The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile scenic route along Scotland's northern coast, offering drivers rugged landscapes, sandy benches, wildlife, museums, castles, whisky distilleries, and so much more! If you are lucky, you can even spot puffins here! Just before the main route Kerrysdale and Gairloch, turn left for another scenic detour. Get a detailed trail description here. When in fact, you just need to make a little extra effort to seek out the beautiful spots along the east coast! You’d constantly have to navigate around other cars by using the passing places. Driving along the beautiful coastline of northwest Scotland made me anxious to get out of the car and into a sea kayak. We even spotted an otter pup munching on a sea urchin among the sea kelp! Plan on spending at least two days in Inverness. I’m lucky enough to live on NC500. While the beaches are truly stunning, the main reasons people flock to the island during the summer is its wildlife. TOP TIP From Ullapool you can catch the Calmac ferry to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to spend a few additional days exploring the Outer Hebrides. Join here!). Next to the lighthouse, you can walk along the cliffs and spot sea birds nesting at these soaring heights. DETOUR TIP: 13.5 miles east of Achmelvich Beach stands another one of the picturesque castles of the NC500. Check my Disclaimer for more information. The views are magnificent and if visibility is good you can see the Old Man of Hoy in Orkney in the distance. The Black Isle peninsula is worth a trip of its own, but it is also a perfect final place to visit on the North Coast 500. Open 10 am to 5 pm (1 April to 31 October). We only stopped for a few photos, but since the beach is sheltered from the strong winds you could easily bring a picnic and spend a few hours here. There are so many places to visit and things to do on the North Coast 500, it can easily take a whole day to cover 30 miles. Dunnet Head and Dunnet Head Lighthouse (Kav Dadfar). Smaller villages usually have shops too, such as small Spar shops or village shops run by the local community. As we had the luxury of travelling with a kitchen on board, you can expect to find a real mix of places. Over 1,500 Jacobites were killed in an hour and then the battle was over. But don’t make the mistake of using Inverness just as a jumping-off point for your road trip. There is no clear path at this point with many deep ravines. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to head on to our next accommodation, but this zip line will not get away that easy – I will be back! Foodies Guide to the North Coast 500. There is a car park at the top and you have to walk down quite a few steps to reach the cave, but it is worth the effort. It is truly spectacular. He was welcomed by Neil Macleod’s wife who subsequently tricked him into entering the dungeon before imprisoning him and sending for government troops. I love zip lining and the idea of flying high above one of Scotland’s beautiful beaches while looking out over the sea was just too much to handle for me. A highlight on the NC500 road trip is definitely the hairraising Bealach na Bà road – one of the highest mountain pass roads in the UK and sometimes as steep as 20%. The far north-west of Scotland is very sparsely populated and the small and winding country roads connect one natural spectacle with the next. Remember there are no lifeguards at most beaches. If you are in a small vehicle though, you are rewarded with mind-boggling hairpin bends and fantastic views throughout the drive. However, there are also easier trails that are more accessible to NC500 road trippers. If you are planning to road trip around this scenic area of the Scottish Highlands, you may be wanting to spend … One of my personal favourites was Achmelvich Beach. Their 5-day Highland Explorer tour from Edinburgh also takes in the southern part of the NC500. Helmsdale is one of them, a lovely small seaside town which is surrounded by gorse-covered hills and isolated beaches. Find out more here. South Africa is blessed with 2500 kms of stunningly beautiful coastline, and this 280 kms of lush green coastline along the east coast overlooks the warm Indian Ocean. The lighthouse is only 66 feet tall but sits on cliffs that rise 300 feet above sea level. There are many places to camp along the North Coast 500 route, but you should not just take up your temporary residence anywhere. The winds here can be treacherous so if you decide to go through the gate at the end of the path and on to the unprotected side of the cliffs, take a lot of care and watch the edge. 10 Places Not to Miss along the North Devon Coast. A handy map you can save to your Google Maps. Inverness Castle Viewpoint; Chisholms Highland Dress; Dolphin Watch; Castle Gallery; Inverness Day Tours; Happy Tours; Inverness Bike Tours; Inverness … Walk Barefoot on The Beautiful