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NC 500 Tour

Mountains, Lochs, Sea Views & Deserted Beaches

North Coast 500 Tour

The NC500 is Scotland's long distance road trip route located entirely in the Highlands and takes in some of the most scenic countryside on the mainland. It has a little bit of everything; mountains, sea (Atlantic Ocean and North Sea), deserted beaches, lochs, caves, quaint villages, wide open landscapes, vibrant history, great pubs and hotels, and some of the best whisky distilleries on the planet! The route provides a wide variety of awe inspiring landscapes unmatched anywhere else in Europe & a feeling of remoteness unmatched anywhere else throughout the UK

Although touring the NC500 can start from anywhere, Inverness is the official start and end point as well as being the most logistically convenient location with its status as the Capital of the Highlands providing the visitor with a broad selection of accommodation and eating options as well as good transport links. For those arriving into Glasgow or Edinburgh, the journey time from either city to Inverness is approximately three and a half hours. I can transfer you directly to the start point or it can be done as part of the tour with some fantastic places to visit en route such as; Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Cairngorms National Park, Blair Castle, Culloden and the Speyside Whisky Trail.

An NC 500 Tour requires a minimum of three days to complete (not including travel time to/from Inverness) but a four or five day tour would give you more time to explore the peninsulas, remote beaches, quaint fishing villages and visitor attractions close to the route. There is no need to stick to the NC500 circuit like glue - my own preference is to include Loch Ness, Eilean Donan and Plockton to the southern end of the trip, a much more scenic journey, in my humble opinion, than going via Achnasheen on the official road. Similarly, unless a visit to Dunnet Head and John O'Groats is important to you, I recommend omitting the North East corner of the 500 and cutting across the county of Sutherland, between Bettyhill and Helmsdale, this not only includes the beautiful glens of Strathnaver and the Strath of Kildonan but the unique and remote natural habitat of the Flow Country, the largest area of blanket peat bog in Europe. If you have any of your own preferences that you would like to tack on to a NC500 trip, such as a visit to the Isle of Skye, Orkney, the Small Isles, or even the Outer Hebrides, then just let me know and I will be happy to draw up a unique, bespoke NC500 tour tailored to you.

eilean donan castle north coast 500 tour


Four Day North Coast 500 Tour Sample Itinerary


Itinerary Synopsis:

Leaving Inverness with a drive along the Beauly Firth coast and the pretty town of Beauly before entering the remote Affric Forest, an ancient area of the Caledonian Forest, and a visit to the stunning Plodda Falls, raptors and red deer are often spotted here. departing the forest takes you over the hills to Loch Ness, Scotland's second deepest 'lake' and its shores offer a wide choice of places for lunch. Leaving Loch Ness you climb into the hills heading west high above Loch Garry and then along the shores of remote Loch Cluanie before descending down Glen Shiel, site of a famous battle during the Jacobite uprisings, and to the Atalntic coast in the guise of Loch Shiel, an area that once formed the border between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Vikings. The number of castles in this area, including Eielan Donan, are testament to the area's violent history. There is a plethora of wildlife along this coast including otters, seals and a wide variety of seabirds, as well as Hielan Coos (Highland Cows) and flocks of sheep wandering casually through the villages that dot this area.

*Visitor Attractions Options On This Route:

- Plodda Falls (beautiful waterfall set deep in the Affric Forest with potential wildlife spotting opportunities)

- Corrimony Cairn (ancient burial chamber and stone circle)

- Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness (boat trips on the loch, Loch Ness Exhibition, Urquhart Castle)

- Fort Augustus, Loch Ness (Caledonian Canal locks, boat trips)

- Dornie (Eilean Donan Castle)

- Kyleakin (Skye Bridge)


Plockton (picturesque village on the shores of Loch Carron - suggested accommodation: Plockton Hotel, Plockton Inn, The Haven Guest House)



Itinerary Synopsis:

Leaving Plockton you will follow the coastal round miles inland fjord like Loch Carron and Loch Kishorn before heading over the Bealch na Ba (Pass of the Cow), Scotland's highest single track road which has stunning views over to Skye on a clear day. descending back to the coast brings you to the small settlement of Applecross, where herds of red deer are commonly spotted grazing around the village which is home to the famous Applecross Inn. Continuing round the Applecross Peninsula you will enjoy more incredible views across to the islands of Raasay, Rona and Skye before turning east along the side of another long sea inlet, Loch Torridon, surrounded by the Torridon mountains as you approach the village of the same name. From here you leave the sea for a while, travelling through the post-glacial valley of Glen Torridon and changing direction when you come to picturesque Loch Maree, once known as Loch Ewe, with its pretty Scots Pine wooded islands. This area is all inside the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve which is home to pine marten, red deer, eagles, crossbills and divers, amongst other species. Winding your way north around various sea lochs you will cross the Corrieshalloch Gorge before descending down to Loch Broom.

