Launched in 2015, The North Coast 500 has rapidly become one of Scotland’s most popular tourist destinations, literally an overnight sensation. In its first year of operation it was named by Now Travel Magazine as one of the Top 5 Coastal Routes in the world. After just one year of operations, visitors to Dunnet Bay Distillers, makers of Rock Rose Gin, increased 5 fold, from 20 per week to 100. The fairytale-like Dunrobin Castle in Golspie smashed a 20-year record in visitor numbers, and 96% of those surveyed said they either would definitely or probably make the journey a second time.
The NC500 is a 516-mile circular route around the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland, comprised of the traditional counties of Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, and Caithness. Prior to 2015 it was felt this area was not receiving it’s “fair share” of Scotland’s burgeoning tourism traffic despite having all of the features tourist to Scotland typically seek, namely whisky distilleries, castles, quaint villages with local shops, beaches, walking and hiking trails, etc. The problem was how to bring all of these features together into one cohesive iconic tourist destination. The answer - the North Coast 500 - a grand circular road trip conceived by the North Highland Tourist Initiative and supported by Visit Scotland and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
First and foremost the NC500 is a grand scenic road trip, filled with “roadside attractions” to be sure, but a scenic trip nonetheless. It has become known as “Scotland’s Route 66” not as a migratory route as the “Mother road” once was in the USA, but because of its offer of adventure and discovery. People drive the route to see this heretofore under appreciated part of Scotland. Now, much of the beauty of the NC 500 can be “seen” without leaving the comfort of your easy chair, thanks to a new coffee-table book, “The Magic of the North Coast 500,” by award wining Scottish photographer John Baikie.
Baikie was born in Caithness and originally pursued a career as a mechanical engineer. It was while playing sports (football) that he spotted an opportunity to make a few pounds on the side doing sports photography for newspapers then eventually branching into wedding photography which led to a change in his career path. He has since been honored as Scotland’s “Wedding Photographer of the Year” on multiple occasions. He is also sought after for commercial portraiture and product photography. Landscape photography, the type of work featured in his book, up until now has been more of a hobby.
(Click on any image below to see enlarged)
This is Baikie’s first book which he says came from “a dark place” when, despite his success, he was faced with a degree of self doubt. Baikie funded the project via the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, and credits the support he received from his backers as a significant aid in bringing the project into being. In return for their support, backers received a signed and numbered limited edition of the book (limited to 200 copies). Other reward levels allowed some contributors to even select their favorite site along the NC500 to be photographed by Baikie and included in the book. As Baikie sees it, crowdfunding offers new opportunities for individual photographers to bring their work to the public without the daunting challenge of investing thousands of dollars to publish and then waiting/hoping to see if their book is a success. (Click on any image below to see it enlarged.)
So why the NC500? Baikie says quite simply because it is home. Landscape photography is about heart and feelings he says. For any photograph to make it into the book Baikie says he had to feel “something.” Clearly he is a man of very deep feelings!
Fortunately if you were unaware of his campaign and missed contributing to it, Baikie’s “The Magic of the North Coast 500” is available for sale to the public. See the ordering link below .
Baikie hopes his book will inspire more people to visit and travel the route. He writes though that “the real magic of the NC500 is discovered by getting off the beaten path. By getting the walking boots on and really getting into the area. Clifftop walks, over hills, across beaches.”
For anyone who has been on the NC500 Baikie’s work will no doubt trigger fond memories and perhaps show them sights seen in a new light. For those who are planing a visit, this book will only serve to raise their expectations and excitement. And for those who may never travel Scotland’s Route 66, we can be thankful that John Baikie has, and that he shared the adventure with us!
•Order The Magic of the North coast 500 here
•Read what others have said about John’s book here
•John Baikie website
•John Baikie on Facebook
•John Baikie YouTube Channel
•John Baikie on Instagram
•The North Coast 500 website
•North Coast 500 trip planning advice @VisitScotland
•Listen to our original podcast on the NC500 here