So this Spring we are have a 2 week trip around the famous Scottish North Coast 500 route. Jane had some work near Edinburgh for 1 week so we tagged this trip on the end of that. After a week on a camp site near Edinburgh we worked our way north to Inverness…
Best time to do the trip?
Well here we are in mid May 2017. We heard that the dreaded midges start to hatch at the end of May and last all summer to End of September, and writing this after the first week of our trip we haven’t seen many yet.
Clockwise or Anti-clockwise direction?
This seems to be a common question. We choose to go clockwise from Inverness, up the west coast and down the east. Speaking to people who regularly hike around the areas we were told the large and more spectacular mountains are nearly always on the north side of the valleys so clockwise it is!
Phone signal / 3G / 4G / Wifi
Our phones run on 02 and EE. So far neither has good signal. EE seems better coverage. Some days no signal at all. When we do get some signal often its only good enough for phone calls. So when some 3G or better suddenly appears, we take advantage. Wifi in cafe’s is common as it it is everywhere else, just not so many place!
Camps Site vs Wild Camping on the NC500
There are plenty of camp sites to choose from. Most have basic facilities for around £20 per night. But we tend to avoid camp sites. Wild camping spots in Scotland appear to be plentyful and most we have found have amazing views. Our motorhome is very self sufficient and that’s the way we like it. We have used the www.searchforsites.co.uk web site to find most of our camping spots, plus found a few of our own.
Saturday 6th May 2017
Steven as previously mentioned is an amateur photographer and had a few places in mind to take photos for our Scotland tour. The first was in St. Monans which has an interesting zigzag jetty going out into the sea. Of course best laid plans and all that and it turns out the tides weren’t at all in sync with when he wanted to take photos so we ended up going back the next morning aswell when the tides were only slightly better (turns out the times were high around midnight!).
Steven loves black and white landscapes and this is one of his photos take that day.
Elie Harbour is just down the road with a large beach and a couple of prospective wildcamping spots. However as we entered the car park I bottomed the van and unhooked the spare tyre from underneath (thank goodness it wasn’t anything more serious!) so we parked up and realised that we didn’t have the right tools to reattach the tyre. Luckily another motorhome turned up and were able to lend us the right tools and also give us some recommendations for our journey. Overnight it was nice and quiet with a 3rd van joining us.
Sunday 7th May
After revisiting St. Monans we headed up the coast to Aberdeen for the night and stayed on the sea front by the harbour. We took the chance to eat out this evening and speaking to a waiter in the restaurant he said since the oil prices has been so low the area had been dead. House prices had dropped, off shore businesses has stopped any investment and the whole area was struggling. We all love to have low fuel costs, but we don’t always appreciate how it can negatively effect others.
Monday 8th May
It was windy overnight but we slept pretty well and woke up the next morning to the sound of the gas fridge ticking which means that we had run out of gas. Luckily the water was already hot for showers so after that we headed off to find some LPG and then headed on towards Inverness.
One place I’ve heard a lot about is Findhorn, it has an eco-community there and some sort of micro-climate. As we got there the storm that had been raging along the east coast eased and the sun came out. We walked along the beach in scorching sunshine (and bitter wind) and enjoyed a nice cup of tea at the harbour café. It is a beautiful area and somewhere I’d definitely go back to.
After that we headed onto Inverness and found a wildcamping spot on the peninsula near the bridge. There was a lovely walk along the sea wall and through the woodland behind it and the view was the best we’d had so far and so was the weather. The sunset across the estuary was just lovely and I have to say views like this is why I love motorhoming so much.
A little excitement came when some local youths set fire to some heath land and the fire brigade turned up to put it out!
Tuesday 9th May
We woke to bright sunshine and clear skies and stayed a while to catch up on some work while we had good Wifi/phone signal.
As we drove up out of Inverness the views across the valleys and estuary were stunning. Our next destination was Applecross which is on the west coast, it’s not a long drive from Inverness and as we approached Applecross the scenery was some of the best I’ve seen and was exactly what we came to the NC500 to see.
Applecross itself is a little hamlet with a small campsite and a busy pub. We did ask to stay in their car park but apparently the land owner won’t allow it, so we parked across the bay in a large layby. As we were eating dinner outside we had some of the locals (deer) come by a few metres away.
Wednesday 10th May
The road from Applecross is small and windy but luckily there is very little traffic around, plus there are very frequent passing places. We stopped at Loch Gairloch for a while when we discovered Wifi on the quayside and then carried on to the local campsite for the night.
Thursday 11th May
The main (if not only) reason we ended up at the campsite in Loch Gairloch was so that I could dry my hair after washing it. This is the only shortcoming of our current setup which is that we don’t have the means for me to have a hairdryer. In fairness this isn’t a problem for work as I’ll always be on a campsite, and when travelling in warmer climes I would just let my hair air dry, but in colder places (and with the remains of a cold I’d been nursing for a couple of days) I didn’t want to ‘air dry’.
After another morning of work we left the campsite and headed for Inverewe Gardens (Scottish National Trust) for a few hours. We had a lovely walk around and would highly recommend it.
Ullapool was the largest town we’d been to since Inverness and has a well stocked Tesco and another recommendation for dinner @ Ceilidh Place. The food itself was lovely but the side dishes could have been more generous. There is a campsite in the town but will no real need for it we drove up the road a few miles and wild camped in a large layby.
Friday 12th May
Another recommendation was Lochinver Larder in Lochinver for very decent savoury and sweet pies, we got there about 10.30 so had brunch. The pies were indeed lovely but rather expensive.
Achmelvich Beach was recommended to me by 2 separate people so we took the small single track road down to the beach. It looks like a typical Caribbean beach when the sun is out as the sand is bright white which makes the sea look turquoise. We were lucky enough to have a lovely sunny day, of course the wind wasn’t very Caribbean and gave away that we were in Scotland! After a walk around the coastline we then headed onto Clacktoll Beach. Not quite as impressive as Achmelvich although they do have a couple of whale bones at the tourist information which are worth a look.
After that we carried on along the road and found a nice parking area near Kylesku Bridge to wildcamp overnight. We also did a few maintenance and housekeeping jobs including using our new 12v vacuum cleaner which is a Black & Decker Auto Dustbuster.
Saturday 13th May
Sleep evaded us somewhat last night as we were rocked by high winds most of the night (even worse than Aberdeen!) and once we got going again we initially had some rain, but after taking a detour to Kinlochbervie for some lunch the sun came out and we had 3 Amps of solar refilling the leisure battery. Also at Kinlochbervie is a motorhome stopover and service point. At time of writing it is £15 to overnight (payable in the local shop) with EHU and it’s free to empty the toilet & fill up with fresh water. We decided to say thank you and give a donation for the services as we weren’t going to stay overnight. This is the first place we’ve found that has anything like this outside France and it’s such a good idea! Also happy to say that it is listed on www.searchforsites.co.uk so we could have found it if we’d looked.
After Kinlochbervie, we travelled onto Oldshoremore. This is another amazing Caribbean type beach. A large curved bay of white sand and bright blue sea bathed in bright sunlight. We walked along the beach and up the headland and layed on the grass for a while before spotting a small cove on the other side of the headland. Clambering down to it we found a virgin clean beach. Our’s were the first foot prints that day.
By the time was made it back to the carpark another 3 motorhomes had joined us and we all stayed the night in the carpark.