Comprehensive North Coast 500 Road Trip Planning Guide

The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile scenic route along Scotland’s northern coast that begins and ends in the city of Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. We’ve put together this comprehensive North Coast 500 guide to help you plan the perfect North Coast 500 road trip in Scotland.

The NC500 route offers visitors the opportunity to see rugged landscapes, frolic on sandy beaches, spot wildlife, visit museums and heritage sites, stay in castles, sip whisky, sample the local produce, and get to know the people who live there.
The route was designed to encourage more visitors to visit this sparsely populated region of Scotland and it has been very successful.

Laurence and I have driven the full route several times and we have put together this guide to help others who are planning their own North Coast 500 road trip.
We’ll explain the North Coast 500 route, what you can expect to see, the best time of year to plan a road trip, how many days you need to drive the NC500, suggestions on where to stay and eat along the route, what to pack, and tons of other tips and advice on driving the North Coast 500.   

North Coast 500 Road Trip Planning Guide

Planning a North Coast 500 road trip can be a bit overwhelming as it is a relatively new route and there isn’t as much information available online or in guidebooks compared to other top road trips around the world. But not to worry, we’ll provide all the information you’ll need to plan your NC500 road trip.

In this first section we’ll try to answer the most common questions such as: what is the route, how many days do you need to drive the North Coast 500, when is the best time of year to drive the route, where should I stay along the NC500, how far ahead to starting booking, and other common questions.

Then the second section will explain how to find and stay on the North Coast 500, provide driving safety tips, list local car and campervan rental agencies, and discuss guided tour options. The last section provides packing tips and a list of supplies you may need for your NC500 road trip. So let’s get started! 

What is the North Coast 500 Route?

The North Coast 500 (NC500) was created in 2014 by the North Highland Initiative, which is a non-profit organization that was established by Prince Charles in 2005 in an effort to develop economic growth across the North Highlands. Following its creation, private investment was raised and the route is promoted by a for-profit corporation called North Coast 500 Ltd. The company provides a number of resources for both visitors and local businesses.

The NC500 is not an actual single road or highway like Route 66 or the Pacific Coast Highway, but is a series of existing roads that form a loop around the northern Highlands.

The route is just over 500 miles and mainly hugs the northern coast of Scotland, hence the name. It was designed to showcase the natural beauty and local businesses in this part of Scotland which has previously received a relatively low level of tourism. It has become a major tourism success in Scotland with tens of thousands of people having already driven the route.  

The North Coast 500 route runs 516 miles to and from Inverness, forming a loop around the northern Highlands. So if you drive the full route, you’ll end up where you started which can be very convenient if you are flying in and out of Inverness or renting a car.

However, you can of course start and end your drive wherever you please. The route runs through a number of loosely defined areas or historical counties in northern Scotland including Inverness-shire, the Black Isle, Wester Ross, Easter Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness

What Will I See Along the North Coast 500 route? 

The North Coast 500 route follows the main roads across the coastal edges of the North Highlands. The largest city (by far) is Inverness with a population of close to 50,000 people and the next biggest places are towns and villages like Ullapool, Durness, Dornoch, Wick, Thurso, and Lochinver which each have a population of under 2,000 people! So expect to spend time in lots of small villages and rural areas. 

The highlights of the route for many people are the scenic views along the coast and the feeling of “being away” from it all for a while. Scenery includes rugged coastline, beaches, rural farmland, marshland, rivers, forest, lochs, and munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 ft high). You’ll also have the opportunity to see local wildlife such as deer, squirrels, pine martens, birds of prey, seabirds, and sea mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals.

Of course there are also loads of sheep and the iconic Highland coos which you’ll spot in the fields. In addition to nature and wildlife, there are loads of things to see and do along the route which include hiking, golfing, castles, heritage sites, prehistoric sites, a geological park, museums, beaches, whisky distilleries, and much more.

You can also sample the local food of the Scottish Highlands and stay in unique lodging from simple B&B’s and inns to grand family country homes to luxurious castles. If you want to know more about specific places to see and visit, you can check out Laurence’s post about some of the highlights of the North Coast 500 and our detailed North Coast 500 itinerary.

Is the North Coast 500 similar to Route 66?

The North Coast 500 is often called “Scotland’s version of Route 66”, especially by mainstream media. In some ways they are similar in that they are great routes for a road trip and both offer some great scenery and attractions along the way.

We have driven Route 66, and we can say that there are a lot of differences between a historic route that spans over 2,400 miles and crosses 8 U.S. states and the North Coast 500. The NC500 is a mainly coastal route that goes through small villages and rural areas in a sparsely populated area of northern Scotland.

If you’ve driven Route 66, don’t expect the vastly varied landscapes, the range of small towns to big cities, quirky roadside attractions, or historic diners of Route 66. It is probably more similar to Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way but every route has its own unique personality and charm! 

Drive Route 66 for American roadside culture and drive NC500 for Scottish Highlands culture, historical sites, and scenic coastal views. 

When is the Best Time of Year to Travel the North Coast 500? 

The best time to drive the North Coast 500 for most people is between May and October as during this period you’ll find most attractions and restaurants open, the greatest variety of lodging, and the best chances for warmer weather. However, this also corresponds with the busiest time along the North Coast 500 which is from early May to late September.

If you are looking to drive the route during a quieter time of year, I’d consider April, early May, late September, or October, avoiding holidays, festivals, special events, and school breaks.

Winter can be a nice time for photography and solitude, although the weather can be bad and certain minor roads (e.g. the Bealach Na Ba) may be closed due to bad weather. If you plan to drive the NC500 out of season (e.g., October to March) just note that many businesses (including hotels, restaurants, tourist information offices, and attractions) in the Scottish Highlands are seasonal or have reduced winter hours. 

Obviously, the best time to drive the North Coast 500 is the time you have available, and if you need to set out at a less than opportune time of the year, just be prepared and be flexible. 

If you are trying to plan your trip around Scottish weather, weather conditions are fickle in Scotland and we experience rain, clouds, and chilly weather year round (that is what keeps Scotland green!). However, we also get these bursts of sunshine and warm weather than can occur any time of the year with probably May and September being two of the better months in our experience thus far.

Our first time along the NC500 we were lucky in August with a few days of sunny warm weather. Out of an 8 day NC500 trip in May, we had 2 particularly rainy bad weather days, 3 mixed days (rain part of day, sunny part of day), and 3 nice weather days.

During our 12 day winter trip in February most days were mixed (rain/light snow/clouds/some sun) and it rained at least a little on almost every day of the trip. During that time we had 2 bad days (snowed all day, roads uncleared, stayed inside) and 1 especially nice and sunny day.

Just come prepared for the weather and don’t let it stop you from enjoying your trip!

How Many Days Does it Take to Drive the North Coast 500?

This really depends on how much you want to see, how much you want to drive each day, and how many detours you plan to make. You could speed along the entire 500 miles in less than 24 hours if you don’t mind not sleeping or seeing anything along the way!

But the North Coast 500 is designed for touring, sightseeing, and taking things slowly.
The minimum number of days we’d recommend to drive the North Coast 500 is 5 days, but 7 to 10 days would be ideal. If you plan to speed around, you could do it with 3 full days and night, but we’d recommend more time.

If you really want to explore the route slowly, relax, and maybe take some detours (e.g., visits to Loch Ness, Orkney Islands, Summer Isles, Isle of Skye), I’d recommend 2 weeks. For those with more time, you could easily fill up a few weeks and not run out of things to do, especially if you love hiking, nature, and historical sites.

I Don’t Have Time for the Full Route, What Section Should I Drive?

If you only have a 2 or 3 days, you can still get a taste of some of the things that the North Coast 500 has to offer without speeding along the entire route. I would focus on either a section of the route or focus on a special interest or theme (e.g., castles, historical sites, beaches, distilleries). For more reasons to drive the NC500 and themes read this article.

Castles: There are a number of castles along the route, ranging from crumbled ruins to the former home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother to picturesque Disney-like castles.

Some that you might want to consider visiting along or near the route (all open to the public, although some have seasonal hours) are Cawdor Castle, Dunrobin Castle, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe ruins, and the Castle of Mey which all lay along the eastern part of the route between Inverness and the small village of Mey.

You can enhance your stay by staying at a castle hotel such as Kincraig Castle Hotel, Tulloch Castle Hotel, or Dornoch Castle Hotel which are all also along the eastern part of the route.

For more on castle hotels along the route, you can see our North Coast 500 accommodation guide which has over 25 recommended places to stay along the route, from castle hotels to B&B’s and guesthouses.  

Distilleries and Breweries. Scotland is well-known for its whisky and just about every visitor to Scotland wants to try at least a dram or two of whisky during his or her trip. But Scotland also has a growing craft beer industry and gin scene and you’ll find a bit of everything along the North Coast 500.

Whisky distilleries are more prevalent along the eastern part of the route between Inverness and Dunnet and include Glen Ord Distillery, Glenmorangie Distillery, Clynelish Distillery, Dalmore Distillery, and Old Pulteney Distillery. For non-whisky stops, consider Black Isle Brewery and Dunnet Bay Distillery (best known for its gin and vodkas). Most distilleries give public tours and tastings, but some you’ll need to book in advance. We expect more will continue to pop up as the tourism increases in this area.

For more on whisky, see our comprehensive guide to whisky distilleries in Scotland, which has everything you need to know. We also have a guide to whisky distilleries on the North Coast 500 specifically.

Wildlife: Those interested in Scottish wildlife should be able to find some spots of interest. 

For those interested in sea mammals or seabirds I’d recommend the section between Inverness and Thurso. Chanonry Point (one of the most popular spots), North Kessock, Fort George, and Spey Bay are popular places near Inverness to spot bottlenose dolphins as well as potentially seals, porpoises, and whales. The Scottish Dolphin Center at Spey Bay is a great place to stop for more information on dolphins and other area wildlife.

For whale watching, we were told that Duncansby Head, Dunnet Bay, and Strathy Point are popular spots for whale watchers as well as for dolphins, porpoises, and other sea animals. There are wildlife boat tours you can do in the Caithness area for a better chance to see the wildlife. The Orkney Islands (can be reached by ferry from John O’ Groats) is also a great place for wildlife, including sea mammals, voles, and sea birds.

For birdlovers, I’d highly recommend checking out the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website for information, and I’d also consider contacting them before your trip or visiting one of their centers for local information to find the best spots depending on the kind of birds you are most interested in (e.g., birds of prey, seabirds, waders).

The RSPB has several reserves around or near the NC500 that help protect the local wildlife. For seabird lovers, there are several spots along the route but I’d highly recommend the Dunnet Head Nature Reserve which is home to a number of species, depending on the season, including cormorants, puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, and fulmars. 

Deer lovers can spot red deer throughout the Scottish Highlands and the best time to see them is early in the morning in the fields away from villages. We saw loads of them, especially along the western and southern parts of the route. If you want to get really upclose to a large herd of deer, we can recommend a guided tour with gamekeeper Colin at Reraig Forest near Lochcarron. 

puffin North Coast 500 route guide

Photography: There are tons of scenic spots throughout the route. It depends on what you are most interested in photographing whether it is wildlife, coastline, castles, villages, historical sites, lochs, etc. that should determine which part of the route might be best.

Laurence personally favors the western side for landscape photography, but we found great photography spot throughout the route. Here is a guide to some of the photography highlights of the North Coast 500.

Heritage Sites, History, Geology, Culture, & Museums: Pictish stones, local history and heritage museums, cairns, crofts abandoned during the Highland Clearances, important geological and archaeological sites, churches, castles, old battlefields, and more can be discovered along the North Coast 500. If you have an interest in one (or all!) of these areas, I’d do a little research on sites of interest and plan your itinerary accordingly.

You’ll find interesting cultural and historical sites throughout the route, although you’ll find a higher concentration along the eastern coast between Inverness and Thurso as it is (and probably always has been) a more populated area than the north and west coasts.

There are a lot of great sites, depending on your interests, in and around Inverness such as Inverness Museum & Art GalleryFort George, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Culloden Battlefield, and Urquhart Castle. Heading north from Inverness, there are places like Beauly Priory, Hugh Miller’s birthplace, Groam House Museum, Tarbat Discovery Centre, Dunrobin Castle, Timespan Heritage & Art Centre, and tons of small relatively unknown sites like the Bronze Age stones at Hill o’ Many Stanes.

If your interests lie in historical sites (churches, museums, prehistoric sites, old homes), I’d highly recommend checking out the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland websites, as both manage many of Scotland’s historical sites.

To save money, I’d also take a look at the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass (includes entry into over 70 sites such as Urquhart Castle, Fort George & Edinburgh Castle) and/or the Scottish Heritage Pass (valid April to October, includes over 120 sites including Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield, Brodie Castle, Hugh Miller’s Birthplace, and Edinburgh Castle). These passes may save you money if you are planning to visit a lot of historical properties during your trip.

For those interested in geology, I’d recommend heading to the North West Highlands GeoPark which covers a large section of the northwestern part of the route and includes sites such as Smoo Cave, Knockan Crag, and The Bone Caves near Inchnadamph. This is an internationally significant geological site that has been recognized by UNESCO, so is a must-see for any rock hound (and recommended for anyone driving the NC500!).

Coastline & Beaches: The route has coastline (and several beaches) along its western, northern, and eastern sections. Our favorite coastline in terms of views is probably the rugged western and northern sections. Our favorite beaches are around the northwest between Melvich and Sandwood Bay in the northwest, and then around Achmelvich Bay.

Melvich Beach, Durness Beach, Balnakeil Beach, Sandwood Beach, and Achmelvich Beach are a few of our favorites in the northwest. 
Closer to Inverness, you can also find some nice little local beach spots around Nairn, the Black Isle, Potmahomack, Dornoch, and Embo. There are lots of seldom visited sandy spots along the route, and you can discover your own spots by just asking a local villager.

Just note that the water is always cold, even in the summer so bring a drysuit or wetsuit if you want to spend some time in the water! Many Scottish beaches have limited or no facilities so be sure to bring anything you may need.

Golfing. Scotland is the home of golf and attracts golfers from around the world who want to play some of Scotland’s best known courses. For golfers, I’d recommend driving the route between Inverness and Dornoch, and also detouring a bit from the NC500 to the Nairn area.

There are over 10 golf courses in this area but a few golf courses to consider are the Inverness Golf Club in Inverness, The Nairn Golf Club in Nairn, Nairn Dunbar Golf Club in Nairn, Castle Stuart Golf Links near Nairn, Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club in Fortrose, Invergordon Golf Club in Invergordon, and the Royal Links Championship Course & Struie Course in Dornoch.

Least Crowded Areas. I’d probably head to the northwest section for the most wild and least crowded area. I’d also consider going to spots just off the route, such as Nairn and the Black Isle, spots along the minor roads of the interior like Lairg, a visit to the Summer Isles, and harder to reach spots that require some hiking such as Sandwood Bay or one of the munros.

The most crowded sections are probably around Inverness, the Inverness to Thurso section, around Ullapool, and the Bealach Na Ba road near Applecross. Of course, if you drive the route between November and March, you’ll find few visitors along the entire route except for during holidays and special events. 

Best Stops for Families with Children along the North Coast 500?

The North Coast 500 can be a fun trip for families. W
e’ve had several readers ask us if the North Coast 500 is appropriate for younger children and what stops we’d recommend for kids.

We haven’t traveled the route with kids, but we definitely think it doable and can make for a nice holiday for children of any age. I think you just need to do a bit more planning to make sure you allow more time for breaks and plan visits to places the kids will enjoy.

For those with younger kids, you might consider camping as a family (lots of campsites along the route for tent camping and motorhomes), planning picnics, or staying in self-catering accommodation. Not only can this save you money, but they are also great ways to accommodate picky eaters or early dinner times.

Crime rates in this region are low, so the main dangers to kids are cars and natural ones. Many of the scenic sites along the North Coast 500 don’t have any fences or safeguards and most beaches have no lifeguards, so always keep little ones in sight.

