Just hearing the words ‘North Coast 500’ brings up images of beautiful, unspoilt, quiet beaches and a dramatic rocky coast line. Most people in Scotland, even if they haven’t been there themselves will tell you of the routes unsurpassed beauty. It is indeed a world away from the everyday. So what’s it all about? What should you expect? Read on my friend for our top tips in planning a trip along our north western shoreline – the North Coast 500.
- This area is remote so planning is essential. Think about how long you have to complete the trip and where you are going to stay along the way. This is a double edged sword for the adventurous! While a road trip like this works best when you can be spontaneous and just see how far you get each day, the risk of not planning accomodation can leave you out in the cold! Your options are hotels/pubs, B&Bs, and camping. While the most popular time to travel is during the summer holidays as this is more likely to be the better weather, limited accomodation can mean planning and booking accomodation weeks and months in advance. Camping is the most flexible option especially if you have your own facilities such as those in a self contained camper.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Technically the main route most people take is about 500 miles which at the national speed limit would take under 10 hours, however the roads along much of the route are winding, single lane with overtaking places. This means your average speed is a lot slower. Not only is it more likely that you’ll be travelling at 30-40mph in some areas but you will also have to stop and give way to oncoming traffic along the single lane roads which takes time.
- Just like in other rural areas, livestock on the road is another consideration which can slow your progress along the route and must be factored in. The best advice here is to slow down and enjoy the ride! Try to avoid driving at night due to the higher prevalence of wild life. To get to our first nights accomodation we did some night time driving and saw many deer just by the edge of the road. There were also lots of birdlife (birds of prey) eating off the roadside. You need to be aware of and ready for sudden and unpredictable movement of the wildlife which can be startling to drivers not used to these conditions. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Be respectful of other drivers, especially the locals. Just as you’d get annoyed with someone driving slowly in front of you on the way to work – remember people live here too and while it’s important to drive safely, it’s always a good idea to pull over into the passing spaces provided so others can overtake you, that way you can go at your own pace and enjoy the views and others can go at theirs.
- Plan ahead with fuel. Make sure not to let your fuel run low as petrol stations are limited. It always pays to top up when you see a station, especially if you are doing side trips off the main route – all those extra miles add up.
- Plan ahead with food especially if you have special requirements. Depending on the time of year you do your trip, many businesses may be closed during the off season. There was pretty much always some pub food to be had although some places were only serving a reduced bar menu when we did our trip in November. Stock up in the Co-ops supermarkets for snacks and lunches as you never know where you might be inspired to stop for an impromptu picnic.
- Help the local economy by buying locally. There are a number of small businesses and local artists whom really appreciate the passing trade over the peak summer months.
- Take insect repellant, especially in the summer months!
- Take only photos and leave only footprints. Clean up after yourself and help keep this beautiful region to enjoy for many generations to come.
- And lastly – remember to factor in time to paddle!
I hope you enjoyed our Top Tips to the North Coast 500 and love travelling to this beautiful part of the country as much as we did but be warned – one trip is never enough!
‘Skin So Soft’ the first thing all my Scottish friends advise to use against the dreaded ‘MIDGE’ click the image to find out more or to purchase.