Scotland North Coast 500 Campsites

9 North Coast 500 Campsites Not To Be Missed This Year

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White sand beaches and blue turquoise water in – Scotland? That can’t be right! You bet your bottom it is. These are the kinds of sights that you can see along Scotland’s North Coast 500 road a.k.a. “the Scottish Route 66” and the following North Coast 500 campsites are not to be missed. This guide will include official campsites with options for campervans on the North Coast 500.

» Coming to Scotland? Click here for our Scotland travel guide – we’re locals!

Thurso Campsite Campervan Window North Coast 500 Scotland_

Why Camp Along the North Coast 500?

Besides the tropical-like scenery, you’ll be able to enjoy the grandeur of the Highlands with its emerald hills and lochs (lakes), while driving along this road. What more could nature/adventure enthusiasts ask for?

As hotels, hostels and B&Bs book out fast on the NC500, camping is the ideal form of accommodation for those who are booking in a hurry. 

If you prefer to book self-contained apartments, here’s our guide.

Plus, North Coast 500 camping is economical, for the most budget-friendly option adhere to Scotland’s wild camping rules. 

Unfortunately, there are have reports that some visitors have not been following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when it comes to camping resulting in fragile areas of the Highlands being used as a base.

Please do not do this. 

Read below for an outline of what wild camping in Scotland means. 

Of late locals, have not be so welcoming of wild campers so please be considerate of those who live in the Highlands.

Chanonry Point Lighthouse Craig Scottish Highland NC500

North Coast 500 Campsites

The North Coast of Scotland boasts a variety of different landscapes.

Camping allows you to get up close and personal with nature, disconnecting from technology if you so wish! 

The Highlands is geared up for campers and camper vans with its campsites offering shared bathroom facilities, recycling, hookups, waste disposal and sometimes even WiFi. 

Chanonry Point Scottish Highland NC500

Where To Camp?

There are a number of fantastic NC500 campsites starting at Inverness and dotted around the map up to Thurso and down the west coast. 

There are also a number of private spots for those looking to go off the grid during their NC500 camping trip.  

In this section, let’s explore the sites and their facilities. 

1. Applecross Campsite

Applecross is a very popular camping spot in the Scottish Highlands and one of Scotland’s most popular camping spots. 

Often the first main stop road trippers make after taking on the hairpin Bealach na Bà road.

So what’s the appeal?

Applecross boasts of views over to the Isle of Skye and a hoaching eatery called the Applecross Inn.

Applecross campsite is a 10-minute walk from the Inn. 

The site offers large tent areas, free hot showers and toilets, shaver points, dishwashing facilities and free WiFi around the reception area.

Applecross also caters for camper vans and motorhomes via ten serviced hard standing pitches and 9 electric grass pitches.

Don’t fancy camping? There are glamping huts on site too.

Applecross used to be popular, now it is off the chart in demand so book using their online system.

Mellon Udrigle NC500 beaches

2. Achmelvich Bay The Shore Caravan Site

This award-winning beach sits next to the family-friendly Shore Caravan Site which offers no-set pitches but aims to not turn anyone away.

They have an overrun campsite close to the caravan site.

Facilities include toilet block with showers, launderette, on-site shop, on-site chip shop and WiFi.

Campfires are allowed (not on the grass).

Shore Caravan Site is open end of March to mid-October. Prices range from £7-£16.

Achmelvich Beach NC500 Motorhomes

3. Clachtoll Beach Campsite

The family-run Clachtool Beach Campsite welcomes eco-friendly guests to their campsite close to the town of Lochinver.

Facilities include electric hook-ups, toilet and shower facilities, hair straighteners points, dishwashing, laundry, eco-friendly toilet waste disposal, a vending machine with hot drinks, media charging lockers and WiFi! 

Prices range from £10-£21.

4. Loch Laxford

This sea loch is located in the northwest, between the villages of Durness and Scourie, roughly.

Scourie Campsite is close by.

5. Sango Sands

At the top of the NC500 route lies the town of Durness. Durness is home to Smoo Cave and Sango Sands campsite.

You really feel like you are at the end of the world staying at this campsite on the North West.

Sango Sands is open from April to the end of October and offers 58 electric hooks up points, hard standing and on the grass.

Facilities include toilets, shower block, kitchen, waste disposal, dishwashing, laundry facilities and a restaurant with a bar.

Furry friends are welcome at this pet-friendly campsite. Like many of the northwest Scotland’s campsites, there is a lack of shelter so it can get windy up there.


» Stop right there! Don’t miss our jam-packed NC500 itinerary 


6. Ceannabeinne Beach

To reach Ceannabeinne Beach, take the A838 road east of Durness.

