NC500 - North Coast 500

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  • With fickle Scottish weather and all that, I have a few days have become free in early May. Anyone done NC500 before and would early May be ok, (weather)?

    Any other tips/thoughts are most welcome

  • Thanks - search cameup blank

  • I've had a failed attempt. The weather is the deciding factor if you're trying to get round in the 60hr limit because you need to maintain a level of speed that's challenging in 30mph rainy headwinds.

  • Thats fair, I would not want to race it, more of a potter around and enjoy.

  • Might make sense to do it in reverse then, means you're more likely to be cycling with the prevailing winds rather than against them. Or just take the train up to Thurso and skip the comparatively shitey bit from there to Inverness.

    Also early may should be fine but with changing weather patterns who the fuck knows any more.

  • Did it last year in early May - it rained torrentially for two days up the west coast, then had a couple of days of sun, then rain again for the east coast. That being said, it was beautiful riding and I have no regrets.

    One thing I would change is to skip out the east coast entirely. Most of the riding is on the A9 which is utter crap, and the scenery doesn't compare to the west. If I was doing it again, I'd probably cut the top right corner out and take the road from Tongue to Lairg instead - barely any civilisation and singletrack road for miles and miles, according to some motorcyclists we met. This would give you more time to piss around on the west coast too, there's loads of little day trips you could do if you wanted to see more of it, like exploring Assynt or taking the ferry across to Cape Wrath.

  • If I was doing it again, I'd probably cut the top right corner out and take the road from Tongue to Lairg instead - barely any civilisation and singletrack road for miles and miles

    Can confirm. Did this route past Ben Hope, Altnaharra, and past the Crask Inn in 2007.

  • I'm planning to give this a shot in a couple of weeks' time.

    Pretty much everything organised is either off or not possible for me this year, so I was looking for some achievement for the year (to top my TCR DNF last year and DNS the year before and IndyPac DNF the year before that - actually I haven't achieved very much in the last 5 years!). So I wondered, what is there in the UK that I've always wanted to do but never got round to, and it took me about half a second to decide it was this.

    Train booked to Inverness on the Monday morning (17th) and back on the Friday morning (21st). I only have 3 and a bit days, so will need to press on. Am planning to wild camp: tyring to decide between bivvy, which I'd rather do, and tent, which might be more sensible given rain and midges.

    Weather forecast looks reasonable now, but early days.

    Am planning to go clockwise as that seems to be best and likely to work best with winds.

    I don't fancy the A9 down the East coast, but I would like to do the north coast and check out Dunnet Head / JoG, just to say I've been there, so current plan is to do a 60km out and back to JoG, then go south on the Forsinard road. Everyone says the north coast leg is not worth it so I could cut that leg if behind on time.

    Intended route:

  • I highly recommend the Forsinard road. A nice alternative to what you have could be from Kinbrace to take road to Syre > Altnahara > Crask Inn > Lairg.

    Gorgeous roads I've done on some of the North Scotland Audax's

    I've ridden the A9 a few times and it isn't bad North of Dornoch

  • Your route through Kinbrace looks lovely, so it's probably 6 of one etc, but I can thoroughly recommend the Krask Inn - Loch Lever road as one of the real highlights of a LEJOG a few years ago...

  • A nice alternative to what you have could be from Kinbrace to take road to Syre > Altnahara > Crask Inn > Lairg

    That's a really good suggestion. Would keep me away from the A9 and temptations of trains back to Inverness, plus something to look forward to for the second half, going through the wild, empty interior.
    Surprisingly, it is only 1.5km longer, and slightly less climbing: I think I'll do that.

  • Crask Inn is definitely worth stopping by at for a refuel too. Soups are amazing and owners most friendly.

    The Kinbrace to Syre road will also take you by Britain's most remote hotel - Garvault House

    Some of the views from our ride up there in Arrivee p. 28­145_2019_issuu

  • Crask Inn is definitely worth stopping by at for a refuel too. Soups are amazing and owners most friendly.

    Glad to know it's still open. Was the perfect stop after 3 hours of rainy headwinds on a september loop in ~2007.

  • hrm.. i'm planning on this for next spring on the brommie. heard it's nicer in the spring?

    have a few milestone trips planned before it though (100 mi this weekend, 170mi next weekend for london-surrey ride, pennine bridleway 250mi sometime this winter)...

