We woke up to rain in Wick, which only has one effect on me when I’m camping, and that is make me want to stay in bed! We did eventually get up and break camp, though, and headed south on the A9 for the final day of our NC500 road trip.
Chanonry Point Lighthouse.
DAY FIVE | WICK TO FORTROSE BAY
We had a list of potential walks and sights to visit on our way down the A9 back towards Inverness, through woodland, to see waterfalls, and for great sea views. All of these would have been wonderful if the weather had been a little kinder, but as we made our way down the fast and furious A9 (no sauntering along this road as we had been the rest of the time), the rain we’d woken up to showed no sign of going away. It was such a shame for our last day of the NC500, but thankfully today we had a back up plan.
As the weather was pretty terrible and the views out to the east were, well, non-existent, we decided to do things differently and pay to go into Dunrobin Castle instead. At £11 each it wasn’t expensive and would provide us with some inside things to do to keep us out of the worst of the weather.
Falconry display at Dunrobin Castle.
We were so glad we did – what a place it is! We started with the Falconry display in the gardens, which was the most amazing such display I’ve ever seen, before wandering around the castle itself, having lunch in the café, and visiting the museum and the gardens in the afternoon. The sky even cleared for us in the end! There’s a blog post coming about our day at Dunrobin another day, because it’s worth more than just a short mention here.
Oatcakes at Cromarty
Twitter is brilliant. When I asked what people thought the NC500 must-sees were, four separate people replied to say I had to go to Cromarty Bakery for oatcakes. There was me expecting replies about great views, walks and museums, but no, I got bakery recommendations! I think I might have some kind of reputation… but with that level of interest we naturally had to go there, and so took a detour off the traditional route to go to the town. And to confirm, were not disappointed by the baked goods! We got oatcakes, cheese oatcakes, and some cake for pudding later, all of which were excellent. There was also a very impressive cheese shop just opposite the bakery, we could have spent a fortune but were able to resist, just about.
Cromarty Bakery. Mmmm oatcakes!
Cromarty is also the place to see dolphins, but unfortunately we didn’t spot any while we were there. We had a really good look, but had no luck which was a real shame. Thankfully it is a really beautifully appointed village (with a tiny little ferry), and the drive in along the Moray Firth had been delightful, and with that and the oatcakes we would definitely send this recommendation onwards to others doing the NC500 road trip.
Fortrose Bay Camping
We continued south to our chosen campsite for the night, Fortrose Bay Campsite, which is situated just north of Inverness and almost directly the other side of the Moray Firth to Inverness Airport. We were promised a site with beautiful views and beach access, and that is exactly what we got. It’s a bit of a strange set up, with a public access road going through the site, but it is a lovely place with a really warm and friendly welcome, and I can totally see myself coming back here another time.
The tent at Fortrose Bay Campsite.
We had an allocated beach-side pitch but with a large gorse bush between us and the water, which was a good thing as the wind can really pick up here and apparently they have lost tents in the past! The gorse protected us well, though. Oh and as I’ve mentioned ablutions blocks at the other sites we stayed in, I’ll add that this was the best shower of the whole week – the block was small but very nice, clean, and just what I needed. Brilliant.
Dolphins and Chips
The reason we chose to stay at Fortrose Bay rather than heading all the way back into Inverness to complete the NC500 circle was because I had been promised dolphins. And after being disappointed in Cromarty in the afternoon I was pleased when the campsite owner said I was guaranteed to see them if I was down at Chanonry Point from around 6.30pm.
Dolphins in the Moray Firth.
We had booked a table at a restaurant in town but when we got there we didn’t think much to the (very expensive) menu, so we cancelled and dropped in at the fish and chip shop for a takeaway instead. Thankfully the rain had stopped and, although cold, we decided eating outside was the way to go. We took our fish supper out to the lighthouse and ate while watching a group of dolphins play in Rosemarkie Bay at the end of the Moray Firth. We watched the dolphins, about ten of them including a tiny calf, along with a couple of seals and hundreds of jellyfish, for over an hour. I find watching wildlife in their natural habitat a real honour and was so pleased we came here.
The Final Morning
Our last night was to be as our first, and we put the tent down in Forstrose Bay the pouring rain. At least this was the last time we’d be breaking camp and we could bundle it into the boot of the car and not worry about it until we got home the following day. Once again we were pleased we’d chosen to drive this road trip rather than take the motorbike; I love camping by bike but when it’s wet it’s so awkward to get everything packed away and set off without getting soaked and feeling a teeny bit miserable.
People watching at Chanonry Point.
Looking back on our NC500 road trip we had such a great time. One of the reasons I love road trips is the sense of freedom I get from being on the road with my “home” with me – in this case, our tent in the boot of the car. Even though we’d planned each night’s camping location ahead of time, there was never any pressure or time constraints; we got up when we were ready, drove along at our own pace, stopped when we wanted, always found somewhere great for lunch, and never struggled to make it to our destination each evening.
The scenery in this part of the world is simply stunning, and for that reason alone you really should do the North Coast 500 road trip yourself. We had a truly great week exploring by car and by foot, it was a wonderful way to spend a few days.
If you have any questions about the NC500 or the things I’ve mentioned in this series of posts please do ask, I’m really happy to help