Driving the North Coast 500
Posted on 02/09/2020 by Mike, Spaceships Crew
Driving the North Coast 500 is an incredible experience. The NC 500 has become one of the world's iconic coastal road trips - Scotland's very own Route 66. But this beautiful and popular road trip deserves our respect and consideration.
A road trip along all or part of the NC 500 is a truly unforgettable holiday. You'll discover a beautiful land of breathtaking scenery, magical castles, spectacular beaches, rugged mountains, diverse wildlife, world class food and drink and friendly people, all along 516 miles of amazing roads.
The NC 500 has become an incredibly popular destination for all these reasons and this can put a strain on the local infrastructure and communities, especially during the height of the summer season. We want to do our bit to keep the NC 500 beautiful, so we all share a responsibility to respect the local environment and community.
Here are some guidelines to help you have a fabulous Spaceships road trip on the North Coast 500.
1. Respect the road
"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road." Jack Kerouac's famous line from "On the Road" resonates with all of us who love road trips. There is an incredible feeling of freedom in being on a Spaceships road trip, the feeling of being able to create your own journey. But the NC 500 is a unique series of roads. These are not the long, straight roads of Kerouac's America - many of the roads on the NC 500 are narrow, twisting single track roads. You will need to drive considerately, be prepared to wait and sometimes reverse to a passing place.
If you are in a motorhome it is worth planning your route to avoid some of the narrower sections, especially in Summer. You can visit the North Coast 500 website to explore the route. It may be better to avoid some of the steep winding routes like Bealach Na Ba or Drumbeg Road.
You could take a smaller custom-designed Spaceships campervan that gives you easier access to some of the single track roads on the route. Another alternative would be to plan your visit outside of the busy summer season. In a motorhome, you have central heating, your own toilet, shower and kitchen, so it is perfect for driving the North Coast 500 in Spring, Autumn or Winter, when the roads are quieter. It's important to take your time - not only will you drive more safely, you'll also have more time to enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery.
2. Leave no litter
Litter is understandably one of the biggest complaints from local residents. The NC 500 is popular, and at busy times the bins can often become full before they are emptied. If the bins are overflowing, not only does it look horrible, it can smell horrible too. This often attracts wildlife and other animals. Even pet dogs can be seriously injured eating old bones, barbecue skewers or other food waste.
The Golden Rule of camping is "Leave No Trace". If the bins are full, take your litter with you. As you leave, take a good look around and bag any litter you can see.
One of our tips is to take a roll of heavy duty bin bags with tie handles. That way you can keep smaller waste bags with you until you can dispose of it safely and responsibly. Don't stuff a large bin bag into one bin if you can avoid it. Leave smaller rubbish bags in several bins in different places to avoid overloading one particular location.
3. Park with care
Take care when parking your campervan or motorhome. A "Passing Place" isn't a parking place. It's essential on narrow stretches of road to allow vehicles access in both directions, so take care not to obstruct them. Also be respectful of other people's property and homes. Try to use designated car parks and parking areas.
Please also think about where you park on the side of the road. Bear in mind that larger vehicles or tractors may need to pass. Don't block farm gateways and avoid verges and dunes in coastal areas. This fragile landscape is called the Machair, Gaelic for a unique geological habitat of fertile low-lying raised beach. This may be fertile sand dune pasture or land near to a beach, where sand has covered an existing peat bog.
Please also avoid overnight parking in unauthorised areas. There are lots of places to stay overnight when you're driving the North Coast 500. You can find more information in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
4. Camp considerately
Please remember that it is illegal to "wild" or free camp in a motorised vehicle like a campervan or motorhome. You should always seek prior permission before camping overnight on private land and be prepared to move on if asked. There are however certain areas and attractions that permit overnight parking. Find out more in our Wild Camping blog here.
There are many excellent and beautiful campsites all along the NC 500 route. If you book a campsite, not only will you be supporting local tourism, but your stay will also be more convenient. Waste and grey water disposal points will be available and free for campers, and there will be the chance to get rid of that rubbish you have collected!
If you're cooking outside, don't build a fire unless permitted and keep disposable barbecues off the ground. Our Spaceships campervans and motorhomes are all equipped with cookers or gas burners.
5. Waste disposal
If you are in a Spaceships motorhome, please make sure you dispose of your waste properly. All camp sites will have waste disposal and grey water (shower and sink) outlets to empty your cassettes. You'll also be able to top up with fresh water and supplies.
If you are in a campervan and have parked overnight, bury any human waste a minimum of 15cm deep and at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from any water course. This will help prevent animals from digging it back up. Please also bag and remove any toilet tissue or sanitary ware.
Don't empty your motorhome waste at a public toilet. Not only is it messy and unhygienic, the chemicals in the waste cassettes can affect the sewage systems.
6. Respect the place and the people
It is important to respect both the local environment and communities when you are driving the North Coast 500. Make sure you don't damage the environment or cause danger to wildlife. Consider livestock at all times and remember to keep dogs on leads and close all gates. Take any litter with you and pick up any litter that has been left by previous visitors.
Please also consider and respect the local people who live and work along the NC 500. They are as much a part of the landscape as the outstanding scenery. It's your holiday, but it's their home. They still have to work each day, supplies have to get through, emergency and support services require access, so it's important we all play our part in keeping the roads clear during the busy summer season.
Blast-Off along the NC500 in a Spaceship!
A Spaceships road trip along the NC 500 will be the trip of a lifetime. One that will stay with you forever. It may be your first of many, and for some visitors it can be a life-changing experience.
We want you to enjoy it and create lifelong memories. We also want other people to continue to enjoy it over the years to come. With a little common sense and respect, we can make sure that as guests and travellers in this most beautiful outer space, we are considerate, responsible and sustainable campers.
Thanks for reading and have a fantastic #spaceshipsroadtrip driving the North Coast 500.
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