Here is our NC500 top ten tips. Have fun planning and enjoy the ride!
I’m going to go for the stereotypical British thing here and talk about the weather. You can’t predict it, and you can’t control it, so you may as well embrace it. We barely saw the sun for a whole week during our NC500 trip, and although this didn’t make the scenery any less beautiful, it did mean we missed out on a lot of opportunities! The photos we did take represent the best weather of the week! Particularly disappointing was the “aurora alerts” that buzzed in our pockets (when we had signal!). The cloud filled sky sabotaged any of our efforts to glimpse the northern lights or take any stunning sunset, sunrise or starry night shots! The wind, which wouldn’t necessarily affect car drivers, meant that we were often riding at an angle just to continue in a straight line! You can read and watch about our windy Balach na Ba experience here. Our advice would be; go prepared and invest in good quality, warm, waterproof clothing!
Biking the NC500
Playing chicken with the wind on the Bealach na Bà.
Today we planned to leave the A9 for a more exciting route! As we were low on fuel, we dropped down to Brora because the petrol station in Helmsdale wasn’t open. From Brora, we intended to ride all the way back to Helmsdale before cutting inland, but Sat Nav had different ideas! It took us on some even smaller roads than we had intended – so unused that grass was growing up the middle. A word of warning if you follow our route: the only other vehicles we saw were 4×4’s. Continue reading
With little interesting riding to be found heading between Mey and Helmsdale, we opted for a day visit to Orkney. Whilst this is a rather expensive option, costing us £128 for the return trip, it did give us a fascinating insight into Neolithic history and an opportunity to experience riding in some staggering wind conditions! Had we visited in the right season, we would also been able to visit more puffin colonies!
During the summer months it is possible to get a passenger ferry straight from John O’ Groats, this is often combined with a day tour bus trip on Orkney. At £64 per person (Summer 2017) this may well be worth it depending on the vehicle you are travelling in. If you are set on visiting and driving yourself, the options catch the Scabaster-Stromness ferry or the Gills Bay-St. Margaret’s Hope. The latter is cheaper, and with a approximate sailing time of one hour is also a half hour quicker than the former option. We managed to get tickets simply by turning up on the day, but in high season advanced booking is required to guarantee a trip. We payed £16 per bike, plus £16 per person each way. Continue reading
Today, although still windy, was finally dry with a few rain spells, which made a difference to the overall feel of the day. Our waterproofs didn’t become heavy with moisture and my hands and feet stayed mainly warm. We added in an extra loop, so we could ride the the road between Drumrunie and Lochinver, without missing any of the sights on the main stretch. Our first stop was Ullapool, where we chatted to John, an incredibly friendly man in the tourist information centre. After a good natter, which included swapping tales of travelling in New Zealand, we headed next door to the West Coast Deli for a second breakfast! We both tried their interesting take on sausage rolls eating a black pudding roll and a thai curry one! We also bought sandwiches here for lunch on the road. Continue reading
Another day of grey skies, high winds and heavy rain. Fortunately the morning stayed dry for our foray onto Skye. Taking a turn at random on Skye, we ended up on the A851 which leads down to Armadale. We stopped a little way down this road at The Gaelic Whiskies and had a wander round a local gallery before trying a very wee dram of a few whiskies.
Local artist Derek Robertson showed us his current field study drawings of an otter and let us use his telescope to see some porpoises he’d seen across the bay. His artwork was stunning, although sadly we could only afford to take a few cards home with us. The whiskies we tried were all very tasty, and not being connoisseurs couldn’t taste the difference in quality between the single malt and the blended. So, naturally, we bought the cheapest, “Té Bheag”, which according to the label is pronounced chey vek and is the affectionate term for a wee dram! Continue reading