North Coast 500

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North Coast 500

Postby basher » Sat 19.08.2017, 11:32

Hi All,

Going to tackle the North Coast 500 in September in the Elan. I wondered if anyone on here had any recommendations or advice for things to see, places to eat/stay etc.
I've read a lot of the guidebooks and info but its always good to get some recommendations of people who have been there or even live around there.
Also I'm coming from 'dahn south' so any routes/roads that are worthy of driving would be useful.


Thanks
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Jamie N » Sat 19.08.2017, 13:45

Smoo cave at Durness is always worth a visit, and if you like wild unspoilt places go for a walk out to Faraid Head (also near Durness), beautiful sandy beaches and rugged cliffs with nesting seabirds including a large Puffin colony, might be all away out to sea by September though.

Sandwood bay is slightly off track but one of the most stunning places you will find in the North West, provided it not hissing down! :D .

Mind share the pics with us!. :wink:
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Rambo » Sat 19.08.2017, 14:27

You can see lots of interesting seals at Jamie's en route

Fnaar fnaar :twisted:
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Jamie N » Sat 19.08.2017, 18:05

Rambo wrote:You can see lots of interesting seals at Jamie's en route

Fnaar fnaar :twisted:


You're spelling is getting worse Mark, its Farne, Farne Island, that's where all the Seals are.

Ork ork .
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby dapinky » Sat 19.08.2017, 19:35

I thought they were based in San Diego. :shock:
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby John_W » Sat 19.08.2017, 23:28

Basher,
No doubt others will give their opinions, however mine is below:

The road north:
    I would be tempted to take the A82 north from Glasgow via Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Ballachulish, Fort William and Spean Bridge, turning onto the A87 at Invergarry past Eilean Donan Castle and Attadale to join the 500 route at Strathcarron. The only thing is that you would miss out the road from Inverness to Attadale which (although single carriageway) can be a fast road and good in parts.

    The reason I suggest taking the west coast route is that the M80 & A9 route from Glasgow to Inverness is the pits - full of caravans and speed cameras. There is some dual carriageway, but it is a long boring frustrating road. The west coast route will not be any faster, and you will still get caravans, but it is very pretty. If you will be coming up the east coast to Edinburgh, just take the A9, watch your speed and put up with the caravans.

N Coast 500
The only towns of any size are Fort William and Inverness, with Ullapool, Thurso, Wick and Dornoch also being big enough to call towns. Any place else is village/hamlet size. Make sure you fill up with petrol when you can.

Things to watch out for (in clockwise order):
    Average speed cameras on the A9 if you take that route.
    Eilan Donan Castle if you take the west coast route (well worth a visit and photo opportunity). Also the commando memorial at Spean Bridge.
    Petrol stations - once you get north of Inverness/Fort William make sure you fill up when it’s available (and be prepared to be appalled at the price).
    Kishorn Seafood Bar - just a shack but great seafood (I don’t think it’s open for dinner).
    Bealach na Ba road to Applecross - magic. Stop at the top for the view of Skye and Raasay (unless it’s raining).
    Applecross Inn - fantastic seafood for lunch or dinner. If you want to stay there book well in advance. There’s a camping site up the hill.
    Applecross peninsula road to Shieldag - like the moon.
    Loch Maree Hotel - a good place to stay with fantastic scenery, but book early. Does bar lunches.
    Inverewe gardens (if you like that sort of thing).
    Gruinard Island (where they test anthrax).
    Corrieshalloch Gorge - well worth a stop.
    Ullapool - lunch, tea, dinner, bed for the night, whatever. Buy petrol (enough to get you to Thurso).
    The North West Highlands Geopark from north of Ullapool to Loch Eribol. The oldest rocks in Britain (or Europe) at 2,700 to 3,200 mYa, and the scenery tells you so.
    Dounreay - worth a stop at the visitor centre for a cup of tea and a view of the dome.
    Dunnet Head - picturesque lighthouse and the most northerly point on the UK mainland (not John O’Groats which is a dump). From Dunnet head you can see across the Pentland Firth to Hoy which has an old man and is part of Orkney.
    Thurso has hotels & B&Bs.
    From John O’Groats to Helmsdale look out for the Caithness flagstones the local farmers use (stood on end) as fences between the fields.
    Oil rigs laid up in the Cromarty Firth at Invergordon.
    Inverness is quite big now and will be the biggest place on the 500 route. You might want to stay in a hotel there because it will be the biggest place you'll have seen for a few days, and you being a southerner might be getting twitchy by then.
The scenery is fantastic. If you get reasonable weather you'll love it.

