NC500 adventure- a last minute plan.
After a week of prep and two days of packing and re organising the newly purchased camping trailer- while “joking” that we needed a trailer on the trailer and then a trip to
“go outdoors” to upgrade to self inflating sleeping mats (instead of air beds) to save the only thing we could imagine arguing over- we are eventually ready.
As ready as we will ever be. The North Coast 500, no longer a pipe dream, we are seizing the day! These things are best done without too much thought anyway I'm sure!
Us. A camping trailer. Small tent. 2 kids and 2 dogs. (one travel sick kid)
We are packed the day before departure. The kids are even put to bed in the next days clothes.
We aimed to leave at 6/7am, got on the road for 7.40. Doing well. It's only day 1 so its a good start.
Neil likes to lock everything behind him and I ask if he’s got the flasks. No they are inside the locked house. If only I’d thought to check the fridge when I retrieved the flasks to look for our packed lunches 🤷♀️
The kids forgive their dad for forgetting lunch while filling up on Haribo.
The cars filled. The trailers filled. The foot wells are filled. The dogs are two foot in the air sitting on more “things” as the boot is filled.
DVDs galore for the kids, travel sickness stuff for jack. A full sack of dog food onboard and a loo which we know how to use (another story). I'm wondering if the full sack of food is too much? and perhaps I should have measured it out?
We discuss how we don’t have a spanner to get the trailer spare wheel off. That’s literally the only stone we’ve left unturned. Let’s hope it’s not needed. 🤞 We also decided that we only needed one spare wheel as we didn't think it was fair to make the dogs sit on top of a second wheel!
CDs in the changer re organised and sit back and relax- I opened the flasks for a cuppa and discover they aren’t actually closed - luckily the coffee misses the only jumper I’ve packed (pale pink) and hits my bare legs - it’s Luke warm due to being open so no panic or scalds 🤪
Exciting times. Johnny Cash Playing - excitement and coffee fumes in the air.
1 hour 30 minutes into our 7 hour drive- We pass the Scotland sign. The inevitable occurs. Neil needs a wee & The boys ask “are we nearly there yet?”
First wrong turn at Edinburgh
Services at Kinross after 3 hours- to buy sandwiches 🤪
Arrived with no more wrong turns Success. Loch Ness Shores- our first site.
Whilst about to set up camp and we had a panic that we couldn’t find the camping trailer keys 😱🤪🤦♀️ stomach sinking moment. Luckily found in the place we keep them, obviously Neil was doing the looking.
Seven and a half hours. 3pm arrival. Tent erecting easy. BBQ success. Looking like pros. Loch Ness shores camp site. Off to look for the Loch Ness monster next 👍
Lots of midges. Neil takes the brunt.
It was dry over night - but enough about Neil- The weather was good to us too!
7am everyone’s awake. Mainly because the neighbours with 3 boys under age of 6 were awake 🤪
Neil walked the dogs (it transpired he did this in a cloud of Midges). I rolled up mats / sleeping bags and got the kettle on.
Left camp at 10.30am
Neil has been eaten alive (by midges - not me). The kids are fine as they sit in the tent playing roblox 🤪🤪🤪 home from home.
Driving now- 1 and a half hours to Eliean Donon Castle. (the one from The Highlander movie) Spectacular scenery already. The lochs are so still they make perfect mirror images of the fabulous hills around them.
Followed the sat nav down the smallest possible single track road instead of the main road 🤪 have learnt to check the route and zoom in next time before we blindly follow it. On the plus side we aren’t the only idiots- a massive caravan did the same behind us 🤷♀️
As we tootle along at 30/40 on a main road - I really hope the caravan driver sitting on our bumper can’t see us sipping coffee. We laugh. We even photograph him in our mirror. We debate letting him passed. Surely they are on holiday too - so We aren't sure why he's on our bumper and in a rush? We choose just to look ahead and hope he’s not going to the same camp site as us. We turn- he doesn't - Phew!
Visited Eilean Donan castle, (from the highlander film). Went up to the view point after- jacknifed the trailer for the first time - wheels off the ground- dinted the car bumper 🤪
Dornie for an ice cream from the shop 👍
Drive to the camp site in moyle park, Glenelg - small site on a farm. The guys struggling for electric even though we booked it (and paid for it) - he runs us a normal extension which isn’t water proof so we say we will pop it under a box- he suggests a rock on top and carries over a boulder which he drops from height and smashes our “kitchen box” 😳🤪🤣🤷♀️
Tent up. with spectacular veiw. Temporary tent made over our camping loo 🤪(wind break with an army canvas on top) the facilities aren't open here and we don't have electric- we are going hardcore.
