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The complete guide to The North Coast 500

The complete guide to The North Coast 500

Have you heard about the North Coast 500? This incredible road trip takes you 500 miles around the north coast of Scotland through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world – there’s no wonder they call it the Scotland Route 66.

With dramatic driving roads, beautiful coastal scenery, turquoise blue seas and white sand beaches, you will need as much time as you can get to do the route – you will want to stop every couple of hours and get out of the car and go for a walk! The NC500 should definitely not be all about the road.

Here’s how to drive the North Coast 500 route.

The North Coast 500

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What is the North Coast 500 / NC500 route [Scotland Route 66]?

The NC500 route starts with a visit to the City of Inverness, before driving up the east coast of Scotland to the very top of the UK, spotting dolphins at Channory Point on the Black Isle Peninsula and visiting amazing castles along the way.

The route then takes you along the far north coast of Scotland to visit the John O’Groats sign and the incredible Duncansby Head Stacks and the most northerly tip of the UK. Then onwards to the harbours and seafood suppers at Scrabster and Thurso before exploring the huge Smoo Cave, and trying the famous hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain at Durness.

Turning south, you will then travel through the otherworldly mountain landscapes of Lochinver and Assynt and then drive along a coastline pepper-potted with incredible white sand beaches with turquoise blue seas to one of my favourite regions in Scotland, Wester Ross.

Finally, you will drive through the huge Torridon mountains, past fiord-like lochs to the beautiful Applecross Peninsula where you end your trip driving the famous Bealach na Bà mountain pass – completing the Scotland Route 66.

The North Coast 500
Clachtoll Beach, the NC500

How to plan your North Coast 500 Itinerary

Whether you want to drive the route in 4 days or 3 weeks, take a tent or stay in luxury accommodation, there is a NC500 itinerary for you!  A good way to plan out your NC500 road trip is to think of the route in four stages.

If you are travelling anti-clockwise – try this Scotland Route 66 itinerary:

  • Stage 1 – Inverness & Easter Ross – Starting from the Highland capital, Inverness, drive up Scotland’s east coast
  • Stage 2 – Caithness and Sutherland – Explore Scotland’s wild north coast including Cape Wrath and Durness
  • Stage 3 – Lochinver and Assynt -Drive the beautiful coast from Durness to Gairloch and visit Scotland’s best beaches.
  • Stage 4 – Wester Ross – Explore the Torridon mountains and drive the incredible Bealach Na Ba.

I would suggest that you need a minimum of five days to do the route, a week would be perfect, and 10 days or more if you want to visit Inverness or any of the west coast islands.

Looking for the perfect 7 day North Coast 500 itinerary?

The NC500 is not a way marked route and the highlands of Scotland are renowned for not having a 3g or even in some places a mobile signal, you will need actually need a paper map of the North Coast 500 route. Use the wifi in your accommodation to download your daily sections of the route to Google Maps.

Need help planning a Scotland itinerary? Check out my guide to planning a road trip in Scotland

North Coast 500 route map

My route map has lots of ideas of things to see and do to help you plan your itinerary.

  • Yellow – places to visit
  • Light green  – places to stay
  • Red – places to eat
  • Brown – mountains to climb
  • Orange – towns and villages
  • Blue – where to eat and drink
  • Dark green – petrol stations
  • Grey – history and heritage

You can download my north coast 500 map to your smartphone. Click on the link via your phone and it will open in the google maps app so you can follow it. All the stops in this guide are marked on the map.

Is there a section of the North Coast 500 I should not miss?

There is a saying in Scotland that ‘west is best’ and the route certainly takes you through the best of the west coast of Scotland‘s scenery, but that doesn’t mean the east coast of the NC 500 isn’t stunning in its own right – with dolphins, fairytale castles, over 200 brochs (Iron Age structures) and the 330 Waligoe Steps to explore, don’t just rush up to the north and west coasts.

