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Bonnie Scotland (our NC500 trip)

We are very lucky in that we have a very nice little camper van (a VW T6) to use for our holidays. Last year we did a tour of Italy, this year we decided to travel a little closer to home and visit Scotland. We planned to follow the NC500 (North Coast 500) route but knew that we wouldn’t have time to seriously enjoy ourselves if we attempted to do the whole 500 miles from Inverness to Inverness.  We therefore decided to follow the route travelling the west coast of Scotland and just see how far we got.

NC500 RouteThe 'Van
The NC500 Route (Wiki) / The 'Van

We were travelling quite a long way to get to Scotland in the first place as we live in Chepstow in South Wales, so we arranged to stay with friends at Annan just inside the Scottish border for a couple of days before pressing on with our trip. We also stayed one night at Fort William to break up the journey.

Continuing our journey to our first port of call on the NC500 at Applecross we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle – a beautiful little castle which has apparently featured in many TV programs and films. Arriving at Applecross late afternoon we settled into the campsite and then wandered down the road to the inn on the side of the loch. What a beautiful location! On the walk down to the pub we saw some wild deer – we were so close to them it was unbelievable. We had our dog with us but they were totally unbothered by us or our dog, equally our dog was totally unbothered by the deer!  We enjoyed a nice meal of fish and chips from the van on the loch edge and then headed back to camp.

Eilean Donan CastlePass to Applecross
Eilean Donan Castle / The Route to Applecross

The next day we moved on to Gairloch, stopping briefly at Nanny’s café at Sheildaig, another lovely spot by the lochside, for coffee and cake. Despite it being a bit misty when we left, the scenery and views along the route as we passed the Torridon mountains were outstanding. We stayed a couple of nights at Gairloch to recharge our batteries after travelling so much (about 12.5 hours driving by this point) and to get some clothes washing done.  On a walk nearby we managed to spot a couple of Golden Eagles in the distance – wow!  They were being ‘mobbed’ by buzzards and the size difference was just amazing!

View from Nanny's Cafe in SheildaigTorridon Mountains
View from Nanny's Cafe in Sheildaig / Torridon Mountains

Next day was a trip to Inverewe National Trust garden – beautiful and recommended.

Inverewe GardensInverewe Gardens
Inverewe Gardens

We moved onto Ullapool where we enjoyed a meal from the Indian takeaway at the entrance to the campsite.  Next morning we moved on again as my husband really wanted to climb at least one mountain while we were in Scotland and he chose Stac Pollaidh.  Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to climb a hill if there is a decent path but when it comes to scrambling, I have decided that it is not for me!  There wasn’t much scrambling but please bear in mind that I am short and have short legs so it was probably a lot more scrambling for me than it would be for a slightly taller person!  However… I made it and the views from the top of the mountain were not to be missed!  We were so lucky with the weather as well; we did not need any coats and the sky was blue and cloudless on some occasions.  Wow, wow, wow!

Stac PollaidhStac Pollaidh
Stac Pollaidh

Our next stop for the night was Altandhu and again, a magnificent campsite, Port a Bhaig, on the lochside. I wish we could have stayed there for a few days but unfortunately time did not allow.

Next, on to Clachtoll. Who needs the Caribbean when you have beaches like this in Scotland! (OK, the water may be little warmer in the Caribbean!). When we arrived and wandered down to the beach we were amazed to see a very intimate wedding taking place! What a place to be married…. That would surely make for some very happy memories?

On our final day of travelling along the NC500 we stopped to admire the amazing Allt Charnaidh Waterfall and the Kylesku Bridge.  The route then brought us to Durness and Sango Sands.  We managed to enjoy a nice afternoon here before the weather turned on us and we slept through a very stormy night – we actually put our campervan pop-top down, for fear that we may be blown over the cliff top!

ClachtollKylesku Bridge
Clahtoll Beach (and wedding!) / Kylesku Bridge

We were so fortunate with the weather – we were away for two weeks and it didn’t rain until we turned back for home!  In fact, on more than one occasion I am sure I said to my husband “I’m too hot” - something I never thought I would say in Scotland! Also, the midges (I am sure you have all heard about the midges in Scotland) were nowhere to be seen. But I tell a little fib - there were some at the garden in Inverewe, but nothing too bad or unpleasant.

Bonnie Scotland, we loved you! The views and scenery were out of this world and we will be sure to be back and complete the other half of the NC500 one day!

Contributed by Maria

(Published 25th Jun 2024)

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