Planning to drive the North Coast 500 (NC500) in Scotland with a motorhome or campervan? Need to know the route, highlights and locations to see alongside the best way, campsites, wild tenting and ideas? Right here’s every little thing it’s essential to plan your North Coast 500 motorhome or campervan street journey.
Don’t overlook to seize your FREE NC500 motorhome itinerary under to seek out a few of the finest 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 individuals to go to elements of the nation that are off the crushed monitor.
It was created a number of years in the past, and is now often called 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 identify!), though there’s nothing to cease you veering off and exploring extra locations and sights alongside the best way, such because the Isle of Skye or perhaps a journey to Orkney.
Keep in mind, though it’s ‘solely’ 500 miles, you can be driving totally on small, windy nation lanes and subsequently won’t be going quick, particularly should you’re driving in a motorhome.
At finest, you’ll be able to anticipate to do 30mph on many sections- and that’s assuming there isn’t any farm site visitors or wildlife within the street.
There are additionally PLENTY of highlights and locations to see alongside the NC500 route, so you’ll most likely be stopping frequently, both for hikes, images or picnics.
Taking all this into consideration, we suggest permitting at the least per week to drive the North Coast 500 in a motorhome, campervan or perhaps a automotive. That is the 7-10 day itinerary and North Coast 500 route planner we used.
It’s doable to do it in much less, however you’ll miss quite a bit. Conversely, some individuals permit two and even three weeks to discover the route and all it has to supply.
One of many large benefits of driving the North Coast 500 with a motorhome is that you’ve your property 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 prematurely (important in summer time), then you should definitely permit 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 circumstances.
Firstly, anticipate to need to reverse your automobile ceaselessly, particularly on the sections that are single lane with solely passing factors to let site visitors from the other way move (a motorhome reversing digital camera is ESSENTIAL in these conditions.)
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 may not 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 street between Ardarroch and Applecross- both known as Bealach Na Ba or the Applecross Move. It’s one of many steepest roads within the UK and has an indication at first warning learner drivers and drivers of huge autos to go round.
Right here’s the deal on should you ought to drive Bealach Na Ba with a motorhome or not:
- In case 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.
- In case you have nervous passengers, go round (it’s not price scaring somebody only for a reasonably view)
- In case you are driving by yourself, suppose very rigorously earlier than driving it. Lots of the hairpins are simpler if in case you have a spotter to search for oncoming site visitors.
- If the climate is unhealthy/ 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! 🙂
In case you have completed any driving in huge 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 move and coping with different street customers, you can be completely nice.
The views are SPECTACULAR and properly well worth the effort. I might strongly suggest staying close by and driving this street as early as you can- first mild 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 bear in mind, native lorries use this street every day with none issue- it’s the vacationers who usually trigger the issue.
Nonetheless, should you’re undecided, the choice route may be very scenic too, so both manner works.
B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku
One other street 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 can be nice.
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- probably the most northerly metropolis within the UK
- Corrieshalloch Gorge
- Bealach Na Ba- the UK’s steepest street.
- Clachtoll Seashore
- Kylesku Bridge
- John o’Groats
- Dunrobin Fort
- Brora Seashore
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North Coast 500 Route Planner
The NC500 is round, which suggests you’ll be able to 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 street journey itinerary.
Historically, the route begins and ends in Inverness, on the fort. From right here, you’ll be able to select whether or not you go across the route clockwise or anticlockwise. The preferred route is clockwise, nevertheless it actually doesn’t make a lot distinction.
The route is pretty properly signposted, and far of it’s alongside quiet and distant lanes, so there’s not an excessive amount of likelihood of getting misplaced (nevertheless, you’ll be able to 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 provide 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.
In case you have time, head east from Inverness to go to the historic Culloden Moor and be taught extra in regards to the clans, the battle and the historical past of the realm. It’s extremely transferring and properly price a go to earlier than you head off into the Highlands.
It’s additionally price a go to to Eilean Donan fort, and should 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, rise up early. If not, go round.
Distance: 76 miles in total- 12 miles over the move, then one other 17 miles to the Applecross Smokehouse, and 47 miles to Gairloch
Estimated Time: 2h 45 minutes should you don’t cease (which you’ll!) 35 minutes driving (plus additional for photograph stops) over the move, 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 if in case you have time.
After all, you’ll be able to 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 Seashore
That is when it’s essential to begin making some robust decisions should you solely have a couple of days to do the whole North Coast 500 route, because it’s unattainable to see every little thing.
Among the best campsites alongside the west coast of Scotland is Clachtoll Seashore so, no matter you determine to see on the best way, that’s the place I like to recommend ending up for the night time (in excessive season, you might must e-book for a few nights.)
As I discussed earlier than, it’s unattainable to do every little thing on this space, particularly should 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 seashore. 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 if in case you have time.
At this time 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 best way and stroll/ benefit from the surroundings, simply you should definitely park properly out of the street. Wailing Widow Falls is a well-liked cease.
Close to Durness, you’ll additionally discover Smoo Cave, which is properly 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 properly signposted. It’s free to stroll to and across the cave and there’s usually a waterfall inside throughout moist climate.
