The North Coast 500 (NC500), is a 500-mile-long route along the Highland’s rugged coastline. Featuring meandering country single-tracks and long open roads, the North Coast 500 takes you through some of Scotland’s most beautiful coastal scenery.
Starting in Inverness, the NC500 follows the west coast to Applecross and then north towards Torridon and Ullapool. From there, the route takes you to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, passing Caithness and John O’Groats, before heading south through Dingwall and returning back to Inverness. Whether you are driving, cycling or walking the route, we’ve pulled together six reasons why the North Coast 500 should be on everyone’s bucket list:
1. The scenery
Scotland boasts magical scenery throughout, but the northern coast features some of the most spectacular vistas in the whole country. With fairy-tale like castles, historic ruins, vast lochs, towering mountains, and beautiful beaches, a journey along the NC500 is an Instagrammer’s dream. You will find yourself wanting to stop and marvel at another incredible Scottish landscape every five minutes!
2. Local food and drink
World-renowned for its fresh seafood, legendary haggis and Scotch whisky, Scotland offers an abundance of fresh and diverse produce. The NC500 coastal route passes many award-winning restaurants, such as The Seafood Shack in Ullapool and The Captain’s Galley in Scrabster. The route also features numerous whisky distilleries, so take a distillery tour en-route and discover more about Scotland’s national drink.
3. Scottish history
The Scottish Highlands are bursting with fascinating castles, legends and mysteries from centuries past. The chance to uncover Scottish history is available at every twist and turn of this route, with many castles and ruins along the way. Make a pit stop at Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, situated on a cliffside, around three miles north of Wick. One of the most striking ruins featured on the route, the structure holds a historical tale dating back to 1476.
4. Beautiful beaches
Beautiful coastline is one of the main highlights of the NC500 and the incredible beaches featured along the way are nothing short of spectacular. Achmelvich Beach, near Ullapool, is a popular spot and is more sheltered than other beaches along the route. Said to rival beaches in the Carribean on a sunny day, tropically coloured clear waters contrast the white sands. No matter what the weather, this stunning beach will take your breath away!
The NC500 offers visitors a chance to see some extraordinary Scottish wildlife in their natural habitat. Rare seabirds and marine life such as minke whales, orcas, dolphins, seals, basking sharks and porpoises can be found along the coast. And depending on the time of year you visit, the rivers are a prime location to encounter wild Atlantic salmon leaping upstream to their breeding grounds. On land, wild red deer, red squirrels, birds of prey, Shetland ponies and the famous highland cow will be a common sight during your trip!
6. Things to do for all the family
The NC500 is the perfect trip to do with kids. Suitable for all the family, the route is jam-packed with exciting things to see and do. In addition to nature and wildlife spotting, there are lots of other activities which include hiking, cycling, golfing, visiting castles, ruins, heritage sites, animal centres and museums. Water-sports activities are also popular all year round and include boat-trips, kayaking, water skiing, surfing and fishing.