Friday, 16 June 2017

Scotland's North Coast 500 - 10 Things you need to know

At the end of last month I kicked off one of the most adventurous road trips I have ever attempted. I've been lucky enough to visit quite a few of Scotland's beautiful landmarks but I hadn't ventured very far up the north coast thus far. The North Coast 500 is a tourist coined description of driving the entire north coastal route of Scotland, and let me tell you these roads can be pretty treacherous. The locals reaction have been mixed to this sudden surge in interest in the route but all in all I think it is really positive for the local tourist industry in rural Scotland. Despite the random super cars that would fly by us on route. 

We set off for a 5 day long trip starting off in Skye rather than Inverness as I had family I wanted to visit in the area. When we were planning our trip we found there wasn't a lot of information on this route so I thought I would put together three posts about the trip. To kick this trio off I am going to talk you through the 10 most important things to know before your journey;

1. Every time you see a petrol station- fill up. This tip seems so obvious but it is really important. Petrol stations can be few and far between especially when you reach the most northern points and you really don't want to be calling the AA in the middle of nowhere. Another good point is that prices of petrol also increase the more rural you get so you really want to fill your tank up in the low lands.

2. Pack clothes for any and every weather condition. It is Scotland after all and within your trip it will probably rain and be very cold. Another thing to keep in mind is that you are going to be in a stuffy car for long periods of time so you don't want to be too wrapped up. The weather was beautiful 90% of our trip and the back of the car felt like a sauna half the time, so have your winter coat and your sunglasses packed.

3. Have a good itinerary but also make time for spontaneity. There are so many places to stop off on the route and a million different museums and landmarks to visit so don't plan your time too carefully. The beauty of this type of trip is that every day is different and you want to make the most of your time in each place. Your best bet is to plan one activity for the morning and then speak to locals about how to spend the rest of your day as they tend to know all the best places to visit.

4. Download Spotify playlist before you leave. Amazing music is an absoloute necessity for any good road trip so don't ruin your fun by forgetting to have all your music downloaded. Trust me in the Highlands there is absolutely ZERO 4G. Be organised, you don't want to end up listening to the same 10 songs on repeat.

5. Get a good nights sleep especially on long drives. Of course you want to have a good time and let me tell you the locals up north know how to drink. It is important to bare in mind though that you might be driving several hours the following day and you have to be alert. The roads in the north are really difficult and you need to have full concentration. The roads around Applecross are particularly hair raising so make sure you're well rested before you make that journey. The views are one of a kind though and well worth the drive. 

6. Make sure your car is in tip top condition. As I have already pointed out a number of times the roads aren't exactly motor ways so your car needs to be up for the job. Check your oil, water and tyres before hand and maybe even have a practise drive on similar road conditions before you set off.

7. Give yourself time. We did the drive in 5 days but I think in reality we should have given ourself a week. Some of the time we spent almost the entire day driving and it meant that we didn't get to stop off as long as we would have liked. Next time we will definitely give ourselves an extra few days so we can really soak up the sights.

8. Stock up the car with snacks and drinks.  We learned the hard way with this one,  Tesco Express' are few and far between the further north you dry. We had a night of super noodles and beans on toast because we weren't very well prepared.

9. Don't spend on accommodation spend on experiences. We decided to save on accommodation by staying in local hostels and little bed and breakfasts and everywhere we stayed was lovely. We barely spent more than £25 a night and it enabled us to do so much more sightseeing and go out for amazing local cuisine instead.

10. Bring a camera. This probably seems completely obvious but I took some glorious photos on this trip and I just know I wouldn't be able to get the same quality of snap on my iPhone. Everywhere you look there are the most magnificent views that you can't not capture.

The North Coast 500 is getting more and more popular so plan your trip sooner rather than later. Please share in the comments any more tips you have for the road trip.

L x


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