Accommodation on the NC500

Pete and I spent a week driving around the Highlands the first week of August and these are the seven places we stayed along the NC500 route. I booked the first four nights up the east coast and Pete chose the three places on the west side.

This post was a collaboration between me and Pete – who wheeled about South East Asia a couple of years ago an adventure you can read about here.

Apologies in advance for the lack of accommodation photos, but both of us kept forgetting they would be useful!

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Night One

31 July 2019

The Garden House Guest House, Strathpeffer, £80 per night

http://www.gardenhouseguesthouse.co.uk/index.html

Hosts: I’m terrible at names, but this husband and wife team were amazing! We arrived pretty late (after 7pm) and they were super helpful in telling us where to find a feed. They also had no problem with moving things around the room (and taking them out!) so Pete could get about.

Accessibility: There are two wide steps and a big step up through the door. Pete transferred from the top step into the foyer area and I lifted his chair over him into the hallway*. After a slight adjustment to some of the furniture, Pete was able to navigate the room.

The bathroom was quite big with a walk in shower and I’m sure if you arranged in advance, the hosts would probably find a garden chair or similar to sit on. It would be big enough if you took your own shower chair as well.

*There is a step free back entrance, but the door was too narrow for Pete’s chair – he has cambered wheels for London living and is about 26 inches wide.

Breakfast: Breakfast was delicious! Our hosts had specifically bought in some gluten free corn flakes and bread for me (well aware of cross contamination as well!), and they did an English breakfast as well! It felt like the courses just kept coming. It’s a cozy dining room that promotes talking between guests and the hosts as they come in and out.

Location: The house was a walkable distance from the main street, however it is located on a steep hill.

Cost: £80 per night, super good value, of course price may vary depending on the season.

 

 

Night Two

1 August 2019

Inver Park House, Dunbeath £100 per night

http://www.inver-caravan-park.co.uk/

Hosts: Another husband and wife team, we did not start of on a good foot. Rhona had communicated by email when I booked that they had moved some cyclists out of the accessible room for us and I had forgotten to reply. She was a bit surprised when we turned up as not replying apparently means not rocking up. It felt a bit like I was 14 again and getting in trouble with the teacher! If you stay here make sure you communicate with the hosts!

Accessibility: Inver Park was the only place we stayed in that was fully accessible. The room we stayed in in the main house had three single beds, with plenty of space and a wet room with a fold down shower seat. Inver Park has a Category 1 ‘Unassisted Wheelchair Use’ accessibility award with disabled access in both the house and the camping grounds.

Breakfast: Another delicious hot breakfast, which overlooked a pretty garden. I was offered gluten free toast to go with it as well, but due to the welcome the evening before I felt explaining that it would need to be toasted separately, etc would have been asking too much. The plate was super full anyway so if I had the toast I would have needed to pop a button on my jeans!

Location: This was in a great spot for us as it was mid-way up the east coast. It’s a bit of a remote location with only one restaurant nearby. There is a SPAR, but as with most things in country locations, it shuts early. The Bay Owl is quite busy so a reservation is needed. Both are within walking distance, but there wasn’t an accessible path.  We didn’t book, but our hosts rang up and they managed to squeeze us in before a cyclist rush.

Cost: I booked this one through hotels.com, so it is cheaper if you book direct (I think about £15-20 cheaper).

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Night Three

2 August 2019

John O’Groats Guest House, John O’Groats, £75 per night

https://www.johnogroatsguesthouse.com/

Hosts: Mark and Mary are like the grandparents you never had! Mark came out as soon as we pulled up and helped with baggage and Mary had a pot of tea ready. Pete and I really wanted to get over to Orkney and Mary was kind enough to ring up the booking office and check out if it was accessible (it’s not, but we still did it).

Accessibility: There is a little door ledge to get over, but a castor flick was all it took. We stayed in room one which was wide on one side for Pete. The bathroom was a bit small, but Pete could get his chair in there. It had one of those corner showers that is raised from the ground. Luckily, Pete is a wizz at chair to floor transfers. The bathroom doorway was a bit of a tight squeeze and there may have been a bit of paint flakes happening.

Breakfast: Mary is amazing in the kitchen. Pancakes are included on the breakfast menu and Mary made the perfect gluten free pancakes. She had a great understanding of cross contamination and made mine before the ‘normal’ pancakes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling very well that morning so I only had a few mouthfuls of them and a hot breakfast before bailing and having a lay down.

Location: Super easy to find, it’s just as you come into John O’Groats from the south on the left of the road. It’s a white building with red trimming.

Cost: we paid £75 for one night, bed and breakfast. I rang up and booked on the phone, and luckily they had a room for the first night we spent in John O’Groats. 

