Vanlife in the UK

Read about the adventures of Tomas and Marie. Starting in South Wales, we make our way up to the Highlands of Scotland and back down. You will not find a “best of the UK” list, but local tips for those who like to get lost and need a spot to park their van. We’re both working online and have our wonderful dog Alva with us. Therefore, you’ll find information for good mobile connection car parks & co-working spots that allow dogs.
How to read this blog: If you only want a special tip, click on the place you’re interested in below and search for the star recommendation. A star means that the place is special to us, or just very awesome. Areas:

Day 1. Portmeirion… or not Portmeirion.

We didn’t know that dogs are not allowed, the city gates close at 5.30 and that the entry costs £17 pounds per person. So, we spontaneously changed our plans, had a Burger in Porthmadog and found a Park4Night in the direction of Snowden Mountain.

Tips:

  • If you plan to head to Snowdonia National Park, buy your groceries beforehand.
  • Wildcamping in Snowdonia is not legal, but we saw quite a lot of hidden vans.
  • Be aware of Midges. Pack some Tiger balm/ Mosquito repellent.

Day 2. Snowden… or not Snowden.

We discovered a very nice restaurant/café, where we spent our morning co-“working” (Tomas ordered board games :D) and studying. The staff recommended a waterfall hike nearby rather than Snowden Mountain. Apparently: The “most beautiful hike in Snowdonia”. So, we headed off around noon. We missed the left turn when passing the second village… we just drove up, reaching a picturesque-looking valley. I caught myself wondering, whether we are destined to always miss our intended destination. Either way, we had an amazing hike up this mountain off the beaten track. The best thing: No people, niet, nada. At the top, we found the ruins of an abandoned mine, or Isengard (if you don’t get that reference, definitely watch Lord of the Rings). It was so much better than any touristic trail could have been and when the wind calmed down, there was just silence (and the “baaa” of the sheep – in German it’s “määäh”).

Tips:

  • Do a wheel pose at a cliff > jelly arms and raised heartbeat.
  • Y Garreg Shop and Kitchen > an oasis for coworking and Pizza’s and Tomas’s newfound favourite mushroom beer, actually favourite beer full stop. ⭐

Day 3 & 4. Acro Training in Manchester.

One of the most difficult things while travelling is having a routine. Or at least being consistent with your training. On our way to Manchester, I made 2 priorities for the day: 1st Good coffee. 2nd Stretching. And because we prioritised it, it happened. #proud
We didn’t see much in Manchester, but stayed with Acro Friends. If you have the chance: take one of Scott & Michaela’s classes. You can feel that Acro is so much more than crazy tricks. It is about friendship, seeing the needs of the others and also working on yourself. In my case, we faced my embodied fear of going too far in Handstand tricks.
After a wonderful weekend we travelled half-way to the Lake district and searched a place for co-working in Preston. In the first café we found, Tomas and I both felt unwelcome after having finished our first round of drinks. It took us 2 hours to realise that both of us were feeling that way (we could have been more direct). Next time we’ll leave straight away and not endure a mediocre situation that slowly eats away at our souls. 🐉
The second café we found met all our pre-reqs: Wi-Fi, toilet, space, friendly staff, dog friendly. A beautiful bright place within a park.

Tips:

  • ⭐ Take a class from Scott & Michaela. Meet the Manchester Acro Community !⭐
  • If you miss something on your travel, make it a priority to find a way.
  • If a place doesn’t feel right, leave. You are free.

Day 5 – 7. The Lake District. Finding peace.

Our first day in Windermere (Lake District)

I have asked people if it was worth going to the Lake District. They said yes, but couldn’t really explain why. So, this is what I am going to do for you: When we arrived yesterday I just felt this wave of peace that this place radiates, where nature is louder than humans for a change. The vegetation is a masterpiece of old mixing in with the new, raw, wild yet still perfectly in order. Green eating another green, forming layers and in between them you can spot cheeky colourful blossoms popping up.
Tomas found the ultimate place to stay. The YHA in Windermere. We paid under £80 for 3 nights of camping #saywhat?
You get this perfect view over the lake (see photo), friendly outdoor people and OMG the toilets and kitchens are actually really cosy and clean. Feels like home. If you don’t need fast Wi-Fi then this place is great for remote working in a beautiful setting, quiet during the day with all of the amenities, and so affordable!

Tips:

  • ⭐ The YHA in Windermere, a beautiful and large space with camping, yurts and room options.⭐

Day 8 – 9. From the Lake District to Newcastle

1) Morning swim in Rydal Water (Lake District) 2) Whitley Bay Beach 3) Geisha Restaurant (Jesmond, Newcastle)

We enjoyed a last morning swim in the Lake District. And the water is beautiful. Even quite warm, though, I had hikers stopping behind me cheering me on to go in when I hesitated.
Then, we visited friends in Newcastle and discovered this awesome food place. It is not just a bar; it is an experience. Feels like a journey into a film set, hundreds of Japanese lamps are decorating the ceiling and the food is amazing !! (We left Alva in the van close by, parking in the area was free after 6.30.)
We slept in the neighbourhood, close to the clean promenade of Whitley Bay Beach.

