North Coast 500
The North Coast 500 road trip round the northern tip of the Scottish mainland is an amazing experience and one that we'd recommend all campers try if they can.
With stunning scenery, fascinating history and a huge selection of excellent campsites it makes for a brilliant holiday.
However, it has been growing in popularity for several years and the recent boom in UK staycations has just added to the many people travelling to this remote part of the country to explore the NC500.
To help you beat the crowds and make the most of your trip to the Highlands of Scotland, we've put together some top tips based on our own experience of travelling the North Coast 500.
1 Book campsites in advance
As the route increases in popularity, it is becoming more important than ever that you try to book your camping accommodation well in advance. Have a look here for some of the best campsites on the route
2 Keep filled up with fuel
This is a remote part of the world, and particularly in the far north and the west, it could be many miles between filling stations.
To avoid running out of fuel, try to keep your tank topped up as much as possible, so fill up whenever you get the opportunity.
As well as the petrol stations in the larger towns, you’ll find independent garages in some smaller communities.
In Applecross, for example, the community-run filling station is open 24-hours and helps fund local projects such as the public toilets.
3 Be prepared for the worst
Plan for emergencies. Breakdown cover is vital and make sure you have a spare tyre on board.
You should also plan ahead for comfort breaks as public toilets are not widely available along the route. As well as public conveniences, some filling stations will have toilets as well as cafés, pubs and restaurants.
4 Check your route in advance
There are a few notorious stretches of the route such as the Bealach na Ba towards Applecross, and the B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku.
These are unsuitable for very low cars or large vehicles due to the hairpin bends and steep gradients and you’d also be advised not to take trailers or caravans on these roads.
5 Install a dashcam
Tempting as it is to grab your camera whenever you see a spectacular view as you weave your way around the Highlands, you’ll breaking the law and putting yourself and other road users in danger.
Instead, install a dashcam so you can record your whole journey for posterity. It’s also very useful if you find yourself involved in an accident.
6 Don’t rely on your phone
Mobile signals can be patchy at best in some of the most remote parts of the route so don’t assume you’ll be able to communicate by phone or text.
And internet access will also be extremely limited unless you can find a campsite with WiFi.
Make sure you have a road atlas to hand in the vehicle in case Google maps lets you down.
7 Check opening times
In some remote areas you’ll find many shops and cafés will be closed by 5pm, shut early on Wednesdays and don’t open at all on Sundays. Keep a cool box in your car with some essentials just in case you arrive late.
8 Stock up on cash
Keep some cash and small change on you as some of the smaller shops may not have card machines and cash dispensing machines can be few and far between in the remotest areas.
9 Go off the beaten track
The "official" North Coast 500 map is a suggestion not a command. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the main route to see more interesting places.
10 Take your time
The North Coast 500 is not a race - take your time and you will get more out of it.
Make time to stop and soak in the views. If you can, take a break from driving and pick a place to stay for a few days.
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