By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 28th September 2018

A road trip with the kids!

How many of you have taken a family holiday this year?

Summer might be over but that does not mean the holidays need to be. October is the perfect time of year to visit the North Highlands. In Scotland the October school holidays are still referred to by many as the ‘Tattie Holidays’ when children would spend their holidays working for farmers and families ‘Tattie howkin‘. ‘Tattie’ is a potato and ‘Howkin’ being to dig up from the ground, also known as the potato harvest!

Scotland is rich in history and it deserves more than a week of exploring. The Scottish Highlands has an abundance of sights and visits to offer; from stunning deserted beaches, delicious seafood, historic lochs, and artisan distilleries – the North Coast 500 offers a diverse source of wildlife and outdoor activities for all ages. Did you know that the North Coast 500 was in fact voted “No1 Road trip in the UK” by the Rough Guide in 2017 as well as “Best Road trip in the world” By Conde Nast Traveller and the “No2 Reason to Travel now” by National Geographic?

For content kids and happy parents, preparation is key! It is the difference between a terrible chore and an exciting adventure. So, how can you make your NC500 road trip the next epic family vacation? Before you hit the road, check out these tips on how to explore Scotland’s iconic North Coast 500.

Photo: Kylesku Bridge by Staurt Gilles

1. Include the kids in the planning process

Part of the fun, is planning what you’ll do when you get here. Do your research together and make a list of sites and activities you want to see and do.

Driving the North Coast 500 is already an adventure, but why not use your time in the North Highlands to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors? Let the kids take the lead on the week’s activities; bond over a spot of fishing or compete against each other at gold panning. Find out what you can get involved in here.

The North Highlands offer ample opportunities to spot some wildlife and learn about our rich history. Find out how you can get a little closer to Scotland’s native animals on your North Coast 500 trip here and perhaps tie this in with a history lesson along the way. History can be fun – especially when you get to dress up as Vikings! Find out more here.

Photo: Hamlet Mountaineering

2. Map out your route

After some family bonding time researching what to see and do you may wish to pick up an NC500 map (or a few) and mark the places you want to visit. Get the children involved – a great geography lesson too! They can then follow your journey around the route.

The secret to a successful road trip is to plan ahead; avoid fitting too much into one day and vary your driving distance. Check out our Explorer Membership package. With it comes a map, access to our online itineraries, the Rough Guide to the North Coast 500 and a passport which the kids will love collecting stamps for as you journey around the route.

3. Planning where to stay

Spending a long time in the car each day is not for everyone. Whether you are doing the NC500 for the first time or returning with your family, you might want to set up base in a few places around the route; spending 2 or 3 nights in each area.  You could otherwise set up base within the interior of the route – the Heart of Sutherland is the only county that has access to the east, west and north coasts of Scotland (approx. 40 minutes to the coastline). With so many activities to enjoy, why rush?

From Europe’s largest tree house to castles, a luxury Eco bunkhouse, wigwams, shepherd’s huts, bell tents to some of the most beautiful campsites located astride pristine clear waters. If you are looking for the ultimate camping adventure, check out our camping itinerary. Perhaps you would like to include some glamping experiences in your trip to mix it up a bit.

Photo: Ackergill Tower Tree house

4. Remember to take lots of photos!

If you are thinking of doing a road trip – the NC500 is definitely the one to start with! There are so many photo opportunities, which = more stopping for the kids! (obviously don’t park up unless in parking spaces). Although, if this is your first time to the North Highlands I can assure you that it will be the first of many visits to the North Coast 500!

Light bulb moment! It might be worthwhile purchasing some disposable cameras for the kids to keep them involved or for the older children, buying them their first digital camera! On your return home, you can then create a scrap book of your NC500 adventure, with photos and postcards collected around the route!

Photo: Clachtoll Beach by Gabbi Armstrong

5. Pack smart.

Do not pack too many things – you don’t want to be cluttered. You want to bring enough to cover you across a number of activities..and seasons! You may or may not have heard, but in Scotland we are famous for our four seasons in one day – we can however assure you that there is plenty to do on rainy days to keep the kids entertained. You might want to pack some games to play at your accommodation provider.

Don’t worry if you forget an essential item, there are numerous shops out the route that would be happy to help you with your purchases. If you are looking to get in some cycling along the route, check out our NC500 cycle jersey!

Photo: ShredXS Cycle Jersey

6. Journey time!

Perhaps your family are used to the hustle and bustle of city life and are not used to seeing deer at the side of the road or even farm life. A lot of the route is made up of single track roads, especially on the west coast on which our hairy Highland Coos and sheep like to roam freely too!

Steeped in ancient ruins, brochs, rugged mountains, Caribbean style beaches and some of the oldest rocks in Britain – a journey along the NC500 certainly won’t be boring! There is even a fairy tale castle look alike.

Photo: Heilan Coo

7. Take breaks

Take your time and maybe allow twice as long for comfort breaks and photo opportunities. You will also come across various experiences and sights that you had not pencilled in to your trip that you won’t want to miss.

Maybe pack a frisbee or a bucket and spade and let the kids stretch their legs, or a kite to make the most of the blowy North Coast! With so many beaches around the NC500 – the kids will not have a shortage of sandy stretches to show off their frisbee skills. Throughout your journey, your kids could take it in turn choosing beaches to stop at, with a competition for the best beach at the end of the trip. For inspiration beforehand, check out our ‘Top 12 beaches‘ article.

Photo: Strathy Bay by  Salmon Landings Guesthouse

8. Snacks

What’s a road trip without some goodies for the road? There are some fantastic chocolate and sweet shops scattered around the route as well as smokehouses, delis and farm shops. Do bear in mind however that some of the roads are rather steep and windy (especially on the west coast)- if your little ones are prone to car sickness you might want to save the sweet treats for when you get home!

Photo: Isle of Ewe Smokehouse

9. Pack a blanket and their favourite stuffed toy

Everyone loves a nap! Perhaps pick up a new stuffed toy at the start of your trip. The Storehouse has a superb wee gift shop outside the restaurant with a variety of children’s soft toys, clothing and accessories.

10. Lastly, download our NEW NC500 App

The app is an interactive travel and culture guide for exploring the North Coast 500 en route! Listen to stories, songs and music connected to the landmarks from some of Scotland’s leading musicians and bands. Remember to use the app once you have stopped driving, you can download it from your mobile app store.

Happy Planning!

Photo: Jack and Jones, Reraig Forest Tours

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