Beaches of the NC500. There is No “Right Time” To Drive Scotland’s North Coast 500. PS: We used the OS North Scotland Road Map to find and navigate these detours! Even if you don’t plan on climbing Stac Pollaidh it is still worth heading to the small car park and walking a short way down to Loch Lurgainn for an uninterrupted view of this famous Scottish icon. There is a car park at the highest point so you can catch your breath and once you have descended into Applecross you can take it easy along the scenic coastal drive to Shieldaig. I loved the selection at Ullapool Bookstore, including the children’s book The Guillemot Who Wouldn’t Jump which is written and illustrated by a local artist Jenny Rant. There are not many parking places on this single track road, so take it slow and enjoy the view. This is your just reward for the 4-mile hike that is required to get there. North Coast 500. The North Coast ranges from one extreme to another. There are many maps and guidebooks for the North Coast 500. The town was only on my radar because we spent a night at Helmsdale Youth Hostel to break up the drive back. I also enjoyed our visit to the local VisitScotland iCentre – the staff there was super helpful and knew everything about everything in the area! There are so many places along there that I need to see! Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel is one of my accommodation favourites: Unique Places to Stay in Scotland – from hotels to B&Bs! What Ardvreck Castle is for the west, Dunrobin Castle is for the east of the North Coast 500. Check out my Covid-19 page for updates, travel tips and advice for your itinerary. Things to do near North Coast 500. A small passenger ferry takes visitors from Tarbet to the island (approx. Nearby, a visit to the famous John O’Groats is also worthwhile. Neither will you be able to explore independently or stop at multiple sites each day, as bus services might not be frequent enough. I fell madly in love with my new home and started Watch Me See to convince all people to visit Scotland at least once! North Coast NSW Getaway. Along the North Coast 500 there are many wonderful places to visit, have a bite to eat, or find something fun to do for the whole family. The North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to route 66 and one of the most beautiful coastal touring routes in the world (well, we think so, anyway!). It is most famous for Am Buachaille, a giant sea stack! From here, the route leads south back towards Inverness. Sango Bay sits in the main part of the village and is another one of the beautiful beaches and coastlines in Northern Scotland. YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: My Favourite Hikes in Scotland – From Easy Trails to Munros. The entrance ticket costs £12.50 (£7.50 for children) and includes the castle and the gardens. Park at the little car park next to a stone mason’s and follow the waymarked trail for Big Burn Falls. This is also the place for possibly the most peculiar structure in the whole of Scotland. The North Coast 500 is mostly a coastal route and therefore there are numerous breathtaking beaches. The Marquis of Montrose, a Royalist commander, fleeing after losing the battle of Carbisdale, sought refuge in the castle. Online Shop. Some of the highlights are a collection of Californian Redwoods, Himalayan blue poppies and various species of rhododendron. The Ultimate Roadtrip! Couples should note that not all hostels have private rooms available and some only have bunk or twin beds instead of double beds. We drove the North Coast 500 clockwise, starting and finishing in Inverness. September 11, 2018 By // by Jo 20 Comments This post may contain affiliate links, and links to Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means we may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. The trail loops around and descends through the pinewoods back to the car park. After the Clan MacKenzie took control over these lands from the Clan MacLeod in the 18th century, they built a more modern house nearby, Calda House. Hillbillies Bookstore and the adjacent cafe Mountain Coffee Company are a must-see on the North Coast 500. All the photos were breath taking. For those who want to take in the view of the Suilven itself, head to the Falls of Kirkaig. The shop is on the A836, on the most northerly section of the North Coast 500, the touring route launched in 2015 to promote less-visited parts of the northern Highlands. Get it here. The above from your article is incorrect information. Named after the Dutchman who ran a ferry to Orkney, Jan de Groot, this is an area teeming with wildlife and offers plenty of activities. However, due to the popularity of the North Coast 500, the region has seen many new businesses such as shops, restaurants, cafes and activity providers. Located out from the west coast and just south of the official North Coast 500 route, it makes most