TREPIDATION. A knot in the stomach. Sweaty palms. I'm envisaging four days touring the Highlands on the North Coast 500 in a six-berth campervan. I'm reliably informed it will be an instant salve to my hectic lifestyle yet I'm feeling more than a tad nervous about it all.

Why? Well, first there's the horror stories of single-track roads, irate farmers and complicated reversing manoeuvres that go on for miles. Then there's the thought of backing a 23-foot long van into a tight space with a £1500 excess hanging over my credit card. That's just for starters. There's a manual, too. One that resembles pre-prep for a NASA space launch. We may have recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 but all I can think of is Apollo 13 and other ill-fated long-distance expeditions.

Yet more of us are choosing to tour each year, 6.5 per cent up on 2018 according to statistics from Visit Scotland. Is everyone mad?

A quick tour of the inside and outside of the van does nothing to calm my early fears. Gas cannister, off? Check. Locker doors safely latched? Check. Central heating unit powered down? Check. Hatches closed? Check. Chemical toilet cassette shut? Check.

There are four in our party: Wife Helen, our nine-year-old James, and Finn who's four. Our list of potential destinations is voluminous. We contemplate Applecross to Ullapool via the notorious Bealach Na Ba. There are brief shouts for Durness and John O'Groats in the far north, Garve, too and Plockton in the west. In the end we opt for Gairloch and, with the kids clamouring for a day at forest adventure park Landmark in Carrbridge, we settle on neighbouring Grantown-on-Spey for the return.

The Zefiro springs into life and handles the side streets of Inverness with an ease I was not expecting. A quick hop over the Kessock Bridge and we're on our way.

By dusk we have crossed most of the A832 bound for Gairloch. Behind us we've left the impossibly gorgeous Glen Douglas with its shortbread tin views of Loch Maree – and Kinlochewe where turning corners is like turning pages in a glossy Visit Scotland brochure. My previous concerns are melting away. There's not an irate farmer in sight and the road only gives way to a single track for the last few miles of our journey. We pass just one car, with minimum fuss.

It's a dusky summer's evening by the time we arrive at The Sands campsite on Big Sand just around the coast from Gairloch. The sun is hovering above the Atlantic casting shadows from Longa Island to our right and Skye to our left. We circle the pitches looking for a suitable spot. The best ones are all taken but our pitch provides us with fresh water and electricity point if not a view of the outlying ocean. Our gas oven takes care of dinner – a pizza which the midges enjoy, too. There's so much to do on the site that the minor inconvenience of a pitch behind a campervan that would shame a Spinal Tap road trip fails to dampen spirits. In any case, we're heading out to explore so I stick up the blackout screens provided as Helen washes up. It is quickly becoming clear that this is the secret to successful campervan holidaying: a little forward planning, developing a system, employing teamwork and a dollop of patience.

It's the start of the school holidays and families are just polishing off barbecues or applying the finishing touches to tents. We head for the playpark where Finn quickly familiarises himself with the sandpit and James seeks out the nearby football pitch. A group of lads and dads from the Black Isle invite us to join in their game and we play until it’s no longer possible to see the ball.

After five and a half hours of driving sleep comes easily; it's uninterrupted, too, and well after 8am when we start to surface.

Once up, we spy a better pitch behind a sand dune with a great big sward of grass for the kids to play on. It's a mad dash to get there first. There's a checklist malfunction, though, when we take off with our water tank still open and have to fill up again. It is a learning curve but ticking the boxes is becoming second nature. This informs us just how quickly everyday life is lived. There is so rarely time for reflection or digestion of information; it's a reminder that it's not just the body that requires readjusting in the relative wild but the mind, too. We head to Big Sand soon after and spend the afternoon munching on snacks, scavenging the beach and cooling our feet in rock pools. It's a very pleasant 27 degrees. Reports from back home tell us that a Biblical-style downpour has burst the guttering outside our local shopping centre.

The van is stifling on our return but the beauty of this kind of holiday is straddling the line between modern comforts and nature. A motorhome is essentially a high-end tent with added bells and whistles such as a hot shower, ultra-comfy beds and seats and the convenience of a toilet. We fling open the doors and sit outside for dinner then play board games until it's time for bed. We are, after all, outside of wifi range.

The following day we begin the home turn. We are bound for Contin via a detour to Rogie Falls where we really start to appreciate the flexibility the van brings to day trips in remote corners. We park up, the kids go to the toilet and we make an easy lunch of chicken sandwiches. We've become more adventurous, too. We decide to cross the Black Isle to Chanonry Point in search of dolphins. In part, we are buoyed by the knowledge that we can always park up in a layby for the night should the mood take us.

As it happens we push south into the Cairngorms, and while the van ambles uphill at times I manage to reach 71mph on the descent. It's certainly no slouch on open roads although the driving becomes a bit more conservative on the A road into Grantown-on-Spey as the lanes narrow and the bends return.

Our campsite is more sedate than that at Gairloch and the handbook warns that kids who scream in the playpark are at risk of ejection. Fortunately, we are bound for Landmark the next morning where screaming is very much allowed. James has a near endless desire for rides on the runaway train while Finn gets the heebeegeebees on the water slide and refuses to countenance further shots on anything that looks as if it might move too fast.

That night, as we reflect on our trip, I ask the boys for a rating out of 10. James gives it a 10, while Finn says 1000. Helen and I? We opt for a solid nine. Next time we'll not pack as if we were emigrating to Australia; next time we'll go further and see more. And next time, I definitely won't panic.