A unique family adventure on four wheels that’ll be very hard to beat
We have stayed in all sorts of places, cheep and cheerful, eye-wateringly expensive, from fancy hotels to yurts under the stars, but I’ve never stayed in a motorhome.
And you know what, it might just be one of the best ways to travel for a family.
There is something uniquely adventurous about being holed up together in close proximity in a self-catering apartment on wheels, capable of nought to 60 in a few seconds, ready to go wherever the heart desires.
We - two adults, a stroppy 13-year-old and a toddler - collected our Swift Rio 340 motorhome on a damp Friday afternoon from Beechwood Grange caravan site on the outskirts of York, where we’d be staying for the weekend.
A couple of folks from Swift were on hand to give us a run through of how everything worked.
Distracted by an energetic two-year-old, I was quickly lost in talk of 130bhp turbo diesels, GRP tailgates, combi four heating systems, leisure batteries and waste tanks.
Look, I don’t even know how to work the boiler in my own house, so I wasn’t holding out much hope of operating this thing.
As our hosts left us to it, I suddenly became consumed with fear: will we be able to work it, will it be like driving the number 27 bus, will we go stir crazy in such a small space, will we get any sleep?
My concerns proved totally unfounded.
The children loved the motorhome. They are magical playhouses on wheels with buttons and knobs all over the place; this one even had a special electronically operated drop down bed. Our children had a blast dropping it up and down, in much the way a kid might play endlessly with an empty box on Christmas morning while their new toys lay neglected in a corner.
Driving, too, was much easier than expected. Despite being a compact model, compared to my tiny car it looked as long as a canal boat and as wide and high as a fire engine. But it was surprisingly smooth to drive, even around the narrow streets of medieval York.
Inside, too, the thing was a revelation. It’s amazing how much can be crammed into such a relatively small place. Into the Rio, Swift have fitted a smart four seater living room, a kitchen with a proper oven, sink and domestic sized fridge and a loo complete with a shower. When converted for sleeping, there are two generous double beds and it comes with lots of luxurious touches, like LED down lights and granite effect worktops.
Far from being claustrophobic, our four birth motorhome was like a well-designed, comfortable studio flat on wheels.
There is a certain amount of business to do to set up. You have to fill the water tank, level the van, find the electricity points and plug in the extensions, switch on the gas, check levels, and so on. But if I can get my head around it, it shouldn’t give too many people any bother.
We spent two nights in the motorhome, both at the handsome Beechwood Grange caravan park. Unfortunately the wet weather and short stay meant we didn’t get much chance to explore the 112-pitch site, which is set in open countryside just outside York, but the facilities were perfectly nice and clean.
During our short stay we did manage a few jaunts around the area and into York to soak up the local history doted about the higgledy-piggledy medieval streets.
The highlight of the trip, for the kids at least, was a visit to the interactive Chocolate Story attraction celebrating York’s history as the confectionary capital of the country, which gave them a chance to create their very own chocolate bars to take home.
By the end of the weekend, I couldn’t help but wish we had more time to get the best out of the motorhome, to spread our wings a bit. That’s the beauty of these things; that you’re not locked to one place.
From Beechwood Grange alone, we were just around the corner from Rievaulx Abbey, Ryedale’s market towns, the famous Yorkshire Moors and the beauty of historic Bronte country. Travelling a little further afield we could have checked out Scarborough or headed to Malton, known as Yorkshire’s food capital.
You’d be hard pushed to find a better and more versatile way to discover this amazing country. We’ll certainly be giving it a go again, next time when we have a bit more time and better weather.