Scotland’s NC500 – Scourie to Kyle of Tongue

The road from Scourie to Durness on Scotland’s North Coast 500 is spectacular. The A838 is mostly single track but there are passing places every 100 metres or so. I had read much beforehand about how local drivers don’t give way to motorhomes on Scotland’s NC500 but our experience was that all the drivers we encountered were considerate and we had no problems at all. The landscape between Scourie and Durness has some of the most complex geology in Britain. The whole area is rock with sparse vegetation and it gives the whole area a prehistoric feel. You almost expect a dinosaur to rear up from behind a rock.

The open spaces make driving on single track roads fairly easy because you can see way ahead of you so if you see a vehicle driving towards you it’s easy to pull into a passing place. The passing places also allow you to let faster vehicles such as local traffic, and bikers (of which there are many) overtake you. You don’t want to be driving fast when there is so much to look at.

Scotland NC500 single track road

The North Coast 500 official map says that you need to be able to reverse confidently 100 metres along a single-track road before you attempt this drive. Whilst this may be true we found that we did not have to reverse at all because I always pulled into a passing place when I was aware of on-coming traffic.

One place I forgot to mention in my first blog about the Scotland NC500 is the pretty village of Kylesku and the magnificent Kylesku Bridge which is south of Lochinver. It’s worth a stop in the village where there are boat trips in the summer to Kerrachar Gardens and the waterfalls. It’s also worth a stop at the parking area at one end of the Kylesku Bridge so you can admire its 276 metre span and 24 metre height.

Kylesku Bridge

Durness is the remotest and least populated community in the UK There are spectacular cliffs around Durness and they reach 190 metres high at Clo Mor. A radar station was built in Durness in 1940 as part of an early warning system and hundreds of personnel worked here. New buildings were built after the war but never used although they are used today as Balnakeil Craft Village. Our favourite place here was Cocoa Mountain, a chocolate shop, café and factory.

Sango Sands just outside Durness is also worth visiting. The beach here is stunning and there is a motorhome campsite on the cliffs which is worth staying at. We found a rock on the beach to sit on and had our lunch here. You will also find Smoo Cave here and there is also a zip wire ride for the more adventurous visitor.

Sango Sands, Near Durness

After Durness the road continues as single track and winds its way around famous Loch Eriboll. 10 miles long and 130 metres deep in places Loch Eriboll has long been used as an anchorage for ships. Norwegian King Haakon and his fleet of Viking ships anchored here in 1263. In 1937 HMS Hood anchored here for 9 days and in May 1945 the loch was the site of the surrender of over 30 German U-boats.

Our next stop for the night was at the stunning Kyle of Tongue There is a causeway and bridge here with parking areas at either end. We parked up for the night at one end of the causeway and watched the sun go down over the water with Ben Loyal mountain in the distance.

Cocoa Mountain Durness

Scotland’s North Coast 500

After driving through the popular tourist destinations of Glencoe and Fort William we stopped overnight at Morvich, a stunning location surrounded by mountains. It rained most of the night and when it rains in Scotland it really does rain, there is no such thing as drizzle in Scotland it’s torrential! This is where we joined Scotland’s North Coast 500. The next few days will see us drive through some of the best scenery in the UK and one of the remotest and least populated parts of The British Isles.

After Morvich we drove north up the side of Loch Carron, through Shieldaig and Kinlochewe where we stayed at Sands Campsite. Due to all the rain over the last few days the ground was fairly wet but firm but the views were fantastic. We could see the Isle of Skye and The Outer Hebrides from our pitch. By the way, the shower and toilet facilities at Sands are excellent and worth mentioning.

Sands Campsite

The next morning, we set off with a plan to drive to Ullapool about 56 miles further north. The drive took us past amazing scenery and the historical Loch Ewe. Loch Ewe was used as a naval base between 1939 and 1945. It’s a natural deep-water sea loch that links to The Atlantic Ocean and used by Arctic convoys taking vital supplies to Murmansk in northern Russia. Loch Ewe was protected by anti-aircraft guns a boom net and a mine defence system to protect the ships from German submarines and air attacks. There is a museum here dedicated to the Arctic convoys and the men who bravely lost their lives. The 56-mile drive took us several hours because there were so many panoramic viewpoints to stop off at.

