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Thread: North Coast 500

  1. #1
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    North Coast 500

    We've decided to take some time off work to do things that we've always wanted to but never had the time.

    Midlife crisis fully in place (I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago), we are planning on doing the North Coast 500. This is something that has appealed for a long time and now we can actually do it.

    We are flexible on duration, but anticipate between 7-10 days, starting from Inverness. Well, we'll actually start from Leicester and drive to Gretna, stop over night there and then to Inverness, and start the 500 the following day.

    Space in the car will be tight as we'll be in a two seater. Has anyone on the forum any experience of this, and if so, any tips would be very much appreciated. I've done a lot of reading up but real life experiences count for more.

    Cheers,

    JK

  2. #2
    Master
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    We did it early october a couple of years ago. Best hols I'd had in ages; we keep on saying we should do it again. It wasn't cheap! We spent two weeks doing it and must have spent 3K on board and food. The good hotels are not cheap up there. October is a good month because the roads are mostly empty and also very few 'white goods on wheels' (camper vans) around. There's nothing worse that being stuck behind a huge camper-van on a single track road. You're trying to see the country side and all you can see is a slab of white plastic in front of you. On the bad side a lot of the tourist spots are closed but we went mainly for the driving and quiet country side. Lots of otters and seals :-)

  3. #3
    Master thegoat's Avatar
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    Unless you have good reason, Iíd avoid Gretna and carry on up past Glasgow , maybe stopping at Loch Lomond.
    So much nicer and the drive in the morning will be a breeze.

  4. #4
    If you haven't been before New Lanark might be a good call for your overnight break on the way north, although Glasgow itself would also be an excellent choice.

  5. #5
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegoat View Post
    Unless you have good reason, Iíd avoid Gretna and carry on up past Glasgow , maybe stopping at Loch Lomond.
    So much nicer and the drive in the morning will be a breeze.
    No other reason than it's pretty much half way. The lakes were also an option, but we have been there many times and I'd rather be further up north.
    I'll taker closer look at Loch Lomond as I've heard great things.

    Thank you.

  6. #6
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by simoscribbler View Post
    If you haven't been before New Lanark might be a good call for your overnight break on the way north, although Glasgow itself would also be an excellent choice.
    Thanks for that. I'll have a look into it.

  7. #7
    I did the NC500 in June this year for the mine and the wifeís 10 year wedding anniversary, it was a fantastic trip, over 5 days.

    Happy to share our itinerary, we stayed in some lovely B&Bís.

    Advice would be to try and avoid the busiest periods as it can get exceptionally busy. Book accommodation well in advance. The West and North coasts really are amazing but we were underwhelmed by the East side. Take good boots and warm clothes (this should be common sense in Scotland!) Lastly, donít be afraid to wander from the official Ďrouteí, there are some incredible locations off the beaten path.

  8. #8
    Master thegoat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Kenney View Post
    No other reason than it's pretty much half way. The lakes were also an option, but we have been there many times and I'd rather be further up north.
    I'll taker closer look at Loch Lomond as I've heard great things.

    Thank you.
    I do quite a bit of work in Glasgow and Edinburgh and always looked forward to the drive once north of Preston and hitting the Lakes area.
    Since working further North and the scenery beyond Glasgow , I find the A74 M and the M6 downright dull.
    I stayed at The Inn on Loch Lomond which was more than adequate and had a decent restaurant/ bar area.

  9. #9
    Journeyman
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    I was in a group of 6 classic cars that carried this out end of April for 10 days. We all met in the premier inn at Carlisle. Next day drove up by Loch Lomond and across Glencoe pass, up to Fort William and then onto Inverness. Next day started the route. Best driving holiday Iíve had. Canít wait to do it again. Total mileage 1945 miles.



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  10. #10
    Master
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    Did it in 2015 on a motorcycle 5 days ( we live in Lancashire) . Top tip do it anti-clockwise, the east coast is OK but the west coast is stunning and the reveals at each corner are fantastic. As stated above book ahead especially the west coast. Fresh fish at the Applecross inn was a highlight. We did 150 to 225 miles per day very leisurely and in keeping with the small roads

  11. #11
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the tips and ideas so far. We're planning for early October and the hotels seem readily available currently.

    I like the idea of doing it in reverse.

    I'm not bothered about it being cold; I just hope it stays dry so we can have the roof down.

    Bought a little toy for the journey -






  12. #12
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    Hopefully no midges by October, they can be brutal.

    My tip- Check out Cocoa Mountain.

    Enjoy the trip.

  13. #13
    Master
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    Did it last year and it was up there with the Alps for the views etc.

    Best advice I can give is to do it anti-clockwise. Most go up the west and then head east, but if you go the other way the scenery and roads get better and better each day.

  14. #14
    As has already been said, avoid Gretna, and the west and north coasts are a lot more interesting than the east. You could complete the NC500 at a leisurely pace within a week depending on how many stopovers you take, if you're willing to go to 10 days then I'd recommend spending a couple of nights on Orkney as well seeing as you're making the effort to get that far north. Lots of WWII history (Italian Chapel, Churchill Barriers, Scapa Flow etc), the Highland Park distillery, Hoy, Skara Brae, and Kirkwall are all worth visiting!

