We have missed the mountains of Wales over lockdown so decided to head across in our motorhome during September. To make it a real adventure, we were trialling Brit Stops for the first time.
We waited for the school summer holidays to end before embarking on our own break. However, it soon became apparent that September is when adults come out to play! Campsites were looking healthily full. But we didn’t care – we had our Brit Stops book!
What is Brit Stops?
Brit Stops, for the uninitiated, seems perfect for people like us. Those who are enjoying motorhome life on a budget. On the surface it is a free parking stop for the night in a space owned by a business or centre.
Places taking part in the scheme are listed in the Brit Stops Directory, a book one purchases yearly for £28.
It is easy to use and you already know that the venue is along roads which most units can get along. Even ours.
Participating venues can be pubs, farm shops, leisure centres, vineyards, a sports complex…anywhere with a large carpark or suitable space. The scheme is for self contained motorhomes only – no tents or caravans. Don’t necessarily expect water or waste disposal.
Where there are facilities, one cannot expect it to be for free of course. Some places provide them either with an extra charge or not, others don’t.
Wonderful – a free sleeping spot which does not invite criticism or prosecution.
Is Brit Stops any good?
Yes, Brit Stops is a great idea. We recommend it and have posted a link below. (They do not have an affiliate scheme – this blog is for us to express our own thoughts!)
So why say “seems” perfect and “on the surface”?
Well naturally if a place is providing you with an overnight parking spot, they expect something in return. It is not obligatory to purchase anything, as clearly stated in the handbook – but the expectation is there. Especially in these difficult times for the hospitality business.
One really nice guy said “OK, I’ll book you in”. Now that surprised us as you cannot “BOOK” a place. It is first come, first served. But of course, he meant a table. We did not realise that until later.
Maybe he didn’t know what Brit Stops was. Maybe all their other Brit Stops patrons had eaten there so he assumed that we would. Perhaps it is obligatory there – in some cases it is. But there was certainly a misunderstanding. (We want to point out though that there was no ill-feeling or rudeness. They were all polite and pleasant. And we missed out – the food looked amazing)
But we – Trudi especially – felt the pressure. Anxious not to take advantage, we enjoyed a drink at both pubs we stayed at, but felt that the otherwise kind and welcoming staff were surprised that we did not eat.
Maybe that was our sense of guilt.
But the thing is, we don’t eat out much these days. Motorhoming on a budget you see! Our budget does not often stretch to dining out beyond tea and cake. We joined the Brit Stops scheme to save money. A meal out, however temptingly delicious, is going to cost more than most campsites.
Is Brit Stops for us?
It’s a wonderful idea but Brit Stops was not invented with people like us in mind. Sadly, we are not necessarily the sort that the scheme was set up for – we are not the ideal Britstoppers the hosts are hoping for. And that makes us feel awkward. We are having to watch the pennies – someone else takes the pounds! – but nor are we freeloaders.
Either we become comfortable with paying what we can afford – a drink and a snack or some produce – or we stay on sites and do more “wild camping”. (Before you reach for the email button, we know that there is nothing WILD about being by a roadside in a metal tent. The conversation has been had!)
We could avoid using Brit Stop pubs and restaurants of course – there are other types of host venue. However, their reasons for signing up for the scheme will most often be the same; they expect it to be a two-way street. And that is understandable.
Of course, there could be some local authorities who have allowed motorhomes to use their leisure centre car park overnight to keep them from using local streets or laybys. There is also the added security aspect for businesses – having people in the car park overnight deters the theft or vandalism of property as there would likely be witnesses.
Those would suit us.
Do you phone ahead for Brit Stops?
Many of the participating venues state not to call ahead. That bothers Hobo Trudi – “just turn up”. Supposing they are full, or not participating, or…or…! Then what?
Given the unusual times we are living in, we decided to give each place a courtesy call.
We were glad we did so – some had pulled out of the scheme. One was due to having to use part of the car park for outside seating which is understandable. Another was “already fully booked”.
And the West of Wales had very few places participating in the scheme, so we had to spend some nights on campsites anyway. Wild camping? Shhhhhh – if we do it, no-one knows we’ve been.
Brit Stops is a brilliant idea – there is no doubting that. And for many, many motorhomers and their hosts, it will work wonderfully. We will use it more and get used to how it works.
But as you can see, we are a little ambivalent about the scheme for now. Certainly as regards for people like us. Maybe it is “newbie” nerves. Maybe it is our sense of decency and fair play being rattled by our budget restraints.