A few years ago, we used the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry to spend a week on The Outer Hebrides. On that ferry journey, we had seen a fantastic campsite on the headland that we had planned to stay on. When we arrived, however, it was far too boggy to stay. A sign saying “Call us if you get stuck and need a tow out of the mud” said it all really so we left and found probably the best campsite so far at Ardmair Point, 3 miles north of Ullapool. The views from this campsite are truly breath-taking and we parked up only a few feet from the water’s edge.

Ardmair Point camping near Ullapool
Ullapool sea front

Whilst it was tempting to stay an extra night at Ardmair Point we decided to press on and head up the A894 to Scourie where stayed on the cliff top at Scourie campsite. It was a well spent £20 and we treated ourselves to an evening meal at The Scourie Hotel where I had ‘chicken in a basket’ for the first time in many years. The food menus from the 70’s are the best!

The scenery so far has been breath-taking and The North Coast 500 is living up to expectations. The route is popular with Germans and we have seen plenty of other motorhomes and convoys of bikers, all of whom are very considerate and gave us a wave when we let them past on the narrow roads.

Tomorrow we will be driving further north and to the northern most part of mainland UK, and this is when we will encounter a lot of single track roads. I can’t wait!

Glencoe in the mist and glorious camping by Loch Linnhe

I was looking forward to the drive through Glencoe to Fort William but we didn’t see much of the stunning scenery at all. The A82 that runs through Glencoe was almost like the M62 on a bad day. Huge lorries, and dozens of coaches taking tourists to the popular sight seeing spots as well as driving rain, low cloud and mist don’t make for the best of driving conditions, especially in a motorhome, so it was a frustrating experience. I even drove straight past the entrance to the the Glencoe Visitor centre, as I was focusing on driving, so had to do a complicated u-turn in Glencoe village itself to get back to it.

Glencoe, of course, is infamous for the Glencoe massacre that took place on the 13 February 1692 when the Campbells massacred 38 members of the MacDonalds family.

As we travel further north on our motorhome tour of Scotland we are discovering places that we have not visited before. Yesterday we were in Killin and tonight we are staying at the Bunree campsite in Onich, 6 miles south of Fort William. Our motorhome is parked at the water’s edge of Loch Linnhe and has breathtaking views of the mountains. We arrived in pouring rain but the sun came out shortly after to reveal spectacular views of Loch Linnhe. If we were staying in a hotel we would have paid a huge amount of money to have such a special view.

Our motorhome was parked right up to the waters edge as you can see from the photo below.

Bunree camp site overlooking Loch Linnhe

The Scottish Highlands are wonderful and as we drive along we are witnessing some of the best scenery in the world.

Keeping and updating this blog about our motorhome adventure is a bit of a challenge, because obtaining a good internet connection is not easy. Back in Leeds I was used to a 70 mbps  internet connection and I could download large files in minutes. In the Scottish Highlands I’m lucky if I can get any connection at all and when I do get one it is frustratingly slow. Uploading images is a problem so I am tending to use my smartphone for taking images, rather than my proper camera, because the file sizes are smaller.

Tomorrow we are heading for Morvich and we will be joining the North Coast 55 route.

Killin for a few days and walking into the ladies shower block by mistake!

For the last 4 nights we have been staying in our motorhome at a very nice Caravan and Motorhome Club campsite in Killin, Scotland. Situated on the shores of the very picturesque Loch Tay, the River Lochay running alonside our campsite and into the loch.

Having been a travel and tourism lecturer until a month ago I should I suppose give you some brief information about this popular place. It’s a place you could easily drive past without noticing because the main A85 does not run through the village.  If you are feeling energetic there are plenty of heritage trials and climbing in the area including the 521 metre Spron a Chlachain. There are also several cycle tracks for mountain bikers. For the less energetic you can visit the spectacular Falls of Dochart. We also visited Moirlanich Longhouse, an example of cruck frame building. Owned by the National Trust of Scotland this traditional building used to house people and animals together under the same roof.