Good luck,
John
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Rambo » Sun 20.08.2017, 10:00

And at the end of it all I guarantee you will be a caravan, RV, VW campervan expert and will have learnt some more swear words. You will also be gobsmacked by the scenery on the west/North West coast

PS Don't forget the midge repellant, sun tan lotion, Welly boots, snow shovel, umbrella, sunglasses...... be prepared for four seasons in one day :lol: :lol:

PPS well worth bring a spare 5L petrol container if you have room. Petrol is thin on the ground and high on price as John has mentioned
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Saltire » Sun 20.08.2017, 10:33

Entirely agree with both John and Mark, especially about fuel, midges, and the Applecross Inn. A great trip - I've done it twice, the first time before it was officially 'designated' as a route; once in each direction.

Midge repellent is a must; I have not-so-fond memories of stopping at the Kylesku ferry (now a bridge), and being surrounded by a huge swarm of them before I'd even had a chance to switch of the engine. Fortunately, we were in a closed car and no-one had a window open. Likewise the comment about fuel - and if you're accustomed to running your Elan on 98 RON, forget it! The total population of the entire Highland Council area (including Inverness) is around 250,000 to 300,000, so communities are s-m-a-l-l, and facilities few and far between.

With regard to accommodation, the main thing I would say is that there isn't typically a lot of capacity. So a local event (Highland Games etc) can easily hoover up all the available beds for miles around. Worth checking for any notable events on your route and planning accordingly. Scottish tourist offices (in most of the places of reasonable size) are usually very helpful in finding accommodation if you're stuck.

Great trip - enjoy it!

Hope this helps
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby basher » Sun 20.08.2017, 11:36

Thanks all, there's some great information in there, we might have to rethink our itinerary.
The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge in particular is an excellent shout for us as I am taking my dead uncles ashes with us who did Commando training up in Scotland during WW2. I was going to sprinkle them somewhere picturesque on the North Coast (he was a sailor who liked to travel) but this seems like a far more fitting option.
We are actually travelling ant-clockwise so Inverness JoG, Durness etc. and finishing with a trip on the Jacobite before we head south again.
I was coming up the East coast through Edinburgh and then going to take the A9 and then spear off for the A93 and the 'Cairnwell Pass' before rejoining the A9, which would cut a fair bit of the A9 off, whether this road will be any way practical I don't know, but my reasoning was that it would be prettier? Day Two is Jedburgh to Inverness, so I may have to dispense with this if it takes too long..
Eilan Donan Castle is on our list for the way back.
Smoo Cave is on the NC 500 recommended list and we were going to stop there- Fariad Head looks nice if we can find time to get out -looks like you can at least drive to Balnakeil.
Applecross and the 'Pass of the Cattle' is something that we will have to try and fit in.

I take the point about fuel and if I can fit in the 5 litre can for contingency in the boot then I will. Also midge spray sounds like a essential item too.
Accommodation is already booked so hopefully there won't be any issues there.

Great stuff, just need to finish prepping the car..
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby dapinky » Sun 20.08.2017, 12:38

I can't comment much (and certainly nothing like the details you've had from the educated locals) - but my thoughts are that in an Elan the roads could be great, but if you're low down take the time to park up and admire the views!

Having driven my campervan round, I can't comment on B&B availability, and I can get 600 miles to a tank of fuel - so that's something else I never had to worry about - - We had a great view from the cab (being a bit higher than the hedgerows etc), but I'm sure the driving would have been better in the Lotus.
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby John_W » Sun 20.08.2017, 12:40

Spean Bridge does indeed seem like a fitting place for you to visit. And when you are at the monument, just imagine going through commando training in that environment. Your uncle must have been a tough cookie.

