North Coast 500 motorhome Information- Route, Highlights and Suggestions
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 ideas? Right here’s all the things it’s essential plan your North Coast 500 motorhome or campervan highway journey.
Don’t overlook to seize your FREE NC500 motorhome itinerary beneath to seek out a few of the greatest locations to go to
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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 overwhelmed observe.
It was created a number of years in the past, and is now generally known as one of the vital scenic drives in Scotland, encompassing breathtaking seashores, rugged and wild panorama and a few unbelievable views.
How lengthy does it take to drive the NC500 in a motorhome?
The route is 516 miles lengthy (therefore the identify!), though there’s nothing to cease you veering off and exploring extra locations and points of interest alongside the way in which, such because the Isle of Skye or perhaps a journey to Orkney.
Keep in mind, though it’s ‘solely’ 500 miles, you’ll be driving totally on small, windy nation lanes and subsequently won’t be going quick, particularly in the event you’re driving in a motorhome.
At greatest, you possibly can count on to do 30mph on many sections- and that’s assuming there isn’t any farm visitors or wildlife within the highway.
There are additionally PLENTY of highlights and locations to see alongside the NC500 route, so you’ll most likely be stopping commonly, both for hikes, pictures or picnics.
Taking all this under consideration, we advocate permitting a minimum of every 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 your private home 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 speak about wild tenting with a motorhome alongside the NC500 shortly, but when you’re going to e-book campsites prematurely (important in summer time), then make sure to 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 need to reverse your car steadily, particularly on the sections that are single lane with solely passing factors to let visitors from the other way cross (a motorhome reversing digicam is ESSENTIAL in these conditions.)
You will want to have the ability to reverse your car 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 known as Bealach Na Ba or the Applecross Cross. It’s one of many steepest roads within the UK and has an indication originally warning learner drivers and drivers of enormous automobiles to go round.
Right here’s the deal on in the event you ought to drive Bealach Na Ba with a motorhome or not:
- When you’ve got 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 car which you’re not used to/ are a nervous driver (no disgrace), go round.
- When you’ve got nervous passengers, go round (it’s not price scaring somebody only for a fairly view)
- In case you are driving by yourself, suppose very fastidiously earlier than driving it. Most of the hairpins are simpler when you’ve got a spotter to search for oncoming visitors.
- If the climate is dangerous/ heavy rain/ snow/ thick fog- go round. You gained’t see any of the views anyway.
Having stated all of the above, I drove Bealach na Ba in my motorhome, alone, in thick fog. And it was fricking epic! 🙂
When you’ve got accomplished any driving in large mountains with a motorhome, just like the Vrsic Cross in Slovenia or up within the Alps, and are assured with hairpin bends, reversing, letting visitors cross and coping with different highway customers, you’ll be completely advantageous.
The views are SPECTACULAR and nicely well worth the effort. I might strongly advocate 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 car wants swinging room so as to go round corners.
Simply bear in mind, native lorries use this highway every day with none issue- it’s the vacationers who usually trigger the issue.
Nonetheless, in the event you’re unsure, the choice route could be very scenic too, so both approach works.
B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku
One other highway which may 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’ll be advantageous.
Highlights of a North Coast 500 motorhome journey
Among the greatest 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 Seaside
- Kylesku Bridge
- John o’Groats
- Dunrobin Fort
- Brora Seaside
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North Coast 500 Route Planner
The NC500 is round, which suggests you possibly can be a part of and go away 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 preferred 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 probability of getting misplaced (nonetheless, you possibly can at all times 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 thought, 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’ve got time, head east from Inverness to go to the historic Culloden Moor and study extra concerning the clans, the battle and the historical past of the world. It’s extremely transferring 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 in the event you 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, stand 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 in the event you don’t cease (which you’ll!) 35 minutes driving (plus further for picture 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 when you’ve got time.
After all, you possibly can break 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 Seaside
That is when it’s essential begin making some powerful decisions in the event you solely have a couple of days to do the whole North Coast 500 route, because it’s not possible to see all the things.
Among the best campsites alongside the west coast of Scotland is Clachtoll Seaside so, no matter you resolve to see on the way in which, that’s the place I like to recommend ending up for the night time (in excessive season, chances are you’ll must e-book for a few nights.)
As I discussed earlier than, it’s not possible to do all the things on this space, particularly in the event you 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 may simply be damaged into 2 and even 3 days when you’ve got time.
At the moment you’ll drive over the well-known Kylesku Bridge, in addition to having fun with some extra unbelievable surroundings. There are many locations to cease alongside the way in which and stroll/ benefit from the surroundings, simply make sure to 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 biggest 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 may be usually a waterfall inside throughout moist climate.
It’s also possible to 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 considered one of our favorite campsites in Scotland. It’s a Caravan and Motorhome Membership web site, and has essentially the most unbelievable views.
Should you get time, we extremely advocate 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 (by way of 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 put up, 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 Fort- 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 at all times select to spend an additional day on the west coast and ignore today, however there are some pretty issues to see within the space, together with the Dornoch Firth, Dornoch cathedral, Skibo Fort, Inverness Fort, and looking Nessie on Loch Ness.
