Paula Beaumont’s weakness is that she can’t be too many days between two outings when it comes to going off the road. Whenever she isn’t planning a photo shoot, she is usually working out her next destination where one of the major selection criteria is the question of roads or lack thereof. An overland fanatic who’s also a photographer, Paula certainly knowns that to set camp for the perfect visuals is almost always after the paved roads finish. Like all of her previous adventures, this one too was accompanied by her 27-year-old trusty Defender.
What was the plan before leaving?
While I like to be super organised, we thought we’d go with the flow of the unpredictable Scottish weather. So we would either head towards the Scotland’s East Coast or back towards the Isle of Skye, where also my 71-year-old mother, my companion on this adventure stays. She had seen some nice spots to camp, that would be perfect if the weather was ready! We had planned the trip around 8 days. And while no time period ever justifies the trip, it’s the maximum I could muster in between my wedding shoots.
What was the route like?
I live in Harrogate, North Yorkshire so we decided to meet in Fort William – 6 hours north for me and 3.5 hours South for my mother. The only thing we had planned was an off-road trip with a company for the day through the Cairngorm mountains, which was booked for Monday. This meant that we had to find a place to camp on Sunday night. I run some great software on my tablet that shows all the forest tracks so it only took us only an hour to find a great spot in a large forest near Fort William.
From here we went east to Laggan to do the trip (which was totally awesome), and then up to Gairloch on the west coast… Carrying on up the West Coast towards the amazing beaches of which Gruinard bay is one of the unmissable! totally stunning!
We then hit the north coast at Durness which was lovely, but pretty busy (I like to travel away from the noise) so we carried on around the coast towards Tongue and camped at Talmine Onto Betty Hill and through some great forest tracks to Borgie Forest to see the sculpture called “The Unknown”. Very cool.
What were your most unexpected moments?
A beautiful sunset after a full day of pouring rain! It was a very welcome moment. And we met some walkers and had such a great chat with them – we were camped in the middle of nowhere so were pretty surprised to see them. They loved my Landy and admired him for ages! hahaha – anyone who does that must be ok in my book!
Tell us the standout locations that readers should know about.
Firstly, Gruinard Bay. I shot this from above. Although it’s lost some of the impact when down on the beach but the high road that brings you into the bay is perfect for some great shots with the mountains in the background and hey the sun was out – everything looks better when the sun is out!
Also, our last wild camping spot near Tongue where we stayed for two nights is gorgeous. I couldn’t give you more than that, you’d have to see it to believe it yourself. My mother found this track and camping place a few years ago but could never get her car down – my Land Rover happily obliged! We set up camp overlooking the most stunning beach, turquoise water and mountains to one side – it was perfect! (apart from the infamous Scottish midges that visited on the first night!). I should also give an honourable mention to our first day in the Cairngorms National Park where we were accompanied by other off-roaders. This place where we drove on a lot of beaches has some tranquil elements to it. Seriously stunning.
What was your most exciting moment during the entire adventure?
That has to be finally seeing the wild camp spot my mother had been talking about for almost five years! She’d walked it, she’d camped near it… but being able to get her there and camp there ourselves was pretty special.
What and why would you recommend this adventure to someone?
Scotland is stunning, period. There is no way that you wouldn’t get sucked in its raw beauty even before you get off the beaten track. We took so many single tracks where we didn’t see any other vehicle for hours! It’s just the perfect mix of desolate and dreamy, which I absolutely love!
But if someone is looking for other sorts of experiences, I am sure there’s always something for everyone in Scotland. One can fancy themselves a fabulous forest track, hours of trekking up the mountains, visiting local distilleries or simply walking/driving on the beach… there’s so much to do.
Could you think of a better car than your Land Rover Defender to do these expeditions?
Sighing… My Norton, who’s named after my late dad, is just an amazing piece of machinery. He’s come to be that companion of mine that’s as good as a friend. My Landy is dependable, goes anywhere I point, it’s super comfortable, and without much saying has one of the most evergreen designs that an off-road vehicle has ever been made with. We used his awnings every day to shelter from the rain, large windbreaks that fasten to the awnings to shelter from the wind. Norton has a huge tub draw which is enough to hold every bit of our camping gear, plus some more… most importantly a good fridge, cause you know, there’s nothing like a cold beer after a day’s drive.
Where do you and Norton head out next?
So next locations that I have in mind is Spain and Portugal in the month October. I am going to be there for a full month, and I cannot tell you how much I can’t wait to head out. We are going to be accompanied by another Land Rover Owner who I met recently during my travels. We have a 1,900-mile (3,058km) route across Northern Spain into Portugal, across Portugal and back up the west coast. Throughout the route, there is only around 25% tarmac! Since we’ve never done these routes before, we would have a lot of recovery gear with us. If everything goes well, I know for sure that it’s going to be a real adventure.
Paula documents her trips on her Instagram account which we highly recommend you give a follow. All photos by Paula Beaumont.