Scotland North Coast 500 ?

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350
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john
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#1
Im making plans to do the NC500 this spring (easter) starting at Inverness and doing the clockwise route.

Has anyone done this route and can anyone suggest the best places for landscape/seascape locations.
I have ordered a map which covers the route which should be here next week so i can start to plan my route, allowing 7 days to cover everything camping or sleeping in my camper van with an odd night in a b&b or pub.
 
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1,772
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paul
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#2
I'm not an expert of the route but having been up to to Ullapool and around that part of the area, its an amazing place that has views and vistas everywhere. You won't be short of locations. And if you get hungry check out Lochinver pie shop :naughty:
 
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john
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#7
Thanks for the replies.
I have just been watching some Scottish photography vids on youtube and now Glencoe is on my list, although i dont know how im going to fit everything in :)
Finish work on thursday 13th april so set off friday, its about 375 miles to inverness and from there i have a further week off work so fingers crossed i should get time to see some sunsets and grand views.
 
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stuart
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#8
Before I did it I was strongly advised to do it anticlickwise which I did and it was the best way to do it unless you want to be bored to death for the last 150 miles. Doing it anti means it just gets better and better .
 
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stuart
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#9
Just to add if I was going to do it again I would do the west coast , 80% of the north coast then cut inland and head back down using all the little roads
 
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john
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#10
Some great advice coming in, thanks :)
My map should be here this week so its the start of things.
 
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Andrew
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#11
As I live in Wick that's included in the boring section :) I'd agree to go Anticlockwise as though the East has it own merits and coastal stretches it does pale compared to the West coast.
Without going too far of the beaten track and not knowing what you're looking for, dolphins at Chanonry point, Dornoch cathedral/beach, Dunrobin Castle at Golspie, Berridale, Sinclair Girnigoe castle ruins at Wick, Reiss beach, Keiss castle ruins, Duncansby stacks, Dunnet head/beach, Forse mill, Sandside by Reay, Melvich, Strathy beach/lighthouse, Coldbackie beach, Talmine, in the Tongue area good views of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.
Well that's the boring 150 miles and the good stuff starts after that :)
Whatever you do I'm sure you will enjoy it and feel free to ask if you have any specific questions
 
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Dave
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#12
Agree about going anticlockwise for the reasons above and that personally I think some sections are more spectacular looking in one direction than the other (eg Glen Torridon from east to west and The Pass of the Cattle from north to south). To add to Andrew's list Loch Eribol, Balnakeil Bay and Faraid Head, Smoo Cave, Assynt, Ullapool, Corrieshalloch Gorge, Inverewe Gardens, Loch Maree, Glen Torridon, Applecross and the Pass of the Cattle. Really you will be spoilt for choice.

You mentioned camping. I've used these and all are good IMO -

Durness - http://sangosands.com/
Ardmair - http://www.ardmair.com/caravan.html
Ullapool - http://www.broomfieldhp.com/
Gairloch - http://www.gairlochcampsite.co.uk/

The Ardmair one is probably the best campsite I know.

There is another campsite a few miles from Gairloch. I haven't used it but its location is brilliant - http://www.sandscaravanandcamping.co.uk/

A couple of west coast eating places -

The Whistle Stop Cafe at Kinlochewe. It doesn't have a website but is on Trip Advisor
The Potting Shed in the walled garden at Applecross - http://www.applecrossgarden.co.uk/

Another useful site is Walkhighlands - https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/

Hope you have a great time.

Dave
 
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Jan
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#13
I can recommend Sands camping near Gairloch mentioned by Dave - in the dunes behind a lovely beach, views over the top of Skye and the outer isles, there's now a cafe on site that does really good coffees, lunches, evening meals. And glorious sunsets too. I'll be back there later this year - can't wait! There's some photos taken there and around that area on my flickr. It can be good for wildlife too but it's not guarenteed.
 
