The NC500 and other summer adventures

It’s slowly coming up to the end of the semester (or too quickly if you have an upcoming dissertation deadline), and while many will be heading home for the summer, many will also stay around and want to explore Scotland. Today, I bring you some of my best holiday adventures during my time in Dundee, none of which require a car or a lot of money (because I have neither), but a few may require being slightly insane.

Summer 2021

Last summer, my two big adventures were cycling the North Coast 500 and living in the Cairngorms for 3 months.

I would most definitely recommend the NC500, whether by car or bike, it definitely was some of my best days in Scotland yet. I cycled with a friend and we took 12 days with the bikes but did quite a few stop-offs and other activities. By car, I would recommend taking at least 4 days, but preferably a week to enjoy all the sights fully. Some of my favourite memories from the trip were dolphins at Rosemarkie, waking up to an insane sunrise on Keiss Beach, arriving at John O’Groats and Duncansby Stacks, surfing at Dunnet Beach, climbing Ben Hope, cycling up the road at Quinag and down to Loch Assynt, swimming at Achmelvich and climbing Stac Pollaidh. We camped every night, a mix of campsites and wild camping, met so many lovely people and got amazing weather for most of it. Stunning views all along and pretty good road surfaces for most of it.

For the Cairngorms, I got a job at a hotel for a few months, providing me with hills and trails right on my doorstep. This allowed me to spend almost every day running, cycling, mountain biking, wild swimming, hiking or sightseeing in a stunning place.

Summer 2020

In 2020, I got a job picking berries in Fife after the pandemic hit and eventually became an avid cyclist because of it. I spent multiple days per week exploring Angus, Fife and Perthshire by bike, seeing all the sights, taking millions of photos and eating a lot of food along the way (if I cycle for a few hours I can absolutely eat a whole cake, maybe 2). When my job ended in August, I decided to tick off some things I had been wanting to do for a while, namely bikepacking (had to get into biking first) and munro bagging (I had the hiking experience from home but very difficult to get to remote places without a car). For the bikepacking I headed out to Fort William and (very slowly) cycled down the coast for a few days, while also sightseeing, running a bit, attempting to vlog and catching a boat to see some seals. The route is off the road, there are quite a few train stations as possible exit points and it is pretty flat so I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to try bikepacking. The munros were the more difficult challenge. Following an absolutely insane idea, I decided to attempt to cycle from Dundee to the bottom of Mount Keen, hike up and then cycle home, giving myself the possibility of turning around if I needed to. Well, I am a stubborn idiot, so after 14 hours of straight exercise, I completed my first ever 100mile ride and climbed my first munro. I repeated this for Mayar and Driesh and the Cairnwell Munros and did Ben Chonzie by bus with an insane boggy 35k hike for what is meant to be an easy hill, although unlike Keen I had learned to not do those as solo missions and somehow found people insane enough to join. If you think bike&hike sounds fun but you are not keen enough for the distance the Sidlaws offer some pretty great options for shorter days that only require a 20-40k cycle for many.

Summer 2019

I spent most of my first summer at uni at home, but I still made time for some pretty great adventures in the time I did spend here. Most prominently, a joke about ‘we should totally walk to Skye’ with a friend somehow actually turned into walking the West Highland Way in 5 days and then venturing on to Skye, where our tired feet had us walking around a bit less than planned. Despite being pretty dead afterwards, it was one pretty cool adventure and we got a pretty good taste of Scotland and the stupid adventures I would go on to drag her out for in the next years. Absolutely would recommend the West Highland Way (although maybe take more than 5 days and eat things other than dehydrated pasta) and highly recommend visiting Skye (there are some pretty decent buses on the island and a train to Kyle of Lochalsh).

And plans for this summer you ask? Well, it does slightly depend on hopefully receiving a job offer and when I am meant to start work, but the general plan is to see as much of the UK as possible once I have handed in my dissertation and maybe move to the highlands again for a bit after my flat in Dundee ends. My friend has now bought a car and we are working on converting it into a mini camper (blog about the budget camper coming soon), so we will likely be spending some time living in there and enjoying our last summer before starting grad jobs and getting less time to adventure.

Written by:

I'm a 4th-year Environmental Science student from Switzerland. I'm interested in all things outdoors and sports and mostly use this blog to talk about my adventure trips around Dundee and further afield, so come along while I discover Scotland bit by bit!

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