North Coast 500 motorhome rent
Should you don’t already personal a motorhome or campervan, you possibly can rent one for the journey. Make certain you ask the suitable questions earlier than you e-book, as lots of the ‘greatest quotes’ are lacking a few of the important belongings you may want, like bedding or utensils.
Additionally, be sure 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 cause 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 perfect climate is often between April-October… however that’s additionally when this route is at its busiest.
We advocate avoiding driving the NC500 throughout July and August fully in the event you can- the colleges are on vacation and in every single place is over-crowded. The draw back with this route is that EVERYONE is following the identical roads, on the similar pace, so it’s very exhausting to get away from the crowds.
Our favorite instances are Might/ June or October- a lot of the crowds have gone, however the climate is often nonetheless heat sufficient and the times are lengthy sufficient to essentially take advantage of them.
Having stated that, rain can strike at any second, so at all times be ready with acceptable clothes, it doesn’t matter what month you’re visiting.
Spring in Scotland
Spring in Scotland (March, April and Might) is wonderful- so many wild flowers and all the newborn animals are out to play. Common temperature is 10°C and there may be nonetheless the excessive probability of rain, however crowds are fewer and also you’ll have the ability 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 steadily than Spring. The largest 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 prematurely.
Autumn in Scotland
Autumn (September, October and November) is considered one of 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 often the coldest months, with common temperatures of round 5°C (41°F). The daylight are additionally a lot shorter and there’s a excessive probability of snow, particularly in increased areas.
While we get pleasure from motorhoming all yr spherical, winter could make campervanning in Scotland tougher than throughout different seasons.
Most of the campsites shut so, though the roads are quieter and also you’ll have some unbelievable areas to your self, you may discover emptying waste or getting contemporary water tougher.
Having stated that, one big benefit of driving the North Coast 500 throughout winter is the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights– sure, you possibly can often see them in Scotland.
Midge Season in Scotland
You will have heard of the midges in Scotland- small flying biting horrors which may 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 Might to September.
Some tricks to fight the midges if they’re out to get you might be:
- Keep indoors at dusk- that’s once they’re at their worst
- Mild Citronella candles/ use citronella spray
- Use Avon Pores and skin So Comfortable physique spray (this factor is superior!)
- Put on a midge veil/ hat
- Steer clear of nonetheless water
- Go someplace windy (no jokes about baked beans please…!)
One other horrible insect/ bug to pay attention to is ticks- particularly when you’ve got pets. They’re frequent throughout Scotland, so ensure you test your pet and your self steadily, particularly in the event you’ve been climbing or strolling in lengthy grass.
Wild Tenting with a motorhome on the NC500
We love motorhome wild tenting in Scotland. It’s considered one of our favorite methods to discover and we get pleasure from staying away from campsites and having fun with the great thing about nature.
Nevertheless, as you will have seen within the information, the NC500 has had some tough and heartbreaking experiences lately.
Study extra about how we discover free in a single day motorhome parking stops within the UK and Europe
In the course of 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 couple of egocentric idiots had been ruining the expertise and popularity of each different motorhome and van proprietor and tarring us all with the identical brush.
For the time being, 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 not help the numbers of visitors- particularly those that deliver their very own vans.
For that cause, we at the moment do NOT advocate wild tenting alongside the NC500 till the world (and the damage emotions of the locals) subside- we advise discovering authorized in a single day motorhome parking spots close to you as an alternative.
The councils are apparently working exhausting to create new areas for motorhomes and campervans to remain and we extremely encourage you to make use of these at any time when you possibly can.
Motorhome wild tenting guides for the UK & Europe
North Coast 500 motorhome Campsites
The North Coast 500 has many pretty campsites, a lot of which accommodate motorhomes and campervans. We’ve listed some solutions 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 exhausting to get water or empty waste or discover in a single day parking in these instances. Nonetheless, there are a couple of that are open all-year round.
TOP TIP: Many campsites solely mean you can 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 ensure you don’t arrive too late.
Should you’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 house.
In addition to campsites, you can use Brit Stops that will help you discover locations to remain in a single day.
Suggestions for driving the NC500 with a motorhome or camper
- Bear in mind 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 plentiful and it’s frequent to see foxes, deer, badgers and different animals on the roads. Watch out, particularly at night time.
- On a single observe highway, in the event you encounter a car 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. Should you’re in a motorhome and are going through a automobile, there’s a excessive probability they’ll reverse to mean you can cross (make sure to thank them). Nevertheless, in the event that they’re actually not budging, or if you already know there’s a passing place near you, you possibly can point out that you’ll reverse for them, until you might have a car behind you… which is when the enjoyable actually begins. On hills, the car going uphill has precedence, so the car 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 visitors, use a passing place to wave by means 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 may get a bus by means of there’. Automotive drivers should not at all times used to the width of motorhomes, and are steadily fallacious about what you possibly can/ can’t get by means of safely. Should you’re not proud of the house 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, bear in mind that they might not see you. Some drivers get so intent on reversing straight and never hitting the aspect of the highway that they overlook 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. Should you block this house, you block the highway, for each vacationers and locals. Please be thoughtful.
- Having a paper map is a good suggestion, simply in case. Additionally, when you’ve got wifi in your motorhome, some areas have very poor sign, so it won’t at all times work.
Listed below are another guides you may discover helpful:
Don’t overlook to seize your motorhome logbook to document all your wonderful adventures!