North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures

Road trip

Driving the North Coast 500 – Let the trip begin

Day Zero- A9, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

Our North Coast 500 adventures actually started in Yorkshire.  We picked up our hired motorhome in Hull in Yorkshire.  The company we got it from hire for half the price I found up in Scotland and it was sort of on the way up for us anyway.

North coast 500 motorhome

Before we embarked on the trip, I did a lot of research: places to go, things to see, where to eat and stay.

The information was available, but a little scattered around as the official North Coast 500 website was still under development.  What I found though, was when I contacted people about information they were generally very helpful.  This was something we found up in the Highlands when we got there too.

It was useful to have an outline plan, some campsites need to be booked, but I do suggest  to leave yourself freedom to explore on a whim, when something catches your eye, or when a fellow traveller recommends something during the chat in the pub.

Preparing in terms of gear: We were prepared for 4 seasons, including very good waterproofs and footwear for all.  Even the kids have decent daypacks, so they can carry their own waterproofs, snacks and drinks when we go for a hike.  We took these with us.

I would suggest these for others visiting the area too:

  • Good waterproof clothing
  • Clothes for layering (I wrote about layering principles we adhere to)
  • Sturdy, waterproof footwear
  • Bug spray and midge nets if you are going after May

Taking a motorhome meant we were more flexible in terms of accommodation and didn’t need to plan food and toilet stops… REALLY useful with kids!

I had poured over the map for a fair few nights and asked the kids about some of the things they’d like to do.  By the time we picked up the motorhome, everyone was very excited for the upcoming adventure.

 

Driving up we took the A9 to InvernessThe last stretch from Perth got rather stressful not only because it was dark and the temperature outside dropping to below freezing, throwing up the possibility of black ice, but my fuel gauge was also plummeting.

Beware fellow drivers: There are no evident fuel stations along this long stretch of road!*

Thankfully we made it into Inverness on the last fumes in the fuel tank.  After which I parked up in a suitable layby and joined my family in their slumbers.

Along the route up to the start of the route we skirted along the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, which I know from visiting before is beautiful too. It felt so strange to be driving through without stopping.

To the west was the world famous Loch Ness.  Intrigued from stories I heard as a child, this was one sight I could not drive past without stopping.  We had to see it!

I had booked us in to Loch Ness Shores Campsite, which we sadly didn’t make due to us nearly running out of fuel along the route. At the turn-off I had the decision to try to make it into Inverness or to have a campsite and a good shower in the morning. I chose having fuel.  I was a little gutted as this campsite has been on my bucket list ever since I saw an advertisement for it in my Camping and Caravan Club magazine and the manager was so helpful when I called in advance and enquired about things to do and see in the area.  If you’ve stayed there let me know: is it as good as it looks on paper?

Urquhart Castle

The following day we stole a bit of time from our agenda to explore Urquhart Castle.  This famous fortification stands on the west shore of Loch Ness.  For centuries it played an important role in Scottish history of the area till it was deserted and blown up by the last army retreating rendering it useless to the enemy.  

The castle has an excellent visitors’ centre, with a very informative film on the history of the castle.  There are a couple of interactive exhibits here. The guide and stewards on the ground are remarkably knowledgeable about the history, ins and outs of life here and the fabric of the building.visitors centre North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures

Urquhart Castle is managed by Historic Scotland.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find out from one of the stewards that Historic Scotland had actually reconstructed some of the castle to give a better impression of what it had been like.  I believe, this enhanced our visitor experience and wish more historic properties were sympathetically reconstructed or evolved just as Urquhart Castle has been.

North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures

The castle has a gift shop, cafe and toilets too.  The cafe serves excellent coffee,hot chocolate, teas and soups to warm visitors up. We had a coffee each with the Madventurer and the staff had no problem in splitting a large hot chocolate among the 3 kids (my way of warming them up, but not allowing them enough chocolate to make them hyper, avoids waste and it also is a great test for flexibility and helpfulness of staff….they passed in this case.)

You can take a boat trip out from Inverness, some just float by, some drop you off for an hour.  With kids I’d suggest taking more time than this arrangement allows you, so you aren’t rushed.

North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures

We spent just over 2 hours there, despite the bitter cold wind and the occasion drizzle of rain.  The kids were given a scavenger hunt sheet to keep them going. They also loved climbing walls and towers!  There is an old toilet, which of course they pretended to try.

We joked with the kids on the walk over to the castle that that if they don’t want to walk they can always fly with the help of the trebuchet: trebuchet North coast 500 Urquhart castle 01 Family madventures

 

This was a worthwhile side trip!

Have you got hints and tips for the above attractions and area?

 

NEXT> North Coast 500-  Day 1: Inverness > Strathpeffer> Rogie Falls> Kinlochewe (Online tomorrow)  Subscribe so you don’t miss it!

 

*If you have details otherwise about fuel stations, please share them in the comments below.

 

Categories: Road trip

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