It’s been a good few days here. There was a bit of fun on our first day, and Anne still hasn’t stopped laughing  about it, when I accidentally walked into the ladies toilet and shower block. Whilst in a cubicle I suddenly heard Anne’s voice saying that I was in the ladies so had to make a hasty retreat! The weather was even warm enough for me to try out our Cadac gas BBQ. Having always used a charcoal BBQ I must say that I am very impressed with it.

Next we are heading through Glencoe to Fort William.

David & Anne in Killin, Scotland

 

First week in our motorhome

When we decided to tour Scotland with our motorhome we didn’t expect good weather and as I writ e this blog the rain is torrential. In fact I think it has rained everyday and we have had gale force winds too, although we have had some blue skys. I suppose that this is a typical Scottish summer! After our first week in our motorhome this hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm because we have had views over fantastic mountains and at the moment we are next to a river that leads into beautiful Loch Tay although the mountains are covered in cloud and the river is pretty high!

Having been on the road now for just over a week we have decided to spend four nights on one camp site over the August Bank Holiday and it’s nice not to drive everyday like we have been doing so far. In just over a week we have driven about 1,000 miles although about 300 of those miles have been enforced on us because we have had a couple of minor faults that needed fixing and this meant that we had to return to the motorhome dealer in Kendal to get them sorted which was a pain in the backside.

This is a brief summary of where we have stayed so far:

Wednesday 16 August 2017 – New England Bay, Port Logan in Dumfries and Galloway. This is a coastal site on the shores of Luce Bay and we had great views looking out to sea, although we did have 40 mile an hour winds!

Our pitch at New England Bay, Port Logan

Friday 18 August – Galloway Point, Port Patrick. This is the first time I have visited Port Patrick and it’s a lovely little harbour village with an interesting history. The coastline is rugged and whilst we we there the sea was very rough and in fact, over the last 150 years there have been more than 70 shipwrecks. The worst tragedy in the vicinity took place on 31 January 1953 when the Stranraer-Larne  ferry, Princess Victoria, sank with the loss of 134 people.

Portpatrick, Scotland

Saturday 19 August – Wild camping in the Galloway Forest.

One of the good reasons to own a motorhome is that you can be self sufficient. We have fresh water, cooking facilities, a fridge, toilet and shower. We also have a solar panel with two leisure batteries, which gives us enough power for several days if not longer. So, with a sense of adventure and my Yorkshire attitude to spending money we decided to have a free night parked up in a forest clearing in the Galloway Forest. This is an official dark sky area which makes it perfect for gazing at the night sky but this being Scotland it rained a lot and there was no sign of a clear night. Surprisingly, we slept well and woke up the next morning having had no worries about what might be lurking in the forest!

Wild camping in the Galloway Forest

Sunday 20 August 2017 – Troutbeck Head, The Lake District

Back to England to sort out a leaking water pump and fantastic views of Blencathra. Several years ago I climbed Blencathra with my brother. Blencathra, and Sharp Edge is one of the most exciting and feared ridge walks in Britain.

View of Blencathra from our motorhome

Monday 21 August – Howslack Farm, Moffat

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has hundreds of campsites that they called Certified Locations or CL’s. These locations can be anything from beachside camp locations, pubs or farms. They accommodate a maximum of 5 motorhomes and have very basic facilities.

Tuesday 22 August 2017 – Thornbrook Barn, Ingleton, North Yorkshire

A fantastic motorhome stop in the village of Ingleton, close to the famous waterfalls and Ingleborough, one of the Three Peaks. With a fantastic toilet and shower block everything was well organised and spotlessly clean.

After a week on the road we feel that we have made a good choice of motorhome, ironed out a couple of minor niggles and I have not had a problem driving it. Next week we are heading further north and plan to do the Scotland NC5oo.