motorhome north coast 500

How to Take a North Coast 500 Motorhome Trip

This iconic Scottish motorhome road trip is a 516 mile route around the spectacular north coast of Scotland. We share highlights, ideas for activities and things to do along the route, the best NC500 campsites and travel tips to help you have your best ever Scottish trip.

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North Coast 500 route planner and North Coast 500 map

The North Coast 500 Motorhome Route

Starting and finishing in Inverness, the North Coast 500 route passes through remote and wild landscapes following the stunning coastline around Scotland. The NC500 route delivers dramatic roads with spectacular views and is one of the must do motorhome routes in the UK

Use our guide and highlights to work out where to visit and what to see along the route, and pick out what interests you the most. Lots of people ask us how long is needed, and the answer always depends on how long you have! The whole thing could be done in a couple of weeks (at a push) or you could choose a bit of it that appeals to you, take your time and stay safe on the road.

Covid Update - April 2021

With restrictions in Scotland set to be eased on Friday 16th April, permitted travel times for motorhome and campervans to use the North Coast 500 have been put in place as follows;

Garve to Lochcarron Section 0600-0800, 1900-2130
Shieldaig to Kinlochewe Section 0630-0830, 1830-2030
Lochinver to Kylesku Section 0400-0730, 1900-2300
Scourie to Durness Section 0800-0930, 1700-1900

All other sections are 24 hours other than Wick to Helmsdale with no campervan or motorhome travel advised between 1000-1330 on Tuesdays and Thursdays until further notice.

Remember if you have to travel outwith these times, please ensure you have a passport, proof of address and certification of safely disposing of your chemical toilet at one of the three approved decanting points in Ullapool, Melvich or Dornoch.

Be advised also that the one-way system is still in effect so doing the route anti-clockwise is not advised and goes against Scottish Government guidance. 

With thanks to The Daily Gael for this information. We will endeavour to update accurately, but please do check with the Scottish authorities before travel.

Inverness

ne of Scotland’s seven cities and sits in the south of the Highlands, on the banks of the River Ness. Crowned by a fabulous castle and beautifully planted with flowers, Inverness is a thriving city with a rich variety of places to visit and things to do, both in the compact city itself and in the surrounding area.

Highlights

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The Best Campsites in Inverness

 is 

motorhome in Scotland wild camping nc500

Easter Ross

A region full of history, Easter Ross is located north of Inverness and sea-bound by the Moray Firth to the east, the north-shore of the Cromarty Firth and the south Shore of the Dornoch Firth. Lined with coastal villages offering fabulous views and plenty of sea life to watch out for, as well as Highland wilderness in the inland forestry areas, there’s much to appreciate here. Don’t rush through on your way north!

Highlights

  • Visit the Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack and the pretty seaboard villages of Shandwick, Balintore and Hilton to learn about The Picts, a wild people in late Iron Age Scotland who prevented the Romans from conquering all of Britain by holding their territory.
  • Take a tour at The Dalmore Whisky Distillery in Alness. Considered one of the best luxury whisky brands in the world, The Dalmore whiskies sell for thousands of pounds. Find out what the fuss is about with a tour, and maybe a wee dram (but only if you’re not driving!)
  • Hike up to the huge Fyrish Monument for spectacular views across Cromarty Firth and the great hulk of Ben Wyvis mountain.
  • Visit the Touchstone Maze near Strathpeffer, made up of 81 different rock types from around Scotland and a great way to get an understanding of Scotland’s complex geological map.
  • Walk up to the magical Black Rock Gorge, an impressive one mile long, 40 meter deep gash in the rocks created during the Ice Age by the River Glass rushing down to the Cromarty Firth. This is a stop for Harry Potter fans, the gorge was a filming location in 2004 for ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’.

The Best Campsites in Easter Ross

The very well located Black Rock Caravan Park, in the village of Evanton, is approximately a mile from the A9 North Coast 500 road. With excellent touring pitches and services, this makes a great stop on the way north.

