Motorhome Itinerary for the North Coast 500 Route

Motorhome Itinerary for the North Coast 500 Route

Cruising the NC500: A Motorhome Adventure Through Scotland’s Rugged North Coast

If you’ve ever dreamed of a motorhome road trip through the Scottish Highlands, then the North Coast 500 (NC500) is an absolute must. As someone who has been traveling the world for the last 8 years, I can confidently say that this route is truly one of the most epic and scenic drives I’ve ever experienced.

When my partner Tom and I decided to tackle the NC500 in our trusty campervan, we had no idea what was in store. The winding roads, towering mountains, pristine beaches, and charming coastal towns completely blew us away. It was like being transported to a different world – one straight out of a fairy tale.

Navigating the NC500 in a motorhome comes with its own set of challenges, but trust me, the payoff is more than worth it. The freedom to pull over whenever we pleased, set up camp in stunning wild locations, and explore every nook and cranny of this rugged landscape was unparalleled.

In this ultimate NC500 road trip planner, I’ll be sharing our personal experiences, top tips, and a detailed 7-day motorhome itinerary to help you plan your own unforgettable journey around Scotland’s magical North Coast.

Gearing Up for the NC500 Motorhome Adventure

Before we dive into the itinerary, let’s talk a bit about transportation. As mentioned, Tom and I opted to do the North Coast 500 in a campervan rented from the fantastic folks at Bunk Campers. This was hands down the best way to experience the route.

We went with their Aero model, which had everything we needed – a bathroom, kitchen, comfortable bed, and even outdoor camping equipment. It was the perfect home on wheels, easy to maneuver on those winding Highland roads, and gave us the ultimate flexibility to explore at our own pace.

If you don’t already have a motorhome or campervan, I highly recommend checking out Motorhome Republic. They’re the top search engine for campervan and motorhome rentals in Scotland, making it easy to find the right vehicle for your NC500 adventure.

Now that we’ve got the transportation sorted, let’s dive into the juicy details of our 7-day North Coast 500 motorhome itinerary.

Day 1: Edinburgh to Inverness

Our NC500 journey began in Edinburgh, where we picked up our campervan from the Bunk Campers depot. After a quick walkthrough of the van’s features, we hit the road, making a pit stop at a nearby Tesco to stock up on supplies.

Rather than pushing straight to Inverness, we decided to make a detour to Loch Ness. As we crossed the main bridge out of Edinburgh before 4 PM, we avoided the evening traffic and arrived at our campsite, Loch Ness Shores, just in time to catch the sunset over the famous loch.

The campsite was fantastic – great facilities, friendly staff, and of course, stunning views of Loch Ness. We spent the evening exploring the lakeshore and dreaming of catching a glimpse of the elusive Nessie. Although we didn’t spot the legendary monster, we did thoroughly enjoy a Loch Ness cruise the next morning, which provided incredible views of the area.

Day 2: Inverness to Shieldaig

Fueled by our Loch Ness adventures, we set off towards the beautiful coastal town of Shieldaig. Along the way, we made a stop at the breathtaking Falls of Foyer, where we stretched our legs with a short hike around the cascading waterfalls.

Next, we tackled one of the most iconic roads on the NC500 – the Bealach na Ba, or “Pass of the Cattle.” This winding, single-track road snakes up a high mountain, offering jaw-dropping views at every turn. While the hairpin bends were a bit daunting in our campervan, we managed them with ease and were rewarded with a panoramic vista that looked like it could have been plucked straight from New Zealand.

Arriving at Shieldaig, we settled into our campsite, which had excellent facilities and even reliable WiFi – a rare find on the NC500. The owners were incredibly friendly and provided us with great local recommendations, including a must-see detour to the stunning Bealach na Gaoithe viewpoint.

Day 3: Shieldaig to Mellon Udringle

We had a leisurely start to the day, taking time to stroll along the picturesque Shieldaig pier and explore a few mountain viewpoints before hitting the road. Following the advice of our campsite hosts, we made our way to the Bealach na Gaoithe, and I have to say, it was hands down one of the highlights of our entire trip.

