Around the coast in a campervan: A NC500 FAQ

Around the coast in a campervan: A NC500 FAQ

by Scottish Tourer November 18, 2020

Around the coast in a campervan

What you might need to know about the North Coast 500

North Coast 500 Campervan Route

Quite simply one of the most breathtaking routes you can take. The North Coast 500 takes you from Inverness and weaves itself around the country's coastal roads and country lanes to provide some of the best stops and activities you can find across Scotland, England and the entirety of Great Britain.

To help give you a quick intro to the route, we wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this amazing campervan adventure you can take.

What is the North Coast 500?

Created in 2014, by the North Highland Institute, the route uses a planned series of existing roads to form a loop Northern Highlands. The initial goal was to help develop economic growth in the Highlands, but it has evolved into something truly unique.

It runs around 516 miles long and showcases the best of Scotland's natural beauty, local businesses and spots that previously didn't receive a lot of tourism. Since its creation, it's become a world-famous route, with tens of thousands already completing the trip. 

While it can be completed in any way you wish, of course, we recommend the route by campervan. You'll get wild camping, planning your own adventures and potentially big savings. This form of travel offers freedom and unique experience you won't get by with any other form of road trip.

What types of stops does the North Coast 500 route include?
Cities, towns and rural villages are all included in the route, so you can expect a very varied itinerary. You'll stop off at places such as:

  • Inverness
  • Ullapool
  • Durness 
  • Dornoch 
  • Wick 
  • Thurso 
  • Lochinver

However, you'll also get away from it all by stopping off at places that don't see much traffic. You can expect to rest for the evening, or spend your days exploring:

  • Coastlines 
  • Beaches 
  • Rural farmland 
  • Marshland 
  • Rivers 
  • Forest 
  • Lochs 
  • Munros 

While here you can watch the local wildlife, explore the landscapes and visit everything from golf courses and distilleries to prehistoric sites, castles and museums.


North Coast 500 Campervan Route: Scotland's Route 66, Sign

Why is it called "Scotland's version of Route 66"?

The media love a catchy title, and so calling it our version of Route 66 has become a trend. While they are similar in terms of being driving routes that offer scenery and attractions, they're both very different experiences.

While Route 66 offers a whole adventure practically on a single road, The North Coast 500 uses everything from major roads to coastal routes to navigate the country. Another difference is the general experience they both offer. Route 66 is a celebration of American 'roadside culture' while the 500 celebrates Highlands culture, historic sites, and scenic coastal views. 

It's also important to mention that the North Coast 500 offers a stunning variety of stops, landscape and activity; however, you can't expect the same from Route 66 which includes mainly towns, cities and roadside attractions.

North Coast 500 Campervan Route: Frost, Scotland, Winter, Snow, Nature     North Coast 500 Campervan Route: Scotland, Landscape

When's the best time to travel the North Coast 500? 

The answer to this question depends on what you hope to get from your trip, and what types of activity will make the perfect holiday for you.

For those wanting to experience the best popular attractions, shops and restaurants, you'll find the best time of year is in the warmer months. May to October are when most stops will be open to travellers, the weather will be warmer, and you'll find more people on the road to have a chat with and swap stories. However, this does mean you might not get much peace and isolation, as May to September is the busiest time for the route.

For a quieter trip, April and October are our recommendations, as the holidays and festivals are also busy spots throughout the year. The winter months are also popular with those interested in photography or using the scenery for their artistic inspiration.

Before you decide on a time to travel the route, however, we recommend researching the weather for that time. The last thing many want is to be caught in a storm of a month-long rainfall., be prepared, and you'll ensure the best trip possible.

How long does it take to drive the North Coast 500?

While you can complete the route in five days, the length depends on how much you want to see, how much you're willing to travel in a day and what stops you want to make along the way. For example, if you don't sleep or stop you could drive the 516 miles in a single day, but where's the fun in that?

The general recommendation is five days to a full week, this provides plenty of time to see what you want to see, do what you want to do and stop where you want to stop. Taking things a little slower lets you enjoy the best touring and sightseeing the route has to offer.

You can, of course, also add any extra stops or detours to extend the trip and see some of the fantastic spots that aren't included in the existing route plan. For example, hop on a ferry to the Western Isles, explore the Isle of Skye or drive inland to popular spots such as Loch Ness. You could easily make the trip fit any time frame you have available, where it's less than seven days or several weeks.

If you have any other questions, get in touch. We're always happy to pass on our extensive knowledge of travelling this amazing country by campervan.

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