Camper vans

Survivor’s guide to wet and wild holiday weather

Lake Vrynwy

Tammy goes wet and wild on holiday

It’s sad but true. Summer has faded and those dark autumn nights and chilly days are starting to bite.

This year’s British spring and summer have been a wash-out with torrential rain, floods and regular cloud bursts.

The barbecue came out once only and the deck chairs remained in the garage.

This set me thinking about my top 10 worst weather trips of all time including two holidays this year.

1. Rainy Bristol

Back in 1978 a family holiday to Bristol turned into one of the wettest in memory. Relentless rain for a week resulted in the loss of three pairs of shoes as the wet stuff permeated every piece of clothing and footwear.

So much for that charming boat trip on the River Avon or the joy of strolling around the boutiques of Clifton village in the summer sun.

This was hardcore rain that sent even the hardiest folk scuttling for cover.

Bad weather rating: ****

Tammy’s indoor alternatives – Bristol’s indoor attractions include Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the Watershed, the Arnolfii gallery and Bristol Aquarium. Nearby Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house where you can explore the splendid interior if it’s raining outside.


Country life – indoors at Tyntesfield

2. Fog at the Farnes

The Farne Islands off the north Northumberland coast are fantastic for bird watching and wildlife but you need a clear and sunny day to make the most of your boat trip.

Last year, we set off from Newcastle on a glorious hot, sunny morning only to find the islands bathed in a blanket of fog – or ‘sea fret’ as we call it in Geordieland.

It was hard to pick out the Farnes’ famous grey seal colony on the rocks but we did manage to snap this passing boat in the pea-soup mist.

Bad weather rating: ***

Sea mist in Farnes

Sea ‘fret’ at the Farnes

Tammy’s indoor alternatives: Try bird watching at Hauxley wildlife centre which has indoor hides. Alternatively, dive inside a historic castle at nearby Bamburgh, Alnwick or Lindisfarne… or enjoy fish and chips in Seahouses.

3. Wet in Wales

We should have known better. Lake Vyrnwy may be one of the most beautiful locations in Wales but it’s home to one of the UK’s biggest reservoirs for one good reason. It rains a lot.

When we should have been spotting birds of prey, otters and badgers, we were skulking around in full waterproof attire before finally abandoning the trip and retreating to the camper van.

Bad weather rating: ****

Lake Vrynwy

Lake Vyrnwy – wet, wet, wet

Tammy’s indoor alternatives: Tricky to find alternatives as this is a wilderness area. But you could take a trip on the Blaenau Ffestiniog railway to see the mountains of Snowdonia from the comfort of your passenger seat.

4. Glorious mud in East Anglia

Motorhome Show

Mud bath at the Peterborough Motorhome Show

April’s camper van trip to the east of England turned into one of the wettest in the history of the camper van.

East Anglia is renowned as England’s driest region. So how could it be so wet when experts had predicted a summer drought? I blame climate change which has resulted in erratic weather and wetter summers in the UK.

We survived the onslaught of nine days of torrential rain before throwing in our very wet towels and heading home a day early.

In the end, we were humiliated by the weather. The RV got stuck in the mud at the National Camper Van Show at Peterborough Show Ground and had to be towed out of the oozing mire by a kind man in a tractor.

Later, we found out that about 1,000 other vans had experienced the same fate.

Bad weather rating: ****

Tony at the Birmingham NEC indoor show

Tony at the Birmingham NEC indoor show

Tammy’s indoor alternative: The National Camping & Motorhome Show at Birmingham’s NEC is the biggest in the UK and boasts a huge range of vans and exhibits, all under cover, during its October event.

5. The rain in Spain

Girona before the storm

Girona before the storm

Spring time in Spain sounds like the perfect antidote to the chilly British spring weather.

But don’t be fooled by images of sunny beaches, charming cafes and verdant Catalonian landscapes.

After a trip to Barcelona, we headed north to Girona but it wasn’t long before we hit torrential rain which swept through the historic town.

Even the cathedral closed its doors during the deluge as water cascaded down its 90 steps like a river bursting its banks.

Bad weather rating: ****

Tammy’s indoor alternative: We drove to nearby Figueres with its fantastic Salvador Dali Museum with a surreal collection of the artists’ works and artefacts.

6. Scottish weather and midgies


Scotland – watch out for midgies

Scotland is renowned for its dodgy weather. You can experience every season in a single day but June is the month for something even nastier – the dreaded midgie. They may be tiny but they have a big bite.

