Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

September 2019: Scotland's North Coast 500

Launched in the spring of 2015, North Coast 500 - also widely known as NC500 - is a tourist route in the far north of mainland Scotland. As someone with previous experience of Ireland's meticulously signposted Wild Atlantic Way, I thought I knew exactly what to expect - but I was wrong. Official NC500 signposts simply don't exist, and the route is full of options, including a plethora of possible side trips. Some of the alternative ways of getting from A to B are essential, as occasionally the recommended route is suitable for small cars only. (We were sensible enough to book a small car and rebuff any talk of how nice it might be to upgrade!)

As an illustration of how everyone's own experience of NC500 is likely to be unique, the full official route is believed to be 516 miles long. We exceeded this target in the middle of Day 4 and had clocked up 864 miles when we returned the rental car three days later.

We made the circuit in a clockwise direction from Inverness. West-coast highlights included the dramatic and challenging Bealach na Bà mountain pass, the wonderfully scenic Applecross peninsula, seeing how nature and man have combined to produce the oddity that is Inverewe Gardens, and the busy little ferry port of Ullapool. The north coast was notable for its succession of scenic headlands, and for the charming Castle of Mey. East-coast standouts were mostly man-made: the astonishingly French-looking Dunrobin Castle, the attractive and distillery-rich town of Tain, and the ruins of Fortrose Cathedral.


Choose a starting point:

Inverness (beginning)