North Coast 500: Police call for 'respect' as car rallies and convoys descend on Scotland tourist route

Road woes continue for communities close to the North Coast 500 as car events ramp up for summer.

Police have called for ‘respect’ from drivers on the North Coast 500 as an increase in car rallies and convoys descend on the driving route.

Often dubbed Scotland’s Route 66, the NC500 is endlessly promoted for rallies and car clubs, with it known that at least one supercar event led to drivers having their cars – including Ferraris and Buggatis – loaded onto transporters and driven north while their owners arrive at Inverness Airport, collect their vehicles and hit the road.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While many rallies don’t pose an issue, residents say parts of the route are like a ‘racetrack’ as groups of drivers head out together, with congestion building up as convoys struggle to keep moving on single track roads.

A car rally assembles before crossing the Kylesku Bridge on the NC500. PIC: Contributed.A car rally assembles before crossing the Kylesku Bridge on the NC500. PIC: Contributed.
A car rally assembles before crossing the Kylesku Bridge on the NC500. PIC: Contributed.
Read More
Sign up to our heritage newsletter and get all the best stories rooted in Scotla...

As the new season gets underway, Robin Pettigrew, of Lochcarron, which sits directly on the NC500, described the roads as “manic”. He said he “probably hadn’t seen them as bad”, as rallies and supercars joined motorhomes, motorcycles and cyclists.

Mr Pettigrew said: “We are now seeing a multitude of rallies and they started at least a month ago. Not all of them are misbehaving. Some of them are quite well supervised and if they are heading over the Bealach na Ba to Applecross, the groups tend to be split up.

"With other rallies, they are travelling at excessive speeds, sometimes two or three of them together and sometimes up to a dozen. There are a lot of single tracks and farm animals. NC500 is not there to be a racetrack when there are communities living alongside of it.”

Mr Pettigrew said he wanted such road events to be licensed and supervised, with speed bumps placed through villages to protect residents. He also recently authored a report that proposed a vehicle levy for those visiting the area – a proposal that has won support locally.

Applecross Community Council recently urged drivers to travel not more than two or three cars at a time on single track roads after a convoy of 16 vehicles was seen on the Bealach na Ba, where road edges are crumbling and many passing place signs are missing.

Last year, a convoy marked with Route 666 livery was stopped by police near Scourie, with one member charged with careless and inconsiderate driving and a report sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

A police spokesperson said: "We recognise that the Highlands and Islands, and particularly the NC500 road network, carry large numbers of local and visitor traffic. We would like to emphasise the importance respecting other road users and those who live in our communities, which can be achieved through considerate, safe and responsible driving."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kris O’Neill, of Elgin, is the organiser of CannonBawz Rally, which has been running for ten years to raise money for charity. This includes for The Marfan Trust, which researches the genetic disorder that claimed the life of his brother Liam.

Mr O’Neill said around 50 cars took part in the event and that he had “worked hard” to build up good relations with businesses, communities and police. It will return to the NC500 in August.

He said: "When we started doing the NC500, there weren’t that many people on it, but the draw is now huge, it is worldwide. There was one supercar event recently and it just ripped the place up and we have to patch things up after that.

"The responsibility comes down to each group. It is for them to be sensible. It is a road that we are all sharing, it is where people live. It is up to driving groups to be sensible and respect the community.”

Marie Todd, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, urged people to report concerns over driving on the NC500 to police.

She said: “People living on the NC500 feel disenfranchised. This is an area which prides itself on hospitality, but for those not directly employed – and actually some of those who do – the benefit can feel a little bit distant. Really there needs to be more tangible benefits to people on the route. People feel that their home is being used and marketed and they have no say or benefit from it.”

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.