Achmelvich Beach NC500
Achmelvich Beach

Things to do on the North Coast 500

Don’t just drive the route, there are lots of things to do along the Scotland Route 66:

You might want to purchase a 3, 7, or 14-day Historic Scotland Explorer Pass*

Things to do in Inverness

The North Coast 500 starts in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Home to over 45,000 people, there are plenty of things to waylay you in Inverness before you start your journey around the North Coast 500! 

Read more: the complete guide to Inverness.

  • The River Ness – the city of Inverness is bisected by the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. Take a stroll along the river, and cross back and forth across the bouncy bridges for a view of the castle.
  • Inverness Castle – sitting on the banks of the River Ness, Inverness castle was built in the 1800s and now houses Inverness Sheriff Court. You can visit the castle grounds and the north tower which has a great viewpoint of Inverness.
  • Leakey’s Bookshop – home to thousands of second-hand books, Leakey’s is an Inverness treasure trove.
  • Take a walking tour of Inverness – take this walking tour of Inverness* with a local guide or grab tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus tour*.
  • Black Isle Brewery Bar – serves up organic beers accompanied by delicious pizzas. The Castle Pub also serves a huge range of beer overlooking the river.
  • The Caledonian Canal – stretching the length of Scotland’s spectacular Great Glen, take a walk along the 62-mile Caledonian Canal down to Loch Ness. 
  • Culloden Battlefield – managed by the National Trust for Scotland, a visit to Culloden is sobering and stark and tells the tale of one of the most important battles in Scottish History. Free for National Trust members, otherwise £11 for adults.
  • Clava Cairns – a bronze age cemetery, the Clava Cairns are made up of standing stones, cairns and graves dating back 4000 years.
  • Boat trip out on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle – The Loch Ness Monster is a national treasure – and don’t let anyone tell you she isn’t real. Take a leisurely boat trip out on Loch Ness* to the dramatic Urquhart Castle.
  • Urquhart Castle – one of the largest in Scotland, and is deservedly popular – there is even a working trebuchet siege engine in the castle grounds! Entry to the castle is £9 for adults free with an Explorer Pass.
  • The Loch Ness Visitor centre – this year marks the 85th anniversary of the famous Surgeon’s Photograph. Gossip is that the photo is actually of a toy submarine purchased from Woolworths with a fake Nessie head!

Thing to do on the Black Isle and Easter Ross

Leaving Inverness the first stage of the North Coast 500 takes you through Easter Ross and beside the Black Isle. Don’t just drive by – there are lots of things to do on the Black Isle and Easter Ross on the Scotland Route 66:

  • Go dolphin watching – around 130 Bottlenose Dolphins live in the waters off Inverness and Morayshire. The best place to see the dolphins mucking around are Chanonry Point and North Kessock on the Black Isle north of Inverness or take a boat trip out into the Cromarty Firth. The best time to see Dolphins is on an incoming/rising tide which brings in the food for the dolphins.
  • Visit Black Isle Brewery – like craft ale and organic lager? Make sure you make a stop at the Black Isle Brewery as you head north – their beers are available to buy on-site and they door tours of the brewery.
  • See the RSPB Tollie Red Kites – watch the RSPB volunteers feed beautiful Red Kites from the pretty farmsteading at RSPB Tollie. The Kites can also be seen flying over the A9 as you head north. Entry to RSPB Red Tollie is free.
  • Hugh Miller’s Birthplace – home of geologist, folklorist and fossil hunter Hugh Miller with a beautiful small garden. Run by the National Trust for Scotland. Adults are £6.50, family tickets available.
  • RSPB Nigg Bay – take a pause to visit this RSPB wetland home to pintails, pink-footed geese and in winter, wigeons.
  • Try a dram at Glenmorangie Distillery – famous worldwide, you can take a tour of the distillery – remember no drinking for the designated driver! Other local whisky distilleries include Balblair Distillery, which has one of the oldest archive records of whisky in distilling, and Clynelish Distillery who make most of the whisky for Johnnie Walker Gold. 
  • Climb up to the Fyrish Monument – one of the NC500’s hidden gems, the view from the Fyrish Monument is well worth the 3-hour round trip walk.
  • Black Rock Gorge – take a short walk up the Black Rock Gorge north of Dingwall. This ‘box gorge’ appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • Visit Loch Fleet – just fancy a stroll? Walk around Loch Fleet to Little Ferry and explore Balblair Woods. You might spot Ospreys and Crossbills in the trees.
  • Hike the Golspie Big Burn to Ben Bhraggie – At Golspie make sure you visit the beautiful waterfalls at the Big Burn, and if you are feeling energetic there are mountain bike trails on Ben Bhraggie – or you could climb to the top for a view
  • Visit the Falls of Shin – next to the waterfalls at the Falls of Shin (famous for leaping Salmon) with a cafe serving tasty food.
  • Dunrobin Castle – a gorgeous stately home just outside Golspie, Dunrobin Castle has lovely gardens – with the designs copied from Versailles. Dunrobin is a popular spot for Instagrammers – the castle looks like it just fell out of a fairy tale! There are also daily Birds of Prey demonstrations.

