Thank goodness the clutch went on my van; or rather thank goodness the clutch went on my van when it did, 3 days before I was due to start the North Coast 500.
Thanks to a very good friend who also happens to be a mechanic he squeezed the van in to have the clutch replaced before I was leaving which is a good job because some of the roads I drove up and down I needed a brand new clutch.
I was going to leave early Saturday morning, but that was before my Football team decided to smash 9 goals past Southampton on the Friday night and I may have had a few more pints than I intended to!
I should point out that Mel had started a new job and didn’t have any holiday to take where as I had two weeks to take so this was going to be a solo trip.
I decided to delay leaving until around 2pm Saturday to be on the safe side, A group of friends were already up in Whitby so the first part of my trip was a drive from Leicester to Whitby to meet up with them before I would head further up and start the NC500.
For those of you that don’t know the NC500 or North Coast 500 as it is also called, this is a 500 mile trip around the top of Scotland as can be seen on the photo below, although I technically didn’t do the whole 500 miles as I continued down the west coast rather than make my way back to Inverness.
The NC500 route.
I was planning on wild camping the whole trip as money was a bit tight for my journey, I filled up at my local Costco as the fuel was cheaper and topped up again at the Edinburgh Costco as I was pretty much passing it anyway. I’d bought all the food I needed before I left so there shouldn’t be much more costs whilst I was away.
On leaving Whitby I travelled up the East coast until it started getting dark, I got just north of St Andrews when I found a decent sized lay-by a little way back from the road and parked up for the night.
To be honest, the first two nights of the trip were pretty uneventful, the second night being spent in the local town of Golspie, I’d used the “park4night” app on my phone which said it was a free car park behind a co-op with access to 24hr toilets for the price of 50p. The app also said it was fairly busy until 9pm after which it was much quieter.
Well it was bang on the money, I had a very nice quiet night’s sleep and woke up fresh as a daisy, well much fresher than I’d woke on the Saturday morning anyway.
This was kind of where the journey began for me, as I headed up to John O’Groats the scenery was getting better and better.
The harbour at John O’Groats.
I was very lucky with the weather on this day, I had shorts on and it was beautiful clear blue skies. I had a little wander around, bought a few souvenirs then decided to grab a bite to eat in the Roads end coffee shop.
Can’t get any further from home than this.
It was now time to head for the northern most point of the UK, Dunnet’s head, there’s a nice little lighthouse here, I jumped out the van and decided to take a couple of photos.
Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in the UK.
I have to say the drive along the north coast of Scotland was wonderful, if I had stopped and taken photos every time I wanted to on this trip it would have taken months.
I’d started quite early that morning so managed to get a lot of driving in before it started to get dark, I was driving along the Kyle of Durness so started looking for a good place to park up, I found a lovely spot and parked up for the night, Cooked myself a nice supper and sat looking out of the van side door at the beautiful scene in front of me.
Tuesday’s wild camping spot.
Wednesday morning arrived and I was again up early and cooking some breakfast, sausage cobs (I’m from Leicester so it is always called a cob!)
Most mornings I always get what I call “camp fear”, the fear of leaving the wild camping spot in the morning only to discover an amazing place 2 minutes further down if I’d just driven a little bit further, luckily this didn’t happen on this trip.
Everybody I had spoken to about doing this trip had told me to make sure I drove down to Applecross, the driving started to take a lot longer at this point, a mixture of single track roads and stopping numerous times to take photos so I didn’t quite make it to Applecross on this day and decided to find my next wild camp spot, I struck gold, more luck than planning but the spot I stopped at was going to give me a lovely surprise the next morning.
Wednesday nights wild camping spot
I woke early Thursday morning, before sunrise and decided to stand my phone on top of my van and film a little time lapse video of the sun coming up, you can find the video on my Youtube channel which is linked at the bottom of the page.
After a start to the morning like that it was always going to be a wonderful day, the road around to Applecross was just breath taking. Once in the village there is a little self-service petrol station with the below sign on it.
I topped the van up here, £60 worth, it wasn’t much more expensive than your average petrol station and I decided to look on it as a little tax for visiting such a lovely village.
The road out of Applecross is as frightening to drive as it is wonderful to look at, there had been a frost overnight so parts of the road were still a bit slippy.
Once over the worst/best of the road I decided to park up and make myself a brew and have a bit of cake, it’s one of the things I love about the van that you can park up and make a fresh brew.
I’d decided I wanted to pop down to the Isle of Skye, I mean why wouldn’t you? Steve and myself had stayed here a couple of times, in a little bay just past Achnacloich but I remembered seeing a nice bay just along the road and just south of Tokavaig so I made my way to there for the night.
When wild camping I always try to not only leave the place as I found it but leave it better then I found it, with this in mind I grabbed a bin bag and walked along the beach to do a little clear up. Gas bottles, plastic milk cartons and numerous other bits of rubbish were collected which I threw in the back of the van and took with me until I could find a bin to put them in.
Does anyone else completely change when you’re away in the van? As I’m sure Mel will confirm I’m generally pretty untidy at home and I love nothing more than a nice lay in but once I’m in the van I’m Mr organised and tidy and like to be up at the crack of dawn!
And so it was on Friday morning I was up early, breakfast cooked and a lovely drive down through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep that night, I’d just drive until I was tired and was maybe thinking the lake district somewhere, as it turned out I just kept driving really and once past the lake district I didn’t see much point in stopping anywhere so just continued all the way home, getting in at about 9pm, which meant I could watch the mighty Leicester City beat Crystal Palace on the Sunday!
If anyone is thinking about doing the NC500 then my advice is to just do it!, I imagine it gets quite busy in the summer though, I’m glad I went in the Autumn, the colours of the trees and the crisp bright mornings were amazing and the route was fairly quiet.
As ever the van didn’t miss a beat and I was very grateful for my diesel heater without which I think I would have struggled to get out of bed in the mornings!
The link to my Youtube video is below:-
£260 in fuel
Thanks for reading.