This new, unique route follows a circular tour of the most northerly part of the Scottish mainland, hugging the Highland coastline as it guides you around some of Scotland's most iconic scenery.
Launched in 2014, the North Coast 500 route was the brainchild of the North Highland Initiative Group which is headed up up by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales. The whole route is designed to make the very most of the spectacular coastline and scenery that encompass the counties of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Cromarty and the northern tip of Invernesshire. Many visitors don't make it to this part of Scotland, which is a huge shame as it includes many of the iconic scenes that attract people to the country in the first place.
Starting in Inverness, you can choose to do the route either clockwise, or anti clockwise....whichever way round you go, you can expect to see splendid sights like these along the way...these are some of our favourites...
Strathy Point - As you drive along the Northern part of the route you will pass many spectacular cliffs with views towards to the Orkneys and Shetland. Beaches pepper this part of coast, their golden sand at odds with the usually cold temperatures of the North Sea
This part of the coast also includes the famous Ducansby Stacks
and Lighthouse as well that the most Northerly point of the UK mainland, Dunnet Head
. If you are lucky, and depending on the time of year you can watch the entertaining puffins and other seabirds as well as catching a glimpse of whales, dolphins and seals.
- Ullapool is one of the larger towns in the North Highlands, albeit home to only about 1500 people. Originally a Herring port, Ullapool has been a popular tourist destination mainly because of the picturesque harbour, surrounded by mountains and its mild climate.
Loch Assynt & Ardvreck Castle
- Not all of the route sticks slavishly to the coast. Occasionally the mountains and cliffs force the road inland where yet more wonders await. On the North Western part of the route as you travel along the A837, you pass the beautiful Loch Assynt. If you are really lucky you might catch a glimpse of the Mermaid of Assynt.
Sitting upon the shore lie the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, home to the Clan McLeod. As with the loch itself, the castle is swathed in myth and legend and you should keep a special eye out for one of the two ghosts prowling the ruins.
- In the south eastern part of the route you will find Loch Torridon and the hills, mountains and Glens of the same name. It is widely accepted that Torridon has some of the best mountain scenery of the whole of the British Isles. No wonder it is so popular with climbers, photographers and wildlife watchers
- Just along Loch Torridon as the A896 heads out to sea (or inland if you are going clockwise) you find the stunning village of Shieldaig. Nestled between the two ends of Loch Torridon and looking out over its own Loch of Shieldaig
- For the truly lucky, and those willing to do the North Coast 500 outside of the busy tourist season, a real treat awaits. The Aurora Borealis is more easily seen the north of the country where light pollution is minimal in the autumn and winter.
Slowly does it.....it's not a race.....
The whole point of the North Coast 500 route is to take time to appreciate the stunning views and scenery as you drive. You MUST get out of your car and stop a while to really enjoy the views and the wildlife around you. There are so many places to visit on the way....castles, distilleries, museums, wildlife sites, towns and villages. You don't even need to do it all in one go....do one side one year and the other side the next. If you do it all too quickly, you will miss the point of doing it in the first place
It won't surprise you to know that Scotland's Best B&Bs have Bed and Breakfasts along the entire length of the route. Many are located in the most spectacular of settings with views of the lochs, mountains and sea.
We have a page dedicated to the route and our B&Bs along it on our website
to see a full version of our handy map with our B&Bs pinpointed as well as lots of Points of Interest en route