North Coast 500
Katie and Frazer, two members of the Rockin Vans team took off in the 694 motorhome to take on the NC500. More than 500 miles of the best that the North Highlands has to offer. We decided to go from East to West (anticlockwise) we knew that the West Coast was the most impressive and wanted to save this for last.
Day 1 – Glasgow to John o’ Groats
Although the NC500 doesn’t start until you hit Inverness definitely try and enjoy this part of the journey. We suggest stopping at either Dunkeld or Pitlochry. Both have stunning scenery and lovely little cafes and shops. Perfect to stretch your legs.
Dunkeld in a motorhome
Another great pit stop for if you’re feeling flush is the House of Braur. Think Barbour jackets and lots of tweed. They also have a great food hall, if you want to stock up before you hit the highlands. Don’t panic about parking, they have a huge carpark perfect for the larger motorhomes.
The NC500 officially starts in Inverness. However we don’t recommend heading into the city itself, it isn’t very motorhome friendly and doesn’t have a great deal to offer. We suggest stopping at the tourist office you will pass on the A9. They will have the official NC500 map, pretty handy when you loose mobile signal further North. There are plenty of supermarkets here however don’t fret too much, the East Coast has a few big towns for you to stock up.
There are several distilleries on offer on this stretch of the A9. We recommend Glenmorangie, the setting is beautiful and the whisky is event better. Overlooking the shores of Moray Firth and amongst the ruins of a 17th century house.
John O’ Groats
This Highland town is in a pretty extreme location, combining dramatic scenery and amazing wildlife. Also a fantastic opportunity to see what life looks like in the Highlands.
Once you have taken the obligatory photo with the signs, jump back in your motorhome and follow the signs to the Look Out Point. From there you will be able to see the Stacks of Duncansby.
Dunnett Head is the most northerly place in mainland UK. By this time is was getting dark. As it was out of season we found a tiny port to wild camp. However from mid March the Caravan Club Site is open which I would recommend. It looks over the sandy beaches of Dunnett.
Day 2 – Thurso East
After waking up at Dunnett Head we wanted to do some winter surfing to blow the cobwebs out. Come off the main road just before Thurso and head down a dirt track, which looks like it is taking you to a farm. Park up and even if you don’t fancy taking a bit watching the surfers is great. Thurso has some of the best surfing in the world. Even in the snow there was 6 people in the water. Not for amateurs though, the water is shallow and there are lots of hidden rocks. Another good spot for surfing is Betty Hill, about half way between Thurso and Durness.
We then hit the road again. The scenery becomes more fantastic and it starts feeling even more isolated. There are a few good pit stops on this road however we stopped at Weavers Café and Gift Shop. Great food and the couple who run the café were very welcoming. The view from this wooden frame café was breathtaking and the car park is huge so no worries in the motorhome!
The causeway coming out of Tounge towards Durness is beautiful. This is one of a couple of long bridges and causeways you venture over on the trip. Take it slow and enjoy the view.
Another viewpoint to stop at is Loch Eriboll. The sign reads ‘Where the grass is actually greener,’ this is because two continents collided here. One side of the Loch was once connected to America and the other Europe. Loch Eriboll also has a fascinating part to play in World War II.
A must see. This amazing cave system has a fantastic waterfall chamber. During the summer months you can take part in a cave tour for £4. Well worth a visit! It is right on the NC500 route
We recommend visiting the Kylesku Restaurant and bar. Great food overlooking an amazing harbor. As you leave Kylesku get ready for one of the best views of the NC500. The road then becomes a bit of a ‘Top Gear Road’ lots of twists and turns but the views are amazing.
A beautiful ruin on the side of a loch. Pull up here in the abundance of car parks and go for a walk. You can climb it and go explore the waterfalls in the area. Deer are also abundant, keep an eye out for herds!
As you drive into Ullapool you will see this little town from above. Although small it will be the largest bit of civilisation you have seen for some time! Especially if you are doing the route anti clockwise. Good place to stock up on essentials and fuel. Also has an art gallery and is a lovely little town to have a wonder around. Grab some fish and chips from award winning ‘The Chippy,’ head to the port and watch the boats come in and out. In season there is a campsite right in the center of the town. The Ceilidh Place is just opposite and offers live Scottish music every night of the week.
We recommend heading to Port a Bhaigh Campsite. It is 45 minutes outside of Ullapool but is open all year round and has a small pub within walking distance both owned and run by a very welcoming lady named Katrina. The views are fantastic and the seafood was fantastic and fresh! Dogs are allowed in the campsite but not in the pub. The facilities were very new and clean, with great warm showers! All made even
Day 3 – Gairloch
From Ullapool we head to Gairloch. This road has amazing views of mountain ranges and many waterfalls. Stop at Victoria Falls, there is a large car park for the motorhome and a short walk up to the top of the waterfall. The view is just as beautiful with snow-topped mountains all around.
Shieldaig to Applecross is a beautiful route. Right at the top of Loch Torridon the drive takes you the full way around the Loch. The drive from Shieldaig to Fearnmore could be challenging in the larger motorhomes, but is also beautiful.
A must visit on this trip is the famous Applecross Inn. This charming Inn doesn’t have a menu, they write what has been caught that day on huge blackboards. Meaning their meals are fantastically fresh and tasty. Dogs are welcome inside the pub. Log fire for the winter and seating outside for the summer. However in high season there is often a bit of a wait to get a table.
When leaving Applecross you get a feeling just how remote this small town is. The Applecross Pass will take you out of the village, another fantastic ‘Top Gear’ style road. With hairpin bends and awesome views, take it slow and enjoy the view!
A relatively small town, although it does feel cosmopolitan after the last few hundred miles! This was the first place we found for sometime which sold gas. With two good-sized shops and friendly locals it is a great place to stock up for the evening.
When you leave Lochcarron the NC500 suggests you head East inland and head back towards Inverness. However we deciced to venture off the NC500 route and head South, meaning we would go through Loch Lomond on the way back to Glasgow. This evening we found a beautiful wild camping spot high above the small town of Stromferry looking north over Lochcarron.
Day 4 – Lochcarron to Glasgow
Our final day in the motorhome with only 4 hours left of driving to do to get back to the city. We decided to take it slow. Heading south there are several notable attractions on the way.
Eilean Donan Castle can only be described as quintessentially Scotland. A beautiful castle set on the shores of a Loch, they have a very interesting visitors center and cafe.
The carrich inn, glencoe. Boot bar accepts dogs. Coal fire. Red squirrel camp site. Allows campers in car park if eating dinner in the restaurant. Offerings of beer and live music. Beer garden. Amazing scenery.
A motorhome or campervan is the perfect way to explore the NC500
Our top tips for taking on the NC500 in a motorhome or campervan:
Take it slow – Try and take 4 or more days. It is alot of driving, so try and do it with 4 to 7 days.
Stop (lots) – It is easy to just drive past vistor attractions or look out points. Make a point of trying to stop at as many as possible.
Bring a good jacket – We had snow, rain, hail & glorious sunshine. Take lots of clothes to keep you toasty and dry.