Is this Scottish road the best EV destination in the world right now?
Charging infrastructure is growing at an incredible rate. In the last year alone, the UK installed a record number of 16,000 chargers, and the US hit a total of 165,000 public charging ports. So, going off the beaten track in an EV isn't that big of a deal anymore. That's why we are putting together a new series of drives you cannot miss – starting with the famed North Coast 500. It doesn't get much more remote than the west coast of Scotland, but the visual rewards are more than worth it. And now, with charging stations to support it, here is why the Scottish Highlands are a must-visit for all EV fans.
What is it – and why should I go?
The Highlands is the ‘Scotland’ you imagine when you think about Scotland. A vast landscape of rugged peaks plummeting into mysterious lochs and serene glens. The most famous loch is, of course, Loch Ness with the friendly loch monster Nessie (as the locals call her), but the Loch Ness is only one of almost 30,000 freshwater lochs in Scotland.
Covering almost 26,000 square kilometres of northern Scotland, the Highlands is the spot for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and hiking in the country. The region is one of the least populated areas in Europe, with only eight people per square kilometre, so if you go during the low season, you’ll likely be pursuing your hobbies in solitude. (To get an idea of how scarcely populated this area is, compare it to the almost 5,600 people per square kilometre living in London).
But it is within this remoteness that a lot of the charm of this area lies. Its craggy and raw beauty is virtually untouched beyond the occasional white stone house on a hillside, and in this absence of humanity, other creatures thrive. Sheep roam the mountains, while the iconic Highland cows munch away in the plains, as otters swim the lochs, and majestic deer wander the forests.
And because this is the Highlands, cell phone reception is, at best, spotty in places. In other words, it’s the perfect destination for anyone who needs a digital detox.
Must-see destinations along the way
The North Coast 500 (NC500) is a roughly 500-mile (800-kilometre) route cutting through the magnificent scenery of west Scotland. Hailed by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the best drives in the world, the NC500 takes you to all the most breathtaking spots, like the Applecross pass, Kylesku Bridge, and Shieldaig, along with countless picturesque beaches and bays.
The most famous part of the NC500 is probably the pass leading to Applecross. Famed for its spectacular views, steep gradients and sharp hairpin turns, this challenging but beautiful stretch of road is a must drive. Once you’ve reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of Wester Ross (not the fictive continent from Game of Thrones) and, on clear days, the Isle of Skye.
Kylesku Bridge is another highlight on the NC500. Arriving in the small fishing hamlet of Kylesku, this distinctively curved bridge creates a seamless transition between land and loch. As you drive across, the landscape opens up to an outstanding view of Loch a’ Chairn Bhain.
Elaine Donan Castle is one of the most photo friendly castles in the country, featured in movies like the James Bond classic “The world is not enough” and “Highlander.” This iconic 13th Century building is located on its own separate island, overlooking the Isle of Skye, with regular viewings of dolphins, porpoises, and otters.
Driving an EV in the west of Scotland
Once the preserve of petrol heads, this classic road trip road now draws EV drivers from across the country due to the ever-expanding charging infrastructure in Scotland (current data from ChargePlace Scotland shows that there are 2,286 charging points across the country – and counting). Visitors will find that the coasts and islands of the Highlands are now specked with charging stations and it’s no surprise that a recent survey named the NC500 ‘the best EV road trip in the UK.’
For the best experience, make sure you have a ChargePlace Scotland card to keep your car topped up (remember, cell reception can be spotty in places). There is a mix of rapid and 7.3kw chargers along the coasts, and it’s all renewable energy. At peak times of the year, the rapid chargers might have a slightly longer wait.
Roads and safety
It's important to note is that most of the roads in the Highlands – and along the NC500 route – are country roads, some of which are single-track roads. When driving these roads, it’s important to be observant. Look out for sharp bends, dips, blind summits, and other potential hazards.
In many places, the roads are unfenced. This means you’re sharing space with all the lovely wildlife in the area. Drivers should be mindful of cows, sheep, goats, and deer wandering along or across the roads.
Oh, and remember, despite its cool name, NC500 is not a racetrack. Highland cattle rule this wildlife haven.
When to visit and who you’ll meet
In all honesty, we couldn’t tell you when the best time is to visit. All seasons will have their charm. What we can tell you is this: no matter if it’s sunny, snowing, or raining, the landscape of the Scottish Highlands is consistently gorgeous. Just going at all might be the key. And if you go in December, like we did, you might get to experience all four seasons in one day (if you’re lucky).
Another highlight is the warmth and hospitality of Highlanders. And that, without fail, they will tell you that the most beautiful place on earth is the Scottish Highlands.
And even though the Highlanders may be biased, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The only way to know is to find out.
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