My recommended place to stay in Sutherland: The Birdwatcher’s Cabin, Golspie

More things to do around Golspie, Dornorch and Easter Ross

Caithness NC500

Things to do in Caithness and Sutherland

Next stop – Caithness and Sutherland. Now don’t let anyone tell you the northeast coast of Scotland is boring. Ok, it might not have white sands beaches and fjord-like sea lochs of the west coast but it is beautiful and full of lots of fantastic hidden gems. Here is what to do on the Caithness section of the North Coast 500.

  • Timespan Museum, Helmsdale – learn all about the Highland Clearances which happened in Caithness.
  • Berriedale Brae viewpoint (A9 north of Helmsdale) – The Berriedale Brae is an incredibly steep hairpin bend. This is one of the most challenging sections of the North Coast 500. There is a viewpoint if you want to stop.
  • Waligoe Harbour – climb down 250 metres to the tiny Waligoe Harbour. Watch out for the weather – descending the 250 steps into sea haar can feel very spooky indeed.
  • Hill O Many Stanes –  Wonder just why 200 wee stones were placed in rows up to 4000 years ago. 
  • The Castle of Old Wick – perched on dramatic cliffs, the Castle of Old Wick one of Scotland’s oldest castles. 
  • Caithness Brochs – No one knows what Brochs were really used for, just that there are lots of them. There are over 200 brochs (Iron Age structures) across Caithness.
  • Buchollie Castle – access is across a walkway with sheer 100m drops on each side – don’t try and visit in bad weather! Built by Sweyn Asliefson the notorious pirate and robber in about 1140 and later remodelled by the Mowat Family until 1661.
  • Castle Sinclair Girnigoe – near Wick is a spectacular ruin.
  • Duncansby Head Lighthouse and stacks – a lot more attractive than John O’Groats. Take a walk to Duncansby’s huge sea stacks.
  • John O’Groats – the most northerly village in the UK – take the photo of the sign – it is a must!
  • Read more: things to do in Caithness
John O'Groats
John O’Groats

More things to do in Caithness and Sutherland

  • Visit the Castle of Mey – previously the home of the Queen Mother in Scotland, you can now tour this royal palace and garden.
  • Dunnet Head and Lighthouse – the most northerly tip of the UK. There is an RSPB reserve – the Dunnet Bay Nature Reserve which is worth a short walk. You might even spot puffins! At Dunnet there is also the Dunnet Bay Distillery who make gin and whisky.
  • Thurso – a good wee town for lunch. Walk along the river to the beach to watch seals. Read more – Things to do in Thurso
  • Scrabster Harbour – walk from the harbour to Holburn Head to see the blowholes with views of Orkney.
  • Melvich Beach – one of the north coast’s most stunning beaches, just a short walk from the road to Melvich Beach.
  • The Split Stane, Sutherland – the boundary between Sutherland and Caithness – said to have been split by the devil’s tail. Find the stone at Drumholliston near Melvich.
  • Castle Varrich – climb up to Castle Varrich from the village of Tongue for a great view over Kyle and Ben Loyal.
  • Tongue causeway and bridge – a dramatic bridge over the Kyle of Tongue sea loch.
Smoo Cave
Inside Smoo Cave

Even more things to do in Caithness and Sutherland

Strathy Point Beach/Strathy Point Lighthouse – a great spot to see dolphins and whales in the summer months.

