After nearly 1935 miles (3,114.08 km) and 2 weeks in the Bellamy our NC500 trip was over. Whilst it sounds like a lot of mileage it never felt like too much driving. Day 9 was the one day when we did cover many miles and had to push a little, but this was due to changing our plans based on the weather report and not visiting the Isle of Skye.
- Day 1 – 300 miles – Hampshire to Penrith
- Day 2 – 285 miles – Penrith to Lock Ness
- Day 3 – 102 miles – Loch Ness to Brora, via Cromarty
- Day 4 – 81 miles – Brora to Dunnet Bay, via John o’ Groats
- Day 5 – 100 miles – John o’ Groats to Sango Sands via Broch Dun Dornaigil
- Day 6 – 55 miles – Sango Sands to Clachtoll
- Day 7 – 100 miles – Clachtoll to Gairloch
- Day 8 – 60 miles – Gairloch to Applecross
- Day 9 – 238 miles – Applecross to Inverness, and further South to Balfron
- Day 10 – 43 miles – Exploring Stirling and Doune
- Day 11 – 187 miles – Balfron to Seaton Sluice, via Falkirk and Rosslyn
- Day 12 – 82 miles – Seaton Sluice to Robins Hoods Bay
- Day 13 – 172 miles – Robins Hood Bay, Whitby and on to Ettie’s Field, Atherstone
- Day 14 – 130 miles – Ettie’s Field to Home
Maintenance of your vehicle.
Driving a total of 1935 miles (ca. 3,114 km) over 14 days in a 35-year-old VW T3 Campervan was an experience we will never forget. Our trusty van Bellamy never skipped a beat. In fact, during the years we owned her, she never let us down once. Whilst I think there’s some luck involved with owning any classic vehicle, you can reduce the risks of breakdowns with good maintenance. Don’t ignore any new squeaks, grinding noises or smells for too long. I addressed faulty brake shoes, a carburettor air leak and a perished fuel hose before becoming major issues. Preparing an old Van before a big trip could save you the annoyance of a flatbed ride home early.
How many days should I take to drive the NC500?
We took about 7 days to drive the NC500 route. We didn’t feel we rushed any part of it, yet we know we missed an awful lot of things. Next time I’d look at taking more stops, more of the route trips and reducing the mileage between some stops for sure.
NC500, clockwise or Anti-Clockwise?
Our NC500 route took us anti-clockwise, saving the spectacular highlands until the end of our journey. This seemed the logical route to us. However, the next time, we plan to drive it clockwise. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a wrong way, so don’t stress too much about it.
Planning, should I book campsites in advance?
If you travel outside the main holiday months, you should be fine to take a more spontaneous approach in booking campsites. We booked the first 2 nights in advance, a campsite in the Lake District and Loch Ness. This was enough to get us to the start line in Inverness over 2 days. Then in the evenings, when warm in the van, I’d spend a little time looking over the maps, reading a guidebook, planning the route and booking the next night’s campsite.
Scotlands weather can be changeable at any time of the year. We cut short our tour a little to avoid some stormy weather. Planning day by day gives you a little more freedom to make decisions like that. I don’t mind getting wet, but if I have to wait 24 hours to walk a trail in the dry, I liked having the option!
Time of Year to travel the NC500?
We left in late September, outside the busier holiday months.
Things we liked in Sept/Oct;
- Traffic was minimal. No issues with passing places.
- No Miges. Happy to say the midge spray remained unopened.
- Campsites were easy to book with lots of availabilty.
Things that were not so great in Sept/Oct;
- Some Campsites close around this time of year, limiting the choice.
- It got cold overnight. Ideally, you will need an onboard heater. We had a cheap Fan Heater that we used on Hook-Up. Perfect for taking the chill off your underwear first thing in the morning, but we did have to choose campsites with hookups every time.
- You will need waterproof clothing.
Petrol stations were plentiful, and we didn’t have any range anxiety. We just filled up whenever we got down to 1/2 tank, just if our fuel gauge wasn’t 100% accurate.
Guides for the Journey
Accompanying us around the NC500 was a great iPhone App – The Local Guide. An interactive guide around the NC500, full of interesting facts of the towns and villages you will drive through and give you idea’s for places to visit off the NC500 route. – http://www.the-local-guide.co.uk
The North Coast 500 Guide Book (Charles Tait Guide Books) was also a great accompaniment, offering additional information on the towns and villages plus places of interest on the route. It doesn’t offer you any info on overnight stops, hotels, restaurants, but that’s what TripAdvisor is for!