This autumn, if you haven’t managed to book a last minute trip abroad, it’s certainly worth considering finally exploring arguably Scotland’s most spectacular road route: the North Coast 500.
Editorial events manager Sue Hall, 57 and her husband James jumped in their motorhome this summer and did just that, exploring the 513-mile stretch of the legendary Scottish tourist trail.
Here’s what she saw, and learned, along the way.
Before you get going, these are Sue’s ultimate tips for travelling the NC500 by motorhome…
- Do your research and plan your route and timings properly – you don’t want to miss anything. We looked at lots of YouTube videos, which really helped.
- Save the best views for the second half of the trip, though they are all superb, I’d definitely recommend travelling from east to west along the NC500.
- If you see a garage/shop ALWAYS fill up – you just never know where the next stop off will be!
- Make sure someone is with EE – O2 proved quite useless!
- Never turn your camera off, ever, because the second you do, you just know a seal will pop up.
- There are plenty of wild camping spots, but more traditional sites – where you can fill up with drinking water and deposit your waste – are worth looking at too.
- We took our electric bikes so we could park up at our next spot, settle in and be able to explore the area with ease.
- Pack for ALL weathers – this is Scotland after all.
- Accept that you won’t see everything, it’s impossible, but it does mean you can plan a return visit.
- Stop whenever you want – take your time!
- Stay more than one night in each place, it’ll make things feel less rushed.
- Midges! Be prepared, you are likely to get bitten if travelling during the warmer months.
- Respect other road users and never leave a footprint. Leave everything as you found it. I would say to treat the route as you would your own street – it’s too beautiful to treat in any other way.
- Some of the roads are narrow, but almost all are open and so you’ll have a great view from the motorhome, and when you get to a single track, there are loads of passing spaces, so even nervy drivers shouldn’t be too worried.
- Expect the unexpected! Always.
Here’s how Sue’s adventure went…
Sue started with two nights at the stunning Fortrose, Rosemarkie Beach where she’d booked two nights and stocked up on everything her motorhome needed for the next leg of the journey.
From a vantage point on the edge of the beach, they had views of a golf course and Chanonry Point to the right, and Cromarty towards the left. Chanonry Point is at the end of Chanonry Ness, a spit that extends into the Moray Firth between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle. Sue managed to see Bottlenose Dolphins from the beach, after having just been for a dip in the sea in her wetsuit.
From there, nearby Rogie Falls and the Falls of Shin called, before the colourful little port town, Invergordon, and a night spent at Brora Caravan Club Site. Sue says it’s a gorgeous walk across the golf course to the sea.
Next up came a drive to John O’Groats (you can’t miss it – the photo opp is basically mandatory), via Wick, and then the stunning Dunnet Bay, including a stay at Dunnet Bay Caravan Club Site and a lovely cycle to Dunnet Head Lighthouse, where hundreds of birds swooped and glided on the currents near their lighthouse home. The view isn’t bad either. At Durness there’s the award-winning Sango Sands to enjoy, whether you swim or paddleboard, and nearby Balnakeil Craft Village and Smoo Cave are worth exploring.
Sue continued with a stay at Lochinver and Clachtoll Beach for one night, followed by another at Ullapool, on the banks of Lochbroom, looking out to the Summer Islands and Hebrides, where you can watch the ferry going out to Stornoway. Go for fresh fish at the Seafood Shack, then sit on the harbour watching the boats and seals.
The trip finished with a night at Poolewe on Loch Ewe, and sightseeing stops at Loch Carron viewpoint, the Eilean Donan Castle and lovely Dornie. And finally, the historic settlement of Morvich. The perfect end to an incredible adventure.