Photography by Tom Lane

NC500 (North Coast 500 Miles)

The above is how the NC500 is described in on the NC500’s official website. It is understood that the route became officially recognised in 2015 and has grown in popularity ever since. I’m a keen motorcyclist and every year ride a couple of trips with similar minded friends, who I’ve known for more years than I care to remember. Three of us decided we wanted to do this ride and Bill started to look at the route and book hotels in the September, 2021. The trip has become so popular that the route was somewhat dictated by the availability of accommodation.

 

The actual route, as described above is 516 miles but with the various side trips we did I estimate the mileage in the highlands to have been approximately 720.

Photographically; being on the motorbike I was restricted in what equipment I could take. My original thought was to take the Leica M10-r with three lenses, but changing lenses would have been a pain. Although it’s bigger and heavier, I decided for the convenience to take the Leica SL fitted with the 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit zoom lens. This proved to be a wise a decision.

Saturday, 14 May 2022 – Home to The Bay Horse Country Inn at Thirsk, 159 miles. Not a long ride for me, but as my two companions live in the Thames Valley that added another 110 miles or so, to their journey.

Sunday, 15 May 2022 – Thirsk to the Ibis Hotel in Edinburgh, 198 miles. With a stop in Alnwick for coffee.

Relaxing and checking the route. Or, was he making sure there was enough money in the ‘kitty’ to pay for the coffees?

A most welcome beer on arrival at the hotel in Edinburgh.

Monday, 16 May 2022 – Edinburgh to The Priory Hotel in Beauly, 167 miles. A thoroughly miserable day with rain for every mile. As I was reminded, ‘you don’t come to Scotland for the weather’.

Good to get to the hotel for a hot shower, a beer, followed by an excellent dinner. Although the NC500 officially starts in Inverness, we stayed about ten miles out as we didn’t particularly want to ride and stay in the city.

The following morning we discovered that there was a Priory next to the hotel and the above three images were taken there.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022 – Beauly to Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye, 138 miles.

A Kodak moment.

Ready for the off again. On, on.

Another excursion, this time the harbour at Portree.

Evening walk around Kyleakin. We thought we were going to struggle for food, but like all good bikers we found a pub and enjoyed an excellent meal. Whilst in the pub there was a very heavy rain shower and it was difficult to see more than a few metres, even the locals said they had rarely seen anything as bad.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 – Skye to Gairloch, 98 miles

We stayed at the Gairloch Hotel, which must have been very grand in its day; about a mile from the town. Arriving late afternoon, we decided to walk into the town and have a beer before dinner. We couldn’t believe there wasn’t a pub to be found. Being desperate, we bought three beers from the local shop and then had to purchase a bottle opener to get the tops off. We sat by the above estuary and thought everything was perfect in the world.

Thursday, 19 May 2022 – Gairloch to the Lairg Highland Hotel, 162 miles

We stopped off at the lovely village of Ullapool,well worth a walk round and coffee.

Friday, 20 May 2022 – Lairg to the Boogie Lodge Hotel, 125 miles

No place in particular, just a shot taken during a brief stop. I do think this may make a good Black & White print, although I would have liked more separation between the foreground and the island; something which may be corrected in Photoshop.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 – Lairg to The Bridge Hotel at Helmsdale, 115 miles

Dunnet Head, the most Northerly point of Mainland Britain.

Made it to John O’ Groats which most people see as the most Northerly Point. Stopped for a quick coffee and then started to head south for Helmsdale.

Checked into the hotel and then a brisk walk to the harbour.

Sunday, 22 May 2022 – Helmsdale to the Loch Ness Inn at Drummadrochit, 84 miles

Monday, 23 May 2022 – Loch Ness back to the Ibis Hotel in Edinburgh, 170 miles

Strange, but like on the ride north from Edinburgh, we had numerous heavy showers on the journey south, which made for a most unpleasant day.

Fortunately the rain cleared late afternoon and so we were able to catch a tram into the city centre.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022 – Edinburgh back to The Bay Horse Country Inn at Thirsk, North Yorkshire, 214 miles

Wednesday, 25 May 2022 – Thirsk back Home, 163 miles

Very strong winds made sure we kept a high level of concentration.

Conclusion: –

We all agreed it was a fabulous trip which we really enjoyed. The weather was particularly kind to us for even though the sky looked threatening a lot of the time, we only had a couple of showers whilst in the Highlands.  I would certainly like to do it again, but next time in the Land Rover. It was great fun on the bike but from a photographic point of view it was a pain in the proverbial having to park the bike, dig the camera out and take the helmet off in order to take an image. Having said that, the scenery was so good it would probably take me three months to do the same trip by car.

Also, next time, I would do the route in an anticlockwise direction. In my opinion the scenery is better on the west coast and therefore it would appear to get more spectacular  as the trip progressed. Unfortunately going clockwise we saw the best scenery first and in comparison, the east coast was a little disappointing .

The total mileage on my cumulative trip meter was 1781 miles; I’m not sure if this is correct when adding the daily mileage together and have no plans to check it out.