Planning our first wild camping trip while pregnant, I was nervous to say the least. I was only just getting through the early days of
nausea and exhaustion. Normal life was taking it out of me, how on earth was I going to live in an unknown field for the next two weeks!?
With a promise from Aaron that we could check into a hotel for the two weeks if need be, we packed up the car with camping gear and food supplies, and caught an early morning ferry to Scotland.
After a long drive up north in Scotland, we caught another ferry from Oban, over to the Outer Hebrides at Castlebay on Barra, arriving about tea time. This was the first of our ferry journeys on our hopscotch ticket with Calmac Ferries. We have all of our onward island-hopping ferry tickets booked, but can change them for no extra cost if our plans change - cheaper than booking each individual journey.
Barra is tiny, so it didn't take long to do a loop of it, as the light faded, trying to find a spot for our first night just before the rain started. But, so far so good - I have managed to erect a tent with a bump, and the first night's sleep in the tent was a peaceful one. I even managed to get myself out of my sleeping bag and into my boots, and out of the tent to go to the toilet in the night without needing hauled to my feet by Aaron - I don't think I even woke him!
Throughout the islands, right up to Harris, the scenery and the wildlife were stunning, and we more or less had the place to ourselves. The beaches were empty white coves, there were tons of eagles soaring above us on the moorlands, we saw dolphins out on the bay, oyster catchers squeaked by at every spot of coastline, and we enjoyed an afternoon watching a large seal colony play-fighting in the water in front of us. Once we got as far up as Lewis, it was a lot more touristy, and the landscape not so inspiring. We drove right to the end on our last night on the islands, to the Butt of Lewis lighthouse in an effort to escape the tourists and the infrastructure, and it paid off - as we pitched the tent at the edge of the bird cliffs, a bunch of gannets were dive-bombing for food right in front of us.
The weather was pretty much as expected - wet, wild and windy. On North Uist, the rain was a persistent heavy drizzle all day - the sort of rain that got you very wet very quickly, but seemed like it would last for days. We got fed up sitting in the car, driving around in it all day, and popped out for a walk on the beach. While unappealing, the rain didn't seem that bad from the dry comfort of the car, and so we didn't bother with waterproof trousers - what a mistake! After an hour's walk, I was literally wringing my trousers out in the loo at the car park. And no matter how much air we had blasting in the car, they stayed soaked through all day. There was no hope of them drying out unless the sun came out, which looked pretty unlikely by 4pm. So, the hotel promise came good, and we checked into the lovely Langass Lodge. After the best shower ever (mainly because we hadn't had one in 4 days!), we went down for a lovely meal (mainly because it wasn't cooked on our camping stove!) and then, about 7pm, the sun suddenly came out from nowhere, and it was a beautiful evening! I was very happy to have a radiator to dry my trousers though, so it was worth the wimp-out!
One morning, after a very windy night on Harris, we packed up the tent, and drove on to discover the next spot. Except, the wind only picked up, and we discovered that the rest of Harris was even windier than our previous night's pitch. We drove all day trying to find somewhere suitable for camping, stopping every now and then to admire mini-tornadoes picking up water on the bay, and whisking it up into the air. Aaron tried to do some photography, but it was futile - even windier than Iceland, which is really saying something. Eventually, we admitted defeat, and returned to the exact same spot we'd camped in the night before. It was such a challenge trying to get the tent up in the wind, but once erected, our good old robust Staika didn't let us down - it was a noisy night, but the tent stayed sturdy.
We took our time coming back down through Scotland to catch our ferry back to Belfast, enjoying another hotel night for a well-deserved shower in The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool, and another few wild camp nights, the most memorable being our last night, up on a hill overlooking the Summer Isles, when a wild goat family showed up at dusk (mum, dad and baby). By this point in the trip, my pregnant camping confidence was so good that I even managed to carry a light backpack and scramble up to enjoy the best camp spot view, and had the energy for a hike around the hills before dinner.
In the end, we had a great holiday - scenic and despite being wet and windy, we only had to check into a hotel twice. So now, with first-timer pregnant-camper nerves safely out of the way, I'm already planning our next camping trip - success!
Thinking of a wild camping holiday when pregnant? Here's some tips...
Wild camping doesn't have to be that wild - travel by ferry so you can bring your own car, and go remote so you can camp pretty close to it
Have a back-up plan - I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to take the plunge into a holiday like this without the promise of a hotel if it was all a bit too much
Start off small and work your way up - on the first night, we literally camped beside the car on a beach, by the last night, I was hiking up a steep hill to camp with a view amongst the wild goats - I knew by then that I could do it, without pushing myself too much
Treat yourself to some luxury from time to time - we checked into a couple of hotels for a hot shower, a soft bed and a nice meal, you really feel like you're getting your money's worth when you've been roughing it
Holiday at home - I brought my maternity file with me, and knew that if the baby decided to come early, I would have free NHS medical care. While the idea of dual nationality for our child is appealing, I didn't fancy giving birth somewhere that I couldn't speak the language!