Alternatives to the NC500
I would drive 500 miles, and I would drive 500 more...
It's hard to believe the meteoric rise to fame of Scotland's North Coast 500 driving route. Although only launched in 2015, it quickly gained notoriety as "Scotland's Route 66" and brought additional tourism to the rural economy.
Starting and ending in Inverness, the NC500 offers an easy way for people to discover some of the far-flung highlights of the Scottish Highlands. However, one of the things that makes far-flung places appealing is their remoteness, peace and quiet, and isolation, and the recent pandemic has led to huge number of tourists heading for the highlands.
Whilst the majority of holiday-makers are considerate of the small communities they're visiting, there have been plenty of reports of 'fly camping', dangerous or inconsiderate driving, and traffic chaos on the small rural roads.
No one wants to sit in traffic when they're on holiday, so to help us all spread out a bit, here are a few ideas for other campervan tours that will offer something different. If you're still desperate to do the NC500, please have a read of this article as it might help you get the best out of the trip without upsetting local residents! The alternative routes below are all in England, Wales and Ireland, but there are plenty of other routes to get stuck into around Scotland too. You could try island hopping around the west coast or take your pick from The Coig - 5 smaller driving routes around Ayrshire and Arran.
I hope one or more of these routes will help you to plan your next campervan adventure. Just click on the orange heading o the picture for more details. You can get some inspiration for campsites too using our map of recommended sites.
Northumberland 250 7 Days, 250 Miles
Take a trip across the land of dark skies, rolling hills and remarkable coastline that Northumberland offers. Stretching from Tynemouth to Berwick-upon-Tweed is one of the finest coastlines you’ll find anywhere in England. The N'Land250 is broken down into four different flavoured sections: Borderlands; Dark Skies; Coast and Country. You can look forward to desolate white-sand beaches, medieval castles, towering dunes, and quirky fishing villages.
NI Coastal Circuit 5 days, 120 Miles
Take the Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry. It hits many of the major coastal stop-offs, including National Trust sites and a handful of Game of Thrones filming locations. It’s also relatively short, meaning there’s flexibility should you wish to stay a day or two longer in your favourite place.
Lake District Loop 5 Days, 117 Miles
If you've only got a week to cram in as much as possible, this route will give you everything – visit the most beautiful lakes, tackle the highest hills, and find the base for great walks. All that with great places to eat, drink, and sleep thrown in too. It's easy to stretch or condense the trip if you want to, but this itinerary gives you a great starting point.
Yorkshire Circuit 3 days, 110 Miles
A great route if you've only got a long weekend to spare, this is great for anyone who wants a light walk, and plenty of time to relax and enjoy Yorkshire Ales and cheese. The roads are great fun to drive, and there are great views wherever you look. If you don't mind the crowds, I'd add in a trip to Malham Cove too, but on a weekend in summer it can get pretty hectic.
Wild Atlantic Way Ireland 21 Days, 1600 Miles
Want to get your teeth into a really epic drive? Try the Wild Atlantic Way all the way along Ireland's west coast from Derry to Cork and take in awesome surf, quaint fishing villages, and ancient castles. The route can be broken down into 14 bitesize chunks if you prefer.
The Dragon's Spine, Wales 5 Days, 185 Miles
Also known as The Cambrian Way, this spectacular route runs from south to north through the heart of the country, mainly following the A470. This five day itinerary begins in the capital city Cardiff and finishes in the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno. Highlights along the way include the Brecon Beacons, the Elan Valley, and of course everything that Snowdonia has to offer - mountains, lakes, beaches, and zip wires! No motorways, just winding A roads and beautiful views.
Peaks and Passes, Peak District 3 Days, 90 Miles
If you'd rather stay closer to home, the Peak District has as much to offer as anywhere else in the UK. Follow snaking roads, and hike part of the Pennine Way, or ride cable cars in Matlock and rollercoasters at Alton Towers if you prefer. The Peak District is packed with historic buildings, sweeping views, and a host of great campsites to choose from.
Atlantic Highway, Cornwall 82 Miles, 4 Days
Also known by the less glamorous name of the A39, this road is named the Atlantic Highway thanks to the almost-constant views of the Atlantic Ocean you can spy from the tarmac. The route passes photogenic places like Bude, Padstow, Newquay, Clovelly, Boscastle and Tintagel. Stop off for hikes, surf lessons and incredible seafood. You can keep driving past Fraddon, right down to Land’s End if you haven’t had your fill of Cornish charm.
Flintshire Leisure Tour 3 Days, 83 Miles
Flintshire is a beautiful Welsh county that’s very handily placed for a day out or short break. As it's so close to home, you’ll have plenty of time to explore. There's a great mix of countryside, coastline, market towns and historic attractions to choose from. The route's really clearly signed all the way round so (hopefully) there'll be no 'discussions' between navigator and driver either!
Le-Jog 3 Weeks, 2100 Miles
If you're still keen to get all the way to John O'Groats, but you don't want to do the NC500, why not do Lands End to John O'Groats (Le-Jog for short)? It's a long trip and a lot of driving, but it's a great way to see the best bits of England, Scotland and Wales. Here's the route that I did, but I'd allow a minimum three weeks for it. And yes, I'm saying that because I tried to do it in two!
I hope these routes have provided a little inspiration for your next trip. Pick and choose your favourite bits from each, or add on some extra bits to suit your tastes. Whatever your chosen route for your campervan adventure, check out this guide for a few tips ideas to make your road trip go as smoothly as possible. Feel free to get in touch for more advice about hiring a campervan, and have a great trip, wherever you go.
Thanks for reading, Nick 😄 🚌 🤟