vintage campervan

Home is where you park it!

Well, to start with I was a very happy boy when my surprise birthday present was revealed to me. I have always wanted to own a vintage campervan and before my 40th but it never happened. What did happen though was that we would be cruising the Lake District in a 1979 Type 2 for my birthday!! I couldn’t believe it and it took a while to sink in. I couldn’t wait though, I was like a kid just waiting for 1 pm on the 20th April!!

Day 1 – Pickup

We loaded up the final bits into the car and made the trip up to the Lake District. Sal had hired Billy from Rainbow Camper Hire in Keswick in the northern lakes. Uncharacteristically, the traffic was a breeze so we ended up arriving in Keswick at around 11:30. Having found a parking spot in the town centre, we had a browse around the shops and cup of tea and a cake.

I was raring to go and couldn’t wait for us to actually get there and start the adventure. We arrived at Rainbow and Andrew was ready and waiting for us in the car park. The pickup process is really straightforward, Andrew sorted the paperwork with Sal then he showed us around the van. It is a lot to take in at first so there is a lot of head nodding. The good thing about Rainbow is that everything is documented in a little folder so if you get stuck, its easy to figure out.

As the van was nearly 40 years old, Andrew took us on a little trip down the road so that I could get a feel for driving him. Equally, it gives Andrew confidence that I would be able to handle a vintage campervan! It was really easy to get used to and Andrew was amazing at teaching you the subtleties of the drive and handling. One thing I certainly remember was the lack of power steering!

Set off

We finished packing up the van with the last few bits and we were on our way. We headed south out of Keswick alongside Derwent Water towards Borrowdale. Our destination was Ennerdale Bridge for the night at the Fox and Hounds Pub on a route that took us past Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater.

It did, however, give us the first test of Billy’s resolve as we had to negotiate Honister Pass which in any modern car would be a relative breeze. Billy had his work cut out mostly in first gear and avoiding large vehicles in passing points but he took it in his stride and got us to the top for a well-earned rest and a photo opportunity!

It was a beautiful drive through the pass and it was a joy to view the stunning scenery that we hadn’t discovered in the Lakes before. When we reached Buttermere, we stopped at the side of the road for another photo op. We tried to get as many photos of Billy, the Lakes, the blue skies as possible without hindering our progress!

Before getting to Ennerdale Bridge I had spotted a place to park up and jump out for a walk with the dogs at Ennerdale Water. We had a quick walk down to the water and let Harvey and Henry roam free on the pebble beach before heading back to Billy to take the short drive to our stop for the night.

That evening we had a lovely birthday meal in the pub with a few drinks. I even got another birthday cake that Sal had organised in advance which was nice. We retired for our first night in the camper which I have to say was pretty awesome. It took us a while to set the bed and thermo mats up but I guess practice makes perfect. Once settled, we put on a movie, turned the heater on for a bit and ended my birthday in comfort and style with lots of bottled ales and malt whiskey from my personalised hamper – perfect.

Day 2

I woke up really early the next morning as I was looking forward to a long drive with Billy. We had decided to travel down, across and up towards Coniston. After breakfast, we tackled putting everything back away neatly, pulling the roof down and making sure everything was safely back in its place.

We fired up Billy and waited for him to warm up a bit. Whilst waiting, we checked out the map and picked out the best route. Heading towards Cleator Moor and joined the A595 at Egremont and made some headway at Billy’s cruising speed of 50 mph towards Gosforth. No sooner had we got going than my lovely navigator spotted a sign for St Bee’s beach. As neither of us had visited the Cumbrian coast before, we made a quick detour.

Situated near the beach, St Bee’s was quite small with a seaside park and large caravan site. We parked up and walked towards the headlands which gave us a great vantage point for a few scenic shots of the coast. It was a great little diversion and just what touring is all about. The freedom to change up the route and visit places in an impromptu fashion is what it’s all about.

We headed back to the A595 toward Gosforth and took a left towards Wasdale. I have neglected to mention so far that there were two parts to our trip. We were trying to take in as many of the top 10 photographic spots as we could in the Lakes. We had heard great things about Wast Water and the views there.

Due to the fantastic weather, we couldn’t really pass up the photo opportunity on the drive to Wasdale Head. It was fantastic and I think we got some really good shots of Billy in some of the nicest scenery. Definitely, the best I have seen so far in the Lakes.

