Tree Campervans, do let us know!