Let’s drive 500 miles…

Stunning views, fresh tarmac and blazing sunshine – what else do you need for an epic road trip? Scotland’s answer to Route 66 was unveiled in 2015 – and it’s called the North Coast 500. Remember its name.

Whether you’re a local explorer in need of a new trail to hit or an international visitor in search of adventure, driving down the NC500 should immediately jump to the top of your to-do list.

As the name would suggest the road is 500 miles long and winds along the north coast of Scotland. However, the North Coast 500 is so much more than just a new highway. It is a creative and considered journey connecting some of Scotland’s most picturesque places. Along the way you can take a pit stop to indulge in some hearty fare or just to enjoy the scenery. The route was developed by the North Highland Initiative, which was established by HRH Prince Charles.

The beginning

You can start at Inverness and take the A9 before merging into the A835, which will take you northwest. Driving along this road you’ll see some breathtaking views but if you want to see some even better ones, head southwest to the A890. This road will lead you to the very northwest of Scotland, taking in Shieldaig and Torridon. If you are already tired and hungry, don’t miss stopping at Torridon for some hearty scran at the Gille Brighde Restaurant or The Torridon Inn – you won’t regret it!

From then on, the North Coast 500 makes a nice curve which leads you to the northernmost part of Scotland, starting off with Gairloch. The route is cleverly planned to go past Loch Maree and Loch Ewe, both of which happen to be mesmerising. Driving up further north the NC 500 winds in and out of the land, revealing both beautiful coastal views and inland forests and hills.

The northwest

When you reach Ullapool spend a few hours enjoying the views of the northwest coast. Admire beautiful beaches on your left and sprawling farmhouses to your right. If you feel like having a wee bite, you can check out the West Coast Deli. The route also covers one of Scotland’s most spectacular feats - the Kylesku Bridge.

Shortly after passing Ullapool, the breathtaking Scottish landscape will reveal two of Britain’s most distinctive mountains – Suilven and Canisp. You can park at the ascent Canisp at the north end of Loch Awe and walk along the banks of River Loanan.

Halfway there

Next on your map is Scourie and Durness – a nice halfway point for an overnight stop with a lovely dinner and a cosy bed! Check out the Craggan Hotel or the Morven B&B, or if you’d like to stay for longer or in a cottage you can book in advance.

The next morning, get back on the road and continue along the route, which makes a little dip to Loch Hope and the iconic Ben Hope before continuing along the coastal line. Driving along A836, you will pass by the towns of Tongue, Strathy and Scrabster, before reaching one of Scotland’s most Northern points – the Duncansby Head Lighthouse.

Back down south

Once you have reached the top of the world (okay, the UK), you can drive down south via the A99 and thus you get a chance to see the best of Scotland’s north-east coastline. Enjoy the enchanting wildlife, the beautiful scenery and the many historical sights. As you drive past Doll, don’t miss the Dunrobin Castle, the northern Highlands’ largest.

According to Travel Now Magazine, the NC500 is the fifth best coastal road trip in the world. For the first time, the west, north and east coasts are brought together and if you decide to go and see them you’re in for an unforgettable and epic trip. A little tip – check the weather forecast well in advance to ensure you have the best possible experience!

Scotland’s NC 500 has every reason to compete, and beat the famed Route 66. A beautiful country, rich history, warm people and plenty of fresh air make this road trip an essential inclusion for your bucket list!

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