Here is our list of some children-friendly places that you might want to include in your list:

The above are just some suggestions, and there are many more places your kids are sure to love. With a bit of imagination, we think just about any stop, whether it be a historical site, museum, beach, or archaeological site, can be fun for kids.

You can see more about these places and a list of all the main sites around the North Coast 500 when reading our day-by-day NC500 itinerary.

Is the North Coast 500 Dog Friendly?

Many travelers, especially those who live in the UK, want to do the North Coast 500 with a dog. It is definitely a place that you can bring your dog, but a dog will limit some of the places you can visit or stay. Here are some tips for traveling the North Coast 500 with pets and how to find dog-friendly lodging.

If you are traveling from outside the UK you will need to make sure you check the laws and guidelines (papers, vaccinations, quarantine) for bringing a dog into the UK as it differs depending on the country of origin. You can find out more about that here.

When dogs are in a vehicle in the UK they need to be properly restrained for safety. Specifically, Highway Code, Rules 57 states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage, or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

The main thing to know when bringing dogs to this area is that they will need to be kept on a lead (leash) in most places because of livestock and wildlife. April and May is lambing season in Scotland so lots of baby lambs will be around all spring and summer and you’ll want to keep dogs away from the sheep. Dogs can scare and cause harm to the baby lambs and other livestock.

Spring and summer is also bird nesting season and dogs can disturb ground nesting birds so good to be aware of if doing walks/hikes. Some of the bird and wildlife reserve areas do not allow dogs for obvious reasons.

Many of the indoor and paid attractions (museums, castles, guided tours, gardens) along the route do not allow pets. If you are traveling with a partner or group, you may want to take turns spending time with your dog and one going inside.

Although most restaurants don’t allow dogs inside, several have outdoor areas that allow dogs and some bars allow well-behaved dogs. There are also takeaway places in many of the towns. If you are staying at a dog-friendly hotel or campsite, someone there can probably give you recs for the best places to eat or get a drink with your dog.

Most parks, hiking areas, beaches, and wild places allow dogs, but not all of course so do check signs before setting out. Most ask that dogs be kept on a lead at all time.

Of course, it is required that dog waste be picked up by dog owners and then properly disposed of. At some places, there are places to dispose of it, but not in all places so be prepared to pack it out and dispose of it properly later.

For dog-friendly accommodation along the North Coast 500, you can see our North Coast 500 hotels guide and NC500 B&Bs guide as both note if each recommended hotel or B&B is dog-friendly or not at last check. Always be sure to double check pet policies before booking.

Most campsites along the North Coast 500 allow pets so camping is a pretty popular for pet owners who want to drive the NC500. You can see individual campsites mentioned throughout our suggested 1 week NC500 itinerary and you can also see our NC500 camping guide for more information on camping along the route.

Many holiday home rentals also accept pets and are especially great for those wanting to base in one place for longer than a night or two.

If you are looking for dog-friendly accommodation in a certain town or area and can’t find anything, feel free to ask and we’ll let you know if know of any. From our readers who have traveled with dogs, we have a good list of dog-friendly places along much of the route.

How to Avoid the Crowds along the North Coast 500?

The busiest months are going to be the summer from June to August with some crowds in May and September. Festivals, special events (e.g., music concerts, bike races, car rallies), and holidays (e.g., Christmas, Hogmanay) also bring more people to the area. So avoiding these times of year can help but since they are also when there are the most daylight hours, most open attractions and lodging, and perhaps best chance of warm weather, chances are this is also when you plan to drive the route.

Even if you are planning to visit at the busiest time of year (say July or August), you can still avoid some of the crowds and find some peaceful spots along the route if you make an effort to do so. First, go out when fewer people are going to be around. Get up early or stay out late as most people don’t get onto the road until after 8:30am and stop for lodging around dinner time. Early risers will be rewarded by local wildlife sightings, especially the local deer and birds.

But even right along the route, few people get out of their cars to hike around lochs, hills, beaches, or fields so if you get out into nature you’ll probably find yourself relatively alone. Relatively few people even stop to visit the local museums and we’ve often had them to ourselves. You might also consider heading out on a boat to see the coastline from another angle.

To get even further away, head to towns and areas located just off the official route, such as Nairn, Borgie, Altnaharra, Portmahomack, Cape Wrath, Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, or Bonar Bridge. Follow themed trails like the Strathnaver Trail, Pictish Trail, or Pebble Routes to learn about some specific subjects and get off the beaten path.

Head into spots that require some hiking such as Sandwood Bay or climb up one of the munros. The mountains are a great way to get away from the crowds.

If you plan to hike, just be prepared by bringing along good hiking shoes, rain gear, midge repellent (May to September), and hiking supplies so you are prepared to go off and find the peaceful spots along the route. 

How Much Should I Plan Ahead?

This really depends on your style of travel, some people plan little in advance and others plan in great detail what they are going to see each day. I’d recommend that you at least make a loose itinerary of places you definitely want to stop before you leave so you have an idea of how much time you want to spend in each area so you can plan your accommodation.

Have at least a tentative itinerary can also help you identify and fit in places you really want to see that have limited opening times (e.g., a museum or attraction only open 3 days a week or a restaurant only open on weekends for dinner).

In terms of making reservations, very few attractions take reservations or pre-sell tickets, but I’d strongly recommend booking your lodging in advance and also any special dinners. You’ll also want to book most activities such as guided hikes, kayaking, boat rides, fishing trips, wildlife tours, surfing lessons, etc. in advance as many require prior reservations.

For the North Coast 500, we would recommend that you start researching lodging options as soon as you know your dates. I would book at least 3 months in advance if possible. Staff at several of the busiest properties recommended to us that travelers should try to book 6 months in advance to guarantee a room as they had some dates fully booked 6 to 9 months in advance.

Now, six months is a pretty long time in advance so don’t worry if you just decided to drive the NC500 and it is 2 months away, you’ll still find plenty of places with availability, but start booking now. Just note that the most in-demand properties and the best value ones often get booked up well in advance. See our prior article for more information on where to stay along the NC500 which covers some of our favorite hotels and B&Bs along the route.

If you are someone who hates planning ahead and wants to be able to stop and spend as much time in a place as you wish, I’d consider doing a camping or campervan trip along the NC500. That way you won’t need to search for last-minute lodging each night which can be difficult on sections of the route. This way all you need to worry about in advance is your transportation and camping gear and you will have the flexibility of either traditional lodging or camping each night.

Dining along the NC500?

In terms of food, I’d expect fresh, rustic, and homestyle meals that rely on the local produce at most eateries along the NC500. However, whereas there are fewer options than you’d have in a large city like Edinburgh or Glasgow, there is still a wide variety of food stops that range from budget-friendly cafes serving simple salads and sandwiches to Michelin-starred restaurants serving four-course menus.

Lunch and coffee stops are generally easy to find along the route, but dinner options can be more limited (often at hotel restaurants) and some may require 24 to 48 hour pre-booking. Note that some cafes and restaurants, especially in the smaller towns and villages, are seasonal so be sure to check opening dates and hours in advance, especially if traveling outside of the main season (May to September).

Most towns have a small grocery store (not usually open late in the evenings so stop during the day) where you can pick up picnic supplies, snacks, and food to cook your own meals. There are also a couple of specialty food spots along the route such as Robertsons The Larder farm shop.

It is wise to think ahead each day about where you’ll be for meals as some hotels or campsites may be a 30 minute to 1 hour drive from a restaurant. It is also a good idea to also have some snacks and maybe a couple cups of pot noodles in your car just in case you arrive later than expected and there is no place to eat for dinner.

Some places we’d recommend checking out for sit down lunches or dinners include the Chez Roux restaurant at the Rocpool Reserve Hotel in Inverness, Mustard Seed in Inverness, Boath House hotel restaurant near Nairn (Michelin-starred), Dornoch Castle Hotel restaurant in Dornoch, Y-Not Bar and Grill in Thurso, Kylesku Hotel restaurant (known for its fresh local seafood), The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool, The Arch Inn in Ullapool, and The Torridon hotel restaurant in Annat.

If you follow our 7 day North Coast 500 itinerary, we provide a list of restaurants for dinner for each day along the route.

No matter where you dine, I’d highly recommend trying dishes using the local produce and products such as local seafood (e.g., salmon, crabs, scallops), lamb, game, Stornoway black pudding (from the Isle of Lewis), and fresh in-season vegetables. You can also find local whiskies, beers, and other beverages made in the Scottish Highlands offered on most menus.

If this is your first time in Scotland, you’ll probably want to try some traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, black pudding, Scottish salmon, cullen skink (smoked haddock, potato, & onion soup), stovies (potato dish), and a full Scottish breakfast. 

Where to Stay on the North Coast 500?

Along the North Coast 500, you have a range of lodging options from hostels and campsites to inns and seaside cottages to historic castles and country homes. Lodging options cover just about every budget and lodging type, but don’t expect to find hotel chains or massive resort-style properties.

Staying in cozy bed-and-breakfasts, historical properties, and luxury castles was part of the experience we wanted on our North Coast 500 journey, and our lodging choices definitely added to the experience. 

In terms of budgeting for lodging, it will depend a lot on your accommodation type and time of year. I would say average hotel costs on the NC500 for a basic double room at a hotel with private bathroom are around £75-£110  per night.

But you can spend less if you stay in simple B&Bs (£40-£80 per night for 2 people), hostels (£17-£25/person), or campsites (£5-£30). The least expensive B&B rooms usually have shared bathrooms. If you are looking for more luxury oriented properties, expect prices in the £160 to £350 range. 

As noted earlier (worth repeating!), we’d recommended trying to book your lodging 3 months in advance (especially if you are thinking hotels, B&B’s or self-catering options) as the amount of lodging in some areas is currently not sufficient for the demand at the busiest times of the year.

Hotels & B&B’s

Hotels and B&B’s represent the most popular lodging option along the North Coast 500. Hotels range from simple budget options to luxury castles. We’ve written an article on lodging tips (what to expect, when to book) and created a list of over 25 North Coast 500 hotels we recommend checking out. 

Also check out this guide to bed-and-breakfasts along the North Coast 500.

Self-Catering Options

Self-catering options are generally less expensive than hotels, allow for more privacy, and most allow you the opportunity to cook your own food. There are a lot of options in this category, from log cabins to beach villas to entire apartments and houses.

One option is of course vacation rental sites like Vrbo, where you can book rooms, apartments, and houses. These types of property along the North Coast 500 are not as plentiful as they are in other parts of the UK since most of this stretch is through small towns and countryside but you will find them scattered along the route.

We suggest trying out Snaptrip which searches many of the major holiday cottage booking sites in the UK for the best deals, and often has good last minute availability and deals.

You can also check out our list of Airbnb alternatives for other websites to check, as well as our guide to holiday cottage booking websites in the UK. Another local booking website that specializes in holiday properties in Scotland is Cottages & Castles, and it offers hundreds of self-catering holiday homes and cottages in Scotland, including a number along the NC500.

Some self-catering properties in the area may not be on any of the aggregate booking websites, and the best way to track some of them down is to search for things like “cottage near Thurso” or “house rental near Inverness” online or check the local tourism office listings.


There are at least a dozen hostels located along the North Coast 500, and you can easily do an entire NC500 road trip only staying in hostels. Ideal for budget backpacker types of any age who don’t want to spend a lot of money on accommodation and like to meet other travelers.

To get started, I would check out the Scottish Youth Hostels Association, which operate over 60 hostels in Scotland. Their website also lists some affiliate hostels along the NC500.  

Camping and RVing

If you are planning to camp, you have a lot of options and should be able to find facilities throughout the route from April to September. Since many campsites are seasonal, I’d be careful to check ahead if you are planning to go outside those months.

You can stay at campsites with a tent or campervan, do wild camping if you don’t need any facilities, or rent out camping huts, static caravans, or cabins if you want to travel with limited camping gear.

We haven’t stayed at most of these campsites so we can’t personally recommend them but this list should help you get started in your research if you are planning to stay at campsites along the North Coast 500.

Most of the campsites have facilities for tents, campervans, and RVs, and many also have structures such as camping huts, set up tents, static caravans, wigwams, or cabins you can rent if you want to “camp” but want to bring limited camping gear. Many also rent bedding and camping gear for the night.

Note that many of the campsites along the North Coast 500 are seasonal and close during the winter months. If you are traveling off-season you’ll want to really check ahead.

Some campsites (in order as they are located counterclockwise along the route) include Bught Park Camping and Caravan Site in Inverness, Bunchrew Caravan Park near Inverness, 

Camping and Caravan Club Sites (multiple locations including Rosemarkie, Nairn, and Dingwall), Fortrose Bay Campsite in Fortrose, Black Rock Caravan Park near Dingwall, Inver Caravan Park near Dunbeath, Caravan and Motorhome Club Sites (multiple locations including Inverness, Dunnet Bay, and Kinlochewe), Sango Sands Oasis in Durness, Clachtoll Beach Campsite in Lochinver, Shore Caravan Site in Achmelvich Bay, Sands Caravan and Camping Park in Gairloch, and Applecross Campsite in Appelecross. 

If you are planning to camp, you’ll want to check out this 1 Week North Coast 500 camping itinerary, which provides a 7 day itinerary geared towards campers, camping campsite recs, and camping related stops and resources along the route.

if you want to rent a campervan for the drive, we recommend using Motorhome Republic, They compare prices across the major rental firms in the UK to find the best price for you. You can book your RV for the UK through them here.

Guide to Driving the North Coast 500

In this section, we’ll assume you have decided to drive the North Coast 500, and we’ll discuss how to find the route, how to stay on the route, safe driving tips and laws you should know, and where you can rent a car, motorcycle, or RV for your North Coast 500 road trip.

We’ll also provide information about North Coast 500 tours you can book if you want to experience the NC500 without driving.

Where Specifically Does the Route Start and End? 

The NC500 route officially begins and ends in the city of Inverness at Inverness Castle, forming a loop. However, you can begin and end the route anywhere you choose although Inverness, as the largest city along the route, is a convenient place to start and stop.

Inverness Castle North Coast 500 road trip guide

How Do I Find and Stay on the North Coast 500 route?

Since the NC500 is not a single road or highway like Route 66 or the Pacific Coast Highway, you won’t find it on a regular map and your GPS probably won’t know the route. So just to be clear, there is no actual road named North Coast 500 but it is a designated tourist route.

However, in recent years, they have added North Coast 500 brown tourist signs along the route to help people stay on the route. So it is much easier to follow the route now.

Before your trip, you can take a look at the official North Coast 500 map online to get a good idea of the route to help you plan. You can also take a look at the map we’ve put together if you use Google maps, you can double click this link to take a closer look or double click on the map image below. 

North Coast 500 route map NC500 Route Map North 500 Scotland driving route

The official North Coast 500 map is no longer being printed (we believe printing ended in 2020) and the organization said it will not be printing any further printed maps (although a digital one is available on their app). This is a shame as it was a great map and very popular and was given out for free at the Visit Scotland Tourism Information Centres along the NC500.

However, if you want a physical North Coast 500 map, there are two main other options. There is the Collins NC500 Pocket Map and the 500 Route around the Northern Highlands road map by Yellow Publications. Both are sold at the Visit Scotland Tourism Information Centre in Inverness, as well as in other places along the route. If you want a physical copy of a North Coast 500 map before you leave for your trip, you can usually also find them on eBay.

Since there are few main roads in the area, once you leave Inverness, you shouldn’t have any problems using the map to stay on the route. It is hard to accidentally stray too far from the route. If you are using your phone or GPS to help you navigate, I’d try to download any needed maps beforehand as you’ll likely lose satellite and Internet connections during parts of the road trip.

Note that many businesses don’t have street numbers in the Scottish Highlands but since the towns are so small, just keep an eye out once you are near and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding them. Once you are in a town, any local person should be able to point you in the right direction if you do get lost.

