Scotlands North Coast
The North Coast 500 is the most popular road trip in Scotland. This incredible road trip takes in 500 miles around the north coast of Scotland taking in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world – there’s no wonder they call it Scotland’s Route 66.
The North Coast 500 is a circular route that begins and ends in the city of Inverness. Inverness is about a 640mile drive from Brighton (10hrs 30mins) which is doable in a day but why not break it up with a stop over somewhere along the route such as the Lake District. The rolling countryside and magestic lakes make for a great beginning to a road trip that will open your eyes to some of the most picturesque scenery Europe has to offer.
How long do I need to travel the NC500?
It’s suggested that you need a minimum of five days to do the route, a week would be perfect, and 10 days or more if you want to visit Inverness or any of the west coast islands, visit huge sea caves, sail to a tropical island to see puffins and much more!
When to go?
Whether you’re planning a spring, summer, autumn or winter trip to the North Highlands, planning is essential. The North Coast 500 is very much a year-round destination, with the summer months being increasingly popular, but don’t rule it out in the winter! The roads are quieter and some say even more romantic.
The majority of visitors to the North Coast 500 take their trips between May and September. However, while summer brings longer days, lighter evenings and warmer temperatures, the autumn and winter seasons are becoming more popular – these colder months open up a magical world of different activities and experiences that can be enjoyed even when the temperature drops. Check prices here.
Plan the route you wish to take, and remember that the official North Coast 500 map is simply a guideline. Venture off the path less travelled, explore Highland villages, coastal towns and the rugged countryside of the North Highlands if you have the time.
You really can’t do too much planning where the North Highlands are concerned. There are so many reasons to visit the North Highlands, and while you’ll only discover a handful of them on your trip, you can always plan a return journey.
Once you arrive at Inverness the world, or should we say Scotland, really is your playground. Why not start your adventure exploring Inverness Castle.
As you begin your drive up to the Northern point of John O’Groats you’ll be able to experience wonders such as ancient castles, stunning deserted beaches and you might even be able to do a spot of dolphin watching! Here’s a few must sees;
Dornoch Firth Bridge & Cromarty Firth.
Dunrobin Castle. With seven centuries of tales to tell, this grand site has plenty to see and enjoy from spring to autumn.
Helmsdale. This pretty fishing village is an interesting little place with a surprising amount of things to see and do. Indeed, for a refreshingly different NC 500 experience you could try your hand at panning for gold or fossil hunting!
John O’Groats & Wick. Take stop at the famous North Easterly tip of mainland Britain and don’t forget to take a few piccies whilst you’re there! Then why not take a little trip south to Wick and check out the Heritage Museum and Arts Centre.
Picture perfect postcard villages litter the north coast of the Scottish Highlands. Mountains, sandy beaches and more walking trails than you can shake a stick at. There is something for everyone.
Thurso. A route into the beautiful Orkney Isles, or a pleasant detour in its own right, Thurso has some colourful heritage and notable local beauty spots.
Durness. Durness Beach has to be one of the first spots you visit whilst you’re here. Sandy golden beaches, rugged cliff edges and the beautiful blue sea.
Game of Thrones fan? Be sure to take a trip to the infamous Bealach ‘na Ba (pronounced Bell-ach-na-baa) in Wester Ross. At the start of the Bealach ‘na Ba (Scottish Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle), there is a sign that warns new drivers not to attempt it!
This is not a route to drive quickly. The roads are mostly narrow and single-track and parts of the route can be congested in the summer months with tourists. Seeing deer and sheep on the road is common. Don’t plan a trip that will require you to rush around at top speeds
Whatever route you plan, time you go or duration you stay one thing to always remember is to be a responsible driver. The North Coast 500 route is becoming increasingly popular so please be a respectful visitor; keep this area of Scotland beautiful and an enjoyable place for both residents and future tourists. This includes:
- Driving responsibly – read the Highway Code before you depart and road safety guidelines for the NC500, including driving on single track roads.
- Keep our landscape beautiful – dispose of your rubbish appropriately
- Dispose of your motorhome waste appropriately – please use facilities provided around the route
- Keep your dogs on a lead in rural areas
- Find suitable places to stop and take photographs, without causing an obstruction
- Before your trip, take a look at the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to make sure you understand the local laws and best practices. Do your part to leave ‘no trace’ and encourage your travel companions to do the same!