The North Coast 500 is a spectacular Scottish coastal route. With over 500 miles of breathtaking scenery see. On it you will see some beautiful Highland sights and visit towns and villages rich with heritage. There’s also plenty of distractions around the route if you want to pull off and make a little detour. Whether you rent a car, take your own or even go by motorbike, the North Coast 500 makes a great road trip.
About The North Coast 500
Country – Scotland
Start Point – Inverness
Finish Point – Inverness
Type – Circular Road Trip
Transport – Drive or cycle
Journey Time – 5 days for driving, 9 days for cycling
The Route – Start at Inverness, head across Scotland to Wester Ross, turn north and follow the coast through Sunderland and then Caithness and back into Sunderland. Follow the east coast down into Easter Ross and back down to Inverness via the Black Isle.
Sections of The North Coast 500
In my mind, the North Coast 500 has seven main sections. The sections are in order of how you will travel through them. All have their own features, points of interest, spirit, history and terrain. In each section you could stop and explore the surrounding area, if you have the time.
Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands and is the start of the north Coast 500. It is a central location with very good transport links. There’s plenty to do in Inverness and around Inverness-shire. Why not check out:
Need accommodation for the start and end? Find somewhere to stay on Tripadvisor.
Wester Ross is part of Ross-shire, along with Easter Ross. The road on this part has sharp bends and steep gradients, so is not for the faint hearted! Ullapool is the main town in this area, but there’s plenty of lochs, mountains and beaches to see too. Wester Ross is also full of places to try some extreme activities. Why not have a go at:
Or check out:
Need somewhere to stay on route. Check out the options on Tripadvisor.
I am breaking Sutherland into two parts, the Northwest side and the east side (with Caithness in between). You journey through the Northwest of Sutherland first,which is known for its beaches and mountains. Here you can visit:
Looking for accommodation for this section? Take a look on Tripadvisor.
Caithness takes in the far north of Scotland and is often called the ‘extreme edge of Europe’. This area is rich in heritage and has stunning coastal scenery. The fishing industry has fully shaped and influenced this area. Check out:
Search for your Caithness accommodation on Tripadvisor.
Leaving Caithness you’ll reenter Sutherland, but this time on the east coast, which is vastly different to the west coast. This area is famous for golf and offers plenty of quality courses. Why not visit:
Need somewhere to stay? Browse Tripavisor for accommodation enroute!
Easter Ross is full of seaside villages, which are full of history and romance. There is even a mermaid sculpture on the coast. The oil industry heavily influenced this area. Here you can check out:
Looking for a stop over here? Search for accommodation on Tripadvisor.
The North Coast 500 only just touches the Black Isle, you will have to take a detour to explore this area properly. It is not actually an island, but a peninsula. In the Moray Firth you can find seals and dolphins – so keep a look out! Why not visit:
Black Isle Brewery
Why not stay on Black Isle? Check out accommodation on Tripadvisor.
There’s so much on the North Coast 500 and just off the road too. From, castles to beaches, food to munros, whatever your interests there’ll be something for you in every section of the journey. Here are just a few attractions:
- Ben Hope
- Sandwood Bay
- Dunnet Bay
- Smoo Cave
- Caithness Wildlife Tours
- Black Isle Brewery
- Seaforth (Ullapool)
If you’re after coastal back roads, beautiful views and rich heritage, the North Coast 500 is the route for you! It’ll take five days to drive, or nine days to cycle, but I would highly recommend giving yourself more time so you can explore more!
I did bits of this route (completely by accident) on my Honeymoon. And as I love Scotland in general, I loved the parts of the North Coast 500 that I did.