I gave you a sneak peek at my wee caravan in my last blog post. I thought I’d spend a wet Saturday afternoon telling you a bit more about it.
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Back in the eighties, in the first few years of my life, holidays were an annual event for my family. The internet was still science fiction and, in the absence of reviews, our self-catering accommodation was always ‘hit or miss’ (usually the latter!).
A new addition
All of this changed in the summer of 1989 when my dad spotted an advert for a second-hand touring caravan whilst doing the food shopping in Willie Low’s. Before long, there was a new addition to our driveway and my dad set about re-vamping the Minster Huntsman; a brand now described online as ‘vintage retro’!
After my dad had paved our gravel driveway and spruced up the caravan, we were ready for our first weekend away. On the eve of my fourth birthday, I must have been oblivious to my parentsâ€™ preparations, unlocking the caravan’s secrets and packing everything a young family could possibly need on a two-night sojourn.
Our first caravan trip: Blair Atholl
The destination? Blair Atholl, a picturesque village in Highland Perthshire, thirty-odd miles up the A9, lying at the confluence of the rivers Garry and Tilt. Blair Atholl is best known for the white-walled Blair Castle and its gardens, with its roots dating from the thirteenth century.
And so began a new chapter for the Thorburn family.
Caravanning quickly became my default mode; a way of life that I became accustomed to before I could read or write, or tie my shoelaces.
This was September 1989. By September 1999, we’d clocked up nearly 500 nights in our caravan (an upgrade from that ‘vintage retro’ model!); an average of 50 nights per year. Our old way of life – seven nights in a questionable holiday cottage every summer – was a distant memory.
I can’t do justice to a childhood of caravan trips in a single blog post. I have enough content to fill a book (give me another decade and I might have it finished…!). In a nutshell, our caravan trips made us an incredibly close family and turned me into the person I am today.
In May 2009, aged 23, I joined my parents for the final trip in the four berth caravan which had served us faithfully for 16 years. Afterwards, back in my flat in Edinburgh, I lay on the bed and cried like the small child I’d been when I started caravanning. Selling our Marauder was like losing a very dear friend.
My parents bought a new two berth caravan and, from then on, I would occasionally join them for a day trip, or erect my tent on the neighbouring pitch. But, it was never the same.
Caravanning faded out of my life.
Rediscovering my past
Ten years later, after my dad’s death, my mum was faced with the deeply upsetting task of selling their Coachman Highlander. It was too heavy for my car to tow, but I’d already committed to picking up my dad’s baton and rediscovering my lost way of life.
In 2019 I purchased a two-year-old Freedom Flare; a tiny, lightweight touring caravan. It’s my very own Tardis! It’s the same size as my car yet it contains everything I could possibly need. Comfy seating which folds out into a double bed. A fridge, an oven, and a hob. Even a chemical toilet and a shower. I LOVE it! Importantly, my dad would have loved it too.
Rising from the ashes
After a busy wedding season and a lot of procrastinating, I couldn’t put off towing any longer. The thirtieth anniversary of that first caravan trip to Blair Atholl was fast approaching and there was only one suitable way to mark it. I hopped online, booked myself a five-night stay in Blair Castle Caravan Park, and headed down the A9.
Following in my dad’s footsteps is both poignant and thrilling.
Already, just in the last couple of years, I’ve had some fantastic adventures with my wee caravan, which I’ve aptly named ‘Phoenix’. Stick with me and I’ll look forward to sharing them with you!
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