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Driving The North Coast 500 In Scotland


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Ophelie Farnsworth



If you’re looking for an unforgettable road trip adventure, look no further than the North Coast 500 in Scotland. This epic driving route covers approximately 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, charming towns, and historic landmarks. Considered one of the world’s greatest road trips, the North Coast 500 takes you through the rugged beauty of the Scottish Highlands and offers a unique way to explore some of Scotland’s most breathtaking landscapes.


Starting and ending in Inverness, the North Coast 500 takes you on a circular journey around the northernmost part of Scotland. As you traverse the route, you’ll encounter majestic mountains, pristine beaches, picturesque lochs, and ancient castles. Each day brings new discoveries and incredible vistas that will leave you in awe of Scotland’s natural splendor.


Not only will you be mesmerized by the scenic beauty, but you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the warmth and hospitality of the Scottish people. The North Coast 500 brings you through charming coastal towns, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, sample delicious Scottish cuisine, and even try your hand at traditional activities like whisky tasting or exploring historic distilleries.


Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply seeking an adventure, the North Coast 500 has something for everyone. It’s a chance to get off the beaten path and discover the hidden gems of Scotland, away from the crowds and tourist hotspots. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on a journey of a lifetime along the North Coast 500.


Planning Your North Coast 500 Journey

Before setting off on your North Coast 500 adventure, it’s essential to do some careful planning to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Here are a few important factors to consider:

  1. Timing: The best time to embark on the North Coast 500 is during the summer months, between May and September, when the weather is generally milder. However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, so be prepared for busier roads and accommodations filling up quickly. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn.
  2. Accommodation: Due to the increasing popularity of the North Coast 500, it’s crucial to book your accommodation well in advance. You’ll find a range of options, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and campsites, catering to different preferences and budgets. Consider staying at different locations along the route to fully experience the diverse landscapes and communities.
  3. Transportation: Having your own vehicle is the most convenient way to explore the North Coast 500. You can either bring your own car or rent one from Inverness. It’s advisable to choose a vehicle suitable for the terrain, such as a reliable four-wheel-drive or a campervan if you plan to camp along the way.
  4. Route: While the North Coast 500 follows a circular route, you can choose to travel clockwise or counterclockwise. Take the time to research the various attractions and landmarks along the way, as well as any detours you might want to make. This will help you create an itinerary that suits your interests and gives you enough time to explore each destination.
  5. Packing Essentials: Make sure to pack appropriate clothing for the unpredictable Scottish weather, including waterproof jackets, warm layers, and sturdy footwear. Don’t forget essentials like a map or GPS, phone charger, snacks, and plenty of water. It’s also advisable to bring a camera to capture the awe-inspiring landscapes and memorable moments.

By taking the time to plan your North Coast 500 journey, you’ll ensure a hassle-free and memorable experience. Remember to be flexible with your itinerary, allowing for unexpected stops and spontaneous adventures along the way. Get ready to embark on an incredible road trip that will take you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes Scotland has to offer.


Day 1: Starting from Inverness

Your North Coast 500 adventure begins in the historic city of Inverness, known as the capital of the Highlands. After fueling up with a hearty breakfast, it’s time to hit the road and embark on your scenic journey.


Leaving Inverness, you’ll start heading north on the A862, passing picturesque villages and rolling farmland. Your first stop is the enchanting village of Beauly, where you can explore the ruins of the 13th-century Beauly Priory and stroll through the charming main street filled with craft shops and cafes.


Continuing along the A862, the road meanders through beautiful countryside until you reach the iconic Rogie Falls. Take a short hike through the forest to witness the stunning waterfall and maybe even spot leaping salmon if you’re visiting during spawning season.


As you make your way towards the west coast, you’ll reach the quaint village of Achnasheen, nestled in the shadow of the towering mountains. Here, you have the option to take a detour along the picturesque Strathcarron loop, offering breathtaking views and a chance to visit the stunning Lochcarron village.


