Our Journal

Tips & Advice
05 October 2021
Kim Pierce

North Coast 500: Car Hire Vs Premium 4×4’s

The North Coast 500 or NC500 for short is a stunning touring route of 500 miles which takes you around the coastal line of the Northern end of Scotland and around the Scottish Highlands which starts and ends in Inverness or Inverness Castle if you want to be exact.

The NC500 started seriously being promoted in 2015 by Tourism Project Board of the North Highland Initiative to bring tourism to this part of Scotland and help local business and it has taken off with a bang! In 2015 the North Coast 500 was named in the “Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World” by NOW Travel Magazine and it’s now referred to as “Scotlands Route 66”.

With the 2019/2020 Covid-19 pandemic it reached new heights of popularity as campervan hire and staycation became the only way to take a holiday in the UK. This has meant for the time being the roads have taken a bit of a beating and damage to the roads so its worth thinking about what vehicle you want to hire for your journey.

Views west towards Inchrory in the Cairngorms.

What are the benefits of hiring a Premium 4×4 over a standard car hire?

The rural North Coast 500 roads are not as well maintained as motorways and areas with higher volumes of traffic and drivers so you may come across hazards such as pot holes and bumps along the way.
A 4×4 is built for a more uneven track and you’ll have a higher clearance so these small hazards don’t damage the vehicle, they are also build to drive over rough terrain and muddy or wet conditions which you may well have to content with on your journey.

They also generally come with a bigger boot space so you can take everything you need as well as emergency supplies should you need along your way.

What are the roads like around the NC500?

The North Coast 500 isn’t recommended for the novice or nervous driver with it’s narrow, single track winding country roads across large portions of the route. You will also often come across sharp bends, blind corners and roads with steep drop offs as well as the added danger of cattle and sheep crossing the roads unsupervised.

Don’t let us put you off though, the more challenging drive leads you through areas of incredible scenic beauty and by taking time to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, you will have an incredible trip and come away with a new love for the Highlands.

What is a Single Track Road?

The North Coast 500 has large areas of single track roads which are roads which allow two-way travel, however are only wide enough for one car. To drive these, you will need to make sure you are comfortable with reversing your vehicle for up to 100 metres back to find a designated passing place.

The Highland Overland vehicle come with inbuilt reversing cameras to help you manage this.

Single Track Road Along the North Coast 500 – Image by @Davidc_22 via Twenty20

What are the rules of the roads along the North Coast 500?

Before any roadtrip, it’s always recommended to familiarise yourself with The Highway Code .

Here’s some quick tips on road safety when driving along the NC500:

  • Drive on the left side of the road.
  • Beware of wildlife; they could cross the roads without warning so always be aware of potential hazards.
  • These are rural roads so always be careful and keep an eye out for hidden bumps, dips and concealed entrances.
  • With the wild Scottish weather you may well experience some downpours, give yourself plenty of time to stop on slippery roads.
  • The National speed limit on single carriage roads is 60mph but that doesn’t mean its always safe to do so. Average road speed flow is 48 mph.
  • If you are driving slowly, pull into passing places on your left where possible to allow other drivers to pass.
  • On the single track roads there is still two way traffic so pull into marked passing places to allow oncoming vehicles to pass.
  • Do not pull into none designated passing places, this may damage the land.
  • Passing places can usually only fit one car so don’t travel in convoy and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle infernt.
  • Only park in designated areas, parking in passing places or field access can be dangerous and block the roads.
  • If you travel in a motorhome, not all roads along the route will be suitable so make sure if your van or motorhome is longer then 18ft you research and travel along the motorhome designated routes.
  • You should only drive the NC500 if you are comfortable reversing

Why Hire the Highland Overland 4×4 Trucks?

Not only are our trucks new and reliable converted 4×4 trucks built to handle the kind of terrain you’ll be coming across on your travels but they have been specifically and professional converted for travelling the Scottish Highlands.

With our Tuff-Trek Overland Series MK2 Aluminium Roof tents which have been hand made in South Africa but designed for the wet and windy Scottish climates, you will have a warm and comfortable night sleep.

The Alu-Cab canopy with gullwing kitchen means you have everything you need for a meal or cuppa on the road at one of the many picturesque places you’ll come across on your way.

Having everything you need including USB charge points, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets, gas and cooking sets means you can plan your trip on the go and make use of some of the more rural camping spots without the need of facilities.

The Highland Overland’s Truck ‘Shackleton’ set up for an afternoon cup of tea overlooking the views.

See our kit page to find out what other extras and inclusions the Highland Overland trucks come with to ensure you have a comfortable journey with everything you need so all you have to worry about it where to go!