VW Campers Do Scotland’s NC500 – VW Route 67
When the Scottish Tourist Board threw down the gauntlet by rebranding their north-coast coast road as the alternative to Northern America’s Route 66 – the NC500 – it captured the imagination of many. One such person was the man behind a VW charity run conducted in 2015 – a John O’Groats to Land’s End campervan run, VW Route 67 (http://vwroute67.co.uk) – Paul Aspin. Following successfully raising £6,000 for Crisis he was looking for similar sponsorship opportunities and started the ball rolling for the NC500 trip via his Facebook group.
Now at first you may think – a pleasurable drive around an incredibly picturesque part of the world, why on earth should I sponsor anyone to do this – but actually the entire route is 500 miles long and covers some very different and challenging terrain, and in most cases the roads are single file with passing places. Add this onto the fact that the average age of the VW campers for the 2015 run was 25 years old this was starting to look like more of a challenge.
And so it came to pass that 40 names appeared on the list on the pinned Facebook post on the group wall. 32 ended up paying their £40 deposit which would guarantee and goodie bag and an initial charity contribution, and sure enough over the week of the 27th & 28th May 2016 the wagons gathered at a logical northern starting point – the Volksfling VW festival at Biggar Showground, South Lanarkshire, Scotland.
We had a corner of the main field and generated a fair bit of interest, particularly as we lined up on the Sunday morning in the sun of a beautiful weekend and drove out onto the main road north to Edinburgh and the highlands. It was a grand site – 31 VW campers in a row, yes one had already succumbed to a break down! – and one which was also enjoyed by other road users, notably as Stewart’s Subaru-engined tin top T25 was adorned with balloons for this day, his birthday.
The route took us up from the meeting point at the Volksfling festival at Biggar showground to Inverness for a peaceful first beach-side night (we were actually beach-side every night), across the dramatic and hair-raising Applecross pass to the West coast, up the coast of this breath-takingly beautiful landscape to Ullapool, then to the impressively open north-western tip of mainland UK at Durness, across to bleak north-east tip and John O’Groats, and back down the east coast to Fort Augustus for a last nights’ shenanigans before we eventually splintered back off to the south and our various destinations.
Vans-wise we had 5 T5’s, 4 T4’s, 5 T3’s, 9 T2’s and 2 LT’s. Due to work in progress vehicles we also had a Passat, and the Synchro couple returned in a rather swanky Caddy. There were several breakdowns, the first of which was actually Paul’s own van at the highest point of the Forth bridge. Of course we’ll never find out whether this was actually just a publicity stunt! The 2nd was part way up the Applecross pass when the accelerator cable disconnected from the pedal of one of the T3’s. Needless to say the team rallied round and quickly got the convoy rolling again.
Some kept in touch via CB; some ran at their own speed, but every day there was the wonderful sight of a lovely line up of lovely VW campers to bring a grin to everyone’s face.
So what drove Paul to kick off the whole idea of VW Route 67? 2015 saw Paul’s 50th birthday and he fancied doing something other than sitting at a VW festival and so bounced the idea of the JoG run to his Facebook friends. He’d seen the Campervan Crisis videos on Youtube and so decided to do Campervans for Crisis raising money for this important charity. From there it snow-balled, and this year 2 trips are happening – Lands’ End to JoG (the other way) and the NC500 run.
With uncanny warm weather, much later light & short nights the Applecross & Ullapool stops were the most sociable – sitting out round campfires, some making new friends, others sharing a laugh reminiscing of the previous years trips – new friendships with common interests despite origins from many different parts of the UK.
Tim had driven all the way up from Brighton in his LT Westfalia Florida, Ian from Dorset in his tin top bay, Camper Chics Jess & Jenny with their kids in their T2 & T3 flip tops from Hertfordshire, several Scottish friends, representatives from the Wirral, Manchester & further north and 2 groups from Wales.
The drives were long. Even short distances in this part of the world take time. Hard work in parts but always absolutely beautiful with some literally jaw dropping vistas at every turn the NC500 really doesn’t disappoint. There were plenty of detours, itineraries and stop-offs as required which allowed some independence but most preferred to get to the next destination and make camp. A love of making & breaking camp was definitely required.