How to make the most of the NC500

Exploring the NC500 in a Motorhome: Tips for an Unforgettable Journey

The North Coast 500 (NC500) is Scotland's answer to Route 66, offering 516 miles of stunning coastal scenery, historic sites, and quaint villages. Traveling the NC500 in a motorhome provides the ultimate freedom to explore at your own pace while enjoying the comforts of home on wheels. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your NC500 adventure in a motorhome.

1. Plan Your Route and Stops

Route Planning: While the NC500 officially starts and ends in Inverness, the beauty of traveling in a motorhome is the flexibility to start wherever you like. Plan your route in advance, but allow for spontaneous detours to explore hidden gems.

Key Stops: Must-see stops include:

  • Bealach na Bà: This winding, mountainous road offers breathtaking views.
  • Applecross Peninsula: A remote area with stunning landscapes and a famous inn for a hearty meal.
  • Ullapool: A picturesque fishing village with lovely walks and fresh seafood.
  • Durness: Home to Smoo Cave, beautiful beaches, and stunning cliffs.
  • John O'Groats: The northeastern tip of mainland Britain, famous for its signpost.
  • Dunrobin Castle: A fairy-tale castle with beautiful gardens and a falconry display.

2. Booking Campsites

Plan Ahead: The popularity of the NC500 means campsites can fill up quickly, especially in peak season (June to August). Book your campsites in advance to ensure you have a place to park each night.

Wild Camping: Scotland allows wild camping, but be respectful of the environment and local communities. Follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which includes guidelines on where you can and cannot camp, and always leave no trace.

3. Navigating the Roads

Road Conditions: The NC500 includes single-track roads, sharp bends, and steep climbs. Drive carefully, use passing places to let faster traffic pass, and take your time to enjoy the scenery.

Motorhome Size: Be mindful of the size of your motorhome. Larger vehicles may have difficulty navigating some of the narrower sections. Consider renting a smaller motorhome or campervan if possible.

4. Fuel and Supplies

Fuel Stops: Fuel stations can be sparse in remote areas, so fill up whenever you have the chance. Carry a spare fuel canister for emergencies.

Groceries: Stock up on groceries in larger towns like Inverness, Ullapool, and Thurso. Local shops in smaller villages can be more expensive and have limited selections.

5. Exploring Local Culture

Local Cuisine: Try local specialties such as fresh seafood, haggis, and Scottish tablet. Visit local pubs and restaurants to enjoy traditional Scottish hospitality.

Meet the Locals: Engage with locals to learn more about the area’s history and culture. Highland hospitality is warm and welcoming, and locals can often provide great tips on places to visit.

Historic Sites: The NC500 is rich in history. Explore ancient castles, historic battlefields, and stone circles. Many sites have informational plaques or guided tours available.

6. Outdoor Activities

Hiking: The NC500 offers some fantastic hiking opportunities. Don’t miss trails such as the Sandwood Bay walk, the Stac Pollaidh hike, and the coastal walk to Smoo Cave.

Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for Scotland’s wildlife, including red deer, otters, seals, and a variety of bird species. Visit nature reserves like Handa Island for a chance to see puffins and other seabirds.

Water Activities: Enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, or even surfing along the coast. There are several rental spots and guided tours available in places like Ullapool and Durness.

7. Weather Preparedness

Variable Weather: Scotland’s weather can be unpredictable. Pack layers, waterproof clothing, and sturdy footwear to stay comfortable in all conditions.

Weather Updates: Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary. Some roads, particularly Bealach na Bà, can be challenging in adverse weather.

8. Sustainable Travel

Respect Nature: Follow Leave No Trace principles to protect the stunning landscapes. Dispose of waste properly, minimize campfire impacts, and respect wildlife.

Local Businesses: Support local businesses by purchasing local products, dining in local restaurants, and using local services. This helps sustain the communities along the NC500.

9. Capture the Memories

Photography: The NC500 is a photographer’s dream. Bring a good camera or use your smartphone to capture the stunning scenery, historic sites, and special moments.

Travel Journal: Keep a travel journal to document your experiences, thoughts, and feelings throughout the journey. This will be a treasured keepsake of your adventure.

Traveling the NC500 in a motorhome is a fantastic way to explore Scotland’s wild and beautiful north coast. With careful planning and a spirit of adventure, you can enjoy a memorable and fulfilling journey. Happy travels!