“I had owned a yacht for 25 years, drawn to boating because of the complete freedom it gives you,” says motorhome convert Jonathan Blizard, 59. “On a boat you have your own facilities and you don’t have to check in and out of a hotel room, so travelling life becomes much easier.”
Having explored much of Europe’s sea and coast, Jonathan turned his attention inland and considered buying a villa or a holiday home. Then, recognising that he would need a vehicle wherever he settled, he opted for a motorhome instead, joining an exclusive group of around 60 British owners who have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on their vehicles.
“Campervanning and boating are quite similar because you are not tied to a particular place, so experience real freedom,” he points out. “With a boat, you cross the Channel or go further afield, getting to know ports but not necessarily countries. With a motorhome, you pop your vehicle on the ferry – and once on the Continent, everywhere is accessible. You have more freedom with a motorhome than you have with either a boat or a villa.”
Britain’s new motorhome market is now worth a staggering £1.15 billion, according to the National Caravan Council. Mat Herzberg, director of manufacturer Premium Motorhomes, saw the demand for luxury vehicles grow during the pandemic, a trend he attributes to having our freedoms curtailed. “It brought about the realisation of what people value,” he says. “For our customers it was the freedom to travel, to be independent and to experience a sense of wanderlust.
“For some it meant a shift from having a villa or a second home to buying their first mobile villa, in which they could spend a cosy winter in a snowy Finnish landscape and summer touring the Dalmatian coast, camping wild by a secluded beach.”
Blizard has seen a rise in the number of luxury motorhome owners, meeting many on the road this summer. After owning campervans for eight years, he finally took the plunge and bought a 30ft-long “middle level” Morelo motorhome, priced at £358,000. But the sky’s the limit on bespoke vehicles, which can cost more than £1 million, depending on how they are customised. The 40ft Morelo model, for example, has its own garage with enough space for a Porsche sports car.
Blizard’s vehicle has all the conveniences of a luxury flat on wheels: it is solar powered, has underfloor heating, air conditioning and a garage for storing electric bikes. It has a full bedroom (with a double bed and bathroom), a full kitchen (with a dishwasher, Nespresso coffee machine and washer-dryer), plus an additional pullout kitchen for outdoor cooking when the weather is fine.
Travelling with his partner and their labradoodle dog, he spends three months of the year at home in Devon, followed by three months in Europe. “In the winter, we tend to either ski or go to winter sun spots,” says Blizard, who has just returned from a long trip travelling around eastern Europe. “In the summer, we do much more touring, and move on every few days.”
Europe is set up for motorhoming in a way that Britain is not, Blizard says: “On the Continent, you don’t have to rely on campsites because they have stellplatz and aires [designated parking areas for motorhomes in Germany and France respectively]. “These tend to be in cities and villages in the countryside, and very close to amenities.”
By comparison, campsites in the UK “are frequently in fields [approached] down small lanes, and are often not within walking distance of facilities and attractions”. Though he points out that with a luxury motorhome, you don’t need campsite facilities because your vehicle is completely self-contained.
In the Italian Dolomites, the trio frequently visit a luxurious spa on a ski resort. “You get a pitch with your own sort of square and small tree house,” says Blizard. His favourite place to park up overnight, however, is Lauterbrunnen in Interlaken, Switzerland. “It’s just magical,” he says. “You drive past these beautiful Swiss houses overhanging the road and down a little lane, where there is a huge waterfall splashing down onto the road from the top of the mountain. You pull into the camping area and go skiing while surrounded by absolutely stunning mountains. Being out in the elements, and being able to ski from your own motorhome, is amazing.”
Once you have invested in your vehicle, all you need is the confidence to drive it and a sense of adventure. “Having the motorhome has brought us all kinds of new opportunities, from kayaking in the Ardèche to sleeping next to a waterfall,” says Blizard. “You are literally driving through different places every day and constantly stumbling upon new things. I highly recommend it as a way of life.”
Five luxury motorhome parks to try in Europe
Caravan Park Sexten, Italy
More like an all-mod-cons resort, this spectacular camping location is surrounded by the Dolomite mountains, with a babbling stream running through it, plus a wellness spa, numerous restaurants and even an on-site climbing hall.
Overnight stays from £34 (0039 0474 710444; caravanparksexten.it).
Sportcamp Woferlgut Bruck, Austria
This huge complex sits in a glorious setting near the Kitzbuhel Alps and has its own bathing lake, plus a library, and country skiing network.
Pitches from £35 (0043 0654 57303; sportcamp.at).
Gitzenweiler Hof Lindau, Germany
Not just a place to park, this site near Lake Constance has all the amenities you could think of, plus activities and excursions including yoga, horse riding, vineyard visits, bike tours, golf and more.
Pitches from £16 (0049 8382 94940; gitzenweiler-hof.de).
Camping Seiseralm, Italy
A wild swimmer’s dream location, it’s only 20 minutes from the Laghetto di Fiè bathing lake, in the Schlern Mountain Range, and the campground has its own salt water pool.
Overnight motorhome rates from £21 per night (0039 0471 706459; camping-seiseralm.com).
Camping Miralago, Switzerland
The “golden” pitches sit right on the sandy beach at Lake Maggiore, surrounded by palm trees and large lawns.
Golden pitches from £67 per night (0041 0917 451255; camping-miralago.ch).