The trip to Mallaig on the steam train sounds fantastic. The only time I've been there was a family holiday when I was at school, but I remember the scenery being special. I should really try to visit Glenfinnan and that area sometime soon. When you head south from Fort William, I suggest the Glencoe/Loch Lomond route i mentioned above. It's impressive scenery (and can be bleak). Be aware that it always rains in Fort William and that the midges are issued with National Health false teeth so that they can bite you better.

I'm not sure about the A93 diversion, especially if you plan to do Jedburgh to Inverness in one day. It might be better just to play caravan spotting on the A9 while taking something to calm your nerves. Certainly if you go as far as Cairnwell/Glenshee then there's no way back to the A9 without taking a very long way round a lot of mountains.

John
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Rambo » Sun 20.08.2017, 21:45

Have you set a date for heading up to God's country Basher ? I know you mentioned September but when ? I will be spending a couple of weeks on Vancouver island but, dependent on your dates/timings and if I'm actually about you are more than welcome to call in for a cuppa/tyre kicking/admiring some decent M100s etc.. :burnout:

We are in beautiful Borders country approximately 30 miles away from Jedburgh and 30 miles south of Embra so not far out of your way. Could even give you a doss for the night at Shateau (sic) Rambo if you are stuck
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby basher » Mon 21.08.2017, 18:56

That's a various gracious offer, we plan to hit Jedburgh on the evening of Fiday the 8th which is our first day.
We are all booked in for accommodation thank you, but if timescale allows we might be able to swing by on our way out to Inverness the following day?
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Rambo » Tue 22.08.2017, 20:21

That's a pity Basher, I'm off on the 6th. And I do a good cuppa and/espresso

Good luck and enjoy Scotland. You'll see why many of us bang on about it, despite having the poison dwarf in charge :?
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby basher » Tue 22.08.2017, 22:19

Thanks for the offer anyway. This trips going to be a bit whistle stop, so I wouldn't rule out a second visit in the future.
Poison Dwarf or Jimmy Krankie lookalike?!!

John, thanks for the advice may scrap the Cairnwell this time round and go A9 with the caravans and then spear off to the A86, Spean Bridge and A82 Loch Ness visitor centre instead.
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Andy_J » Wed 23.08.2017, 17:20

Hi Basher

I live near enough on the NC500 route, but have never done the whole route. I have family in Wick & Thurso so have been traveling from Inverness to Wick regularly for the last 20 years

John and Mark have suggested more than you will probably have time to do so I am only going to add one suggestion.

The A9 from Inverness to Wick can be pretty uninteresting. If you have time I would suggest taking the Struie road over to Adrgay and Bonar Bridge. The road has some good twisty bits and some straight road (get past camper vans). Also on a good day you get a fantastic view from the view point on the decent down to Ardgay at Struie Hill. ( Take the B9176 just before Alness (20 miles north of inverness) then on to A836 to Ardgay and Bonar Bridge, the A949 from Bonar Bridge back to A9 just north of Dornoch Bridge) The diversion will probably add about 30 minutes to the drive. I would offer to show you the way, but my Elan is on axle stands getting the suspension overhalled.

What date are you getting to Inverness? Can meet up there if you have time?

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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Saltire » Wed 23.08.2017, 17:59

:agree: Great road, brilliant views. Go for it!
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Rambo » Wed 23.08.2017, 20:25

And don't forget the fresh, hand dived scallops with wild rice and crispy boar at the Applecross Inn

It's a speciality of Judith Fish, the owner, and we'll with the £14.95. wash it down with some red MacGregor from Kirkwall in Orkney :cheers:
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby basher » Thu 24.08.2017, 21:33

Thanks Andy, that doesn't sound like to bad a diversion, I may have a go at that.
We should arrive in Inverness in or around the evening of the ninth if you are about?
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Re: North Coast 500

Postby Andy_J » Fri 25.08.2017, 21:12

Yep will be around on 9th. I will PM you my mobile number so we can arrange a time/place to meet up
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