Disclaimer : Having completed the Wild Atlantic Way in under a week I thought a reasonable time period to complete the North Coast 500 would be two days. However you will notice that this ride report actually covers four days – so what’s that about? Well it’s simply about travel. One day to get to the start and one day takes me home. So really it’s a four day trip to Scotland, during which I completed the NC500 in two.
Download the NC500 GPS File Here : http://www.tbni.blog/downloads/North-Coast-500.gpx
Day 1 : 29/07/2016 : Two of us set off on this journey, myself on my 2014 BMW F800GS Adventure, my mate on his Kawasaki ZX10R. Yep an adventure bike and a sports bike are heading to the Highlands.
The day starts of at Belfast heading to Cairnryan on the 07:30 am ferry. At 07:30 am the most important thing is breakfast and at £10.00 for a fry I am expecting a great breakfast. Nope – not great at all. It tasted alright but the portions were beyond miserable. The beans consisted of 3 lonely individuals drowning in a sea of watered down tomato sauce. One good point is that if you buy a cup of tea / coffee your refills are free. Maybe the £10 fries subsidise the hot drinks bill?
Here are a few tips for this ferry :
1. Get a McD’s breakfast on the way to the boat.
2. Sit in the bar – not the restaurant. FIFA on an xBox was in the bar.
3. Find someone a bit secluded on the boat – the bodies (by the time you move off) will be strewn about everywhere, the noises are like when zombies fall asleep with a sinsus infection. People really need to try sleeping the night before their journey!
On a plus note through the weather was glorious! My fingers were crossed it stays this way!
4. And this one is important – turn off the roaming on your phone. Just an internet refresh or two by your phone will cost you a fortune!
At £6/MB streaming a football match on Sky Go would cost about £2500!
After a smooth crossing (but not our only sailing today) the Scottish leg of the journey to our starting location at Inverness begins. This part of the journey really is about getting to the start of the NC500 so we munched up the miles and then came to our next trip on a boat. The views had really started to become spectacular!
After this sailing and another load of miles tore up we decided it was time for food. ‘The Oyster Inn’ in Connel was our pit stop for a late lunch. It is worth stopping at – I opted simply for the burger and chips and it was very tasty indeed. It is very easy to find, you will see the big bridge – which interestingly was build in 1906 for the then princely sum of £43,000 – the pub is just past this bridge.
Onwards to Inverness and the views are stunning. The scenic route takes in some really nice ‘B’ Roads. Don’t worry about going fast here, just relax, chill out and take in the views.
Our next notable stopping point was the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge. Looking over the land and seeing the area that these guys trained in just makes you realise very quickly how tight these soldiers really were!
From Spean Bridge it is on to Loch Ness.
I was anticipating this first day to be a day of just head down, get to Inverness and get a rest before starting the NC500. However the scenery starts so much sooner than I was anticipating! From this point on you could honestly stop every five minutes to take photographs and each photo would capture a different scene. It is breath taking.
This was my first trip to Scotland, I knew Loch Ness was going to be big, but coming from Northern Ireland it is actually quite hard to measure big. Our country is small, so when you see a Lough the size of Loch Ness it really it’s simply on a scale that we aren’t used to. Suffice to say it is big – and beautiful. I was a little disappointed though, we stopped here for a good long break and I scoured the waters but not one single sign of Nessie!
It was this stop though that first introduced me to one of Scotland’s major problems at this time of year – midges. As soon as you stop, these wee buggers start eating you. I mean really eating you, keep your head covered with some sort of headover, buy repellant, light a fire, use ultra violet infra red light, use them all – anything to keep these pests from feasting on your blood, because when one finds you he tells his mates next thing you know it is like one of those Facebook parties that went wild!
From one famous Scottish animal – the midge – to another, and this time a much more photogenic one – the highland cow. You know you’d stop to photograph one of these guys too!
If you do take this route to Inverness when you are coming to Loch Ness you’ll want to take the south eastern side of the Loch for more outstanding views and some great rural roads.
Enjoy them because soon you’ll be in Inverness – where it is time to rest up tomorrow is Day 1 of the NC500 – so it’ll be a long enough one.
Accommodation : We stayed at the Holiday Inn, Milburn Road, Inverness. It’s a hotel obviously but in its previous life must have been an mill. The room had a double bed and a single. I got the double and have to say it was crazy comfortable – for some reason the single bed was only half the height of it? The room was clean comfortable and well priced complete with a 40 inch TV with Freeview.
Tea / Dinner : Sandwiches from the nearby Morrison’s (due to time). They were terrible.
Weather : Perfect – sunny, warm and pleasant. All the clouds did was make the sky interesting for the photos. I wore my Road Skin Hoody all day and was perfectly comfortable throughout!
Scotland’s North Coast 500 (NC500) : Day 1 Gallery