Into the Scottish Wild

I realise I have been radio silent for the last couple of weeks and that just won’t do!

Right now, I am busy finishing up my law conversion course, which is undoubtedly the bane of my life. I will, however, be free of it in around two weeks, at which point I will hopefully have more time to write, and more time to do things which deserve writing about.

That leads me onto my plan for the next month. In mid-August I have sketched out a vague plan to travel the NC-500 with one of my best mates, Andy.

We’ll be hopping in my Suzuki Grand Vitara 4 x 4 and then driving from Brighton to Ben Nevis. With no prior training, although we are both semi-fit, we the plan to scale Scotland’s highest peak… Fingers crossed we make it.

Then we will forge on towards Inverness to start the NC-500, not to be confused with the Indy 500. For those of you who haven’t heard of the NC-500, and I’m sure that’s many of you, if the raised eyebrows of my friends at it’s very mention are anything to go by, it is THE road trip if you want to see the Scottish highlands and Northern Scottish coastline in all their rugged glory.

Across 520 miles, which circumnavigate the outer reaches of Northern Scotland, the route will be sure to test our driving skills and self-sufficiency. As we are still just about in the midst of the current pandemic, even the basic task of planning our supplies for our two-week road trip is, in itself, of significant importance and an exercise in prudence.

Usually, on my past road trips, I could rely on supermarkets and petrol stations being open and rammed with resources. Now, I just can’t bank on that fact. Of course that is a pain; however, the uncertainty has led me to question whether there is there a much more interesting time to travel the UK than right now? I’d wager that there hasn’t been over the past decade or so, and, thus, I can’t wait for the forthcoming challenge!

Just to get some opinions and recommendations, here is my list of items that I’ll be taking with me for the trip:

  • A four-person tent. Andy and I are big lads and we’re going to be wild camping for two weeks. We need a tent and it has to be big enough.
  • An inflatable mattress and accompanying foot pump. I’m going to sleep in comfort and we bought an inflatable mattress a few years back from Decathlon which is currently gathering dust. It now has a use.
  • For the sake of my sleep, I’m chucking in ear plugs for Andy’s snoring as well!
  • A sleeping bag. This will round off the whole sleeping situation.
  • Food. Mostly canned, a loaf of bread, some vegetables and fruit that will keep.
  • A cool box. This is incase we can pick up ice and any cold food. With this, we can store it from the moment we get it, and thus take advantage.
  • My portable barbecue and a bag of coals. If we can get hold of meat, or catch us some fish, then I’ll definitely need these.
  • A fishing rod. To catch us some dinner if I can!
  • A stack of clothes. T-shirts, trousers, boxers, socks and the rest of the basics.
  • My trusty cap. I never go anywhere without it in the car!
  • Walking boots. Some proper shoes are definitely going to be necessary.
  • Waterproofs. We’re climbing Ben Nevis so I won’t be messing around in a t-shirt and shorts the whole time.
  • My knife. This is useful for a whole host of reasons. I might take my Swiss army knife as well, for it’s multi-purpose as a tool.
  • My Zippo Lighter. The quintessential fire starter in my opinion.
  • Sunglasses. When I’m driving at certain times, these will be reaaaally important.
  • Insect repellent. Mosquitos are ten a penny in Scotland right now and, as much as I don’t like it putting it on, a non-deet repellent will be in the bag.
  • My trusty dumbbell. I want to keep exercising as best I can, especially if I’m up at sunrise when the light pierces the tent.
  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, soap and all the rest. A razor for shaving also isn’t too bad an idea because my beard does not look good at all. What do you think of blonde hair and a ginger beard? Personally, I don’t think it’s a pretty picture.
  • My wallet, complete with cash and cards. This is obvious so I won’t elabourate.
  • A road map. My phone won’t get signal everywhere in signal so google maps might have to sit back and relax while my brain fumbles around with my map.
  • My Lonely Planet Guide on Scotland. I love to have a book to read and this one will help me bore Andy with fact after Scottish fact.
  • My phone. I wish I didn’t need it but better safe than sorry.
  • My car charger and T25 Bluetooth hookup. To keep the phone on, and be able to blast music and podcasts through my speakers.
  • A killer playlist. Everything from the Proclaimers, particularly as we’re in Scotland driving for around 500 miles, to Juice Wrld. Just to reiterate though, It would be frankly obscene if the Proclaimers didn’t make the list!
  • Oil. I definitely don’t want my car to breakdown because I didn’t bring it.
  • A pen, pad of paper, and my laptop. All to keep you guys updated from the road.

If you think of anything else I should take, that would be much appreciated. This list isn’t exhaustive but it’s been flitting around the back of my mind in advance of the forthcoming trip so it feels good to get it down on paper.

The NC-500 promises to be stunning. I’ll post my own photos as we go, or when we get back, but if you’re interested in advance, check out some of the best and most beatiful landmarks to visit on the route right here.

