Driving the NC500 with Experience Freedom

Raleigh's Nat Downing hired a motorhome with Experience Freedom and took on Scotland's North Coast 500 road trip with her husband and their dog. To celebrate the opening of Swift's Edinburgh depot opening last month, we're sharing their first experience of motorhome travel with you.

Signpost by John O'Groats with ships in the dock

Michael at John O'Groats

Woman enjoying seaside sunshine at John O'Groats

Nat and Millie enjoying the sun at John O'Groats

Pet border collie on sandy dog-friendly beach

Millie the Border Collie

Meet our little family; Michael my fiancé who is almost inseparable from his collection of bikes, me who loves cycling as well as running, Millie our 5-year-old Border Collie who has an unlimited supply of energy, and our newest addition to the family: bump. By the constant kicks and rib-jabbing, I can certainly tell he has our active genes too!

Our holidays usually involve adventure and almost always cycling. We've toured around Holland and Germany several times on the bikes, backpacked through the peaks, and regularly head up to Scotland to mountain bike. Knowing that I'd be nearly 7 months pregnant, we had to decide where and what we wanted to do for this year's holiday. We knew we’d have to stay a little closer to home but we still wanted an adventure. That’s when we discovered Experience Freedom by the Caravan and Motorhome Club. The whole process of hiring a motorhome was so easy; you simply choose your Swift Motorhome and then you're free to start exploring.


Hiring a motorhome with Experience Freedom

We selected a 5-berth Swift Escape 695 which we collected from Swift Go in Stockport, but there's a new depot now open in Edinburgh which would have made this even easier! When we arrived it was ready and waiting for us and the super friendly team showed us around and told us how everything worked; perfect for a pair of newbies like us. With our new found motorhome expertise, we were on our merry way to start our trip.

The best bit about the motorhome hire for us was that it was really convenient having everything we needed on board, including TV, Wi-Fi, and a lovely hot shower. We were given a Garmin Artex Tourer 1 Plus Sat Nav with the motorhome which was so useful as it’s specifically designed for caravans and motorhomes so gives you guidance along your drive. Plus, it tells you your nearest CAMC sites too which saved us time finding postcodes for them.


Motorhome overlooking seaside at John O'Groats, Scotland

The motorhome at John O'Groats

Driving the North Coast 500

And so our adventure began. After a long but very comfortable trip up to Dunblane, we stopped off to see Mike's aunt and cousins who fuelled us up with cake before we carried on to Inverness to start the North Coast 500. We’ve both only been as far north as Edinburgh so the thought of exploring the Scottish highlands really excited us. As motorhome newbies this was our first night staying at a CAMC site so we weren’t sure what to expect - it’s safe to say we were both amazed! The facilities were fantastic, very modern and clean. We both chose to walk to the toilet blocks to shower and brush our teeth instead of using the motorhome! They even had an on-site shop and fish and chips on certain nights. What more could you need?


Day 1 - Inverness to Brora

Before setting off up north we decided to head to Loch Ness to explore the South Loch Ness Trail. What better way to do this than by bike! Normally we would have both taken our regular mountain bikes but this time I'd decided to bring my Raleigh Motus Grand Tour electric bike to give me and bump some much-needed help up the hills. The whole trail runs for 24 miles but we joined it on the east side of Loch Ness, marvelling at the views of the lake as we climbed the forest track. We'd thoroughly recommend walking or cycling the South Loch Ness Trail if you're visiting Inverness; there's no better way to see the stunning views and scenery that Loch Ness has to offer.

Returning back to our motorhome it was a quick change from bikes to wetsuits, and Mike and Millie were straight in the Loch for a swim while I made us a picnic. The motorhome made things so easy, a quick shower for those 2 and we were ready for the 90-minute drive up to Brora.

Arriving at the Brora campsite we received the same warm welcome as the previous night and took advantage of the fantastic facilities on site including the tumble dryers to dry Mikes wetsuit and our towels.


Golden sands and lapping waves at Brora Beach, Scotland

Brora beach

Day 2 - Brora to Dunnet Bay

What a better way to wake up in the morning than a 2-minute walk down to the beach! Straight out of the site and you're only 50m from a deserted beach, perfect for a walk and a quick paddle before breakfast. Back on the road, we headed further up north to John O'Groats via Wick to pick up some bits for a bbq from the local butchers. After a very pleasant journey, we arrived at Dunnet Bay, where we set up for the night at another CAMC site surrounded by fantastic beach views. We also had a lovely stroll along the beach as we watched the sunset.


Day 3 - Dunnet Bay to Laid

Another early morning walk along the beach to start off the day before we hit the road again. The 70-mile drive to Laid was the most scenic so far with breathtaking views all the way: we had to make many stops along the way just to take them in. Arriving at 94 Laid CL (a certified CAMC site) we were warmly greeted and shown the facilities. We were lucky enough to have the site pretty much all to ourselves and picked a spot overlooking Loch Eriboll. It was recommended that we walk down to the shore to spot otters and puffins but unfortunately, we must have missed them. It was still worth it for the fantastic views of the Loch, though!


Sunset at Dunnet Bay in Scotland

Watching the sun set at Dunnet Bay

Day 4 - Laid to Elphin

Today’s leg took us along the last bit of the north coast then back down south through some amazing mountain scenery dotted with lochs. We stopped off in Durness at Sango Bay which is a renowned location for spotting whales and dolphins. From here we had a pleasant cycle through the countryside before stopping off at Smoo Cave, where we explored the impressive 49ft foot entrance (the biggest sea cave entrance in Britain) before cycling back to the motorhome and heading back onto the road. We also stopped off at the Old School Room at Kinlochbervie where we had freshly caught haddock from the Loch and homemade chips - definitely some of the nicest fish we've had. Arriving at the second certified CAMC site of our trip, Birchbank CL, we experienced the same great facilities we'd now become used to on our trip and got set up for the night.

Grassy mounds and rocks on sandy beach at Sango Bay

Sango Bay

Day 5 - Elphin to Kinlochewe

After a very stormy night, we carried on our journey down south calling off at Ullapool for some local cheeses for our dinner. We opted to do the Wester Ross Coastal route which was a slightly longer route but provided stunning views around every twist and bend. We arrived mid-afternoon at our last stop on the NC500 - Kinlochewe Club Site where we received another lovely welcome. Alongside all the other great site features, the Kinlochewe site had a fantastic dog walk along the river which Millie thoroughly enjoyed. With a bit of spare time to kill we grabbed the bikes off the back of the motorhome and explored the local area before stopping off at the local pub for a drink to celebrate the last night of our journey. 

My best bit of the North Coast 500 Route was the relaxing drive between locations and the fact you could just stop if you saw a castle or a Loch that you wanted to explore. For Mike, it was the biking and walking and for Millie, it was the many deserted beaches along the way where she could run and paddle. It’s also worth mentioning the motorhome-friendly free parking everywhere too, with that and cooking most of our meals we hardly spent a penny!


Man and dog standing outside Smoo Cove

Michael and Millie at Smoo Cave


Want to tour Scotland yourself?

There are a variety of tours we've suggested you try with your motorhome, including an eight-day version of Nat, Michael and Millie's North Coast 500 Tour, and a 12-day Scottish Highlights road trip. Discover more when you book motorhome hire.

North Coast 500 Road Trip

8 day road trip

Explore the beauty of the Scottish Highlands with your motorhome and enjoy a truly breathtaking adventure.

View road trip

Scottish Highlights Road Trip

12 day road trip

Work your way across the magical highlands of Scotland with your motorhome hire, taking in the panoramic views and ancient architecture.

View road trip

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