NorthCoast500 Day 5 – Brora to Nairn

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I woke up with that sinking “Oh, it’s the last day of my holiday” feeling.  The past few days seemed to pass very quickly, yet I had packed so much in and seen a lot of the Northern Highlands driving North Coast 500.  Once at Brora, I felt I was in more familiar territory.  I pulled back the curtains, and it was a beautiful clear day.  I looked out at the Moray Firth towards my home town, Nairn.

After a fabulous breakfast served by Victoria at Clynelish Farm B & B, I was on my way for the last 60 miles of NC500.  The landscape on the East Coast is fertile rolling hills, with mountains rising towards the West.  The first ‘wow’ view was looking south towards Golspie, with Dunrobin Castle peeking though the trees…

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That long sandy stretch of the coast are Golspie Links – sand dunes that are also part of the Loch Fleet Nature Reserve, which was where I was heading to next …

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Although it was low tide there was still plenty to see.  I parked at Littleferry and went for yet another fabulous beach walk.  This is looking north, towards Dunrobin Castle …

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It was wonderful to have some blue sky and great light …

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There was quite a bit of bird life around Loch Fleet and Littleferry – the entrance to Loch Fleet

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As I rejoined NC500, I had a quick detour into Tain, just to have a peek as I had never been there.  There must have been local competition for the best hanging baskets, which were glorious …

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As I approached Dornoch and crossing the Dornoch Firth, I thought of Madonna and Guy Richie – their ill-fated marriage took place at Skibo Castle, which  Scots born Andrew Carnegie built.  I wonder what he would think of his former Scottish home that is now an exclusive club that bears his name?

My next stop was another small fishing village – and one I visited during childhood sailing weekends from Nairn.  Balintore is just same, which I found very reassuring …

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Heading towards my last stop at Muir of Ord, I stopped briefly to view the Cromarty Firth and its oil rig alley of mothballed Sea production platforms  …

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Although I am not a whisky drinker myself, my last stop on NC500 was the Glen Ord distillery, which produces Singleton malt whisky.  I had planned on visiting the Clynelish distillery, but distilleries don’t open until 1200 on Sundays.  There are hundreds of distilleries in Scotland as our whisky is one of the UK’s top 5 “manufacturing export earners” and contributes over £4bn to the UK economy.  That’s a lot of whisky!  Many distilleries are on the NC500 route, so it is worth having a look – plus they are interesting places …

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If you time your visit right, you can sign up for a tour of the distillery.  Unfortunately I had missed one so I just had a very brief look around. For more general information on Scottish distilleries and those with visitor centres, check this Visit Scotland map.

I passed though Beauly once more, and then three Porsche  passed me, over taking each other like idiots.  Driving though out NC 500 you will be on either single carriageway or single track roads.  You do need to have both good driving skills and be a considerate driver, mindful that any disruptions to the flow of traffic will affect everyone. NC500 have recently issued driving guidance, particularly for the single track roads.  As they say, NC 500 is not a race.

Soon I was back in Inverness, stopping to get another picture at Inverness Castle.  587 miles (with detours) over 5 days – done!

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My only question at this point was what football team does Flora MacDonald support?  I noticed she was wearing a blue scarf.

I then headed for Nairn, only 16 miles east of Inverness.  This is my home town and where I went to school, so I stayed with friends.  However, visitors flying into Inverness should consider Nairn as an alternative place to stay on arrival/departure as it is closer to Inverness airport and is a much nicer place to stay.  Nairn beach…

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By the time I reached Edinburgh the next day, my total mileage for the trip was around 958.  This was a fabulous trip and it exceeded all my expectations.  Even the weather didn’t bother me. It is Scotland after all. So ….

Would I do NC500 again?  Yes – absolutely.

What the driving that difficult? It’s varied – NC500 comprises of A roads that are either upgraded single carriageway, or older single track roads.  There are also sections that are single track B roads, which are particularly narrow and hug the mountains. In short, you should be a confident and skilled driver for some sections.

Would I do anything differently?  Yes, I would take at least a week to 10 days or more to drive NC500.  The driving offers fantastic views and wonderful sights, but it is different to normal driving. It may only be 500  miles, but you sometimes need to stop and let others pass by and other sections are narrow and twist quite a bit, so should be taken at a slower and safer pace. Plus stopping for pictures, sightseeing and refreshments all take time.

Is there enough to see and do?  Yes – a lot.  I simply didn’t have time to stop and look at everything I wanted to see.

NC 500 is more than a great drive – it is an uplifting experience.  You see incredible coastal scenery and a slice of life that hasn’t changed much, despite the progress and technology we are all surrounded by.  My main advice is to simply plan and do it – you will not be disappointed.  Just take your time and discover a beach where yours will be the only footsteps …

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2 thoughts on “NorthCoast500 Day 5 – Brora to Nairn

  1. What a wonderful journey and beautiful scenery. Can’t wait to start planning in a few months time for our trip next year.

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