The Highland midge is apparently the most bloodthirsty type and is responsible for most bites to humans.

Experts reckon that a swarm of midges can inflict around 3,000 bites in an hour.

A couple of years ago at a camp site near beautiful Gairloch beach on the west coast of Scotland we were forced inside by thousands of the tiny intruders, only to find they’d squeezed through gaps to invade the motor home too!

Bad weather rating: ***

Tammy’s alternative tips: Try to avoid midgie season which runs between June-July. Alternatively, check out the Scottish Midge Forecast website. Still and dull days can be worst for these little beasties. Midgies gravitate to woodlands and water so wear a strong anti-midge repellant if you’re staying on a camp site or walking in the wilds.

7. Tropical storms in Florida

Lightning storm at Disney World

Lightning storm at Disney World

Florida has a reputation for stormy weather during the summer hurricane season.

Even in early October you can catch the back end of the storms which is what happened when I arrived in Orlando in 1993.

Wading through Disneyland with solid, sheets of rain and fork lightning was quite an experience.

It was also pretty insane being caught in the middle of another tropical storm at the Cypress Gardens, without a kagool.

Bad weather rating: *****

Tammy’s indoor alternatives: Avoid Florida’s August and September hurricane season. If the weather gets tough, head for cover at one of the Sunshine State’s many theme parks. Don’t forget to pack a mackintosh!

8. Snow joke in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has a climate not dissimilar to the UK – which means it’s unpredictable even in the spring.

Twenty years ago I experienced my roughest boat trip ever travelling to Amsterdam from Harwich. One of my friends, who was a volunteer lifeboat man in his spare time, said he’d never seen a spring storm like it.

After recovering from wobbly legs for three days, the weather in Amsterdam turned fantastically cold and the rest of the trip was spent huddled by a log fire as heavy snow piled up on the city’s streets.

Bad weather rating: ****


Amsterdam – calm before the snow storm

Tammy’s indoor alternatives: Numerous art galleries and museums provide a good escape from poor weather including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum,  Modern Art Gallery and Anne Frank’s House.  And there’s always the bars and coffee shops to ease the weather pain!

9. Edinburgh’s rain

Every time I visit Edinburgh, I’m doomed to experience wet or cold weather. My worst weather experience was a wintery week in August during the Edinburgh Festival in the 1980s.


Edinburgh – Tammy shelters from the storm at Rainy Hall!

There were also two days of torrential rain at this year’s festival which came close to the 1981 trip for the sheer volume of rain.

Here’s Tammy sheltering outside the aptly named Rainy Hall in her inappropriate summer frock.

Bad weather rating: ***

Elephant House cafe

Edinburgh’s Elephant House – indoors with Harry Potter

Tammy’s indoor alternatives: At least, Edinburgh is blessed with museums and art galleries including the National Gallery of Scotland on The Mound.

There’s also the Elephant House coffee shop where J.K. Rowling started writing her Harry Potter books. Why not take in the atmosphere and be inspired to write your first novel whilst supping a cappucino.

During the Edinburgh Festival, stay at one indoor venue with multiple spaces like The Pleasance, The Gilded Balloon or the Assembly Rooms.

These venues also have food and drink at hand so you will never have to leave the building all day!

10. The Gisland deluge

Finally… here’s some images of a family trip to Gilsand in Cumbria when we went on a genealogy excursion to track down an ancestor.

This is family member Joseph who is pictured wearing his Sunday best, standing on a bridge in the gardens of an old mansion where he was attending a miners’ annual convention.

We wanted to recreate this photograph taken in 1908 over 100 years ago… but the British weather had other ideas.

Bad weather rating: ****

Joseph Watson on the bridge at Gilsland

Joseph Watson on the bridge at Gilsland

When we arrived at the gardens, the river was about to break its banks and the paths down to the bridge had turned into a mud bath.

My father-in-law fell in a huge slurry of mud as he slipped on the way down to the bridge. Unfortunately, he was wearing a beige suit and cream shoes, and resembled the ‘mud man’ after his accident.

My partner Tony took on the brave challenge of recreating the original scene as the deluge threatened to engulf us.

Luckily, we saw the funny side of the British weather but only after a few beers in the local pub and a hot bath back at home.

Tony on the bridge after the 'mud man' incident

Tony on the bridge after the ‘mud man’ incident

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