Embarking on the North Coast 500 (NC500) is akin to stepping into a rich tapestry woven with history, stunning landscapes, and intriguing folklore. Known as Scotland’s Route 66, this epic 516-mile journey weaves around the raw and untamed beauty of the Highlands, whispering tales of old through the rustling heather and roaring waves. Today, we’ll uncover the myths and legends that echo in the valleys and lochs of this ancient land. Whether you’re a passionate photographer, a lover of van-life, or simply intrigued by the allure of Scottish lore, these tales will surely enhance your NC500 adventure.
Nessie: The Elusive Dweller of Loch Ness
Loch Ness, situated just a stone’s throw from the starting point of the NC500 in Inverness, is shrouded in mystery and enchantment. This loch, known for its dark and brooding beauty, is said to be the abode of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Reports of this creature’s existence date back to the 6th century, featuring in many a tale as a serpent-like creature lurking in the murky waters.
These legends of Nessie, echoed over the centuries, have given Loch Ness an air of irresistible intrigue. Photographers might yearn for the prized shot of this elusive creature, her silhouette emerging from the misty loch. Yet, even without a Nessie sighting, the ethereal beauty of Loch Ness offers countless photographic opportunities. From tranquil dawns to vibrant sunsets, capture the changing moods of the loch as the light dances across its surface.
Selkies: The Shape-shifting Seals of Scottish Seas
Continuing our journey, we head northwards to the rocky shores that are home to the playful seals of Scotland. In Scottish folklore, these creatures hold a place of magical significance, as the mystical beings known as Selkies. Legend tells of these seal folk who shed their skins to walk on land in human form, weaving tales of love, loss, and longing that are as enchanting as they are poignant.
Watching the seals frolicking in the surf, one can almost believe in these tales of transformation. As a van-lifer, the coastal spots frequented by seals can become places of pause and reflection, a chance to observe Scotland’s wildlife up close. And for photographers, seals provide an engaging subject, their playful antics, and expressive eyes perfect for captivating shots.
Fairy Glen of Rosemarkie: An Enchanted Ravine
Our mythic tour then leads us to Rosemarkie on the Black Isle, where fairy folklore lends an air of whimsy to the land. Locally known as the Fairy Glen, this verdant ravine, with the babbling Muckle Burn stream and cascading waterfalls, is said to be teeming with the fey folk. These supernatural beings of Scottish lore were often mischievous, sometimes helpful, but always enchanting.
Immersing yourself in the tranquil beauty of Fairy Glen, it’s easy to imagine it abuzz with fairy activity. The rays of sunlight that filter through the foliage might well be fairy lights. The rustle of leaves could be a fairy’s flight. These captivating surroundings offer numerous photographic opportunities, from the mossy rocks and ancient trees to the play of light and shadow in the forest. And, of course, the enchanting waterfall at the glen’s heart serves as a beautiful backdrop for your van-life memories.
The Wailing Widow Waterfall: A Cascade of Sorrow
Finally, we journey to the northwestern reaches of the NC500, near Kylesku, where the hauntingly beautiful Wailing Widow Waterfall awaits us. According to local legend, this waterfall is named after a mother who lost her son in the nearby loch. Her mournful cries echoed throughout the landscape, imprinting her sorrow on the waterfall’s cascades.
The dramatic scene of the waterfall plummeting from the high loch into a deep gorge creates an overwhelming sense of raw beauty. After heavy rains, the waterfall roars with an intense force that photographers can capture, encapsulating the wild spirit of the Highlands. The eeriness of the legend adds a sense of depth and emotion to the experience, making it a poignant stop in your van-life journey.
The North Coast 500 is a voyage through a land steeped in centuries of lore and legend. As you traverse the stunning landscapes, these tales weave themselves into the fabric of your adventure, adding a mystical dimension to your journey. And as a photographer or a lover of van-life, these stories provide a unique context that can influence your perspective, enriching your journey on Scotland’s iconic North Coast 500.