Van life diaries by Shelley McBride

Craving an escape from real Life, but having spent all of our savings on the very real life purchase of bricks and mortar we scrounged Roxy the Van from our (fabulous and generous) pals Yvonne and Andy and headed north, north, north with dreams of 2 weeks of climbing sunny warm rock and lounging on empty beaches…but in reality prepared for 2 weeks of peeing rain and Atlantic gales…it’s October in Scotland after all.


16th – Wait on Mike finishing work, and bringing me new socks, load up Roxy and make a long drive from Dundee to Assynt, via a chippie in Aviemore of course. Arrive to moonlight views over Stac Pollaidh herself and enjoy a whisky. Mike realises all the playlists I’ve downloaded are Beyoncé and Bieber based, he’s delighted.

17th- Awake to views of The Fiddlers nose, and the weather looks ok. Take a wander up Ben More Coigach, and on to the summit of the wonderful Sgurr an Fhidhleir, with utterly fantastic views over the Assynt hills, lots of dramatic autumn light. Afterwards head to the Kylesku Hotel for a beer, then a camp near the bridge with views over the fiord like loch.


18th – Forecast dubious, but head up Quinaig in promising sunshine, soon hit clag, strong winds and rain picks up. After first summit abandon the ridge for a pie in Lochinver instead, which we munched sitting by the water in glorious sunshine. Sure I hear Mike humming Bieber, he denies this. Drove to Reiff and camped at Port Bhaigh, had a nice pint in the Am Fuaran bar, drooling over the smells from the restaurant. Make Quesadillas in the van and drink Ardmore until we fall asleep. Prefect prep for climbing tomorrow.

19th- Head to the Reiff crags in glorious sunshine. Abseil in to Black Rocks, cry mid route and realise I hate the sea. Get in loads of great routes in the Pinnacle area until the sun goes down, unbelievable sunset over the west coast. Can’t resist pub food smells, scoff langoustines and drink too much beer. Camp at Achnahaird Bay in the pitch black.


20th- wake up to the most stunningly beautiful sunrise over the Inverpolly hills, take tons of pics whilst having breakfast and picking out Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mor and Beag, Quinaig and Suilven. Weather glorious! Head out over the Reiff Peninsula to get out to climbing at the far reaches…guidebook states hour walk in. 2.5hours later arrive at the crag with soggy feet, but eager to climb. Cracking sea cliff climbing with amazing views…total solitude, worth the walk in. Walk out via the coastal route and have a nosy at Spaced Out Rockers On The Road To Oblivion, looks nails. Head back to Ullapool to stock up and camp for the night.


21st- Lazy morning in Ullapool trying to buy a phone memory card, then worked our way up the north west coast stopping at Laxford Bay for easy slab climbs with great outlook towards Arckle, then onto Ridgeway View Crag near Rhicoinich for some great crack climbing and an amazing sunset with views to Fionavon! Realise never want to go home. Feel high as kites on the amazing weather and great climbing. Mike even asks for Bieber. Camp at Shegra Bay in the dark, fall asleep to crashing waves and have dreams of falling in the sea.


22nd- Wake up early and watch sunrise over the Shegra cliffs towards Assynt. Walk into the beautiful Sandwood Bay again in bright sunshine and clear skies…wander around, stare at Am Buachaille sea stack for ages and fall asleep on the beach in double down jackets. Head back to Shegra in the afternoon and climb on superb rock and great routes at Second Geo, what a place!! Drive to Durness for the night. Get steaming.


23rd- feeling tired. Have a rest day gorging at Cocoa Mountain who claim to make the best hot chocolate in the world, and its damn good! Explore Smoo Cave and walk round the coast. Forecast looking good. Head towards Ben Hope and camp at the foot of it. It’s BALTIC! Creepy noises in the night appear to be a T-Rex hunting, Mike informs me it’s the Stags rutting…

24th- Get up Ben Hope, arrive at the summit in 2 hours to thick clag. Put on every garment in our bags and sit down to wait. Perseverance wins and the summit clears to (MORE!) glorious sunshine and extensive views over the north coast, spot Orkney. Decide Ben Loyal looks great and it goes on the wish list. Arriving in the glen its roasting so have a swim* in the waterfall pools by the path Drive through the empty and very remote feeling Sutherland for a pint at the Crask Inn, then on to Kinlochewe for whisky at the Kinlochewe Hotel Bar. Camp up in minus 1 degrees.


*dunked for 3 seconds then sprung out like a cat falling in the bath.

25th- Sunny sunrise at Loch Maree then climbed all day at Stone Valley crags in howling gales with numb fingers, managed my first HVS! Camped at Gairloch.


26th- Rain. Cloud. Fog. Meh! Spent the day drinking tea at the Mountain Cafe. Decided to abandon Gairloch and plans for climbing on Slioch, drove to Applecross via the coastal road and witnessed another amazing sunset over Skye. Dinner at the Inn and fantastic whisky I can’t spell.


27th- Forecast awful. Plans for Rum and Eigg abandoned. Head over Bealach Na Ba in about 5 metres visibility and head back to Fort Bill. Get drunk in Weatherspoon’s.


28th- Spend the day at Polldubh Crags in Glen Nevis. Climb some steep stuff which i fall off with numb fingers, abandon this for some nice bold and delicate slab routes which I LOVE. Almost fall off again when massive boom shakes the glen, turns out its Typhoon jets being scrambled from Lossiemouth! Leave the glen thoroughly delighted, head back home with a final tiny trifle at the Green Welly.

What a trip!

Things I learned: Van life rocks, I hate the sea..  and Mike does love Bieber (Knew it!).

Shelley McBride and Mike Wilson are a Dundee based couple who have been climbing together for 4 years – in their own words “Lovers of mountains, climbing and other folks dugs. Mikes the one with the beard. Adventuring out of Dundee since 2012”

Shelley is tweetable at @Shelbymcb


2 responses to Van life diaries by Shelley McBride

  1. Yvonne says:

    Yes guys! How awesome to read about your trip in all its bloggy glory. Roxy the van is sad she’s back with us. She misses Beiber. We’ll have to up our game when Andy gets home or she’ll leave us for you…


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