Back on the North Coast 500 route, you’ll soon arrive in the bustling town of Ullapool. This vibrant harbor town is a perfect spot to take a break and indulge in some delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants. Don’t forget to explore the charming streets, browse through unique shops, and soak in the coastal atmosphere.


As you continue towards the northwest, the landscape becomes more rugged and dramatic. You’ll pass through the knotted peaks of the Assynt region, home to some of Scotland’s most iconic mountains, including Suilven and Stac Pollaidh. Take the opportunity to stretch your legs and venture on a hike to fully appreciate the raw beauty of the surroundings.


Finally, you’ll reach the end of your first day’s journey at the small village of Lochinver. This charming coastal settlement is renowned for its seafood, particularly the famous Lochinver Larder pies. Indulge in a mouthwatering meal before retiring to your accommodation to rest up for the adventures that lie ahead.


Day 1 of the North Coast 500 introduces you to the stunning landscapes of the Highlands, from picturesque villages to cascading waterfalls and majestic mountains. Soak in the beauty of the region as you prepare for another exciting day of exploration along this epic road trip.


Day 2: Exploring the North-East Coast

On day 2 of your North Coast 500 journey, you’ll venture along the beautiful North-East Coast of Scotland, experiencing breathtaking coastal views and discovering hidden gems along the way.


Leaving Lochinver, you’ll head eastward on the A837, passing through the charming village of Kylesku. Here, you have the opportunity to take a short detour to see the iconic Kylesku Bridge, an architectural marvel that spans the Loch a’ Chairn Bhain. The bridge offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and sea, making it a must-see photo spot.


Continuing on, you’ll arrive at the picturesque village of Lochinver, known for its picturesque harbor and vibrant arts scene. Take some time to explore the art galleries, craft shops, and perhaps even enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at one of the local eateries.


As you drive along the coastal road, you’ll pass by the famous Stoer Lighthouse, perched on top of high cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Stop to admire this historic beacon and take in the breathtaking panoramic views.


Next, continue to the stunning white sandy beaches of Achmelvich, where you can stroll along the shore and feel the soft sand between your toes. If the weather permits, take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters of the North Atlantic and enjoy the tranquility of this secluded beach.


As you journey further east, you’ll come across the charming village of Dornoch, famous for its beautiful sandy beach and historic Dornoch Cathedral. Take a moment to explore the medieval streets, visit the cathedral, or perhaps enjoy a round of golf at the renowned Royal Dornoch Golf Club.


Finally, make your way to the coastal town of Tain, where you can visit the Glenmorangie Distillery and indulge in a whisky tasting experience. Learn about the whisky-making process and sample some of Scotland’s finest single malts.


End your day by heading back to Inverness, taking in the breathtaking views of the North-East Coast along the way. Reflect on the beauty and diversity of the landscapes you have encountered, and get ready to continue your North Coast 500 adventure on the following day.


Day 2 of the North Coast 500 takes you along the scenic North-East Coast, filled with stunning beaches, historic landmarks, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich culture and heritage of Scotland.


Day 3: Heading to the Far North

Day 3 of your North Coast 500 journey will take you further north, as you explore the rugged and remote landscapes of the Far North of Scotland. Prepare yourself for a day filled with incredible natural beauty and fascinating historical sites.


Leaving Inverness, you’ll continue north on the A9, passing through the picturesque Black Isle peninsula. Take a short detour to visit the enchanting Fairy Glen, a hidden gem known for its mystical atmosphere and cascading waterfalls.


As you make your way north, you’ll reach the historic town of Dornoch, famous for its stunning sandstone cathedral and charming streets. Take the time to explore the town, visit the cathedral, or enjoy a round of golf at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club.


Continuing along the A9, you’ll soon arrive at the small village of Golspie, where you can visit the impressive Dunrobin Castle. This grand stately home overlooks the North Sea and boasts beautiful gardens, breathtaking views, and a falconry display that is not to be missed.


As you venture further north, you’ll pass through the coastal villages of Brora and Helmsdale, each with their own unique charm. These areas are known for their rich fishing heritage and offer a glimpse into the historical way of life in the Far North.


