We had to cancel our April trip to France and Iceland due to a cancer scare. After over a month of worrying like crazy, we found out it was just a benign tumor--thank goodness! But I figured, we should still go somewhere to celebrate the non-cancer diagnosis and the husband's milestone birthday. So, as soon as I received the final diagnosis, I started planning another trip.
Our destination shortlist included Iceland (again!), Wales, the Azores, and Scotland. A trip to Iceland ended up being too expensive for our liking. Wales is too fussy. The Azores seem lovely and is the cheapest destination of all, but in the end, I decided to save it for another time. The thing is, after doing tonnes of research, I found out that Scotland is actually less expensive than Iceland--at least in terms of accommodations and car rentals--and is just as stunning. Plus, the husband loves Scotland. He went there 13 years ago and still couldn't stop talking about it. Scotland it is then!
Next on my to-do list was to find cheap airfares to Scotland. That wasn't easy at all. I had to enter so many combination of dates into Google Flights before I could find a combo that cost us less than 700CAD per person. It would have to be in October, wasn't a direct flight, but it was with Icelandair. In order to get this price, we would have to have a stopover in Iceland on the way back. How could we say no to an Iceland stopover? We love Iceland! We booked our flights just before the price went up by 50%. Aren't we lucky buggers.
Next on the list was to decide where we wanted to go in Scotland. Or rather, where *I* wanted to go since the husband was no help. Every time I asked him where he wanted to go, he'd say, "I'll go wherever you want to go." Aaaaargh! I want to go everywhere and see everything but I can't, can I? Some help with the decision would be very helpful here! Geez Louise! It was so frustrating. At the peak of my frustration, I came upon a BBC Travel article about Scotland's North Coast 500 and it sounded amazing, so I thought, what the heck. We're doing it!
I've actually known about the North Coast 500 (NC500) route since its launch in 2014. The pictures I saw on the NC500 website took my breath away. I remember sending the website link to the husband, jokingly saying, "Next trip!" And here we are two years later: we've got the plane tickets and accommodations all booked! All in all, we're going to spend 12 days mostly driving around the northern part of Scotland, followed by 2 nights in Reykjavik, Iceland on the way back. Excitement level: 11.
I still have yet to make a list of all the places/attractions I want to see along the way and put them together in the form of an itinerary. I'm still sad that I won't be able to see everything Scotland has to offer in 12 days but I've kind of finally accepted the fact. We could always come back some other year to see what we miss, I guess. I also think it's a good idea to do the NC500 this year because the route is only going to become more popular. It's been featured in a bunch of popular travel publications/websites. I'd imagine the cost of accommodations in the area is only going to go up as the route's popularity rises. Better get to it while it's still affordable!
My biggest gripe during the trip planning is definitely in the Bed & Breakfast (B&B) booking department. We've decided to stay at B&Bs instead of hotels for the first week of the trip because we're on a budget (as always). While many B&Bs in Scotland have a website, a good number of them still don't have a seamless way to check for availability/book a room online. You still need to email them and wait. It's a bit of a pain for some of us who are used to living in the 21st century. I wouldn't bother emailing one for availability/booking unless I really, really had to, to be honest. Unfortunately, there aren't too many B&B options in the north coast so I had to email some of them in order to find a room as a last resort.
Anyway, I shall get back to you once I've made a somewhat solid itinerary. The two Scotland guidebooks in the photo above should be able to help me. I got them from thrift stores, by the way. They are (surprisingly) the latest edition from both publishers, so the information should still be mostly up-to-date. The Lonely Planet one is missing the pull-out Edinburgh map, but we should be able to obtain one easily from a visitor centre. Those books are rather expensive new. We actually saved quite a bit by thrifting them.
Autumn can't come soon enough! But first, I need to get through this hot, hot summer. Sigh. I hate summer...