A COUPLE ditched the rat race and bought Britain’s most remote service station – after falling in love with the NC500 road.
The North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to America’s famous Route 66, attracting thousands of tourists every year.
Among its fans were Sharon and David McLean who loved it so much they’ve moved from the Borders to open a successful filling station, shop and coffee bar on the iconic route.
And their brave decision has paid off, as their fledgling business is now mobbed with supercar drivers and hordes of adventure motorcyclists.
Sharon, 45, a Lancashire lass and David, 47, both had good jobs, Sharon as a PA and David as a project engineer.
Sharon said: “We both had a week’s holiday in spring last year. David had heard great things about the NC500.
“He’s a real petrolhead and had read rave reviews about it.
“Having about 20 or so years left to work we were planning to do something different after we got our two sons through their school education. And as that time approached we were researching businesses.
“However, we spotted Kinlochewe Service Station for sale and decided to view it.”
The rest is history.
After visiting the area during their holiday drive, the McLeans sold their home in Selkirk, downsized to a three-bedroomed bungalow next to the filling station’s shop and café and made the momentous move north last October.
David said: “The day we arrived to view the Service Station there was not a cloud in the sky.
“After talking to the owners we walked through the trees at nearby Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and down to the water’s edge at Loch Maree. We were blown away by the magnificent view.
“That was the WOW! moment. We knew this was the place for us.”
Their sons, John, 21, a student at Glasgow University and Cameron, 18, decided to move north with them.
“The boys were right behind us in our decision all because of the NC500”, said Richard.
To reinforce their commitment, Richard went to night school to learn to become a barista in the coffee shop, and Sharon learned her skills from the suppliers of the coffee machine.
John and Cameron, like their dad, are mad keen on cars.
And the North Coast 500 is heaven for petrolheads.
The route, first opened in 2015, attracts car enthusiasts from around the world.
A delighted David said: “You see all types here: Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Aston Martins, Porsches. Everything you can think of. American muscle cars, vintage Bentleys and even a replica of Mr Bean’s Mini complete with padlock on the door. That came all the way from Holland.”
And hundreds of motorcyclists including a large posse of hairy bikers in kilts.
With David ever ready to lend a hand to motorists in distress they have invites to visit from all over Europe and beyond.
The Kinlochewe Service Station has become a popular pit stop with the motoring set – which has given David an idea.
He’s finished painting the outside of the premises and now has his eye on the concrete forecourt which he reckons would look good painted like as F1 pit lane.
Tom Campbell, chief executive officer of the North Highland Initiative, the organisation behind the North Coast 500, says it has become “a global phenomenon”.
“It had an audience reach in its first 18 months of 1.5 billion people,” he said.
“It is hailed as one of the top touring routes in the world.
“In a survey 70% said they would return to it again and that was after most of them taking more than five days to do the trip.
“Some even described it as life-changing.”