Of course, getting a little lost is just part of the journey!

Which Direction Should I Drive the North Coast 500? 

Since the NC500 route forms a loop, you have the option of driving it either clockwise or counterclockwise. Some of the official NC500 materials discuss the route as going counterclockwise and others clockwise, so there appears to be no “official” direction. The direction makes little difference and we’ve driven it from both directions with no difference in our trip experience.

There are small advantages to driving the NC500 in each direction though. One advantage of driving it clockwise (heading towards Garve and doing the west coast first) is that since the Scottish drive on the left side of the road, you’ll be driving directly alongside the coast during the coastal portions of the route. However, this is only a small advantage as you often need to park and walk a little to see the coastline along the route.

There are two main advantages of driving it counterclockwise (heading towards Invergordon and seeing the east coast first). The first is that if you are not used to single track roads, driving the route counterclockwise helps ease you into them better than driving it clockwise. So we recommend this direction for those tackling single track roads for the first time.

The other advantage of driving the route in the counterclockwise direction is that the most dramatic portions (to us anyway) are along the north and west coasts so you save those towards the end of the trip. So the ruggedness continues to increase along the drive which is nice.

However there is no right way to drive the route so head in the direction that makes the most sense for you! Lodging reservations is often an important factor in people’s route.

Planning a North Coast 500 itinerary? 

If you are trying to plan your route and what attractions you might want to stop at along the route, we recommend that you take a look at our detailed 7 day North Coast 500 itinerary.

Our NC500 itinerary covers route advice for each day, a list of the main attractions along each section of the route, dining recommendations, and lodging recommendations for each day. For those with less time, you can also check out our less detailed 5 day NC500 itinerary.

If you are thinking about doing the route and tent camping or traveling by campervan or motorhome, we recommend checking out our North Coast 500 camping itinerary.

Can I drive the North Coast 500 with an electric or hybrid car? 

Yes, as of 2016, there are now enough electrical charging points around the route for those with fully electric cars to drive the route safely. There are electrical charging points throughout the route, including rapid charge points.

You can find charging points using this interactive map (list only free and public ones) andthis website/app (lists any kind of charging point, free, fee, and customer use only ones).

Can I do the NC500 without driving? 

The most popular way to experience the North Coast 500 is by car, but it is also a popular route for motorcyclists and cyclists. If you have a lot of time, you can also traverse it by foot. Just note that some sections can be dangerous for bikers, horse riders, and pedestrians (e.g., blind turns, no bike lanes, one-track roads) so be sure to take proper safety measures and I would not recommend this route for inexperienced cyclists.

If you prefer not to be at the wheel or handles at all, you also have the option of booking a guided tour or hiring a private driver guide. See section on tours below.

You might also be wondering if you can do the North Coast 500 by train. The simple answer is no, there is no train route that approximates the route and an entire portion of the northwest of Scotland has no train connections.

However, if you really want to travel via train you can do a portion of the route by train and stop at several of the towns in the area. You can take the Inverness to Thurso train route (it also branches to Wick as well) train route and then head back to Inverness and take the train line from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. Check the ScotRail website for the route details and to buy tickets.

Are NC500 Guided Group Tours or Private Tours Available? 

Yes, if you prefer not to drive yourself you do have some options to book a guided North Coast 500 group or private tour. For those who don’t want to drive the route, this is your best option as public transit is spotty around the route.

Currently, the best guided tour along the NC500 is this 3-day tour from Inverness from Rabbie’s Travel. It is a fast-paced tour but allows you to see all the best scenery and highlights along the route while the driver guide keeps you safe on the single-track roads!

Rabbie’s also offers this 5-day Northern Scotland and Orkney Island tour from Edinburgh that both include 2 full days on exploring Orkney and a drive around most of the North Coast 500 so you see many of the highlights and scenery. 

We haven’t done these tours but have done several tours with Rabbie’s and can definitely recommend the company. They also offer a 5-day Highlands and Isle of Skye tour from Edinburgh (this one we have done). 

If you only have a day or two, you might consider doing a couple day tours from Inverness that explore some of the NC500 highlights, such as this in-depth Black Isle day tour (including optional dolphin cruise), this tour of Wester Ross (including Applecross & the Bealach Na Ba), or this day tour up north to John O’Groats (includes visit to Dunrobin Castle and Duncansby Head). Each of these day tours explore different parts of the NC500. 

For those wanting a private tour, you can arrange a private NC500 tour from Rabbie’s or other local tour companies. Most Scotland-based tour companies should be able to arrange a guided NC500 private tour to suit your needs although you will pay a lot more than you would if you did a group tour or a self-drive trip. 
Inverness is probably the most convenient place to start a NC500 tour, but tours can also be arranged to depart and return from Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness. 

Currently few companies are offering NC500 tours, especially group tours, but the options will likely increase as the popularity of the route increases. We’ll try to keep this list updated but if you know of any other group tours, please let us know!

Where Can I Rent a Car, Campervan, Motorcycle, etc.?

If you are not bringing along your own vehicle, you can easily rent one in Scotland. You can also rent motorcycles, bikes, cycling gear, campervans, and camping gear once you arrive. Depending on where you arrive and plan to leave in Scotland, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Aberdeen are the four largest cities and best places for rentals.

Along the NC500, Inverness has the largest selection and I’d highly recommend picking up your rental and any gear before you leave the city as there is much less opportunity to do so elsewhere on the route. 

Rental Cars for NC500

It is easy to rent a car from Inverness Airport or downtown Inverness. Main rental car companies include  AvisBudget, Thrifty, Arnold Clark, Europcar, Hertz, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Focus Vehicle Rental. I’d recommend getting the smallest size vehicle you need and to be sure your rental is fully insured. A GPS unit can also be helpful for navigation. Enterprise are usually our favourite for car hire.

Each rental car agency has its own rental policies. But generally, to rent a car in Scotland (or elsewhere in the UK), you must be at least 21 to 30 years old (many have 23 as an age limit) depending on the vehicle category and car rental agency, have held a valid driving license for at least a year (some require up to 3 years), and the driver’s license must be in English or using the Latin alphabet. Surcharges may apply to drivers under age 25.

If the license is not in English or Latin alphabet, then you will need to get a validated English translation or have an International Driving Permit. If you need an International Driving Permit, you will need to apply for this in your home country prior to your trip.

If you plan to rent a car in another country, please check your rental agreement as bringing a car to Scotland may be against your car’s rental terms (particularly any ferry crossings). For instance, even cars rented in Ireland can sometimes not be brought by ferry over to Scotland.

Renting a Motorcycle for the NC500

There are a couple of places you can rent motorcycles along the North Coast 500.  You can check out the North Coast 500 Moto Experience in Inverness and the Highland Motorcycle Hire in Muir of Ord (20 km west of Inverness).

If you are arriving elsewhere in Scotland or the UK, you’ll have additional options such as Rent a Motorcycle in Edinburgh.

Renting a Campervan and Camping Gear

There are several places to rent campervans around Inverness, including PaulCamper, Highland Campervans, Loch Ness Motorhomes, Outdoorsy, and Rover Rentals.

If you are arriving elsewhere in Scotland or the UK, you’ll also find plenty of options around Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, London, etc.

We suggest taking a look at Motorhome Republic as a good starting point for comparing prices on campervan rental in the UK. They have listings for many of the major campervan rental firms in the UK. You can see their UK listings here.

If you are starting in Edinburgh or London, Spaceship Rentals is another place to check for campervans and motorhomes.

We would recommend renting the smallest size campervan or RV that you need as the narrow roads of the Highlands are not designed for large vehicles and RVs are prohibited on some roads.

For camping, hiking, biking, and outdoor gear, we can recommend the following outdoors gear stores which are all located in Inverness: Go Outdoors, Blacks, Tiso, and Trespass.

Renting Bikes and Biking Gear for NC500

There are several places to rent bikes along the NC500. To get starated, you can check out Ticket to Ride and Inverness Bike Hire in Inverness and West Coast Biking in Kinlochewe. Most bike companies also rent bike gear and accessories and some also can arrange for guided day or multi-day tours.

Driving Safety Tips for the North Coast 500?

If you have never driven in Scotland before, you’ll want to review some of the driving laws and road safety tips before your North Coast 500 road trip. This is particularly true if you are planning to drive a rental car, caravan, or motorhome.

Some things that may be new for you are driving on the left side of the road, driving on single-track roads, and driving in areas where livestock is unfenced. Increased tourism in the Highlands has led to more traffic accidents and complaints. We have a post full of tips for driving in the UK that you should check out.

The infrastructure of the Highlands in some areas is not fully ready to handle mass tourism, but most traffic incidents can be avoided by following the driving laws, knowing how to safely drive your vehicle, and being prepared.

To get started I’d advise first reading these general Scotland driving tips and laws and then these tips for road safety along the NC500. I’ll highlight some of the bigger issues below:

Single Track Roads

A large amount of the North Coast 500 involves narrow single track roads, so you’ll need to use designated passing places.
Here’s a brief introduction to passing on single-track roads if you have never driven on one before.

If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind you wants to pass, pull into a passing place on your left, or wait opposite a passing place on your right until the car goes past you. Give way to vehicles coming uphill whenever you can. You may need to reverse to get into the nearest passing space which is why it is important to know how to safely reverse your vehicle which can be a problem for those in caravans or with rental vehicles.

Here is a guide to driving on singe-track roads in Scotland with a relevant infographic explaining how to use passing places.

Stopping & Parking

We noticed a lot of people who were stopping on the road, to the side of the road, or in passing places during our trip. This is unsafe and also illegal in some cases.

Do not use passing places for parking, these are needed for traffic to properly pass on single-track lanes. Stopping in the middle of the road to take in a view or photo is holding up traffic and may result in an accident.

If you want to stop, find a safe place to pull off in a designated parking space or lot. Pulling over onto the side of the road or into a field can be unsafe, lead to damage to the fragile environment, cause erosion, and mar someone’s private property.

Bealach Na Ba & RVs

The Bealach Na Ba is a narrow windy stretch of road near Applecross, and the most difficult and steepest stretch of the official NC500 route. This route often gets blocked by inexperienced drivers and also shut down by bad weather conditions, and you should not drive this route unless you know how to drive single-track roads, use passing places, and reverse your vehicle safely. Here is what the official NC500 website has to say about the Bealach Na Ba as well as the B869:

“The ‘Bealach Na Ba’ stretch however is not suitable for large motorhomes, caravans and inexperienced drivers due to its sharp bends and steep gradients so we would advise taking the slip road up at the A896 instead which will be much safer for you and your passengers. We would also recommend avoiding the B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku as this can be a tricky route to follow for large vehicles. If you take the A837 back from Lochinver on the main road you will be fine. As always, please take due caution on the roads and use passing places where possible.”

Slow Drivers

You want to drive at a speed that feels safe and you are likely going to be driving slower if you are new to single-track roads or are driving a motorhome or caravan. However, you are likely going to be causing frustration to those behind you wanting to drive at a normal speed, especially those not on vacation.
So be mindful and pull over into a passing place or parking area every so often to let faster traffic pass you. They will be very grateful!

Livestock & Deer

Large sections of the Scottish Highlands have unfenced livestock which include cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. It is not uncommon to see animals, especially sheep, on or right next to the road. Drive slowly around turns, follow the speed limits, and keep vigilant for livestock.

They will rarely run out onto the road in front of you, but it can be easy to miss a little lamb lying on the road until it is too late. Lambs are most vulnerable in the Spring and early summer.

Wild animals, particularly deer, may also be on the road and are much more likely to run out in front of you. Be extra mindful for deer in the early morning and evening hours when they are most active.


The North Coast 500 is not a route for those who want to drive fast. The speed limits are often low and single-track roads mean a lot of slowing down and stopping. If you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, you’ll be frustrated and you’ll frustrate other drivers. Even if you are an experienced driver and know the route, you can be sure that you are sharing it with less experienced drivers and speeding could cause you to hit them or they hit you.

Be safe, follow the speed limits, and don’t drive this route if you are in a rush!


This one is easy, don’t litter! Bring along bags or containers you can keep in your car to store your trash and wait until you get to a proper place to dispose of it responsibly. One common issue is that tourists are throwing garbage into proper trash receptacles but the receptacles are already overflowing so the garbage ends up on the ground or in the water anyway.

Campers should follow the leave “no trace” policy and should pack out all garbage and waste with them.

Alcohol Limits 

The drink drive laws in Scotland were changed in 2014 and are now very strict with low limits to discourage drinking and driving. The legal drinking limit is now lower than in any other part of the UK. You could still be charged even if you are riding a bike.

If you are planning on drinking, even one drink could put you over the legal limit, so plan to stay in after drinking, have a designated driver, or call a taxi.

Note that if you are visiting a distillery or brewery, most will be happy to give samples in “takeaway cups” so that the driver can still enjoy a dram back at the hotel!

How to Be a Responsible Traveler of the NC500?

The popularity of the North Coast 500 has brought both benefits and negative consequences to this part of Scotland. Some of the negative side effects of increased tourism have been increased littering, overwhelmed local services during the summer, and more traffic accidents and complaints. 

Common tourist complaints by locals in the area include improper driving on one-track roads, parking in passing places or in places that are not designated parking spaces, putting garbage into overflowing trash cans, not picking up after dogs, dogs chasing or harming livestock, leaving garbage and human waste at campsites (yuck!), speeding, hitting lambs and other livestock on the road, getting large vehicles stuck in narrow places such as the Bealach Na Ba road, trespassing on private property, and causing damage to the environment.

All of the above issues are easy to avoid by following road safety guidelines and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. I strongly recommend checking out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website which covers information, tips, and guidelines relevant to campers, cyclists, hill walkers, dog owners, horse riders, farmers, beach goers, park visitors, and more!

Be a good traveler and respect this beautiful area of Scotland, which has been relatively unspoiled by mass tourism. Remember that it is just not a tourist destination but also a place where people live and many have moved to this area to “get away”. Locals don’t want to be stuck behind people who stop in the middle of the road to take a photo, see dead lambs alongside the road hit by careless drivers, or have to pick up someone else’s litter from their garden.

Do your part to leave “no trace” on this area and encourage others to do the same.

Things to Pack for a NC500 Road Trip

What you need and want to pack is going to depend a lot on you (what do you normally pack for trips?) and the type of NC500 road trip you plan to have (e.g. family RV trip staying at campsites or romantic couples getaway staying at luxury hotels).

But we’ll cover recommended general road trip supplies, special items you may need for the Scottish Highlands, and gear you’ll want to have with you in the car. Then you can use this to create your own personalized North Coast 500 Packing List. 

General Road Trip Supplies

Everyone will have a different set of general packing items they bring on any trip and things they enjoy having on a road trip. Be sure to check the weather before you go and pack for Scotland’s notoriously fickle and damp weather (e.g., rain gear, layers, warm coat). Here are some general road trip supplies to help you get started:

Special NC500 Road Trip Supplies

For the most part, you’ll want to bring the same things you’d bring on any road trip, but there are a few things you may want to consider for a Scottish road trip. First, you may want to invest in a guidebook for the North Coast 500 or if your travels are taking you elsewhere in Scotland, a Scotland guidebook.

If you are going to visit Scotland from May to September it is midge season and if you plan to spend time outside, you’ll likely want to invest in some midge repellent and/or a head net to keep away these annoying tiny mosquito-like creatures (they swarm together in clouds and bite you!). Ticks can also be a problem in these same months, especially if you plan to hike.

The rain in Scotland can be frustrating but if you come prepared, it doesn’t have to restrict you. We’d recommend bringing a rainproof jacket, rain cover (e.g., umbrella or poncho), and waterproof hiking shoes. You may also want to bring waterproof bags to keep wet clothing, supplies, and camera gear.

If you plan to hike, you may want to invest in a good set of hiking maps, especially for those planning to do longer distance hillwalking, climbing, or hiking. Ordnance Survey maps are the ones we recommend (see below).

