Nick’s News – Trouble on the NC500, on-site rounders and the Benivan 120

Nick HardingNick’s News – Nick Harding is an expert in all things motorhomes, caravans and camping. Each week, Nick explores products, locations, holiday ideas and essential community information on our behalf – It’s a Hard-ing Life for Nick, but here is what he found this week.

My week

Week three of our Grand Tour and we’ve made the crossing over to Northern Ireland. We’re pitched up at the Camping and Caravanning Club’s site at Delamont Country Park. Like last week in Scotland, it’s all rather quiet over here.

We arrived to a pretty full site on the Sunday evening, but by Tuesday I’d say around half the pitches are empty. It wasn’t us, honest! OK, Monday was a Bank Holiday, which as ever, I forgot, but our trips out so far – especially driving around the wonderfully atmospheric Strangford Lough, including the five-minute Portaferry-Strangford crossing – have been largely pretty quiet.

Call me lucky, but in pretty much all of our Wales, Scotland and now Northern Ireland travels we’re yet to encounter the hordes of fellow tourists we were secretly expecting.

In the news

North Coast 500 – stirring up a s***storm?

Gosh, this is tricky. The North Coast 500 (NC500) – the 516-mile route through the most spectacular scenery around the very top of Scotland – is suffering. And it’s motorhomers and campervan users who are in the wrong. Quite simply, it’s proving too popular and too many travellers are leaving behind a mess.

As one local told me: “It’s not even a small minority. We have public toilets here but there are plenty of stories of people defecating behind walls and leaving their rubbish everywhere. Why can’t they just take it with them?”

I must admit, we did a bit of the NC500 ourselves last week, around the particularly picturesque Applecross area and heading on up to the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Kinlochewe site before heading back south. There were definitely more VW-based campervans using the road than I’ve ever seen on any other road journey I’ve taken.

There are campsites along and near the route, but there are also spots where folk prefer to wild camp and I fully understand the attraction of such things, in the right circumstances. But the freedom to explore such areas does come with responsibilities.

Batting for England? Club hits first base with rounders pitch

No ball games here? I love the fact that the Camping and Caravanning Club has announced a tie-up with governing body Rounders England. Anything that encourages folk to get out and enjoy any sporting activities can only be a good thing, surely?

Both organisations are encouraging us to “pack a bat”. As ever, you’ll need to ensure you’re not going to upset any of your camping neighbours if there’s a ball involved, but any campsites that ban ball games outright should be able to point you towards some space nearby where you can go and enjoy yourselves.

As for rounders, apart from a few very informal games, I last played it at primary school. I’d happily give it another go though.

Motorhome for me?Cooking equipment in the Benivan 120

Benivan 120 – a superior Spanish conversion rate

It’s not hard to see why van conversions are so popular at the moment when you look closely at examples like this, the Benivan 120 from Spanish manufacturer Benimar.

Fiat’s Ducato is still by far the base vehicle of preference for vans of this ilk. In its six-metre-long guise, it manages exactly the right blend of interior space versus overall dimensions that aren’t too intimidating. I feel the Ducato shows its age in places, but it’s still well ahead of all others where it matters most – in the sales charts.

Possibly the biggest downside is it’s only a two-berth – featuring a much favoured two-settee rear lounge with kitchen and washroom mid-van. Note the sliding door is UK nearside. But I think that actually works in favour of the 120 as well as its rivals, of which there are more than a few. Converting the seating to a transverse double bed is pretty straightforward and there are all the facilities on board for full self-sufficiency.

Where the Benivan really scores is its overall specification, everything from the 160bhp engine to solar panel, gas tank, TV aerial and grill/oven are standard. Importer Marquis Leisure hasn’t just gone to town with the standard kit list, it’s also kept the price very sharp. In the world of Fiat-based van conversions, you could pay a lot more and get a lot less.

Three good: Competitive price, generous specification and popular two-person floorplan
Two bad: Small washroom and high-cost auto option
Perfect for: Full facilities in a six-metre-long package
Also consider: Auto-Trail Expedition 67, Elddis Autoquest CV20, Roller Team Toleno L, Swift Select 122

Gadget envy?

What’s new for 2022? Dometic and Lippert out of the blocks

With the 2022 season getting ever closer, it’s interesting to hear news of what some of our key leisure vehicle equipment suppliers are bringing to us.

Dometic has unveiled new window blind fittings for Fiat Ducato cabs, as well as a roof top tent for cars.
There’s also the CH Combo space heater/hot water boiler, which can be teamed up with one of its air conditioner models, plus a number of kitchen appliances from new hob tops in a choice of steel or glass to new sink designs.

It’s also giving us a glimpse of the future, with pipeline concepts such as a fridge camera – you can see what’s inside without opening the door – and motor-operated window coverings that can also be opened or closed remotely.

Lippert is another major European component supplier that has announced a raft of new products for the season ahead. It’s certainly wasted no time with Schaudt, the electrics company it took over earlier this year, revealing a new leisure battery booster, the WA 12545, a switch mode-up/step-down converter that compensates for the fluctuating alternator voltage and provides a high charging current.

Watch out also for another Lippert brand, Polyplastic, and its latest Piuma range of windows with integrated blinds. Another new addition is the Lippert R-Bike carrier designed for conversions using Mercedes’ Sprinter, Volkswagen’s Crafter or Ford’s Transit.

The Skia is an all-new blind system for Fiat Ducato cabs, while the Vela is an addition to Lippert’s range of elevating roofs for campervan conversions. I’m not sure if the future’s looking bright, but it’s certainly looking a lot easier.