So many people tell me how much they would love a VW campervan: it’s a romantic dream that many hold, yet few are as lucky as we are to have owned a VW campervan for 30 years!
It is my intention here to describe the pleasures and practicalities of campervan holidays via a photographic description of some of the routes we have taken and the more memorable sites we have stayed on.
I am Tracey Cooper, wife of Andy the owner of Bughaus VW Restoration. Together with Rob, who has worked at Bughaus since coming on a youth training scheme at the age 16, he has been looking after Campers, Beetles, Karmann Ghias and Type 3’s for 30 years in business, but before that to keep himself (and later me) on the road since he first learnt to drive.
Andy’s enthusiasm for Beetles began when his Grandad, Alf Bowcock, taught him to drive in his 1969 1300. (Alf was also the reason behind Andy’s lifelong support for the league two football club Port Vale). If you look carefully into the dusty corners at Bughaus, you will see this Beetle dismantled and waiting for the day when Andy has the time to give it the long- deserved attention it needs to restore it to the condition that Alf bought in in in 1969.
Andy’s parents bought him his first Beetle for his 17th birthday and he was lucky enough to be able to use the garage facilities at the engineering supplies firm where his Dad was a director to get this 6 volt 1200 on the road.
The black Beetle played a part in Andy and me getting together too, in that my friends and I cheekily cadged a lift with Andy one night back to our halls of residence at Leeds Poly in 1981. And so we became friends, and it wasn’t too long before we started going out together. I thought I had a real catch: Andy was the only student I knew who had a car!
Four years later we were married, with Beetles playing a part in that day too.
And so in those days we seemed to get through a succession of Beetles, with the occasional Type 3 coming our way.
Emma came along in 1991, followed by Jack in 1993. As toddlers they showed some interest in the VW fleet, and when it came to the time for them to learn to drive Andy had a beetle on the road to use, with the view that “If you can drive a beetle, you can drive anything”.
And so it was inevitable that before too long we would have a camper too. And whilst we no longer drive Beetles for our everyday means of transport, it is always an absolute pleasure to get the camper on the road for the summer months, and hear that familiar VW engine sound as it fires up after its winter hibernation in our carport.
Now the first thing that any potential VW campervanner needs to know is that a campervan is not a motorhome. Whilst those monstrous white beasts are becoming increasingly popular with their multiple berths, full bathroom facilities, fridges and central heating, you never saw a motorhome that had character. I wonder how many motorhome owners give their vehicle a name as so many VW campervan owners do. (Not that any of our 4 campervans ever had a name). In addition, how many motorhomes can get down the narrow lanes of Wales or Cornwall to the secluded villages, coves and woods that make a campervan trip so special and unique.
A holiday in a VW campervan is to me like a supremely flexible, convenient and more comfortable form of camping. All your belongings remain with you at all times, a comforting cup of tea or a freshly brewed coffee can be yours in whichever supremely scenic spot you choose (at a fraction of the price you would pay in a cafe) and within minutes of arriving at a site you can be cooking a meal or snoozing in your “rock and roll” bed, yet you feel you are in touch with the great outdoors at all times.
An important thing to consider when planning your campervan trip is to allow extra time for your journey. The journey is part of the holiday, in fact the holiday may be the journey. However, the more unexpected factor you will have to consider is the time taken to talk to people. Driving a VW campervan is akin to wearing a notice that says “I am a friendly person who is happy to talk to anyone”. Not that I object to this at all. The joy of journey in the campervan is not just the places you visit but also the people you meet along the way. The majority of the population seem to fit into the categories “I would like to have a VW campervan”, “I used to have a VW campervan” or “My friend has a VW campervan”. And I think as splits and bay window vans have become increasingly rare, such conversations have increased.
What follows is a description of some of the trips we have taken in our four camper vans from 1988 when we took our first trip to a wedding in Cornwall in our 1966 white split up to our memorable trip to Skye in 2017 and hopefully beyond with a trip to Switzerland planned for 2018. The detail will vary depending on memory and photographic documentation available, but I hope to give you ideas and inspiration for your own VW adventures.
After thirty years of campervan holidays we have a few hints and tips to help make the trip run smoothly which we are glad to share.
The first thing I probably should say about all our campers, is to liken Andy’s care of them to the “cobblers shoes”. That is, Andy rarely has time to do anything but the absolute essential work to our vehicles. They are always supremely reliable and well cared for mechanically, but a beautiful shiny camper with no tatty bits is just a thing of my dreams.
- We purchased this 1966 split in 1988 from a woman in Derby after seeing an advert in The Nottingham Evening Post. We paid £299.00 – it was a different world back then. We had trips to Cornwall, the Lakes and Wales as well as a few weekends away more locally. Sadly we returned home one evening to find that a truck passing our house had hit it at what must have been an almighty speed and completely opened up the side of the van as if a tin opener had been taken to it. Nowadays it would just be restored, but back then it was a right off.
Llyn Peninsula, Wales
- Our second campervan was slightly unusual in that it was a 1967 sliding door split. When we first had it, it had a fibreglass high roof which whilst practical, wasn’t especially attractive. Later on, with two young children to accommodate, we replaced this with an elevating roof and constructed a sleeping platform for the children. It was painted pink and sign-written to start with as advertising for “Bughaus”.
Eastern France, Switzerland – 1989
Pyrennes – 1990
Pembrokeshire, Wales – 1992
Wales, touring – 1997
- We then updated a little and for a short while we had a 1976 bay. I am told by my children that the hammocks in this became increasingly uncomfortable as they got bigger and they weren’t too happy with the rear facing seat they had in the back whose cushions used to gradually slide from under them as the journey progressed. However, it wasn’t long after that they realised that being dropped off at school in a VW campervan was EXTREMELY COOL! The picture below is a birthday party camper picnic at Belton House in Lincolnshire.
Isle of Man and Wicklow Mountains Ireland – 1998
Tintagel and Woodlands Adventure Park.
- Our final campervan which remains with us to the present day is a 1979 Devon Moonraker. This had belonged to a Bughaus customer who was sadly unable to use it any longer as his wife had a degenerative condition. It came to us with only 60,000 miles on the clock and in excellent mechanical condition and a largely sound, if a little tatty, body.It has worked really well for us having the comfortable full width bed in the elevating roof, where both children could sleep until they got to an age they preferred to take a tent and have some privacy and space of their own, as well as adequate storage for provisions, clothing and the other paraphernalia for a family of four. It has always been popular with the children’s friends as they were growing up…
And has remained in demand now they are grown up…
Our camper as well as Rob’s which is rather more tidy have been useful over the years for weddings and proms.
Via France and Switzerland to Santa Margherita, Italy – 2002
Isle of Wight – 2004
Brittany – 2008
Dublin and West coast of Ireland – 2009
Jersey – 2010
Connemara and Donegal – 2011
Shropshire – 2012
Derbyshire – 2013
Arran and Islay – 2014
Edinburgh and the Cairngorms – 2015
Skye – 2017
European Trip – 2018