Next on your journey is the stunningly beautiful Caithness region. Here, you’ll have the chance to explore the quaint town of Wick and visit the fascinating Wick Heritage Museum, which provides a glimpse into the town’s maritime history and the heyday of the herring industry.


Continuing along the A9, you’ll soon reach the mesmerizing Dunnet Bay, home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland. Take some time to walk along the white sandy shores, enjoy the sea breeze, and marvel at the coastal cliffs.


Finally, you’ll arrive at your destination for the day, the vibrant town of Thurso. Known as the gateway to the Orkney Islands, Thurso offers a range of activities for visitors, including surfing, fishing, and exploring the local shops and restaurants. This is the perfect place to relax and immerse yourself in the friendly atmosphere of the Far North.


Day 3 of the North Coast 500 takes you on a journey through captivating landscapes, rich history, and charming coastal towns. Prepare to be enchanted by the remote beauty of the Far North of Scotland and discover the hidden gems that await you along the way.


Day 4: The West Coast and the Isle of Skye

Day 4 of your North Coast 500 adventure takes you along the breathtaking west coast of Scotland and onto the magnificent Isle of Skye, known for its dramatic landscapes and rich Gaelic heritage.


Leaving Thurso, you’ll start heading west on the A836, passing through the rugged and remote landscapes of Sutherland. As you journey, be sure to soak in the panoramic vistas of the mountains, lochs, and vast moorland.


Next, you’ll reach the bustling town of Ullapool, where you can take a short break and admire the picturesque harbor. If time allows, consider taking a ferry trip to the Outer Hebrides to experience the stunning beauty of these remote islands.


Continuing your journey, you’ll drive through the awe-inspiring Assynt region, home to iconic landmarks such as Suilven and Stac Pollaidh. The jagged peaks and dramatic cliffs provide a breathtaking backdrop as you make your way toward the west coast.


As you approach the west coast, the scenery becomes even more spectacular. The road winds its way through charming villages like Gairloch and Poolewe, offering stunning views of the rugged coastline, pristine beaches, and the majestic mountains of Torridon.


Arriving on the Isle of Skye via the Skye Bridge, you’ll be greeted by a landscape that seems almost otherworldly. The island is renowned for its dramatic cliffs, mystical lochs, and ancient castles. Be sure to make stops at iconic attractions such as the Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr, and the Quiraing, where you can take in the breathtaking beauty that has made Skye famous.


Don’t forget to explore the island’s cultural sites, such as Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, and the Trotternish Peninsula, home to historic ruins and traditional crofting villages.


End your day on Skye by tasting the local cuisine, including fresh seafood and traditional Scottish dishes. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich Gaelic culture and perhaps even catch a lively traditional music session in one of the local pubs.


Day 4 of the North Coast 500 allows you to experience the dramatic landscapes and rich heritage of the west coast and the Isle of Skye. Prepare to be captivated by the natural beauty and cultural treasures that await you on this unforgettable day of your journey.


Day 5: Returning to Inverness

On the final day of your North Coast 500 adventure, you’ll make your way back to Inverness, reflecting on the incredible journey you’ve undertaken and savoring the memories of the past few days.


Leaving the Isle of Skye, you’ll cross back over the Skye Bridge and begin your journey southward. As you travel, take the time to appreciate the stunning scenery once again, as the landscapes appear different from a new perspective.


As you drive through the rugged Highlands, you’ll pass through the village of Glenelg, where you have the option to take a short detour to visit the fascinating Iron Age Brochs and the Glenelg Broch, a well-preserved ancient structure.


Continuing your journey, you’ll drive through the striking glens and past shimmering lochs, following the A887 and then joining the A82 south towards Fort William. Along the way, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and the majestic Great Glen.


Make a stop in Fort William, a bustling town nestled at the foot of Ben Nevis. Here, you can take a stroll along the Caledonian Canal, visit the West Highland Museum to learn about the area’s history, or simply relax in one of the local cafes before continuing on your journey.


