Planning to drive the North Coast 500 (NC500) in Scotland with a motorhome or campervan? Wish to know the route, highlights and locations to see alongside the way in which, campsites, wild tenting and suggestions? Right here’s all the pieces you must plan your North Coast 500 motorhome or campervan highway journey.
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North Coast 500 Motorhome Journey
The North Coast 500 is a round driving route in Scotland, created by the Scottish Vacationer Board to encourage folks to go to elements of the nation that are off the crushed observe.
It was created a number of years in the past, and is now referred to as one of many most scenic drives in Scotland, encompassing breathtaking seashores, rugged and wild panorama and a few unimaginable views.
How lengthy does it take to drive the NC500 in a motorhome?
The route is 516 miles lengthy (therefore the title!), though there’s nothing to cease you veering off and exploring further locations and points of interest alongside the way in which, such because the Isle of Skye or perhaps a journey to Orkney.
Bear in mind, though it’s ‘solely’ 500 miles, you may be driving totally on small, windy nation lanes and due to this fact won’t be going quick, particularly in a motorhome.
At finest, you possibly can count on to do 30mph on many sections- and that’s assuming there is no such thing as a farm site visitors or wildlife within the highway.
There are additionally PLENTY of highlights and locations to see alongside the NC500 route, so you’ll in all probability be stopping commonly, both for hikes, images or picnics.
Taking all this into consideration, we suggest permitting a minimum of per week to drive the North Coast 500 in a motorhome, campervan or perhaps a automobile. That is the 7-10 day itinerary and North Coast 500 route planner we used.
It’s attainable to do it in much less, however you’ll miss so much. Conversely, some folks enable two and even three weeks to discover the route and all it has to supply.
One of many big benefits of driving the North Coast 500 with a motorhome is that you’ve got your house with you, which means you don’t must rush fairly a lot to make a sure city the place you’ve booked a resort reservation.
We’ll discuss wild tenting with a motorhome alongside the NC500 shortly, but when you will e book campsites upfront (important in summer time), then you should definitely enable loads of time to get there.
Is the NC500 appropriate for motorhomes or campervans?
So, with all these small lanes, can you actually drive the North Coast 500 in a motorhome?
Completely… with situations.
Firstly, count on to should reverse your automobile ceaselessly, particularly on the sections that are single lane with solely passing factors to let site visitors from the wrong way cross.
You will have to have the ability to reverse your automobile alongside a slim lane each in a straight line and round tight corners, till you attain the earlier passing level.
In case you are unable or unwilling to do that, a North Coast 500 motorhome tour won’t be best for you. (Don’t fear, there are many different locations to go to on a UK motorhoming vacation.)
READ MORE: The BEST NC500 campsites for motorhomes and campervans
Driving Bealach Na Ba/ Applecross Highway with a motorhome
That is the highway between Ardarroch and Applecross- both referred to as Bealach Na Ba or the Applecross Move. It’s one of many steepest roads within the UK and has an indication initially warning learner drivers and drivers of huge automobiles to go round.
Right here’s the deal on if you happen to ought to drive Bealach Na Ba with a motorhome or not:
- When you have a motorhome longer than 8m, go round.
- In case you are towing a trailer/ have a caravan, go round
- In case you are a brand new driver/ hiring a automobile which you’re not used to/ are a nervous driver (no disgrace), go round.
- When you have nervous passengers, go round (it’s not price scaring somebody only for a reasonably view)
- In case you are driving by yourself, assume very fastidiously earlier than driving it. Lots of the hairpins are simpler you probably have a spotter to search for oncoming site visitors.
- If the climate is dangerous/ heavy rain/ snow/ thick fog- go round. You received’t see any of the views anyway.
Having mentioned all of the above, I drove Bealach na Ba in my motorhome, by myself, in thick fog. And it was fricking epic! 🙂
When you have accomplished any driving in large mountains with a motorhome, just like the Vrsic Move in Slovenia or up within the Alps, and are assured with hairpin bends, reversing, letting site visitors cross and coping with different highway customers, you may be completely high quality.
The views are SPECTACULAR and nicely well worth the effort. I might strongly suggest staying close by and driving this highway as early as you can- first gentle is ideal.
Get there earlier than the vacationer buses and idiots who don’t perceive how a big automobile wants swinging room with the intention to go round corners.
Simply keep in mind, native lorries use this highway every day with none issue- it’s the vacationers who usually trigger the issue.
Nonetheless, if you happen to’re undecided, the choice route may be very scenic too, so both method works.
B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku
One other highway which might trigger points is the B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku. In case you are heading to that peninsula, take the A837 again East after which keep on the A894 and you may be high quality.
