NC500

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer


For those thinking of a side trip to Orkney
 

Clynester

Clanker
Myself and up to 4 friends are keen to do a 10-day trip on the NC500 with some slight detours (Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glencoe and the like), but we were having a few arguments about the best way to travel/stay overnight. I would rather do it in a decent 4x4 (something like a Defender) and stay at hostels along the route that are maybe 4, 5 hours apart - gives us time to spend the day doing stuff. One of my friends is adamant that we should do it in a campervan, parking up overnight at campsites, probably the same distance apart as the hostels would be.

Does anyone have experience of either method of transport and have a preference one way or another? None of us have 4x4s or campervans, so hire/fuel/insurance costs come into play as well, if that makes much difference.
 

W21A

LE
Book Reviewer
The roads are metaled, there is no real need of a 4x4 except it'll look good in the photos.
 

Clynester

Clanker
The roads are metaled, there is no real need of a 4x4 except it'll look good in the photos.
Is there any other reason that 90% of 4x4 owners actually own 4x4s than "it'll look good in the photos"?

Point taken though - it does make looking for a suitable hire car a lot easier if any regular car can do it.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Myself and up to 4 friends are keen to do a 10-day trip on the NC500 with some slight detours (Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glencoe and the like), but we were having a few arguments about the best way to travel/stay overnight. I would rather do it in a decent 4x4 (something like a Defender) and stay at hostels along the route that are maybe 4, 5 hours apart - gives us time to spend the day doing stuff. One of my friends is adamant that we should do it in a campervan, parking up overnight at campsites, probably the same distance apart as the hostels would be.

Does anyone have experience of either method of transport and have a preference one way or another? None of us have 4x4s or campervans, so hire/fuel/insurance costs come into play as well, if that makes much difference.
Why do you think that you need a 4x4?
The NC500 is all tarmac.

Depending on time of year you might find some campsites and hostels shut.

And there's not actually much in the way of cheap hostel type accommodation on the route.

And if you plan to stay in locations about 5 hours apart you'll do it in 2 or 3 days and miss a lot.

For instance, Inverness to Wick, the East coast section is 2 hours.
 

Clynester

Clanker
Why do you think that you need a 4x4?
The NC500 is all tarmac.

Depending on time of year you might find some campsites and hostels shut.

And there's not actually much in the way of cheap hostel type accommodation on the route.

And if you plan to stay in locations about 5 hours apart you'll do it in 2 or 3 days and miss a lot.

For instance, Inverness to Wick, the East coast section is 2 hours.

Looking at photos and websites of people who have done the NC500 before, it seemed like a 4x4 was the more sensible choice.

We would look at going in the summer - we were originally planning for a summer 2020 trip, but then apparently everyone got quite a bad flu, so the idea was scrapped, but now things are looking up again, we're resurrecting the idea. I was originally looking at getting some of the rooms in Hostelling Scotland locations, that have private bedrooms and toilet/shower facilities.

I thought about putting the hostels further apart and making the drives longer, but the issue with that is that we would spend all day just sitting in the car, whereas having the locations slightly closer together meant we could have a lazy start to the day, stop off at places on the way and so on, without feeling the need to rush to the next hostel. And I saw that the Eastern section of the journey is a very short one, but hopefully we can make it up by travelling for longer along the North and West sections. It's also why I looked at extending the journey to Glenfinnan, Glen Coe etc and driving up through the Cairngorms to finish.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Looking at photos and websites of people who have done the NC500 before, it seemed like a 4x4 was the more sensible choice.

We would look at going in the summer - we were originally planning for a summer 2020 trip, but then apparently everyone got quite a bad flu, so the idea was scrapped, but now things are looking up again, we're resurrecting the idea. I was originally looking at getting some of the rooms in Hostelling Scotland locations, that have private bedrooms and toilet/shower facilities.

I thought about putting the hostels further apart and making the drives longer, but the issue with that is that we would spend all day just sitting in the car, whereas having the locations slightly closer together meant we could have a lazy start to the day, stop off at places on the way and so on, without feeling the need to rush to the next hostel. And I saw that the Eastern section of the journey is a very short one, but hopefully we can make it up by travelling for longer along the North and West sections. It's also why I looked at extending the journey to Glenfinnan, Glen Coe etc and driving up through the Cairngorms to finish.