If you plan to go swimming or spend time in the water doing water sports, you’ll also want to bring along a wetsuit or drysuit, towel, and a pair of water shoes.

Supplies for the Car

If you are bringing your own car or renting, most of the things you need should already be in it, but it is important to check before you go. If you have a rental car or RV, make sure you know how everything works (e.g., headlights, turning signals, heater) before you go and ask who you should contact in cases of a flat tire, accident, or mechanical failures. Some things to consider:

We hope you have found this North Coast 500 guide helpful! If have additional questions about the NC500, just write us a comment below and we’ll be happy to answer them. Is a North Coast 500  road trip on your bucketlist?

If you’ve driven any part of NC500, feel free to share any tips or advice you have from your own trip! As always, all questions and comments are welcome. 

Planning a North Coast 500 road trip, PIN this article to Pinterest to read again later:

**Disclosure: We partnered with North Coast 500 who helped us plan the logistics of our trip and also arranged many of our meals and accommodation in order for us to share our experiences as travel writers. We had input into every place we stayed, ate, and visited, and we covered our own transport costs and additional expenses. You can read more in our Ethics Code about how we accept work.**

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  1. Hi,
    Myself and my boyfriend are planning to do this trip in the summer and are supper excited!!
    We are 20years old and are planning to do the trip in a small car with a tent and 7 days your planning guide so far has been incredibly useful so thank you very much!
    I was just wondering if you could possibly tell me your list of MUST SEE’s from the route and any advise you may have regarding the trip
    Many thanks in advance

    • That sounds very exciting and glad our NC500 guide and 7-day itinerary has been helpful!

      It is going to be a very busy summer along the route this year, so I would definitely recommend booking your campsites ahead of time. Many are already fully booked for those who need hookups but many still have tent pitches left. I’d also recommend booking any bigger attractions or tours that does pre-booking such as guided walks, boat tours, castle visits, etc.

      In terms of must-sees, it would be hard for me to choose as we have visited so many great places and spent so much time in that area. I think it really depends on what you and your boyfriend are most interested in? Hiking, geology, castles, beaches, history, water activities, crafts, whisky, etc.?

      Yes, so our 7 day itinerary lists way more than you can do in 7 days so you will need to pick and choose what is most interesting to you. If you are not sure, I would check out these two posts, North Coast 500 highlights and reason to drive the North Coast 500. Those should help give you a good idea of many of the things you can do and lists many of the highlights. Then you can help build your own personal 7 day itinerary!

      Hope that helps, and just let me know if you have any questions.

  2. A few years ago I bought the Lonely Planet book “Epic Drives of the World”. One of the drives was a trip from Applecross to Portree. We made a road trip out of it (Edinburgh-Inverness-Applecross-Portree-Bunarkaig-Glasgow-Edinburgh) and had an amazing time during our first stay in Scotland. The Quiraing Walk being our absolute highlight. It was during this trip we learned about the NC 500 and were sold on the idea.

    We had everything booked for July 2020, but something small came up. So, we postponed the whole trip to July 2021. If covid permits, it’ll be Dornoch-Wick-Tongue-Lochinver-Ullapool-Applecross(2)-Inverness(2). As you can tell from where we are staying, your guide has been a tremendous help. Thanks a lot for that! We are now planning things to do.

    I did want to provide some advise for people not used to driving in the highlands. We rented a car at Edinburgh airport at Celtic Legend. Halfway between Lochcarron and Bealach na Ba, I took a hard hit in a pothole at the end of a passing place, resulting in a flat tyre. We had to wait for over an hour to get towed away back to Lochcarron, get the tyre replaced and get back to Bealach na Ba and in the end Applecross. I think it cost us 3-4 hours and of course the price of the intervention and tyre.

    So what advise I have:
    1) Try to rent a car with a spare tyre so you don’t lose time getting towed.
    2) Be very careful of potholes, certainly at the beginning and the end of passing places. They can be brutal.
    3) Get extra insurance. Our excess waiver this year (covering tyres) will cost us GBP 70. The tyre incident last time cost us GBP 128.

    The guy that towed was a jolly fellow. He did find the whole situation amusing. In summer, he said, 50% of their business comes from flat tyres. 50%!

    • Hope you are able to do your postponed North Coast 500 trip in July. It is already busy up there right now and most things are now open. Glad you already have your accommodation booked, as many places are almost booked full through August now. I hope you get some nice weather for your trip and don’t have any flat tyres!

      Thanks for leaving some of your rental car advice as I am sure it might help future drivers who are not used to driving in the Highlands or rural areas 😉 The single track roads (appropriately using passing places), potholes, farm animals, etc. all add a bit of color to the driving experience so definitely a road to take slowly and to enjoy the scenery. Having a spare and having insurance is definitely a good idea.

  3. What a fantastic site full of amazing information.
    You have certainly saved us a ton of preliminary work.
    Once lockdown lifts we’ll be off!!
    Thanks, Frances

    • Glad you found our North Coast 500 road trip planning guide helpful! Yes, hopefully things will be open and somewhat back to normal this summer.

      If you have any questions as you plan your trip, just let us know 😉

  4. What a fantastic guide, thank you. My son and I are doing the nc500 early October this year. I have done it briefly once before but it was quite rushed and I wanted to plan a little better. I have picked up some amazing tips on where to stay, where to eat and where to look forward to visiting. I’m so happy I found you guys, thank you. Deb 😊

    • Yes, as you said, it is not good to rush a North Coast 500 trip as you’ll miss out on seeing and doing a lot in the area. It is much more enjoyable if you can drive it at a relaxing pace. We’d recommend at least a week if you have the time.

      I am glad our blog posts have been helpful and I wish you and your son a wonderful trip in October around the NC500! We are hoping to get back up there in September ourselves if travel restrictions allow. If you have any questions as you plan your trip, just let us know. Happy to try to help or give advice based on our experiences.

  5. Hi im interested in visiting this summer and wondered if you could identify the official map you recommend as the link is to ebay and the listing has finished so I don’t know which map it is.

    • It is the official map put out by the NC500 organization. Yes, if it is not currently available online, you should be able to pick it up at the visitor centers along the route. Some of the local businesses along the route, particularly the hotels and B&Bs, may also sometimes have extra copies. We generally pick one up at the Inverness visitor center. They generally update the map each year and print new maps (since one of its functions is to advertise the businesses who pay to be advertised on the map), so the latest one may not yet be printed since obvioulsy no one is traveling now and the general travel season doesn’t begin until Spring 😉

      But really the for the route, it is the same route as mapped in our article which you can see by clicking on the Google Maps link. The route is pretty simple. The physical map though is nice to have though and it points out things like recommended attractions and fuel stations, so I would recommend picking up a copy if you can.

  6. Thanks I will be passing on your tips to our customers at Stravaig Motorhome Rental, a new family business offering brand new luxury motorhomes just 30 mins north of Edinburgh Airport – check us out Best Wishes Stravaig

    • Glad you enjoyed our North Coast 500 guide and thanks for sharing it with your future customers 😉 If you have any questions, just let us know and good luck with your new business.

  7. Hi, love this guide, however for people like me it leaves out 3 vital details: cliff edges, heights & bridges!! I love Scotland and go there about 8 time’s a year, and always drive the A82 up to Loch Ness (often drinking in to Glen Etive) A85 and I’ll be honest I don’t love driving along the lochs !! I really want to do this route but I’m just so worried about cliff edges and bridges that I haven’t done it. Could you please advise if this really isn’t for me or if it would be ok. Please be honest as I’d have a melt down if I suddenly come across a bridge or cliff edge. Thank you. Michelle x

    • Glad you enjoyed our North Coast 500 guide and are thinking about planning another trip to Scotland. So you would of course need to cross some bridges, drive near the coast, and along lochs. You’ll also need to drive on single track roads for part of the route and be able to successfully reverse your car into parking spaces. I wouldn’t say that you are ever that close to a cliff edge or that any of the bridges are that particularly scary. But you know what your limits are.

      Two of the longest bridges over water on the NC 500 route (that come to mind anyway) are the Kessock Bridge (leaving Inverness) and the Kylesku Bridge (in Kylesku) – you can google those bridges to see photos and a description of them. So I’d check that out. If you can handle those ones, I think you can handle the bridges on the route. But if those two are too much, this may not be the route for you.

      The NC500 route goes near lochs of course (its hard to drive anywhere in the Highlands without this being the case!) but if you can do the drives around Loch Ness and other lochs I think you’d be OK. I’d maybe do a bit of Google Maps research and see what you think so as you look at images of the views from the road – you are closest to the coastline in the northern part of the route.

      If you decide to go, I’d recommend sticking to the main route only and avoiding detours as they often take you onto narrower roads and are more likely to go closer to cliff edges and be a bit less maintained. I’d also avoid the Bealach Na Ba (probably don’t need to even say that!) as its the highest and steepest road on the route. I’d also skip the Applecross coastal route as that goes close to the water and so I’d just maybe skip the Applecross area entirely.

      Hope that helps, and let me know what you decide to do!!

    • Glad you enjoyed our guide and photos of the North Coast 500. Just let me know if you have any questions if you are planning a trip to Scotland.

  8. I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for such a well informed article of the North Coast 500. The whole article has been well thought of and easy lay out with valuable sections of different travel options, tips about accommodation, etc.

    I have not done the NC500 yet, but after reading your articles, I have now bought a NC500 guide book and subscribed to your newsletter.

    • So happy to hear you found our North Coast 500 so informative and helpful. I hope that you are able to do the NC500 road trip next year once everything is opened back up.

      Just let us know if you have any questions as you plan your trip!

  9. Just want to say thank you for all the information you put in your blog in relation to doing the North Coast 500 my wife and i started planning the trip about 4 weeks before leaving on 20th September probably to short a time as many B&Bs booked up however we found your blog and have stuck to it using all your advice. We followed your trip having a couple of nights in Inverness and enjoying the city there is plenty to see. We then took six days in an MR2 hood down all the way we were so lucky with the weather, doing the route and followed all that interested us in your blog, it is so informative without it we would of missed so much, the detail and advice of places to visit how to break days up is superb every day was a new experience. We stayed in a mixture of B&Bs and hotels the hotels are not a patch on the B&Bs we were looked after so well. We would both like to thank you for such an informative and enjoyable blog we had one of the best trips we have ever taken i the UK.

    • So happy to hear that you had such a wonderful road trip on the North Coast 500! You are very welcome, and we are happy that our planning guides and itineraries were helpful in planning your time and stays for the trip. Also happy that you were lucky with the weather (it is currently pouring down rain outside as I write this) as good weather is wonderful but far from guaranteed in the UK!

      Yes, generally many of the B&Bs and hotels we recommend are booked up more than a month in advance so it definitely a good idea for those planning the drive to try to book as far in advance as you can. But it sounds like you still had some great stays on the NC500 and were well looked after by the hosts and staff along the route.

      Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience as I am sure it will be useful for future readers and we of course enjoy hearing back from readers!

  10. Thanks for this amazing article, really helpful. I have been looking forward to a roadtrip since 2014 and have driven to highlands from the South East of England many times but nothing north of Inverness. I now have the next week cleared up and want to take up drive up. Is it too short of a timeframe to plan the trip. I will be driving and will be solo for the whole trip, would that be a concern? I’m happy to take up travel buddies and have advertised on some travel apps/sites, but no takers yet. Would you have any recommendation for travel buddies please?

    • It sounds like if you are driving from southeastern England and have 1 week to travel, that you will likely have about 5 days for the North Coast 500 if you spend 1 day driving up and one drive returning. That is a lot of driving but doable. Just note that if you are planning to travel in October that some of the seasonal businesses will be closing this month and some are reservation-only so best to check ahead for any place you really want to visit. I’d probably book your accommodation in advance if you know where you want to stop so you are sure to have a place to stay and not have to drive further that you want looking for a place to stay.

      I doubt you will likely find a travel companion a week before such a trip, so I’d plan to do the trip on your own, but there are message boards out there that you might want to try. I’d try local ones in your particular area to see if anyone is interested and maybe some specific to the NC500. Unfortunately, the best travel companion board that I know of (Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Travel Companion message board) closed down last year. There are also general Facebook communities you can join as well and I’d do a search for “travel companions”.

  11. So I’ve been to Schotland a couple of times now. However I’ve never crossed (yes I’m from NL) with my 2 kids (2 and 4).
    I am planning to do so next year if the covid allows.

    Because I’ve seen a couple of spots already I’m doing some research on the NC500 with kids, maybe in combination with 1 or 2 islands. Is there any specific information to tell for a 2-3 week trip on and around the NC500?

    Unfortunately we’re bound to the school holidays which will be july 24th – september 5th in our case.

    • I would recommend starting with our 1 week North Coast 500 itinerary which will help you plan your days around the NC500, I’d recommend spending 7 to 10 days on that route but you can certainly spend more. If you do more than 7, you can just add additional nights to some of your stops so you have more time in some areas. This is especially a good idea if traveling with young kids.

      Then I’d add a week or so for time on the islands. Larger Scottish islands within easy reach of the NC500 are Orkney, Lewis & Harris (the two “islands” are joined together), and the Isle of Skye (also Raasay). You could also consider Shetland (a group of islands very far north so takes a bit of time to get there). I’d allow at least 3 days for any island you choose to have enough time to explore the highlights. So if you have a week, I’d recommend choosing two islands to explore and add to your NC500 itinerary.

      July is a busy time for both the NC500 and most of the Scottish islands, so just be prepared for crowds and to take things slow. But the weather is typically warmer and all the seasonal businesses and ferry routes should be open. It also depends, of course, on the coronavirus, but hopefully things will be much better next summer!

      Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any further questions!

      • Thanks for the very helpfull info. Unfortunately we don’t have an other option that go within the Dutch holliday weeks because of school.
        After reading your reply I think we might go for around 10 days for the NC500, a week for the islands en some days for edinburg / inverness etc. which make a total of around 3 weeks.

        I’ve plenty of time to find local things to do with (youngh) children. Next to that with the kids we might to make sure that we’re not in the middle of a midge peak.

        • That sounds like a good plan if you have about 3 weeks for your holiday. If your kids like outdoor activities, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see around the North Coast 500 and on the islands.

          For the midges, you will likely encounter them since you will be there in July. They often start biting around the end of June. Some years they are bad, some years not so much. I’d just bring a bottle or two of insect repellent with you for that. Smidge is definitely the most recommended and the one we use. I’d also bring something that is effective for deterring ticks.

          Wishing you a wonderful trip next year, and feel free to reach out if you have other questions as you plan your trip.

  12. I found your page very useful. I am going there in 2 weeks and wanted to know if we should spend 2 nights in Inverness or Torridon? Where is there more to do?

    • You can easily spend 2 days exploring either, but there is definitely more things to do near Inverness. The city offers attractions and there are several things you can do within an hour’s drive for day trips from Inverness, such as the Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness, and Cawdor Castle.

      But if you just prefer hiking, scenic drives, and time outdoors than you might prefer spending the extra night near Torridon instead. But if you are looking for places to go and things to do, I’d spend the extra night in Inverness.

      Hope that helps and hope you have a great trip!

  13. I’m so glad i came across your website – it’s simply a superb piece of information for those who haven’t travelled the NC500. We are thinking of going in September and have used your article to refer to as it provides such in-depth information and has been extremely helpful to plan our journey. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. We’re really looking forward to the trip, especially as my son has recently started experimenting with his new camera and can’t wait to capture the scenery ! Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    • Thanks for taking the time to let us know that you are finding our travel website helpful, always good to hear 😉 Wishing you and your family a wonder NC500 trip in September. Just let us know if you have any questions as you plan your Scotland trip.

      BTW, if your son is interested in learning more about photography, Laurence runs an online travel photography course as well.

  14. many thanks for writing your guide and very helpful it is , I was planning on doing this route this year but now looks like it is going to be delayed until next year with a bit of luck ….

