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Couple's slow tourism challenge on NC500

By Staff Reporter

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An eco-friendly couple are attempting to find out how easy it is to travel along the 545-mile tourist route NC500 using only public transport.

Michael and Jenny Willmot, of Staffordshire, are due to set off by rail from Inverness on Friday, September 13, and have allocated a week to finish the journey.

And they are appealing to the public to come up with suggestions to help them out such as baggage storage, accommodation near bus stops and community transport.

The Willmots, who have been regular visitors to Sutherland for more than 40 years, are well known for the work they have undertaken to safeguard redundant buildings at Helmsdale Railway Station.

Mr Willmot set up the Helmsdale Station Community Interest Company, which undertook a £180,000 project to renovate the stationmaster’s house and run it as a not-for-profit holiday letting business.

Travelling by public transport has four advantages, according to Mr Willmot.

He said: “It’s environmentally friendly and supports rural transport services as well as assists local communities since all provisions and accommodation are purchased en route. Also, it exemplifies slow tourism, offering the opportunity to absorb the culture and heritage of the communities.”

From Inverness, the couple will follow the east coast on the Far North line to Wick and Thurso.

“There are two problems once we reach the north coast,” said Mr Willmot. “The first is that the bus from Thurso to Durness runs just once a week on Saturdays, so it is fairly important not to miss it.

“The second is that over the 545 miles of our route, there are 19 miles between Scourie and Inchnadamph where there is no public transport and we will need to find a lift or a local taxi.”

The two intend to stop at places of interest such as Balnakeil Craft village, Cape Wrath and Inverewe Gardens.

Following their journey, they will publish a report on their experiences.

Mr Willmot said: “The report will highlight gaps in transport provision which will need to be filled if this travel option is to be seriously promoted.”

View the Willmots’ itinerary at http://tinyurl.com/PubTransNC500 Email suggestions to: PublicTransportNC500@gmail.com

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