I can’t wait to get back to you guys with stories from the NC-500. I’ll endeavour to write a couple more articles before I leave on the trip; however, with exams in full flow, I can’t promise anything! Ciao for now…

7 Road Trip Tips Everyone Needs to Know

I am an avid fan of road trips. I profess that I have committed to almost as many road trips in my future as I have already eaten hot dinners in my past! Moreover, I’ve already journeyed upon hundreds of road trips, both short and long, over the five years since I first learnt to drive.

In my opinion, that makes me something of a self-taught expert on ‘all things road-trip’. I therefore hope the following pearls of wisdom help you out!

  1. Budget

Road tripping can be a fantastically cheap option for travelling; however, there are a number of costs people just forget about that end up draining the bank account.

That’s why you need to draw up a budget; don’t worry though, it can just be a basic one. Work out what you can afford to expend and then list the costs of your trip. This will likely include petrol, tolls, accommodation, food, and other essential costs. It may also include non-essential costs, like entry fees for things you want to see.

Make sure your budget caters for the necessities first and then the luxuries if they are still possible. You don’t want to find that you are too short on money to afford the petrol to get back home!  

  1. Work out where you are sleeping

You need somewhere to sleep out on the road. Where that is will depend heavily upon your priorities.

A quick cost benefit of analysis of your accommodation options will be necessary to construct your budget and properly plan your trip. I personally like to sleep in my car, or alternatively to wild camp. These options won’t cost you a penny, although they’re arguably less comfortable than a motel or Airbnb. If you are wishing to do either though, make sure you’re comfortable with the safety of your surrounding area and the laws of the land. Wild camping isn’t legal everywhere, and nor is sleeping in your car, so be aware of the rules.

If you want any ideas on cheap travel accommodation options, then check out my article here!

  1. Food for Thought

I think with my stomach more than my head or my heart. That’s why I like to do a bit of planning when it comes to what I’m going to be eating.

Alongside accommodation and petrol, food is likely to constitute your biggest outlay spending wise. Getting your eating habits right can save you a lot of money.

Make your own food, dine where locals eat, and avoid petrol station sandwiches. All good ideas, but if you want a little more advice on how to eat well for less when you travel, check out my post on the topic here!

  1. Learn the rules of the road

This one can be ‘life or death’, and I’m not kidding around about that.

Ending up on the wrong side of the road, which is particularly easy when the entire world drives across from us English folk, can make for a dangerous journey.

Knowing the rules of the road is actually a little more complicated than just knowing which side to be on though. Being aware that cops carry guns in America and that, until asked, you shouldn’t get out of your vehicle are facts unfamiliar to many amongst the British. Moreover, if you were to travel to France, it is a legal requirement that you carry in your car the following; warning triangles, high-vis jackets, a government certified breathalyzer kit, and an alcohol detection kit.

Although it is arguable whether most of the aforementioned rules are crucial to the effective running of the roads, or whether they are legacies of mind-numbing bureaucracy, you need to know all about them anyway. Do your research to stay safe!

  1. Choose your companion wisely

Not everyone makes for a good travel partner. In fact, great travel companions are few and far between. How many people would you want to spend a week trapped in a metal box with?

It’s a question I fortunately don’t have to ask that often. Having had several incredibly boring road trips, one with a particularly sleepy and verbally un-exciting ex-girlfriend, I now know my best friend Andrew to be my perfect road-trip companion. A best friend, with whom you spend much of your time, or perhaps your partner, will likely make for good companions.

If, however, you can’t stick spending time with them, perhaps consider being a lone wolf for your next trip! You’ll find yourself with a distinct freedom that, if you take the necessary safety precautions, you will no doubt enjoy.

  1. Make yourself a cracking playlist

You’re going to spend a lot of time behind the wheel. If you’re doing a proper road trip, then there isn’t any way around that. It’s what you’ve signed up for to be honest!

With all that driving though, having a little background music to keep you going will undoubtedly be necessary. Don’t forget to download a few podcasts onto your phone as well. Hours and hours of fantastic audio content to peruse will keep your mind ticking over so that you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel. I know people whom this has happened to and anything to mitigate the risk is really important.

If, however, you do feel tired then park up and get a kip. There’s really no sense in trying to stave off the tiredness.

  1. Plan but don’t plan too much!

If you’re reading this, then it’s fairly safe to say you’re into planning out your trips. There is no shame in that. I am all for getting excited by your future plans and working out some particulars to get the most out of where you’re going!

Even so, there is something entirely novel, by nature of course, about stepping into the unknown. Make your trip as spontaneous as you feel you can. Stretch your comfort zone and get a little loose with your planning. I guarantee it’s more fun when you don’t place flesh beyond the bare bones of your trip.

Conclusion

I can’t recommend a good road trip enough. This article hopefully gave you a few ideas on how to plan for one. I’ll undoubtedly expand on this article in the future but, for now, ciao! Stay safe out there.