Leaving Fort William, you’ll join the A82 and drive through the beautiful scenic landscapes of Glencoe, known for its breathtaking valleys and majestic peaks. This area is rich in history and offers numerous opportunities for hiking and exploring.


As you make your way further south, you’ll pass Loch Laggan, an enchanting freshwater loch surrounded by rugged mountain scenery. Take a moment to stop and appreciate the tranquility of this picturesque location.


Finally, you’ll join the A9 and head towards the city of Inverness, marking the end of your North Coast 500 journey. Reflect on the incredible sights, experiences, and memories you’ve amassed along the way.


As you arrive back in Inverness, take the time to explore the city once more, perhaps visit Inverness Castle, or simply relax by the River Ness before bidding farewell to the Highlands.


Day 5 brings your North Coast 500 adventure to a close, leaving you with a sense of awe and a multitude of unforgettable experiences. As you depart, carry with you the beauty, history, and magic of this diverse and captivating region of Scotland.


Tips for Driving the North Coast 500

Driving the North Coast 500 is an incredible adventure, but it’s important to be prepared and make the most of your journey. Here are some tips to help you have a smooth and enjoyable experience:

  1. Plan your itinerary: Research and plan your route in advance, taking into consideration the attractions, accommodations, and detours you want to include. This will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don’t miss any hidden gems along the way.
  2. Book accommodations ahead of time: The popularity of the North Coast 500 means that accommodations can fill up quickly, especially during peak travel season. It’s highly recommended to book your accommodations well in advance to secure your preferred options.
  3. Be mindful of the weather: The weather in the Highlands can be unpredictable, so be prepared for changing conditions. Pack appropriate clothing for various weather scenarios, including waterproof layers, warm clothing, and sturdy footwear.
  4. Take your time: The North Coast 500 is not a race; it’s an opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty of the Scottish landscape. Allow plenty of time for stops, hikes, and spontaneous adventures along the way. Don’t rush through the journey, but rather embrace the slower pace of the road trip.
  5. Be considerate of other drivers: Some sections of the North Coast 500 are narrow and winding, so be patient and considerate towards other drivers. Take extra care when passing or being passed and be mindful of any passing places along the route.
  6. Sample local cuisine: The region along the North Coast 500 is renowned for its delicious seafood, traditional dishes, and local produce. Take the opportunity to try traditional Scottish cuisine and indulge in local specialties along the way.
  7. Stay hydrated and fueled: While there are stops along the route, it’s a good idea to carry plenty of water and snacks with you, especially if you’re planning to hike or spend time in remote areas.
  8. Respect the environment: The natural beauty of the North Coast 500 is best preserved when we all do our part to protect it. Dispose of waste properly, respect wildlife and ecosystems, and leave each place you visit as you found it, if not better.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on your North Coast 500 adventure and ensure a memorable and enjoyable journey through the stunning landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.



The North Coast 500 is an unforgettable road trip that takes you on a journey through the stunning landscapes, rich history, and warm hospitality of the Scottish Highlands. From the rugged coastlines and majestic mountains to the charming villages and hidden gems along the way, this epic adventure encompasses the very essence of Scotland’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.


Driving the North Coast 500 allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery, engage with local communities, and create lifelong memories. Whether you’re exploring the remote and wild north, venturing through the dramatic west coast, or discovering the enchanting Isle of Skye, each day of your journey will bring new wonders and surprises.


It’s important to plan your itinerary, book accommodations in advance, and be prepared for the ever-changing Scottish weather. Taking your time to appreciate the scenic drives, stopping at viewpoints, hiking in the national parks, and indulging in local cuisine will enrich your experience along the way.


Remember to be respectful of the local communities and the environment, leaving each place you visit as you found it. By maintaining a sustainable approach to tourism, we can help preserve the natural beauty of the Highlands for future generations to enjoy.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking an adventure, the North Coast 500 offers an incredible opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Scotland. So, buckle up, hit the road, and prepare to be amazed by the beauty that awaits you on this epic Scottish journey.