If you're tired of taking the car out on the same old journeys, the North Coast 500 could be the dream road trip for you. Whilst it's always nice to visit Edinburgh, there are so many other beautiful places in Scotland that are just waiting to be discovered. Whether you live in Scotland or have been planning a visit for a while, this could be the perfect time to try something a little different...
What Is The North Coast 500?
The North Coast 500 - or NC500 - is a driving route which charts the perimeter of the Scottish Highlands. Spanning 516 miles, the North Coast 500 is designed to encourage more people to take interest in remote sections of Scotland, as set up by the North Highland Initiative.
Where Will The Route Take Me?
The North Coast 500 covers six regions in the Highlands of Scotland. These regions are Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Inverness-shire, Sutherland and Wester Ross.
When you are in the driver’s seat, you can decide where you want to start, and how far to go - though it makes sense to start down in Inverness-shire and work your way around and up the map.
Just remember and book any accommodation in advance of your trip - the destinations along the route can be popular, particularly in summer.
Where Do I Start?
One variation of the route begins in Inverness-shire, and heads west towards Applecross. You can then head north along the coast towards Ullapool. Reaching the most northerly points on the coast, you can pass through Caithness and John o’ Groats. Heading south, you can travel through Wick down to Dunrobin Castle. Then you can drive all the way down to Dingwall as you journey back towards your starting point in Inverness.
This is just one suggestion - you can deviate from the route if there are neighbouring towns you wish to visit, or start at a different point on the map entirely. After all, the whole point of the North Coast 500 is to visit as many new places as possible!
How Long Does It Take To Drive The North Coast 500?
The time it takes to drive the North Coast 500 can vary, depending on how long you want to spend in each location. To get the most out of your journey, it may be best to set aside at least one week for the trip, so that you don’t feel rushed or miss out on spending time in what could become your new favourite place.
If you can spare the time, two weeks might give you the chance to stay in certain locations for more than one day, so that you can really explore the area. The North Coast 500 website has example itineraries you can follow when it comes to food and activities, so you'll always be spoiled for choice.
Why Should I Drive The North Coast 500?
The North Coast 500 will take you to some of the most beautiful, quaint places in the world. You can drive along the coast, see mountains, and visit a range of amazing locations. Everything from waterfalls, castles, museums, and other historical locations can be found on the route. You can bag a Munro or two, spot a Highland cow, and if you're lucky you might even see a pod of dolphins.
What’s more, there are plenty of interesting activities which you can take part in along the way, making this the perfect trip to take with family or friends! You could play a round of golf, be adventurous and try kayaking, or even do some whale watching.
You could explore Inverness Castle, and take a stroll along the banks of the River Ness whilst in Inverness-shire. On your way towards Applecross, you could stop for a visit in Shieldaig - a lovely village that rests on the shore of two lochs. You could climb the incredible Stac Pollaidh on your way past Ullapool.
It's worth stopping off in John o' Groats to witness the range of wildlife that live on the village - and to be able to tell your friends you've been to the most northerly village on the mainland map! You could even venture out on a speedboat from Wick and take a tour of the magnificent Caithness coastline.
Aside from the few locations mentioned here, there are countless other breath-taking views to take in along the North Coast 500, so make sure you plan ahead and get to visit as many as you can before you find yourself back where you started.
How Do I Make The Most of My Experience?
Plan ahead so that you can get the most out of your trip. With so much that you could potentially see on a trip like this, make sure that you don’t miss out on the locations you most want to visit!
There is even a North Coast 500 digital membership, which comes with a digital map, monthly newsletter with member-only competitions, and access to the NC500 Route discount scheme. The membership lasts for a year from the date of purchase.
Enjoy all that the North Coast 500 has to offer in a car that is ready for the trip. To avoid any unexpected breakdowns on your journey around the Highlands, you can book your car in for a service before you head off.
If you've completed the North Coast 500, we have plenty of road trip ideas to inspire your next journey.