Climb Ben Loyal and Ben Hope – the Queen of Scottish Mountains, Ben Loyal is a Corbett with four dramatic peaks to climb. Ben Hope is the most northerly Munro.

Stop at Mhoine House – Banksy in the highlands? The ruined Mhoine House has some amazing graffiti art to photograph.

Ceannabeinne – visit a highland clearance site on a short walk with beautiful sea views and a great beach. Above the beach is the the Golden Eagle Zip Line – the most northely zip line – the Golden Eagle Zip Line – the zip line is weather dependent so opening times vary.

Smoo Cave – explore this huge cave near Durness by foot or by boat. Smoo Cave is floodlit inside and was formed by both the river inside and the sea outside! The guided tour by boat costs £10.

John Lennon Memorial Garden – Durness was a favourite spot of John Lennon and there is a small memorial garden in Durness just past the Smoo Cave.

Ard Neikie Lime Kilns and Heilam Lairg viewpoint – stop to admire this viewpoint over a double backed beach.

Durness – has two beaches, Sango Sands and Balnakeil Beach, and shops, cafe and a petrol station, you can also visit the Balnakeil Craft Village most known for the hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain – you won’t regret it.

Cape Wrath – the north west point of Scotland, Cape Wrath is accessible by the Cape Wrath Ferry or a very long hike over mooreland! Visiting Cape Wrath on the ferry takes around 3 hours.

Sandwood Bay Beach – It might be an eight-mile walk to Sandwood Bay and back, but boy is the hike worth the trek. This is one of Scotland’s best beaches and has a spectacular sea stack – Am Buchaille.

The North Coast 500
Heilam Lairg viewpoint
North Coast 500 route

Things to do Lochinver & Assynt

Leaving the north coast of Scotland behind you reach Assynt and Coigach, one of my favourite parts of Scotland, and the most dramatic part of the North Coast 500 and the Scotland Route 66. Assynt is famous for its mountains – and Lochinver for its pies!

  • Take a RIB to Handa Island – one of Scotland’s most beautiful islands and a nationally important wildlife reserve, Hand Island is home to Puffins, rare Bonxies, stunning views of the Assynt mountains. A visit to the island is by boat (£15 cash only) and takes around 4 hours (10 mins on the ferry, and to walk around the island). There is also a seafood restaurant at Tarbert from where you catch the ferry.
  • Drive over the Kylesku Bridge – a famous photo stop on the NC500, the Kylesku Hotel is nearby serving up great seafood.
  • Drive the Drumbeg Loop to Achmelvich and Clachtoll Beaches – two beautiful beaches well worth an afternoon detour.
  • Ardvreck Castle – Sitting on the banks of Loch Assynt sits the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, once the 15th-century stronghold of Clan MacLeod, longtime owners of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
Stac Pollaidh

More things to do Lochinver & Assynt

  • Lochinver Larder – cafe and takeaway famous for their pies.
  • The Knockan Crag – a site of special scientific interest famous for the Highland’s Controversy – a long-running argument between geologists about the age of the rocks here. There is a visitor centre for those interested to find out just why the debate over Knockan Crag was so bitter and a walking trail for those just wishing to take in the incredible views. Explore Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.
  • Stac Pollaidh – one of Scotland’s best hill walks, with a well-made path to the summit, easy and fun scrambling over its pinnacles and ridges and incredible views over the Assynt mountains.
  • Suilven – At 731m Suilven might be considered a wee hill in Scotland (Ben Nevis is nearly twice its height) but once seen, Suilven (pronounced Sool-ven) is a hill never to be forgotten – it is one of Scotland’s most iconic mountains. 
  • Corrieshalloch Gorge – through which the River Droma falls through a series of waterfalls, including the huge 45 m Falls of Measach. Don’t be scared!
  • Ullapool – a great wee town for an overnight stop on the NC500. Discover more things to do in Ullapool
  • Inverewe Garden and Estate at Poolewe– one of Scotland’s most beautiful gardens. Inverewe House has recently been opened to the public for the first time in its history and gives visitors a snapshot of 1930s life in a Scottish estate. Visit Inverewe.
  • Whale Cruise – Take a Hebridean Whale Cruise to spot otters, seabirds and even dolphins and sharks in the waters off Gairloch.
  • Big Sands and Red Point Beach –  views across to Raasay and Skye.

