The North Coast 500 – The home straight

This will be my final update on our North Coast 500 journey, though they’ll be plenty of other Scotland-based content to come from the great places we stayed after we completed the NC 500 route. The last post ended as we began to head down the East coast and back towards Inverness.

Now I won’t lie to you because that’s not my style, the East coast was a little bit less attractive than the West had been – and ain’t that always the way! Much like England (and I sincerely hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this) the east is not as nice as Wales and Cornwall on the west of the country. No where near in fact. And we found Scotland to be much the same.

Nevertheless, we were loving the van life, speaking to others who were doing a similar journey to us and we were looking forward to being able to say we completed the drive!

Day 7 – Latheronwheel – 421 miles in

The last place we left our journey was at John O’Groats. Once we left this town we drove further down the East coast and sadly we were slightly underwhelmed by the towns and landscapes we were seeing on the way. But we turned the radio up, occasionally shouted out the window to fields of sheep (and actually got a few replies from them…) and just enjoyed the drive. We eventually found Latheronwheel Harbour and decided to stay for the night.

When we arrived there was another camper van already there. We had read on an app we’ve been using (I will 100% include more about this app in another post because it has been a life saver!) that others who had stayed in this spot before had seen seals in the harbour. Sadly we didn’t, but we followed the clifftop walking route and saw some further out at sea. Despite a bit of rain, it was a lovely and secluded spot and the next day we took one final walk along the cliff tops before setting off again.

Day 8 – Dornoch Beach – 469 miles in

We set off in search of a town called Dornoch. Along the way we noticed signs to a castle (Dunrobin Castle) so we pulled into the car park to see what it was. Though we didn’t go inside, there was a lovely coastal walk around then up through the woods and fields of bluebells. The weather was still on our side and it was such a lovely day we could have stayed there for hours. Unfortunately, the rules are a little stricter when parking around attractions like this so we weren’t able to stay there the night – so we carried on driving.

We drove alongside Loch Fleet where there was a bob of seals in the middle of the water. Yep, a group of seals is called a bob, or a herd, a harem, a colony, a crash or a pod – but I liked a bob best! A couple of the younger pups were playing about so we decided to stop to take some photos before carrying on towards Dornoch. Once there, we took a long walk along the beautiful sandy beach. It had started to get a bit colder and the wind was picking up, but it was still a lovely stretch of sandy beach. After that I sat in the van looking out across the beach as I did some writing and Danny went back down to fly his kite.

Day 8 – Portmahomack – 488 miles in

While Dornoch beach was beautiful, there were a few signs around that said no overnight parking so we decided it was best to find somewhere else to stay. Using the app I mentioned earlier we were able to find a lovely spot on the seafront in Portmahomack. While there was a very curtain-twitchy old lady watching us to start with, all the other locals we met were really lovely. We stopped in a nearby pub for a game of cards and walked back to the van as the sun was setting. There wasn’t a huge amount going on as we’d arrived quite late, but there is a science centre in the town that is supposed to be very good and the beach was lovely.

Day 9 – Inverness – 521 miles completed

The next day we were ready to set off on what we knew would be the last day of the journey, given how close we were getting to Inverness. We drove through Tain where the Glen Morange distillery can be found and then headed on through Dingwall. There were a few towns to stop in a long the way, but as I said before we weren’t as in awe of the East coast as we had been with the rest of our journey.

As we approached the end of the route, we debated staying our final night in Inverness, but before we could make any real decisions we of course had to go to the new (ish) skatepark that Danny had found in the city. And so that’s where our North Coast 500 journey officially came to an end, at a skatepark in Inverness.

Our verdict? We would 100% recommend that anyone do the North Coast 500 whether they choose to drive, ride, cycle, walk or hitch hike their way around. We got to experience some of the most beautiful drives, beaches and towns we’ve ever seen and this route really does give you a chance to see all the beauty that Scotland has to offer.

There are a number of books on the route that you can choose from, or you can just wing it if you prefer! If you love the open road, stunning sandy beaches, waterfalls, cosy villages and hidden nooks, then the North Coast 500 is for you.

Until our next post, we hope we’ve inspired you to get exploring!