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Really need to book in advance Inn/Pub/BnB on NC500 on NOV18?

Planning a solo trip on NC500 next month but I wouldn't like to be on a planned trip as days are shorter and I don't know exactly how long I'll take to drive to point A to point B.
I'll rent a 4x4 (following someone's suggestion as the weather may be quite wet) and I'd like to be on a schedule free instead of booking in advance. 
Do you think I can just arrive by the end of the day somewhere and find a place to sleep? Do prices change if booking in advance and arriving the same day?
Last month I drove through the French Alps and then realized that I had underestimated driving time and was really tired of driving and not having time enough to appreciate surroundings as I had loved to. 
Thank you very much for your opinions!


  • In short, nope! I'd strongly recommend booking in advance. Not necessarily because it's busy but more because many places close over the winter period and you might find yourself arriving in one of the villages en-route and struggling to find somewhere to stay. Prices do tend to be a little cheaper if you book in advance but it's not peak season anymore so you may not see any huge differences compared to booking on the day. 

    To be fair, if you're taking a week (for example) to do it, none of the stages between each point are likely to be more than a couple of hours of driving. The big thing to watch out for is the road closures due to the weather. The Bealach na Ba in Applecross does sometimes close due to snow and we do occasionally get heavy snowfall at that time of year.  

    Have you a rough idea of what your timings are going to be like? The scale and distances aren't going to be anything like you experienced in the Alps so I think you'll be ok. 
  • MicikaMicika Member
    Alps were 720km, done in 5 days with no chances of having closed roads due to snow but longer days. 
    NC500 is few miles more and I'll have a full week, maybe starting on 05th or 06NOV from Inverness. 
    Thank you for your help! I'll plan itinerary and look for where to stay.
    Another question... people use to start from Inverness and do a clockwise direction, is that right? Luckily I took the direction in the Alps as they suggest and I understood why... roads can be extremely narrow with no view on curves. Easier and safer if most of people go in the same direction.
    Thank you again!
  • No problem at all! Most do the route in a clockwise direction and it does make sense doing it that way at peak season when it's really busy. I was up in Durness a couple of months ago and when I drove back to Inverness I was struck by how much traffic was heading North and clockwise. There's one significant stretch of singletrack road for about twenty miles between Durness which can be a little tricky but otherwise it's ok. The Bealach na Ba is the closest you'll get to an Alpine pass and the view on that is probably best if you're doing the route clockwise.

    However... I would be inclined to do it anti-clockwise, you're saving the best scenery for last and you get the A9 out of the way first. The A9 can be a bit of a slog and the scenery between Dornoch and Thurso is very flat. On the flip side, if you're tired from driving then finishing on the A9 is an easier prospect as you're going to be on wider roads without quite as many challenging twists and turns in the road. 

    I'm heading out to Lewis the same week, hopefully the weather will behave for us both! :smile:


  • AgnesTAgnesT Member
    Do I need to book accommodation ahead in May
  • Personally, I would - since some places can be small and therefore book out easily. If you didn't book ahead, you'd be ok with paying higher prices for whatever accommodation you find - and you'd have a back-up plan in case you don't find anything (e.g. driving further, camping).
    scothighlands |
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