The North Coast 500
Travel Guides

The North Coast 500

11th August 2020

The North Coast 500 is the road trip of a life-time. And what's more it's pretty much right on our doorstep. It's a 516-mile expedition taking in the wild and glorious scenery of the Highlands of Northern Scotland - rugged mountains, moorland, blue seas and white sand beaches. You can keep Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway, for our money the North Coast 500 is even more breath-taking.

The North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 starts and ends in the city of Inverness and follows the road around the rim of the north eastern Highlands, taking in the coasts of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-Shire over its 516 mile course.

The route can be driven in about a week, but it isn’t a race. The North Coast 500 is a journey that deserves to be taken slowly, with time to pause and drink in the incredible views, taste the mountain air and watch the sunsets over the Western Isles.

You can make your own itinerary – explore castles and ancient ruins; spot seals, eagles and dolphins; sample some of Scotland’s finest seafood and whisky; climb a munro; kayak across a loch. You can drive, take a camper van, cycle or even walk it.

However you choose to do it, the iconic North Coast 500 is one of the world’s most spectacular road trips and an incredible adventure.

The route can be driven in about a week, but it isn’t a race. The North Coast 500 is a journey that deserves to be taken slowly, with time to pause and drink in the incredible views, taste the mountain air and watch the sunsets over the Western Isles.

The North Coast 500


Inverness is your gateway to the North Coast 500, but it's well worth spending a day or two here before you set off. Stroll along the banks of the beautiful River Ness, visit Inverness Castle, the museum and art gallery, and pick up some supplies for your journey.

Where should you go?

There’s so much to see and do along this 516-mile route - here is just a small selection of highlights...
The North Coast 500

Dolphin spotting, the Black Isle

Slightly off the North Coast route, it's worth taking a detour to this world famous dolphin spotting location. Eilean Dubh, the Black Isle, isn’t actually an island but a peninsula.

Colonies of Bottlenose dolphins live in the brisk and chilly waters of the Moray Firth. North Kessock and Chanonry Point are two prime places to get a look at these amazing creatures, especially during spring and summer. Chanonry Point is probably the most well known and has its own dedicated dolphin shuttle bus service running from Inverness. The best place to see them is from the strip of shingle beach beside the lighthouse and the best time is when the tide's coming in and they start surfing the incoming waves on the hunt for food.

Less crowded than Chanonry Point is the village of North Kessock, where you can settle on one of the waterfront benches and spot dolphins and maybe other local wildlife like orca, pilots whales, otters and seals.
The North Coast 500

Smoo Cave, Sutherland

One of the largest sea caves in Europe, Smoo, near Durness, on the northern coast, is a huge 50ft high space carved out of the limestone rock by both the sea and freshwater. Inside you’ll find a magical waterfall, created when the Smoo burn overflows and pours from above down into the caves. The best time to see the waterfall is after periods of heavy rain when the burn above is in full spate.
The North Coast 500

Keiss Castle, Caithness

Built in the 16th century, Old Keiss Castle has been a dramatic ruin since the 18th century, when the Earls of Caithness abandoned it for a newly built mansion house a safer distance from the clifftops. Perched on the very edge of a sheer cliff face, overlooking Sinclair’s Bay, Keiss looks permanently on the verge of slipping into the sea. Needless to say it's much too risky to go inside and is best enjoyed from a panoramic distance. Also keep a look out for seals bobbing in the waters below this beautiful site.
The North Coast 500

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

On the north western tip of Scotland, the remote Sandwood Bay beach bears the full brunt of the wild Atlantic. You'll be glad you made the four mile moorland hike from the car park to find it, because Sandwood is reputedly one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain. It has a mile and a half of almost pink sand, flanked by dunes and the spectacular Am Buachaille sea-stack rising out of the sparkling turquoise waters. Its hidden location and lack of road access means it's never crowded and sometimes if you're lucky you can have this stunning place all to yourself.
The North Coast 500

Where should you stay?

Here's our pick of some truly gorgeous places to stay on or near the North Coast 500 route - from chic Scandi-inspired hideaways, to snug wooden cabins, beach houses to spectacular loch-side hotels. However you decide to travel the North Coast 500, make sure you treat yourself to at least a couple of nights in one of these breathtaking properties.

White Rose Tower

Invergordon - Ross-shire

B & B with 4 rooms

Luxurious tower house bed and breakfast with grand open living spaces and a fabulous location in beautiful woodland near Inverness.

The New Farm Cottage

Alness - The Highlands

Sleeps 2

A quaint romantic retreat for two, located near the renowned NC500 route in the Scottish Highlands with more than 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery.

Keiss Harbour House

Keiss - Caithness

Sleeps 12

Gorgeous 19th Century holiday home that offers a peaceful retreat in a fishing village on the northeast coast of Scotland.

Noss Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage

Wick - Caithness

Sleeps 6

Enjoy dramatic sea views and native wildlife at this Lighthouse keeper’s cottage in northern Scotland

Together Travel - John O'Groats

John O'Groats - Scotland

Sleeps 2-8

Luxury eco Lodges and beautiful apartments set in a secluded coastal hamlet enjoying the alluring wilderness of Scotland’s most northern retreat

Croft 103

Durness - Sutherland

Sleeps 2

Two contemporary eco-hideouts in a wild Scottish landscape, hidden away from the outside world for the ultimate romance…

The Cabin

Durness - Sutherland

Sleeps 4

Quaint rustic cabin on the Northwest coast of Scotland, surrounded by rugged hills and gorgeous beaches.

The Brochs of Coigach

Achiltibuie - Scottish Highlands

Sleeps 2-6

The wondrous views of the coast, mountains and wildlife are just part of what makes this pair of recreated roundhouses so special. Inside you have a sauna and rooms filled with art

The Stonehouses

Ullapool - Highland

Sleeps 3-4

Explore Highland life from these luxurious houses that offer you panoramic views across Loch Broom and a private sauna.

Basecamp at 58 Degrees North

Ullapool - Ross shire

Sleeps 2

Delightful cosy retreat for wilderness lovers overlooking Loch Broom in Ullapool, minutes from the amazing Scottish coast.

3A Mellon Udrigle

Scottish Highlands - Ross Shire

Sleeps 6

Three bedroom, two bathroom beach house with a large patio, overlooking one of Britain’s most celebrated beaches in Ross Shire

Bliss Haus

West Coast - Scottish Highlands

Sleeps 2 - 4

Bliss Haus is a stylish coastal hideaway by the Atlantic ocean, perfect for the ultimate escape from the everyday.

Tigh Beag

Shieldaig - Ross-Shire

Sleeps 4

The perfect combination of subtle style and stunning scenery, Tigh Beag is in just the right place for that Scottish holiday you always wanted - right by Loch Shieldaig

Birdwatchers' Cabin

Golspie - Sutherland

Sleeps 4

Watch Scottish wildlife from the comfort of this cosy and stylish cabin.

Eagle Brae

Beauly - Highland

Sleeps 2-6 per cabin

Luxurious, hand-crafted log cabins nestled in the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands for an eco-friendly escape.

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