SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS HOLIDAY ROUTE・NC500
NORTH COAST 500 ROUTE
You won’t find Scotland’s North Coast 500 Route (NC500) on a map – it is not an actual road. It is a scenic driving route that has been designed to bring visitors to the most rural regions of the Scottish Highlands. Since it was introduced in 2014 it became a major success and tourism in the area has increased.
The full ultra-scenic 516 Miles of the NC500 goes along the northern coast of Scotland and showcases the natural beauty of the region. It can be comfortably driven over the duration of two days with an overnight half way. Motivated petrol-heads coming here only to drive might doing the many scenic roads of the North Coast 500 Route within a single day. Vacationers with relaxation on their mind maybe want to spend more time on the road and plan in some golfing.
Whatever you’re planning we suggest a start and finish at the town of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands – the route itself forms a loop from there what makes it the perfect start point. We recommend driving the route clockwise to always drive directly alongside the coast. For those who want more driving start and finish your tour in Edinburgh and use Inverness as your base to drive the NC500 loop.
Check out the Scotland NC500 Driving Tour to enjoy effortless navigation with a pre-programmed GPS.
Inverness is with 50.000 inhabitants by far the biggest city on the NC500. Expect lots of small villages and rural areas along the route surrounded by unspoiled nature with lakes, rivers and some forest. The most famous rugged coastline and beaches of Scotland feel like the extraordinary frame for all this beauty. Besides hordes of sheep, Scotland will surprise you with its rich wildlife. You can discover deer, squirrels, seabirds and sea mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals.
Countless viewpoints along the route will give you an overdose of scenic photo opportunities flanked by many heritage sights like castles, museums and whiskey distilleries. Of course whiskey is a big no on a driving tour, so the distilleries hand outs nice little tasting samples to enjoy at your hotel.
Don’t head onto the North Coast 500 Route without pre-arranging accommodation along the route. Especially during July and August, Scotland is popular and because the route is relatively new there is simply not enough lodging in the area. Most hotels include breakfast and dinner in their room rate. Expect fresh, rustic, home-style meals and tasty seafood.
Not everyone knows - in Scotland like everywhere else on the island driving on the left side of the road is the law. It usually takes an hour to get used to it and not to tackle roundabouts from the wrong side. Relatively quickly you will gain confidence if you not already know how to drive on the left.
There are a few narrow stretched along the NC500 Route, that often become single-track. The designated passing places are there to give each other way. No matter how much you want to capture the landscape and how tempting the incredible view might be, don’t use the passing places as parking spots.
What is important to understand about doing the full NC500 the following:
The route should be done clockwise - to follow the coastline on the outside lane to get the best views.
The best stretch is the west coast with wide roads and incredibly nice scenery.
The northern tip of the NC500 gets narrow; even turns into a single track road with passing places from time to time.
Completing the loop along the east coast is more or less straight highway all the way down to Inverness.
There is only one decent hotel on the west coast of the NC500, everything further north would be Inn style accommodation.
Bealach Na Ba or simple “the road to Applecross” is a pretty narrow and windy stretch of road and that has been the only way to reach the village of Applecross for decades. Beyond all stretches of the entire 500 Miles this part is by far the most difficult and steepest stretch of the official NC500 route.
Attempts driving this road in an RV or as an inexperienced driver might end with a shut down of the road especially during bad weather.