You may as well take a ship tour to the cave. You’ll be able to’t e-book the boat- it’s run on a first-come, first-served foundation and solely when the climate and water circumstances are proper. The tour takes about 20 minutes (worth is round £6pp in money)
Day 5- Durness to Dunnet Bay
Dunnet Bay is one among our favorite campsites in Scotland. It’s a Caravan and Motorhome Membership website, and has probably the most unimaginable views.
When you get time, we extremely suggest taking a day journey to Orkney. Sure, you’ll be able to 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’ll be able to’t come all this fashion and NOT get a photograph. You’ll be able to’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 beautiful.
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’ll be able to at all times select to spend an additional day on the west coast and ignore this present day, 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
When you don’t already personal a motorhome or campervan, you’ll be able to rent one for the journey. Be certain you ask the correct questions earlier than you e-book, as most of the ‘finest quotes’ are lacking a few of the important stuff you would possibly want, like bedding or utensils.
Additionally, guarantee that motorhome insurance coverage is included within the quote- that may add quite a bit in any other case.
When is the very best time to discover the North Coast 500 with a motorhome or camper?
Scotland, like many Northern European nations, has ‘correct’ seasons. Nonetheless, there’s a purpose the locals have a phrase- ‘all 4 seasons in at some point’… 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 fully should 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 velocity, so it’s very onerous to get away from the crowds.
Our favorite occasions are Might/ June or October- many 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 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 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 autos.
Summer time in Scotland
Summer time (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 largest problem throughout summer time is the midges- extra on them under.
The principle summer time holidays within the UK are July and August, so if you’re driving the North Coast 500 throughout peak season, you would possibly profit from reserving up campsites prematurely.
Autumn in Scotland
Autumn (September, October and November) is one among our favorite occasions to go to Scotland. The altering colors of the leaves, the wildlife and the pretty heat temperatures make it good for a street 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 daylight are additionally a lot shorter and there’s a excessive likelihood of snow, particularly in greater areas.
While we take pleasure in motorhoming all 12 months 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 would possibly discover emptying waste or getting contemporary water harder.
Having mentioned that, one large benefit of driving the North Coast 500 throughout winter is the prospect of seeing the Northern Lights– sure, you’ll be able to sometimes see them in Scotland.
Midge Season in Scotland
You could 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 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
- Gentle Citronella candles/ use citronella spray
- Use Avon Pores and skin So Mushy physique spray (this factor is superior!)
- Put on a midge veil/ hat
- Keep away from nonetheless water
- Go someplace windy (no jokes about baked beans please…!)
One other horrible insect/ bug to pay attention to is ticks- particularly if in case you have pets. They’re widespread throughout Scotland, so be sure you examine your pet and your self ceaselessly, particularly should you’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 among our favorite methods to discover and we take pleasure in staying away from campsites and having fun with the great thing about nature.
Nonetheless, as you could have seen within the information, the NC500 has had some tough and heartbreaking experiences just 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 indignant. It made me indignant 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.
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 at present do NOT suggest wild tenting alongside the NC500 till the realm (and the harm emotions of the locals) subside- we propose discovering accredited in a single day motorhome parking spots close to you as an alternative.
The councils are apparently working onerous to create new areas for motorhomes and campervans to remain and we extremely encourage you to make use of these every time you’ll be able to.
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 lots 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 onerous to get water or empty waste or discover in a single day parking in these occasions. Nonetheless, there are a couple of that are open all-year spherical.
TOP TIP: Many campsites solely permit you to examine in from 3 or 4 p.m, after which the workplace closes round 7pm. Timing your arrival may be tough, so permit loads of time to be sure you don’t arrive too late.
When 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 area.
In addition to campsites, you could possibly 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
- Bear in mind that most of the rural roads are single monitor and there’s a lot of farming within the space, so you might properly encounter farm autos and animals on the street.
- As well as, the wildlife within the space is ample and it’s widespread to see foxes, deer, badgers and different animals on the roads. Watch out, particularly at night time.
- On a single monitor street, should you encounter a automobile coming in direction of you, anticipate there to be a second the place you stare at one another to see who will blink first. When you’re in a motorhome and are dealing with a automotive, there’s a excessive likelihood they’ll reverse to permit you to move (you should definitely thank them). Nonetheless, in the event that they’re actually not budging, or if there’s a passing place near you, you’ll be able to point out that you’ll reverse for them, except you might have 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 automotive would possibly properly reverse for a motorhome.
- Speaking of which, if you’re 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 are usually not at all times used to the width of motorhomes, and are ceaselessly improper about what you’ll be able to/ can not get by way of safely. When you’re not pleased with the area they’ve left you, both ask them to maneuver over extra, otherwise you reverse till you discover a passing place you’re pleased with.
- Equally, be alert for autos reversing in 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 facet of the street 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. When you block this area, you block the street, for each vacationers and locals. Please be thoughtful.
- Having a paper map is a good suggestion, simply in case. Additionally, if in case you have wifi in your motorhome, some areas have very poor sign, so it may not at all times work.
Listed here are another guides you would possibly discover helpful:
Don’t overlook to seize your motorhome logbook to file your entire wonderful adventures!