Scotland’s North Coast 500

Castles, caves, ancient ruins, deserted white-sand beaches and pristine clear blue waters are some of the draws of Scotland’s North Coast 500.


One of the world’s most jaw-droppingly beautiful road trips is Scotland’s North Coast 500 (NC500).  Your ‘Scottish route 66’ adventure’ starts in the UK’s most northerly city of Inverness.  The route weaves along the west coast and then northwards, to the top of Scotland’s mainland, John O-Groats.  With over 500 miles of dramatic driving roads, beautiful coastal scenery and deserted white-sand beaches, this road trip will make you see the country in an entirely different way.  Here are some questions we get asked when planning a North Coast 500 adventure.


North Coast 500 sunrise

1. How long will I need to explore the NC 500?

We recommend taking at least 5-7 days to explore the North Coast 500.  Although if you’ve got more time you’ll be able to really soak up the Highland wilderness.  You could easily spend two weeks on the NC500, giving you time to explore each place, bag a couple of Munros (a 3,000+ feet hill) and really explore it’s hidden gems.

2. Should I stick entirely to the North Coast 500 route?

No. The best advice we can give you is to get off the beaten path.  The NC500 isn’t about sticking to the main route; use it as a guide but the most dramatic and breathtaking landscapes are often found when you deviate.  When going ‘off-piste’ you’ll find opportunities to take a trip over to one of the Islands where you’ll discover quaint villages and ancient ruins to explore.  Throughout your trip you’ll often find this part of the world still feels largely ‘undiscovered’.  You’ll come across a trail, a view or a beach that makes you feel like you’re the only humans on the planet. 

Clashnessie falls, Scotland
Scotland night sky

3. When should we do the NC500?

Typically, Scotland’s best weather is between May and September.  Spring and summer months bring warmer temperatures and lighter evenings, giving you the opportunity to explore well into the evening.  However, Scotland is famous for having all four seasons in one day so make sure to pack accordingly.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year along the NC500, the colours are completely breath taking.  At this time of year the temperature starts to drop and stags come down to lower ground so the opportunity to see them in the wild becomes a real possibility. 

From autumn into winter the season becomes truly magical: roaring fires in country lodges, enjoying a dram of whisky and appreciating hearty Highland cuisine.  The night sky in winter is super impressive, with such low light pollution and being so far north there is a chance you’ll experience the incredible night-time phenomenon Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.

4. How are we best to plan our NC500 trip?

Are you more interested in Beaches? Or Castles?  Wildlife or adventure? Do you want to spend time at distilleries or historical sites?  There is so much to see and do, use your interests to plan an itinerary.  

For example, some wildlife can only be seen at certain times and museums or castles might only be open in summer months.

Trees and forest

5. Travel Responsibly

This part of Scotland is captivatingly unspoilt, rugged and wild.  Please be a respectful traveller along your route, keep your footprint to a minimum and make sure to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.

6. Book Early

The NC500 is becoming increasingly popular.  If there are specific properties you want to stay at make sure to book these in advance.  Popular destinations book out very quickly (especially during summer months) so best to get in early.

7. And enjoy.....

We guarantee you’re about to embark on a journey that will take your breath away.  With the right itinerary, clothing & attitude you’ll wonder why you’ve not done it sooner. 

Get in touch with us to help plan your NC500 route.

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