sense to visit before you drive the route clockwise, or last after you drive the route anti-clockwise. The route is also known as the NC500 and was launched in 2015, linking many features in the north Highlands of Scotland in one touring route.. North Coast 500 Highlights (The Best Places to Eat on the NC500 Route) by Ivana December 10, 2018. Seeing wildlife is never guaranteed on the North Coast 500, but Chanonry Point might be your best bet. As you continue north past Ullapool you may begin to get glimpses of this giant iconic mountain. There are many single track roads, particularly in the far northern regions and many of the detours I suggest in this post also make use of steep single track roads. Managed campsites or caravan parks should always be your first choice. Brilliant places to stay on the North Coast 500. John O Groats gained fame as the northernmost point of mainland Britain (today we know it’s at Dunnet Head Lighthouse) and is thus the natural endpoint of so-called end-to-end walks and cycles. If you have a bit more time and would like to stay in the area, get in touch with Gairloch Trekking Centre who offers guided pony trekking in the area. Places to Visit Tourist Guide. The walk from the car park is easy along clear paths. If you prefer to just enjoy the views, keep driving along Loch Maree until you reach Slattadale and make your way along the narrow road through the forest to the Loch Maree picnic site. From here, the walk down (and back up) involves scrambling on very steep rocks and great care should be taken. The scenery is spectacular and don’t be surprised if you spot seals, dolphins, whales and even Basking Sharks in the sea. Across the turquoise water, you will be able to see the distinctive outline of Suilven. The resulting repairs were overseen by Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer who made major changes to the interior and the main tower we see today. The North Coast 500 is one of the most popular road trip destinations in Scotland. Fancy visiting the northernmost point of mainland Britain? Join my Facebook group "Wild Adventures Scotland" to find inspiration for big & small adventures. One of Ireland’s most special places, the spectacular North Coast, is blessed with a number of fantastic sites. Culloden Battlefield is without a doubt one of the most significant places in Scottish history (£11, FREE for National Trust for Scotland members. However, if you are in a campervan or a nervous driver definitely follow this advice! Here are some articles about the issue too: Hence, walking barefoot on … Ullapool, situated on the shores of Lochbroom is the first big village on the North Coast 500 route (when driving clockwise) and a good hub from which to explore the nearby sights. - Travel Melodies, Best of Scotland:9 Underrated Places to visit in Scotland – Europe Diaries, https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/1736567/video-tourists-failing-to-heed-campervan-warning-on-busy-section-of-nc500/, https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/1771097/scenic-nc500-hill-road-closed-after-lorry-becomes-stuck-on-twisty-route/, http://www.disabilityscot.org.uk/accessible-outdoors-scotland/. Explore the Route. Ullapool is a small seaside town on the shore of Loch Broom. The narrow single-track road to Redpoint leads through several small villages and finally, to a gorgeous red sand beach. To get the most out of your visit to Achmelvich Beach, I recommend staying at the Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel, which is right next to the beach. Get access to my FREE Scotland Travel Toolkit. Bealach Na Ba! You can find a detailed route description here. From the top, at 612 m you will be able to enjoy great views of the surrounding higher mountains, the coastline and the Summer Isles offshore. If you visit during the day, you can even head deeper inside the cave on a guided walk or a boat tour and explore the rear chambers of the cave. There are generally a lot of restaurants in towns and villages along the North Coast 500. We stayed at youth hostels throughout our road trip and I found them to be a fantastic, budget-friendly option for solo travellers, friend groups and families alike. The Black Isle peninsula is worth a trip of its own, but it is also a perfect final place to visit on the North Coast 500. The River Droma rushes through the rock over a series of waterfalls, cutting it deeper and deeper over millions of years. 