Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesROD's Rapid NC500

Cairngorms And The Start Of The NC500

25 September 2023


Last night the road traffic noise became less frequent after midnight and I drift off to sleep, only for the noise to return before five o clock. I lay in the tent until daylight arrives, and I go to check on the bike which is exactly as I left it. I do not feel like cooking in this location, so a ham and tomato roll is made for breakfast. I have a quick wash, brush my teeth, and pack the bike ready to go.

A dog walker comes over for a chat, then I get on my way. The first stop is for fuel, and I then head in the direction of Perth. The weather is cloudy but not raining. On reaching Perth I filter through light traffic and take the military road north heading for the Cairngorms. After leaving Perth the rain starts again, light rain at first but gets heavier the higher I climb. The scenery is drastically improving, and I feel very privileged to be riding these great roads in great surroundings.

A grainy dark image of ROD's big touring BMW on a bleak road across the mountains

As I approach Glenshee there is low cloud which limits the views somewhat, but what I can see is stunning. I pass the ski station where an eagle of some description flies alongside to keep me company, and then on to Braemar. I pass through Braemar and take a left off of the military road and onto a single track road which cuts across to Tomintoul. I think to myself this would have been good on the 125, but after a mile or so the road started to climb with steep hairpins which required 1st gear on the BM!

Tomintoul marks the end of the Cairngorms adventure and I make my way up to Inverness to start the nc500. Traffic around Inverness is light and it has stopped raining. I get onto the A9 north towards Wick. The A9 is a lovely flowing road with sweeping bends and plenty of overtaking opportunities which help to keep up a good average speed. The views over the sea are very pleasant, and I am starting to encounter motorhomes and campervans.

On reaching Wick I find a Tesco petrol station, I fill up again with fuel £1.55.9. The fuel is 6 - 7p more expensive up here than at home.

It is still relatively early, but I know there is a campsite at John o' Groats. On reaching John o' Groats I find it much more commercial than I remember it, with more shops and organised parking. Of course the organised parking required a £3.00 parking charge (there may have been free motorcycle parking but I didn't look) so I made my way around to the signpost for a picture and went to book on to the campsite.

RODs silver RT by the famous signpost at Lohn-o-Groats

The campsite is a club site, which from experience means that they will advertise prices from £9 - 10, the reality is a price of around £19 and this is then discounted for members and again for OAPs to get to the advertised price. I venture on along the A836 towards Thurso and see a campsite at Murkle with spaces. The time is 16:30 and I am ready for a stop. The site tell me that they are really set up for motorhomes and campervans but there are two pitches for tents. The price of £10 is charged and I set up the tent.

RODs bike is covered and parked next to his tiny blue tent at the campsite in Murkle

I cook a meal, make a cup of tea, and use the showers. It is still a little early for bed, so I watch a documentary on BBC iPlayer. 

Last night I did not get enough sleep, and tonight I am again next to a noisy road but I do have ear plugs with me. Now I have never used ear plugs successfully in the past as they always seem to fall out after a few minutes, but I have been watching YouTube and I am now going to try the correct technique. After squashing the ear plugs down between my fingers and thumb to make them as small as possible I pull my ear to straighten the ear canal and push the ear plug into the ear with a twisting motion. I hold my finger on the ear plug for 30 seconds until it expands and repeat for the other ear.

Success! I can hardly hear anything.

Daily mileage  320

Food.             £0.00
Fuel.              £52.29
Campsite.      £10.00

Share your tale - click here.

The Road North ROD wisely selects the motorcycle of choice before heading out into the big wide world. There's some rain, some Scotland and a questionable choice of sleeping arrangement.
Cairngorms And The Start Of The NC500 After a restless night ROD finally reaches the NC500 and sets out in the correct (counter clockwise) direction. Will tonight's sleep be better now he's learned how to install earplugs?
The NC500 Continues ROD covers most of the NC500 is one day and still has time on his hands. He's hoping to get all the best bit's done before Storm Agnes spoils the party.
The Road South ROD rounds of his whistle-stop NC500 with... a 500 mile ride back home. There's some interesting final figures to note too.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
We've never done the 500. I can't think why not, really. Although not being the roughty toughty type like what Rod is we would require hotel bookings and it's probably one of the most visited routes in Scotland. I'm sure that would be reflected in the pricing and availability. We would also want to see it at its blue sky best, all of a sudden it sounds a PITA. That'll be the reason then, I knew there was some'at.
Never been to J of G, although we've made it up to Tongue on the North Coast and Unapool in the NW. Saw the Top Gear team retrieving some exotica from the bog on the A894(?), a case of enthusiasm exceeding ability.
Perthshire and Braemar, and The Torridons are my current fave areas of Scotland. We've actually got a week booked up in Braemar next May. A quest to finally explore the area in more depth. Speyside and Tomintoul are pretty special too. Whisky, eagles, scenery what's not to like.
Thanks Rod, looking forward to some NW piccies.
15/11/2023 10:02:12 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Yes Upt, I am sure it gets very busy when (if) the sun and blue sky is out.
Later in the season I also avoided the wee beasties.

On the subject of cost and availability, are you sure we are not selling the idea of camping?
15/11/2023 16:19:07 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Yes Upt, I am sure it gets very busy when (if) the sun and blue sky is out.
Later in the season I also avoided the wee beasties.

On the subject of cost and availability, are you sure we are not selling the idea of camping?
15/11/2023 16:19:48 UTC
nab301 said :-
Looks great , and you spoil the bike with its own cover too!
15/11/2023 17:15:57 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
The bike cover is not just for the benefit of the bike.
The tent is small and does not have a vestibule, so the bike cover can double up as a shelter for cooking under when it's raining.
16/11/2023 10:43:37 UTC
Bogger said :-
I did the 500 about 6yrs ago, also on a BMW. My 1200ST. Mrs Bogger was on the back. When planning the trip she asked if we were just going to 'wing it' with reference to accommodation?

I looked at the remoteness of some of the route and the dearth of hotels/B&Bs in a lot of areas. We wisely chose to book all our stop overs beforehand.

Our only regret was 'doing the 500' in a clockwise direction. We should have gone the other war round.

Next instalment please.

16/11/2023 13:30:20 UTC

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