Travelling around Wales and the North West might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Tracy Watson extols the virtues of a motorhome holiday.
Winter may be with us but that doesn’t mean you have to hibernate along with the hedgehogs. For the adventurous types camping can still be fun, providing you can stay warm and dry.
But to be honest, how likely is that in the UK? Far better to invest in (or hire) a motorhome to enjoy the freedom of the open road with all the comforts of home.
And modern-day motorhomes are certainly comfortable. Plush furnishings, well-thought out bathrooms with showers; kitchens with cookers and fridges; central heating, air conditioning and, joy of joys, wi-fi and televisions.
The beds are comfortable (and don’t deflate in the night) and even when you’re on a site without an electric hook-up you can charge your mobile phone or music device; the beers are cold; your muddy boots can be stashed in the “garage” and, if you have a suitable attachment, you can even bring along a small car to save decamping if you want to nip to the shops.
Motorhomes are the way to go – literally – and, as witnessed by the number seen on the roads this summer (waving at the driver as you pass, of course), are becoming ever more popular
If you’re new to driving and living in a motorhome, a more sensible option than dashing out and spending tens of thousands of pounds on one is to hire one for a week or so to see if you’re suited. We did just that and collected our Swift Escape motorhome in Stockport, a newly-opened branch of Yorkshire-based Swift.
The premise is that you just turn up with your clothes, stock up on food for the duration and you’re ready to go. Everything else is included in the hire price including bedding, towels and a welcome pack of essentials for a celebratory cup of tea and your first morning’s breakfast.
After a comprehensive but straightforward handover and pep talk we were soon ready to set off to explore.
We made a quick pit stop for lunch and then the relatively short journey to our first overnight stop at the pretty Fairhaven Campsite in Chester. Six miles from the city, it is a Caravan and Motorhome Club certified site which means it is open only to members and limited to five caravans or motorhomes.
It is an ideal base from which to visit the Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village, Blue Planet Aquarium and Chester Zoo. If you prefer to leave your motorhome behind buses run to and from the city ever half and hour.
The next morning, breakfasted and showered, we hit the road again to meander through the country lanes of North Wales to the larger Coed-Y-Llwyn Caravan and Motorhome Club site at Blaenau Ffestiniog – the motorhome- friendly sat nav taking us the most picturesque, yet safest route.
It’s a lovely site set in beautiful woodland near the river and particularly geared up for outdoor lovers. Climb up Snowdon, take part in water sports at Lake Bala, relax on the beaches of the Llyn Peninsula, play golf at Porthmadog or hire a bike at mountain bike centre at Coed-y-Brenin. As well as miles of exceptional single-track for experienced and expert riders there are also family and intermediate trails for all abilities.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is the perfect spot for exploring not only Snowdonia but the stunning North Wales coast. The historic town made its name from slate and is very proud of its industrial heritage. It grew from just a few farms to a bustling town which, at the peak of the Welsh slate industry was the second largest town in North Wales.
One of Wales’ top visitor attractions, and one you shouldn’t miss, is the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. It details the quarrying that took place there, but the two main draws are the Llechwedd Deep Mine Tour which has the steepest narrow gauge railway in the UK and travels over 500 feet underground to the disused slate caverns, and the Quarry Explorer Tour which heads out to the furthest reaches of the site to explore the history of mining in the area.
Travelling around in the motorhome allowed us the freedom to explore along the coast. We called at Porthmadog with the famous Ffestiniog steam railway which carries passengers the 13 or so miles to up to Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon dominated by the impressive castle, as well as many little coastal towns in between.
Despite my initial fears that I’d find it difficult to manage the motorhome along the narrow country lanes and that parking would be an issue, they were completely unfounded and I had no trouble at all. To stay on the right side of the parking wardens though, we did pay for two parking spaces in each car park we visited.
On the way back to the campsite each night we made our way through pretty villages with names that confused the sat nav up through the famous slate quarries with the spoil lining the mountainside and on to beautiful Betws-Y-Coed, a village that was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century.
After a relaxing few days it was time to pack up and head off home.
I’m now a firm motorhome convert and I’ll certainly be taking to the road again next year, perhaps for a whole week rather than just three nights.
HIRING A MOTORHOME
Prices from £700 to around £1,050 for a week’s hire of a four-berth motorhome. www.swiftgo.co.uk
Swift Group based in Cottingham, East Yorkshire, is the UK’s leading touring caravan, motorhome and holiday home manufacturer. www.swiftgroup.co.uk
The Caravan and Motorhome Club has more than 200 club sites and 2,500 privately owned places to stay in the UK and more than 300 sites across Europe. Annual membership £51. caravanclub.co.uk/membership