More things to do in Lochinver & Assynt
How to cimb Stac Pollaidh / How to climb Suilven
More things to do in Ullapool

Things to do Wester Ross and Applecross

With over 3000 square miles of soaring mountains and atmospheric glens, ancient Caledonian forest and wild beaches set against a backdrop of fjord-like lochs; Wester Ross is one of the world’s most spectacular regions and probably the most beautiful part of the famous North Coast 500. Here is what to do in Wester Ross.

  • Visit the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve – explore the woodlands, home to 350-year-old Scots Pines remnant of the ancient Caledonian forest. Beinn Eighe is a Unesco Biosphere, covering 500,000ha meters of protected landscape.
  • Torridon Countryside Centre low-level walks and visit the Torridon Countryside Centre.
  • Sands Beach – voted by Countryfile readers as the Beach of the Year in 2015/16. It is one of my favourite places in Scotland and a gorgeous 10km walk from the village on the Peninsula.
  • Applecross Penisula – To get here, you either need to brave the famous Bealach Na Ba pass or the winding coast road from the neighbouring village of Shieldaig – both of which require nerves of steel from those not used to Scotland’s dramatic west coast roads.  For those who do make it, the peninsula is as blissful as it gets – the view across the Inner Sound to Raasay and Skye is mesmerising.
  • Bealach na Ba Viewpoint – drive this famous pass across the Applecross Peninsula. The road is utterly incredible, and definitely not for the faint of heart.
  • Attadale Gardens – where, in the late 19th century a plant collector started a garden on the Attadale Estate, importing rhododendrons from all over the world. Visit Attadale Gardens.
  • Glen Docherty – detour along the A832 for stunning views to Loch Maree.
  • Strome Castle – stop on Loch Carron to discover one of the National Trust for Scotland’s little gems.
  • Plockton –  where the mild, warm and wet climate allows palm trees to prosper on the waterfront, and home to two great pubs!

Ready to go?

The North Coast 500
Knockan Crag

Best things to do with kids on the Scotland Route 66

  • A boat trip out on Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle – try and spot the Loch Ness Monster
  • Visit Urquhart Castle – one of the largest in Scotland
  • Go Dolphin watching, around 130 Bottlenose Dolphins live in the waters off Inverness 
  • RSPB Tollie Red Kites – watch the RSPB volunteers feed beautiful Red Kites
  • Black Rock Gorge – take a short walk up the Black Rock Gorge north of Dingwall. This ‘box gorge’ appeared in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • Waligoe Harbour – climb down 250 metres to the tiny Waligoe Harbour. 
  • Melvich Beach – one of the north coast’s most stunning beaches
  • Smoo Cave – explore this huge cave near Durness by foot or by boat. 
  • Ceannabeinne – above the beach is the the Golden Eagle Zip Line – the most northely zip line.
  • Cocao Mountain – kids will love the hot chocolates!
  • Whale Cruise – Take a Hebridean Whale Cruise to spot otters, seabirds and even dolphins and sharks in the waters off Gairloch.
  • Knockancrag – a great walk for kids to with fantastic views and geology!
Oldshoremore Beach on the NC500
Oldshoremore Beach

Best beaches on the NC500

Read more: the complete guide to the best beaches on the North Coast 500. My favourite beaches on the north coast 500 are:

  • Melvich Beach – one of the the north coast’s best beaches
  • Oldshoremore – worth heading off the NC500 to discover
  • Strathy Point Beach/Strathy Point Lighthouse – a great spot to see dolphins and whales
  • Sandwood Bay Beach – It might be an eight-mile walk to Sandwood Bay and back, but boy is the hike worth the trek.
  • Achmelvich and Clachtoll Beaches – two beautiful beaches well worth an afternoon detour.
  • Big Sands and Red Point Beach –  huge beaches with views across to Raasay and Skye.
  • Sands Beach – voted by Countryfile readers as the Beach of the Year in 2015/16. 
The North Coast 500
Sand Beach

Best castles on the Nc500

The best castles worth a stop on the NC500

  • Dunrobin Castle – a gorgeous stately home just outside Golspie which looks like a fairytale castle
  • The Castle of Old Wick – perched on dramatic cliffs, the Castle of Old Wick one of Scotland’s oldest castles. 
  • Buchollie Castle – access is across a walkway with sheer 100m drops on each side – don’t try and visit in bad weather!
  • Castle Sinclair Girnigoe – near Wick is a spectacular ruin.
  • Castle of Mey – previously the home of the Queen Mother in Scotland, you can now tour this royal palace.
  • Castle Varrich – climb up to Castle Varrich for a great view over Kyle and Ben Loyal.
  • Ardvreck Castle – Sitting on the banks of Loch Assynt 
  • Strome Castle – stop on Loch Carron to discover one of the National Trust for Scotland’s little gems.

Scotland Route 66 / North Coast 500 guidebooks

Check out these recommended guidebooks for your road trip! [affiliate links]

North Coast 500 tours

Prefer not to drive yourself around the North Coast 500? Why not have someone do it for you.

Best places to visit in Scotland

Where to stay on the North Coast 500

There are lots of ways to do the NC500 / Scotland Route 66 – with a tent, staying in b&bs or self-catering. How you do it is up to you!

> Read more: my guide to the best places to stay on the North Coast 500

Do I need to pre-book NC500 accommodation before I set off?

It depends if you are camping or booking pubs and hotels. For hotels, B&Bs and camper vans the route is so popular many places are booked up a year in advance – so get planning!

Self-Catering Accommodation on Scotland Route 66

The best hotels and b&bs on the North Coast 500

Luxury hotels in Scotland

North Coast 500 campsites and Caravan / campervan stops

Pitch up and put your feet up here…

Gairloch Beach

North Coast 500 FAQs

How long is the North Coast 500?

516-miles (830 km)

Is the North Coast 500 the Scotland Route 66?

The NC500 is often described as Scotland’s route 66 – because it is one of the world’s most epic road trips. However, there are some differences. Route 66 crosses eight states over 2400 miles from Chicago to California. The NC500 miles is a lot shorter at just over 500 miles and takes you through some of the most beautiful bits of Scotland.

How long does it take to drive the route?

How long you take driving the NC500 is up to you. If you just want to experience one of the world’s best roads you could just about manage it in a day – but then you’ll miss everything the route has to offer.

Why not take longer to visit huge sea caves, sail to a tropical island to see puffins, or bag Scotland’s most northerly Munro … there is so much to see and do along the route it’s a shame to not do it justice.

If you just want to see the main sights I would suggest you will need a minimum of four days to do the main stages of the NC500, however, I would suggest a week to 10 days to really make the most of your trip.

What’s the best time of year to drive the North Coast 500?

  • My favourite time(s) of year in Scotland are April – May and September.
  • June and August can be wet months in Scotland.
  • July is busy with UK school holidays – particularly campsites on the west and north coasts.
  • Most attractions (from the National Trust or Historic Scotland) close from October to Easter. Many of the grounds are still open.
  • There is always a risk of snow in winter months inland from the coasts.

…but what about ticks and midges in Scotland?