Pack the BBQ stuff into car. Trailer off.
Go to beach looking over to Skye for a bbq tea 🎉 Fab night.
Back for a couple drinks in our tent taking refuge from the midges 👍
3am. Loo trip.
Jack woke and complained he wasn’t in his sleeping bag- I felt around in the dark and found his sleeping bag- telling him to shuffle down- he was loudly complaining that Johnnys legs were in the way 🤷♀️🤪
I grope about for a head torch and discovered I’d squeezed jack into Johnny’s sleeping bag with him 🤣
It took me ages to get back to sleep after this 👎 (Johnny slept through his visitor!)
All awake at 7am (apart from jack). Sausage and bacon cooking in our awning. - too many midges to set foot outside 🤣 (so we will dye of carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire before we get eaten by midges!)
Boys, dogs and Neil walked while I packed up- Neil got back to empty the portaloo but the lunatic carried the WHOLE loo not just the bottom section- all the way thru the campsite like a strong man competitor with a boulder 🤣 Hilarious! I was wondering why he was complaining about doing that job!
Drove out of Glenelg stopping to admire every view on route. Arrived in Lochcarron at lunch time - pitched the tent on the wee campsite- caught the guy as he headed out to feed the pigs, and paid him £10. No electric but there is showers and toilets 👍 (and midges)- So we actually didn't use the facilities! Leave the trailer behind today as doing a loop.
On the nc500 heading into Applecross
Going through bealach na ba- (the very steep winding Pass) Johnny announces he is sick of seeing mountains 🤪
Stopped at the top of the pass and nearly lost the car door in hurricane style winds- literally nearly broke my arm trying to stop it 🤪😱 All strapped back in- we physically can’t get out. no photos from the top!
Applecross - the drive was more exciting than the place. Chips and ice cream- back on the road- highland cows and calf’s all over. Very slow but exciting. Followed the littlest coastal route. After Torridon on the way to kinlochewe- passed Mark and Lisette 🤣🤣👍
We both have an hour to go opposite directions round the same loop. Meeting close to our spot 👍
Heard from Mark and Lisette - they’d booked into the pub to stay that we are camped behind- we nipped in and booked the last 2 tables for 8pm.
Utterly fabulous night (on two separate tables) kids were perfect. Really lovely to catch up - Food was nice. Neil and Mark has a couple drinks (dogs were in car with windows down within view).
Had a fab nights sleep at wee camp site although a late night.
Woke up 8am. Kids and Neil took dogs for a walk.
I started packing up like a lunatic, midges galore. I was sweating! kids back from the walk and sat in car watching DVD’s. Neil followed my instructions slowly 🤪 the plan was to shower and everything there but we literally jumped in car in our jarmies and had a “car wash” and driving breakfast.
Long drive ahead. Up to clatchtoll beach today. Through Gairloch, Ullerpool, Lochinver, with waterfalls to see on the way.
Stopped for fuel at Kinlochewe - noticed they served breakfast- all out- get dressed by the car- into a little garden to get pestered by midges with a lush coffee and bacon roll. Yum. Driving by loch Maree. Spectacular. Photos and words don't do any of the route justice.
Stopped at Victoria falls, did a loop walk with spectacular view of loch Maree -wow.
Stopped at Gairloch - beautiful bay.
Scenery between there and Poolewe amazing but no opportunity to stop
Every time you take a bend there is just one view better than than the next
Ullapool. Wanted to eat at the fish shack but the food wasn’t suitable for the kids and the que was massive and slow and no seats 👎 went to a lovely fish shop/cafe and got amazing fish all half price on the deal (eat out to help out). Still took ages, jack got a souvenir. Neil gets angry picking up the dogs craps- which amuses me!
Set off to Clatchtoll for night 4 stop.
Loch Assynt is beautiful - little ruin on a beach and people taking a dip in the loch at tea time. Looks perfect.
708 miles done
Arrive at Clatchtoll Beach Campsite. There are no words. It’s off the scale. It’s chilled, it’s on the most beautiful bay I've ever seen. Pack up all the stuff we need for a beach bbq (that bit was a hassle- the kids start fighting, jack starts crying, proper carryon- I try not to lose my shit and remember once at the beach it’ll be worth this little hiccup) and set off down to the beach, it looks like the Caribbean but the sea feels like the Arctic 🥶 7.30pm.