Dornoch Firth Caravan Park is a peaceful, family-owned campsite in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Set amongst picturesque rural and coastal scenery, the east coast site enjoys expansive views of the beautiful Dornoch Firth.  

free motorhome camping north coast 500
Somewhere on the road in Easter Ross

Caithness

  The vast open landscape, also known as the flow country, is rich in the archaeology of ancient times, and t  

Highlights

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The Best Campsites in Caithness

  

Sutherland

   For many, us included, this is a favourite part of the route, for the spectacular scenery and its rich natural history.

Highlights

  •  Dunrobin Castle
  • nly accessible by ferry or minibus, this really is a remote spot.
  • North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, which contains
  • geology and a landscape of world-class quality, significance and importance. It’s a wonderful place to learn about the 3,000 million year old geological history of one of the most sparsely populated corners of Europe.
  • Explore Stoer Head, a few miles north of the picturesque village of Lochinver. You’ll find beautiful views across islands and inland coves, as well as the striking white Stoer Lighthouse and the fabulous Old Man of Stoer, a 60m high Torridonian sandstone sea stack.
  • Achmelvich Beach is one of the area’s most stunning beaches, with white sands and clear turquoise waters. It’s a magnet for water-based activities such as windsurfing and water-skiing – if you carry an inflatable canoe or stand up paddle board, this is a great place to blow it up and get on the water.  You may prefer to take the A894 main road from Ullapool and avoid the majority of the B869 from Kylesku to Lochinver as this can be a tricky route for large vehicles.

The Best Campsites in Sutherland

 

motorhomes Scotland at Clachtoll Beach
Clachtoll Beach

Wester Ross

Wester Ross is an area of breathtaking landscapes – think ancient glens, Caledonian forests, lofty mountain peaks and gorgeous beaches. With iconic roads and dramatic backdrops, driving through Wester Ross is an adventure and a highlight for many NC500 visitors. From bagging a Munro to whale watching, exploring castles and gorgeous gardens, there is plenty to keep you busy in this beautiful part of Scotland. 

Highlights

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  •  the River Droma rushes over a series of waterfalls before the grand finale of the the huge 45 m Falls of Measach.
  • Visit the UNESCO Biosphere Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, and explore the woodlands, home to 350-year-old Scots Pines, remnants of the ancient Caledonian forest that once stood here.
  • Climb Beinn Eighe, one of the Torridon’s best Munros (mountains over 914m), of which there are 37 on the NC500. The views of the Torridon Hills are simply stunning from the summit.
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motorhome Bealach na Ba North Coast 500 route map

The Best Campsites in Wester Ross

Stay at Inverewe Gardens Poolewe Camping and Caravanning Club Site. Beautifully laid out, this tree-lined site has good facilities and incredible sunsets.

Kinlochewe Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is located at the foot of the rugged slopes of Beinn Eighe, at the end of a beautiful drive along Glen Docherty from Achnasheen. With excellent facilities, stop here for a few days to exmplore the Torridon Hills and local area.

Applecross Campsite is at the coast end of the pass as it snakes down to Applecross. After a long day of driving, its a wonderful stop overlooking Applecross Bay, with fine views to Skye.

Frequently asked questions about taking a North Coast 500 motorhome tour

When should I tour the NC500 in my motorhome?

You can go at any time of the year, but you will need heating and some form of motorhome winterisation during the colder months. Expect it to rain whenever you visit, this is Scotland after all!

  

  With summer averages of around 20°c, this is one of the best times for touring Scotland in a motorhome. The downside is that popular routes, attractions and North Coast 500 motorhome stops (both campsites and popular wild camping spots) will be busy, so a road trip of Scotland in summer will require a little more planning and you may need to book your favourite North Coast 500 campsites in advance. July and August are also the worst months for the infamous biting midges, especially if you’re planning on visiting the west coast, where they are generally at their worst. 

   the autumn colours 

   As a rough guide there are an average of 15-20 snow days a year in the country, which can rise to over 100 snow days in the Scottish Highlands, so some roads may be closed.

