The North Coast 500 is one of the most spectacular road trips in Scotland. With beautiful white sandy beaches and magnificent historical castles, why would you not want to visit this amazing part of the country.

With that being said, the infrastructure around the north coast of Scotland, is not built for the number of visitors it receives as it becomes more and more popular. Therefore it is important that when we do visit this part of Scotland, we treat it with respect and keep it tidy and free from damage. 

In this guide we will discuss how to wild camp responsibly around the NC500, sharing our best tips.

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Must Read Tips for Responsible NC500 Wild Camping

As much as staying at a campsite on the NC500 may feel more luxurious, wild camping around the NC500 is a magical experience. The views you can camp up with will be like no other. However, we must ensure we take steps to protect this right we have in Scotland and protect the nature we camp on. In this guide, we will discuss the following points in more detail, to ensure we can all enjoy the NC500 road trip.

  • Respect the Locals
  • Leave no Trace
  • Be a Responsible Wild Toiletter
  • Don’t Overstay Your Welcome
  • Keep your Group Small
  • Help to Protect the Environment at all times.
  • Preparing for your trip to the NC500
motorhome under rainbow

Respect the Locals

Think about where you are going to camp when you are looking for a spot and make sure you are not pitching up right outside someones house. Respect those who live in the area and keep the noise to a minimum. Observe the local guidance in place, if it states no overnight camping, you are best to find another spot to pitch up for the night.

By following this guidance we can still support small local towns and admire the beauty of Scotland without upsetting those who live there.

tent

Leave no Trace

When you leave a camping spot, make sure you bring all your rubbish with you to dispose of in a bin and leave no evidence of you having been there. This includes any human waste. Any human waste should be buried and done away from any water source.

Take a bin bag with you to your camp spot to remind you to dispose of your rubbish and make it easier for you to carry it to a bin.

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Be a Responsible Wild Toiletter

We’ve all got to go when we need to go and there may not always be toilet facilities in the area. If you need the toilet, find somewhere discreet to perform your duties at least 30m away from any water. You should also carry a trowel to bury the results. Remember, leave no trace. If you have sanitary products, you will need to dispose of these in a bin instead of burying them.

Ensure that any toilet paper is either buried or disposed of in a bin bag so that it doesn’t end up blowing around in the wind or spoiling the area.

Don’t Overstay Your Welcome 

We tend to go by the rule arrive after dark and leave before light however in the Scottish summer on the north coast, that is very difficult to do. Depending on the place you are choosing to camp, we would advise not setting up camp and spreading yourself our in one place all day.

It is common practice that tents aren’t left up during the day and that we should only stay in the one spot for one night at a time.

Keep your Group Small

Avoid travelling or camping in large groups.  If you are wild camping, keep your group to a maximum of 2 tents. It is also preferred that tents are small and don’t take up a large surface area to avoid any unnecessary damage to the ground underneath.

We would also suggest that you avoid the crowds. If you arrive late to camp spot and it is already really busy, find your own remote spot elsewhere and don’t add to the crowds.

Help to Protect the Environment at all times

We all love a barbecue however they can really ruin the ground beneath. If you have a barbecue, make sure it is on a raised platform and that it is not anywhere near dry grass or anything that could catch light and cause a fire. 

Having a camp fire can also damage the ground and put the area at risk of a fire if it is a dry summer. 

There is a lot of wildlife roaming wild around the north coast of Scotland. If you have a dog, be a responsible owner and keep your dog on a lead in areas where there are wild animals.

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.

Read more planning tips for the North Coast 500 in our full guide.

 

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.

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Bunk Campers over here.

Passing Place by the Bealach na Ba Pass.

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.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

 

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.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

 

Photography Equipment

Main Photography Camera – Sony A7iii Mirrorless Camera

Main Lens – Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM 

Zoom Lens – Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8

Camera Stand – Neewer Portable 177cm

Vlogging Camera – Sony HX90v

Action Camera – GoPro Hero 8 Black

Drone Camera – DJI Mavic Pro 2

Camera Bag – Lowepro Flipside 300 AW

 

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.

camping in scotland

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.

Get covered for your next trip and get a quote from World Nomad’s right here.

So there you have it, tips on how to wild camp responsibly around the NC500. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know what you thought about it or if you have any suggestions for things to do, let us know in the comments below.

As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own North Coast 500 adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.

When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.

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