Personally it's down to what and where you want to visit and see.
Visitor attractions and villages are fairly close together on the East and the Great Glen sections.

On the North, the West and Applecross, they are far further apart but even then, not by 4/5 hours.

sleeperzzz home this is a bit unusual and just off the NC500
 
I know the draw is for the John O groats on the North east edge but there's better routes than joining the convoy of motorhomes up the A9 , I prefer using the A897 and then the B roads over to Syre and such. You can pop into Tongue to get your I love tongue sticker and the campsite at Durness has a good pub and stunning views and sometimes there's a boat trip into Smoo cave.

The Applecross Inn is always packed and the campsite pods at the top of the hill book up early. Youtube is awash with people who've discovered Scotland and this route so it may well be busier than ever this year.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
I know the draw is for the John O groats on the North east edge but there's better routes than joining the convoy of motorhomes up the A9 , I prefer using the A897 and then the B roads over to Syre and such. You can pop into Tongue to get your I love tongue sticker and the campsite at Durness has a good pub and stunning views and sometimes there's a boat trip into Smoo cave.

The Applecross Inn is always packed and the campsite pods at the top of the hill book up early. Youtube is awash with people who've discovered Scotland and this route so it may well be busier than ever this year.

What is interesting is that prior to covid, you used to meet a lot of campervans and foreign cars on all the various internal roads across the North.
However since Covid and it being nearly all UK stacationers they have all stuck purely to the coast on the advertised NC500 road.

While that slowed me down on trips to Inverness and Wick, it meant that coast to coast journeys were far easier. And I did a lot more of those.
 

mrboo

LE
There are loads of campervan hire companies up around Inverness if that is your thing. But whatever you go in look at the rules of single track roads for everyone of us that live and work up here. We'll sometimes work currently having a brew and enjoying the view north of Ullapool
IMG_20220127_103747.jpg
 

Clynester

Clanker
There are loads of campervan hire companies up around Inverness if that is your thing. But whatever you go in look at the rules of single track roads for everyone of us that live and work up here. We'll sometimes work currently having a brew and enjoying the view north of Ullapool View attachment 634690
For me, driving the route in a campervan (especially one designed to sleep 4/5 of us, not just a little VW thing) doesn't sound appealing at all - even less so given the single track roads (and my friends all live in Portsmouth, so their idea of a single lane road is a little different). I know that I'll have to deal with the single track roads in a car still, but it seems a little easier to reverse to a passing point in a car than a camper van.

And it's those kind of views of Ullapool I'm hoping for when/if I get to go up there!
 
Is there any other reason that 90% of 4x4 owners actually own 4x4s than "it'll look good in the photos"?

Point taken though - it does make looking for a suitable hire car a lot easier if any regular car can do it.
I did it in a MX-5, camping along the way - although I was on my own.

A Ferrari I was following did bash its underside on one of the really pitted bits but I had no problems.

Unless you are in a Supercar or you have a WIP then you should be fine.
 

mrboo

LE
The main propblem up here is the lack of accommodation, if you are looking for hostels or hotels you will need to book. Campers or wild camping gives you options to be more flexible. Don't worry to much about single track roads and reversing that photo was taken from a lorry, you can uselaly see far enough ahead so you will not need to,just a bit of forward planning. What most tourists forget is what is behind them beautiful empty road ahead and half a dozen pissed of locals trying to get passed
 
When i said don't worry about singal track roads............... In todays local


Roads are seldom dangerous, it's when a drivers ambition exceeds their ability where the danger lays.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Roads are seldom dangerous, it's when a drivers ambition exceeds their ability where the danger lays.

There's sections of Drumbeg road that are decidedly dicey.
Single track, above the sea, cliff on one side, drop on the other. Blind summit on a bend.
Enough to make a nurse passenger hold her head in her hands, alternating between covering her eyes and whimpering.
:)
 
There's sections of Drumbeg road that are decidedly dicey.
Single track, above the sea, cliff on one side, drop on the other. Blind summit on a bend.
Enough to make a nurse passenger hold her head in her hands, alternating between covering her eyes and whimpering.
:)
I took the road to lower Daibaig last summer on account of a photoraph of its harbour..........big mistake.
 

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