The drive up to the viewpoint was an adventure in itself, with a winding single-track road leading us through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever witnessed. When we reached the top, we were greeted with a panoramic vista that looked like it could have been straight out of a movie set in New Zealand. Sipping our coffee and taking in the views, I momentarily forgot we were in Scotland.

After reluctantly tearing ourselves away from the Bealach na Gaoithe, we continued our journey, stopping at the stunning Big Sands Bay before ending our day at the wild camping spot of Mellon Udringle Beach. Falling asleep to the sound of the crashing waves was the perfect way to cap off another incredible day on the NC500.

Day 4: Mellon Udringle to Port a Baigh

We woke up early to tackle the Mellon Udringle Beach Circuit, a 4km hike that took us along the rugged coastline and up to some stunning viewpoints. The trail was a bit muddy in parts, so we were grateful for our hiking sticks, but the views were absolutely worth it.

After our morning trek, we made a quick grocery stop in Ullapool before continuing on to Achiltibuie, where we decided to spend the night. There was a cozy pub just outside our campsite that served up delicious food and drinks, the perfect way to wind down after a day of adventuring.

Day 5: Port a Baigh to Durness

Leaving Port a Baigh, we made a detour to the town of Lochinver, known for its delectable pies. We grabbed a few savoury treats from the Lochinver Larder and enjoyed them with a view of the stunning Achmelvich Beach.

As we continued our journey north, we arrived in the charming town of Durness, famous for its hot chocolate and Smoo Cave. We couldn’t resist stopping by Cocoa Mountain for a few cups of their renowned hot chocolate, and I have to say, it was the perfect pick-me-up on a chilly day.

For the evening, we opted to wild camp right across from the beautiful Ceannabeinne Beach, setting up our chairs and enjoying the view with our coffee. It was honestly one of the most picturesque wild camping spots we encountered on the entire route.

Day 6: Durness to John O’Groats

From Durness, we headed up the west coast, passing through Thurso and Wick as we made our way to John O’Groats, the northernmost point of mainland Britain. The scenery along this stretch was simply breathtaking, with rugged cliffs, sweeping beaches, and charming coastal towns.

Unfortunately, when we arrived in John O’Groats, we found that the local campsite had already closed for the season, so we ended up staying at a smaller 8-pitch site called Stroma View. While the campsite itself was a bit rough around the edges, the location was stunning, and we had a great time exploring the coastal walks in the area.

Day 7: John O’Groats to Dornoch

As we began our journey back down the east coast, we decided to make a few stops at some of the local whisky distilleries. Being the whisky enthusiast that he is, Tom was eager to sample the local drams, and we even ended up purchasing a limited edition bottle from one of our favorite stops.

Our final overnight was in the town of Dornoch, where we stayed at a beautiful campsite overlooking the water. We spent the day wandering around the town, visiting the historic Dornoch Cathedral, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the Dornoch Castle and Whiskey Bar.

Lessons Learned and Tips for Your NC500 Motorhome Adventure

Looking back on our unforgettable North Coast 500 journey, there are a few key things we learned that I want to share with you:

  1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race: The NC500 is not a route to be rushed. Take your time, stop frequently, and soak in all the stunning scenery. Trust me, you’ll want to.

  2. Embrace the Unplugged Life: Cell phone signal can be spotty, so be prepared to occasionally disconnect. Download offline maps and route information beforehand to ensure you don’t get lost.

  3. Tread Lightly: When wild camping, always be respectful of the environment and follow proper camping etiquette. Leave no trace and dispose of waste properly.

  4. Invest in Gravel Insurance: Those Highland roads can be tough on your vehicle, so consider getting additional windshield and gravel insurance to protect yourself from unexpected costs.

  5. Drink Responsibly: Scotland has strict laws against drinking and driving, so be mindful of your alcohol intake and consider staying put for the night if you’ve had a few.

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to planning an unforgettable motorhome adventure around Scotland’s magnificent North Coast 500. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your journey today!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top