After leaving Staycation in Dalmuir, your first satnav point is Inverness which is just under a 4 hour journey.
We stayed overnight in the grounds at Rogie Falls, 30 minutes from Inverness, Rogie Falls allows a free short stay and has public toilets but please bear in mind, there is no van hook-up available.There is one local shop in Rogie Falls with a limited range of stock. Our advice would be to eat in Inverness, the River House Restaurant or the Fig and Thistle are worth a visit, then stock up on the things you need for the night before returning to Rogie Falls.
According to Highland folklore the site of the lighthouse was used as a meeting place for witches covens and prior to that it used to be a Roman Fort.
Engineered by renowned lighthouse builder Robert Stevenson, Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is an ‘A’ listed building, although not open to the public, it’s a beautiful site and there is a lovely walk around here.
We stayed here and enjoyed the sun then moved on to our next stop on the list which was Dunrobin Castle.
Dunrobin Castle is a stately home with the grounds looking like you are at Alice’s tea party. There is an entrance fee for admission to the castle but there also is a path that takes you round the back with a walk along the waterfront.
As our van was fully charged we stayed in the car park in the outer grounds of Dunrobin Castle, there was just so much to see we wanted to take a longer walk through the grounds.
We had a throw-away barbecue and Staycation vans come with BBQ tools, we got supplies from a local shop and made our dinner in the grounds. If that isn’t wild camping I don’t know what is! If you are using throw away barbecue please ensure you aren’t on grass and dispose of them correctly.
Sadly, when we got to Whaligoe Steps, due to very wet weather they were closed, if they are open it’s a great walk/hike and amazing for taking photos.
As the steps don’t take very long to climb here are a few other options of things to occupy your time.
Pulteney Distillery Visitor Centre, Huddart Street Wick, KW1 5BA
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
We recommend stocking up on supplies and petrol before you start this step of the journey as it is probably the most derelict part of the NC500. Until you get to John o’Groats you won’t see any supermarkets or towns so make sure you plan your petrol stops to be on the safe side.
Food & Drink in Whaligoe
Puldagon Farm Shop & Restaurant Stirkoke, Wick, Caithness, KW1 5SD (Closed Monday and Tuesday)
Bord de L'eau
2 Market St, Wick KW1 4AR
Old Smiddy Inn
Stewart Crescent, Thrumster, Wick KW1 5TS
Travel time from Whaligoe Steps to John o’Groats Is about 34 minutes. Sadly for us this day was the wettest day it down poured from when we woke up till when we got to Durness so we did a fair bit of driving.
The location of the famous sign and the start of many journeys to Land’s End. Many people like to take a photo of the sign, including me, the typical tourist and proud of it!
There is a big car park here (pay in display). There are a few shops and this is a beautiful area for taking photos and then I would say move on as there is so much more to explore moving forward.
Thurso • 31 minute drive
We did plan to stay here for the night but the town was smaller than we thought with one little shop and we where soaked from the rain so decided to move on which I am so glad we did as the next stop is my favourite but shh don’t tell the others.
We arrived here in the afternoon and the sun finally started to shine through the clouds, you wouldn’t believe how fast the weather changed from a winters day to a Scottish summer! As soon as you arrive in Durness you are greeted by a beach of dreams that many people paddle board or even wild swim in. There is a car park where you can stay overnight, we did and it was perfect.
Durness is famous for its zipline which is open seasonally and weather dependant. We managed to get a shot and was a experience I will never forget. In Durness there are facilities a 5 min walk up the hill and another car park which you pay for at the machine.
One of my favourite meals was Cheese ‘n’ Toasted made in a horse box trailer that makes the best gourmet toasties I couldn’t recommend more.
Another thing to note, there is limited space at the car park, so if you want to stay the night I would advise getting there early. We did the NC500 at the end of May so it wasn’t peak time and there were not so many dreaded midges.
Clachtoll is known for its breathtaking beaches and long walks on the sand/rocks. Take full advantage if the weather is nice and use your kitchen on wheels, eating out can get expensive so remember you have everything you need in your van for cooking appliances so get your chef hat on and find your inner Gordon Ramsey.
Things to do
• Clachtoll beach • Flossies beach store (coffee) • Ullapool • Corrieshalloch Gorge • Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve • Stac Pollaidh Mountain
Clachtoll has the best facilities especially if you are in a van I would put this down as a shower stop! This was the first proper shower we had since we started our road trip that may be TMI but I fell like we are all friends here :) In the town centre there are signs to the shower blocks and it FREE to use which is amazing. Another thing to note is there is a Tesco here which will be the first supermarket you have seen in a while so can restock on anything you might need to continue on. In Ullapool we used the Park4night app which showed us a place just outside town that was a big lay by. Free to stay and had lots off bins emptied often. this is a great app to use if you are struggling with campsites being booked.
This was the only day I truly felt like you need to plan as it very off the map/grid. This drive was truly something you don’t believe until you see it with your own eyes. Driving through the Scottish mountains and very windy road there is a stop about half way and if you are wanting to stop I would get out and even have a picnic while you take in the sights. Lower Diabaig is TINY, blink and you miss it!
We heard great things about the ONLY restaurant in Lower Diabaig but stupidly thought we wouldn’t need to book, it was fully booked so don’t make the same mistake as us and book in advance. We were so hungry or should I say HANGRY!.
The next restaurant was over 30 minutes back the way we had come. It all worked out for the best though when we got there we had the most amazing fish and chips think our eyes where bigger than our belly as we ordered far to much but I wasn’t complaining.
After leaving Applecross this is a must!
This amazing spot, with views overlooking Shieldaig island, is picture perfect. Prices ranging from £21- £26 per night plus £4.50 for the optional hookup and the wifi is free! Also situated at the perfect spot to catch the northern lights if you are lucky! The site is situated in ‘Aurora’!We pulled up and on a noticeboard there was a list of the free pitches where you’re welcome to just drive in and to hook up. The toilet and shower block is newly renovated and spotless and it’s a short walk to the Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen where the langoustines are a real treat. www.shorecaravansite.co.uk www.lochinverlarder.com www.shieldaigcampingandcabins.co.uk - Would highly recommend and always top of our customers ‘best sites’ lists!
Applecross is the best place to go for street food! We arrived in the morning to the smell of fresh bacon on the grill, what more can you want! They have a wide variety and something for everyone from from seafood too ice cream. we went in May, I’m not sure if the street food venders are seasonal but I don’t think they would trade in the winter so keep that in mind. There is also a pub here and tables outside to sit by the water which you need to book - when it’s sunny they fill up quickly. As we don’t get much sun, as soon as we see any resemblance of a cloud in the sky we Scots like to make the most of it.
Although Skye is an island there is a bridge that you can drive over from the mainland so a ferry is not required unless you want too. Skye is just in a world of its own with fairy pools and unique small businesses waiting for you to take a piece of your holiday home with you.