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droj
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#15
Wild campervanning is allowed / tolerated on public land eg laybys and pull-ins (but not in passing places on the many single track roads!). The public toilet block by the junction to Torridon village used to have coin-in-the-slot showers.

West and north coasts, yes, as mentioned. You don't need to search for subject up there - it's in front of you and all around you. If you can hoik your body up a mountain there's even more. If you have a longer lens than 50mm, try a day trip out to Handa island.

Easter good - but cool. The midges start ... hmm ... in May? All prospective travellers know about the midges, I hope. The Highland midges, I'm talking about, not those wimpy little Sassenach things. In the high midge season, every orifice of campervan, tent or clothing is an entry point that will be exploited by the demonic host. Some people swear by Avon Skin-So-Soft as a repellent, but nothing actually works. They are quelled by heavy rain, bright sunlight (and we know how rare that can be in the Highlands), and wind.

When I say wind, I don't mean the human sort ...
 
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Jon
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#17
Just to add if I was going to do it again I would do the west coast , 80% of the north coast then cut inland and head back down using all the little roads
Totally agree with this. I did it clockwise on a motorbike last year, but next time would definitely do it anti-clockwise, finishing on the best roads, and I would miss out most of the east coast and head up the middle to Tongue then down the west coast. Unless you have any burning desire to see John O'Groats.....? Not much there except postcards.

Applecross is a great place to spend a night: it has a great pub. Also the camp site there has a few"pods" though not sure how much they cost or how long in advance they get booked up. When I did the trip I camped there and spent the next night wild camping near Tongue, in a breezy spot to mitigate the midges. Wild camping is legal in Scotland.

It's a fantastic trip with some spectacular scenery. I will definitely be doing it on the bike again, edited as mentioned though.
 
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Jon
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#18
I have also camped at Sands Caravan and Camping, mentioned previously. Lovely camp site, though it rained when I was there. There are laundry facilities there, and in season a fish and chip shop.
 
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Andrew
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#19
Totally agree with this. I did it clockwise on a motorbike last year, but next time would definitely do it anti-clockwise, finishing on the best roads, and I would miss out most of the east coast and head up the middle to Tongue then down the west coast. Unless you have any burning desire to see John O'Groats.....? Not much there except postcards.
.
A rather simplistic view on JoG and the East coast. Ah, just noticed your a biker, enough said!
 
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Jon
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#20
A rather simplistic view on JoG and the East coast. Ah, just noticed your a biker, enough said!
Yep, only the simple things for me.... like avoiding boring roads full of trucks and grey little villages full of tourist tat that only exist because of their geographical location....
 
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1,517
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Allan
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#21
The route is getting very popular,and is getting a nightmare booking the campsites.If you just turn up you will find they are full.I have done the route a couple of times and i think the anti clockwise route is better.
 
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Dave
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#22
Agree about the popularity Allan. I'm on the NW coast now and there are definitely more people around who are doing the route. Some have NC500 stickers so I'm fairly sure and I'm guessing the increase in the number of sports cars is a result of its popularity. You'd think the roads hadn't existed before anyone thought of the NC500.

A BBC article suggested an additional 29,000 visitors to the Highlands.

I was in Applecross last Wednesday. It was a superb day for going over the Pass and Applecross is always popular in the summer, but it was heaving - thank goodness for the tranquility of the Potting Shed Cafe and the Walled Garden at Applecross House.

Dave
 
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3,508
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Jan
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#23
And don't forget the NC500 tee shirt......................:(
We went over the pass to Applecross when we were up there in May (just because we'd never been to Applecross). The cloud was down on the top, so there was no view, it was absolutely freezing and the wind was so strong I could hardly stand up. We had been planning a walk from the top but we didn't do it. It'd be a really good road to drive but for all the other traffic on it which just turned it into a nightmare that could at one point have easily turned into a damaged car. I really shudder to think what it's like in good weather in the summer. My partner just said to me 'great drive, I enjoyed it, but I'm not doing it again'. Next time it's the coast road in and out, which is lovely. We didn't actually stop in Applecross. We stay in a static at Sands, same time of year give or take but not every year, and the place seemed a lot busier than it has in the past at that time. However it's good business in an area that doesn't have much else, so you can't knock it. I guess after the initial rush to do it, it'll all settle down a bit.
 