The foods nearly ready and life has never been better. 😊
The dogs constantly bring hair, grit and sand into the tent and fart a lot - but they are loving this too! So glad we brought them!
All hot showers- warm up our blue frozen feet. Tom (the campsite boss) gave us the family shower room. Heater on in tent. Cup of tea. Bed.
Wake up to no midges- Yay! Cereal breakfast.
Pack up with the sheep watching us. On the road for 10.30am
These are the twisty littlest most fabulous roads.
Stop to see Stoer lighthouse
On route to Durness today. Hoping to get onto Sango sands campsite(first come first served).
We talk about the cyclists and how difficult they are to pass on this tiny twisty road! then the inevitable occurs- we have never been so pleased that jacks not a big eater as the wiggly roads eventually ended in puke.
Delayed us slightly- and the cyclist passes the car clean out operation!. 🤪
15 slow miles on rollercoaster style single track crazy lanes.
Stopped at a bridge (can't recall name). All out. Leg stretch. Photos.
Got to Sango sands 2pm. Tent up. Wild and cold but dry. Sango Sands is on a Cliff top overlooking dramatic tiny rocky sandy coves, we cross the gangway style boardwalk to enjoy the views from the site.
Back in car. 2 min drive to Smoo Cave. Amazing.
Back in car to amazing beach the other side of our campsite - just wow. White sand turquoise water. If it wasn’t so cold you’d think you were in the Caribbean. Elvis takes his usual sea shit 🤪 We have the beach to ourselves- pity its freezing, the shells are very pretty and the boys start collecting too many!
Back to camp site (via a tiny spar to buy wine)
Usual family troop to shower block- I’m sure showering communally is a highlight for the boys 🤣 jarmies - tea- toasty tent with the sounds of WILD WAVES crashing below.
No midges today. And Johnny lost a tooth today too. Puke. Teeth. And wet sandy dogs that aren’t allowed in the tent till after dinner. Another amazing day that photos just don’t do justice.
We are just ignoring the grit, hair, sand and grass that’s making its way into the tent. Wet dog smell. Fart. Portable toilet in the tent porch. Disposable / dissolvable paper plates and plastic cutlery so no dishes to do.
Wake up and the smell at the camp site loo’s lets me know there’s a breakfast bar on site - no cooking today! Yum.
Packed up and on the way to Thurso/John o Groats today. (I'm a professional tent packer now- even if I do say so myself!)
It was wild through the night- rain. Wind. Waves. Amazing.
Luckily dry to pack the tent up this morning. The loo in the porch saved Neil peeing practically out the tent door- like he’s managed other nights.
Half an hour into our journey- all swap. Jacks feeling sick- seat swap - he’s riding shot gun and I’m squeezed in the back 🤪 better than waiting for the sick today!
There’ll be less photos today as the view out the back isn’t quite as good as the back 🤪
We are in a habit of shouting “CATTLE GRID” obviously at cattle grids.
Some photo opportunity’s are missed if it’s impossible to stop 👎 mission - don’t kill a lamb.
No photos of Strathy point or lighthouse as Neil just drive straight passed the parking and view point. 🤣 the downside of me in the back.
Just having a convo with the kids about favourite holidays. We get on about Santa. Jack announces that he thinks all Santa’s are fake. “Really” we reply.
So which one is the real one? (Bearing in mind we’ve been to Lapland). Both boys agree the real Santa is at red fox nursery’s. 🤪🤷♀️🤣
Stopped at a bay before our campsite- wee stop. Dog run. Rain came. We all ran.
We arrive at Windhaven. It’s a haven for the wind. It’s cliff top. Most northerly camp site. Never have I ever put a tent up in wind like it 🤪 We’ve no electric tonight. We’ve tied the tent to the fence. It’s going to be a wild night of the stormy variety. And Neil's air mattress is punctured. 🤪🤣 I’ve patched it up. (it's Neil's air mattress as he punctured it on a trailer bolt) We can’t open the trailer lid without keeping tight a hold 🤣🤪 It is Gale Force!!!
Drive to John o Groats, pictures taken and ball purchases made, back on the road. It’s all a bit bleak up here. All starving. No where to eat that didn’t have a que. Arrive at Tesco in Wick. Debating how much more driving to do but it’s miserable weather. Neils in the shop - the kids are peeing in a bottle in the car 😳🤞
At 4pm eventually got fed. Fish and chips in Wick harbour on route to Whaligoe Steps. As expected the engine management light comes on in the car🤪
steps amazing! Fab photos.