    Allow a reasonable amount of time to travel each section of the route. I'm going to state the obvious however, for example, 50 miles on a motorway takes no time at all however 50 miles along a narrow and winding coastal road takes a lot longer, particularly with coffee and 'photo stops. That time of year both the midge and tourist count will be low so you shouldn't have to suffer there and all the single track roads are generous with the number of passing places so hopefully you shouldn't get stuck behind a camper/caravan for too long anyway.

    If you can I'd recommend driving the Applecross Loop clockwise, the climb up the Bealach Na Ba is absolutely stunning if the weather is playing ball. There are a few videos of the climb on YT including one of mine, I've driven most of the NC500 with the roof off and it's an unforgettable experience. Like you said OP, it doesn't matter if it's chilly as long as it's not wet!

    Other tips? Book overnight stays in advance, make the most of the seafood, be patient if you do get stuck behind something, and enjoy the scenery - it's stunning.

    I'm back in Scotland myself for a while as from this Sunday though I'll be keeping to the south west. I can't wait as it means, amongst other things, I get to drive the B863 aka "The Scotsburgring" again!

  15. #15
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by pete-r View Post
    Did it last year and it was up there with the Alps for the views etc.

    Best advice I can give is to do it anti-clockwise. Most go up the west and then head east, but if you go the other way the scenery and roads get better and better each day.
    100% correct:))))

  16. #16
    Craftsman Integrale's Avatar
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    Ignore the East coast. Not worth it.
    Don't be in a rush to start the 500.
    Better to stop overnight in Glasgow. Have a cuŕry! Take Glencoe slowly and enjoy it. Torriden is fantastic. Applecross good if the weather is right. Once the loop turns South, keep going due South! The West and North coasts are the best bits. Don't feel obliged to follow the route. Lots of fun to be had reversing a previous days route.
    You can always go back and do it again. It ain't going anywhere.

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  17. #17
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    Did it years ago before it had a name. Loved it. Take your time. A copy of Scotland the Best by Peter Irvine is great for diversions.


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  18. #18
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Thanks for the great advice all!

    Really looking forward to this.

  19. #19
    Craftsman
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Kenney View Post
    Well, we'll actually start from Leicester and drive to Gretna, stop over night there and then to Inverness, and start the 500 the following day.
    Based on that idea, rather than stop at Gretna, Annan is just a 10 min drive west of there. The Powfoot Hotel is quite nice, with a reasonable restaurant and good breakfast. Nice location bang on the coast

    Gretna might also have good places - I've never stayed there, but have driven through many times and not really felt inspired to stop there (which might be totally unfair on Gretna, just the vibe I get from driving through)

  20. #20
    Journeyman
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    It is great

    Have a look on google maps satellite view. Lots of nice secluded beaches etc just off the beaten track well worth the visit over the tourist trail.

    Nice motor though

    Would have been nice with an auld VW sleeper though


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  21. #21
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UMBROSUS View Post
    Would have been nice with an auld VW sleeper though
    I'd rather drive myself as opposed to an RAC employee

  22. #22
    Craftsman
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fifer View Post
    Did it years ago before it had a name. Loved it. Take your time. A copy of Scotland the Best by Peter Irvine is great for diversions.


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    Me too, with several repeat trips with the car club, don't follow the route religiously as there is so much to see if your not in a hurry, although one weekend we did around 500 miles in two (long) days. we have a Honda S2000 so similar to the BMW, maybe better boot space, everything in soft bags makes packing it in easier. Beware of wooly mobile bollards.

  23. #23
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pitfitter View Post
    Beware of wooly mobile bollards.
    Haha. I'll keep my eye out... or bring some mint sauce along

  24. #24
    Grand Master
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    MrsV and I go and do parts of the 500 every year. West is definitely more beautiful than east imo, and the applecross devils pass had me going a bit white while driving it.. well worth it for the garlic prawns at the Applecross inn.
    I'd try and squeeze in a bit of the cairngorms as well if youre heading east, particularly the snow roads - https://visitcairngorms.com/snowroads

  25. #25
    Master Jon Kenney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by verv View Post
    MrsV and I go and do parts of the 500 every year. West is definitely more beautiful than east imo, and the applecross devils pass had me going a bit white while driving it.. well worth it for the garlic prawns at the Applecross inn.
    I'd try and squeeze in a bit of the cairngorms as well if youre heading east, particularly the snow roads - https://visitcairngorms.com/snowroads
    You had me at "garlic prawns".

  26. #26
    Craftsman Templogin's Avatar
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    Bear in mind that the days are much shorter the further north you go. I went from Sussex in mid October many years ago, before it was fashionable.

    Visit Smoo Falls, a waterfall in a cave. Much better than it sounds.

  27. #27
    Master
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    One last piece of advise...whatcha your speed. Scottish Traffic cops have NO sense of humour!!!
    Especially if they spot English plates.

  28. #28
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    Have a look at Moffat instead of Gretna as a halfway stop - Gretna is not very nice (IMO). New Lanark (I was born there), Glasgow & Loch Lomond are also good shouts and not that much further in reality.

    Further up on your overall route, definitely plan in a drive over the Bealach na Bŗ to Applecross for some great food & drink whilst looking over to Skye on a clear day evening - it's stunning. I also know the owner which helps. I would also recommend a walk and picnic up Glen Strathfarrar where you'll see Eagles and some utterly breathtaking scenery.

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