Whenever you drive the route, Scotland’s NC500 will take you on an incredible road trip around Scotland you won’t ever forget…

Travelling in summer in Scotland means midgie – a tiny biting black fly – they are legendary for a reason. You can’t avoid them, but you can beat them – pick up the best insect repellent for the Scottish midge – ‘Smidge’. Sadly, midgies are worst in the early evening – just as you want to sit out on the lochside with that sundowner drink…

You also need to watch out for ticks in Scotland. These beasties sometimes carry lyme disease, so wear long trousers if you are hiking and always check yourself out. If you want to avoid beasties, the best time to travel in Scotland is spring, autumn and winter.

Should I drive the Scotland Route 66 clockwise or anti-clockwise?

I would suggest going anti-clockwise. Start at Inverness Castle and travel first up the East coast to John o’Groats, across to Durness, down to Gairloch and finally Applecross taking in some of Scotland’s most spectacular coastal scenery along the way.

Alternatively, you could start your trip with a drive through Glencoe and visiting the famous Eilean Donan Castle before joining the route clockwise on the west coast at Strathcarron.

3g mobile phone signal on the NC500

It is an issue, I admit. Most of the route does not have a signal, let alone 4g, so be prepared. However, wifi is very common in hotels and b&bs so you will be able to keep up with the outside world along the way. Using google maps? Use wifi to download sections of your map each day.

Driving in Scotland

Most of the NC500 route is on single-track roads – and you will be driving the route along with sports cars, campervans, motorbikes, cyclists, tractors, delivery drivers, sheep, coos and deer.

Here are a few tips for driving in Scotland:

  • KEEP LEFT  – or you will cause an accident
  • Know the speed limits, road signs and general driving advice – in Scotland, understand how to drive on a single track road!
  • Learn how to use passing places on the single track road – always pull to your left into the passing space and be prepared to reverse
  • Acknowledge your fellow drivers – a wave, a thank you or let someone past
  • Remember the route is not just for you to enjoy your holiday – people use the roads as part of their daily life, so let people past.
  • I recommend that your stops are no more than 1-1.5 hours apart unless much of the journey is on a motorway or you know the rules of the road. 2 hours on mountain roads will exhaust even the most patient of drivers.

Motorhomes and camper vans

The NC500 is suitable for motorhomes and camper vans although you will need to be prepared for the single track roads. The Bealach Na Ba is the only section not recommended for anything larger than a 16 – 18 ft camper and the Berriedale Brae is a very steep hairpin bend.

If you have never driven a campervan before I suggest doing the route anti-clockwise as you will be coming down the Bealach Na Ba rather than up it.

Petrol stations on the North Coast 500

There are plenty of petrol stations on the route. I suggest filling up regularly as the NC500 is quite remote in places. Petrol stations are marked on my NC500 map.

Love, from Scotland x


Wednesday 2nd of March 2022

Can I park my campervan off road without booking into a campsite every night?

Scotland Elopement Guide - Everything You Need To Plan for 2021 | Belle Art Photography

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

[…] make up the far north of Scotland. While much of the region can be visited by driving the famous North Coast 500 you need to detour off the route between Unapool and Ullapool to visit Assynt. If you aren’t […]


Wednesday 1st of February 2017

We're doing the NC500 at the end of June and all your posts have helped so much for my planning, thank you!!

Richard Bryce

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Bought a touring m/bike end of last year planning the 500 for the early summer, but pulled a huge sickie just after Xmas - turned out to be inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis which pretty much did for me right through till August. So, the Triumph Sprint, which has been standing outside rusting ever since, has just been fettled at Flitwick Motorcycles, will be hacked around on during the winter, and then washed and waxed late Spring ready for the 500 in early summer 2017. I plan to pack my walking boots and a tent and look for the less rocky pitches to ease my aching joints. Have done many a car trip round the Cairngorms and up to Inverness back in the 70's and 80's, but never beyond that I remember. Sooooo looking forward to it, midgies an' all.


Friday 14th of October 2016

Hi, we are doing this north coast 500 on monday coming with our kids. smallest is 2 so some places we might have to miss out. Any tips for us? we have already booked hotel in Turso, Ullapool and inverness. doing this over 3 day. day 3 going to avimore for the day then back home to Glasgow.