With hindsight, writing ‘go wild camping’ on my 2020 New Year Resolutions list was unfortunate. Before lockdown, I was all set for a good spring/early summer of proper wild camping. It’s not only the best time of the year for the weather and but its also before the midges appear. Wee bastards.
I was very lucky last year, wild camping in Glencoe, Glen Creran, Fort Augustus, Lochboisdale and Harris (all before mid June). Admittedly, my definition of ‘wild camping’ involved a hotel/pub within 500m in all these places. This year I was all set for the real thing tho: right into the Rough Bounds of Knoydart, the Letterewe wilderness or the king of campsites, the hills about Brae Tongue (a favourite area for The Summer Walkers, the travellers).
So instead, all I can do is reminisce. In the 70s as weans we would camp in the back garden before moving further afield and camping at Argaty and Sherrifmuir. In truth these first trips were usually freezing experiences. We never had proper sleeping bags or mats to sleep on. One layer below is worth two layers above, I learned years later. Arse.
In the 90s (before children) we went camping round Europe. Memorably in a city park in Amsterdam, polis tried to move us on but we pretended to be asleep. Torrential rain on Krk island in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) was crazy and in Switzerland we awoke to find we had pitched the tent at the bottom of a cliff (a rock climbing class already started). In USA, we camped in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California in freezing temperatures then days later we were too hot in Furnace Creek,Death Valley where we saw a scorpion by torchlight walking back from the restaurant. Coyotes kept us awake all night with their howling. Wee shites.
Later we camped at 8000 feet in Zion National Park and in the campsite restaurant we ordered wine. The waitress was like ‘are you sure, we’re at high altitude here you know’. We replied ‘we’re fae Scotland, bring the swally!’
Sligachan on Skye was always a favourite and one night we staggered out Seamus’s Bar back to the tent by torchlight. It was midge city in the tent and we decided to kill the wee bastards. Elaine was cheerfully spraying the ceiling of the tent when I decided it was better to burn the wee fuckers. The result was a blinding flash as the flame hit the flammable spray. I’d love to have seen it from the outside – you can imagine some random camper walking past and this tent lights up like a beacon – for one second then total darkness. Killed all the midges tho!
Another time we camped between the bridges at Sligachan. Bonfire was lit, bbq eaten, beer and drams drunk. An inquisitive fox wandered in and we sat feeding it leftover sausages.
When the tots arrived we took them camping and introduced them to the beaches and mountains of the west of Scotland. They remember hundreds of tiny frogs at Big Sands, Gairloch and our tent getting blown away at Clachtoll near Lochinver. Too many stories to recount here but I believe its called character building and they now have an understanding of the great outdoors and know not to dry your wet sandals by an open fire.
Actually, reading this blog makes me realise maybe a year off camping is no bad thing haha. Ach well, 2021 hopefully will bring more crazy camping tales.