The fact that Northcoast500.com state this is primarily a driving route shouldn’t put you off cycling the North Coast 500. Yes there were traffic jams out of Inverness; yes, there the first 20 miles follow busy A Roads; and, yes, east of Thurso is mainly on the main A9 back towards Inverness. But busy is relative. Pick your time so it doesn’t coincide with school holidays and you’ll find long periods when you are away from cars, motorcycles, camper vans and anyone else for that matter.
But there are alternatives for cyclists and we took the route used by Simon Richardson and Mark Beaumont in their North Coast attempt for GCN as our starting point. What we didn’t take from them was their itinerary of three days, settling instead for around 100km a day over eight days. With our train back from Inverness not until 8 pm on the ninth day, we even had some wriggle room should we slip behind.
THere are alternatives for cyclists. Northcoast500.com have a series on alternative routes for cyclists and GCN had a special with Mark Beaumont and Simon RIchardson who took alternatives roads to the busiest. It was this route which we took from Komoot to use as our itinerary.
Day Zero: London to Inverness
But first we had to get to Inverness. Travelling up on the Caledonian Sleeper out of Euston, it stood to reason that the train wouldn’t be leaving until the evening and we had a lot of time to kill before the 9 pm departure.
Once we dropped our very upset cat off at her kitty hotel, so much time was spent searching for my GoPro battery charger it was a wonder that my bike even got packed. In the end, it became an obsession rather than a rational search for an essential trip ending item.
Eventually, after a long wait on the concourse at Euston station, we were able to board. With our bikes booked on separately, there was no need to worry about whether there would be space for them. Instead we could focus our fears on loading them on the wrong part of the train. With the train splitting at various points to go on to other places such as Aberdeen and Fort William it wasn’t completely beyond the realms of possibility . . .
North Coast 500 | Day One | Lochcarron
Cycling the North Coast 500. Starting out in Inverness and trying to get to Applecross, follow us on the first day of our trip to see how we got on.
North Coast 500 | Day Two | Applecross
Day Two of the North Coast 500 sees us tackling the highest mountain pass the route had to offer.
North Coast 500 | Day Three | Gairloch
Day Three of the North Coast 500 turns out to be a day of contrasts. Short, steep hills in the first half turn to long, easy climbing in the second.
North Coast 500 | Day Four | Ullapool
A later start to a seemingly easier day with just three noticeable climbs in the offing.
North Coast 500 | Day Five | Scourie
Today we tackled over 24 short, Sharpe climbs, climbed 2,000 metres, met with masticating midges. The memory of these days improves with time.
North Coast 500 | Day Six |Tongue
Another day of changing plans on our NC500 trip. This time the beach was too tempting to ignore.