*Visitor Attractions Options On This Route:

- Plockton boat trip to seal colony

- Attadale Highland Gardens

- Beinn Eighe and Loch Maree Nature Reserve

- Inverewe Garden

- Corrieshalloch Gorge


The pretty whitewashed town of Ullapool, or nearby - suggested accommodation: Harbour House B&B, the Dipping Lugger, Summer Isles Hotel (Achiltibuie)



Itinerary Synopsis:

Heading north from Ullapool into the far North West Highlands takes you into a different landscape, the mountain ranges of the West Highlands begin to peter out leaving a landscape dotted with random stand alone mountains, vast areas of peat bog and heather and some of the quietest, most beautiful sandy beaches to be found anywhere in the British Isles. This area contains some of the oldest rocks on the planet and is home to the UNESCO North West Highlands Geopark. Firstly you can explore the quaint Coigach Peninsula and Achnahaird Beach before continuing north on the stunning single track road to Lochinver. From here you can either choose to take the incredible single track road to Kylesku, known affectionately as 'the Wee Mad Road' by locals (and tour guides!), passing some of the best beaches in the area, or head back to the main road to take in Ardvreck Castle and the Wailing Widow Waterfall. You can enjoy a great seafood lunch at either the Kylesku Hotel or the Shorehouse Restaurant, which is also where the passenger ferry takes you over to Handa Island Wildlife Reserve, in Spring and early Summer the cliffs here are home to one of the largest breeding seabird colonies on N.W. Europe and is famous for its puffin colony (May-July). Continuing north through more remote countryside you come to Durness, the most north-westerly settlement on the mainland and home to the spectacular Smoo Cave, a unique cave carved out by a combination of the sea from the front and a stream from the back. To finish the day you will head east along the north coast, past picture-postcard, deserted beaches, around Loch Eriboll with the mountains of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope standing sentinel over the Kyles of Tongue.

*Visitor Attraction Options On This Route:

- Ardvreck Castle

- Wailing Widow Waterfall

- Kylesku boat trips to visit seal colony and Eis a' Chuill Aluinn (the tallest waterfall in Scotland)

- Handa Island Nature Reserve

- Smoo Cave


Tongue / Bettyhill area - suggested accommodation: Borgie Lodge Hotel, Bettyhill Hotel, Farr Bay Inn



Itinerary Synopsis:

Turning inland from Bettyhill in a southerly direction down the fertile Strathnaver, scene of some of the most severe of the Highland Clearances, you will come to the Flow Country, the largest blanket bog in Europe, its 400,000 hectares make it a huge carbon sink and is the least densely populated part of the British Isles which contributes to its stark beauty. Once across the Flow you will descend down through Strath Helmsdale arriving on the North Sea coast at the town of the same name. Leaving Helmsdale you will continue south down the coast through the small Highland towns of Brora and Golspie, home to Dunrobin Castle. Swinging east off the A9 takes you alongside Loch Fleet with its large spring and summer seal colony before arriving at the picturesque town of Dornoch, with its historic cathedral, castle hotel and whisky bar, famous golf course and beach. You are now into an area dotted with whisky distilleries including; Glenmorangie, Singleton, Clynelish and Balblair, all of which can be visited. If the Cromarty Ferry is running you can cross the Cromarty Firth to the village of the same name, if not then you will be driven around the Firth to the Black Isle and on to Chanonry Point, a famous dolphin watching viewpoint looking out over a narrow strait of the Moray firth where the animals gather to hunt migrating salmon heading for Highland rivers.

*Visitor Attraction Options On This Route:

- Strathnaver Museum

- Timespan Museum, Helmsdale

- Cairn Liach Broch

- Dunrobin Castle

- Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Muir of Ord and Balblair whisky distilleries

- Dornoch Cathedral

- East Church, Cromarty

- Hugh Miller's Birthplace Museum (father of geology)


Inverness - suggested accommodation: Kingsmills Hotel, Ness Walk Hotel, Loch Ness Country House Hotel


The above itinerary is my suggestion for a four day NC500 tour starting and ending in Inverness. Travelling to and from Inverness, from Glasgow or Edinburgh, or further afield, could add another two days, or more, onto the itinerary. It can be done in three days but in an area this beautiful with so many nooks and crannies to explore it really is worth taking your time. Four or five days is ideal, a fifth day would mean I could add Caithness in the North East corner around Thurso and Wick onto this itinerary. Of course additional days can be added too if you would like to bolt on visits to any of the islands adjacent to the route, such as; Skye, Raasay, Orkney, and the Outer Hebrides. If you have any other places you would like to add to a North Coast 500 trip just let me know and I will do my best to add it to the itinerary. I offer a truly bespoke service so any itinerary combination can be provided for you  if logistically possible!

To find out more about an NC 500 Tour please email me at or fill out an enquiry form

NC500 long distance driving route
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