The Most Beautiful Places on a Scotland NC500 Road Trip & beyond 🏴
Updated: 4 days ago
Scotland 🏴 is like no other place in the northern hemisphere and beyond. Amid the occasionally harsh climate and landscapes travellers can expect stunning scenic country roads on rugged terrain, spectacular coastlines and dark lochs. The landscape is dotted with sheep on vast meadows and iconic castles on the horizon.
Most of Scotland is remote and needs a bit of planning. But travelling by car is by far the best option to set your own pace. Therefore our Scotland NC500 Driving Tour comes in handy. From the countless Scottish castles, scenic drives and views we’ve compiled a guide to the most beautiful must-see places in Scotland that you can't miss and feature on our tour. Let's give you a little inside:
Taking a long stroll in beautiful Edinburgh.
In the 1700s the city achieved prestige as a centre of new perceptions in philosophy, economics and medicine and is until today often referred to as Athens of the North.
Overall the proud Scottish capital is very compact. The city offers countless big and small attractions that are best explored on foot. The breathtakingly beautiful architecture of the Old Town can be discovered along Edinburgh's most authentic cobbled street, the Royal Mile. At the end of the Royal Mile admit the city centre on top of a volcanic rock you find Edinburgh Castle. An old fortress used 3000 years for military purposes, as royal residence and prison of war.
At Edinburgh’s harbour you will find a slightly offbeat attraction at anchor that is often overlooked. Welcome aboard the five-decks of the majestic Royal Yacht Britannia. See yourself how the British Royal family used to travel on the 83rd and last royal yacht between 1954 and 1997 and why Queen Elizabeth II got emotional when she had to retire the ship.
Alone the infinite list of interesting sights that Edinburgh, make Scotland a number one travel destination. In about 5 hours 20 minutes you reach the very centre of the Scottish capital from London's King's Cross station on fourteen daily trains.
The majority of Scotland’s most beautiful places however, lies even further north. Here is our list of the most beautiful places that stand out the most and should always be included on any Scotland itinerary.
Travel through nature at the marvellous Cairngorms National Park:
North of the capital you find with 1700 square miles Britain’s largest National Park. Here at Cairngorms mother nature blessed the country with wonderful rivers, lochs and wildlife.
Five of the six highest mountains in Scotland are in the national park. During winters this is one of Scotlands most visited ski areas. Only natural that driving through the park will take you to the highest pass road in Britain. The slopes are connected through the scenic 90-mile Snow Road Route. Especially outside the ski season you will very much enjoy driving over the winding road going over steep hills, ‘blind’ summits and tight bends.
Among the very few villages, one location will always stand out: the summer residence of the British royal family at Balmoral Castle. Also the Scottish Malt Whisky Trail looms into the Cairngorms National Park and the large number of distilleries in the northern part of the park will tell you about that. The pure water and the inland setting are key to produce smooth and complex whiskies.
Travel the beautiful North Coast 500 Route:
For travellers looking for the most scenic and beautiful places in Scotland we recommend travelling along the ultra-scenic 516 Mile long North Coast 500 Route. You won’t find the NC500 Route 🏴 on a map. It is not a single road. But a scenic driving route through the northern parts of Scotland.
It has been designed to bring visitors to the most rural regions of the Scottish Highlands and since it was introduced in 2014 it became a major success. Tourism in the area has increased, but still is on a moderate level. During the shoulder seasons between April and June and September to October you will hardly encounter large crowds anywhere at the NC500. Part of the reason might be that there simply is not enough accommodation in the area.
We feature only the best stretches of the famous NC500 and skip the awful narrow bits of the route on our Scotland Driving Tour. And wherever it makes sense we take you off the NC500 to add some bonus drives and the most beautiful hotels of Scotland.
Cross the elegant Kylesku Bridge beautifully matching the landscape:
This is definitely one of Scotland's most visually striking and technically innovative modern concrete bridges. It is about here at the Kylesku Bridge where the North Coast 500 Route finds its strategic middle. Also the widely popular British TV program Top Gear featured the bridge as such.
For many the bridge is not only a beautiful photo opportunity, but hope to find a gas station soon. And especially drivers of low suspension cars coming from the south should ask themselves at this point how far beyond the Kylesku Bridge they want to go. Maybe turning around is the better option. Because some narrow and low quality roads are ahead of them and if in doubt it might be better to turn around.
Visit the most iconic of all Scottish Castles:
Eilean Donan Castle might look familiar. The castle was the Scottish headquarter of the MI6, the military intelligence service of her majesty. At least in one of the latest James Bond movies. But even before the castle has graced countless postcards from the Highlands and is surely one the most photographed Scottish castles.
It is strategically located on its own little island, overlooking the Isle of Skye. It was in 1719 when a storage of 343 barrels of gunpowder stored inside the castle were used to blow everything up. And for almost 200 years the castle was a ruin until between 1912 and 1932 the castles remains were rebuilt as a family home. To really understand the fascination and history of this place, cross the massive stone bridge and see it with your own eyes.
The Isle of Skye was once voted the fourth best island in the world by the National Geographic Magazine:
The beautiful Isle of Skye is located at the west coast of Scotland where the rough Atlantic sea bangs agains the towering cliffs. The inlands are not less dramatic and is best be explored from the comfort of your car. Drive around to discover the breathtaking rugged landscapes and the mystical tranquility of Scotland's fourth largest island. Be aware that roads that can get to single lanes here and there. But it's absolutely worth the trip to discover places out of this world.
One of those unique places is Kilt Rock resting on basalt columns on a sandstone base resembling a kilt. Nearby the sound of the Mealt Falls and its water plunging from the top into the deep will demonstrate the forces nature can develop.
Glen Coe represents Scotland’s wild natural beauty at its best:
The volcanic activity in Scotland ceased about 50 million years ago. Followed by glaciation from about 1.8 million years ago to the end of the Great Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. Today this volcanic region features a sixteen-mile drive from Fort William taking you right through the crater of an ancient volcano. One of the world's most unique landscapes you might recognise from the Harry Potter movies and of course James Bond's Skyfall.
The breathtakingly beautiful scenery was in 1692 also stage to the infamous Glencoe massacre. Back then the MacDonald clan were ruthlessly slaughtered by the government. Pray for some light rain when you get here. It will add to its dark and obscure atmosphere and set off hundreds of small waterfalls from the cliffs surrounding you.
The fine view through Glen Docherty:
Lovers of scenic roads can't ever get enough of Scotland. But there is some roads that are more outstanding than others. Along the famous North Coast 500 Route you will find the fantastic Glen Docherty look-out. This view point offers one of the most iconic views of the Scottish Highlands.
Travelling from Achnasheen find the spot on the right hand side, about 1.5 miles before Kinlochewe. Spend a few minutes here and let your eyes follow the winding road all the way to Loch Maree on the A832.
Breathing history at the Ruthven Barracks:
The remains of the Ruthven Barracks can easily be spotted on a hill next to A9 highway and yet they are still an insider tip. Even its only a quick stop you can get carried away by the mystic atmosphere of this special place.
George II's government built the barracks in the 1700s after Jacobite uprising to maintain law and order in the region. In 1745 an attack by the Jacobite failed, but it was only a year later that a more heavily-armed attack forced the barracks to surrender.
After their own defeat the Jacobite forces set the barracks afire. And there they stand today without roof and wooden floors until today. Open to the sky.
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