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Camping the North Coast 500: safe driving advice


The North Coast 500 is one of the most beautiful coastal routes in the word. As a result it is extremely popular tourist attraction, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world every year.

At peak times, in the summer months especially, the North Coast 500 can be very busy. In addition, many of the drivers who use the route are unaccustomed to negotiating the narrow, winding roads you will find in this part of the country.

Remember that as well as tourists, you will be sharing the roads with local people who rely on the roads for their day-to-day life. So it is important to make sure you drive responsibly and safely and treat the area with respect.

If you are towing a caravan, or have a large motorhome or campervan (more than around 18ft in length), you should not use the main North Coast 500 route – take the alternative motorhome routes instead. In particular, do not attempt to drive the Bealach Na Ba or B869 Drumbeg Road stretches.

Long stretches of the North Coast 500 are on single-track roads and these require certain skills to negotiate. Here’s some top tips for safe driving on the single-track roads of the NC500

# Look out for hazards

Single track roads tend to be windy as well as narrow, so you never know what might be coming round a corner.

Look out for hidden dips, blind summits and concealed entrances and be aware that overgrown hedges and trees could potentially obscure your view.

Stay alert the whole time and work on the assumption that another vehicle could be literally round the corner. And don’t be distracted by the scenery.

# Watch your speed

Tempting as it is to put the foot down on these quiet, winding roads, driving too fast means you might not be able to stop in time, especially if the other vehicle coming towards you is going to fast too.

# Be aware of other road users

It’s not just cars, vans and lorries you have to worry about. Cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders all use roads like these and deserve special attention.

Pass wide and slow and give them as much room as you can – at least 1.5m is the latest guidance from the Highway Code.

Because you will be driving through farmland, a lot of which doesn’t have fencing, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter sheep, cattle or wildlife at some point on your travels. If you have to, just stop and let them pass.

# Be ready to reverse

If you reach a stand-off with another vehicle, something’s got to give and this means one of you reversing to the nearest passing place.

Usually the person closest to a passing place makes the move. If you are not comfortable with reversing for relatively long distances, don’t use the route.

# Time it right

Adjust your speed so you meet other cars at a passing place without either of you having to stop. 

# Be assertive

We’re certainly not suggesting you should be aggressive, but if you are too timid on these single-track roads then you could end up being stuck for ages letting cars through. And if there are other cars behind you, that will not make you popular.

# Keep to the left

Driving towards the left side of the road is the best way to avoid a head on collision. Also, if the passing place is on the right, stop on the left of the road rather than pulling across to the other side of the road.

# Do NOT park in passing places

It doesn’t matter how amazing the view is or how desperate you are for a wee, stopping in a passing place or a field entrance is not something you should be doing.

# Look behind you

Keep an eye on your mirrors and if you notice someone coming up fast behind you, try to let them past at the next passing place. 

# Keep calm

Driving on single track roads can be stressful if you let it, but if you stay relaxed, concentrate and think ahead, you should be fine. And if you get stuck behind a slow moving caravan or tractor, just chill out and enjoy the ride.

Finished reading?

Want more great information about the North Coast 500? Our guide to Britain's favourite road trip is full of great information and camping advice.

  The camping guide to the North Coast 500

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