Highlights of a North Coast 500 motorhome journey
A number of the finest locations to see on the NC500 motorhome route embody:
- Smoo Cave
- Clashnessie Falls- this was magic!
- Inverness- essentially the most northerly metropolis within the UK
- Corrieshalloch Gorge
- Bealach Na Ba- the UK’s steepest highway.
- Clachtoll Seashore
- Kylesku Bridge
- John o’Groats
- Dunrobin Citadel
- Brora Seashore
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North Coast 500 Route Planner
The NC500 is round, which suggests you possibly can be a part of and depart the route wherever you want. There’s additionally nothing to cease you solely driving a small part of it- like we included in our 10-day Scotland highway journey itinerary.
Historically, the route begins and ends in Inverness, on the citadel. From right here, you possibly can select whether or not you go across the route clockwise or anticlockwise. The most well-liked route is clockwise, but it surely actually doesn’t make a lot distinction.
The route is pretty nicely signposted, and far of it’s alongside quiet and distant lanes, so there’s not an excessive amount of likelihood of getting misplaced (nonetheless, you possibly can all the time put the route into your motorhome sat nav, simply in case!)
North Coast 500 Route Map
North Coast 500 motorhome Itinerary
To present you an concept, right here’s a tough itinerary for driving the North Coast 500 with a motorhome or camper (or perhaps a caravan!)
Day One- Inverness to Ardarroch
Distance: 68 miles
Estimated Time: 1h half-hour driving
Campsite Suggestion: The Wee Campsite– small however with nice views of the loch.
When you have time, head east from Inverness to go to the historic Culloden Moor and study extra in regards to the clans, the battle and the historical past of the realm. It’s extremely shifting and nicely price a go to earlier than you head off into the Highlands.
It’s additionally price a go to to Eilean Donan citadel, and if you happen to can, do a detour to the Isle of Skye for a day or two.
Day Two- Ardarroch to Applecross/ Sands
If you wish to drive Bealach Na Ba, rise up early. If not, go round.
Distance: 76 miles in total- 12 miles over the cross, then one other 17 miles to the Applecross Smokehouse, and 47 miles to Gairloch
Estimated Time: 2h 45 minutes if you happen to don’t cease (which you’ll!) 35 minutes driving (plus further for photograph stops) over the cross, 38 minutes across the coast, then one other 90 minutes as much as Gairloch and Sands campsite
Campsite Suggestion: Sands Campsite in Gairloch- gorgeous views. Keep right here an evening and even two you probably have time.
After all, you possibly can cut up this into two days, and keep at Applecross for an evening if you want earlier than driving as much as Gairloch.
Day Three- Gairloch to Clachtoll Seashore
That is when you must begin making some robust selections if you happen to solely have a number of days to do the complete North Coast 500 route, because it’s inconceivable to see all the pieces.
Top-of-the-line campsites alongside the west coast of Scotland is Clachtoll Seashore so, no matter you determine to see on the way in which, that’s the place I like to recommend ending up for the evening (in excessive season, chances are you’ll must e book for a few nights.)
As I discussed earlier than, it’s inconceivable to do all the pieces on this space, particularly if you happen to solely have a day or two.
Corrieshalloch Gorge is price a go to and so is Clashnessie Falls, which is close to the breathtaking Clashnessie seaside. Ullapool, Lochinver and Achiltibuie all deserve a go to too, so do your analysis and see what appeals most.
Day 4- Clachtoll to Durness
One other longish day which might simply be damaged into 2 and even 3 days you probably have time.
As we speak you’ll drive over the well-known Kylesku Bridge, in addition to having fun with some extra unimaginable surroundings. There are many locations to cease alongside the way in which and stroll/ benefit from the surroundings, simply you should definitely park nicely out of the highway. Wailing Widow Falls is a well-liked cease.
Close to Durness, you’ll additionally discover Smoo Cave, which is nicely price a go to.
Smoo Cave is the most important pure sea cave within the British Isles, with proof of human inhabitance from as early as 8000 BC!
The cave is only a mile east of Durness Village and is nicely signposted. It’s free to stroll to and across the cave and there’s usually a waterfall inside throughout moist climate.
You can too take a ship tour to the cave. You may’t e book the boat- it’s run on a first-come, first-served foundation and solely when the climate and water situations are proper. The tour takes about 20 minutes (value is round £6pp in money)
Day 5- Durness to Dunnet Bay
Dunnet Bay is one in all our favorite campsites in Scotland. It’s a Caravan and Motorhome Membership website, and has essentially the most unimaginable views.
