Located in the north Highlands of Scotland, the North Coast 500 (NC500) is a loop route with loads to squeeze in, showcasing fairytale castles, white sand beaches and historical ruins.
How long is the North Coast 500?
Dubbed as Scotland's 'Route 66', the scenic drive is 830 km (516-mile) long around the north coast of Scotland. It’s totally paved and runs along the best coastal scenery the North Highlands has to offer. The official route itself is slightly longer than 500 miles in length (hence the name), but you’ll likely exceed that distance by quite a stretch once you factor in all of the diversions and day trips you take along the way.
Where does the North Coast 500 start and end?
The scenic route was launched in 2015. Running along Scotland’s northern coast, it’s a circular route that begins and ends in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. It passes through the towns of Torridon and Ullapool, some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, Caithness and John o' Groats, heading south to Dingwall and back to Inverness.
How long does it take to drive the North Coast 500?
Scotland regularly ranks at tht top of must-visit travel destinations all around the world, so what better place for your next getaway? With the North Coast 500, you can marvel at the rugged splendour of the nation’s northern reaches, all the while winding your way along the single-track roads and cliff-hugging highways of Scotland’s answer to Route 66. Plan at least 5 - 7 days to complete the whole route. Along the way you can marvel at the rugged splendor of the nation’s northern reaches. It’s a rollercoaster road of ruined castles, pristine beaches and gorgeous lochs interspersed with dramatic cliffs, and charming villages.
What are the highlights of the North Coast 500?
Where to start?! The entire journey along the North Coast 500 is one long stunning spectacle, with dramatic mountains and gorgeous lochs interspersed with ruined fortresses and pristine beaches. Aside from the breath-taking scenery, some notable points of interest include John O'Groats (the most northerly point of mainland UK), the quaint village of Ullapool and the vertiginous road leading to Applecross, which is the steepest in Britain.
When is the best time to drive on the North Coast 500?
Each season brings its own charm to the North Coast 500 – and its own challenges. Spring and autumn might be the most attractive times of year to undertake the journey, given that light levels are decent, the weather is relatively mild, the roads aren’t too busy and the colours of the landscape are incredible (if very different from one another). Winter is worthy of a postcard for its snowy slopes – but roads can become difficult, dangerous or even impassable. As for summer, it’s the warmest time of year – but it’s also rife with tourists and midges, which are incredibly annoying mosquito-like insects.
What’s the best way to tackle the North Coast 500?
The most convenient way to traverse this awesome stretch of tarmac is by motorhome. This affords you the opportunity to stop wherever you like and sleep by the roadside, maximising the freedom of your route. Having said that, it’s equally possible to do the journey by car, motorcycle or even pushbike – you’ll just have to budget a bit more time to do so.
What to expect from the North Coast 500?
Drivers should beware that much of the journey takes place on single-track roads with passing places, like the one featured in the image above. There is also minimal internet in the north of Scotland. Other than that, expect highly changeable weather, exemplary Highland hospitality from the locals and some of the finest scenery you’re likely to set eyes upon in your entire lifetime.
Map: Thincat, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons