Destinations,  Solo Travel

Part 1: Solo road trip in a camper van -North Coast 500!

INVERNESS TO THURSO

Let me preface this post by saying that all of Scotland is observing strict social distancing rule which include face masks & 2 meter distancing. So everything I’ve visited, has that in place. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 

After exploring Culloden Battlefield, I’m ready to begin my North Coast 500 road trip – 516 mile route that hugs the northernmost coast of Scotland. You can do the route clockwise or anti clockwise- I chose the latter and set aside enough time to take my time along the route and chase any shiny object that caught my eye. Here’s the route I took for the first half. I have circled my overnight stops so you can see I didn’t go too far in a day. 

Day 1:

After leaving Inverness, I took a side trip to a small village called Cromarty. Normally, there is a summer ferry that will take you from Cromarty across to Nigg where you can continue up the coast. But there is nothing normal about 2020, so the ferry is cancelled for the season.  Cromarty is a nice village and worth a short stop. Luckily, Suter Creek cafe was open for takeaway and I scored some killer mussels and a local stout. 

From Cromarty, I drove up to Dornoch for a wee wander. I’ve been here before, so I didn’t stay long. Dornoch has a decent selection of shops and eateries and worth even an overnight stop. However, for the first night, I drove just a bit up the road and spent a quiet night in this little parking area at Loch Fleet Nature Reserve (GPS coordinates n 57.9562, W 4.07187)

Heading layer

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

previous arrow
next arrow
previous arrownext arrow
Slider

Days 2 & 3:

I woke up early (did I mention that in the summer it’s light around 4:30 a.m.?), and after enjoying the great view and coffee & crumpets for breakfast, I took off again. I was in search of a set of standing stones and though it took a long time down a farm track road, I found them. And I had them all to myself. These 4,000 year old stones have stood guard here for 4 millennium – humbling to think of how much life has come and gone during that time. I find it moving that a group of stones can ground me so profoundly. But they do. 

Finding my back to the A9 from the stones was a breeze, (it’s a one lane road) and not far to the village of Helmsdale, my stop for the night. I loved it so much, I stayed for two nights instead. In over 20 years of traveling around the UK, I have never found a village more friendly than Helmsdale. First, they allow overnight parking at their harbor. There’s a seafood truck that comes every weekend. I found this out from Janet who lives directly across from the harbor parking, and runs a little food stall called The Garrison – very convenient and she makes a decent burger. Just a short walk across the bridge is a fantastic coastal path along the sea.  AND, on Friday mornings, lovely ladies sell vegetables straight from their gardens. I loved Helmsdale! 

Days 4 & 5:

Following the coastal road (A899) up to north to John O’Groats, I had to stop to get this picture. That’s pretty much the only reason I found to stop. It’s not the most northern point of the mainland UK, but they’ve made a business out of saying so, so good for them. I found one place open, The Stack, and grabbed a cheese scone and my first decent cup of coffee for a long time to wash it down. 

Then, just a half hour away was my stop for the next two nights, The Crofter’s Snug. With only 5 camping pitches (sites), this was a perfect place to regroup before heading further on the route. I was able to plug in, fill my water, visit the local butcher and just relax. The owners, Steve and Kirsty, welcomed me, gave me some local knowledge, then left me to it. My kind of hosts 😎

The views from my site were spectacular; on a clear day, I could see across the sea to the Orkney Islands. Just up down the lane from the campground are great views of Castle Mey (built in 1572). The Queen Mother (yup, that’s the Queen’s mother), restored it and visited as her holiday residence from 1955 until she died in 2002. Before she died, she made it into a trust so the public could visit. Except during a global pandemic, so it was closed. But I got a good shot during my walk.  

When I leave here, I will continue following the north coast headed west. I’ll post that leg of the journey in my next post. So far, my buddy Kryptonite and I have gotten along pretty well. I’ve stalled him a few times, but he’s forgiving. 

Until then, stay safe.

Amanda

7 Comments

    • Avatar

      restlessnative365

      Hey there. So far pretty good. It’s not my T@B but with everything going on, I can still travel and social distance. Plus, get down to the little villages and just hang out. 😁

  • Avatar

    Diane Cartwright

    Thank you for sharing your wondrous adventure, Amanda. We cannot wait to travel again. Until then, we look forward to our next vicarious adventure with you. Love the photos. — Doug & Diane

  • Avatar

    Cindy Darling

    This looks like the best adventure! I just finished reading The Queens Secret. It’s about the Queen Mother! I loved the book and now you have shown me where her castle is! Awesome ! Thankyou!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *