NC500: advice on planning overnight stops (1 Viewer)

rob_g

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Hi :)

First-time poster here. My wife and I are reasonably accomplished caravaners and also prior to that owned a camper van for a year or two.

My wife turns 60 this year and wanted to mark the occasion by hiring a motorhome and driving the NC500. So we've booked motorhome hire from Inverness in June and will be driving the anti-clockwise route. Not having motorhomed in Scotland before, I'm seeking a bit of advice on planning stopovers.

We have a total of 9 nights for our trip and have already booked campsite stopovers for the night 1 (on the Black Isle near Inverness), the night 2 (near John O’Groats) and night 9 (not far from Inverness). So basically we need to plan to cover the rest of the route from John O’Groats back to Inverness with six overnight stops.

Since we’ll be in a fully equipped motorhome, we thought it would be nice to take advantage of our onboard facilities by having at least one or two non-campsite overnights (“wild camping”).

I should also mention that the motorhome is 7.4m long (about 25 feet), so we will be avoiding both the B869 coastal road from Kylesku to Lochinver and the infamous Bealach na Bà near Applecross.

My two main questions at this point are as follows:

• What’s the best way to go about working out the optimum distance to cover each day? We’ve deliberately planned to get from Inverness up to the north coast as quickly as possible so we can maximise the amount of time available to spend along the north and west coasts. Should we just plan our itinerary and overnight stops based on what look like sensible daily distances and sights we particularly want to see? Or do we need to worry that heavy and/or slow traffic might prevent us from covering planned distances on any given day?

• In terms of “wild camping”, how easy in practice is it to find suitable places to stop? If we were to book four overnight stops on campsites and leave two nights open, would we definitely be able to find suitable places to stop? I don’t want to end up having nowhere booked and being stuck with nowhere suitable to stop.

No doubt further questions might arise as planning proceeds, but these are my main questions at this point. Any advice from experienced NC500ers greatly appreciated 

Thanks,

Rob
 
May 14, 2021
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I think the best thing to do first is if you search this forum for NC500 or Scotland threads, there is quite a lot of info out there for certain.

As a newbie you may not be aware of the search facility, but it is excellent, if not used enough.

Then come back with more questions after you’ve looked at all those very informative threads.

I’ve added links myself on some of them to further information and HERE is a link to one I did for my trip last August/September
 
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rob_g

rob_g

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I think the best thing to do first is if you search this forum for NC500 or Scotland threads, there is quite a lot of info out there for certain.

As a newbie you may not be aware of the search facility, but it is excellent, if not used enough.

Then come back with more questions after you’ve looked at all those very informative threads.

I’ve added links myself on some of them to further information and HERE is a link to one I did for my trip last August/September
Hi and thanks for taking the time to reply. I actually did spend a good half-hour or more searching the site and did indeed find many informative threads connected with the NC500, and lots of links to useful information elsewhere. But I couldn’t find answers to these two specific questions, so I thought it made sense to just come right out and ask them. I’d be very grateful if you (or anyone) could give me a steer 🙂
 
Oct 9, 2019
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Check out https://www.northcoast500.com/ for lots of info.
You haven’t said when you are going but avoid Scottish school holidays.
Utubers post loads of vids about their NC500 adventures.
Wild camping may be difficult in a 7.5m van as there will be others wanting to share your location so be prepared to use sites and Aires.
Have a look at this map for Aires. https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/v...&ll=58.04051567413213,-3.9883014687374203&z=8

You may know this anyway but study the single track road etiquette and when driving look far ahead to avoid upsetting the locals.
 

lorger

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I wouldn’t make to much plans, you will always find somewhere to stay. Try downloading the searchforsites app and the park4night both will show places to stay, they will also have places you can empty and fill your onboard facilities. Be respectful to the locals and before you park up for the night imagine how you’d feel if you lived there and someone parks where you are. In other words don’t annoy anyone and take all your rubbish with you.

We did it 4 years ago and loved it.

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May 14, 2021
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Sorry rob_g I cannot advise about wild camping locations as we only used sites, I’m sure there are places up there but I didn’t readily see them but did see the occasional van parked up, presumably wild camping.

Lochinver appears to have a parking area for Motorhomes that you can probably use overnight, up through the village to the dock area.

As you will see from my tour thread we did it anti-clockwise and went Inverness to Dunnet Bay in the day with stops at John o Groats with ease.

