This year we took on one of Scotland’s most legendary, sight-seeing road trips, showing us some of the countries most breath-taking landscapes, engulfing history and unbelievable feats of nature. The famous North Coast 500 road trip takes you along the most northern parts of the country. It both begins and ends in the capital of the north, Inverness. To help you plan your own NC500 adventure, we put together our NC500 Roadtrip Budget.
Although we are both from Scotland and LOVE the great outdoors, neither of us have ever ventured further north than Aberdeen; nowhere near the NC500’s many beautiful sights! We decided enough is enough, and set off on our two week-long camping trip to take in some of Scotland’s most spectacular sights and attractions.
For this two week trip, we decided to budget as hard as possible. We still made the most of Scotland’s fantastic activities, food and (most importantly) drink, however saved money on accommodation. In order to do this, we wild camped for the vast majority of this trip.
Our trip began by heading north from Glasgow for a two day stay in Aviemore, south of Inverness, before joining the NC500 route. We then finished at Lochcarron on the west coast, before spending three days in Skye and heading back to Glasgow. This budget is only for the 7 days we spent exploring the NC500 route, going counter-clockwise along the coast.
The costs discussed will obviously be for two people, however I will also summarise what I would expect this trip to cost for one person as well.
Now in order to do the NC500, a method of transport is absolutely crucial. Unless you are a very savvy hitchhiker with a lot of time on your hands, you will need a vehicle of some form to get around the north coast. This can range from the highly popular motorbike, to a campervan. All of these options can be rented from companies local to the route. This is a popular choice for many visitors, and the most popular rental companies can be found here.
Over our entire trip, the 500 mile route turned into more of a 700 mile adventure. This is mainly due to off route detours to explore the surrounding area, however a small amount was also due to our incredible navigation skills (sarcasm alert). The total cost of our fuel bill for this trip was £120 (you can add the price of car rental). Car rental is usually around £35/day for a small, hatchback car.
A money saving tip we can give you are be aware of where you top up. Some places will obviously be cheaper than others, with rural areas cranking the price right up (sometimes by as much as 20%!). Try and top up at the larger, chain stores and make sure you do so every time you pass one. This way you won’t find yourself in desperate need of fuel, with only expensive pumps to be found.
Since the fuel cost would be this regardless of the number of adventurers, I will say that the cost is £120/person.
As I said before, for the majority of our NC500 trip we managed to completely avoid accommodation fees by wild camping and avoiding camspites. Over the 7 days that we were on the road, we paid to stay for one night on a campsite. This was only to freshen up, wash our clothes and recharge our tech. Thanks to this, our accommodation was the smallest part of our NC500 budget.
Our only accommodation cost was at the highly recommended Scourie Camping and Caravan Park, costing us £20 for a small tent with two people. This included electricity to allow us to charge up our travel tech. On top of this we paid £2 to wash our clothes and £1 to dry them.
Wild camping can seem like a daunting task, especially if you enjoy your small comforts. However, over the years we have managed to perfect our own cheap glamping bible that can ensure a comfortable nights sleep, regardless of where it is. Also have a look at our Guide to Wild Camping for inspiration and advice for your next cheap adventure!
For camping one night on this campsite, the cost for a single person will be £13, including clothes washing.
The best part of the epic North Coast 500 roadtrip is that Scotland’s most spectacular attractions are completely free. The stunning views that you can admire for a lifetime cost nothing, as you wind your way through the countryside. If you are into your great outdoors, then this is definitely the trip for you!
One of the few activities we paid for during our trip was the Smoo Cave tour. This will cost you £6 per person, and gives you an in depth and fascinating insight into Scotland’s volcanic and geographical past. It also paints an incredible picture of how the country looked when the first Vikings landed and began to colonise the north coast. I never thought of myself as being into this side of history before, but this tour has me addicted!
Our most expensive activity was a trip across to Handa Island, an almost completely uninhabited, nature reserve. This sits just off the coast of Tarbet, and the boat trip across will cost you £15 per person. When you arrive on the island, you will be met by the islands only inhabitants, an RSPB member, who will give you a quick briefing. Once you are all clued up on where to go and what to expect, you can make your way out to explore this vast and beautiful island. Beaches, cliffs and hundreds of species of birds; this trip is well worth a morning of exploring if it is a nice day.
The last activity we paid for was a leisurely morning swim in the small town of Ullapool. We decided to do this partly to relax our weary bodies and do some exercise, and partly as an excuse to have a shower and freshen up. A swim here will cost you just £6.20. If you go during the day before school holidays begin, you will have the pool to yourself.
Our activities for this trip will therefore total at £27.20/person.
Food and Drink
During our trip around the north coast, we were tended to cook as many of our meals as possible. As we packed our portable fridge and camping stoves, we managed to save a lot of money by avoiding eating out every day.
Don’t get me wrong, we did treat ourselves to dinner out on a couple of our nights, after all the cuisine is half the reason why we visit places. For this budget, I have included one bought breakfast and two bought dinners, with the rest of the meals cooked by ourselves. Our total food budget for the week was £130 for the both of us.
This budget equals £65 for one person.
Limiting your alcohol consumption is a huge money saver, when it comes to small budget trips. However, as the local drink is one of the main reasons I enjoy travel, I didn’t cut it out completely, and I don’t recommend you do either.
Our budget for alcohol, coffees and cakes and other miscellaneous drinks was £75 over the week. The equates to £37.50 per person.
Total Trip Cost
This unforgettable roadtrip on Scotland’s famous NC500 worked out a LOT cheaper than we were expecting, without us sacrificing any of the good bits. We realised how affordable so called “Staycations” actually are, and when you have a country as beautiful as Scotland to explore, why wouldn’t you?!
The total cost of the trip for the both of us ended up being £420. If you are considering this then you should also add on any rental costs you need, plus the equipment that you do not have.
As you can see, the two largest areas of spending are food and petrol, the rest being very low. This is again due to how much fun Scotland can be, without the need to spend any money. Another reason why we love it so much!
If you found this guide helpful, then make sure you read our other handy Travel Tips for all of our best advice (and worst mistakes) for life on the road. Also catch up with us on social media to see what we are currently up to!
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