  • Yes, I've been up that way in May and have often heard that was the best time to go. Long days, more sun, fewer midges, etc.

  • In the snow - wow!

  • Anywhere else I can find a good write up / photos of this?

  • I put up some photos in the isen thread a while ago when we did the ride:­

    and another write up here:­2/a-wintery-ride-around-ben-klibreck-2nd­.html

  • Would May be a good time to do this?
    Any tips or how to section it up?

    @frank9755 did you do the alternative route?

  • My plan started off as NC500 but it evolved as I did more research. So I did this - apart from on the last day, I ran short of time (or decided I wanted to get to hotel for 5pm rather than 10pm) so had to miss out the last couple of off-road sections, and head for Inverness from Rosehall.

    The more I researched it, the less keen I was on the east coast bit so that was first to go. Then the north coast, which I'd always wanted to do from looking at it on a map, started to sound a bit marginal too. Then I discovered the GNT, and thought I'd come back that way.

    I only had three and a bit days, with more time I would have tried to get to Cape Wrath and done more of the GNT sections, then maybe a bit more of the north coast. I wouldn't bother with the east.

    Definitely do the 'wee mad road' bit by Lochinver and Drumbeg. It's hard but an experience, and fewer camper vans than the main road. A lot of the west coast section is main road, so there's a fair bit of traffic.

    Sectioning it up is not an issue if you are camping. I was so didn't think about hotels, etc. But obviously things are pretty spread out.

    It sounds sacreligious on the NC500 thread, but I preferred the inland bits to the coast. Partly the solitude but the scenery was more majestic. The coast is wonderful and worth doing once but it does get a bit same-y after a while. Maybe that was because I did the west coast in a day and a half, which doesn't really do it justice

  • Ok interesting. GNT?
    When you say off road what are we talking?

  • I did it last year, think it was the Mark Beaumont version so a slight amendment in that it comes inland at around Melvich instead of going to Thurso etc.

    Did it July and we had amazing weather, only a few hours of rain the entire trip.

    Day 1 - Inverness to Lochinver 370k. In hindsight, this was too much. From memory, there was the most amount of climbing in day 1 and it meant arriving late and being pretty fucked for the second day really. The sensible thing would have been to ride to Ullapool and finish there for day 1 (320k)

    Day 2 - Lochinver to Lairg 300k. I felt quite shit this day and just mentally wasn't there. We had an apartment booked in Lairg but I got to Melvich and decided to get a bnb there. Without doubt the best decision I made the whole trip. Think it was called the 'The Sheiling', guy who ran it was really sound. Let me wash my clothes and made some really good food too.

    Day 3 - Melvich to Inverness - 245k. Probably enjoyed this day the most. As @frank9755 says I wasn't that arsed about the coast bit either, the section where you turn inland was great. The section just south off Kidonan Lodge sticks out as amazing bit.

    So if I were to do it again it would be :

    Day 1 - Inverness to Ullapool 320k
    Day 2 - Ullapool to Melvich 235k
    Day 3 - Melvish to Inverness 245

    Used for the apartments, they were basic but fine. Very few options were available. Worked fine as it was a lockbox set up for access.

    I would say I found this ride really tough! It's pretty relentless, no chance for a rest on a long descent really.

  • Day 1 - Inverness to Lochinver 370k

    Shit, that's a monster day! You must have been really going, given the climbing.

    I started at 5pm off the train in Inverness and did an easy 100km in the evening across to the west coast, and spent the night in the last village before the Bealach. I started on my second day at 4am, aiming to get to Lochinver. I didn't hang around, but I still ended up stopping an hour before at about 8pm.

  • When you say off road what are we talking?

    It's a real mixture. Some is tarmac, some is easy gravel, some is a little bit rough.

    I did it on 28mm tyres - the exact same ones I had for the TCR in 2019, in fact. Most of it was rideable with care on them. For a few bits they were clearly a stupid option, and I walked a couple of small descents because wrong tyres plus hardly anyone about plus no phone signal (plus lack of skill on my part) meant that if I did come off and hurt myself it could be a problem.

    There's a GNT thread on here with loads of info, and link to a blog with some great pics.­73/?offset=25#comment15824564

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NC500 - North Coast 500

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