We arrived at the National Trust campsite at Wasdale and had some dinner and a cup of tea. We had thought about stopping here for the night but we felt somewhere a little less remote would be better. Next, we had to decide on where we would head to for the night. I had already done a bit of research and I wanted to head up to the middle of the Lakes. We decided that we would head in the direction of Coniston and hopefully a site with an electric hookup.



We tried a couple of sites on the way up Coniston Water but there wasn’t availability or were too far from civilisation. Instead, we made our way over to Hawkshead and found a great little campsite on the outskirts of the village.

Hawkshead Hall Campsite was a great find, it was only £22 and that was with electric hookup. The hard standing pitch was great and the washroom facilities were excellent. One of the bonuses was that there is a short walk into Hawkshead. In the village, there are a couple of pubs but we chose to eat at The Kings Arms. The food was really nice and you cant go wrong with a good pint!


Day 3

We woke to another glorious day in Cumbria and thought about the day ahead. As with last night, we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay this evening so it would be an adventure. Based on our attempt to visit the top 10 photographic destinations, we decided to head towards Great Langdale.

The drive over there was fantastic if anyone has ever done it will testify to this. The drive through the valley is wonderful, driving through the villages of Elterwater and Chapel Stile. We had heard about the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale so we headed up the valley to check it out.

The campsite was in a really nice location and sits at the bottom of Side Pike. There’s a nice woodland vibe to it as it has a nice sheltered feel from trees. There is a small shop on site and has a few electric hookups if you need it. There wasn’t any electric available to us which was okay as we could rely on the leisure battery and gas heater.

It was mid-afternoon so we went for a little walk up Side Pike. There is a footpath out of the south side of the campsite close to where we camped. It was quite a nice afternoon and the walk up the hill was quite a pleasant one with stunning views of the rolling hills. Not sure the dogs were too happy though and I think we took it in turns to carry Harvey most of the way.

I think the highlight had to be coming back down again, it was tiring. All joking aside, we managed to see some RAF low flying manoeuvres whilst we were at the top. Not often you see that back in the city so a real treat, shame I didn’t get any footage!

I guess the only thing to do after that much exercise and excitement? Yep, you guessed it, to the pub, in this case, the Hikers Bar at the Old Dungeon Ghyll. Nothing nicer than to sit outside a pub in the sunshine sinking a few cold ones watching all the energetic fell runners go by…


Day 4

So the last full day and I think we both knew where we wanted to end up. We were mid-Lakes and the campervan had to be returned to Keswick the next morning. There wasn’t much discussion around where we would stay the night. In fact, to tell the truth, we had already booked the last night in advance as we love Pooley Bridge so much.

We had booked in at the Waterside House Campsite which we hadn’t stayed at before. It had a great location right on the waterside at Ullswater. We managed to get a hardstanding, electric pitch which was great for the last night. After the night previous only running on the leisure battery, I think the electricity was welcome.

It was quite late in the day and the boys had been in the van all day so we ventured out into Pooley Bridge. This village is fantastic, just enough amenities to get by for the night and would you believe it, it has a few local pubs. The Pooley Bridge Inn would be our recommendation, it’s tastefully presented outside and in, with a cracking food menu. They allow dogs inside which was good as it was a bit colder that afternoon and our two prefer the indoors!

All in all, a brilliant way to end the last night of our mini road trip around the Lake District. I think it has certainly cemented my desire to get a vintage campervan although Sal may need convincing. There was unquestionably plenty to talk about on the way back to the van that evening, what a great birthday gift and experience.

Return home

Today was the day we had to return Billy and it was a relatively short drive back to Keswick. If I had managed to convince Sal to get a vintage campervan then this was the morning to ruin all of that. We woke up to snow and it was a really cold evening. The heater did what it could but if there is anything you guys should know is that Sal doesn’t like being cold!

The journey on the dual carriageway back to Keswick really cemented it for her. Being a passenger in a camper having to have a blanket over her knee wasn’t her idea of fun. A little more convincing is surely required.

The handover process at Rainbow Campers was seamless which was to be expected. It was quite sad to be handing Billy back but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We have to thank Andrew and the team at Rainbow as they do an amazing job with these vintage campervans. They provide an excellent service and all with a huge smile on their face.

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