Exploring the Spectacular North Coast 500 in a Campervan: A Scottish Adventure
Exploring the Spectacular North Coast 500 in a Campervan: A Scottish Adventure

Exploring the Spectacular North Coast 500 in a Campervan: A Scottish Adventure

Unearth the Beauty of Scotland’s North Coast 500 with Your Campervan

The North Coast 500 (NC500) is a legendary 500-mile scenic route that circumnavigates the northernmost region of Scotland, taking travelers on a journey through some of the most breathtaking landscapes the country has to offer. While many adventurers choose to explore this route by car, there’s a more immersive and liberating way to experience it – in a campervan. In this article, we’ll dive into the details of embarking on a memorable road trip around the NC500 in a campervan. Buckle up, as we explore key stops, route details, and places to stay, all while reveling in the freedom and flexibility of campervan travel.

The North Coast 500: An Overview

Link: North Coast 500 Official Website

The North Coast 500 is often hailed as Scotland’s answer to the iconic Route 66 in the United States. This 500-mile circular route, which starts and ends in the city of Inverness, takes you through the remote and rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and the North Coast. The journey is characterized by winding roads, dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches, picturesque villages, and historic castles. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking adventure, the NC500 has something for everyone.

Preparing Your Campervan Adventure

Link: Campervan Rental in Scotland

Before you hit the road, there are a few essential preparations to ensure a smooth and enjoyable campervan adventure on the North Coast 500. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

1. Campervan Rental

Choosing the right campervan is crucial for your journey. You can either bring your own or rent one from a reputable rental company. There are various sizes and models available, so select one that suits your needs, keeping in mind the number of travelers and the level of comfort you desire.

2. Camping Equipment

Make sure your campervan is equipped with all the necessary camping gear, such as cooking utensils, bedding, and a portable toilet. Many rental companies offer fully equipped campervans, so inquire about their offerings when booking.

3. Route Planning

Planning your route is essential for a successful NC500 adventure. While spontaneity is part of the charm, having a rough itinerary with key stops and places to stay is recommended. Familiarize yourself with the NC500 map, and use navigation apps or GPS devices to stay on track.

4. Campsite Reservations

During peak tourist seasons, campsites along the NC500 can fill up quickly. It’s advisable to book your campsites in advance to secure a spot for the night. Some campsites offer amenities like showers and electricity hookups, while others are more remote for a true wilderness experience.

5. Packing Essentials

Pack appropriate clothing for the ever-changing Scottish weather, including waterproof jackets and sturdy hiking boots. Don’t forget essentials like food, water, and a first-aid kit. It’s also a good idea to have a power bank for charging devices since you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road.

Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive into the heart of the adventure.

The NC500 Route: Key Stops and Highlights

Link: Interactive NC500 Map

1. Inverness – The Starting Point

Your North Coast 500 journey begins in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Take some time to explore this charming city before hitting the road. Visit Inverness Castle, stroll along the banks of the River Ness, and enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants.

2. Black Isle – A Scenic Detour

Link: Visit Black Isle

As you head north from Inverness, consider taking a detour to the Black Isle Peninsula. This hidden gem offers stunning coastal views, wildlife spotting opportunities, and quaint villages. Chanonry Point is a must-visit for its resident dolphin population, best seen during high tide.

3. Applecross – The Bealach na Bà

Link: Bealach na Bà Information

Prepare for a thrilling drive as you approach Applecross via the infamous Bealach na Bà, a winding mountain pass that rewards you with panoramic views of the Scottish Highlands. This part of the journey is not for the faint-hearted but promises an unforgettable experience.

4. Torridon – Majestic Mountains

Link: Torridon Visitor Guide

Torridon is a haven for nature lovers and hikers. The Torridon Hills, with peaks like Liathach and Beinn Alligin, beckon adventure seekers. You can explore the trails or simply soak in the awe-inspiring scenery.

5. Gairloch – Beaches and Wildlife

Link: Gairloch Information

Gairloch offers beautiful sandy beaches, making it a great spot for a relaxing break. Keep an eye out for seals and seabirds along the coastline. If you’re lucky, you might even spot an elusive sea eagle soaring above.

6. Ullapool – A Fishing Village

Link: Ullapool Visitor Guide

Ullapool is a picturesque fishing village nestled on the shores of Loch Broom. Explore its charming streets, enjoy fresh seafood, and take a boat tour to the Summer Isles for a chance to see seals, dolphins, and whales.

7. Assynt – Land of Lochs and Castles

Link: Assynt Visitor Guide

Assynt is renowned for its rugged landscapes, dotted with lochs and castles. Visit Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt and hike to the famous Suilven mountain for breathtaking vistas.

