I’ve been a bit lazy on the blog front ever since leaving Scotland almost 2 weeks ago, but I can’t move onto other topics until I do a sum up of one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had during my time abroad – the North Coast 500.
The roads of the NC500 have been in existence for a long time, but began being promoted around a year ago and is really starting to take off. It’s a 516 mile route around the North Coast and highlands of Scotland; a smorgasbord of treacherous terrain, rugged cliffs, epically beautiful scenery and sleepy little villages. Oh and AMAZING food and friendly people – but that’s Scotland in general, really!
Driving through the nc500 was how we occupied 3-4 days during the latter part of our week in Scotland. In hindsight, something like this definitely warrants more time and my advice would be to give it at least 5, especially if it’s a time of year when it gets dark early. However, it was still a wonderful thing to do in Winter and I guess the bonus is that there are fewer people on the road – a huge benefit since a lot of the time you’re traversing across mountainsides on 1 way roads!
Some of my most memorable moments of the NC500:
– Driving over the nail biting Bealach Na Ba mountainpass in Wester Ross (not Westeros) during nightfall to get to the village of Applecross. Not one for inexperienced drivers, but an awesome thrill!!
– Meeting the wonderful locals at the cosy Applecross Inn, where it felt like Owen/Ewen the owner and almost half the pub graciously went above and beyond to help me with a credit card issue (Citibank takes security v-e-r-y seriously, that’s all I’ll say)
– Staying the night at a random bunkhouse in the middle of nowhere and meeting someone who once dated Abbie Cornish 😱
– Turning on a sharp bend at night time and encountering 30+ sheep on the road staring us down (their eyes are a reflective red in the dark, quite the scare)
– Wondering why my ears had popped and then realising we had driven up to the top of another mountain, into the low clouds
– Trying haggis at a beautiful seaside cafe in Ullapool
– Staying the night at the family-run Northern Sands hotel in Dunnet and getting to know Donald, the owner, and having a drink with ye old locals, all of whom seem to know each other. This included one old Scottish chap known as Pope, who has a huge soft spot for Ulladulla (in Aus) and would not stop rambling for the best part of an hour about how he met a girl named Antoinette who was kind enough to give him membership to the local RSL 15 years ago and how we MUST one day go to The Marlin for a drink (has anyone been here?)
– Making it to the most northern point of the UK, John o Groats. Be warned, it’s really underwhelming for such a grand geographical milestone (in fact, I read it was voted the most dismal place in the UK in 2010)
If this tickles your fancy, it’s one of the things that ought to be done sooner rather than later – from talking to locals, the NC500 is really starting to pick up momentum, and I’m sure soon enough, these beautifully remote towns and isolated roads will be filled with an influx of tourists! Tourism is a great thing for both travellers and residents, but it’s always bittersweet when places risk losing their character from becoming too popular. But regardless of what happens in the future, like Pope and his eternal love for Ulladulla, Scotland will always have a cherished place in my heart 😊