Travelling across the NC500 in your caravan is the best way to explore the scenic route. Whether you plan to travel across the North Coast 500 in your personal or a rented caravan, you may find this guide helpful in terms of the dos and don’ts of taking the journey across the route and how you can make your trip a memorable adventure.
What You Need To Know About NC500
The NC500 is to Scotland what the Route 66 is to the US. While the route has always been around, it has become a popular tourist destination in recent years.
People from the UK and neighbouring regions flock to Scotland to explore the NC500 in their caravans or motorhomes.
This 500 miles circular route begins in Inverness and touches the east coast up to John O’ Groats before it takes the high road through the magnificent route to Durness at the north-western end of the mainland.
From thereon, the roads loop around the mountains, beautiful sandy beaches, and lochs in the south towards Applecross before taking you back to Inverness through the marvellous Bealach na Ba.
When you begin your journey, you can take any direction. On average, it takes caravan travellers five to eight days to travel through the NC500, but it can vary depending on how long you want to stay at various sites along the way.
Here are some things to consider before embarking on the journey.
The NC500 Route
Most of the roads on the route are single roads, and for most parts, the road is suitable for large motorhomes or caravans, but with a few exceptions.
For instance, the Bealach Na Ba stretch is unsuitable if you are travelling in a large caravan or do not have much experience driving on sharp bendy roads with sudden slopes.You can always take the road up at A896, which is much safer.
Another route we recommend avoiding is from Lochinver to Kylesku, the B896, which is also harder for bigger vehicles. Instead, you can take the A837 from Lochinver.
If you are not confident about taking the main routes in your caravan, opt for the alternative routes where possible.
The NC500 site states that if the motorhome is around 16 to 18ft in length, which a standard VWT5 conversion is, you should take alternative routes.
The rule of thumb should be that if you cannot reverse the vehicle many hundred yards on a single narrow road, you cannot drive safely on that road.
Every year, there are several blockades along the way due to one large vehicle getting stuck in the middle of the road, causing inconvenience for other travellers and emergency vehicles.
Where To Stay On The NC500
You will find plenty of campsites on the N500 route. It tends to get very crowded and busy during the peak season, so most accommodations are fully booked.
Even if you are travelling in a caravan, you may face a dilemma if you find campsites full to the brim. So, it helps to do some research and make bookings where possible to avoid any last-minute inconvenience.
Here are a few campsites that we recommend.
Inver Caravan Park- Dunbeath
This caravan park is one of the best touring parks in the country and offers a peaceful getaway. The park offers basic amenities, including a toilet, greywater disposal, and Wi-Fi facilities. You must make a booking in advance.
John O’Groats Caravan park
This caravan and camping site is located in the John O’Groats village and offers a seafront view. You will find a small bar, inn, grocery store, and petrol pump in the vicinity. The park offers Wi-Fi, waste disposal, hot showers, and toilets.
Sango Sands Oasis
The site is located in the north of Scotland along a beautiful beach and offers a stunning ocean view. If you are lucky, you may also get to see seals, whales, and even dolphins.
A bar and restaurant are located across from the site. The park offers laundry, waste disposal, toilets, and hot showers.
However, most amenities are available if you travel between the peak seasons of April to October.
Clachtoll Beach site
It is located along Clachtoll Beach and is a small campsite and family-owned business. Lochniver is only five miles away, and you will find plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes in the town.
You must make advance bookings if you want to stay at the campsite.
Finally, if you want to make your trip enjoyable, here are a few tips that you will find useful.
- Plan all your stops in advance, so you do not miss out on the attractions and have time to enjoy random adventures.
- Do not rush your trip. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so make the most of it. Scotland is stunning, and you must not miss out on exploring its natural beauty. Indulge in plenty of outdoor activities.
- Make sure to book in advance, as most sites are rented out instantly.
- Take an early start every morning to make the most of the day and avoid the rush on the roads.
- Try to reach the campsite before it gets dark. You will be driving on unfamiliar roads, so it is better to be safe.
- Pack sensibly and be prepared for abrupt changes in the weather, as the highlands are unpredictable in that sense.
Can I tour Scotland with a caravan?
Travelling across Scotland in a caravan is a popular tourist activity. The place is rife with beautiful locations, and you will find plenty of campsites along the way where you can stay and enjoy various adventures.
Can I pitch a caravan anywhere in Scotland?
The Land Reform Act of Scotland, introduced in 2003, allows travellers to camp in the wild as long as the land is unenclosed and you do not cause any inconvenience for anyone.