14. Bealach na Ba road is single track, steep and has hairpin bends. I would set aside at least 4 hours to visit the island – the more the better. I also offer trip planning services to ensure that you have a great time here and an epic itinerary. Starting and ending in Inverness, or specifically Inverness Castle, you will tick off the regions of Wester Ross, Caithness, Easter Ross, Black Isle, Sutherland and Inverness-shire. Top Food and Drink Experiences. Foraging Along The North Coast 500. A clear track leads from Blairmore car park near Kinlochbervie all the way to Sandwood Bay. Sutherland makes up a large part of the North Coast 500, and will leave a lasting memory too. – until we reached Corrieshalloch Gorge. Ardvreck Castle might just be the most popular castle in the west of the North Coast 500. He was taken to Edinburgh and executed a few days later. As well as stunning scenery along the North Coast 500 you will find foodie heaven. Dunrobin Castle is one of the oldest, biggest, and most iconic castles in Scotland. The land and sea of the Scottish Highlands provides a rich and fresh larder. Aside from stunning mountain views, it also boasts lovely views across Upper Loch Torridon. However, keep in mind, that being the only car that goes against the stream can be annoying and tiring on single track roads. Corrieshalloch Gorge is up to 60 m deep and 1.5 km (1 mile) long. Walk to west side of the beach and keep going up onto the rocks and onto the flat area at the top. Our trip to Rogie Falls was fairly brief as arguably, the main attraction for our day, would be driving across the famous North Coast 500. The gorgeous crescent shape beach wouldn’t look a miss in the Mediterranean and the surrounding areas make for wonderful walks. The most popular attraction of Inverness is Loch Ness. NOTE: Bealach na Bà is closed during the winter months due to ice and snow. I’d say as far as kayaking trips in Scotland go, this was my favourite yet! Or book a private walking tour in Glasgow with me! Sadly many people see how fast they can get round, this is not what the NC 500 is about as you discovered. So you have planned your dream North Coast 500 route, decided on your basic itinerary – Dundrobin Castle! It has one of the largest sea cave entrances in the UK – over 50 ft high! Then do the detour to visit Dunnet Head Lighthouse! YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: How to spend one day in Inverness. The Bealach na Ba road to Applecross is among the finest roads in Scotland and makes for an incredibly scenic drive through the Highlands. Their 10-day Orkney and Outer Hebrides tour spends a few days in the northern and eastern parts of the NC500. Jutting out into the North Sea, Dunnet Head is the most northerly point of mainland Britain. Achmelvich Beach is another popular North Coast 500 detour, and you can even spend a night at the hostel located a short walk from the white sand beach like we did! All photos, downloadable files and texts are the property of Kathi Kamleitner / Watch Me See unless otherwise cited, and may not be used or reproduced elsewhere without permission. Maybe experienced drivers in a small campervan would be fine, but I would rather be on the side of caution to avoid issues. I highly recommend adding an additional day in the area between Ullapool and Durness to make time for the hike to the beach! 5 days on the North Coast 500 will give you a good amount of time to see many of the sights along the way. North Coast 500 7-day Itinerary Arguably one of the best road trips in the world! There are a campsite, restaurant and bar here, making this a perfect place to spend the night. Passing some of the most beautiful beaches on the north-west coast, the NC500 eventually leads along the north coast towards John O Groats, the northernmost point of mainland Britain. The walk from the car park of Blairmore hamlet is mostly flat through moorland on a well-trodden path. Further Reading for Planning your North Coast 500 trip. Scotland’s route 66, the North Coast 500, has hit popularity scales to make your ‘See You Jimmy’ hat ginger hair stand on end.This is great for Scottish tourism but a bit of a challenge for visitors when it comes to finding North Coast 500 accommodation if not booking ahead. This is a place that you will want to savour, so give yourself plenty of time to explore it. There’s also no right or wrong direction to drive it. There is plenty of parking and easy access to the shore of Loch Maree with possibly the best view of Slioch mountain peak in the distance. Want to know where to go, what to see and what not to miss? I would like to know if this particular trip is wheelchair accessible or could modification be made . Wild Camping Essentials – A Complete Guide to Wild Camping . The path leads through lush green vegetation to a series of awe-inspiring waterfalls. The site is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the cliffs of the headland offer plenty of nesting space to thousands of sea birds. And a brief packing list to prepare you for this EPIC road trip. The route to the top is easy to navigate thanks to clear paths, but the final ascent to the actual peak should only be attempted by very experienced expert climbers. Standing at 613 metres, Stac Polly, or Stac Pollaidh as its officially called, means “peak of the peat moss”. As you make your way along the A835 west, be