Road tripping the NC500
A spectrum of conditions and dramatic panoramas.

Every year a group of us get together for a road trip into the deep wild to recharge the creative batteries. These road trips usually consist of hiking, climbing and wild camping and of course a tonne of photography.

This year's destination was Scotland and specifically the North Coast 500 (NC500), Isle Skye, Glen Coe and Fort Williams. We knew that with Scotland’s unpredictable weather combined with the elements of wild camping, we needed to be protected from the elements. I’d seen and purchased some Rohan gear at the Photography Show the year before and I was hugely impressed with the quality and how it had performed.

Some standout items for the trip were the Ascent and Helix jackets, Bags travel trousers and the Flex jeans. I’d also purchased the Merino Base Layer set from my local Wimbourne Rohan shop a couple days before the trip. Two members of our group, understandably, had pulled out of the journey to self-isolate following a working gig the week before. However, we wanted to push on with the trip – at this point in time, the Government policies had not been enforced re. Coronavirus.

Day 1

Early start and a tonne of miles but thankfully we made it in time for a moody sunset over the valley of Glen Coe. We still had a few miles to cover before hitting the digs in Fort William. Quick bit of food, recharge all the batteries and crack on with some edits by the fire.

Road tripping the NC500

Day 2

Early morning was bliss on day two - sun and blue skies, but that quickly changed in true Scottish fashion with moody clouds and heavy rain showers. That wind chill was no laughing matter. Our final stop on day two before retreating back to the log fire was Duncansby, a 10-minute drive from John o’Groats. The wind was just too much to shoot anything productively so we opted to head back for sunrise when the wind is often calmer. However, the Helix jacket performed really well, stopping the wind and rain in its tracks.

Road tripping the NC500

Day 3

Clear skies on day three but a huge drop in temperature meant the base layer went back on. Sunrise over the Duncansby stacks was pretty special. I grew up along the Jurassic Coast with places like Durdle Door a 10-minute drive from home, so I’m used to (and lucky to experience) dramatic landscapes, but this was next level straight out of Game of Thrones. Back in the car for more miles under the wheels stopping at old castles, gorgeous deep blue waters along golden sands and a different landscape around every bend.

Again, weather came into play at one of the key spots we had pencilled in for several shots we all had in mind. We tried to wait it out and shelter in a local hotel overlooking Loch Gleann Dubh. With the light fading away and the weather still not in our favour, we had to push on because no one likes pitching tents in the dark or in the rain.

Road tripping the NC500

Day 4

Although we had already seen snow, heavy rain and blissful sun, something told me day four was going to be a winner. We woke up in Ullapool on a beautiful morning and headed out, stopping at a local shop for petrol and coffee. That was our first bit of civilisation in a few days and the severity of the pandemic was striking a little fear throughout the group. Today we pushed on towards Applecross and Skye. (Side note: The Flex jeans are perfect for long distance driving and long hikes they are literally flexible!)

At this point in the trip the mountains were starting to become bigger and more dramatic - it often felt like you could be within their shadows for a few hours while hiking around them. We made it to the top of Bealach na Bà “Pass of the Cattle”, where we scrambled along the ridge to reach a stunning view down the far side of the valley over Loch Coire nan Arr. People don’t often see this from the car and it was certainly not for the faint hearted. Minus two and an intense wind chill, but totally worth the gorgeous view. My body was warm and protected from the Rohan gear I was wearing - I just wish I packed more socks!

Day 5

Sunrise over Storr on a beautiful calm yet moody morning. The Helix jacket again was the star of this hike, the perfect lightweight layer. You soon get warm on those Scottish inclines and when I wasn’t wearing it, it rolled away into the side pocket of my daypack for easy access. I love to put people in my images for scale against dramatic landscapes and the bright Blaze Orange colour of the Helix and the True Red of the Ascent jacket really helped my images to ‘pop’.

We needed this night pitching our tents on the shores of Loch Awe overlooking the famous Kilchurn Castle ruins. Top tip for wild camping: if you can, always ask the land owner and never leave anything behind.

Day 6

A very frosty morning waking up to a frozen tent, frozen boots and slightly frozen friends but we were treated to a gorgeous deep orange sunrise between the mountains and across the Loch.

With news of lockdown reaching us in the wild, we quickly packed up the gear and started heading south. We missed out on climbing Nevis due to bad weather, so a cheeky trip into Wasdale for a short hike up into Scafell and the Great Gable on a beautiful clear day was much needed. We ended our memorable trip with beers and dinner before the long drive home in the early morning.

All-in-all, a memorable trip with many grand vistas captured.

Simon Allen is a Dorset-based photographer with a keen-eye for travel, commercial and wedding projects. His first camera, purchased ten years ago, was a Canon 1100d and Simon says photography has opened many doors for him, and introduced him to some incredible people.

You’ll mostly find him along the coastline in the early hours, or just before sunset, seeking out the perfect light with his camera and drone. Drones when used right and in a safe manner, he says, can create a unique perspective of our surrounding landscape. Find out more about Simon and see more of his photography portfolio.