On realising that we would be spending New Years in Scotland, we immediately started researching the numerous natural and historical attractions scattered across this surprisingly broad nation. Of all the different options we discovered, one stood head and shoulders above all the rest…driving the North Coast 500!
Yes we’re driving the NC500 in winter, and no that isn’t how most people do it, but it makes for a great point of difference!
516 miles in length, it circles the entire northern ‘third’ of Scotland and will show us everything that Scotland has to offer, from the deepest loch to the highest munro. Many complete the loop in 5 days or less, but as is typical for our style of slow travel, we’ve decided to stretch it out over nearly two weeks, with a 5-day diversion to the Isle of Skye thrown in just for good measure!
We’ll put together a more comprehensive ‘Guide’ to the NC500 after we’ve finished, so we thought it might be fun to write a daily diary of sorts, highlighting what we got up each day, showcasing the amazing scenery and inspiring others to consider including Scotland’s NC500 (in winter!) as a great holiday destination.
So let’s get to it…!
Edit: News just in!!! The guide is finished!
Day 0 – Driving the NC500 in Winter
Strictly speaking, the NC500 starts in Inverness. You’ve got to get there though, right?
We had just spent a few days in Glasgow and thought we may as well pick up our hire car there and drive to Inverness, adding a bonus day to our itinerary.
The original plan was to drive east through Perth and Aviemore (great hiking apparently!), but as we had a very rare ‘blue sky’ day, we made a last minute change in plans and drove north to Fort William and then north east along Loch Lochy (no that’s not a typo!) and the infamous Loch Ness.
There may have been blue skies, but this was by far the coldest day we had experienced thus far in the UK. We awoke to -2ºC and by the time we had arrived in Fort William for lunch it had dropped to a face-numbing -4ºC. Ouch!
What a drive it was. The middle third in particular was absolutely spectacular. We drove alongside the gorgeous shores of a mirror-flat Loch Lomond (awesome reflections in the water!) before making a quick detour to explore the very pretty Falls of Falloch.
From there we then climbed slowly but steadily into the highlands, encountering soaring mountains (they call the biggest ones ‘munros’) and deep valleys. By this stage the clouds had started to close in, but every so often a beam of light would find its way through, placing an illuminating orange spotlight on a snow-capped mountain top, ruined stone bothy (shelter) or bend in the river. Just magical.
Our arrival in Inverness was in the dark, resulting in a rather amusing piece of disastrous navigating in trying to find our bed and breakfast for the night. We knew we were within metres but couldn’t see a thing to know whether we were approaching someone’s private residence or not!
A fantastic prelude to the North Coast 500! We don’t know if it’s even possible for it to get any better, but we’ll soon find out!