It is located in a small bay that faces north towards Eilean Hoan island.

Golden Eagle Zip line at Ceannabeinne Beach is one for adventure lovers. 

The nearest campsite is Sango Sands Oasis.

7. Thurso Caravan and Campsite

Thurso Caravan and Campsite is a large campsite with individual plots, shared bathroom facilities and public picnic tables. 

Showers are hot and the site is across from a supermarket. 

The site has views of Orkney and nice pathway walk along the coast. 

Prices start at £9.50 for tent pitches.

Thurso Campsite Campervan North Coast 500 Scotland_

8. Sandy Bay near John o’ Groats

As you reach the John o’ Groats tourist info centre, stop by to grab a map of the area, and on it, you’ll see a clearly marked Sandy Bay.

It is a 10-minute drive away from the centre, and when you get there, you will see an off-road, grass parking.

John o’ Groats Caravan and Campsite is the closest park with facilities. 

9. Ardtower Caravan Park 

A very busy and friendly campsite in Inverness, Ardtower books up fast so reserve early. 

This site has shared shower and toilet facilities, a shop and shared cleaning area.

Really nice vibe plus views over the Kessock Bridge. 

Ardtower Campsite Inverness Scotland_


North Coast 500 Wild Camping

The beauty of camping in Scotland is that you can camp anywhere, to an extent. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states you must:

  • Respect the interest of locals – this is especially true when camping on land
  • Care for the environment – leave the land as you find it, no digging or fires at cultural sites
  • Take responsibility for your own actions – be safe, stay away from buildings, farms and roads
  • Here is advice on how to deal with emergencies while camping.

The grey area with NC500 wild camping is that the main way to get around the route is by car and wild camping in other areas of Scotland is often utilised by those on foot. See our West Highland Way guide for more details on Scotland’s West Coast hike.

As you are not supposed to wild camp near roads you will need to leave your car as you hike to your camping spot. 

That being said, these rules are in place to protect you, locals and the environment and not infringe on your rights to explore the Highlands so be smart but have fun.

The Equipment

Before you set out on your NC500 adventure, you will need to have your equipment in order.

So what is it exactly that you’ll need? Everyone’s packing lists may vary, but here is how a list of the essentials might look like:

  • A quality tent that will keep you safe from wind and rain
  • Layers
  • Waterproof jacket and overtrousers
  • Comfortable footwear such as hiking shoes like these Salamon trek shoes US / UK
  • Personal hygiene products and sunscreen 
  • Portable cooler
  • Extra phone battery packs like Anker US / UK (you will need it for maps)
  • Bag to collect rubbish – leave nothing behind
  • A strong stomach, you shouldn’t do the toilet in public
  • Don’t forget to bring a lot of money for petrol/gas and food/water!

The Best Time for Camping

In case you didn’t know, the weather in this region is unpredictable, and some would say that you can experience multiple seasons in one day.

However, when it comes to camping, there are some months that are obviously preferable to others.

Late spring to late summer is the best time to go here. May is often a great time to visit Scotland, just before the dreaded midgies take force. 

The daylight lasts for about 16 hours a day during the summer, which gives you a lot of sunlight to enjoy the scenery.

Mellon Udrigle NC500 beach camping

North Coast 500 Motorhomes

Camping not your cup of tea?

Hiring a campervan or motorhome for the NC500 is very common and is a relatively easy way to get around.

Obviously, you do have the winding roads of the Bealach na Bà to content with (close to Applecross on the West Coast) and Scotland’s ‘A roads’ (single roads) make driving on the other side a slight challenge but fellow drivers are courteous if you are too.

There are plenty of ‘passing places’ for you to pull over in to let other drivers past.

Dunnet Head Campervans North Coast 500 Scotland_

Other benefits of taking North Coast 500 motorhomes trip is that you have flexibility with your itinerary (accommodation like hotels book up really quickly) and a bit of luxury!

North Coast 500 caravan sites tend to run alongside the camping sites mentioned in this article. The facilities available at each have been mentioned above.

To save money you can always create your own stops, nip into the supermarkets (there are a few on the road at Inverness and Ullapool, eating out can get expensive) and pack a filter bottle, Scotland’s drinking water is very nice.


» You may also like | How to plan the ultimate Scotland road trip


Duncansby Lighthouse Rainbow Campervan North Coast 500 Scotland_

Conclusion

This NC500 camping guide has detailed where to stay on the NC500 if camping or campervanning.

In case camping is not your thing, I’d still recommend you to check out this road and all it has to offer, as you can find plenty of decent accommodation here too.