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Dave
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#24
Can't go anywhere around here without seeing adverts for NC500 tee shirts!

Yes, you really need a good day for the pass and preferably early or late in the day. We haven't been over it since the NC500 was announced and I wondered what the traffic would be like now, especially as some might not have driven on a road like it before or know the etiquette of single track roads. If you do get to the pass again the very short walk up the track to the communication mast is well worth it. It is one of the easiest walks with spectacular views I know and there is the option of continuing around the edge of the corrie.

The NC500 must help businesses in the area. I hope it doesn't cause the problems like those on Skye at the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools, but I agree after the initial rush it will probably quiet down.

Dave
 
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Jan
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#26
That's just the walk we were going to do, Dave, but not much point. We had already stopped off for another short walk elsewhere with good views of the sea eagle.... There's too much traffic on the road over the pass for the distance between passing places. It all bunches up into a convoy then meets a similar convoy coming the other way and it all descends into chaos. We thought the west side down to Applecross was a lot more benign and actually quite an easy drive, so if we go again I think we'd go the coast road to Applecross, up to the top and back the same way.
I don't think many people know the etiquette of single track roads - certainly not the doggy walkers down here :eek:
 
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Dave
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#27
I've been lucky enough to have been over the pass quite a few times. A couple of the memorable times were during a heatwave in last October (shorts and T shirts at the top) and when, in parts, the ploughed snow at the side of the road was higher than the car.

The ascent from Applecross is, IMO, the better alternative as, if you decide to continue, it lets you enjoy the ride and view down to Loch Kishorn and as you say it is a simple drive (though the climb from Kishorn is not bad). The only slightly dodgy bit I have found on the way up from Applecross is the last hairpin about a mile from the view point, no problem if there is not traffic coming the other way but if there is ....

Dave

One of the better days on the pass

poc.jpg
 
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Scott
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#28
Definitely going to do this in a motor home, my only worry is driving a motor home on some of the single track roads if it's busy! How much of the route would you say is single track and dodgy for a motor home?
 
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4,429
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Dave
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#29
Driving on single track roads is no problem for the vast majority of the time. Most people are very accommodating and it is just a matter of looking well ahead. One thing to bear in mind is that letting those who know the roads overtake by pulling into passing places is as important as not impeding those from the opposite direction.

The problem comes from large volumes of traffic (as Jan has noted above) which have increased due to the NC500, the drivers who think they own the road and don't know the 'rules' (eg giving way to traffic coming uphill) and those who think its OK to stop in a passing place and take in the view.

As I mentioned earlier I was in Applecross last Wednesday on a brilliant day. I drove from Gairloch following the route which is now called the NC500 and there was a little more traffic but no problem at all any of the way. However, this was before the end of the schools' summer term - things could be different now.

It depends on the motorhome but I've seen them going over the Pass of the Cattle.

I don't know all of the NC500 well enough to remember all the bits with single track road but I'd guess less than half is single track. The longest section is probably Loch Carron - Applecross - Torridon - Kinlochewe which is about 40 miles.

Hope you have a great time on the route - you won't be disappointed.

Dave
 
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462
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Andrew
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#30
Yep, only the simple things for me.... like avoiding boring roads full of trucks and grey little villages full of tourist tat that only exist because of their geographical location....
"Villages that only exist because of their geographical location" opposed to other places that aren't located in their geographical location?
Feel free not to avoid a truck on your next trip.
 
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Tony
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#32
This is now on my ever growing list of things to do and places to go.........
 
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