    • Glad to hear that you have found our North Coast 500 guide helpful in planning your trip. Sorry to hear that your trip has been delayed, but that may be for the best. It is expected to be very busy once things reopen and since some hotel/restaurants/attractions are not planning to open up this season, so it may further crowd people into certain areas and attractions. Also many of the lodging providers we recommend have already told us they are mostly booked or fully booked for 2020 so planning your trip for 2021 or going during the off-season may be a good idea 😉

  15. We are planning to drive this route this Sept. if virus allows. Could we purchase your guide please. Would appreciate any help. We are travelling from N.Ireland Thanks David.

    • It is expected that Scotland will allow most tourism places to reopen starting July 15th (including restaurants, hotels, campsites, pubs, museums, etc.) although it has not been made official quite yet. So I think you should hopefully OK for a September North Coast 500 road trip. There should be no travel restrictions for UK or Irish travelers once things open up. But of course, do keep checking the latest advisories.

      We have gotten a lot of messages and emails about people planning to drive the North Coast 500 in August/September/October so I would definitely book your accommodation in advance as well as any guided activities. I think a lot of people in the UK will be heading north at the end of summer so we expect the route to be busy.

      We don’t offer any NC500 guides for sale, but you can use our articles for free online. Or you can print or download articles as a clickable PDF file – this is a free option for our newsletter subscribers. If you are not a subscriber, it is free and easy to join and you can learn more and sign up here.

      The printable versions of the articles have the images, photos, and ads removed and are formatted for printing. You can also use this function to save them as clickable PDF files as well if you’d rather not print them. The PDF files allow you to still use the links.

      Once you are a newsletter subscriber, to print (or save as PDF), all you need to do is go to the article you want to print and click on the Printer icon button. This will be on the left hand side of the article (for those on desktop) or at the very end of the article (for desktop and mobile users). Once you click the icon a box will pop up that will be asked to enter your first name and email address. Please use the email address that you use to receive our newsletter.

      If you have any further questions as you plan your NC500 trip, just ask!

    • I also wanted to say that there are several people who are part of our Facebook group who are planning to drive the North Coast 500 at the end of summer or in September. You are welcome to join in on the discussion and get advice there as well:

  16. Hi! This is amazing article, thanks so much. I’m from Russia. I can’t find so much useful information for a long time in russian search sites.
    But I need a recommendations still. Can you help? I have only 4 days for the trip and not so much money to stay at hotels. I need to find couchsurfers for all rout in a most big cities. Where I can stay? I need to stay for 3 or 4 nights. ( I must get back rental car in the early morning at Edinburgh/ or evening). What can you recommend me?
    Thank you so much!

    • Unfortunately, I am not sure how easy it will be to find couchsufing along the route as many are small towns and rural areas, as there are no big cities along the North Coast 500. But you can check the Couchsurfing website and inquire from those who are hosting, but there are not too many hosts listed in Scotland.

      Also if you only have 3 nights from Edinburgh, that is not really enough time as the route as it is not near Edinburgh so that would probably not leave you much time, especially if you are on a budget. There are some hostels in Inverness and in a couple of the towns. Probably the least expensive way to stay would be to buy a tent and get some camping gear and camp at campsites along the route as there are a number of campsites along the route.

      If you are looking for places to travel in Scotland where there are lots of hostels and cheaper places to stay I’d recommend looking at the larger cities in Scotland as these are well connected by public transit (both train and bus, which will save you money so you don’t need a rental car) and offer hostels – your chances of couchsurfing there would also be much higher. So cities you might look at are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Stirling, and Inverness.

  17. Your guide is excellent, and very much appreciated as my daughter tells me she is planning to cycle the route, alone, later this year. She has the experience and skills to do this kind of thing, but I would like her to phone me every evening as a ‘safety check’. Please could you tell me if she is likely to have any problems getting a phone signal when she’s in the more rural areas?
    Thankyou very much,

    • There are places along the route where it is hard to get a phone signal or there isn’t Wifi access. It also does depend of course on her phone and network so I would make sure it is supported, especially if she is traveling from outside the UK as she may need to unlock her phone and/or get a local SIM. If she needs a SIM, you can check out this post about calling and getting online while traveling.

      But generally, I think she should have no problem checking in each day as long as there is no set time she needs to call. If she is staying at a B&B, hotel, or campsite each night, she should have no problems in most places using her phone to call or text you each night. Also, I am sure the hotel/hosts would be happy to help if she is not having signal to allow her to use their computer to send an email or their phone if necessary.

  18. Hi, I’m planning to do the NC500 over about 10-12 days this May in my camper van.I have solar power for lights and recharging phone, torch and e-bike but my cooker and fridge run off autogas. Is there anywhere on route where I can top up my gas tank? Thanks, Jackie

    • I am guessing you are specifically referring specifically to LPG (liquefied petroleum gas)?

      I would check out this site to see places where you can likely find LPG, which has several garages listed along or near the North Coast 500 route, including ones in Inverness, near Wick, and in Ullapool. I’d recommend calling the specific garages and stations in advance to make sure they have what you need. Then you can plan accordingly if you know that you are going to have to fill up along the trip.

      This probably doesn’t apply to you, but just note that if you plan to take any ferries or cross any borders on your trip (e.g., to France or Ireland) there may be a restriction on flammable gases. For example, vehicles that use flammable gas (e.g., LPG, BiFuel, Autogas, Hydrogen, CNG or CGH2 ) cannot be transported by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle because of safety reasons. Any flammable gas containers (e.g. for use in a campervan) and their size is regulated and these must be declared for inspection. So just something to keep in mind 😉

  19. You have provided a great deal of information on the North Coast 500 and I appreciate that. After your comments I have a question for you. We are planning to arrive in Ullapool from Stornoway late on June 24 and we need to be in Inverness by the evening of June 26 to attend the pipe band European Championship the next day. I had hoped, perhaps naively, to be able to drive along the north coast from Ullapool to Thurso, then south to Inverness in those two days. From your description and others I have read, the summer crowding may make this difficult. So my question: Is this at all doable or do I need to plan something else? I understand that what I’m contemplating does not include many stops along the way. That’s OK; I just want to see the north coast region. (BTW I’m a west coast American and have driven Scotland’s single lane roads before, but my British son-in-law will be driving on this trip, so we’ll be less of a menace!)
    Thanks. Stuart McAlpine.

    • Yes, as I am sure you expected, we would not recommend this. As you have read on our blogs as well as it sounds like from other people online who have done the trip, we’d not recommend that route for you. Basically you’ll have 1.5 days or a little more since you arrive late on 24th and need to be in Inverness by the evening of 26th.

      Could you, yes, but you’ll just be driving most of the time and won’t really have time to enjoy much along the route. We’d recommend at least 3 days for the time between Ullapool and Inverness.

      I think if there is one general piece of advice that people who live and work along the NC500 route would give tourists is to slow down, stop rushing, and spend more time helping support the region. We’ve probably heard some version of this hundreds of times and totally agree with it.

      Summer does indeed mean more crowds and the section between Ullapool and Thurso has a lot of single track and windy bits and people often go slower because of this (often the first section those going counterclockwise will encounter), stopping in passing places eats up time, and people are really bad about just slowing down on the road for scenery and such. This is fine when you have a relaxed and flexible day, but not ideal when you need to cover a lot of ground in one day.

      I would recommend taking the route from Ullapool south to Inverness and stopping at the many scenic and interesting places along that part of the route. There is lots of lovely scenery, gardens, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities in that area and also a couple of whisky distilleries you could visit. Plenty to keep you busy for 1.5 to 2 days and you can follow the final two days of our recommended 1 week NC500 route itinerary. Perhaps also consider extending your trip if you can to do the rest of the route after the pipe band championship or planning a second trip where you’ll fully be able to enjoy the scenery and attractions that make this a wonderful area to visit.

      Wishing you a great visit and time at the pipe band championship. Are you competing or just going to watch?

      • Thanks for the advice. I could have predicted what you would say but I thought I’d ask anyway. I’ll have to rethink our route. As you say, there are plenty of other places to occupy our attention. BTW I’m going to watch the pipe band championship although I am a piper. Keep up the good work.

        • You’re very welcome. One advantage of going south and across to Inverness is that you have the chance to drive probably the most famous stretch which is the Bealach Na Ba. There are few areas of Scotland where you could not easily spend a couple of days and this part of the route is certainly no different 😉 If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

  20. Hi there, me and my husband are planning to drive the NC500 towards the end of April/beginning of May. We’d like to take 2 weeks doing the drive. We enjoy road cycling and walking/hiking (12 miles walking maximum) so would like to stop a little longer in some areas so we can do this. Can you recommend any places in particular that would be good to do this? Would it be worth visiting some of the islands as we have more time? Any help would be great, thanks!

    • That is great that you have more time for your North Coast 500 trip and you could easily make all of the overnights from 1 night to 2 nights if you wanted. I’d definitely recommend spending a bit of time exploring the area around Inverness as there is a lot to see if you haven’t been before (e.g., Loch Ness, Fort George, Cawdor Castle, Culloden, etc.).

      For hiking/walking – you have lots of options along most of the route really so you can find hiking opportunities located near probably any section of the route. We list many suggested hikes within our 7-day North Coast 500 itinerary so I’d start there as I list hikes on just about every day and many have links to trail descriptions.

      – Along the eastern part, many of the hikes we recommend are shorter and can be done in 4 hours or less such as the Black Rock Gorge, Big Burn, Loch Fleet nature reserve hikes, Yarrow trail, Keiss coastal path, etc.
      – For a longer coastal walk you might consider the Dunnet Bay coastal hike within the Dunnet Bay Nature Reserve which is a little over 10 miles. For this hike, anywhere between John o’Groats and Thurso would be a convenient place to overnight nearby.
      – Durness may be a good corner for some more remote hiking opportunities. Among the longer hikes here, the Sandwood Bay hike would be within your distance, it is about 8 miles (4 miles each way) and it considered one of the nicest and most remote beaches in Scotland – you could hike in during the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch and time on beach in afternoon, and then hike back out for a nice day out. A day on Cape Wrath might also be something to consider (best if weather is good) as lots of remote hiking there, reachable by ferry, and you can even stay overnight at Cape Wrath. A trip over to Handa Island might be nice as well, particularly if you like birds/wildlife, you get a foot ferry over and then follow a designated path that is about 4 miles.
      -The area of Lochinver offers lots of hikes, and is a popular area for the longer hikes and several munros. Many of the munros (mountains) may be a bit too much and long, but you may want to consider maybe one challenging hill walk such as Suilven. Its an iconic hill here and attracts a lot of hikers and climbers in the warmer months. Its about 12.5 miles round trip and a full day hike for most people. I’d read about it first and see if it is a good fit. If you do this, I’d recommend staying at the Glencanisp Lodge the night before and after as you can walk right from this lodge to the starting path for the hike – super convenient for this hike and most of the people who were staying here when we did were specifically here for this hike.
      -If you are thinking about taking on something that feels a bit challenging, we can recommend a local guide, Tim Hamlet of Hamlet Mountaineering as a guide. He can do day hikes or longer overnight or even multi day trips. We’ve done kayaking and canoeing trips and Laurence and my brother just booked a trip in May to do a overnight hiking/camping/kayaking trip with him.

      For road cycling, again, there are options along most parts of this route and I’d probably ask local advice and check out Ordnance Survey maps for finding the best routes in a particular place. I’d recommend looking for roads/routes just off the main route as they’ll be less busy as there aren’t any bike lanes in most places along the route. For example, the Black Isle community has lots of suggested Black Isle cycling routes for example and you can even do a bicycling trip around the Black Isle and then catch the Nigg ferry (be sure to check the schedule as its seasonal) and continue onto Portmahomack and back. There is also of course the National 1 cycle route that runs through this area and you could do sections of that.

      Yes, you would definitely have time for one of the islands if you think you have more time than you need for the North Coast 500. I’d recommend heading over to either the main island of Orkney (get the ferry from John O’Groats or nearby) or to the Isles of Lewis and Harris (ferry from Ullapool). I’d recommend at least 2 full day and nights on either to have time to see the main highlights. Off the route, is also the possibility of going south a bit to the Isle of Skye. Both Orkney and Lewis have good cycling routes as well if you want to take your bikes.

      • Many thanks for all this information Jessica, lots of planning to do now!

  21. Thank you for all of the wonderful information!! We are hoping to bicycle the route this spring. While we are experienced cyclists, and I can fix most basic repairs, I would love to have a backup plan if something went horribly wrong and we were unable to continue the ride. I am having trouble finding such information. Are there places that I can call for a shuttle? Or if I walked to the nearest village, are there certain places where we can transport to other places? I’m just trying to make sure that I have emergencies covered. I do have access to a satellite phone if i needed it. Thank you!

    • That is a good question. I think that obviously you want to be prepared as you could be cycling a fair distance to the nearest village in some places so good to always have the basics on you of course (repair kit, first aid kit, food/water, safety gear, emergency numbers) and I think the phone could come in handy as reception is not great in certain places with a regular cell phone.

      For emergencies, the emergency number in Scotland (for police, ambulance, fire) is 999, where for non-emergencies (but need to contact police) is 101. So for any medical or criminal emergency, I’d definitely start there. And if you are stranded somewhere but not hurt, the 101 number might help you if you don’t know where else to call.

      If you were able to walk to the nearest village, the folks at the local store/service station/police/visitor center should be able to help you find a local shuttle or taxi company that could take you to say Inverness or where you needed to go with your bikes. There are a lot of small operations in the Highlands and I think depending on where and when you needed transport, would depend on which might be best. There is also lodging at just about every village.

      There is also public transportation, depending on where you are. So along the east, there is a train line so you could use that to return to Inverness. There are also local buses mostly run by Stagecoach that connect many of the villages along the route.

      There is also a cycling company called Ticket to Ride Highlands that has a number of transport vehicles that you can book for cycling holidays and they provide shuttle service. So I think the service is something you normally book in advance, but I am sure that if it was not an emergency and you could get to a village, that could be an option as well is to book a shuttle transfer with them back to Inverness or wherever. They service the entire region including the North Coast 500. You might want to give them a call and ask if they provide transport in such situations.

      • Yes Jessica this is great, thank you! Just having an idea of what options there could be if something happened, helps a lot!

  22. Hi guys my wife and I have been thinking of seeing Scotland for a while , came across your information about the north coast 500, sounds great,we have 7 to 10 days in September 2020 and that co insides with our wedding anniversary, would like to do b&b going anti-clockwise,hire a car from Inverness airport and do a relaxing trip ,recommendation as to b&b’s would be great and best car hire ,thanks ,gr8 blog by the way

    • For rental cars, you can see our recommendations above in the article. We’d recommend flying into Inverness Airport or getting the train there (easy to do from most parts of the UK) and then just renting a car there. There are many rental car companies. We often use Enterprise ourselves.

      This really detailed 7 day North Coast 500 itinerary should help with what to see and do for 7 or more days along the route. It also lists overnight suggestions for each night, including B&B’s but you can also check out this list of our recommended bed-and-breakfasts along the North Coast 500. Most of these we’ve stayed at ourselves.

      If you have more than 7 nights, I’d suggest adding a night to some of your overnight stops. Makes the trip much more relaxing and allows you to see and do more in that particular area.

      If you are looking for a special place to stay to celebrate your wedding anniversary, I’d also check out this list of hotels on the North Coast 500 as it includes some special places like castle hotels, historic homes, country estates, and really nice B&Bs. But happy to suggest a specific place if you have a budget in mind.

      Hope that helps and let us know if you have further questions as you continue your planning.

  23. Unfortunately we only have a few days to venture onto the NC500 from Inverness. If we will later be visiting Skye, would it make sense then to just do a portion of the East Coast of the NC500, rather than the West Coast? If so, where would you recommend stopping and what alternate route could we use to return to either Inverness or make our way towards Skye?

    We’re experienced drivers of both left side driving and rural one lane highways.

