Launched in 2014, North Coast 500 has quickly become the 'must do' road trip in Scotland. The route has been planned to take in some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery following the coastal roads that encompass the northern most part of the country.
Starting in Inverness, you can head North via either the west or east coast roads. Whether you go around clockwise or anti-clockwise, the route is best enjoyed at a slow pace, stopping to admire the views and villages along the way. The fantastic thing about the NC500 is that you will experience so many different types of Scottish scenery.... the west is famed for its mountains and lochs, while the north coast is photographed for its dramatic cliffs. After starting from Inverness, we recommend breaking your journey at two or three B&Bs (at least) so you can relax and sample the flavours of each area. You could easily spend a week's holiday going steadily around the NC500 and making the most of your trip.
Going anti-clockwise from the starting point in Inverness, you can travel North via the Black Isle, Dingwall, Cromarty Firth, Dornoch, Golspie, Wick and then John O Groats. You will take in the entire northern coast including Mey, Dunnet Head, Strathy, Melvich, Tongue and Durness.... where the cliff tops and sea birds are unique to this part of the UK. Travelling south from here, you will experience the more mountainous terrain typical of the west coast with its many sea lochs and inlets. Be sure to stop off at Lochinver, Assynt, Ullapool, Gairloch, Loch Maree, Torridon and Applecross. Heading back to the east you are immersed in the mountains and glens of the Highlands including Achnasheen and Strathpeffer, before crossing over the Beauly Firth back to Inverness. If you are really lucky and if it's the right time of year, you might even see the Aurora Borealis!
The North Coast 500 Route is just over 500 miles long. It's not a race! Do it too quickly and you will miss some hidden gems on the way. Stay a while to investigate different parts of the route... it's even an idea to do one half one year and one half another. Also try it in different seasons and you'll see how things change so much from spring to autumn in the Highlands.
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 - 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.
Torridon - 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
Shieldaig - 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.
Just because you will be driving in some of the country's wildest landscapes doesn't mean you have to compromise on comfort. We have a number of 4 and 5 star Bed and Breakfasts along the entire length of the North Coast 500, all offering off street parking and a warm welcome, as well as great food.
Lynver B&B, Inverness
Lynver Bed and Breakfast is located in a quiet residential part of Inverness within walking distance of the compact city centre and Inverness Castle which is the 'official' starting point of the North Coast route. With its pretty riverside walks, Inverness has numerous free attractions including the Museum and Art Gallery, and the Botanic Gardens.
Bluebell House, Inverness
Bluebell House is located in the centre of Inverness just a short walk from the castle and the river. A stay at this B&B will start or end you NC500 journey in style as you can choose from rooms which include four poster beds. Loch Ness is a short drive away, as well as many castles and distilleries.
Eiland View B&B, near Culloden
Eiland View is located a few miles outside of Inverness in the peaceful countryside of the Highlands. The B&B is near Culloden Battlefield and the Clava Cairns (now well known thanks to 'Outlander'), as well as the splendid Cawdor Castle and historic Fort George. Both the whisky and castle trails are a short drive away, so it is worth spending a few nights here before you start your journey
Pottery House Loch Ness B&B
The Pottery House sits on the shores of Loch Ness in the quiet village of Dores just south of Inverness. An ideal base for Nessie spotting, taking a boat trip, discovering the local wildlife and exploring the less travelled side of Loch Ness. A great base from which to tour the Highlands.
Home Farm, Muir of Ord
Home Farm sits on the Black Isle in the Muir of Ord, just 20 minutes north of Inverness. Its position between the Cromarty Firth and the Moray Firth affords excellent wildlife watching opportunities for dolphins and seals. Spend a few days at Home Farm and give yourself a head start when you begin your road trip.
Ben Wyvis Views, Black Isle
Ben Wyvis Views sits just off the A9 on the road that takes you from Inverness all the way north up the NC500 to Latheron. Depending which way round you do the trip, you could use Ben Wyvis as your starting or finishing point, making the most of all that the Black Isle has to offer. See dolphins at nearby Chanonry Point or explore historic Cromarty.
Craigvar is in the grand Victorian spa village of Strathpeffer which could be your first stop if doing the North Coast 500 anti clockwise or, your last if doing it clockwise. Strathpeffer is a beautiful location with distinctive buildings including the original Pump Room used to 'take the waters'. Here you can also visit the Highland Museum of Childhood and see Castle Leod (Castle Leoch in Outlander).
Auchlea is a rural B&B just off the A9 near the cathedral town of Dornoch, half way between Inverness and Wick. Dornoch is a popular seaside town known as much for its long beaches as its championship golf course. Depending on whether you do the North Coast 500 clockwise or anti clockwise, it makes for an interesting stop in beautiful scenery.
Auld Post Office B&B, near Thurso
The Auld Post Office lies on the A9 between Latheron and Thurso, in a central location to visit the most northerly coast of Scotland. Dramatic cliffs and secluded beaches are a haven for bird and sea-life. Visit the Castle and Gardens at Mey, the Queen Mother's former holiday home, see puffins at Dunnet Head, and discover castle ruins, Neolithic cairns, sea stacks and caves.
Sharvedda, Strathy Point
Sharvedda is the most northerly of all our B&Bs located at Strathy Point, one of the most dramatic sections of coast on the route. Steep cliffs, sandy beaches and rocky sea stacks are all home to an abundance of wildlife. Stay a few days to unwind and fully appreciate the scenery and the wildlife which is best enjoyed out of the car.