Scotland tour part four: the route we took, the places we stayed. #NC500 North Coast 500

Uig campingTo round off my travel journal of nine days in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, this post lists what Bob and I did each day, plus some costs. The opening post has links to Google Maps of the route, along with photos of the eastern and northern stretches. Part two covers Lewis and Harris, part three the return leg of Ballachulish and the West Highland Way. Planning the route started in earnest months before, in a London pizza restaurant, while we waited to attend at gig at The Roundhouse. After that we tinkered at the edges and there’s little we would add to the route, except more time perhaps to do more walks and visit more distilleries. Let me know if you’ve any questions about the trip (dsrjarman@gmail.com), and please do what you can to promote the North Coast 500! #NC500

(As it happens The Guardian is doing just that today, 23 August 2015.)

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Day 1: Saturday 8 August 2015. From Edinburgh to Contin. Distance: 201 miles (cumulative 201).

Activities: visited Glen Ord Distillery. Dinner: Coul House Hotel (excellent service and food). Overnight: Riverside Chalets campsite (basic facilities; lovely setting).

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Day 2: Sunday 9 August 2015. From Contin to Golspie; Golspie to Wick. Distance: 104 miles (305).

Activities: took the bus from Golspie to Brora and walked back, seeing seals and a stone age dwelling (6 miles); visited Dunrobin Castle for falconry display, croquet and aristocratic artefacts.  Breakfast: improvised yoghurt and fruit. Dinner: No 1 Bistro (slow service, excellent food). Overnight: Wick Caravan and Camping Site (good facilities; lovely setting, a short walk from town).

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Day 3: Monday 10 August 2015. From Wick to Durness, via John o’ Groats, Dunnet Head and Strathey Point. Distance: 157 miles (462).

Activities: visited John o’ Groats (furthest NE) and Dunnet Head (furthest N); back to Wick to visit Old Pulteney Distillery; walked to Strathey Point light house and around; drove across the top of Scotland. Breakfast: The Storehouse (friendly and tasty, great setting at John o’ Groats). Dinner: Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant and Bar (busy pub, good food). Overnight: Sango Sands Oasis Campsite (good facilities and easy to pitch; local beach).

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Day 4: Tuesday 11 August 2015. From Durness to meet the boat to Cape Wrath, and back. Distance: 5 miles (467).

Activities: took the boat and minibus to Cape Wrath Lighthouse (furthest mainland NW), walked south from there to Sandwood Bay and on to Blairmore (21 miles, including four burn crossings); minibus/taxi back to find the car. Breakfast: Mackay’s (excellent service and great food). Dinner: Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant and Bar (busy pub, good food). Overnight: Sango Sands Oasis Campsite (good facilities and easy to pitch; local beach).

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Day 5: Wednesday 12 August 2015. From Durness to Uig (on Lewis), via Drumbeg, Stoer lighthouse, Ullapool, Stornoway. Distance: 144 miles (611).

Activities: visited Durness craft village, including Cocoa Mountain chocolatiers; Drumbeg for cake, including a 25% gradient descent; bog walking around the lighthouse; ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway (Calmac), including a visit from the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter; dusk arrival at Uig Sands. Breakfast: Mackay’s (excellent service and great food). Dinner: on the ferry (tasty and filling). Overnight: Uig Sands Campsite (isolated and stunning setting; excellent facilities).

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Day 6: Thursday 13 August 2015. From Uig to Stornoway (on Lewis), via Callanish and Hushinish. Distance: 120 miles (731).

Activities: stunning morning on Uig Sands beach; visited Callanish Standing Stones and accompanying gallery; coastal walk at Hushinish (5 miles; furthest W), including the same helicopter; in Stornoway in time for dinner. Breakfast: improvised yoghurt and fruit. Dinner: The Park Guest House (quiet restaurant that stops serving at 19:00; excellent food). Overnight: The Park Guest House (quiet hotel; excellent en suite facilities).

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Day 7: Friday 14 August 2015. From Stornoway to Armadale (on Skye), via Ullapool and Applecross. Distance: 186 miles (917).

Activities: ferry from Stornoway to Ullapool (Calmac; no helicopters); fish and chips in Ullapool; coast road to Applecross Inn; Applecross Pass from east to west; Skye Bridge; night time arrival at bed and breakfast. Breakfast: The Park Guest House (very good). Lunch: The Chippy, Ullapool (excellent). Dinner: Kishorn Seafood Bar (excellent, informal, professional). Overnight: Morar Bed and Breakfast (very friendly, excellent facilities).

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Day 8: Saturday 15 August 2015. From Armadale to Ballachulish, via Mallaig (on the mainland), Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor. Distance: 83 miles (1,000).

Activities: quick dash across the bottom of Skye to see the Cuillin range; ferry from Armadale to Mallaig (Calmac); drove the A830 and A82 ‘Road to the Isles’ through Glen Coe, Glenfinnan, Rannoch Moor and down to Ballachulish; sea kayaking, arranged through hotel; drank whisky in hotel library. Breakfast: Morar B&B (excellent). Dinner: Ballachulish Hotel (excellent and filling, stunning view over loch). Overnight: Ballachulish Hotel.

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Day 9: Sunday 16 August 2015. From Ballachullish to Bridge of Orchy; Bridge of Orchy to Edinburgh. Distance: 138 miles (1,138).

Activities: drove to Bridge of Orchy Hotel; Citylink coach to Inverarnon Village; walked back to Bridge of Orchy via West Highland Way path (19 miles); home to Edinburgh via Stirling. Breakfast: Ballachulish Hotel (very good, buffet style). Lunch: The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum (slow service, good food). Overnight: home.

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Total cost was about £1,600, split between two. If we hadn’t eaten so well just about every night that would have been lower. Camping for five nights was very cheap, then three nights not camping was less so. Sea kayaking cost £40 per person. The car was very reasonable: £207 to hire for nine days, plus £138 in diesel – granted they upgraded us from a Ford Focus to a BMW 330d! Calmac ferries for two people and one car were: £136 for Ullapool to Stornoway return; £34 for Armadale to Mallaig one way. Citylink was about £7.50 each.

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Finally, here are some tweets I sent while travelling.

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Links to the three main journal entries:

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