    • If you have 3 full days and are starting from Inverness, I’d probably recommend 2 day exploring one section of the coast and 1 day on the other, so you get a bit of a taste of both. The east has more towns and cultural stuff, but the west is more dramatic and scenic. I’d take a look at our suggested North Coast 500 itinerary for what you can do in each area and town to help you decide if east or west is better, as either would work fine for heading over to Skye afterward.

      Suggestion #1 (more time on East): On the first day leave Inverness and head northeast along the route towards Dingwall, explore Black Isle, and then head up to Dornoch for the night. The second day, head north to visit Dunrobin Castle and explore more of the east coast up to Wick (or perhaps John O’Groats depending on your timing) and then head back to overnight a second night in Dornoch. This is essentially Days 1 and 2 of our suggested 7 day NC500 itinerary. Then the third day drive back south from Dornoch towards Inverness, following along the southern part of the NC500 route, perhaps stopping at places like Rogie Falls on the way, to Kinlochewe and then head north up to Ullapool. Spend night in Ullapool. Then from Ullapool you can follow the route around to Torridon and Applecross if you wish on your way to the Isle of Skye or you can just go more directly to Skye via the faster route. It is about a 2 hour drive to reach the Skye Bridge from Ullapool following the quickest route via A835 and A890, but will take much longer if you go the scenic route.

      Suggestion #2 (more time on West): On the first day leave Inverness and head northeast along the route towards Dingwall, explore Black Isle, and then head up to Dornoch for the night. Visit Dunrobin Castle in the morning, then head back south towards Inverness and around to Ullapool. Then the second day keep heading north along the NC500 to Achiltibuie and Lochinver, and then return in the evening to Ullapool. The next day head south towards Isle of Skye and again you can consider if you have time to drive the scenic route via Torridon and Applecross or take the quicker route to reach the Skye Bridge.

      Note that if you are planning the drive in the winter or off-season, that many attractions close in winter (including Dunrobin Castle, most museums, and outdoor activity providers) so be sure to check ahead as that might sway your opinion on which way to go. Also the Bealach na Bà section of the route is sometimes closed or unssafe to drive in the winter months if there is snow etc.

      Hope that helps give you some ideas, and do let us know if you have further questions as you plan your trip in Scotland!

  24. myself and my husband are homing to do the 500 next April with our dogs I would really apprecaite any advise and guidance you have to help us in the planning please.

    • Yes, we should definitely add a section to our North Coast 500 guide about traveling with dogs, as I just received a very similar question from a reader looking for dog-friendly hotels along the NC500 🙂

      I am guessing you are traveling from the UK, but if you are traveling from outside the UK you will need to make sure you check the laws and guidelines (papers, vaccinations, quarantine) for bringing a dog into the UK as it differs depending on the country of origin. You can find out more about that here.

      The main thing with dogs in this area is that they will need to be kept on a lead (leash) in most places because of livestock and wildlife. April and May is lambing season in Scotland so lots of baby lambs will be around and you’ll want to keep dogs away from the sheep as they can scare and hurt the lambs. Sheep are just about everywhere in the area! This is also part of bird nesting season and dogs can disturb ground nesting birds so good to be aware of if doing walks/hikes.

      Most hiking areas and wild places allow dogs (but not all of course so do check signs before setting out), but most ask that dogs be kept on a lead at all time and of course that all waste is picked up and properly disposed of. Most indoor attractions along the route do not allow dogs so if there are any that you want to visit, you may want to take turns with your husband staying with the dogs.

      Most campgrounds accept dogs along the NC500. While most lodging doesn’t accept dogs, there are a number of hotels and B&B that do so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to stay. I would definitely recommend booking before your trip to make sure you have suitable places to stay with your dogs during yoru trip since you’ll have fewer options. Here is a partial list of places where we’ve stayed or visited, across a range of budgets and styles, that I believe allow dogs (in at least certain rooms):

      Kingsmill House in Inverness – dogs are allowed here
      Aberfeldy Guesthouse in Inverness – dog-friendly B&B
      Mansfield Castle Hotel in Tain – dog-friendly castle hotel
      Royal Marine Hotel in Bora – dog-friendly hotel that caters a lot to golfers
      Thrumster House near Wick – very dog friendly, owners have their own dogs, large garden for them to run around in
      Forss House outside of Thurso – country house hotel that allows dogs in certain rooms
      Inver Lodge in Lochinver – dogs are allowed here in some rooms I believe
      Glencanisp Lodge outside Lochinver – dog-friendly hotel run by local community members, great location for hikers
      Green Cruachan B&B – in Stoer dog-friendly B&B with nice hosts who serve vegetarian breakfasts
      Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltibuie – I think they allow dogs in many of the rooms plus in the bar area (but not the restaurant)
      Coul House Hotel in Contin – dog-friendly country house hotel, large area for dogs to run/walk

      That is just a short list of some of the hotels that accept dogs along the North Coast 500, but hopefully it will give you a good place to start.
      Just let us know if you have further questions as you plan your trip.

  25. Hi there! My Dad and I are planning a trip May 2020! We were thinking we would set up a few home bases, and stay 3 nights each. Is this doable? if so, can you recommend 3 locations to set up base to get the most out of our travels? What kind of weather can we expect towards the end of May? Or maybe there is a better time to travel. We are open with the timing and the length of our stay. Thank you in advance for any advice.

    • I’d probably recommend 4 locations for 2-3 days each along the route to avoid having to keep driving the same part of the route too much. It depends of course on your main interests along the route but I’d say maybe in or around 1) Inverness 2) Thurso 3) Lochinver and 4) Gairloch (or Kinlochewe). But I’d look at our detailed day by day NC500 itinerary for help in where might be the best bases for you, depending on your interests and what you really want to do. It also depends if you prefer towns or plan to camp or stay in more rural locations.

      May is a good time of year to travel in Scotland, it tends to be one of the better weather months. As noted, the weather is pretty unpredictable year round and I’d come prepared for some cool weather and rain. The midges shouldn’t be out yet. Most things along the route will be open as the tourism season in the Highlands normally begins in April around Easter.

      Hope that helps and just let us know if you have more questions as you continue planning your trip!

      • Thank you so much for taking the time out to reply! I have dove even deeper into your wonderfully informative blog and am feeling as though coming up with an itinerary will be less daunting now especially having been given the towns to set up base. My Dad (82), has never been out of the states and has left me in charge of this trip (no pressure) It will truly be memorable for the both of us. Now I’m just trying to make it count! We would enjoy short walks/hikes and historical ruins and places to get out of the car and explore. I did see through one of your links regarding Rabbie’s tour over to the Isle of Skye. Definitely think we would want to do that, and I can take a break from driving. We won’t be camping or staying in Hostels so I will look into as you suggested. Thanks again for your reply and all the information you have shared.

        • You’re very welcome, and happy to look over an itinerary or answer more questions as you get further along in your planning. There are lots of historical attractions along the route as well as places where you can do short walks and hikes. We note many of these in our detailed itinerary.

          I’d probably set your dates and flights first, and then you can think about hotels and any tours. Most attractions along the route don’t require any pre-booking or reservations, but if you want to do a specific activity (e.g., fly fishing, guided hike, kayaking, wildlife tour, etc.) that you would want to book in advance. But you have plenty of time 😉

          For lodging, we have places listed on our itinerary for each recommended night, but since you are planning on basing in different places for multiple nights, you might also want to check out our B&B guide and our hotel guide which give some more recommendations along the route.

          If you decide to do part of your trip with a tour company, we can definitely recommend Rabbie’s. We’ve done many of their tours and happy to answer any questions about those if you have any.

  26. Thanks for all the useful information. Having travelled up to Scotland from Yorkshire for an Autumn break for the last 4 years, we have talked about the North coast 500 more than once. Finally going to get it sorted for early summer next year and your advice is a great starting point for our planning. Can’t wait, will be spending our evenings in a lodge at loch Lomond the next couple of weeks planning our trip and gazing across the loch with glass in hand! Bliss!!

    • Sounds like a wonderful plan to drive the North Coast 500 next summer. Just let us know if you have any questions as you start your planning, and have a lovely time at Loch Lomond!

  27. Hi,
    An excellent article. What do you term a large RV? My motorhome is 7 metres long by 2.3 meteres wide (inc mirrors) It is under 3.5 tonnes so I do not regard as large. However, it sounds as if it may be a bit large for this route. I also drive coaches so I am quite used to manouvering large vehicles in tigh spaces.

    • So I think a motorhome or RV of that size would be OK in general along the NC500 but I would not take it along the more steep and narrow sections. But luckily, there are alternative routes for the most narrow sections.

      As noted, the two stretches of the road that are usually noted as unsuitable for larger caravans and motorhomes are:

      -The stretch along B869 from Kylesku to Lochinver, which is on the western part of the route. You can take the faster and wide A894 route instead to reach Lochinver.
      – The Bealach Na Ba stretch as it is steep, narrow, and has a number of sharp bends. This is on the southwestern part of the route over by Applecross. It is easy to avoid as you can take the slip road up to the A896 instead.

      It is recommended by the NC500 to not drive anything over 18 feet (about 5.5 meters) on these. Partly because of the narrow stretches and also because you need to be able to safely pull into and reverse the vehicle into passing places which are not always that long.

      There are also some detours you’ll probably want to avoid, but these are not part of the official route.

      So I think with just planning your route in advance and staying off the side roads, you should be fine with the motorhome you have. The route is definitely best explored with the smallest vehicle you have, but I think you can do it with the one you have with some good route planning.

      Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any additional questions!

  28. What a brilliant resource and fabulous guide. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Doug, Glad you are enjoying our North Coast 500 guide! Just let us know if you have any questions if you are planning a trip. Jessica

  29. Hi sorry if this has been asked before, are there
    Plenty of petrol stops on the way?
    I will be going on my motorcycle and want to do
    It in three days, my bikes tank will do about
    140 miles per tank, thanks for the great article
    Very informative, Martin.

    • Yes, there are plenty of fuel stops along the NC500. As noted, if you pick up one of the official NC500 maps in Inverness before you start the trip, it lists where most of the fuel stations are. Some are open 24 hours, some are not.

      Just note that 3 days is not very much time and you’ll be very limited in what you will be able to see or how long you can stop. If you have more time, we’d recommend at least 5 days to complete the route.

  30. What a great write up, thank you….
    We are looking to do this next July/August is it something the children (ages 7 & 10) would enjoy?

    • Hi Jess, Yes, I definitely think that a drive along the North Coast 500 can be a great trip for families. I think you just want to take it at a slow pace, have plenty of breaks from sightseeing, and plan things you know the kids will enjoy.

      Because we have been asked this question a few times, we have added a section above in the article called “Best Stops for Families with Children along the North Coast 500”. There we suggest some tips for families and a list of recommended sites and attractions, from beaches to castles to boat trips, that kids might enjoy. Take a look and then if you have any further questions, just let us know!

      You can see more about all the suggested attractions and where they fit on the route by taking a look at our North Coast 500 itinerary.

  31. This article has been invaluable, thank you! Me and my boyfriend are doing this for our joint 50th birthdays next year (2020) and we cannot wait!

    • Hi Karen, So glad to hear that and what a great birthday trip for next year! If you have any questions as you make more plans for your NC500 road trip, just let us know. Best, Jessica

  32. Hi Jessica and Laurence
    Your newsletter is fabulous for us first timers.We are hiring a motorhome on Saturday form Inverness and return it the following Friday – can you recommend a route plus any restaurants/pubs.Many thanks Will

    • Glad you are enjoying our monthly newsletter and articles. If you have read our planning guide already, we’d also recommend taking a look at our 7 day North Coast 500 and our camping itinerary. Between those, you should probably have everything you need in terms of route and dining suggestions, but let us know if you have additional questions.

  33. Please, please, please familiarise yourself with how to drive on a single-track road in Scotland. I am a (relative) local along the route and have witnessed the most appalling driver behaviour in and around Applecross (coast road, and Bealach na Ba) since the route became popular. Aside from giving way at passing places, please also drive as through you are anticipating the worst possible scenario over the crest of the blind summit in front of you! Driving single-track is all about anticipating hazards EARLY – these hazards include animals, cyclists, giant wobbly box campervans, bin lorries, people who don’t know how to or are not willing to reverse, localised flooding, and snow and ice in the winter. It take a lot of concentration to drive safely on these roads, and the local roads should not be a race track, or treated as a leisure drive for you or your vehicle of choice. The Bealach Na Ba was closed for 5 hours on Sunday due to an extremely serious accident. Tourists and locals die on these roads a lot, so it pays to do a bit of google map research so you know what you’re in for. Please also utilise local campsites and accomodation, local shops and petrol stations, and cafes/pubs, as the people who fill up in Inverness on fuel and food then don’t spend money in local villages really damage the fragile local economy.

    To sum up, you will have an amazing time if your are careful and prepared, as well as open to a bit of flexibility.

    • Hi Alex, Thanks for taking the time to comment and adding additional warnings for those planning to make this drive along the North Coast 500. We have also also seen the poor driving of many visitors, especially those in campervans and motorhomes, those driving on single track roads for the first time, and those driving in convoy (don’t do this!). As well as littering (this includes placing rubbish in overflowing trash cans), illegal overnighting, and stopping on the side of the road (or in the middle!) for photos. Being able to reverse into passing places is a necessary thing to be able to do to drive this route safely, but we often encounter people who refuse to reverse despite being near a passing place.

      The Bealach Na Ba as you noted is a particularly dangerous part of the route and is not for all drivers or vehicles (not recommended for large vehicles, heed warnings) — that is awful to hear about the car accident on Sunday. Those driving this route should consider whether they should drive this section of the route or not, and if decide to do so, be sure to be careful. We recommend driving the route anti-clockwise so that once you get to this section, you have some experience driving on single track roads. Ice and snow often close this route during the winter months.

      We definitely agree with encouraging people to stop and spend money at the local campgrounds, hotels, museums, restaurants, shops, visitor centers, etc. It is the best way to support the local economy, meet people, and get the most of the route. The slower you go, the more you’ll see and the more you are likely to enjoy your trip!

      As you said, those who are careful, respectful, and prepared will have a wonderful road trip!!

  34. Thank you so much for such a wonderful site!
    We will be travelling the route on Saturday 12th of July with my husband, myself and our two children ( 6 and 5 years old). We are experienced campers so we will be camping along the route for 2 weeks approx ( we are flexible with dates). But we will be staying at the Nairn Lochloy holiday park for a couple of nights and then, we have decided to start the route anticlockwise.
    I wanted to ask you for ideas in regards of best places to take the kids to along the NC500 route; I have already noted Wyvis play park, Inverwere gardens, beaches, boat tours and some local indoors swimming pools for the rainy days.
    I would appreciate any other suggestions on specific places to take them to that we might have missed.

    • Sounds like you already have a great plan and I would also check out Laurence’s camping itinerary as that might be helpful as well.

      You already have some great ideas for places to visit with young kids (gardens, beaches, boat tours). There are many that might be a good fit, but here are some more ideas of places you might consider:

      – Robertson’s Farm Shop – In addition to being a farm shop, in the summer kids can go visit the farm animals and pet some of them (small fee). There are Highland coos, goats, sheep, etc.
      -Evanton Woods – There is a very nice woodland playground here developed by the local community in Evanton. It is about a 10 minute walk from the parking area across from the free parking area across from the pub in Evanton.
      – Dunrobin Castle – This might be a bit expensive for taking the kids if they are not that interested in the interior, but there is also a beautiful garden here and a falconry display (usually once or twice a day, I’d check times in advance) is also often appealing to kids.
      – If you are looking for an easy archaeological site to visit, Càrn Liath (an Iron Age broch) is a short walk from the parking area. It is just a short drive past Dunrobin Castle. Free to visit.
      – Loch Fleet – This national reserve is a nice spot and there are plenty of walking trails, many flat and easy. Good chance for spotting birds. The Skelbo Forest Walk is an easy and mostly shaded option and there are some woodcarved animals along the walk.
      – Castle of Mey has a farm animal petting/viewing area that might appeal.
      -I would make the walk down to Smoo Cave – it is free to see the exterior. You can also do a tour here but that might be a bit too much for the kids.
      – At the Balnakeil Craft Village, they might enjoy a cocoa from the popular Cocoa Mountain 😉
      – Rock Stop (has a small interactive indoor exhibition plus cafe) at Unapool and the Knockan Crag stop (outdoors) are both good places to teach the kids a bit about the North West Highlands Geo Park and the amazing local geology.
      – Achmelvich Beach is a really pretty beach and fairly protected by the bay.
      – Loch canoeing is possible with Tim Hamlet of Kayak Summer Isles, we can highly recommend him as a local guide. Families are definitely welcome, but may want to check if it would be good for kids that age. Be sure to reserve if interested.
      – Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve lets kids walk across a “scary” suspension bridge
      -Pony trekking is possible at Red Point at the Gairloch Pony Trekking Centre. Need to book in advance.

