Planning an Epic Road Trip Through Scotland

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…

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Long time lurk­er here… :-)
    I used for my 3 week Ire­land trip in May, and they do Scot­land, too!
    You just tell them what towns you want to stay in, and they arrange all the accom­mo­da­tions. It was WAY eas­i­er than arrang­ing the B&B’s myself. If you haven’t booked any yet, you might want to give them a try! I was SO SO hap­py with my vaca­tion and the guy who built it for me was nice and respon­sive and awe­some.
    Have fun in Scot­land!!!

    1. Hi, long­time lurk­er! Thanks for unlurk­ing to post this. :-) Don’t get me wrong. I actu­al­ly enjoy arrang­ing my own trips. I think it’s part of the fun of trav­el­ling. I just wish that every book­ing process could be instant because I hate wait­ing! Thanks for the tip, though. I’ll keep the address for when we decide to vis­it Ire­land and don’t feel like arrang­ing the trip our­selves. :-)

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