North Coast 500 Route
The official North Coast 500 Route (NC500) is a circular road trip that starts and ends at Inverness Castle and is Scotland’s version of the famous U.S. Route 66. With 516 miles (830.4 km) of breathtaking scenery, this is Scotland’s largest road trip around the north coast of Scotland. Originally created as a tourism project by the North Highland Initiative and Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, to develop the economy and to showcase the best of the north Highlands of Scotland.
NC500 have created an interactive map with various itineraries to suit all interests. Whether you are driving, motorcycling, cycling, camping, an adventure enthusiast, walker or golfer you can use the route as a guide to create your own personal experience. Below are some of the locations and places to visit outlined on the official route map.
The North Coast 500 route covers amazing destinations and the official starting point for this spectacular road trip begins in Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Inverness is the largest city in the Scottish Highlands, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth. The route starts at the famous Inverness Castle where Shakespeare’s Macbeth was set in the 11th century. Two famous historical battles took place near Inverness, the 11th-century Blàr Nam Fèinne battle led by King Malcolm III of Scotland against the Norwegians and Thorfinn the Mighty, Earl of Orkney. The second, Battle of Culloden at Culloden Moor the final Jacobite rising in 1746. Today Inverness is a vibrant city, with a variety of restaurants, bars and shops. Mix the old with the new and combine visits to the ancient battlefields, museums, castles and Loch Ness to visit ‘Nessie’.
Next, the route takes you to the tiny village of Applecross – a remote peninsula located in Wester Ross approx 79 miles from Inverness – to start your north coastal route journey. The rugged landscape has dramatic scenery and you can see the Isle of Skye across the water from Applecross on a clear day. This tiny village has a campsite and the Applecross Inn is worth a visit with beautiful seafood and homemade ice cream supplied by Aron, Applecross Ices. There is an abundance of wildlife from red deer, whales, dolphins and eagles. Highland ‘Coo’ tend to travel on the NC500 route too!
From Applecross the route continues to Loch Torridon, a sea Loch on the West Coast of Scotland. The Loch is surrounded by mountains, Torridon Hills, which provide the most beautiful dramatic scenery due to the Torridonian sandstone rocks, the oldest sedimentary rocks in Scotland dating back one billion years. The Loch provides important shellfish where langoustines are caught using creels which are exported to Europe.
Head further up the North West Coast approx 149 miles from Loch Torridon you will find the village of Durness. The picturesque Durness Beach has glorious white sandy beaches with turquoise waters with spectacular scenery. A great stop for a relaxing walk and to explore the nearby Smoo Cave, the largest sea cave in Britain.
Located approx 90 miles from Durness is the village, John O’Groats which is famous for it’s iconic ‘end of the road’ location. The end point of a long distance route with the start point from Land’s End (Cornwall) which measures the whole length of Britain south-west to the northeast. Visit the Journey’s End Cafe where staff are waiting to offer you a warm welcome. The breathtaking scenery and wildlife are incredible, see puffins and seals or take a boat trip to Orkney for the day.
As you’ve reached the ‘end of the road’, it’s time to head back south through Wick, Tain, Dingwall and Muir of Ord situated on the boundary of the Black Isle peninsula. This small settlement was originally known as Tarradale, the name changed when the Muir of Ord railway station opened in 1862 in the village. Glen Ord Whisky Distillery and Visitor Centre is located on the outskirts of the village and is the last remaining single malt scotch whisky distillery on the Black Isle. This 5-star visitor attraction is open all year round and is well worth a visit with whisky tours to suit everyone from beginners to connoisseurs. Then travel a further 14 miles back to your official start point on the NC500 route, Inverness Castle.
Accommodation in Inverness
Highland Apartments by Mansley Serviced Apartments, Inverness, are in close proximity of Inverness Castle and are the ideal base in a central location to explore Inverness. We are also official members of the North Coast 500 route and we offer complimentary secure private parking to our guests. We want you to have a truly memorable stay so please get in touch if we can assist you further on ‘what to see and do‘ during your visit to Inverness and the Scottish Highlands.