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Anyone done the NC500 recently

Ian Houghton2024-04-15 16:07:08


Has anyone done the NC500 recently by tandem? My partner has always wanted to do it. I have kind of got over my tandem on trains worry but the NC500 leaves me with other worries like the weather, midges, traffic, accomodation etc. 

Part of the joy of cycle camping is the spontaneity and the ability to change direction if you are not having fun. Thanks to the Scottish tourist board the NC500 seems a popular road trip and there is just one road so pre-booking camping seems required and plugging up steep hills with a tail back would not be fun.

I've bought the Cicerone guide. We are used to cycle camping, are used to traffic in the South East and have done mountains in the past though we are a bit out of practice. Any thoughts are welcome. We would probably go late Aug/early Sept.



Tim Dowson2024-04-15 17:39:02
Either do it outside the Scottish, and English,  school holidays,  or be prepared to put up with dangerous newbie campervan drivers who don't care about other drivers,  never mind loaded tandems.  The logging waggons are a joy in comparison - at least they know their vehicles, and single track roads,  and want to keep their jobs.  It's a great area to cycle if you have rain gear and anti- midge stuff but why not pick a different route through it if you really want to enjoy the place? Then you can easily wild camp in the middle of nowhere too.
Edmund Dunstan2024-04-15 17:42:43
I've done part of the NC500, but only from Laxford Bridge to Hope, on a single. That bit would be ridable on a tandem, but hard work in places if going clockwise (Laxford Brae and the eastern side of Loch Erribol). You'd be sharing the road with lots of motorhomes, which could be a nuisance at times, necessitating pulling off to let them past. The big problem would be the time you suggest doing it - peak  midge season.
Andy Ryan2024-04-15 18:28:55
Hi there,

I've done it on a solo bike first week of May 2022 - no Midges and traffic not bad at all. To be fair some of the places were not open and we were advised to book for evening meals as getting staff post-brexit is a problem apparently - so the chef might not be at your chosen pub - if you need that resource for food.

I have a friend who lives up there and says don't bother trying to cycle it past mid June due to midges and traffic. Not so much the volume just the limitations of the road capacity.

We did B&B and I would recommend booking if that's your accomodation option - in some of these places there really is very little. Conversely I would imagine lots of wild camp options.

We had a great time and even got a spoke replaced in Scourie and Barnes Bikes and Bits 01971502259!

Good luck.
Stephen Todd2024-04-15 20:48:32
yes, that route was inadequate even before someone had the bright idea of naming it the NC500.

(We've never tandemed it and won't now, but have driven various parts of it, all some time ago).

Most drivers are very considerate, but a significant minority are quite the opposite.

But the scenery is brilliant.

Enjoy it.


copilot (Bing AI)  says

The NC500's popularity has grown over the years, attracting thousands of tourists to the north Highlands of Scotland and bringing significant economic benefits to the region. However, the increase in visitor numbers has also raised concerns about environmental impact and road safety https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Coast_500. The route's success in boosting tourism and its recognition as one of the world's top coastal touring routes have solidified its popularity among road trip enthusiasts

Stephen Gray2024-04-16 10:12:07
Avon skin-so-soft is pretty effective against midges and nicer than some of the chemical repelents
Ian Houghton2024-04-17 19:53:48

Thanks for everyones replies. I think Ian still has to persuade me though going with the suggestion from Andy of May (pre midge season and peak traffic) sounds like an option for next year.