If you happen to get time, we extremely suggest taking a day journey to Orkney. Sure, you possibly can take your motorhome or campervan and get there and again on the ferries.
Day Six- Dunnet Bay to Dornoch (through John o’Groats)
Sure, John o’Groats is tacky and touristy and overhyped… however you possibly can’t come all this manner and NOT get a photograph. You may’t drive your motorhome as much as the submit, however you CAN get your motorbikes up there…
In addition to John o’Groats, there are additionally the stacks at Duncansby Head and the magnificent Dunrobin Citadel- the gardens are stunning and the views are attractive.
Day Seven- Dornoch again to Inverness
Distance: 45 miles
Estimated Time: 1 hour
And that’s it- you’ve accomplished the NC500!
After all, you possibly can all the time select to spend an additional day on the west coast and ignore today, however there are some beautiful issues to see within the space, together with the Dornoch Firth, Dornoch cathedral, Skibo Citadel, Inverness Citadel, and looking Nessie on Loch Ness.
North Coast 500 motorhome rent
If you happen to don’t already personal a motorhome or campervan, you possibly can rent one for the journey. Ensure you ask the correct questions earlier than you e book, as lots of the ‘finest quotes’ are lacking among the important stuff you may want, like bedding or utensils.
Additionally, ensure that motorhome insurance coverage is included within the quote- that may add so much in any other case.
When is one of the best time to discover the North Coast 500 with a motorhome or camper?
Scotland, like many Northern European nations, has ‘correct’ seasons. Nevertheless, there’s a purpose the locals have a phrase- ‘all 4 seasons in in the future’… the climate is legendary for altering wildly on the drop of a hat.
It may be sunny within the morning, windy and cloudy by lunch, and even snowing within the afternoon (though it’s uncommon to get snow in summer time.)
The very best climate is normally between April-October… however that’s additionally when this route is at its busiest.
We suggest avoiding driving the NC500 throughout July and August utterly if you happen to can- the colleges are on vacation and all over the place is over-crowded. The draw back with this route is that EVERYONE is following the identical roads, on the identical pace, so it’s very laborious to get away from the crowds.
Our favorite instances are Could/ June or October- a lot of the crowds have gone, however the climate is normally nonetheless heat sufficient and the times are lengthy sufficient to actually take advantage of them.
Having mentioned that, rain can strike at any second, so all the time be ready with applicable clothes, it doesn’t matter what month you’re visiting.
Spring in Scotland
Spring in Scotland (March, April and Could) is wonderful- so many wild flowers and all the infant animals are out to play. Common temperature is 10°C and there’s nonetheless the excessive likelihood of rain, however crowds are fewer and also you’ll be capable to discover with out too many automobiles.
Summer season in Scotland
Summer season (June, July and August) is peak season in Scotland because it has the warmest months, with common temperatures round 17°C (63 °F). Days are lengthy and the additional north you go, the longer the daylight lasts.
Rain can occur, however much less ceaselessly than Spring. The most important problem throughout summer time is the midges- extra on them beneath.
The primary summer time holidays within the UK are July and August, so in case you are driving the North Coast 500 throughout peak season, you may profit from reserving up campsites upfront.
Autumn in Scotland
Autumn (September, October and November) is one in all our favorite instances to go to Scotland. The altering colors of the leaves, the wildlife and the pretty heat temperatures make it excellent for a highway journey.
Common temperatures are round 14°C (57°F), however drop sharply in November.
Winter in Scotland
December, January and February are normally the coldest months, with common temperatures of round 5°C (41°F). The sunlight hours are additionally a lot shorter and there’s a excessive likelihood of snow, particularly in larger areas.
While we get pleasure from motorhoming all yr spherical, winter could make campervanning in Scotland harder than throughout different seasons.
Lots of the campsites shut so, though the roads are quieter and also you’ll have some unimaginable areas to your self, you may discover emptying waste or getting recent water harder.
Having mentioned that, one big benefit of driving the North Coast 500 throughout winter is the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights– sure, you possibly can sometimes see them in Scotland.
Midge Season in Scotland
You will have heard of the midges in Scotland- small flying biting horrors which might flip a nice night right into a depressing affair.
Sadly, regardless of not being a goal for mosquitoes, they appear drawn to each me and my husband, so now we make an effort to keep away from peak season, which is Could to September.
Some tricks to fight the midges if they’re out to get you’re:
- Keep indoors at dusk- that’s after they’re at their worst
- Mild Citronella candles/ use citronella spray
- Use Avon Pores and skin So Mushy physique spray (this factor is superior!)
- Put on a midge veil/ hat
- Avoid nonetheless water
- Go someplace windy (no jokes about baked beans please…!)
