The North Coast 500 (or NC500) is a coastal tourist route in Scotland’s Northwest Highlands, located in the north of the country. It stretches for about 830 kilometers (515 miles) over the region.
The North Highland Initiative created the route, which runs from south to north, starting in Inverness and passing via Caithness and John o’ Groats, the most northerly towns on the Scottish coast and in Britain, before returning to Inverness through Dingwall.
It was named one of the most beautiful coastline roads in the world by Travel Now magazine in 2015.
Where is the North Coast 500 ?
The route starts in the city of Inverness, continues along the west coast to Applecross, then heads north to the lively towns of Torridon and Ullapool.
After that, you’ll see the northernmost points of the Scottish shoreline, such as Caithness and John O’Groats, before returning to Inverness via Dingwall.
You can locate the North Coast road on the map below:
Enlarge the map
Facts about the North Coast 500
How long does it take to complete the North Coast 500?
On this 830 kilometers (515 miles) long route through northern Scotland, you’ll journey through some of the most magnificent wilderness and coastline landscapes in the northern Highlands. From Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, head for the east coast and its small seaside villages: Dornoch, and Caithness, home of the Vikings.
Then drive northwest between Durness and the Assynt Mountains, where you’ll find white sand beaches, vast moorland, woodlands, and wind-carved cliffs. Birds and marine life will be there! Depending on your plans, you can either camp or stay at a hotel or B&B along the way.
History of the North Coast 500 road:
The North Highland Initiative, launched in 2005, developed the North Coast 500 concept to give the farming community, local traders, and the tourism industry a strong regional identity in a largely landlocked area of northern Scotland.
After being officially launched in 2015, travel magazine Travel Now named the NC500 as one of the world’s six most beautiful coastal routes, alongside Cape Overberg in South Africa, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, the Atlantic Highway in Norway, the Pacific Coast Highway in the United States, and the Coral Coast in Australia.
How access to road 500 ?
To get to this wonderful road, you must travel to Scotland’s far north. To be closer to the itinerary, you can either drive there or fly to Edinburgh and rent a car.
If you’re traveling from Edinburgh or Glasgow, take the M90 (A9 from Glasgow) then take the A9 until you reach Inverness (3 hours drive).
You can visualize how to get here on the North Coast 500 map of the drive:
Must see on the North Coast 500 ?
On the shores of Loch Assynt, north of Inchnadamph, explore the ruins of Ardvreck Castle. Dunrobin, a French-style castle south of Brora, is worth seeing. The castle, which has been inhabited since the 1300s, was used as a war hospital during World War I.
You can visit a Munro, or if you like to climb steep mountain ranges, the high misty summits of Ben Hope, Stac Pollaidh, An Teallach, or Suilven are ideal! The spectacular Highlands can be seen from these stunning and remote northern summits.
North Coast 500 beaches:
You can stop at isolated coves or beaches with large waves to surf if you like it. The beaches in the Northern Highlands do really have something for everyone.
Also, do not overlook the gastronomic side of the region. So set aside time and money for your gourmet adventures!
If you are planning to drive the road, you can watch this Youtube video:
Is the North Coast 500 road Open?
The North Coast 500 is open all year, albeit the weather in this zone is harsh and unpredictable in the winter. Even in the north of the United Kingdom, a beautiful day could quickly transform into severe snowfall.
The benefit of driving during the winter season is to have fewer cars and tourists on the road!
As a result, if you want to enjoy your travel without being stuck in traffic, avoid the high season or weekends! If you are unable to visit during the low season, come early!
North Coast 500 is very also very popular for motorcycle riders and bicycles.
Between coastal landscapes, “Single Tracks” (narrow roads allowing the passage of only one car), and cultural discoveries, route 500 allows you to discover Scotland in all its splendor! If you are in Scotland, you can obviously also drive the Pass of the Cattle (Bealach na Bà road) or the A939 road.
Pictures sources: CC BY 2.5, htBy clementp.fr – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97348858 / By Thincat – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79134229
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