By far the longest days drive was from Tongue to Lochinver and we avoided the very narrow bit around the coast over the Bealach na Bà. I was going to do it but when I got to the junction the road looked much narrower than we had already been travelling on. That section of 82 miles took us 5.5 hours and the road was more or less single track all the way and quite busy with traffic coming the opposite way.

Lot of inexperienced drivers we encountered, who struggled with knowing their width between mirrors, and beware the tarmac edge has a rough drop off most places so don’t damage your inner walls of the tyres by going over.
 
Jan 27, 2018
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First of all, anti clockwise is the best route and 9 days should give you enough time for a reasonably leisurely holiday.

You will have no problems in a 7.4mtr motorhome unless it is very wide like some Bailey models. Depending on when you are travelling you should have no trouble finding "wild camping" park ups but please show the usual respect.

You would be able to drive the Bealach na Ba, we've done it several times in our 7.4mtr van, if you are nervous drive very early or late afternoon when it's quiet, remember that large refuse lorries use these roads without problem.

Etiquette on single track roads is important, use passing places to let traffic pass and pull in for approaching vehicles, use the time to enjoy the scenery.

Campsites do get busy so best to book. Our favourites are Durness and Big Sand site at Gairloch.

Don't rush, enjoy the scenery and have fun.
 
Jul 13, 2019
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Itching to do it again, we last did the trip in May 2004 and didn't plan or pre book anything,staying on small sites or wild camping as the whim took us. I don't know how practical that would be these days as it's so much more popular.
I think 50 miles a day was about our average with plenty stops for exploring, esp those wonderful White sand beeches. If you plan on around a 20 mph average for actual driving time I don't think you would be far out if you want to enjoy the journey. Our van was over 7m at the time and I don't recall any difficulties with the roads.
Stop on a campsite every third day to fill and empty tanks.
May and June are the height of the midge season too, esp. on the west side.
As others have said when wild camping be considerate,leave as you find.
Enjoy the trip.
 
Apr 3, 2018
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Welcome... hope you njoy your trip.. even though we been up that way a few times I would not.. never..ever do it in June/July/August.. Far too busy.
IMOA best time is April/ May or Sept Oct.
There are a few sites that are first come only.. no booking..
Trouble with booking is you need to be there that night... you will surprised how long even 30 miles can take on single track roads especially if you deviate to go sight seeing, which after all is what NC500 all about.
If you are sensible you will find somewhere to park up and as you say you got some off it already sorted.....
But the main thing is you will not be rushing and ENJOY... and happy 60th (when it arrives.)

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rob_g

rob_g

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Feb 19, 2023
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You haven’t said when you are going but avoid Scottish school holidays.
Actually I did say we're going in June, so not exactly the quietest time of year but at least it's outside the school holidays.
Wild camping may be difficult in a 7.5m van as there will be others wanting to share your location so be prepared to use sites and Aires.
Have a look at this map for Aires. https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1qPQe9AaX3fAT-6sbp2Ubes0TXTd0VLwx&ll=58.04051567413213,-3.9883014687374203&z=8
Thanks for the link, could come in handy.
You may know this anyway but study the single track road etiquette and when driving look far ahead to avoid upsetting the locals.
Yep, I've read a lot about this so will be doing my level best to be a courteous and considerate road user :giggle:
 
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rob_g

rob_g

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Feb 19, 2023
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I wouldn’t make to much plans, you will always find somewhere to stay. Try downloading the searchforsites app and the park4night both will show places to stay, they will also have places you can empty and fill your onboard facilities.
Thanks for the tips re these apps – I'll definitely look them up.
Be respectful to the locals and before you park up for the night imagine how you’d feel if you lived there and someone parks where you are. In other words don’t annoy anyone and take all your rubbish with you.
We certainly will!
 
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rob_g

rob_g

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Lochinver appears to have a parking area for Motorhomes that you can probably use overnight, up through the village to the dock area.
Yeah, we've already clocked that as a possible overnight stop.
By far the longest days drive was from Tongue to Lochinver and we avoided the very narrow bit around the coast over the Bealach na Bà. I was going to do it but when I got to the junction the road looked much narrower than we had already been travelling on. That section of 82 miles took us 5.5 hours and the road was more or less single track all the way and quite busy with traffic coming the opposite way.
That does look like a long stretch! I don't reckon we'll be planning to cover that kind of distance on any one day (at least not after John O'Groats).
Lot of inexperienced drivers we encountered, who struggled with knowing their width between mirrors, and beware the tarmac edge has a rough drop off most places so don’t damage your inner walls of the tyres by going over.
Thanks for the tips :)
 

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