I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Su, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Su is from Austria, and submitted the following report about her road trip along the North Coast 500 in Scotland. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: English
Costs at Destination: Reasonable (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Reasons to Drive the North Coast 500
Last year in June I went for my very first solo road trip around the northern tip of Scotland, the North Coast 500. Five hundred miles of dramatic landscape, narrow roads, lots of Highland cattle and sheep, and above all – lots of heartwarming Scottish people.
I flew from Austria into Inverness, where I picked up my rental car. This was the first big surprise of my trip. Instead of getting a VW Golf, which I had booked, they upgraded me to a Mercedes C Class! A quite massive car only for me. But hey, it was a great car and pure luxury.
I headed west towards Poolewe, where I made my first stop. In this area there are great tours, like the one crossing the “Cattle Pass,” a narrow winding road only for experienced drivers without fear of heights or traffic. Make sure to stop at the Applecross Inn for some homemade fish and chips. On the first two days of my trip, I was already in awe of the beauty of the landscape, especially in the evenings. There is this special kind of light, a paradise for every photographer.
My second stop was at Lochinver, a very small community very far north. On the way to Lochinver I took walks on beaches, which you wouldn't expect in northern Scotland. Crystal blue waters, white sand – sometimes I thought I was in the Caribbean. Amazing! I always planned to have enough time to get out of the car and go for long walks or hikes, often along the coastline, enjoying the wind and fresh air coming in from the sea. There were days where I only met a handful of people, but this was one of the reasons I chose this area: to enjoy myself in pristine nature without bumping into a lot of tourists. In general, this part of the Highlands is scarcely populated, so whenever you meet locals and start chatting with them, you will hear many wonderful stories. The people truly match the landscape: a bit rough but still beautiful and charming.
After Lochinver I carried on to Tongue, a tiny little village which is famous for a garage. Yes, a garage. The one where John Lennon's car was towed when he had his accident together with Yoko Ono and his son Julian. What a story! People are still talking about it today.
Being so far north, I took the opportunity to spend a couple of days on Orkney, which is about an hour and a half by ferry from Scrabster. These few days were impressive because I had great weather and I took many beautiful hikes all over the island. Again, the light was so different from home. The colors were so bright, the green was greener than usual, the flowers were bursting in all colors. I loved those days on Orkney. Returning by ferry I made another stop at John O'Groats, the most northern point of the United Kingdom, then I made my way back down to Inverness, where I stayed another two days.
I really took my time because I was on the road for 12 days. Many visitors basically rush through in 5 days, which doesn't make sense to me. It was just fantastic taking my time to explore the countryside on hikes and walks, catch up with the locals, and enjoy homemade food and drinks. This is not a place for high speed, it is a country to dive into and soak up the Scot Spirit. I recommend it to everyone who loves pristine nature and remote places with a bit of a rough spirit.
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)