Drive the rainbow
Last updated at 15:39, Wednesday, 01 June 2011
VW campervans are among the most iconic vehicles of all time, and perfect for the ultimate road trip. KARL STEEL headed to the Lakes and the Dales for a holiday on four wheels.
DRIVING through the winding Yorkshire Dales roads in a vehicle with no power steering and heavy brakes, in the dead of night, with thunder and lightning filling the sky, and little idea where on earth you are, you could be forgiven for wondering why people holiday in the UK.
You can get a cheap flight to Spain, and there you’re almost guaranteed good weather, even if the cheapest hotels are often a bit ropey.
It seems strange that record numbers are choosing to holiday here, when the rest of the world is more accessible now than ever before.
Holiday cottages, tents, and city breaks are all well and good, but who says that on a ‘staycation’ you have to stay in one place?
Myself and a couple of friends from college always talked about going away somewhere together, but with jobs getting in the way of taking the same days off, a long weekend closer to home was the only option.
And surely the ultimate lads’ holiday is a road trip?
And surely the ultimate vehicle to do it in is a VW campervan?
Ever since the Volkswagen Type 2 – to give it its real name – came into being in the 1950s, it has been a big hit with families and young people, surfers and hippies.
Not only practical, the iconic design gives each van an individual character.
Learning that there was a company up in Keswick that had a range of campervans for rent, I didn’t need a second invitation to book.
I chose the 1979 burgundy-coloured, alloy-wheeled ‘bling bus’, affectionately named Billy.
As you can see, it is a real head-turner. If you’ve read the Friday Motors supplement, you’ll know that I’ve driven some pretty amazing cars in my time, but I can promise that none have the same ability to stop onlookers in their tracks as this 32-year-old minibus.
On picking it up from Rainbow Camper Hire, just outside the town centre, and after a short tutorial from Billy’s owner, Andrew Matthews, it was a great feeling to head for the motorway to embark on an exciting adventure. Every car you pass – and that passes you – is full of admirers, and every fellow campervan driver waves their hands in familiarity, welcoming you to an exclusive club.
Even though the motorway is probably not the best place to be familiarising myself with any vehicle, a smile was fixed across my face. Granted, I barely left the slow lane, but this van can comfortably manage the national speed limit.
I headed to Leeds, where I picked up two of my friends from college, Colin and Dave, who I only get to see a couple of times a year.
When they laid eyes on this masterpiece of German manufacturing, they shared my enthusiasm for a night in the Dales.
With the sun long gone, we set off for the small village of Hawes, deep in the middle of the National Park – home to Wallace and Gromit’s beloved Wensleydale cheese.
The unfamiliar roads, the unreliable Google Maps print-off, and the unbelievable weather conditions did nothing to dampen spirits, although arrival at our destination, Bainbridge Ings campsite, was nothing short of a relief.
It was late at night, but we were welcomed as any road-weary travellers would hope to be, and directed into the village where we could find a pint.
Hawes is one of those perfect villages, where pubs seemingly outnumber shops. Having fond memories of the place, from numerous stays at the same campsite as a kid, it was as picturesque as I’d always remembered.
Sadly, the stay was a brief one, as we headed out early the next day for a night in the Lake District.
Being city boys, my friends had never been to the beautiful region that I consider my back garden, so I was proud to present them with Bowness.
A short detour through Kendal’s one-way system in search of food brought much of the town’s pedestrians to a standstill as they admired our set of wheels, before we pulled into the Caravan Club site Braithwaite Fold, just off Windermere’s shore-front.
The pristine and well-kept site provided a quiet base for us to cook some bacon butties and watch the football on the fold-down TV, which also had Freeview and a Playstation 2 connected.
Everything you need and more for a camping holiday is contained within the van’s various cupboards and hideaways.
Deceptively large inside, when the roof folds out there is space to comfortably sleep four. And when you’ve been out enjoying the thriving nightlife of Bowness, it feels like a veritable palace to come home to.
After 48 hours and almost 350 miles together, I was sad to part from Billy.
The initial struggles with a tricky clutch and heavy steering were distant memories, replaced instead with memories of a top weekend with great company, travelling to some stunning locations in the most exciting vehicle I’ve driven.
Every box in the checklist for a perfect road trip was ticked.
The VW campervan was kindly supplied by Rainbow Camper Hire of Keswick. For more information and to book, visit www.vwcamperhire.net or phone 017687 80413.
Three night rental of any of the five campervans is available from £250 midweek or £295 Friday to Monday.
Karl visited: Bainbridge Ings caravan and campsite, in Hawes, North Yorkshire.
Prices per night for two adults, a car and a tent or caravan are £13.50 and for an individual hiker or cyclist £5.
To book visit www.bainbridge-ings.co.uk or phone 01969 667354.
Braithwaite Fold Caravan Club site, in Bowness.
Prices for members range from £5.30 to £6.90 per adult per night, depending on the season, and £8 for non-members.
To book visit www.caravanclub.co.uk or phone 01342 327490.
First published at 13:05, Friday, 27 May 2011
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
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