Perfect road-trip: North Coast 500 in Scotland

Guides | 18.01.2019
Car travel will soon put pressure on conventional air travel. Going with family or friends by car on an adventure for many has become much more appealing.

The North Coast 500 is becoming more popular, and the Scottish Highlands or Highland region are among the top 10 best places to travel in 2019 according to Lonely Planet. The route is rich in unusual places. Let's unravel a few of these little tangles and tell you why you will not forget a trip along this route.
What is the route?
The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile roundabout trip through Scotland's northern landscapes. Ancient castles, small breweries and the smell of the sea.
The journey by car takes 7-8 days, but some people do it on bicycles or even walk it. Here the number of days depends on each person's endurance and how far you're willing to go.

The North Coast 500 runs through six Highland regions: Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Inverness-Shire, Sutherland and Wester Ross. Each one interesting and diverse in its own way. The route is convenient, beginning and ending at one point – Inverness Castle. Roads across the country are good, you shouldn't have any problems at all arising overnight.
Where to stay?
There are hotels, guest houses, hostels, and camping sites dotted all along the way in Scotland. If you are going during the summer, then sleeping in tents is a great option. In Scotland, by the way, it is perfectly legal to camp anywhere you please. On the official website of Scotland's tourist office there are a few rules that all lovers of a cool morning in a tent should follow. Among them, the most important are: take all your rubbish with you, do not leave traces of fires, etc. The rest is complete freedom.

If you like comfort, then there are dozens of accommodation options with different price ranges: from 10 to 350 pounds per night. You can book directly on Scotland's tourism site.
What is there to see?
There really are so many sights along the route, if you plan to see them all then two weeks will not be enough. Therefore, we advise you to think about every day and decide what you want to see: nature, food, ancient buildings or a mixture. Planning is very, very important.
Black Isle. You can book directly on Scotland's tourism site. Some places worth visiting:
RSPB Fairy Glen. A small and not the most popular park. See the birds, stroll through the Scottish Forest, and along small trails, which lead you to waterfalls.
Black Isle Brewery. Scotland's only organic brewery. Here they grow grain themselves, as well as herbs and vegetables. To view the process, book a tour of the brewery.
Caithness. The entire route of the North Coast 500 is a route through very sparsely populated areas. Caithness is one of them. Basically, life in this region is concentrated in small villages, but on the other hand, the nature of this whole region is breathtaking. Where exactly you should go:

Old Keiss Castle. Cannot be missed! This is one of the most famous places in Caithness. A ruined castle on the rugged cliffs of the shore overlooking Sinclairs Bay. If you like to take pictures, you'll definitely have more than enough footage here.
Dunnet Head Nature Reserve. A national park with great views and, most importantly, many puffins! Here you can see these lovely birds huddling on the grassy cliffs. From April to August, you can book a tour with a guide to observe the puffins, just check in beforehand.
Easter Ross. This small area in the east of Ross County is known for its Scotch Distillers (there are three of them) and excellent views. We recommend stopping by:

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse. Another epic landscape with rocks and raging waves. Only now with a lighthouse that perfectly matches our ideas about lighthouses.
Glenmorangie Distillery. One of the famous distillers not only of Easter Ross, but the whole of Scotland. You can take a few tours and see how world famous whiskey is made.
Inverness-shire. Inverness is known as the Highland capital, the North Coast 500 route begins and ends here. There are so many interesting places here, that we advise you to stay a little longer. Here are some places you should definitely not miss:

Castle Sinclair and Castle Girnigoe. When you start your journey, we advise you to go to the town of Wick. Just three miles from the city are the ruins of two castles, built on high cliffs: Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.
Duncansby Head. Duncansby Head is an incredibly picturesque place with waves crashing against the rocks.
Sutherland. Historically, this area was divided into three more, but now it is a unified county, which is included in the Scottish Highlands.

Dunrobin Castle. The largest castle in the Northern Highland, containing 189 rooms. Unlike many castles, Dunrobin is well preserved.
Loch Assynt. A picturesque lake with the ruins of Ardvreck castle jutting out into the lake on a rocky peninsula. Another great view for your must-see list from the journey.
Wester Ross. If you shorten it into just one word, you get the name of the fictional mainland from the Game of Thrones. It is not known whether the author of the book was inspired by Scotland, but the Highlands are exactly like the north of the saga.

Gairloch. It is worth going to the village of Gairloch, where you can go to several museums, enjoy mountain views, do some kayaking or go on tour to look at the whales, if you have time.
Loch Ewe. The area of Lake Ewe looks stunning: beaches, small cozy villages and a beautiful view of the mountains.
When you should go
A trip along the North Coast 500 route is best during the summer or autumn. In the summer there are more tourists, but you can comfortably spend the night in a tent to be closer to nature and at the same time save money. In autumn, Scotland is much more deserted and colder, but the views are different: snowy mountain tops and landscapes burning with autumn colours. So choose for yourself which option is more suitable.

● The site of Scotland's tourist board and the official website of the route will definitely be your best friends on this trip. On Scotland's site you can plan your nights very conveniently: sort the proposed options not by list, but by displaying them on the map. You can understand simply where and in which type of place to stay overnight.

● Book in advance. A spontaneous journey along the route will work out only if you want to go and not to visit anything. Scots love when everything is planned in advance.

● Download the maps before you go on your trip. A journey through the wilderness of Scotland awaits you and often on your way there will be no connection.

● Buy North Coast 500 Membership on the official website of the route. It costs just 15 pounds but you can use different tickets discounts during the trip and the map of the route with all the attractions on it.
Tips
The North Coast 500 route is not yet very popular among tourists, but is full of beautiful views, impressions from history and proximity to nature. No matter how you like to travel – by car, bicycle or on foot, you will be sure to love it. Castles, rocky shores, small villages and museums. Soon there will be a lot of tourists here, so plan your trip soon and don't forget to download our maps before the trip!