sure to stop at Rogie Falls. However, this is not a drive for the faint-hearted! There is no strict North Coast 500 route – where you stop, stay and play is entirely up to you but here is a flavour of the villages and activities we think make up the best North Coast 500 places to visit. Since we drove clockwise, the order of the things to do I suggest in this travel guide is also clockwise. The walk to the falls from the car park is around 7km and is mostly flat with an easy terrain up to the fork in the path that leads down to the falls. I love it there, such a cute little town and I never see anyone mention it. There are many trails at Beinn Eighe, some of which climb the peaks of the mountain and require at least a full day and lots of mountain experience. Fast Facts Distance: 516 miles Trip … 50-60,000 guillemots visit the island every year! From exploring the castle or a taking a riverside stroll to trying out the city’s mouth-watering Scottish cuisine, make this the first highlight of your NC500 road trip. Starting and ending in Inverness, or specifically Inverness Castle, you will tick off the regions of Wester Ross, Caithness, Easter Ross, Black Isle, Sutherland and Inverness-shire. However, as the going is slower in some parts than others, we’ve tried to balance this itinerary so you get fairly similar amounts of driving time each day. It’s best to park at Keiss Harbour and walk to Old Keiss Castle along the shore. During peak season, I also recommend booking campsites in advance if you travel by campervan. Your email address will not be published. There is also the historic town of Dornoch itself with its beautiful cathedral and stone houses. The detour from Torridon to Diabaig is one of them. Sturdy hiking boots are an absolute must and so is a general comfort with light scrambling. There is a sign at the bottom stating that it is not suitable for learner drivers, caravans and very large vehicles – see photo on the article; unfortunately, many people put stickers on top of this essential warning. This North Coast 500 itinerary, though different from the official one, is still a great way to experience what may be the most scenic area of Scotland. I loved our lunch at West Coast Delicatessen (vegan options available) and exploring all the quirky shops. Imagine riding across this beautiful beach! Take a trip to the Black Isle. See my itinerary for the North Coast 500 in 7 days below. Our Recommended North Coast 500 Hotels Guide - where to stay along the NC500. and never miss out again. The North Coast 500 has been billed as Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66 but it is unlike anything you’ll see in the USA.. With legendary castles, extraordinary coastal scenery, and famous whisky distilleries lining the winding single track lanes, the NC500 is the ultimate road trip for travel lovers.. The first glimpse of the wild North Atlantic crashing onto the shores of this incredible 1.5-mile-long secluded pink sand beach comes as you pass Sandwood Loch. The hike takes about 4-5 hours round-trip, but add a few hours to enjoy the beach in its full glory! What is the food like along the North Coast 500? Due to its fame, unfortunately this is not somewhere you will find solitude. It is possible to drive the NC500 anti-clockwise too. Eat For Free! Cocoa Mountain! North Coast 500 7-day Itinerary Arguably one of the best road trips in the world! There is a 6 km (4 miles) trail around the island which takes about 3 hours to complete. Before setting off on your North Coast 500 road trip, make sure you have a valid travel insurance policy. Smoo Cave near Durness is a very special place and a must-visit on the North Coast 500. I hope these resources are of greater help than me and that you can travel the NC500! This post contains affiliate links, which I may make a commission from. The reserve is flanked by the impressive Beinn Eighe ridge on one side and Slioch on the other. After a walk through the centre – visit Leakey’s Bookshop – and a stroll along the River Ness, make your way up to Inverness Castle. Cairns mark the trail from here and they can be a little hard to spot sometimes – keep your eyes peeled. There is a lovely loop walk around the Shieldaig peninsula which offers stunning views and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife, like otters and sea birds. Immerse yourself in the local culture! However, if you are vegan, you might want to pack your own lunches and book self-catering accommodation as vegan options can be very limited. Explore Sutherland. The North Coast 500 (NC 500) covers 500 miles of the most remote, unique and scenically mind-blowing region of Northern Scotland. Weaving a path from Inverness to Applecross and on to Ullapool, Caithness and John o'Groats, seemingly never-ending roads wind their way through some of Scotland's most majestic coastal scenery. Spend endless days on uncrowded beaches, swim with dolphins, indulge