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photo from the Guesthouse website.
Night Four
3 August 2019

Burnside Cottage, John O’Groats, £105 per night

http://www.burnside-cottage.co.uk/

Hosts: Kacey and her husband were available through phone whenever needed, but had a great balance with also providing privacy. This was another place that I had booked over the phone – no email confirmation – what?! So this is how things were done before the internet existed!
Accessibility: Pete showed off his transfer skills to get through the door – this was mainly due to his chair being too wide. Kacey mentioned that as a host it was informative for her as she hadn’t had a full time wheelchair user stay before so wasn’t sure on accessibility needs. We stayed in the Raven Room, which had two single beds. The bathroom was small with a corner shower, which could possibly make transfers difficult. Pete said these beds were the comfiest we slept in.
Breakfast: I should have taken photos of the breakfasts as well! A smorgasbord was on offer, with fresh fruit and juice with yoghurt and cereals as well as a gluten free Scottish breakfast – with toast!
Location: Feels like a bit of a random road, but it was easy to find using the SatNav and following the signs on the road.

Cost: £105 per night, which included a delicious hot breakfast. Burnside Cottage also provide eco friendly vegan toiletries, which I still am using a few months on. 

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Night Five

4 August 2019

Smoo Cave Hotel, Durness, £110 per night

WELCOME

Hosts: This was a hotel so we didn’t really see much of the staff except the girls in the dining room who were super helpful with everything and great for a chat.

Accessibility: There is a step free access to the side but it is over gravel, so it may be easier just to go through the front door and over the little ledge. Our room was through the dining room, which was a bit tight, especially if it is full of diners. The room itself was a bit tight too but just wide enough on the door side of the bed for Pete. There is an accessible toilet in between the bar and the dining room but the ensuite to our room was on the smaller size.

Breakfast: Another full English/Scottish on the menu. Got to do a shout out for the dinner menu here – lots of gluten free options, Pete and I spent about two hours in the dining room eating a three course meal.

Location: The hotel is in walking distance from Smoo Cave and is at the end of a country road with lots of parking. As the rooms are in the hotel, we didn’t need to go out for food or drink. The bar was open and had quite a few whiskeys for Pete to try.

Cost: £110 a night with breakfast. 

No photos of the actual site, but this is the view from the back –

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Night Six
5 August 2019
Newton Lodge, Kylesku Lairg, £150 per night
Hosts: We only met half of the husband and wife team at Newton Lodge. He was a bit surprised when we rocked up and originally didn’t seem too helpful about the room situation (even though it was Pete’s fault for not mentioning the whole wheelchair when booking) but he did move us to the ground floor and pointed us in the direction of dinner.
Accessibility: The accessibility would have been much better if Pete had mentioned that he was a wheelchair user when he booked this place! The main entrance has about three steps to get up onto the porch which isn’t fun to do in the wet and smothered in midges. We were originally booked into a first floor room that would have been pretty perfect as it was quite big, with plenty of space to get around the bed and into the bathroom. There is a room that has outside access with a ramp – but apparently this room had already been booked by someone with accessibility needs (we were told).
The room we were moved to was much smaller than the original upstairs room we were assigned but a bit of furniture re-arranging got Pete to at least the door of the bathroom. It was not wide enough to get into though. The bathroom was rectangular with the shower down one end and the toilet the other with the basin in between and the door opposite that. The bathroom was less than an arm span wide so the wheelchair didn’t fit in it which meant a bit of floor shuffling for Pete.

Breakfast: The breakfast included a a cheese plate! I can’t remember what else I had, but the cheese was amazing. Looking out over the loch with the sun streaming warmly through was a great start to the day.

Location: It wasn’t very well signposted  unless you know what you are looking for. They also have specific check in times so if you get there early it would be better to explore the area – although it is a bit of a long drive and some tiny, tiny roads to get places.
The building is located on the side of a loch which has beautiful views from the dining room, unfortunately the summer months brings midges, which are super abundant in this location.
Cost: This was the most expensive place we stayed but it is really nice. It’s been newly renovated and looks absolute mint.
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Night Seven
6 August 2019
Muthu Alexandra Hotel. Oban, £125.92
Hosts: This is a chain hotel, but the staff were ok. The building has an old Victorian vibe and has old world charm.
Accessibility: There is a disabled car park out the front of the hotel – which is useless as all the front entrances have many steps to get into the building and then internal carpeted steps as well. There is a car park in the back – I had to go in and ask about this so make sure you check the accessibility beforehand either via phone or email – and that has step free access. At check in you will also have to make sure you’re put in a room close to the elevator as the floors are multi-leveled.
I’m not sure if they do accessible rooms or not, but we stayed in a sea view twin room. The room itself was fine and wide enough for Pete to get around and to his bed but the doorway into the bathroom was ridiculously narrow. A bit more floor dragging happened for Pete and it was a shower over bath situation.
Breakfast: Breakfast was a commercial buffet with a lot of the food laid upon bread. It took asking three different people before I got a meal straight from the kitchen to avoid cross contamination, mainly due to language barriers. The hotel caters to large tour groups so the breakfast room was a bit of a mess when we got down and there were hardly any tables that were set. They did have a few bits of fresh fruit and cereals to go with the hot buffet.
Location: The hotel is in a fabulous location overlooking Oban Bay and about a five minute walk to the main part of Oban.
Cost: It wasn’t the most cost effective place we stayed, especially when compared to some of the other places we stayed.
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Full accessible accommodation is hard to find in the Highlands, but if you can adapt a bit and are up for an adventure, there are a few places that will do you.

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