Episode 14: ‘The Slow Road’ (Season 2)
Ready to explore hidden gems on Scotland’s most popular road trip? Let’s see what lies at the end of winding detours from the North Coast 500.
‘The Slow Road’ tells the story of driving down the North Coast 500 – but mostly not following it. Instead, we explore some of the detours along the way.
First, we drive from Torridon to Lower Diabaig, crossing a mountain pass that makes the hair stand up at the back of your next. Then, we leave the road behind to go for a hike in the Beinn Eighe mountain range. Finally, we drive down another detour – the winding coastal road to the beach at Red Point.
This episode shows that it’s worth to slow down and tackle short sections of the North Coast 500 in-depth, instead of attempting to drive the whole loop in a few days.
After the story, I’ll tell you some of my top tips for driving the North Coast 500 responsibly.
Are you ready? Great – let’s travel to Scotland!
This episode is brought to you by Go Ape.
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Join the Wild for Scotland email list here.
Plan your trip with my Travel Guide for the North Coast 500 road trip.
Read Gail Anthea Brown’s article about over-tourism on the NC500.
Lower your impact with these travel tips for responsible tourism in Scotland.
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Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced and edited by Fran Turauskis.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat, Pond5 and SoundBoard.
All photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.
5 Travel Tips for Driving the North Coast 500 Responsibly
1) Take your time
Personally, I recommend taking at least 7 days to drive the entire North Coast 500 loop. That’s the amount of time we had – and even at that, it felt a little rushed to me. There were so many places I wanted to see that we didn’t have time for. If you have less time, I recommend focussing on a section of the route and exploring that more in-depth.
It means you have more time to see places, try activities, drive detours, browse villages and actually spend time making a connection with the places you visit.
2) Book well ahead
Since our road trip in 2019, the route has inarguably become even more popular. Whether you want to stay in hotels or BnBs, hostels, campsites or caravan parks, you have to book your overnight stops in advance. This is particularly true in the summer and during school holidays, but increasingly also when you travel in off-season.
3) Follow road advice
Small roads like the road to Diabaig, are not suitable for large motorhomes and caravans – the road is simply too narrow and steep, and the passing places are not wide enough for these large vehicles. Equally, if you are an inexperienced or nervous driver, you should probably stay away from such challenging drives.
There are signs along the North Coast 500 pointing out such roads to drivers, so if you feel that for whatever reason, you shouldn’t be driving those, please stick to the main road.
4) Book a mountain guide to hike in Torridon
If you want to hike in the Torridon mountains and do a little more than our trail – maybe bag a Munro or two – I recommend hiring a local hiking guide. Not only will they keep an eye on your safety, they also know these hills like the back of their hands and can tell you about local wildlife, show you the best views and make sure you have the best day out in the mountains.
Here are three places where you can hire a local mountain guide for the area:
5) Consider your impact
Last but not least, I could not leave you without an appeal to really consider your impact as a traveller. The rising numbers of visitors have been great for many tourism businesses in the area – but it has also had some negative effects on the environment and local communities.
When you travel the North Coast 500, take a moment to think about your impact; how you can minimise the negative and maximise the positive effect you have on nature, local businesses and the people who live in the areas you visit.
Of course, this is also true anywhere else in Scotland.