in incredible food and wine, explore pristine volcanic hinterland and hike through ancient rainforest. I completely agree! I first read about the Golden Eagle Zipline in a blog post about family-friendly activities on the North Coast 500 (and subsequently asked the author to write a guest post about visiting Scotland with kids)! This is also the end (or start) point for the epic End to End challenge. Food is a huge part of the journey and the northern highlands has an impressive larder. Ackergill Tower – If there’s one place you must stay on the North Coast 500 it is this fantastic 16th century castle with a dark and haunted past. Needing some local tips? The circular route starts and finishes in Inverness, the unofficial Capital of the Highlands. With its 189 rooms, it is one of Scotland’s largest castles and is surrounded by a well-landscaped garden. https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/highlands/1771097/scenic-nc500-hill-road-closed-after-lorry-becomes-stuck-on-twisty-route/. Soon you will get your first glimpse of Thirle Door and the Stacks of Duncansby. There is a visitor centre and you can either walk the field by yourself or participate in a guided tour. The ruins of Old Keiss Castle stand on sheer cliffs overlooking Sinclair’s Bay. Beinn Eighe hike, Distance: 35 miles, Overnight at Gairloch Sands Youth Hostel, Day 3: Gairloch to Ullapool, Distance: 58 miles, Overnight at Ullapool Youth Hostel, Day 4: Ullapool to Achmelvich Beach incl. Our trip lasted nine days. Scotland's north coast is interspersed with secret paradise beaches - the majority of which can be easily reached from Scotland's North Coast 500 (NC500). kofiwidget2.init('Support Me on Ko-fi', '#af4d92', 'Y8Y0OQPK');kofiwidget2.draw(); Watch Me See is an Amazon Associate and an affiliate of Booking.com, Airbnb and others and thus I earn from qualifying purchases you make at no extra cost to you. Handa is a small uninhabited island near Scourie that is managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Many people who hire campervans or motorhomes in Scotland are driving these for the first time and thus, a road like this can be very stressful and even dangerous – i.e. The Trip Planning Workbook in my Scotland Travel Resource Library is the perfect tool to help you plan a great NC500 road trip. Loved following along on your trip and this is a great detailed post that should help all planning the NC500. From guided walks to trips to Orkney, it’s a popular stop on the NC500 road trip. The Most Spectacular Places To Visit On The North Coast 500 wanderlust.co.uk - Kav Dadfar | 05 January 2021. Home. This seems to be the most popular option. We were not lucky enough to spot any dolphins as it was raining, but we did see some seals bobbing in the water. It stretches from Loch Maree over the peaks of Beinn Eighe towards Liatach and Torridon. We’ve got a lot more content to share with you from our trip to help you plan your perfect North Coast 500 trip, but in the meantime, here are some links to help you with your trip planning. The path leads down to the water and to the ruins of Am Ploc church. The official start is at Inverness but there are many areas you might want to explore before you go such as Glenfinnan (Harry Potter train viaduct), Kyle of Lochalsh (Eilean Donan Castle) and the Cairngorms. In 2015 the North Coast 500, commonly referred to as the NC500, was launched by the Tourism Project Board of the North Highland Initiative. Here is an article about the impact motorhome drivers have on the road, and here is a story about a lorry that attempted the journey – just to give you an idea. Also perfect locations if you wish to do a smaller road trip in Scotland! Will was 2015’s Scottish Adventurer of the Year for sea kayaking around the entire coast of Scotland and climbing all the Munros in winter, and has set up this company to share his love for the coastal waters of Ullapool. You have to email, check for availability and then there is the thing with the weather – no one enjoys sea kayaking when it’s rainy or windy, so your trip might have to be cancelled. What is certain is that the views of the Kyle of Tongue are magnificent from here. Planning on travelling the North Coast 500? There really is no shortage of beautiful beaches on the North Coast 500. We made an overview of the best accommodations, where to find them and what rules to follow. I corrected the information in my main guide for wild camping in Scotland, but clearly forgot to amend it here. You simply have to see with your own eyes to … Overlooking Moray Firth, it was once the home of the Earls and later Dukes of Sutherland – one of the most powerful families in Scotland. There is no issue with campervans using the Bealach na Ba pass. The counties of South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire all have their own delights to offer, including Leeds, York, Scarborough and Beverley.