8. John O’Groats – The Northernmost Point

Link: John O’Groats Official Site

Congratulations, you’ve reached the northernmost point of mainland Britain! John O’Groats is a historic and iconic location. Take a photo with the famous signpost and, if you have time, catch a ferry to the Orkney Islands for a unique side trip.

9. Thurso and Dornoch – Coastal Towns

Link: Thurso Visitor Guide | Dornoch Visitor Guide

Thurso and Dornoch are coastal towns with their own charm. Thurso is known for its surfing opportunities, while Dornoch boasts a stunning cathedral and sandy beaches.

10. Dunrobin Castle – A Fairytale Fortress

Link: Dunrobin Castle Official Site

Dunrobin Castle, with its fairy tale-like architecture and beautiful gardens, is a must-visit attraction along the NC500. Explore the historic castle interiors and enjoy the falconry displays in the gardens.

11. Dornoch Firth – Scenic Beauty

As you continue south, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views along the Dornoch Firth. This estuary is a haven for birdwatchers and offers peaceful surroundings for a leisurely drive.

12. Inverness – The Journey’s End

Your North Coast 500 adventure concludes back in Inverness. Take a moment to reflect on the incredible journey you’ve just undertaken. Explore any sights you might have missed on your first visit, or simply relax and unwind.

Camping and Campervan Stays

Link: Campsites on the NC500

One of the joys of traveling the NC500 in a campervan is the flexibility to stay in different locations each night. Here are some campsites and places to consider for your overnight stays:

1. Inverness Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Link: Inverness Camping Site

Start your journey at the Inverness Camping and Caravanning Club Site, conveniently located near the city center. It offers essential amenities like showers, electric hookups, and a peaceful setting to prepare for your adventure.

2. Applecross Campsite

Link: Applecross Campsite

If you dare to take on the Bealach na Bà, reward yourself with a stay at Applecross Campsite. Nestled in the charming village of Applecross, this campsite provides stunning views and easy access to local amenities.

3. Shieldaig Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Link: Shieldaig Camping Site

Located in the picturesque village of Shieldaig, this campsite is an excellent base for exploring the Torridon area. It offers breathtaking lochside views and access to hiking trails.

4. Gairloch Holiday Park

Link: Gairloch Holiday Park

For a more comfortable stopover in Gairloch, consider Gairloch Holiday Park. This site provides a range of facilities, including a shop, laundry, and electric hookups, ensuring a convenient and enjoyable stay.

5. John O’Groats Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Link: John O’Groats Camping Site

At the northernmost point of your journey, stay at the John O’Groats Camping and Caravanning Club Site. It’s an ideal base for exploring the area and catching a ferry to the Orkney Islands.

6. Dunrobin Castle Campsite

Link: Dunrobin Castle Campsite

For a touch of history, consider camping at Dunrobin Castle Campsite. Enjoy the regal surroundings and take the time to explore the beautiful gardens and castle grounds.

7. Rosemarkie Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Link: Rosemarkie Camping Site

As you approach Inverness once more, Rosemarkie Camping and Caravanning Club Site offer a peaceful retreat near the charming village of Rosemarkie, known for its picturesque beaches and dolphin watching opportunities.

Safety and Environment

While embarking on this epic campervan adventure, it’s essential to prioritize safety and environmental responsibility. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Respect Nature

The North Coast 500 passes through some of Scotland’s most pristine natural landscapes. Treat the environment with care by disposing of waste properly, not disturbing wildlife, and following the Leave No Trace principles.

2. Stay In Designated Areas

Campervans should only be parked in designated campsites or areas where overnight parking is allowed. Be aware of local regulations and follow them diligently to avoid fines.

3. Weather Awareness

Scottish weather can be unpredictable. Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared for rain, wind, and rapidly changing conditions. Ensure your campervan is equipped for all weather types.

4. Wildlife Caution

Be cautious when driving, especially during dawn and dusk when wildlife is more active. Slow down in areas with warning signs, and give animals plenty of space.

5. Emergency Kit

Carry an emergency kit with essential supplies, including a first-aid kit, flashlight, spare tire, and tools for basic vehicle repairs.

A Journey of Freedom and Discovery

Embarking on the North Coast 500 road trip in a campervan is an adventure like no other. From the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands to the tranquil beaches of the North Coast, this journey promises stunning vistas and unforgettable experiences. As you traverse the winding roads and discover hidden gems, you’ll find that the true beauty of the NC500 lies not just in the destinations but in the journey itself.

So, pack your bags, fuel up your campervan, and set forth on this epic Scottish adventure. The North Coast 500 awaits, ready to captivate your senses and leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.