      Sorry for the delayed response but hope this is helpful as you being your North Coast 500 road trip tomorrow. Wishing you a wonderful trip!

      Also, if you want to let us know how your trip goes, we’d love to hear what you and the kids found the best places to visit which can help other families traveling with young kids.

  35. We are doing a road trip in an RV this August and I was a bit concerned about what we needed to know before we went… this has covered EVERYTHING!!! I don’t need to look for information anywhere else.. Thank you!!????… I’m going to print off the information and highlight the bits relevant to us… and the NC500 rout map app is genius!!! I can see us going time and time again..

    • Hi Julie, So glad that you found our North Coast 500 guide so helpful 😉 I am sure you will have a great time. We will have a 7 day NC 500 itinerary out later this month before your trip if you want to come back and check that out. But just let us know if you have any questions.

  36. We are three couples from Australia who are planning a trip next June. Sadly we only have a week in Scotland, starting in Edinburgh but would love to do a section of the NC 500 for 2-3 days. We will be driving and hope to head north from Edinburgh then across to the West coast before heading south to Wales. Do you have any suggestions for any particular sections?

    • Um, if you only have 1 week in Scotland and have never been before, it may not be the best choice for a first time trip. But if you have 2 full days you could definitely explore a portion, perhaps drive the west part from Inverness to either Ullapool or Lochinver or do the east part from Inverness to Wick or John o’ Groats?

      If you really want to do the NC500 in 3 days, I’d consider driving or taking the train to Inverness and then consider joining this tour with Rabbies as they will take care of the planning, ensure you see all the main highlights, and keep you safe on the road. It’s a whirlwind tour of 3 days/2 nights, but it would get you around the north quickly and safely without worrying about driving.

  37. Such a good post this is – most helpful info out there on driving the NC500!

    • Hi Satta, Glad you enjoyed it. Just let us know if you have any questions about the North Coast 500, and wishing you a great road trip. Best, Jessica

  38. Hi, Your guide is great, easy to read and not “dry”! we have sorted out our accommodation, but wonder if there is a guide or similar detailing pertol stations on, or a bit off route?

    • Glad you are finding our North Coast 500 guide helpful in planning your upcoming road trip! For petrol stations, we recommend picking up the official North Coast 500 map (you should be able to get it at the Inverness Visitor Centre or others centres along the route) as it includes an updated list of fuel stations along and near the route. You can see the 2017 edition of the map here for a good idea as I expect there have been few, if any, changes.

      You’ll find that petrol stations are located in most of the larger villages and towns along the route. I would just recommend never letting your car get near empty and to fill up during the day as not all pumps are open overnight. We’ve driven the route several times and never had an issue finding fuel (regular or diesel).

      Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any other questions.

  39. Thank you for the very inspiring and comprehensive insights to NC500 route. I stumbled upon your incredible website a few weeks ago and brilliant photos and enormous information that you posted has drawn me into planning a holiday to highlands this summer. I am planning a 6 day trip starting from Glasgow and ending at Inverness with my wife and 2 teen kids stopping at Fort Augustus, Dunnet, Scourie and Dingwall. We have found some cottages that offer great views and am about to start booking them. However, we are a wee bit allergic (read scared) to reptiles (snakes, etc.). Just wanted to know if these creatures are commonly sighted in highlands in summer months. Would greatly appreciate if you could share your thoughts please. Thanks in advance.

    • Glad you are finding our content on the NC500 and Scottish Highlands helpful in planning your trip 😉

      First, the cold weather in Scotland is strong deterrent to most reptiles (and amphibians), so you are extremely unlikely to encounter any reptiles even if you go out looking for them. I believe there is only one snake species that is native to mainland Scotland and we’ve never seen a snake in Scotland 😉 The creatures that are the biggest nuisance in the Scottish Highlands in summer are midges, mosquitoes, and ticks – so these are the ones I’d be prepared for as you’ll like encounter them if visiting between June and August, especially if hiking or spending much time outdoors.

      Note that the North Coast 500 route is a route that has a lot of single-track roads and it is best to drive it slowly so we would recommend a minimum of 5 days to do the full route without being too rushed which might be hard with only 6 nights total in Scotland. Something to think about when planning your route and time in the Scottish Highlands.

      Here is a suggested 5 day itinerary that may be helpful in planning your time along the route.

  40. Great article, taking a motor home on the NC500 in August, taking a lot of your tips with us

    • Hi Amanda & Anthony, So glad you are finding our NC500 article helpful, we have several NC500 related articles across our two travel blogs that may be useful for your trip. Do let us know if you have any questions – we are actually currently traveling along the NC500 again ourselves 😉 Best, Jessica

  41. Hello Jessica and Laurence
    Congratulations, your website is awesome.
    My wife and I plan to travel to Scotland by car and caravan for 4 weeks in June. Does it make sense to drive the North Coast 500 clockwise at this time because of the Midges encountered in the west or does not need to change the route ?? Best regards from the Emsland. Nothard and Gitti

    • Hi Northard & Gitti, So glad that you are finding our Scotland articles helpful in planning your trip! The midges normally start emerging around mid May and are usually in full swing by early June. How bad they are varies each year (2018 was a bad year) and throughout the summer. I don’t think it will likely matter too much as you can find them throughout the Highlands in summer, although from our experience they do tend to be worse along the west side of the North Coast 500 route.

      I would still do it counterclockwise as that way you start with the better roads and more towns, and gradually come upon the single track roads and more dramatic landscapes. The best way to protect against the midges is an insect spray (we recommend a couple above, can be purchase once in Scotland if not available where you live). If you are planning to spend time camping outside (and standing/sitting in one place for awhile) or are particularly sensitive to insect bites, you may consider a midge net. They are not too bad if you keep moving, but can drive you crazy when you stand still. Generally worse around dawn, dusk, and on cloudy days.

      For camping / caravaning, see our suggested NC500 camping itinerary for suggestions.

  42. Jessica and Laurence,
    Thanks for all the work that has gone into this brilliant guide to the NC500.
    I have just started planning my trip for late summer/autumn and this is a huge help.
    Happy travelling to you both.

    • Hi Shaun, Thanks for taking the time to comment. So glad you are finding our NC500 road trip guide useful, just let us know if you have any questions. Best, Jessica

  43. Hi guys thanks for all the great info. Help! We’ll be doing the NC in May in our motorhome (and by bike… one driving, with the dogs, and one riding!) We know we can’t take the van over Bealach n’a ba but we do plan to (try to!) each cycle it. Do you know if we’d manage the coast road there and back in the van as we want to meet at Applecross for lunch. She’s not enormous – 3 tonne laden and about 21ft long (Luton van rather than Transit- if that makes any sense in the US!)
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Mel, Sounds like you have a fun road trip coming up. I don’t think you should have any issue getting a van of that size to Applecross along the coastal route (barring any bad weather or road closures of course). Best of luck on your trip and on your cycle trip up the Bealach na Bà 😉 Best, Jessica

  44. Hi planing this trip soon. Just wondering what’s the laws about pulling up in a safe place and having a bbq? Thanks

    • Hi Martin, Your question is complicated of course as it involves both legal parking and having a BBQ. But if you are parked somewhere you are allowed to legally park and it is in a safe place that does not prohibit BBQs (some beaches, parks, etc. do not allow them, and some places prohibit certain types of BBQ) then you can if done responsibly. Most campsites along the NC500 allow all kinds of BBQ (electric, gas, charcoal) but not all of them so something to double check if you are planning to camp.

      But here are a couple of resources from the Outdoor Code page and Fire Scotland page that may be helpful.

  45. My husband, mother and I have driven parts of the route on other trips, but will taking in the northern section in September. We would prefer to have a rental that comes with a spare (just in case…), but these are harder and harder to find. Any recommendations?

    • Hi Kathleen, Yes, unfortunately, cars are not legally required to carry a spare tyre in the UK so many of the rental cars do not come with a spare. The other issue, of course, is that it is rarely listed in the information when booking online, so I think the only way to guarantee this would be to call an agency directly and request to book a car specifically with a spare although I am not sure all agencies would be able to guarantee this. If it is more of a preference than a requirement for you, you can find the best rate online and book and then when picking up the car, request one with a spare tyre (and means to replace one) if at all possible.

      If you are not able to get such a car, I’d be sure to rent with an agency that has a 24-hour number and you know what to do if there are any car issues or flat tires.

      Sorry I can’t offer any better advice on this, but wishing you and your family a wonderful NC500 road trip. The northern part of the route is lovely 😉

      • Thanks, Jessica! I called the rental agency and added the request to my reservation this morning. No guarantees, but at least they have the request. We will hope not to need it, but I also know we will be somewhat removed from AA and would prefer to fix it ourselves if needed!

  46. Hi, what a superbly detailed guide you have produced here. A big thank you for the help it is giving us to plan our route. We are taking two weeks to drive the NC500 at the end of March. Would you advise carrying with us fuel for the car (in a legal container) or are there sufficient petrol stations along the route for this not to be an issue?

    • I don’t think you will need to take fuel in a container as there are a number of fuel stations along the North Coast 500 route. There is at least one fuel station in most of the towns of any size along the route (e.g., Inverness, Wick, Thurso, Tongue, Durness, Lochinver, Ullapool, Contin, Dingwall), although I am not sure if they are all open 24/7 so just be sure to stop during business hours to be safe. I would just be sure to not let your tank get near empty and you should be fine if you stop when you have the chance before getting too low.

      Glad you enjoyed our NC500 road trip guide and wishing you a great road trip in March! We should have more content on the NC500 out before your trip.

  47. Hi. I’m planning a trip for late in the season 2019 500 Mile trip. Is there any issue with a female traveling alone?

    • Hi Martha, That sounds like a wonderful trip. We have found the North Coast 500 in Scotland to be a very safe driving route and most of the route is through small towns and rural areas with very low crime rates and few people. Crime happens everywhere of course, but you should be fine taking normal precautions (keeping money/valuables hidden away, locking doors, telling someone your travel plans, etc.).

      Of course if you’d like some company or prefer not to drive yourself, you might check out this a 3-day tour from Inverness from Rabbie’s Travel and this 4 Day tour from Edinburgh by Highland Experience Tours. We’ve done several trips with Rabbie’s and there are usually at least a couple of solo travelers on their trips.

      We’ve driven the NC500 route several times now, so just let us know if you have any questions as you plan your trip. Best, Jessica

  48. Hi Jessica and Laurence, We are walking the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way ending our walk in Inverness at the Ardross Glencairn Guest house on May 24th. From there, we want to rent a car and take 7 days to drive from Inverness to Glasgow and leave back to Canada on June 1st so would arrive in Glasgow on May 31st. Do you have a 7 day B & B route that you would suggest for us for the NC500?

  49. Wow! What a terrific source of inspiration! Thank you SO much for taking the time and put it together!

    We have spent a lot time looking around for suggestions regarding our upcoming, once-in-a-lifetime event (out 40th Anniversary), and when we have come across your wonderful guide, we knew we have reached our goal!

    Having the round-trip flight and car bookings done, we are now in the process of establishing our self-driving route, and we are trying to figure out how to reach as many points of interest as possible, but without over-doing it…
    Both, my wife and I, are in love with castles, so we would definitely like to sleep a few nights in several of the famous Castle Hotels, however, we would REALLY love to include the NC500 route in our schedule…
    I know it’s a tough task, but being such an important event for us, we would REALLY love to get the most of our trip, especially because we live in a place where castles are nowhere to be found (Chicago, US)…
    Having said that, it would be great if you could provide us with some advice, considering the following:

    1. We would land in Edinburgh on Friday, September 6th, 2019, and stay 4 days, exploring the city and surroundings;
    2. We would like to hit the road on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, going North toward Inverness;
    3. We would like to make the most of the NC500, and eventually spend 2~3 nights at your recommended Castle Hotels that might be in our way;
    4. We would definitely like to include the Isle of Skye;
    5. We would REALLY like to see Fort William and eventually stay over night there;
    6. My wife, Nicole, is in love with trains, and taking the famous steam train ride with the Jacobite is a MUST!

    I know it’s a lot to ask, but I hope you would be able to advice us in advance… our departure date from Edinburgh back to US is on Saturday, September 28, 2019.

    Once again, thank you SO much, and, as a small token of appreciation, please rest assured that we would make all our purchases through your suggested links!

    • Happy to hear about your upcoming Scotland trip to celebrate your 40th anniversary!!

      Here are some ideas and resources to help you plan your trip:

      1. Edinburgh for 4 nights will give you plenty of time to explore. You can check out our guide to the top things to do in Edinburgh, lesser known Edinburgh attractions, and Edinburgh photography guide for idea to put together an itinerary there. You might also want to consider either getting the Royal Edinburgh Ticket or pre-purchasing a fast entry/skip-the-line ticket for Edinburgh Castle (it is usually the most busy attraction in the city).

      2. On the way up to Inverness, I’d consider stopping for a photo stop at the Forth Bridges driving through the Cairngorms National Park and a stop at Loch Ness. You can do a boat tour on Loch Ness if the weather is nice – if the weather is bad it is probably not worth doing. I’d recommend a night or 2 in Inverness as there are plenty of things to see in and around the city (e.g., art museum, Fort George, Black Isle, Cawdor Castle, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Culloden battlefield, Inverness Castle). Here are some Inverness day trip ideas.

      3. I’d recommend at least 3 nights to do the NC500 – 5 days is ideal. We have a NC500 hotel guide that has all the main castle hotels listed. Let us know if you have a specific question about any of them. We only have a camping itinerary up so far, but will have more NC500 itineraries up before your trip in Sept., if you want to sign up for our monthly newsletter to be alerted with our new articles.

      4. I’d recommend 2 nights on the Isle of Skye after you finish the NC500 drive. That will give you more time to explore there. Here is some ideas for the Isle of Skye and also a Skye & Scottish Highlands itinerary that might be helpful.

      5. The city center of Fort William is easy to explore on foot. There are a couple of good museums there and the remains of a fort. If you enjoy castle hotels, you might consider a night at Inverlochy Castle before you head home. It has been one of our favorite castle hotels and is one of the nicest; however, it is more pricey than those around the NC500. But one to check out, not too far from Fort William and Glen Coe.

      6. The Jacobite steam train leaves from Fort William so that is easy enough to arrange. The train doesn’t operate every day so I’d check the schedule and be sure to book in advance of your trip for that as it is popular.

      Hope this helps, and feel free to reach out with additional questions as you plan your trip!

  50. Thank you so much for putting this brilliant NC 500 guide together. Really useful 🙂

    • Thanks Lois, glad you enjoyed our guide and hope you have a wonderful North Coast 500 road trip. Do let us know if you have any questions. Best, Jessica

  51. Congratulations on putting together a gem of a travelogue up there on Scotland and a fantastic website. We are planning for a 5 day trip to the Scottish highlands and Isle of Skye starting from Inverness. We will reach Inverness from London on 13th evening and have booked a self drive car to drive around the highlands for the next 5 days 😀

    1. We will be travelling with our 8 month old baby boy, considering winter is setting on and having read that Scottish weather can get fickle. Would the weather be too harsh?