If all this sounds interesting to you, read on and find out more about the North Coast road, as I’ve only covered the very basic information in this article. 


Our North Coast 500 Guides 

We have written in detail about the NC500. Please see all of our posts below: 


Why not pin to your Scotland board?

Scotland North Coast 500 Campsites

Please leave comments and questions below

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 21

  1. I had no idea those tropical looking waters existed in Scotland Gemma! Wow…..amazing. Neat too to know Scotland has a Route 66 type, drop dead scenic route. I became more of a road trip guy here in New Zealand. We have no choice. Either road trip it or pay through the teeth for group tours LOL.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    1. Post
      Author

      I love the flexibility it gives us too. Although sometimes a group tour is on the cards during long-term travel so we don’t kill each other!

    1. Post
      Author
  2. No, campsite #3

    “3. Alchmelville Bay” is Achmelvich.

    Do you happen to know why you’re not allowed to camp next to your car?

    1. Post
      Author

      Oh thanks, James, sorry about that! I don’t know the theory behind it. I’m guessing it could be because roads might be next to buildings when I think of where people try to wild camp around Scotland. It might a safety factor too?

  3. Hi

    This is a really useful article. Myself, hubby and dog are planning a road trip around the NC500 area in June. We will probably have a total of 5 days in Scotland, maybe 6 and would like to maximise (within reason) where we go and what to see.
    I would also like to visit Ullapool and head over to Harris/Lewis for a couple of nights. Would appreciate any advice/recommendations
    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Kristina, we were in Harris and Lewis in November but only had two days. I would have really liked a third day. You’ll spend a day driving to Ullapool (watch your ferry times) and a day back so that’s your five days up. Well worth it though. Harris is spectacular.

  4. Hiya. Really enjoyed your article. Been thinking of doing the 500 for the last 18months. Cant decide on motorhome,or tent! So i think ill take both. Keep my options open. Safe journey to u all!

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m just back from a campervan trip in Texas. Loved it! Come back and let me know how you get on please.

  5. Me and the wife are doing the nc500 starting 25th may for one week the celebrate 10 yr married,can’t wait .i travel all over the country with work(on the road)but my wife hasn’t been far due to wife/mother duties so should be good,thanks for your info

    1. Post
      Author

      Congratulations! What a wonderful way to celebrate. Come back and tell me how you get on please.

  6. Hi Gemma,
    Many thanks for a great site. Starting our NC 500 adventure next Sunday. 650 miles to Inverness for us from Cornwall, before we start! Hope to take 2 or 3 weeks depending on the weather. Packing plenty of foul weather gear along with the midge cream. Long range forecast not looking too bad.
    Sandra and Keith

    1. Post
      Author

      Sounds like bliss Sandra and Keith! Great time of year, kids are all back at school. Come back and let me know how you get on?

  7. Hi

    Loved all your info. I am from Canada and thinking of camping the 500 next year. Questions. Which city do you think would be a good starting point edinburgh or Glasgow? Would be camping for little over a week. Also do you feel it’s safe for a solo female traveller? Any recommendations on campervan companies? Do you have to prebook campsites? Thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      I love Canada, Holly!

      Your closest city is actually Inverness. If you can fly into Aberdeen that is also a better option than Edinburgh or Glasgow unless you want to spend time in one of them?

      The NC500 is very popular so it is worth asking ahead about pre-booking, especially if you are going with a campervan and hookup.

      Check out Open Road for campers, tell Andy I sent you 🙂

  8. Hi, my husband and i are doing the NC500 in october in our campervan for the first time and we are really excited!!would you suggest we book on some sites in advance or could we just turn up, we dont mind wild camping, but want a site sometime’s to shower.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Carole! I’d definitely recommend booking sites because the tourism industry has been crushed by COVID. Any contribution to the economy in the Highlands will help massively. We’ll be doing the same as soon as we’re allowed to. Scottish schools are off in October so you might be competing for spots with families. Best call around and see what the campsites say.

  9. Hi Gemma really enjoying your NC 500 Blog! We are heading off in hired camper this Saturday from Aberdeen with 6yr old son in tow and says he’s really looking forward to the adventure see how soon he mentions being bored lol.
    As we are taking bikes can you recommend some safe coastal places to park up and cycle around a few miles please?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Post
      Author

      Aw Luke, I’m jealous! I asked in a North Coast 500 Facebook group as I wasn’t sure myself and the response included Learnie Red Rock, Black Isle, Golspie, Wild Cat Trails, Contin Trails. Abriechan. Hope that helps. Will you come back and let me know how you get on?

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