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Thursday June 20, 2024
5 minutes reading time

Travelling the NC500 in a motorhome or campervan – Part Two

Written by:  Chris Dickson
NC500 2

You may have seen our overview of the NC500 route and how Dicksons customers can enjoy it. But in this new two-part edition of our blog we present our detailed in-depth guide for motorhome and campervan users to make the most of the NC500 adventure – including specific stops, notable attractions and the mileage between the listed key points.

In the first part, we travelled from our starting location of Inverness to key points along the NC500 route. These included Black Isle, Dornoch, Wick, John O’Groats, Thurso, Tongue, Durness and Scourie. Here, in part two, we’ll head back to Inverness and make some more interesting stops along the way. Motorhome and campervan travellers will love the NC500 as it showcases some of the very best that Scotland has to offer and gives a great chance to ‘stretch the legs’ of your vehicle. So, let’s leave the village of Scourie behind, and pick up our route where we left off.

9. NC500 ninth stop: Ullapool

Ullapool, 42 miles on from Scourite, is a bustling port town with a vibrant arts scene. The infamous Argyll Hotel is a modest community hub which, over the years, has hosted some remarkable low-maintenance gigs from top musicians on low-key DIY tours, such as Martin Stephenson and Julian Cope. Remarkably, the town is also known as the top geological hotspot in Scotland, having been the site of many of the pivotal Victorian-era discoveries around the concept of plate tectonics!


10. NC500 tenth stop: Gairloch

Travelling 56 miles from Ullapool, you’ll arrive in Gairloch, a village known for its stunning beaches, botanical gardens and excellent seafood. There is a range of outdoor activities to partake in, including fantastic boat trips to spot marine wildlife, giving you a break from being behind the wheel on your NC500 road trip.

  • Gairloch Museum: In 2019, and with Lottery funding, the museum moved to its current site (a former Cold War building converted to house exhibitions) after several decades located at a farm stead. In 2020 it was named as a winner of the 2020 ArtFund Museum of the Year Award. Small but perfectly formed Gairloch Museum contains displays and exhibitions focusing on the culture and social history of the parish, including the Poolewe Hoard (a rare early Iron Age bronze hoard found), the original Hyperradiant Fresnel lens from nearby Rua Reidh Lighthouse, a replica croft house akin to those from a century ago, and an ancient Pictish stone (the first, and one of very few, found on Scotland’s west coast).


11. NC500 eleventh stop: Applecross

The 70 mile drive from Gairloch to Applecross is something of an adventure in itself as it takes travellers over the Bealach na Bà, one of the highest roads in the UK. Applecross is a remote and beautiful peninsula, perfect for takins some time out from your journey and unwinding. It’s a great area for wildlife spotting, and you are likely to see red deer, otters, blue hare, foxes, wildcats, bats, tawny and barn owls, seals, basking sharks, minke whales and bottlenose dolphins. Best to take your I-Spy Book Of Scottish Wildlife with you and get them all ticked off!


12. NC500 twelfth stop: Torridon

A mere 20 miles from Applecross, the village of Torridon is renowned for its mountain scenery and excellent hiking trails. Particularly popular with climbers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, the dramatic mountains surrounding Torridon rise steeply to 3,500 feet from the deep sea lochs.

  • Celtman: Since 2011 Torridon has hosted the annual CELTMAN! ‘extreme triathlon’ for the toughest of the tough. It includes a 3.4 km swim in Loch Shieldaig, a 125-mile bike ride, and a marathon run over two munros in the Beinn Eighe range. We’re not suggesting you enter as part of your NC500, but if you happen to be around during June each year you might see the Celtman! competitors hard at it in these sometimes harsh conditions!


13. NC500 thirteenth stop: Kyle of Lochalsh

Thirty-five miles from Torridon, the Kyle of Lochalsh serves as a gateway to the Isle of Skye. While technically it is off your NC500 route, a detour is highly recommended. Connected to the mainland’s northwest coast by bridge, Skye is renowned for rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles. The town of Portree features harbourside pubs and boutiques. Back on the mainland, Eilean Donan Castle at the Kyle of Lochalsh is a must-see.

Eilean Donan Castle

14. NC500 fourteenth stop: Drumnadrochit

Every single place on your NC500 trip is special. But here, just 70 miles from Kyle of Lochalsh, as you make your way back towards Inverness, you are on the shores of the world famous Loch Ness. Drumnadrochit itself is a village hub for everything to do with the Loch Ness Monster – affectionately known as Nessie – and offers beautiful views of the loch itself.

  • Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition: Offering a unique immersive experience, the Loch Ness Centre allows visitors to explore the monster legend, discovering real stories about Loch Ness along the way. Centre visitors can also book a cruise aboard the vessel Deepscan (named after the Operation Deepscan expedition famously carried out on the loch in the 1980s). Passengers can search the depths of the loch using the world-class sonar equipment on board and enjoy the thrill of sailing the very loch in which the monster resides, as well as gain unique stunning views of the beautiful Urquhart Castle on the shoreline. A fabulously fun way to begin the end of your NC500 trip…

Loch Ness

15. NC500 fifteenth stop: Inverness

You end where you began, in Inverness. Take some time to reflect on your incredible 500-mile journey and explore a few more of the city’s attractions.

  • Culloden: Just three miles from Inverness is one of the most important sites in Scottish history. In 1746 the Jacobite army commanded by Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated by a British government force, thereby ending the Jacobite rising of 1745. The battle was the last pitched battle fought on British soil and, today, a visitor centre is located near the site. The National Trust of Scotland is in the process of restoring the area to the state it was in during the Battle of Culloden Moor. A fascinating and poignant spot to conclude a wonderful trip.


Tips for driving the NC500 in a Motorhome or Campervan

  1. Plan: While the NC500 is well-signposted, having a detailed paper map or sat nav system will help you navigate the more remote areas.
  2. Campsites: The popularity of the NC500 means that campsites can fill up quickly, especially during peak season. As part of your planning, book in advance.
  3. Stock up: Some sections of the NC500 route are quite remote. Ensure you have plenty of food and water aboard – and fuel up!
  4. Narrow roads: Be mindful of the fact that parts of the NC500 feature single-track roads with passing places. Drive cautiously and always be prepared to pull over for oncoming traffic.
  5. Environment: Follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to help preserve the stunning Scottish landscapes you’re travelling through and exploring.

Taking on the NC500 in a motorhome or campervan will be something you look back on with great pleasure in years to come. It’s an unforgettable adventure through some of the best of Scotland’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Each stop offers something unique, whether large or small. Plan carefully, drive safely and enjoy every mile of this spectacular route. NC500 has it all!

Remember, if you don’t own your own motorhome or campervan, Dicksons of Perth offers a comprehensive vehicle hire service as well as providing a great selection of new and used vehicles for sale. So, whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a lengthy exploration, we can supply you with the right vehicle to meet your needs. Travel in comfort and style! Our rental fleet includes a great selection of well-maintained modern vehicles from some of the leading manufacturers. Get in touch for more details.