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Driving the North Coast 500 in a motorhome is a fantastic way to see the best sights on the NC500 road trip. In our opinion, it is the best, giving you the freedom to move around as you please and not be bound to a timescale whilst also having all your belongings with you everywhere you go, perfect for Scotland’s changing weather!
If you are new to driving a motorhome or a campervan or if you are hiring one for the first time, this guide aims to give you some tips on how to travel in a motorhome responsibly.
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Tips for Driving the NC500 in a Motorhome
If you are planning a road trip around the NC500, you will want to have a heads up on what to expect when you head to the north of Scotland and what it will be like to explore in a motorhome or campervan. In this guide, we will be sharing our top tips to driving the NC500 in a motorhome.
- Dispose of Your Waste Responsibly
- Take it Easy on Single Track Roads
- Pull in to Allow Overtaking if Necessary
- Don’t Park in Passing Places
- Stock up for the West Coast
- Plan Ahead for Campsites
- Preparing for your trip to the NC500
Dispose of Your Waste Responsibly
Over the past year, the NC500 has unfortunately had a lot of bad press due to the infrastructure not being built to meet the demand of visitors that have been touring there. This also hasn’t been helped by the minority not disposing of their waste responsibly and leaving a mess for others to clean up.
If you are new to driving a motorhome, you may not be completely familiar with the waste system. On a campervan or motorhome you have your grey water (the tank for dirty water) and your black water (your toilet). Due to the chemicals that are used in these waters, we need to ensure we are disposing of them correctly.
The best way to dispose of your black and grey water is at a named facility or a campsite. There are many great campsites on the NC500 that will allow you to pay a small fee, usually £5 to dispose of your waste in their tanks. If you are wild camping around the NC500, this is the best way to do it to make sure you are camping responsibly.
Take it Easy on Single Track Roads
Keep in mind that motorhomes are large vehicles carrying a lot of weight. The NC500 has many single track roads where you will find yourself breaking often and pulling into passing places. You will also notice a number of cattle grids around the route as you share the road with wild animals. Look out for sheep, deer and even highland cows when you are driving in Scotland.
With this being said, take it easy on the narrow roads to avoid an accident.
Pull in to Allow Overtaking if Necessary
We don’t always want to drive at the speed limit in a motorhome, whether that’s because of the size of the vehicle or because you are soaking up the scenery on route. If you see a number of cars behind you, pull in and let them overtake as the chances are, they will try to at some point anyway. Pulling in at the next opportunity makes this safer for everyone.
Don’t Park in Passing Places
There are many single track roads around the north coast of Scotland. To help traffic flow on these narrow roads there are passing places. These are marked with a white sign and if it is on your side of the road, pull in to allow the other vehicle to pass. Passing places should not be used as parking spaces as this will result in the narrow road becoming blocked.
Stock up for the West Coast
When you reach the west coast of the NC500, it becomes a lot more remote and shops become a lot more sparse. It is good to support the local shops, cafes and restaurants when you do come across them, however, if you are taking your time around the route, we would definitely recommend on stocking up in either Thurso or Ullapool so you won’t feel as rushed round the coast to reach a supermarket.
Plan Ahead for Campsites
If you are travelling the NC500 during the summer months, this is especially important. Have a rough idea of where you want to camp and decide whether or not you are staying at a campsite or finding a wild camping spot.
In Summer, campsites are extremely busy and will need to be booked far in advance It is also worth noting, with the number of vans on the road, wild camping spots can also be few and far between come evening as everyone is parked up. Have some back up camp spots that you can go to if you’re number one isn’t a success.
Before You Leave on the North Coast 500
Before you head off on your trip around the NC500, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.
How Do I Get Around the NC500?
Given the remote location of the NC500 and the majority of the sights along the route, the best way to get around this road trip is by driving. There are of course other methods that are still popular, such as cycling and hiking, however, if you have a short amount of time on the route, neither of these are very suitable.
As for public transport, the use around the NC500 is understandably difficult due to how remote each location is, however, with the increasing problem of congestion along the route, this is a good option to research if you have time. If it is something that interests you, you can read a public formed itinerary of how to get around the NC500 by public transport over here.
If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip along the NC500, we highly recommend hiring through Bunk Campers. We toured with these guys around the up-and-coming Heart 200 road trip in Scotland’s central highlands and could not believe the comfort and customer service we experienced with their vans.
What Should I Pack for the NC500?
When it comes to packing for a trip along the NC500 there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your 7-day NC500 road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket.
As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.
Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C
Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C
Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C
Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C
As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
Where Should I Stay on the NC500?
The remoteness in the highlands of Scotland will leave you with little choice of accommodation in each location along the NC500, however, there are still enough options to choose from to ensure a comfortable trip. These are mostly in the shape of B&Bs, Airbnbs, converted cottages and other quirky accommodations.
Depending on how adventurous you are, there may be more accommodation choices than just the above, often with an even better view. Caravan and camping sites are abundant along the NC500, drawing camping enthusiasts from all over the world. For some of the most spectacular bedside scenery along the North Coast 500, we recommend packing a tent and getting in touch with nature for the week.
As we travelled along the North Coast 500, camped in our trusty Vango tent on a mixture of campsites and wild sites. Wild camping is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the highlands, however, it must be done respectfully. Read our full guide to Wild Camping if you wish to give it a go so you know everything you need to for a comfortable and sustainable trip.
What is the Best Travel Insurance?
No matter what type of adventure you are heading on, whether it is a mountain adventure or a relaxing beach destination, one thing we all need to be aware of is that accidents can happen. The last thing you want is for an unexpected medical emergency to ruin your trip of a lifetime. Luckily, that is what travel insurance is for.
Whenever we travel abroad, we get covered with World Nomad’s Travel Insurance, a reliable, friendly and extremely affordable method of covering yourself on any adventure. With years of experience working for backpackers around the globe, the service they provide is perfect for whatever type of trip you have planned.
So there you have it, our top tips for driving the NC500 in a motorhome. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know what you thought of it. If you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.
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- Must Read Tips for Responsible NC500 Wild Camping
- North Coast 500 Packing Guide – What You Will Need for the NC500
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