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North Coast 500 Road trip for 8 days

Hi guys!
I'm planning a trip to NC500 with my husband, 4.5 month old daughter (she's 2.5 mo now) starting from 1st July 2018. Having read up a little more on this route, I seek your suggestions on the below plan-

1 July- Fly into London. Stay near London Luton airport since flight to Inverness is from here
2 July- Catch a direct EasyJet to Inverness. Hire a car from Inverness and start NC500. Overnight stay at Gairloch
3 July- Overnight stay at Gairloch
4 July- Overnight stay at Ullapool
5 July- Overnight stay at Ullapool
6 July- Overnight stay at Scourie
7 July- Overnight stay at Castletown
8 July- Overnight stay at Strathpeffer
9 July- Overnight stay at Strathpeffer
10 July- Leave for Inverness and catch return flight to London.

Please suggest if this is doable..there are not enough accommodation choices left so close to travel dates now. Also, pls advise if Arnold Clark is a good agency for renting cars.

Posted by
17 posts

Greetings! I'm currently on day 6 of an 18 day trip out of and back to Inverness - went up to Orkney, then back to mainland and west along part of the NC 500, a day trip to Skye, will be continuing South a bit and including Islay and back up through the Cairngorms area before returning to Inverness. This is our second time to Scotland but previously only spent about 5 days between Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow. What we've learned so far is: driving here in and of itself is challenging for several reasons, but this varies depending on past experiences. Travel times must be taken seriously and padded- the journey is the destination, and you WILL want to stop several times throughout your drive for sights!! And, the happier everyone is, the better the trip will be. My thoughts on your travel ideas above are: your first leg to Gairloch, give yourself more than two nights, especially if that first one is after your first day driving. The next leg to Castletown will be a long drive!! Consider adding another stop somewhere in there? The Orkney's.. we spent 2 days, 3 nights there and loved it- but the effort it takes to get there (drive times plus ferry times) made that time seem very short. We never left mainland Orkney, but would've loved to get to the other islands; again, ferry schedule and times. Unless you have a big reason to go, or can spend more than two days, I'd save it for your next time out. Basically don't try to do too much on the time you have available! Are you looking for nature sites that will take your breath away? Stay on the West coast (IMHO). History, pick a time period and a region. Etc, etc.
Bear in mind that these are very small towns and there are likely limited amenities (restaurants etc have shorter hours than you may be used to). The larger or more frequented towns will have more options - on west coast Durness, Scourie, Ullapool, Dornie were all
very much quiet little towns but still 'busy' with locals and tourists (mostly hikers, cyclists and nature lovers) - some of their nearby towns may have lodging still available. We're using B&Bs and small hotels, check around and contact them directly if questions regarding your baby. You might get lucky.
We used Celtic Legend for our car rental, but they use Arnold Clark for their vehicles. Easy enough but get a local phone number to call in case of issues.
Best of luck and happy travels planning!!

Posted by
901 posts

Hi, aditigupta1887,

I have to agree with rosiebee3. Scourie to Castletown is a long drive, especially after short drives from Gairloch to Ullapool and Ullapool to Scourie. The only major places where there might be a choice of lodging would be Kinlochbervie, Durness, and Tongue. But they're all really small.

Have you tried contacting the TI office in Durness? Their number from the U.S. is 011 44 1971 509005. They may be able to line you up with accommodation that isn't listed on the internet. You may want to try going a little further north on July 6th., just so you don't have as far to drive on the 7th.

If you haven't already found accommodation in Scourie, the Scourie Lodge is very nice. We stayed there with our son a couple of times. Granted, he was eight and 10 years old at the time, but they rolled out a cot for him.

Arnold Clark have been around for years. I've only rented from them a couple of times, out of Edinburgh. But that was back in the 80s. (The 1980s, I should add!) Service was good, and the vehicles were reliable. They did overcharge me for a pint of petrol, however. I've been mainly renting from Avis and Hertz this century. I think that they have desks at Inverness Airport.

Be sure to allow enough time to get from Strathpeffer to Dalcross for your flight. It's not that far, but sometimes roadworks in and around Inverness can cause delays.

As always, happy travels! Your wee lass probably won't remember most of what she'll see on your trip, but enjoy every moment with her. Even changing nappies! It's true what they say about children growing up so fast.

Mike (auchterless)

Posted by
53 posts

Hi Mike,
Thanks for your response. I concur that its a long-ish drive from Scourie to Castletown but I plan to just crash for one night at Scourie (to break my journey) and then head early morning to Castletown. I'm skipping some of the major 'attractions' like Cape Wrath and Sandwood Bay since they are not easily accessible esp. with a small baby. So really I'm left with Smoo Cave, Kyle of Tongue, Sango Bay and Kyle of Durness within Durness region.
I'll check into my Castletown hotel only by evening, again to rest and next morning cover the northmost points like JOG, Castle of Mey, Duncansby/ Dunnet Head etc.
Will try and connect with Durness TI too as suggested by you! Thanks again for adding so much value on this thread :)

Posted by
1579 posts

On your other thread you said you were also considering the Yorkshire area. Is that still something that interests you? If so, I will add my two-bits. ( We have done both of your itineraries, so I can compare.)

Posted by
53 posts

Yes Cynthia, I was earlier doing Cornwall- Wales- Yorkshire but somehow came across this epic NC500 route and I'm a tab bit more fascinated with Scot than anywhere in UK. Hence, now fixed this as my 8 day trip. However, I'm doing 3 days in Windsor (where my husband has a conference) and 3 days in Dorset before I fly back to India.