Is there wild camping for motorhomes in Scotland?

There is motorhome wild camping in Scotland aplenty – use Park4Night to find the best NC500 wild camping spots (as well as campsites) and make sure you follow the rules. So many people ask us about wild camping on a North Coast 500 tour that we wrote a post about it!   

Can I hire a motorhome to do the NC500 route?

Yep, you can!  If you’re looking for NC500 Scotland motorhome hire, check out Spaceship Rentals. You can collect your motorhome in Edinburgh and be in Inverness within three hours.  Spaceship rentals also offer North Coast 500 campervan hire, so whatever your road trip style, they’ve got you covered.

Are any of the roads in the NC500 unsuitable for large vehicles?

Driving the North Coast 500 in a motorhome can be challenging in places and there are a few roads that you may want to miss out, and some which would be a real struggle in a larger motorhome. This is the official advice from the North Coast 500 website;

“If your motorhome or camper van is more than a standard VW T5 conversion (ie about 16-18ft in length), please take the alternative motorhome routes available. If you cannot accurately reverse your vehicle several hundred yards on a narrow single track road – you cannot safely drive over this road. Please do not attempt to drive the Bealach Na Ba (take the A832) or B869 Drumbeg Road (take the A894).”

This is following advice from several professional drivers who know the road and from local breakdown services. It only takes ONE person who is not used to driving a large vehicle to block the road completely to the detriment of other users, those that use the road for work, and importantly – emergency vehicles.

As well as the driving information detailed above, campervan and motorhome drivers should be consider the following:

  • You must feel comfortable reversing the vehicle correctly and safely as you may be required to do this on single track roads.
  • If you are travelling below the speed limit, please pull in to a layby or one of the passing places to allow traffic to safely pass you.
  • Do not travel in convoy, especially on small roads as this can lead to congestion. Always travel at least one passing place apart.

Anything else I need to know about motorhomes & the NC500?

These are our top North Coast 500 tips:

  • Take your time. There is so much to see and do along the incredible 500 miles that it would be a shame to rush. You could manage it in seven days, but two or even three weeks will give you a real chance to explore and get to know this wonderful part of Scotland.
  • Whether you stop at NC500 campsites or wild camp, always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, it helps to protect the fragile flora and fauna of this beautiful country.
  • Check ahead regularly to see what attractions might be off the North Coast 500 motorhome route map that you may want to detour too – this is where you’ll find the real hidden gems and off the beaten track places, including awesome wild camping spots.
  • Use a sat nav that you can configure for your motorhome if possible. This will help you avoid any difficult roads which may not be suitable for the size of your vehicle, or any roads that are closed due to poor weather.
  • However you decide to overnight, whether you’re wild parking in your motorhome for lunch or using campsites along the North Coast 500, please dispose of any motorhome waste and rubbish properly and leave no trace of where you’ve been.
  • 3g and 4g can be limited in many areas, so if you have important information, insurance documents or bookings, make sure they are downloaded before you leave Inverness. 
  • Midges are a fact of life in Scotland, particularly on the west coast part of the NC 500 route. Their bites range from being mildly itchy to causing an allergic reaction, so best to avoid them on your motorhome holiday if at all possible.
    • Travel during the low season, November to February.
    • If you have them, make sure your fly screens are in use at all times.
    • Change into long sleeves and trousers before dusk and use a midge veil or hat.
    • Don’t park or camp near stagnant water.
    • Head for windy places to overnight, but weigh up which is worst first!
    • Use an insect repellent such as Jungle Formula or Avon Skin So Soft.

Are there other Scotland road trips I could do in a motorhome?

Absolutely! Scotland is made for road trips, and doing them in a motorhome, your very own self-catering accommodation, is even better!

road trip Scotland
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