NC500: Motorists urged to embrace 'slow travel' and head of the beaten track in new podcast

It is touted as one of the world’s best driving routes and has drawn thousands onto roads across the Highlands that were once less travelled.

Now motorists heading to the North Coast 500 – a 516-mile circular drive that starts and ends in Inverness – are being urged to slow down, stay longer and head off the beaten track as high visitor demand challenges the often fragile road network and quiet communities that live on the route.

A new podcast has been released to guide motorists to the lesser-known attractions and activities on the NC500 in a bid to relieve pressure points on the main route, as well as help distribute the economic boom driven by the large numbers of tourists now travelling through the north and north-west Highlands.

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Motorists driving the NC500 are being urged to slow down, head off the beaten track and venture further into surrounding areas this summer as high visitor numbers put pressure on the route and surrounding communities. PIC: John Devlin.

Craig Mills, head of operations at North Coast 500, said of the podcast: “While road-trippers have long been aware of the beauty that the NC500 has to offer, this podcast puts a focus on the wide variety of activities available to enjoy along the way. By slowing down and taking multiple trips on the route, visitors can get to know each of the regions in depth and really maximise their time on the North Coast 500.”

Assynt’s Northwest Highland Geopark, where parts of the landscape were formed three billion years ago, is among the featured attractions, with Attadale Gardens in Wester Ross and the wildlife havens of the the Black Isle also shared. Activities such as snorkelling, kayaking and mountain biking are also included as motorists are urged to stop, leave their vehicles and explore a little more.

The six episodes are presented by broadcasters Dan Holland and Pennie Latin, the founders of Highland-based audio production company Adventurous Audios, which worked with local experts to bring to life the depth of experience the NC500 can offer.

In 2019, the NC500 was found to have boosted the economy by £22.9 million while creating around 179 full-time jobs. While the business has been welcomed by many, the popularity of the route has often left demand for accommodation outstripping supply.

Visitors have been found camping in lay-bys, cemeteries, play parks, common grazings, ancient monuments and even on a golf course, according to accounts, with residents complaining of people toileting in the open air and failing to take their waste away.

Facebook pages NC500 The Dirty Truth and NC500 The Land Weeps have been set up to share complaints and incidents among residents.

High volumes of motorhomes heading on to the route have often caused issues, with some drivers struggling to navigate single track roads on the routes, particularly when it comes to reversing to let other vehicles through.

Last month, those driving the route in motorhomes and campervans were issued a list of rules to follow. They included the need for responsible parking, experience in driving large vehicles and the necessity to dispose of chemical waste from their on-board toilets safely.

The NC500 podcast is available on podbean.com, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Amazon Music.

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