What to Pack for Scotland’s NC500 Route
Living in Scotland ourselves, we already had a pretty good idea of how unpredictable the weather is in all seasons. Not to mention those pesky midges which are rife in the Highlands, we knew we had to come prepared. Driving the NC500 route meant that we were able to have everything we needed packed into the back of the car. Only taking out the items we needed on a nightly basis, meaning we didn’t have to constantly unpack everything. Here’s a list of all the essentials we took on our travels, as well as a few of the things we really wish we should have packed.
It goes without saying that hiking boots, or at least some good walking shoes, should be high on your priorities. You need something that’s going to both keep your feet dry, and provide good support for exploring. There’s so many beautiful hikes and scenic views worth the climb and good footwear can make all the difference. Be sure to pack thick socks for your boots, and if you can, break them in before hand to avoid those nasty blisters.
I have tried so many different midge sprays, and Smidge has long been my favourite. The smell isn’t too overpowering, it really does work, and it’s affordable. Some swear by Scotlands national favourite AVON remedy ‘Skin So Soft’ lotion, but I find a spray in a mist bottle much easier to use. If you’re not already aware, midges are tiny attacking flies from the depths of hell – persistent to ruin any nice day in the highlands without protection.
I adore my colourful Fishermans coat from Joules. It’s had so many uses before and always keeps me dry. Everything from the wettest day of my life standing on the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, to waiting on the Jacobite Steam Train come rolling past on a rainy day in Fort William. You’ll get hot with all the walking you’ll be doing, so be sure to buy a light raincoat that’s breathable.
Aside from a good pair of hiking boots, it’s worth taking a comfortable set of trainers too. I got sick of wearing my hiking boots all of the time, so when we weren’t going on a hike I swapped into my trainers. Much more comfortable and less clunky for exploring small towns and villages along the NC500 like Applecross.
On the rare occasion you get gorgeous sunshine in Scotland, it’s worth having suncream to protect yourself. Sun damage is no joke and you should be protecting yourself at every opportunity. Plus things really feel like a proper holiday once you crack out the sun cream! Of course don’t forget any excuse for your sunglasses too.
Following our incident on a single track road in the middle of nowhere when we burst our tyre – not only did we find ourself needing a replacement tyre, but also car oil. Both expenses which considerably added up in both time and money. Ensure you have a spare tyre in your boot and always have car oil ready to top up, you never know when you might need it.
There are loads of maps available of Scotland, both specifically for the NC500 route and Scotland in general. Coming from Edinburgh, we benefitted greatly by having an overall map of Scotland, as officially the NC500 route doesn’t start until Inverness, missing out a big chunk of the rest of Scotland. Having a map of the entirety of Scotland means you can use it again for exploring other major cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Being British we love a good cup of tea. There’s nothing better than indulging into a huge flask of hot tea at the side of the road overlooking a dramatic vista. We were able to make a flask up in the morning each day and have it last us until the evening, making sure we were hydrated throughout the day. Not to mention it’s a great way of warming up against the bitter winds of the coast.
If tea isn’t your thing, I’d highly recommend having a refillable water bottle to take on the road with you. The water in Scotland in the Highlands is some of the cleanest in the world and you can take it straight from the spring. It’ll save you money in the long run and it’s always beneficial to have some with you – both for drinking and cleaning off your boots!
Although we had a map, sometimes we also needed to use our phones to clarify directions or find places to eat on the road. This meant using up a lot of data, and with it – power. Having a portable power bank with us on the road allowed us to charge at any time without needing to stop. Especially great for when you’re on limited battery and need to make an emergency call because you’ve broken down in the middle of nowhere…
Who doesn’t love a good old picnic? A great British tradition insistent on having a nice time, even if it’s pouring with rain and you end up eating slightly squashed sandwiches inside of the car. We took a blanket with us to double up both as somewhere to sit and an extra layer of warmth in the night. Plus it’s great for photo opportunities!
Hats are underrated, both great for keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer. I took a floppy sun hat with us for the gorgeous September sunshine we received on and off during the trip. A warm knitted hat is perfect for keeping you cosy against the bitter winds of the Highlands on colder days.
A light fleece is great for layering, either under a thicker coat in winter, or for throwing over your outfit in spring and summer seasons. I love this black fleece from North Face, perfect for any outfit combination in all seasons.
Something I believe everyone should have in their car, a first aid kit. You never know when you might need it, and even if you only end up using plasters for blisters – at least you will have it. The Highlands are sparse and so if you require medical attention you can be prepared to wait for help in an isolated area. For peace of mind I’d always suggest having a first aid kit with you.
Do you have any travel essentials for road trips?
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