Last night I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Glasgow office of law firm Burness Paull to hear all about the amazing North Coast 500 from 3 speakers in the know. Firstly Tom Campbell (CEO of North Coast 500), Martin Murray (cofounder of Dunnet Bay Distillers) and James McCallum the fast man to cycle the North Coast 500.
The North Coast 500 (NC500) was created in 2014 by the North Highland Initiative. Bringing together a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, the route path naturally follows the main roads across the coastal edges of the North Highlands taking in the villages and towns of places like Ullapool, Durness, John O'Groats, Dornoch and Inverness.
The Official North Coast 500 route begins and ends in Inverness at Inverness Castle. The Castle is a perfect starting point to the route as perched on the hill and offers unparalleled views over the capital city of the Highlands.
Asked to sum up the NC500, Tom Campbell said "Life-changing". That really came across as Tom told the story of starting and growing NC500. Prior to NC500 few people would travel north of Inverness let alone holiday there and tour around.
With the introduction of the NC500 brand business have popped up all over the route and there's been a net benefit to the local economy of £9 million. So clearly the NC500 has had a life-changing affect on the communities along the route but the same is true for those that undertake the route. The gorgeous scenery around the route, the communities along the way and the world class artisan food and produce make it a unique experience.
The second speaker on the night, Martin Murray, had a typical story for many from the north of Scotland. A career in oil and gas was the way of life for many with the North Sea oil fields on their doorstep. But oil and gas was never his passion plus it was a dangerous occupation. With a young family Martin took the step to start out with his own business and he decided to make gin.
The Dunnet Bay Distillery is at the very north of Scotland in Caithness. Founded in 2014 the distillery has grown at quite a rate of the last 3 years. Aided by two things; firstly a great story to tell and presence on social media and secondly the NC500.
Hearing Martin speak you could really get a sense of his passion for his craft and his vision for the company in years to come. (Sadly I took the car but I do plan to pick up a bottle of Rock Rose Gin soon and might do a wee review on the Pocket Leap blog).
The last speaker James McCallum was truly inspirational. Sadly his story started with a terrible personal loss. Following the death of his sister-in-law, Charlene Doolan who died in 2015, Jame decided to ride the NC500 to raise money for the Thrombosis UK charity in memory of Charlene.
Well actually... thats only partially true. James decided to do it in world record time. James reached Inverness again 520 miles and 31 hours after his departure. But in doing he actually spent 28 hours 57 minutes in the saddle. He cycled through the night and only took short breaks when forced to by his friends supporting him along the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and I'm determined to do the NC500 in the coming months. I actually turn 30 later this year and was planning on going a short break - I'm not convinced I should be doing that exploring the wonderful experiences on my doorstep.
To learn more about the NC500 check out their website at http://northcoast500.com and hopefully I bump into you on it one day