Groovy, Baby: Touring Wales in a 1970s VW Campervan

Camping in Wales by Expat Edna-2

I have no idea how my boyfriend stumbled across this idea.

The rabbit hole of the internet, right? One minute you’re looking up things to do in Wales, the next thing you know you’re reading about the social structure of 12th-century capuchins. Damn you Wikipedia.

Anyway, somehow in all the noise, he found a rental company in northern Wales that specializes in refurbishing 1970s Volkswagen campervans — for actual use on the road. Not just decoration.

It was decided: his birthday present was going to be a week road tripping around northern Wales in a totally groovy old VW.

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I had my reservations going into this (not least because I am not a camper) but turns out, it was kind of awesome.

Having everything you own — and need — fit into one vehicle? Dig it.

Being able to move your entire home wherever you felt like it? Like being a giant blue tortoise.

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Plus, there’s this unspoken rule that all VW campervan drivers have to wave at each other when passing on the road. Every single one, without fail, gave us a friendly wave. It was like being part of a special club.

After seven days in this fly bunny, I was actually a little sad to say goodbye to Emily the VW.

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So I thought I’d start off my Wales posts with a tour of our campervan sweet campervan.

I thought it was going to be run down, cramped, and thus miserable. Nope — I had no idea how sweet these things are:

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This is the interior of the van, with all the hatches battened down. Doesn’t look like much, right? Turns out pretty much everything you see in this photo is storing something.

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Fridge, stove, sink with running water; pots and pans for cooking; plates and utensils for eating; tea cups and all tea accoutrements — even a fully assemblable table and two (remarkably high-quality) lawn chairs.

All hidden in this tiny space.

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Every evening we’d grab our bags from the back, move them up into the front half of the campervan, and pull the couch flat into a bed.

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And every morning — after breakfast and tea in bed, of course — we’d fold up the sleeping bag and pillows, and toss it in the back with the rest of our bags.

Just like that, we’d be ready to hit the road again.

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When it came to dining, we bought groceries in local shops and cooked almost every meal on the campervan stove. Your mileage may vary depending on cooking skills, but we made out like bandits — and £15 would buy us enough food for 2-3 days!

Tip if your cooking skills are lacking: butter improves everything.

Camping in Wales by Expat Edna

This was one of our fancier meals, using all local ingredients. Lamb chop, fresh duck egg sprinkled with Mermaid Confetti, paired with a Welsh black IPA.

(Mermaid Confetti, that blue container above, is a Welsh product; a blend of toasted seaweed and sea salt. Like butter, it improves almost anything you cook.)

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This is Emily in fully-parked, unpacked, and hanging out mode.

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This is the back of the van reassembled with our belongings, the sleeping bag, pillows, and lawn chairs — ready to get going on the day’s adventures.

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And this is Emily just looking classy against the mountains of Snowdonia. Isn’t she a beauty?

Practical info: We rented from Split the Difference / Hilltop Classics (different fleets, but run by the same couple). The cost varies depending on season; during high season we paid £695 for a seven-day rental. Four days or long weekends would have cost £400.

Do you have any questions about our Welsh campervan adventure? Let me know and I’ll include it in upcoming posts!

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Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to go travelling around in an old VW. There’s something so hippie-ish about it and I love it. :D I would need to learn how to drive first though. :P

  2. This looks awesome, I would love to try this one day. Thank you for sharing!

  3. This is so cool! I love it :)

    http://www.adventurousappetite.com

  4. My boyfriend is obsessed with these! Like, I want to show him this post because he’ll love it, but I don’t because he’ll be so jealous, haha.

  5. This is adorable! Definitely looking into VW hire for our trip in Australia this summer, this is too cute :)

  6. Whuuuut, this is basically my dream. Amazing!!! Thanks for sharing. How did you guys decide where to go in Wales… just followed the wind, or?
    Also convinced that I really, really need to go pick up a jar of Mermaid Confetti.

  7. She’s a beauty!

  8. Oh my gosh- amazing! I have always wanted to drive around in a vw camper van! But my husband always says it would be uncomfortable- I think this proves him wrong! Where did you park up each night- in campsites so you could shower etc? I will definitely keep this on the list for next time I visit home in the UK. But we are living in CA now and I wonder if I can find anything like that here. Driving CA in one of these would be amazing!

  9. One thing I’d love to hear more about was how you chose where to stay. We’re people funny about you just pitching up and setting up home, or did you find that anywhere goes when it came to choosing your home for the night.

    For me, the canal boat equivalent of your trip is very high on my todo list.

  10. Love it! This was so fun watching from beginning to end on your snapchat!

  11. This is SWEET!! How amazing that you can fit all of that in to one small van? Looks like a fun trip – what a great birthday present :-)

  12. I grew up in one of these vans! My parents had a 1976 VW camper van from when I was tiny and we did years of family holidays in it. Sadly they finally sold it last year (the maintenance on these things is hard going) but it went to a hire company so it’s lovely to see the sort of adventures it’ll be getting up to these days (and if I want to I can always hire it back!).

  13. Wow! What an awesome way to travel! Not only am I a huge fan of road trips, but I also love VWs (even despite their recent bad press). I am definitely adding a road trip through the Welsh countryside in a VW Campervan to my bucket list.

  14. That looks so awesome!! I’ve never done campervan tours but I stayed at a campground in Eger, Hungary, that was overrun by French seniors in campervans. Looks like a fun way to get around!

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  1. […] upon arriving in the town of Caernarfon was to…promptly lock our keys in the campervan […]

  2. […] had my worries going into this big Welsh camping adventure […]

  3. […] there Joe and I went to Wales — for his birthday I rented this groovy 1973 Volkswagen van, and we spent a […]