Why it's best to camp the North Coast 500

Posted by Admin on

The north coast 500 is Scotlands version the USA's route 66. With the most beautiful coastal scenery including iconic beaches, rugged cliffs and stunning mountains it really is unique. Although it has been around for longer than we can remember. The name was launched in 2015 to boost tourism in the north of Scotland, linking in the highlands. It has been ranked as one of the best road trips on the planet and we don't disagree!

Camping the north coast 500 allows you to see the beautiful scenery properly.
Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay

Taking the NC500 route helps you to discover the best the Scottish Highlands has to offer. From magical and mystical castles, the wonderful distilleries and breweries or take to the water on an exhilarating wildlife safari. As for eating, you can sample the amazing local produce. There is plenty of fresh food from the sea. We have even haggled with trawler boats as soon as they landed to get the best of the best - to farm shops serving up the best local land specialties.

The route begins and ends in Inverness, it is your choice whether you want to travel east to west or west to east. The east side has whiskey distilleries galore and the west side is more rugged where some of the most stunning beaches are located.

The Coastal Drive

The coastal drive offers a truly unique touring experience, quite unlike anywhere else in the world. With impressive locations like Ben Hope (Scotlands most northerly Munro) where the Summits team has camped on top to watch the summer equinox, where the sun sets for less than a few hours to Smoo Cave, a famous beach cave which is great to explore. With so many hidden gems to explore, taste the local produce while admiring the stunning locations couldn't be better, unless you are also sampling the wonderful breweries our country has to offer!

How long does it take to drive the NC500?

The NC500 route actually takes 516 -miles - Sorry but you get more than you bargain for here in Scotland!

How long you take driving the North Coast 500 is up to you. If you just want to experience one of the world’s best roads you could just about manage it in a day – but then you’ll miss everything the route has to offer and not get to experience any of it.

Stunning costal scenery along the North coast 500. This is an image of Clachtoll beach.
Clachtoll Beach

If you just want to see the main sights we would suggest you will need a minimum of four days to do the main stages of the NC500, however, we would suggest a week to 10 days to really make the most of your trip around the North Coast 500. Our Summits team have spent weeks on certain sections of this route and loved every minute so we might be a little biased but the longer you have, the more you can explore and enjoy!

Can you camp along the North Coast 500?

Simply Yes! Scotland has one of the best right to roam laws in the world meaning that. As long as you are not in someone's garden - you can camp in most locations. Keep in mind that you will be traveling through farms, private land and communities so you cannot exactly pitch your tent anywhere, but with so much coastline and mountains, there is always going to be a private, unique spot to spend the night. Although there are lots of ways to do the North Coast 500 we recommend camping to be able to discover and enjoy the true beauty of the North coast 500, the views are unreal!

There are lots of campsites dotted along the coast as well as spots to wild camp. This way allows you to be flexible and take your time around the route without worrying about getting to your next destination in time. Keep in mind the Scottish roads are narrow and windy so if you get stuck behind a bus you might be there for a while. If camping is not your thing there are b&b’s around however, book in advance as these fill up quickly.

What Camping Equipment to take?

We recommend taking a lightweight, compact, easy pitching tent. When traveling around the North Coast 500 you don't tend to stay in one place for long. So taking a tent that is quick to pitch after a long day traveling is ideal.

There is nothing better than waking up in a crisp morning with a beautiful sunrise and a cup of coffee in hand. We recommend taking the Vango Folding Gas Stove. This lightweight compact stove is perfect to take on your camping trip.

The Bealach Na Ba to the Applecross Penisula

The Bealach na Bà is a winding single track road through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula. It incorporates many narrow, twisting roads, including the steepest single-track stretch in the UK, at Bealach na Bà. Not advised for inexperienced drivers. Also note that in winter this road might be closed.

This road needs total concentration as the road is very narrow, has sharp bends and many steep gradients. Remember to keep left and pull in at passing place (bays at the side of the road) to allow other drivers to pass.

This twisting, single-track mountain road is the third highest road in Scotland rising up to 626m (2,054ft) above the sea level - we hope you are not afraid of heights!

Things to do and see on the NC500

  • Smoo cave - See the photo below and tell us pirates and Vikings didn't stop there?
  • Beaches - with so many, we would need another blog just to list them!
  • Most northerly Munro - Ben Hope as mentioned earlier - camp on top for a stunning sunset and sunrise during the summer.
  • Cocoa Mountain - Our sweet tooth needs satisfying.
  • Spot Dolphins/whales - Wildlife, in general, thrives along the route!
  • Visit Whiskey Distilleries - Go on, have a drink!
The smoo cave is one of the stops along the north coast 500 located in Durness.
Smoo Cave

Share your adventure with us on Facebook and Instagram. We would love to see where you go and what you get up to. If you have used any kit from us, remember to tag us too!

We love our countryside and everything has to offer them. We hope you do too! Please take note - we rely on people being kind and considerate when visiting and enjoying what Scotland has to offer. Take nothing but memories and leaving nothing but footprints. Enjoy our wildlands, our brilliant foods and our stunning scenery. For any equipment you need, come talk to us at Summits Outdoor!

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