Tips:

  • Do as many nature dips as you can, it’s always magical > ⭐ Rydal water (if you can, park on the side before the official car park, if you come from Ambleside, let Google maps take you until you see a small bridge. Park for free just beyond the bridge.)
  • Geisha Bar & Restaurant in Newcastle > AMAZING, on the pricey side but AMAZING, well worth it! ⭐


Day 10 – 13. Living in a dream house by a dream beach.

Gullane Beach

A spontaneous dog and housesit brought us to Gullane. We had the pleasure to look after cuddly Maya and live in a dream house, five minutes from this perfect beach. It was so beautiful, so serene, that we didn’t feel the need to leave. It was a weekend with new Boardgames and long walks and – lucky us – sunshine in Scotland. Did you know that you can wildcamp legally in Scotland? Did you know that you are allowed to walk your dog over a golf course? Although we didn’t do much, we have some 5 Star tips.

Tips:

  • ⭐ Park at night at Gullane beach. (Not good mobile signal, but so beautiful) ⭐
  • Drift coffee shop (a stylish converted container with a view over the ocean on Bass Rock and really good vegan scones) ⭐
  • ⭐ Use Trustedhousesitters to find amazing housesits all around the world (it’s worth the annual fee) ⭐

Day 14 – 15. Up up to the Highlands.

1) Meeting Meghan & Ross 2) Quick handstand-walkthrough Edinburgh 3) The perfect parking lot for a day of co-working.

Edinburgh struck us with its beauty. The massive, Victorian city front, funky old (wizard) towers and its pretty streets are captivating. We were just not really in the city mood. A large van, city parking fees and limited dog walking options didn’t appeal to us on that day (one great thing is many of the on road parking spots are free after 6.30pm).
Life took us to the coast again. And what we discovered there was way more chilled.
Tomas has a thing for funky alcohol. So he couldn’t resist a look into the stylish window of Krafty fine drinks shop. In that moment a smartly dressed young man, who looked like out of a catalogue came by and convinced us with a smile to come in. He (Ross) and Meghan had opened the shop last Friday (both while also working fulltime elsewhere) – aww I just love it when people chase their dreams! Their passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of the various drinks on offer easily persuaded us to trying a variety of beer as well as gluten & sulphite free wine. Normally, I just feel bad after drinking wine. Maybe it is a quality thing though?
We found an amazing Park4Night close by to a golf course, with 4G signal, a beautiful peaceful very scenic walk that smelled like a botanic garden, good peepee spots and not many people.

Tips:

  • Parking in Edinburgh after 6.30pm is mostly free.
  • Krafty fine drinks shop. Super nice people and really good drinks for a good price. Visit them and tell us how they are doing 😉 ⭐
  • Good Co-working Starbucks near Kirkcaldy.
  • ⭐ Good night and day at Balbirnie Car Park. ⭐

Day 16 – 25. I nearly cried when we had to leave

Highlands of Scotland. Kirkmichael – Blairgowrie

In simplicity there is beauty. Nature played its symphony of diversity. Every piece of ground was filled with life, colourful, vibrant and subtle. Cheeky deers stole the flowers from our garden while pheasant-boy impressed pheasant-girl with his wagging tail. We were lucky to have a blissful housesit: a glimpse into rural life, leaving the doors open, having neighbours coming by showing us around or just re-arranging things in the garden.
I had the most beautiful hike of my life. From a long, wavy road, surrounded by steep green mountains, (the perfect “road-trip-road”) we parked closed to a small river and hiked up the mountain. No trail, no people. On our way down, we skinny dipped in the river and inhaled the warmth of the sun. It was an especially good day, because I was in a very light mood – having had finished a university assessment.
I try to put the pins to where our adventurous walks have been. I would assume that the more you go north, the more beautiful it gets. Attention: in the forest walk, we encountered deers all day long, so we lost Alva more than once.
If you want to have the typical Mountains behind the lake picture, then check out a larger “loch” – enjoy the swim 🙂

Tips:

  • Forest Walk near Kirkmichael, Park across from the lodges: 56.71589872129479, -3.527761606190479
  • ⭐ Marie’s favourite rite hike, next to a river, Walk to the river and then just up the mountain (no trail) : 56.861505, -3.423654 ⭐
  • And once again, use: Trustedhousesitters to find amazing housesits all around the world (it’s worth the annual fee)

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