If you’ve ever dreamed of woodland living, but can’t quite shake off the attractions of comfort, we may have found the weekend for you! A combination of wildish camping and city culture.
First stop is Blinkbonny Wood in East Lothian. It’s a 100-acre wood in the Lammemuir Hills that offers wild camping with some of the wilder bits slightly tamed. It’s stunning – a beautiful mix of tree species, panoramic views across the Firth of Forth and, on a clear day, a sight of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and the Bass Rock at North Berwick.
There are a limited number of tent (or hammock) pitches at £5 a night per person, half price for teenagers and no charge for children under 12. (Minimum charge of £10 per pitch). For that, you get a private spot on the woodland edge or in a clearing. There’s a composting toilet, but no shower and no running water. Each pitch has a fire pit and very basic logs to sit on.
You park at the entrance and, depending on your pitch, may have a five or 10-minute walk. Wheelbarrows are provided for the trips back and forth with kit. You need to be well organised and have a good memory if you want to avoid that third trip back for the corkscrew or matches! On the way to your spot, you can pick up a bag of firewood for £2.50 and a plastic container of water for washing.
We stayed two nights – one of them wet and windy – and it was a brilliant experience. We strung up a tarp between the trees and two hammocks. You can read more about how to do that and which kit to choose in our feature on bivvy camping.
We cooked on the open fire and used our great little Campingaz Bivouac stove to boil water. There were far too many trips back to the van for forgotten things, but that was a chance to chat to other campers and explore the wood a little too.
From the wood, you can cycle into nearby Gifford, a pretty village with two pubs, a co-op, post office and the new Lanterne Rouge café – a great stop for breakfast or lunch. The largest nearby town is Haddington (just off the A1), where we found an interesting new project – the Made in East Lothian community arts hub, with workshops and makers’ markets. It’s small, but promising! There are also lots of walks and the coast is a short drive away.
We should also mention Hawick – an interesting small town with a cashmere and tweed heritage museum and lots of place to buy jumpers! It’s noteworthy, too, for having a French-style aire – a place designated for free overnight campervan stops right in the heart of town. The lovely part is that there are volunteers who come over to welcome you and to give you information on the town. It’s a great idea that more places should adopt. If anyone knows of others like this, do let us know.
Edinburgh is also a short drive away! So we combined our wild camping (an extra truly wild night high on Eskdalemuir) with the Edinburgh Fringe, gallery visits, shopping and good restaurants. Did anyone mind that we looked a bit bedraggled and smelt of woodsmoke?