Not the North Coast 500

(Words by Chris Pitblado, Photos by Rupert Hartley)

PLLINNNNGGGG

The phone screen lights up. It’s Rupert from Albion.

“…I’m thinking about having a NC500 go in May. Would there be any way you might be able to help/accommodate?!…”

A loaded question If ever there was one.

NC500 you say. Not on my watch I thought to myself!

I decided to hijack the trip and put a local’s spin on it.

I opened up the laptop, scribbled some lines on a map and a few minutes later there were some ‘suggested’ alternative routes winging their way back in response.

Not all roads are created equally.

Some are suited for driving, motorcycling, heck, even walking and running.

Then there are those more suitable for our particular past time.

I’ve always been curious why the NC500 follows the route that it does, as from a cyclist’s perspective if you scratch the surface just a little, there is so much more on offer.

I said as much, and the makings of a plan was hatched.

We mused that tapping into a local’s advice and knowledge can only enhance the experience you can have.

I suspect this was his plan all along…

Using the official route as a base, we decided upon alternatives on the fly to suit the time we had at our disposal, the places we wanted to see, the pies we wanted to eat and in part to avoid some scary busy main roads.

We even managed to squeeze in a ferry trip.

An adventure isn’t truly an adventure til you ride a ferry? Right??

Plus, your man likes to take a bonnie photo.

This is not the definitive route by any means, so get your GPS or laptop out and broaden your horizons. You might surprise yourself! Or go ‘old skool’ and pack a OS map like the chap we passed going through the flow country.

This was predominantly a road ride for us, stray but a little however and providing you have suitably knobbly tyres, a whole new world will open up ahead of you.

Alas, my riding buddy is a purist and runs 25mm rubber.

Oh, If you ever read a guide book and stumble across the words ‘a good path…’ treat these words with caution… Or you’ll find yourself pushing your bike up a hill near midnight eating a Lochinver pie.

I don’t think I mentioned that it rained, did I?

It did. A LOT.

I’ll leave you with some wise words I read a while back…

“There is not one path. There is not even the right path. There is only your path.” – Anonymous

Slàinte Mhath

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