North Wales in a motorhome
The break though was really lovely! The idea was to see how much of the North Wales Pilgrims Way we could see in a motorhome! Research for an upcoming project.
We walked up to Meini Hirion above Penmaenmawr and visited Port Meirion. Peacefully, we sat in the golden light of evening on the beaches of the Llyn peninsula as the sun sank slowly in the west. There were glorious sunrises – once across Snowdonia and also The Wirral. We drank from St Winefride’s Well, stood in silence in the church of St Bueno and reverently read poetry by R.S.Thomas outside the church he ministered at in Aberdaron.
We enjoyed breakfasts in the most stunning scenery and watched clouds race across mountain sides. There was even a rainbow over a mist-shrouded Snowdon. And that is half of it!
But to give a flavour of what we experienced: Meini Hirion is Welsh for Long Stones. The English name is The Druids Circle. That one is misleading since the stones were stood long before the Druids arrived. But there is more about that on our Ley Lines, Labyrinths and Stone Circles page. Parking up in Penmaenmawr was refreshingly easy and the start of the track was just up the hill from the car park.
The climb is fairly strenuous in places if you don’t hike often but it is worth every huff and puff! Take a map though! The views all the way up are stunning. We have vowed to return to this old trackway and much used ancient ground. We will look for some of the other circles and hill forts.
Restoration for the soul
The churches we experienced were humble and magnificent all in one. The cool air of tranquillity stops time in its tracks and soothes the soul, taking the heat out of our hectic modern lives. You cannot re-enter the world unchanged.
We visited LLanberis and found the crowded tourist areas overwhelming after being in the mountains away from people. However we soon found Dolbadarn Castle and Ceunant Mawr waterfall on the Afon (river) Arddu. Both restored the serenity we sought in their own way.
The 13th century castle tower guards the LLanberis Pass, overlooking the still waters of LLyn Padarn. It is a short climb from the main car parks. (A tip…use the one behind the station car park, it is cheaper and better for motorhomes).
Then on the way home, we were due to pass through Llangollen. Both of us had wanted to climb to Castell Dinas Bran ever since we noticed it, a thousand feet above sea level, watching for us to arrive in Wales. OK, that’s romantic but what is even more so? Climbing up to it and enjoying breakfast amongst the ruins of a medieval castle set within the earthworks of an Iron-age Hillfort! Exciting! We sat for a while before returning to the motorhome and heading back home. (via the tea room at the Llangollen canal – scones and jam with a pot of tea).
Most picturesque road in Britain?
Of course, this was a road trip: driving the LLanberis Pass and the A5 from LLangollen to Snowdonia has to be the highlight! This is not a route, it is an experience! We never know where to point the cameras for the best views. It changes minute to minute according to the light and the weather. We could travel here every day without boredom setting in. Of course, the lines of tourists, their vehicles, and the occasional crazy walker edging their way along the kerb on a mountain pass demands concentration too! The ups and downs, twists and turns all add to the adventure.
All in a motorhome who hates hills!! The old girl hardly missed a beat and the exhaust held out- although she gained revenge by busting a spring in Cambridgeshire on the way home. However her engine is so raucous, we didn’t notice until we got her off the motorways and major routes.
We have some wonderful photographs which will whet your appetite for Wales. These are up on our social media accounts.
Is North Wales a good place for motorhomes?
The only issue which really marred the break was parking the motorhome. So many car parks had height barriers and some places we wanted to visit had no parking whatsoever.
Naturally, most places we wanted to see were constructed WAY before the modern road system. They are in settings inaccessible to vehicles, particularly big ones without much of an engine! But it could have been made easier for us.
Even if we had stayed on nearby campsites, we would still have had to drive to what we wished to see. And park there!!
We understand, we really do: who wants great big vehicles taking up spaces. Worse, an encampment of holiday makers blocking a car park. But motorhome use is on the rise. Councils ought to be looking for suitable parking areas – and, even better, providing overnight spots with facilities for a set ticket price.
The outlay would be worth it. Tourism is big business now. Even us! Although we need to watch what we spend, we still need to use local shops and fuel stations as we travel. We visit attractions (of the historic kind) and pay the entry fee.
Then we tell other people about it…word of mouth!
Until next time – May your roads be open and the wind forever at your back.
Gav and Trudi, Motorhome Hobos
For more info about the scheme, go to Britstops.com.
Have you used Brit Stops? What is your experience of the scheme? Comment below – we would love to be enthused about it as initially we were very excited to have the directory.
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