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Van Life!?

Updated: Apr 26

A taster in the Lake District.

Van Life Lake District VW California Eskdale Campsite

We can't remember exactly when it started, but the dream of the idyllic van life we all picture, opening up the doors to a view of a secluded beach, nothing but the sound of the waves and the birds to disturb the peace, has been weighing on our minds for a good 5 or 6 years now.

So at the end of March we decided to see what all the fuss was about. We wanted to go to the Lake District, but couldn't find a cottage we liked, and we felt it was too early in the year to take a 1 year old camping, so it seemed like the ideal opportunity for a test. We hired a van from O'Connors Campers in Okehampton, and started searching for campsites. O'Connors were great. A very friendly, helpful and laidback hire service.

We settled on the National Trust site at Eskdale and we are so glad we did. What a site! Peaceful, extremely well maintained, excellent location and really friendly staff. We received such a warm welcome, and they really looked after us later in the week, trying to find us somewhere to stay for a couple of extra nights (we wanted to extend our stay, but the site was full for Easter).

Apart from one day trip over to Ennerdale, we didn't move the van, and stayed in Eskdale, exploring the area on foot from the campsite. There were some memorable hikes up into the fells, including on our youngest daughter's first birthday, when our eldest managed her longest walk yet, with over 800ft of climbing too.

We really liked the feel of Ennerdale. It was open, with big vistas, quiet, and when we were up in the hills, it felt really remote and wild. At the end of the holiday, we ended up in Wasdale for a couple of nights. Whilst Wasdale is undoubtedly impressive, it felt a bit oppressive there, and we didn't like it as much. This was no doubt also influenced by suddenly being surrounded by people wanting to hike up Scafell Pike!

So to the big question. Is van life worth it? Yes, but probably in different ways than we imagined. It is probably quite difficult to replicate the dream scenario described at the start of this blog, in this small and crowded country, but it was nonetheless great fun, and we had 5 or 6 experiences that would never have happened if we were in a cottage.

We were outside a lot. More than we would have been if in a cottage. Our eldest daughter always says, outside is better than inside, so it was ideal, and it was much like 'proper' camping in that respect.

We had heating, which mean't we could 'camp' outside of our normal summer camping season.

We never felt it was cramped, certainly not more so than a tent, and we enjoyed being cosy together.

It felt like more of an adventure than if we had been in self catering, plus the van turned out to be a great all round adventure vehicle. On our day out to Ennerdale, we got caught in rain for the only time on the holiday surprisingly, and got back to the van, put the heater on, changed clothes, and put a tin of soup on to warm up. Just generally, it felt much easier transporting little ones around than in a car.

Finally, being located right in the thick of it, with walk opportunities from the door, meant we didn't have to get in the car everyday to do our activities. That is not always the case with a holiday cottage.

We loved our holiday, and think that being in the van only enhanced it. Will we do it again? Yes. In our own van? We're going to try, if at all possible! Life is too short. Grab it with both hands, and squeeze every drop out!

Alex and Emilie xx

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