Having been fortunate enough to have driven some of the greatest coast roads in the world, it was with some anticipation that I set out from Inverness in June 2021. Not that I was expecting the northernmost part of Scotland to be like the Great Ocean Road in Southern Australia, nor like Highway One on California’s coast nor indeed like the Garden Route which starts on Chapman’s Peak just outside Cape Town, South Africa. But certainly the hype led me to believe that it would be quite something-and it was.
If anything the scenery on the East coast up to John O’Groats was a bit dull-although my long suffering navigator and co-pilot assured me that it was in fact very dull.
John O’Groats can best be passed over as it is a tourist trap complete with fast food outlets, coach parks and not a lot else other than some grey views towards the Orkney Islands.
It being June 2021 and with Scotland only just emerging from LockDown, both the accommodation and also the pubs and restaurants left much to be desired as did the friendliness of the natives who helpfully posted signs outside cafes, restaurants, pubs and hotels with the words: No Tourists or occasionally Residents Only.
This lack of options for refreshment along the way was only offset by the coastal scenery which was stunning. The sheer beauty of the North coast all the way to the most North Western and bleakest point of the British Isles: Cape Wrath which does what it says on the tin, was only occasionally relieved by publicans forgetting to post their No Tourist signs which meant that Single Malt Whiskey could be sampled including and most memorably, the excellent Bal Blair with which Mine Host allowed me only three drips of water-rather Scottish.
It was with some relief as we turned South from Cape Wrath, that I could claim that the West Coast and especially Ullapool would be a whole new and better experience on both the accommodation and the food and beverage fronts. Sadly it was not: just more expensive and less good.
And that left the final leg back to Inverness along the shore of Loch Ness with sightings of the Monster. Oh dear.
Would I recommend the North Coast 500? Highly! But with one warning: don’t go immediately after a global pandemic!