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STAYCATION IN SCOTLAND – THE NORTH COAST 500 (TAKE 2!)

Posted on 16th October 2020 by Jenny Gibson

STAYCATION IN SCOTLAND – THE NORTH COAST 500 (TAKE 2!)

After hearing about Karen’s epic road trip around the famous North Coast 500 (NC500) back in August, I decided it was my turn to explore what Bonnie Scotland had to offer.

Over 5 days, I tried to fit in as much as possible so ahead of the trip a full minute by minute itinerary was completely necessary, event management style! We decided to drive the NC500 route anti-clockwise (East to West), so we could keep the best of the West coast scenery to last. With our bags packed and Road Trippin’ playlist ready, we set off on our 5 day adventure.

INVERNESS > WICK

It was an early rise on the Saturday as we journeyed from Inverness to our next overnight stay in Wick. Our first stop was at Chanory Point, about 30 mins outside of Inverness to try and spot some Moray Firth Dolphins. This spot is considered the best place to see them, but we unfortunately didn’t get to see any!

After a pit stop for a cake and coffee in Dornoch, our next stop was to visit Dunrobin Castle. This French château inspired castle is definitely worth a visit!

Make sure to stop by The River Bothy, Berriedale for food but try not to make the same mistake as ourselves and not check the closing time. After a failed attempt to grab some food, we made the journey to our final stop for the day – Wick.

WICK > TONGUE

After a great night’s sleep in our Airbnb, we started off our day bright and early by visiting the John O’Groats signpost. This is a must see on the trip – did you really do the NC500 without a photo at the signpost?

From here we made our way to our activity for the afternoon, which was bagging Ben Hope Munro! We were extremely lucky with the weather, so at the top we had 360-degree views for miles which made the 4-hour trip to the summit very much worth it.

We stayed in a fantastic Pod for the night at Ben Loyal Hotel, Tongue. After a well-deserved dinner, we had a very early night, so we were ready for the next day of adventures.

TONGUE > ULLAPOOL

The drive from Tongue to Ullapool has lots of places to stop, so definitely plan to be getting in and out of the car a lot. Our first stop was at Durness for the best hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain, followed by visits to the Smoo Caves and Balnakeil Beach.

Driving from Durness to our evening stay in Ullapool was stunning, it was like a postcard every way you looked. A must stop on this route is Clashnessie Falls, so we parked up and walked the 20 mins to this epic beauty spot.

Clachtoll Beach, Achmelvich Beach and Lochinver pie shop are the other stops on the route between Clashnessie Falls and Ullapool. Again, make sure you check the opening and closing times for the pie shop, because we unbelievably, made the same mistake twice and walked up to the shop as it closed….

We ended our day in Ullapool and I was pleasantly surprised by this wee fisherman’s town! The people everywhere were extremely friendly and there were a few shops to wander in and out of too.

ULLAPOOL > KYLE OF LOCHALSH (Via Applecross & Bealach na Bà)

The drive from Ullapool down the west coast was definitely our best day and we were stopping every 10/15 mins to take photos; everything was just STUNNING!

We grabbed lunch at the Applecross Walled Garden, which was truly amazing, but you have the option of going to the Applecross Inn as well. They are both renowned for being fantastic food options!

Bealach na Bà was next on our agenda for the day and this did not disappoint! It is a winding single-track road through the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula and it is the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK with the highest point on the road reaching 2,054ft.

Our day was not quite over, and the next stop was a famous Scottish Landmark, Eilean Donan Castle. This is an iconic image of Scottish heritage, starring in multiple films over the years and the tour is definitely worth it, if you have the time.

KYLE OF LOCHALSH > EDINBURGH

Our journey home came around all too quickly as we made our way back to Edinburgh via Glencoe. Even on our final day, we still managed to have epic views during the drive. It really was a great way to round off an AMAZING trip!!

The NC500 has been on my to-do list for a few years now and to be honest, international travel had always taken priority! I am so pleased I have managed to do it and I regret I didn’t do the route sooner! For anyone thinking about driving the NC500, definitely DO IT as it’s truly a wonderful experience that everyone will enjoy.