Johnnys enjoying the trip so much he is literally pulling teeth out 🤪... his second tooth this week is on its way out 🤣
1000 miles done ✅
7.30pm. Back at the tent. It’s wild outside. I think we will give the shower a miss and head to bed in what we are wearing 🤪👍
Games and dvds in the tent tonight. Loving this adventure-although at times it does feel a little self indulgent as the drives are long and it’s not geared at kids, 2moro though- quick drive to a park dean resort on a beach, crazy golf, play areas, and an onsite restaurant/pub. Seen as though we’ve transported their scooters 1000 mile they might get a bit of path to play on there 🤪🤷♀️👍
At about 8.30 we got a neighbour- Angela is camping alone in a one man tent. Just set off from Wales - her kids are older, and everyone thinks she’s lost the plot setting off alone. We laugh that we’ve packed so much stuff.. us scooters and body boards - Angela - roller skates and tennis rackets 🤪🤣
It’s cheese and wine night in our wild windy tent. The kids are having hot dogs and the tent is going wild. It’s noisy and flappy (the tent that is!) The wind almost flattens the tent it really is quite exciting! We all sleep well.
I got up to go to the loo - so I took the dogs out at 8am. Was fabulous in Brough Bay below the camp site. Got lush photos. Get back to tent. 9am. Breakfast. Gone posh today and having cheese and ham quoissant. Neil takes boys and dogs back the cove while I pack up and talk to Angela (so my packing takes a while - I like to chat). I also have to strategically un- peg and roll the tent as it is still wild and this tent could easily become parachute like!
11am. Set off to see Dunnet Head lighthouse before our final drive down to Embo. We chat to Phil the campsite owner as we leave and learn a tent blew away last year - no one in it at the time and it got caught over the fence 😳
Berriedale to Helmsdale is very pretty.
Stop at Dunrobin castle, Johnnys second tooth of the trip dropped out (lost in the car?). We walk round the edge of the castle to the beach front to get the best view of the castle. The dogs run on the beach. On the way down Johnnys 3rd tooth of the trip dropped out 🤣🤪
Castle is fab. We don't go in because of the dogs.
We arrive at granny Helien Hame. It’s a little like a Scottish version of sandy bay- the boys love it. They’ve played on their scooters- they’ve had ice lollies thrown at them by some girls - that hid from me and Neil after this. They’ve been in the arcades, played in the park - played crazy golf with a tennis ball and walked the length of Embo beach in the dark with the moon reflecting in the waves. They jumped the waves in their clothes and headed straight to the showers on the way back to the tent. Tea was from the chip shop (before the beach) and we all sat in bed to keep warm while eating 🤪
Neil met his friend Alan this afternoon on the beach who came up to see us on the site, he kindly dished our his change for the boys to play in the arcades 😁
All cosy. 11pm. Lights out. Last night in the tent. 🙃
We wake up together and all go for the last beach dog walk.
Embo beach. We are the only ones there. Neil's friend Alan joins us with his little pug. I'm then regretting walking unwashed in my Pjs!
Stopped at Dornoch and got the kids a teddy and a little gift for john and Antonia’s girls.
Then Set off to do a loop of the black aisle to say hello to john (my Uni Friend) and his family on the way- then we will stop at Fortrose to hopefully see some dolphins 🤞
Then it’s the long drive home. The boys are excited to see Laura’s puppy back at home.
Arrive at Johns, his youngest Alexa is there. Antonia and savannah arrive back from show jumping while we are there. We called for a cuppa and a hello, scored for lunch, kids on the trampoline and then an amazing trip out on their boat to see the dolphins - Cromarty firth and around to Fortrose, the best afternoon and very unexpected. Wow- wow- wow!
Feels like yesterday since I seen John- not the 17 years it actually is!
On the road at 5pm. Heading home on a 5 / 6 hour journey home. Nipped into a co op to get some food. Couldn’t have had a better holiday and it’s without doubt changed the way we will holiday forever. Adventures from now on. 😁 (wev'e bought a map of France!)
1 small tent
7 camp sites
3 teeth out
1 bag of puke
Hundreds of bagged dog craps
Hundreds midge bites mainly on Neil
A punctured air mat (Neil's)
not a wrong word!
Fully clothed evening paddles
Views that take your breath away
AND A MILLION MEMORIES.
don't think- just do it!
(oh... and the sack full of dog food was still 3/4 full!)