North Coast 500 plans for rush of post-lockdown holiday makers

Almost three-quarters of tourists who cancelled their trip on the North Coast 500 due to the pandemic said they will embark on driving route as soon as they are allowed to travel once again.

Cul Mor, Suilven and Canisp mountains - just a few of the wonderful landmarks found on the North Coast 500 driving route. PIC: djmacpherson/CC.

Organisers of the route through the north and west Highlands said results of recent research were “very promising” after an “incredibly tough year” when roads were emptied of visitors for long spells due to the pandemic.

Research found that 71 per cent of those who cancelled their NC500 trip in 2020 will reschedule their trip for later this year, with 57 per cent planning to head north in 2021.

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Visitors are planning to spend longer on the route with an average tour of 11 days being scheduled, up from nine days in 2019.

Organisers said the results showed people were “committing to a significant holiday” on the NC500.

Tom Campbell, Executive Chair of North Coast 500 Ltd, said: “After an incredibly tough year, it’s very promising to see a significant number of visitors planning to visit the North Coast 500 this year and in 2022 when travel restrictions have been lifted by the Scottish Government.

"This is a positive sign for the re-emergence of the tourism industry in the North Highlands.

“Once government restrictions have been lifted, we look forward to welcoming visitors back to this beautiful part of the world, however, we ask them all to make sure they check local

travel advice as a vital part of planning their holiday. “

Separate research earlier found that the North Coast 500, which cuts through Inverness-shire, Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Sutherland and Wester Ross, is worth aroud £22m a year to the economy of the north and west scotland.

More than a third of those planning to travel the route once travel restrictions have eased plans to exclusively stay in hotels during their trip, an increase of 8 per cent on June 2020.

There was a marginal increase in the number of people planning to visit the region by motorhome, campervan or caravan, research found, with the pandemic driving interest in this form of travel and accommodation, research found.

Despite the pandemic and the loss of visitors, work has continued throughout lockdown to improve the route and to find sustainable tourism solutions for the Highlands

VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council and Police Scotland have continued to hold regular meetings on the future of the driving route over the course of the pandemic.

Last November, plans for a network of low-cost stopovers for campervans and caravans to cope with a rise in visitors and the scourge of ‘dirty camping’ were announced, with the first site earmarked on the Black Isle.

Highland Council has proposed a site for up to 30 vehicles in North Kessock with communities and landowners across the north being asked for their views on other small scale sites.

Meanwhile, visitors to the Ross-shire and Sutherland communities on the route will benefit from new public toilets and waste disposal facilities.

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