If you were asked what is 516 miles (830 km) long, features some of the best coastal scenery in the world and takes in famous cities, towns, castles, harbours, prehistoric sites, great food and drink as well as more history, heritage, culture, adventure and attractions than you could list, would you immediately answer the North Coast 500?
North Coast 500? You’ve not heard of it? Well, it has been named one of the top coastal road trips in the world - and what’s more, it’s in Scotland!
The North Coast 500 (often referred to as the NC500) starts in the northern city of Inverness (officially at Inverness Castle), the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. It then heads across the west coast of Scotland to Applecross, turning north towards Torridon and Ullapool. Then, via the most northern and certainly extremely spectacular coast in Scotland, it heads towards and past Caithness and John o' Groats (Scotland and the UK mainland’s most northerly point) before it about-turns and heads south again, taking in Dingwall to arrive back in Inverness once more.
To enjoy this route at its best, take as long as you can so that you can take in many of the wonderful and often quite famous locations along the way - a leisurely drive will give you time to enjoy the scenery and walk, picnic and sightsee. If you plan in advance then you can book a couple of self-catering cottages along NC500 for a few days at a time - there is lots of excellent accommodation along the North Coast 500.
Inverness-shire not only includes the city of Inverness but is home to the world-famous Loch Ness (we can’t guarantee you will get a sight of the monster though!), whilst Sutherland, at the centre of the Highlands, offers wonderful beaches and simply spectacular mountains. Caithness, at the most north-easterly tip of Scotland, is the place for great cliff walks and sea views, while Easter and Wester Ross provide some incredible coastal landscapes. There are also many other stops you can make along the way – the fairy tale Dunrobin Castle, spectacular Cape Wrath at the most north-westerly point of mainland UK, Castle of Mey, Thurso, Wick and Helmsdale to mention but a few.
Irrespective of where you choose to stay, there is no shortage of ancient castles and ruins. As you travel around you’ll find plenty of great shopping as well as fine food and drink to accompany your travels on North Coast 500. And if you want more than just a 'drive and stay', you’ll find plenty of activities and attractions along the way, from organised walks to horse-riding, water-sports, fishing and if you are really feeling energetic you can abandon the car and rent bicycles. There are also many centres for the arts (theatre, cinema, music, galleries) and culture (museums, historic tours, distilleries) so you will certainly never be at a loss for something to do, irrespective of age and interests.
Wherever you go in Scotland you can always rely on receiving a great Scottish welcome that will see you wanting to return - and perhaps drive the NC500 again too!