The North Coast 500, Also Known As Home

There is a road I see from the front door of my home in Caithness that forms part of the North Coast 500. As kids, we knew it better as the road ‘up west’, a passage imbued with the promise of beaches, picnics and sand between our toes. These days, the route has a new title and a reputation as one of the UK’s most iconic road trips. Starting in Inverness and covering 500 miles of the North Highland’s most scenic landscapes, this enviable status has attracted visitors from all over the world, keen to experience the North Coast 500 for themselves.

Inverness in Spring

Inverness, the start and finish point for the North Coast 500

For those of us who live on the North Coast 500 (also known as the NC 500), this new found fame is simultaneously joyous and disconcerting. We’re suddenly the best-kept secret we’ve all known for many years. Our natural inclinations keep us from shouting loudly from the rooftops. We let others sing our praises and share pictures prefixed with the quiet caption ‘home’.

Orkney View

My home, Scrabster, in Caithness

View to Scrabster

The weather is often better than people might assume

John O Groats Sign

The famous John O’ Groats sign

For many of us here, there is a deep connection with the landscape. That sense of wholeness brought on by an expanse of beach and a vast and open sky. This is a land of legend – of selkies, mermaids and fairies. This is a place where dragons open their mouths and breathe fiery sunsets across a never-ending sky.

Sunset Salute

Saluting the sunset at Dunnet Beach

Caithness Sunrise January

Caithness sunrise

Pink and Blue Sunrise Caithness

The skies are often most dramatic in Autumn/Winter

Dec 17 Pink Sunrise

Winter morning looking towards Orkney

This is a place, where in the summer, darkness seems to virtually elude us, and in the winter, storms rage and echo like an angry Giant’s roar. It’s a place where parts of the land remain untamed and wordless. It’s a place that pulls you like a magnet and makes you homesick before you ever decide to go away.

Blue Skies Thurso

A Caithness scene

Thurso East

Thurso Castle

It’s a land where the beaches seem to go on forever and the sight of a looming castle can convince you that fairy tales are worth believing in. Where going off the beaten track for a while can see you stumbling into the Secret Garden, or wandering to find a beach left untouched and largely unnoticed by the world. It is a place which, in growing up, some have sought escape from. And yet, for others, the place itself is the escape – a quiet haven to find retreat and refuge from a restless, changing world.

Ceannabeinne Beach

Ceannabeinne Beach, Sutherland

Dunrobin Spire

The fairytale setting of Dunrobin Castle, Golpsie

Blubell Woods

Bluebell Woods, Dunrobin

Wick Memorial Gardens

Memorial Gardens, Wick

Further afield, you’ll find many other treasures along the North Coast 500. You’ll find places of tranquillity – like Applecross, aptly meaning ‘The Sanctuary’ in the Gaelic tongue. You’ll find dramatic drives where cattle once treaded relentlessly along winding dusty tracks. You’ll find Monarchs of the Glen and stalwarts from above who soar across the sky.  You’ll find Highland hospitality, measured and gentle local spirits. You’ll find ruined castles, haunting landscapes, and a sense, perhaps, of being nothing but a tiny speck upon the world.

Applecross

Applecross – ‘The Sanctuary’

Bealach Na Ba

The Bealach Na Ba, near Applecross (‘Pass of the Cattle’)

nc-500-stag

Stag pictured near Durness

Sandy Toes Achmelvich

Highland hospitality at Achmelvich Beach

Beach Freedom

Adventure awaits

And when your journey takes you back to the pretty city of Inverness, you’ll have come full circle. And hopefully you’ll have taken some part of the Highlands to carry forever in your soul. For those of us who live here – or who have wandered –  that feeling of home can be both profound and powerful.

For in the words of the writer Harry W. Paige, ‘home is not a place only, but a condition of the heart.’

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like these blogs on Reasons to Plan a Scottish Road Trip, Movie Locations to Visit in Scotland, Scottish Outlander Locations, Surviving the Scottish Midge and this guest post I wrote for travel website Venture North.

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NC 500 AKA Home

2 thoughts on “The North Coast 500, Also Known As Home

  1. hayleyfromhome says:

    Oh I love this Gail, what a beautiful post. As I’ve told you many, many times I am very envious of where you live and you are so lucky to be able to call it home. I can see why you love it so much and why so many people visit xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • welliesontheschoolrun says:

      Thanks so much Hayley. Yes, I really love it here. I did go away to university and to work in Edinburgh for a while when I was younger, but I really missed the Highlands. It’s a lovely place to bring up kids xx

      Like

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