These days there is a bigger interest than ever in hitting the open road (roadworks and congestion permitting) in a camper van or as we do in our car and undertaking a road trip.
There are a number of routes now set up for people to follow – in Scotland there’s the North Coast 500, the East Coast 250 and in Ireland there’s the Wild Atlantic Way.
These are fantastic, the routes are done for you, just book a stopover, camp site or, in Scotland, search out your loch side layover courtesy of the wild camping laws and let the road guide you to interesting places and glorious sights.
We did the NC500 in 2016 and that was a brilliant experience – hotels every night and a self- catering stopover in John o’Groats – read about it here. The last few years we have revisited Scotland and generally stayed in one place but this year we did another road trip but one that we devised ourselves around parts of Scotland we hadn’t visited for a while and, in one case, a part neither of us had been to before.
Often on these holidays you come across a particular section of road that for a variety of reasons you just fall in love with.
This year though it was an entire road that really got to us and one we hadn’t been on before. Step forward the glorious A83 from Campbelltown in the south right up to Tarbet on the shores of Loch Lomond.
It’s around 97 miles long and on the way down toward Campbelltown it did feel as though it was the world’s longest cul-de-sac knowing that after a few days on the southern tip of Kintyre we would be driving back the same way. Maybe it was the weather and unfamiliarity on the way down but coming back in glorious sunshine and having time to make a few stops we really, really fell for it.
Leaving Campbelltown, heading north you hug the western coast you get views of Ireland – about 8 miles away and the distillery laden isles of Islay and Jura. If you’re in luck the famous Paps of Jura will be obvious. The nearer and smaller Gigha is just off the coast - all served by CalMac and yes we got some ferry spotting in too, mainly at the gloriously remote Tayinloan “terminal”. Tarbert is next, a glorious Scottish fishing village (and another ferry terminal) various towns and views sail past as you get nearer to Lochgilphead, the next largest town, followed by Inverary on the shores of Loch Fyne.
Inland then the road climbs up and up and enters mountains, glens and forests that to us is a landscape even more spectacular than the over-busy A82 through Glencoe.
Before you know it Tarbet is quickly in view – this one at the road’s end on the banks of the seemingly never ending Loch Lomond.
The road joins the A82 and the choice is south towards Glasgow or north to the highlands and the west coast islands.
It is a great road with snippets of Scotland everywhere. A genuine contender for “Scotland in miniature” taking you from golden sandy beaches on the west coast of the Kintyre peninsular to the sweeping glens around the wonderfully named “Rest and be Thankful” via lochs and fishing villages.
We’ve done quite a bit of driving in Scotland and this is our favourite road in all its entirety. It sounds a bit daft but when you are on it, the A83 does feel like a road taking you on a real journey to somewhere different with diverse views and landscapes along its route.
Do it in a day or take your time and explore this sometimes overlooked area of Scotland. We were surprised and we will also be back.