As i'm getting older my favourite types of presents, as cringey as it sounds, are the ones that make memories. There's nothing i want to do more than spend time with my loved ones and if i can do that and discover something new or different at the same time, that's the gift jackpot if you ask me. Joel has cottoned on to this and fortunately we are incredibly similar in that regard, so for Christmas he surprised me with a trip to Scotland to drive the North Coast 500. I had seen videos of the NC500 which looked absolutely breathtaking so it definitely was on my to do list but it was a complete surprise that he had gone and booked the whole thing. So for our first little weekend break of 2018 we headed north, first stop Inverness.
Although not technically part of the NC500 Joel thought it would be a shame to be so close to the famous Loch Ness to not stop for a wee look.
We searched but no sign of any monsters. Fun fact though, the Loch Ness is the deepest of all the lochs in Scotland and it holds more water than in all of the lakes and rivers of England and Wales combined. A charming chap called Pieter told us that, but more on him later.
Our first night we stayed by the Loch and after flying the drone along its waters we hoped in the car to start our road trip. The official route starts at Inverness and weaves along the west coast towards Applecross which was our first stop, however we soon found out that the journey was just as beautiful as the destinations. Our first stag spot below was very exciting!
To get to Applecross we had to drive over our first mountain with the most breathtaking views.
Although we visited in February so were prepared for the weather to be wet, cold and generally a bit wild, we were actually incredibly lucky and by and large the weather was really pleasant while we were there. Obviously it would have probably been a safer bet to go in the summer but i'd take the quite roads and peacefulness we had over it being a few degrees warmer any day.
We continued up the coast, through Torridon up to Glen Docherty (where we took the above photo) and eventually got to Laide near Ullapool where we stopped for the night at the Braemore Square Country House. We had dinner at the Arch Inn in Ullapool which was having its "famous fishy friday". I can absolutely say, without a doubt, it was the best fish and chips i've ever had.
One of the main reasons Joel booked the Braemore Square Country House was because they actually have their own herd of highland cows. I massively fell in love with these beauties during our trip and i'm so pleased we stayed here because you don't actually see as many on the route as you would expect (there's loads of sheep, you can't move for sheep!). After breakfast we were taken to the fields outside the house to feed them.
After feeding the cows, taking about a million photos and getting thoroughly muddy we got back in the car and started making our way North. First stop Ardvreck castle.
This was probably the most picturesque part of the road, as lame as it sounds, on the route it's definitely not about the destination but about the journey to get there. Every turn brings about a new beautiful scene of nature that is truly breathtaking. We drove all day stopping along the way to take it all in.
You'll be pleased to hear we made to Johh o' Groats it in time for a photo with the sign, just!
For our last night Joel had booked us a room at the Ackergill Tower in Wick. Ackergill is an absolutely breathtaking building situated right on the coast that is every inch the traditional Scottish residence. We decided to have dinner at the hotel as we had been out all day and we were treated to bagpipes as we headed down to eat. It was Scotland just as I had imagined it
On our last day we needed to slowly make our way back to Inverness to catch our flight home that evening. Knowing it wasn't going to take that long to get to the airport from Wick, we decided to make a little detour in land to a very special place called the Alladale which is where we met our new friend Pieter.
On our way we made a quick pit stop at the Dunrobin castle which looked like it had been picked up from the middle of France rather than something you would expect to see in Scotland, it was a fairytale castle without a doubt.
Another fun fact for you, for some reason (someone please enlighten me!) there are LOADS of red phone boxes scattered all along the NC500. It became a bit of a game of spot the phone box as there were so many of them. I think it's lovely that they've not been removed despite presumably being out of action for years.
Now let me tell you about Alladale.
Alladale is like nowhere i've ever been before. The best way to describe it is a Scottish sanctuary of pure rugged nature it all it's natural beauty. We absolutely fell in love. Pieter, the sites manager, was the most dutiful host and welcomed us in like old friends. He showed us around some of the reserve, passing a few beauties along the way who were very interested in saying hello and we even got to get up close to a herd of stags which was absolutely insane and probably the coolest moment of the entire trip.
After waving good by to Pieter and all of our new fury friends it was time to head home. We took the scenic route (it's all the scenic route to tell you the truth) along the coast back to Inverness where we handed back our car keys and boarded our flight back to London.
If you're in to road trips or nature or sheep or cows or deer or natural beauty or fresh air or countryside or peace and quiet then you HAVE to visit Scotland and do the NC 500. It was awesome. Oh and without a doubt everyone should visit Alladale at least once in their lifetime.