Our first trip in Dora
Aileen and I are so fortunate to live in Scotland. There are lots of good reasons to stay in Scotland but when we became the proud owners of Dora, our Autosleeper Duetto, we really appreciated staying in Scotland and couldn’t wait to go exploring.
Dora is a 2007 Duetto. A Duetto was the creation of a company called Autosleeper, who take a van as it’s starting point and convert it into a Campervan. The van used to create a Duetto is a Ford Transit. Over the years, as new Transit models were produced, the external look and colour would change. Our Duetto is blue! The Ford Transit base conversions came to an end in 2010.
What didn’t change was the interior design, well you can’t improve on perfection. The headroom, toilet & shower area, the large double bed or 2 single bed configurations, a good-sized fridge and quality materials that create a clever use of space.
There are of course different forms of heating, ours is diesel but gas is also used. Storage of the gas bottles can be either internal, usually the older models, or housed in a locked cupboard which is accessed from the outside. There is also a growing number of vans that have been ‘upgraded’ and now have external LPG tanks secured under the van.
We appreciate that what is described above is available in most campervans or motorhomes but not everything, at least not in vans such as VW T5’s which don’t have a toilet/shower room. Most motorhomes or larger campervans will have all of the above and probably a bit more but they are larger. Dora is nimble, can be parked in a regular parking space and has a side sliding door (this enables us to sit or lie and look and the views).
When we first got Dora it felt quite daunting, trying to figure out how the diesel heating worked. Also, what were all those buttons for on the electric control panel? How does the hot water get hot? There’s a whole bunch of electrical buttons under the oven, what are they for? How can a fridge work with gas? Where does the water come from to flush the toilet? How long will the leisure battery last? Then there’s the grey waste, the toilet waste and how much freshwater should we take.
It didn’t end there! We practised making the double bed up, which seemed to take forever. We systematically worked our way through every cupboard to get a feel for how much storage capacity we had and where was the best place to put everything. We would take a cup of tea, or sometimes something a bit stronger and excitedly just sit in Dora as we got closer to our first proper trip in her.
For our first trip, we decided to head north-west towards Oban and then over the Connell Bridge, along the A828 but this was also a road trip, yes, we wanted to find somewhere amazing to stop for the night but we also wanted to enjoy the experience of taking our first trip in our newly purchased campervan.
So, before we reached Connell Bridge we just took our time and kept an eye out for something of interest. Let’s face it, finding something of interest in Scotland isn’t difficult and it didn’t come as a great surprise when we spotted a spectacular castle! Kilchurn Castle sits on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe. It was built in the mid-1400s and remained the base of the mighty Campbells of Glenorchy for 150 years. We were travelling along the A819 when we spotted it, looking moody and atmospheric. We just had to stop and explore it further. To get to it from the A819 we had to turn left onto the A85 for a 1-minute drive and then pulled into the official car park. From the car park, follow the signs and the castle is about a 1-mile walk from the visitor centre. You will pass some friendly highland cows and as you get closer to the castle, you will appreciate its design and magnificent setting all the more. This was a great wee road trip stop.
As soon as you cross Connell Bridge, you know you are heading into an area of Scotland that is blessed with amazing scenery and its own pace of life.
Our first attempt at trying to find our ‘special spot’ involved turning left, about 3 miles from Connell Bridge, passing Kiel Crofts. This quiet back road, we hoped, had the potential to take us somewhere special. We have no doubt that experienced wild campers would know where that spot to camp up for the night is but we were on our maiden voyage and were relying on pure luck, stubbornness and gut instinct. Unfortunately, the area around Kiel Crofts didn’t work out for us and soon we were back on the A828.
We travelled a further 7 miles and reached a roundabout. Left would take us to Creagan and beyond. The right would take us along a forest road with the head of Loch Creran to our right. We decided to gamble on taking a right. After about 1.5 miles, we spotted a small gap in the trees leading to a small parking space big enough for 1 or 2 campervans and a sign for Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve. On went the brakes and in we went. After a bit of manoeuvring back and forth, to the amusement of a couple parked up in their car, we finally found that perfect spot. It ticked every box, quiet, secluded, great view, reasonably flat and forest walks.
Here is some local information –
Loch Creran is a sea loch about 6 miles long. The island of Eriska is situated at the mouth of the loch, it is privately owned and is run as a hotel with wooded grounds. Loch Creran is designated – Special Area of Conservation. It is home to a huge variety of creatures including Norway lobsters and seapens, the highly coloured dead man fingers, sponges and anemones. The existence of flame shell beds, horse mussel beds and reefs greatly enhance the biodiversity of the loch and provides shelter to many other plants and animals including seaweeds, whelks, starfish, brittlestars, crabs, sponges and sea squirts.
Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve. From where we were parked, there is a short but steep walk up through part of the Nature Reserve, renowned for its rich variety of plants, birds and butterflies. The walk has good views over the head of Loch Creran. The reserve is a remnant of the Atlantic oak woodland cloaking the lower slopes of Beinn Churalain (south-east) that rises from the shores of Loch Creran. It covers an area of 169 hectares and is part of the Glen Creran Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation and a European site of international importance. The woods are of national importance for its lichen and bryophyte assemblages and for its populations of chequered skipper and pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies.
After our short but steep walk to take in the stunning views over Loch Creran and beyond, we were keen to return to Dora, crack open a bottle of Prosecco and celebrate our maiden voyage.
As we sat, in our camping chairs beside Dora, we both had massive smiles on our faces and we felt blessed. We just knew that Dora was perfect for us and our life of adventures had just been enhanced. Who would have thought that an 11-year-old Ford Transit campervan could create so much excitement and happiness for a couple of 53-year old’s!