The Core Four were at it again…this time up in the Scottish Highlands! We decided to do the “North Coast 500” road trip around the coast of Northern Scotland. What an adventure it was! Here is a map of the route (we slightly modified it – but we still did over 500 miles!)
Our trip started Thursday after work when we flew into Inverness. When planning the trip, Erin and I struggled to find a suitable rental car and reasonably priced hotels. After a lot of research, we decided that camping would be the best way to do this trip. Erin was a total rockstar and landed us the PERFECT campervan for our adventure – a cheery yellow, retro VW campervan! And it slept 4! We picked it up late that evening and headed to our first campsite in Inverness. We arrived at midnight, so we set up camp and went to sleep.
We started Friday out bright and early with a quick breakfast in Inverness and then set off to explore the Loch Ness and hunt for the Loch Ness monster. Unfortunately, we never found her, but we did have a great time exploring the lake (I mean “Loch”) in the beautiful weather.
The next stop of the day was a whiskey distillery tour of Glenmorangie. Although Erin and I don’t like whiskey, it was a fun stop for the guys and we enjoyed the beautiful buildings and learning about the process of it being produced.
Most of the trip was just spent driving along the beautiful coastline, taking in the unique scenery and sights. And of course – enjoying jamming out with the windows down and music blasting [lots of Scottish bagpipes!]. That afternoon we spent making our way up to the most north eastern point of Scotland.
Along the way, we stopped at the Dunrobin Castle and on the side of the road to check out the “Hill O’Many Stanes” – a weird Stonehenge-esk field of stones. The castle was pretty cool – definitely the most fairytale looking castle we’ve seen! But we didn’t pay to go inside, just a quick stop for a photo then we continued on….
The next pit stop was at an old castle that is now ruins. We arrived around 5:00, so the sunlight was picture-perfect and it made for one of our most beautiful stops of the trip. It was fun trompsing around exploring. We found out quickly on this trip that the highlands aren’t a very busy tourist area – so we were usually the only ones or just one of a few other tourists a the stops. It was my favourite way to explore!
After a long day in the van, we made it up to John O’ Groats to our next campsite. It was a cute seaside town with beautiful cliffs, colourful homes and beaches. We bbq’d for dinner and then it started to rain, so we moved our party into the van for a fun game night.
One thing I love about camping is waking up early and enjoying a cup of coffee in the quiet while enjoying the scenery. Now that we’re living in London, peace and quiet is a little more difficult to find. So it was so nice to soak up these moments! So after an early start, we were off again. The first stop was to the Castle of Mey, where the Queen of England spends some of her summer holiday!
This day was spent making our way from the most northeastern point of Scotland over to the western side. Up along the northern coast, it is VERY remote, with not much “tourist” stuff to do. So we made up some fun stops on the side of the road for photo shoots!
That afternoon we made stops at Smoo Cave, the Kylesku bridge and the Ardvreck Castle ruins. The cave was amazing, and had a really cool waterfall inside. The bridge made for some fun stone throwing competitions between Kent and Dan and the castle made for a perfect Hunter wellie-boot advertisement shoot for me and Erin [see plug again at end of post!]
That evening we made it our last campsite in Lochinver. This was my favourite camp spot of the trip. It was so remote, on the cliffs, quiet and overall just perfect! There were even sheep just wandering around next to us! It of course made for the most perfect photos of our van! We were also able to make a little bonfire down on the beach to enjoy some smores.
On our final day in Scotland, we had to make our way down the west coast and back over to Inverness. It was amazing how different each part of the Highlands is. The east coast [day 1] was very flat and filled with farm land. We saw the most cows on that side. The northern coastline [day 2] was very remote, with dramatic sea views. The west side [day 3] was our favourite scenery, as it was loaded with mountains, sea and forest. The day was filled with wildlife [lots of deer, sheep and cows] and gorgeous mountains.
We made a stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge Nature Reserve to do a little hike around the Gorge.
Our last stop of the trip was to the Ardessie Falls. Erin and I took full advantage of our wellies and decided to hike THROUGH the waterfall. The views from the top were totally worth it!
Unfortunately, it was then time to make our way back to Inverness to return our trusty van and fly back to London. It is such a blessing to have the Ives over here with us. This trip was perfect to do as a group. We had so much fun together exploring. Our next trip we have planned together is Christmas in Iceland! I’m sure we’ll fit in another weekend trip before then – I doubt we can wait until December to go somewhere again together! And next week…Dan and I are headed to AFRICA for our 5 year anniversary trip! Cheers!
Check out the Ives blog post about the trip too: http://adventuresfromabingdon.com
We rented our campervan through Inverness Campervans . They were super easy to work with and had great rates. He was really flexible with our pickup/drop off times which was great. The rates were really reasonable.
Erin and I lived in our Hunter Wellies – they are a necessity for a trip like this!
And we all [minus Kent] felt like a walking Patagonia Fleece advertisement. They were perfect for this weather and all of the outdoor activities.