    2. Your tales got us all excited for the NC500 and We plan on taking the route from Inverness. Could you please recommend a route? considering the actual driving days will be 5 (Fully aware that is no way enough but would still like to make the most of these days). I would like to place Isle of Skye in this route somewhere.

    4. Our preferred itinerary if NC500 doesnt cut will be (This is again a copybook of your 5 Day itinerary only difference is we will be driving self)

    Day 3 Ullapool to Isle of Skye (Stay overnight at Portee)

    Day 5 Portree to Iverness for our evening flight to London

    Is this going to be too aggressive considering we will be travelling with a kid?

    5. What could be our accomodation options enroute (Your recommended B&Bs if any)?

    Is there another itinierary that you would like to suggest for the above days between 14th and 18th October.

    • Sounds like you have a great trip to Scotland coming up.

      Yes, the weather is definitely fickle in Scotland. In terms of the weather, the further north, the colder it is likely to be. We like traveling NC500 in winter but it does snow up there and last winter we did have to stop for a day because of the road conditions. So it may not be ideal for such a short trip with a baby and wanting to see a lot. Winter is better for more flexible itineraries and some of the attractions along NC500 are closed in winter.

      So in terms of your itinerary, it is only about a 40 minute drive from Ullapool to Ardvreck Castle, so you can do more on that day if you wish. I’d definitely spend 2 full days on the Isle of Skye if you really want to explore that area, especially with a baby.

      I think your itinerary is certainly doable with a baby, I’d just check the driving distances each day and see what you want to do/see along the way so you can better plan your driving distances.

      Here is our suggested 5 day Scottish Highlands itinerary that may help a bit for things to do/see. Although with a baby, you won’t be able to see as much and will need to move at a slower pace each day. We also started this one from Edinburgh but it should hopefully give you some ideas.

  52. Great blog, thank you. A lot of useful info. We are doing the trip, starting the 4th October for 10 nights and haven’t planned any stops yet along the way. We have 2 dogs and will we stopping in our T5 and various campsites. Hoping to go to Skye for a night or 2 and maybe isle of Harris and Mull depending on time. Is everywhere mainly dog friendly?
    many thanks

    • A lot of people in Scotland travel with their dogs and you should find plenty to do. Indoor attractions often don’t allow dogs (as you probably expect) but you can always take turns watching the dogs when you want to visit these places.

      Most outdoor spaces and campsites do allow dogs although in many places they need to be on a lease to not disturb livestock and/or wildlife. Luckily most nesting birds will be gone by October and lambs will be larger, which are 2 of the biggest issues with dogs in this area. Most beaches allow dogs and allow them to be off leash if supervised and cleaned up after. Most places have dog waste disposal bins.

      We’d recommend 7 night along the NC500 to see all the highlights and have time to relax and enjoy it and go walking/hiking etc with your dogs. There are also a lot of attractions in and around Inverness worth seeing (Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness, Cawdor Castle, etc.). You can see our suggested NC500 camping itinerary for ideas of where to stay along the route.

      With 10 nights, I’d probably choose between Isle of Skye or Lewis & Harris (or Mull but it is much further south) so you have enough time to explore them. You can easily spend 2-3 days on any of the islands. I think all of the ferries allow pets, but have different restrictions in terms of where they can be within the ferry so I’d check ahead.

  53. Hi Jessica
    We are planning to do the NC500 in September. We will be in an Elddis Autoquest 200 motor home which is approx 19 feet in length and 7 feet wide. Are there any parts of the trip that you would advise us to avoid with a van of this size. We really hope there’s not too much but better safe than sorry we think.
    Many thanks for any help you can give us and congratulations on such a wonderfully friendly and indepth site
    Regards June

    • That sounds like a fun trip, and very happy you are finding our blog helpful in planning your North Coast 500 road trip! Much of the road along the NC500 (especially in the north and west) are narrow single-track roads that were not designed for a lot of traffic or larger vehicles. But as long as you are patient and know how to drive safely on single-track roads and use passing places you should be fine in a motorhome of that size for the majority of the route.

      Here is a good guide to driving on single track roads, if you don’t have much experience driving them.

      The two stretches of the road that are usually noted as unsuitable for larger caravans and motorhomes are:

      – The Bealach Na Ba stretch as it is steep, narrow, and has a number of sharp bends. This is on the southwestern part of the route over by Applecross. It is easy to avoid as you can take the slip road up to the A896 instead.
      -The stretch along B869 from Lochinver to Kylesku, which is on the western part of the route.

      So I would just avoid those 2 stretches and you should be fine. There is always the chance of temporary road closures and such so I would check the road conditions during your trip, but you’ll probably find plenty of people to chat about the roads going in both directions at the campsites along the route.

      You might find this suggested 7 day camping itinerary useful as it provides a suggested NC500 itinerary and tips for those planning to camp or stay in motorhomes along the route.

      Hope this helps, and if you have further questions as you plan your trip feel free to reach out. We’ve driven this route several times now and happy to try to help!

      • Many thanks for the advice Jessica. We will be sure to bear this in mind when we undertake the trip

  54. Great article guide on the North Coast 500. Planning on taking the new Overland vehicle on its first official adventure in early September with our 2 dogs, so came across your guide. Very well written and a great starting point for planning. Hopefully will be doing a lot of rough camping.

    • Hi Chris, Wishing you the best of luck on your upcoming North Coast 500 road trip! Glad the guide has been helpful in planning your road trip. If you are planning on camping, you can check out this 1 week NC500 camping itinerary. If you want to do real wild camping, I’d recommend spending more time in the western part as there is more wild camping opportunities on that part of the drive as the Inverness area and eastern part are more developed. Enjoy your time in northern Scotland! Best, Jessica

  55. Awesome article! There is so much interesting and helpful information in this North Coast 500 guide, thanks a lot for providing it!

    • Hi Julie, So happy your enjoyed our NC500 guide, and do let us know if you have any questions as you plan your NC500 road trip! Best, Jessica

  56. Excellent article. Even more excited to get going now!!
    We are planning on doing a trip in August/September time. We would either be camping or borrowing a pop-up trailer from a friends. Would we be ok waiting booking into camp sites at the time? I usually have a fairly flexible style to travel but a little worried about a lack of facilities in the busy season would mean no availability.

    • Hi Carrie! Glad you enjoyed our NC500 travel guide 😉 August is a definitely a busy time along the NC500, especially in the campsites as they are particularly popular with families (as well as university students) and there are a lot of them traveling over the summer. September will get calmer once schools are back in session. So it will depend a little on your dates and it is hard to predict the numbers but summer is a very busy time.

      I think a lot of people who camp have a more flexible travel style so you should be OK to wait to book until a bit closer to your trip. But I would not wait too long if you have an idea of where you want to stay as the facilities are limited and there are only so many campsite along the NC500. Currently the need is exceeding the demand at different points in the summer. If you don’t need services (e.g., water, electricity) you can wait longer.

      In general, I would recommend booking at least 1 month in advance if you need facilities (e.g., electricity & water hook ups). But if you just need a campsite with just basic amenities (access to toilets, shower block, waste disposal station, drinking water), then you have much more flexibility.

      If you want to drive along without a set itinerary and are flexible about where you stay, I’d try to book at least a night or two in advance just so you know that you have a place to stay each evening. But in some areas, like Applecross, there is only one campsite so for places like this it is good to book a bit in advance if you can.

      Hope this helps as it is difficult to know how busy it will be at any one time along the route, but booking at least a little in advance can definitely give you some piece of mind in knowing you’ll have a good place to stay. You can check out this NC500 camping itinerary for some ideas for campsites along the North Coast 500 and camping tips.

  57. Done that been there several times up down across and back in our camper and up apple cross. we love Scotland and lived there several years until our children wanted us back in Dorset Paul

    • Hi Paul, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, it is certainly a beautiful area of Scotland, very popular with people from England who love the mountains and more rugged terrain! Hope you have many more chances to return and visit the northern Highlands of Scotland! Best, Jessica

  58. I enjoyed reading the information about the NC500. However, you made no mention of how someone with restricted mobility would cope with such a trip. I have a blue badge for my car and walk using a rollator with a seat. Obviously I would not be doing any hiking and getting onto a beach is difficult but I would like to think that there is enough that is accessible to make the trip worthwhile.

    • Glad you enjoyed our North Coast 500 guides. Yes, since many of the attractions are outdoors and natural, some may not be an option for someone with restricted mobility. However, many of the scenic viewpoint stops are viewable from the parking area or a very short walk from it and even some of the longer paths have been designed for those with restricted mobility in mind such as this one in Assynt. But for the most part, the hiking trails and beaches are difficult in terms of accessibility.

      The area can be challenging as even some of the top attractions like Dunrobin Castle have a number of stairs that need to be navigated to tour the castle although wheelchair access can be arranged to visit the gardens. But I think the best thing to do would be to make a list of attractions you really want to visit and then check their websites or call them about accessibility. Then you can decide if there appears to be enough things available that you want to do to visit.

      I know as tourism has increased along the North Coast 500 there has been growing awareness of this as a concern for businesses. Several hotel & B&B owners are in the process or have recently renovated to be able to offer more accessible rooms that can accommodated those in wheelchairs and others with restricted mobility. I know that many of the museums and visitor centers are wheelchair accessible and therefore accessible with a rollator.

      Hope this helps, it is not an easy answer. But do let us know if you have further questions and we will try to help!

  59. Indeed, over 500 miles of gorgeous scenery. Like always, your guides are so detailed. You don’t leave anything out, addressing almost every issue that may cross your reader’s mind. I would so love to take this road trip sometimes.

    • Hi Anda, Thanks so much and you get a chance to do a NC500 road trip some day 😉 Best, Jessica

  60. First off, it was great meeting you guys at TBex! Always nice to connect “in real life. 🙂

    This looks like a fantastic drive! We got a good bit of single track (and drive on the left!) experience in some more remote areas of Ireland. For Americans who aren’t used to either, we can say that it really isn’t so bad. You mention hiring a driver or doing a tour. This is a really good idea – not because it’s so difficult, but because you miss a lot when you’re behind the wheel. Hopefully, you’re paying attention to the road, which means you’ll miss much of the passing scenery. 🙁 Definitely want to experience the NC500 when we make it to Scotland!

    • Hi Rob & Ann, Fantastic meeting you as well! Ah, glad you got some experience driving in Ireland, that will definitely come in handy for Scotland. I think Scotland has a lot more single-track roads and they are pretty essential as some are the only ways to get to many smaller towns and villages in the Scottish Highlands and islands. Although I do think some of the roads will be likely be widened and improved in time, especially if traffic continues to increase in the area. Yes, I think for those worried to drive themselves (or can’t due to rental restrictions), a guided bus tour or private driver guide of the North Coast 500 route can be helpful and definitely takes the worry out of driving and allows you to enjoy the scenery. Best, Jessica

  61. hello, great right up already made my mind to do nc 500 next year june or september not sure yet, not been to scotland before so me and the wife are looking forward to it going to do it in a open top car 2 seater so will be a little cramped and looking to do it over 6 days best start planing now 🙂

    • Hi Phil, So great to hear that you and your wife are planning to do a North Coast 500 road trip this coming summer 😉 I would probably start planning early next year, especially in terms of flights (if needed) and lodging. The rest you can plan much closer to the time, but lodging is best to plan 3 months or more in advance if you have specific places you want to stay. A 2 seater car can be great (just pack light!), and small cars are great for the narrow roads. The NC500 is a popular route for car clubs so you are likely to see some groups of very expensive and vintage cars out on the road. Feel free to ask us any questions about the route as you start planning your trip! We live in Scotland and are happy to try to help. Best, Jessica

  62. Thanks for this great, comprehensive guide as usual! Your earlier post on the NC500 already had me wanting to visit, so this practical guide was a great help! Have pinned it for future reference 🙂 I’ve only been to the Scottish Highlands once, but I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to go back. In terms of driving, the thing that shocked me most was the amount of roadkill we saw! 🙁 It was honestly a little traumatic. But that was many years ago – hopefully drivers are better accustomed to avoiding wildlife now. Definitely not an area to go speeding along, like you say!

    • Hi Michelle, Yes, I think if you enjoyed your prior trip to the Scottish Highlands, you would really enjoy the North Coast 500. It is just another area of similar landscapes and beauty as the rest of the Highlands, but one many people are less familiar with and the new tourist route has really brought more people and business into that area. Yes, road safety is definitely a concern and we have almost been hit a few times driving around the Highlands with crazy tourists (and locals) speeding along. We have thankfully not seen a lot of wildlife on the road, but deer are definitely a big concern (particularly the red and roe deer) and of course the smaller animals are harder for people to see, particularly at night. Hope you get a chance to return to Scotland. Best, Jessica

  63. This is such a great comprehensive post on the North Coast 500! There is so much to see and do. I’ve yet to travel to Scotland, but would love to visit one day. Your North Coast 500 route tips and packing list are very helpful!

    • Thanks Nancy, glad you enjoyed the post and do us know if you have any questions if you decide to plan your own North Coast 500 road trip! Best, Jessica

  64. Once again, you’ve left me in awe! To be honest, your posts on Scotland have me thinking maybe we should consider moving to Scotland as we’re looking to move somewhere new! I love everything about this post, from the history to the castles and the whiskey! Pinned!!! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    • Hi Lolo, Yes, you should come visit Scotland and a North Coast 500 road trip is a great way to see part of it 😉 If you are seriously thinking of moving to Scotland, get in touch and happy to chat. Best, Jessica

  65. This looks amazing! So neat that it was only established in 2014. Since I loved my road trip to Isle of Skye I think I would really enjoy this one as well. Maybe I can fit it in next summer.

    • Hi Anisa, Yes, the NC500 has been a very successful tourist initiative and has garnered a lot of media coverage similar to the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland although this one is much shorter! The route runs just a bit north of where you would have been when visiting the Isle of Skye, the Isle is a common detour for people driving the route. If you come in summer for a North Coast 500 road trip, just remember to bring something to ward off the pesky midges, especially if you plan to be outside in the evenings! ~ Jessica

  66. Your pictures are stunning!!! Also very Great tips for the North Coast 500! Definitely saving this for when I make it to Scotland one day. Hopefully sooner than later. 🙂

    • Hi Lisa, Thanks, glad you enjoyed the photos, they are a good way to entice people to Scotland 😉 I hope you get a chance to travel to Scotland soon! Best, Jessica

  67. Another great post and really informative, you’ve managed to cover so much.

    We’re hoping to make the North Coast 500 trip one day, so we’ll certainly be referring back to this.

    • Hi Janis, Thanks! The North Coast 500 is a great road trip if you enjoy road trips, and I hope you get a chance to see it yourself. Best, Jessica

      • Hi Jessica and Laurence
        Congratulations, your site is the most informative, accessible and inspiring of those that we have looked at. Clear descriptive text supported by stunning photographs provide an outstanding resource. We are planning the North Coast 500 in mid September in our AM Vantage and your site is so helpful, thank you! Mick & Liz Meadows

        • Hi Mick & Liz, Thank you so much for kind comments, and we are so happy that you found our North Coast 500 planning guide helpful! We have driven the NC500 again since we wrote that guide (in winter) and will be back up there in May, so be on the lookout for new NC500 posts. We are planning to write a North Coast 500 itinerary or two, and more related content out over the next few months on both of our blogs. But feel free to shout if you have any questions as you plan your NC500 road trip. September is a great month to do it as it starts to get quieter then as kids go back to school and the weather cools a bit, but most business are still open and September tends to bring decent weather 😉 Best, Jessica & Laurence

          • hi, my wife and i are also travelling the route in May. Your tips will be used. Cheers.

          • Hi Paul, Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and wishing you a wonderful trip along the NC500! Best, Jessica