The popular NC500 road trip in Scotland wants people to visit in winter and use public transport to combat overcrowding

The NC500 around Scotland’s spectacular North Coast has had mixed fortunes, with new jobs and significant wealth creation along the Highlands tourist route.

To counter the accumulation of traffic and waste during the summer, its leaders are now trying to encourage visitors to arrive by sleeper train and explore the route by public transport, out of season.

The 516-mile necklace, draped around the northern ends of the mainland from Inverness to Sutherland, was launched in 2015 as “Scotland’s answer to Route 66”. Its aim was to shine a light on one of Scotland’s least visited areas, and its success was seemingly instantaneous.

The Caledonian Sleeper is one way to start an NC500 journey (Photo: Avalon/Getty Images)

Traffic increased on the key A9 route from Inverness to Scrabster on the north coast, as well as on the A836, A837 and A832. Applecross residents were asked last summer whether the scenic peninsula should be removed from route promotion, after an increase in visitor traffic and litter.

Academic research by the Glasgow School for Business and Glasgow Caledonian University in 2020 showed the route generated £22.89million in additional revenue in its first four years, hotel occupancy all year along the NC500 going from 52% to 82%. and motorhome hirers increase by 1,900% along the route. Highland traffic, which was already on an upward trajectory before the launch of the NC500, continued to increase sharply on the routes associated with the route.

Safer UK travel

By encouraging visitors to come by train, the aim is to show that the NC500 is “much more than a road trip”, according to Craig Mills, its managing director. It emphasizes the route in autumn and winter, encouraging arrivals to travel to Inverness on the Caledonian Sleeper train and then take a ‘slower paced holiday’.

This seems to imply favoring public transport for further travel, but could also include hiking and cycling. There are now several tour operators offering organized group cycling tours along the route, such as Pedal Britain, Pedal Nation, Wild Atlantic Cycling and Wilderness Scotland. Macs Adventure offers a mixed hiking and road trip tour, while Hike Scotland runs week-long walking tours.

Cyclists on the North Coast 500 route (Photo: Alex Treadway/Getty Images)

How to assemble the slow road

While public transport in the Highlands, particularly on secondary roads, slows down during the winter months, it is possible to travel the NC500 by bus. The X99 runs north from Inverness to Scrabster Harbor once a day in winter, leaving the bus station at 2.20pm – long after the sleeper train arrives at 8.42am. Along its three hour and 40 minute journey on the A9 it stops at several points of interest including Brora, Dunbeath, Wick and Thurso, from where it is possible to catch the 80 bus to John O ‘Groats.

The Kylesku Bridge is part of the tourist route (Photo: Iain Masterton/Getty)

The Kylesku Bridge is part of the tourist route (Photo: Iain Masterton/Getty)

Far North Bus services cover the remote north west parts of the route, covering Thurso to Durness (route 803) and beyond along the A838 to Inverness (route 805), although some services are reduced to a few, or in some cases. once a week, in winter. Rapsons Highland operate the 809 bus between Drumbeg, Lochinver and Ullapool and the Scottish Citylink 961 service connects Ullapool to Inverness. While you’re unlikely to find all fragmented services seamlessly connected during the winter, segmenting the route or doing a long, slow crawl is still possible.

For more details see Caledonian Sleeper and NC500

. popular road trip NC500 scotland want people visit winter use transport common for fight against overcrowding

. popular NC500 road trip Scotland people visit winter public transport combat overcrowding