One other horrible insect/ bug to concentrate on is ticks- particularly you probably have pets. They’re widespread throughout Scotland, so be sure you test your pet and your self ceaselessly, particularly if you happen to’ve been mountaineering or strolling in lengthy grass.
Wild Tenting with a motorhome on the NC500
We love motorhome wild tenting in Scotland. It’s one in all our favorite methods to discover and we get pleasure from staying away from campsites and having fun with the fantastic thing about nature.
Nevertheless, as you might have seen within the information, the NC500 has had some troublesome and heartbreaking experiences lately.
Throughout the summer time of 2020, there have been numerous tales of egocentric and ignorant van homeowners leaving locations broken and strewn with all method of disgusting waste.
It was terrible and I don’t blame the locals for being offended. It made me offended that a number of egocentric idiots have been ruining the expertise and popularity of each different motorhome and van proprietor and tarring us all with the identical brush.
In the intervening time, tensions are nonetheless excessive between the locals, the councils and van homeowners. The reality is that the recognition of the route has grown to the purpose that the infrastructure can now not assist the numbers of visitors- particularly those that deliver their very own vans.
For that purpose, we presently do NOT suggest wild tenting alongside the NC500 till the realm (and the harm emotions of the locals) subside- we recommend discovering accredited in a single day motorhome parking spots close to you as an alternative.
The councils are apparently working laborious to create new areas for motorhomes and campervans to remain and we extremely encourage you to make use of these every time you possibly can.
Motorhome wild tenting guides for the UK & Europe
North Coast 500 motorhome Campsites
The North Coast 500 has many beautiful campsites, a lot of which accommodate motorhomes and campervans. We’ve listed some recommendations within the North Coast 500 motorhome itinerary above, however there are loads extra throughout summer time.
The issue with many of those campsites is that they shut throughout winter and the low season, so it’s fairly laborious to get water or empty waste or discover in a single day parking in these instances. Nonetheless, there are a number of that are open all-year spherical.
TOP TIP: Many campsites solely will let you test in from 3 or 4 p.m, after which the workplace closes round 7pm. Timing your arrival may be tough, so enable loads of time to be sure you don’t arrive too late.
If you happen to’re early, there’s no hurt in turning up and seeing if they are going to allow you to check-in early- most locations are very accommodating if they’ve area.
In addition to campsites, you can use Brit Stops that will help you discover locations to remain in a single day.
Ideas for driving the NC500 with a motorhome or camper
- Remember that lots of the rural roads are single observe and there’s a lot of farming within the space, so chances are you’ll nicely encounter farm automobiles and animals on the highway.
- As well as, the wildlife within the space is considerable and it’s widespread to see foxes, deer, badgers and different animals on the roads. Watch out, particularly at evening.
- On a single observe highway, if you happen to encounter a automobile coming in the direction of you, count on there to be a second the place you stare at one another to see who will blink first. If you happen to’re in a motorhome and are going through a automobile, there’s a excessive likelihood they’ll reverse to will let you cross (you should definitely thank them). Nevertheless, in the event that they’re actually not budging, or if you recognize there’s a passing place near you, you possibly can point out that you’ll reverse for them, until you’ve gotten a automobile behind you… which is when the enjoyable actually begins. On hills, the automobile going uphill has precedence, so the automobile going downhill ought to reverse however, once more, a automobile may nicely reverse for a motorhome.
- Speaking of which, in case you are driving slowly and holding up site visitors, use a passing place to wave by way of automobiles, bikes or anybody caught behind you- they’ll thanks for it.
- Do NOT get sucked in by one other driver telling you that ‘you will get a bus by way of there’. Automotive drivers should not all the time used to the width of motorhomes, and are ceaselessly incorrect about what you possibly can/ can not get by way of safely. If you happen to’re not proud of the area they’ve left you, both ask them to maneuver over extra, otherwise you reverse till you discover a passing place you’re proud of.
- Equally, be alert for automobiles reversing in the direction of you. Cease instantly and see the place they’re going. Additionally, remember that they might not see you. Some drivers get so intent on reversing straight and never hitting the facet of the highway that they neglect to look straight behind them. In the event that they get too shut, beep your horn.
NOTE: a passing place is NOT an in a single day parking spot. Neither is it someplace to park up and go for a stroll/ take a photograph/ make a phonecall. If you happen to block this area, you block the highway, for each vacationers and locals. Please be thoughtful.
- Having a paper map is a good suggestion, simply in case. Additionally, you probably have wifi in your motorhome, some areas have very poor sign, so it won’t all the time work.
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