The North Coast 500, often hailed as Scotland's answer to Route 66, is a captivating odyssey that winds through the heart of the Scottish Highlands. With every twist and turn, this iconic route reveals the untamed beauty of the landscape, from rolling hills and serene lochs to charming villages and historic sites. Whether you're an adrenaline-seeking car enthusiast or a leisurely camper van traveller, this extensive guide will unveil the must-visit stops along the North Coast 500, ensuring that your journey becomes an extraordinary fusion of exploration, culture, and awe-inspiring vistas.
Related: How to Pack for Camping in Scotland
How to Prepare
Embarking on the North Coast 500 adventure through Scotland's mesmerizing landscapes requires careful planning to ensure a smooth and memorable journey. Here's what you need to consider:
Navigation Necessities: The winding roads and hidden gems along the North Coast 500 demand proper navigation tools. Carry detailed maps or utilize navigation apps to navigate with ease.
Climate-Ready Wardrobe: Scotland's weather is famously unpredictable, so packing adaptable clothing is key. Bring layers to stay warm during cooler spells and lightweight options for sunnier days.
Rain Protection: A reliable waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, and waterproof boots are essential companions. They shield you from sudden rain showers, allowing you to embrace the outdoors regardless of the weather.
Vehicle Preparedness: If you're embarking on this journey by car, ensure your vehicle is in good condition. Essential documents, a spare tire, and necessary tools can save the day in case of unexpected vehicle issues.
Personal Comfort and Care: Your comfort matters. Pack your essential toiletries, sunscreen to shield against Scotland's surprisingly strong sun, and any prescribed medications to keep you feeling your best.
Safety and Well-being: Carrying a basic first aid kit is a small action that can make a big difference. It's a proactive way to address minor injuries or discomfort that may arise along the way.
Leisure and Relaxation: Even amidst breath-taking scenery, moments of downtime are precious. Bring along a book, your favourite music, or any form of entertainment that lets you unwind in the evenings.
Prior Accommodation Arrangements: While spontaneity has its allure, it's wise to secure accommodations in advance, especially during Scotland's busier travel periods. This guarantees a comfortable resting place after each day's adventure. If you are Camping, look into campsites on the route or even take the plunge into wild camping.
Capture the Beauty: Don't forget to bring a camera or smartphone to capture the breath-taking landscapes. The North Coast 500 is a photographer's dream, with stunning vistas at every turn.
Travel Assurance: Comprehensive travel insurance provides peace of mind. It covers unforeseen medical emergencies, unexpected changes in plans, and any travel-related issues that might arise.
Safeguarding Nature's Treasures: Embrace the spirit of responsible travel by adhering to Leave No Trace principles. It's essential to respect and preserve the natural beauty that makes the North Coast 500 so captivating.
Sights to Behold
Below are a handful of captivating stops on your journey through the North Coast 500 in Scotland:
Inverness: The Gateway to Highland Majesty: Commence your North Coast 500 adventure in Inverness, a city rich in history and modernity. Explore the centuries-old Inverness Castle, indulge in a relaxing stroll along the River Ness, and prepare for the epic road ahead. For camper van adventurers, stock up on essentials before delving into the Highlands' remoteness.
The Black Isle: Uncover Hidden Gems: Journey north to the Black Isle, a land of tranquillity and charm. Engage in dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point and immerse yourself in the mystical ambiance of the Clootie Well. For both car enthusiasts and camper van aficionados, the Black Isle offers a serene coastal interlude.
Assynt: Legends and Landscapes Collide: Venture into Assynt, where rugged mountains and serene lochs define the landscape. Car travellers will relish the winding roads, while camper van dwellers can discover secluded spots amidst this breath-taking setting.
Ullapool: Harbour Town Enchantment: Ullapool beckons with its bustling harbour and artisanal shops. Indulge in seafood delights, take a boat excursion to the Summer Isles, and rejuvenate amidst Loch Broom's tranquillity. Camper van travellers should ensure their camping gear is in order for a comfortable night's rest.
Wester Ross: Nature's Spectacle Unveiled: Wester Ross showcases nature's grandeur at its finest. Car aficionados will revel in the exhilarating drive through the Bealach na Bà, while camper van devotees can soak in panoramic vistas and perhaps undertake a hike to the enchanting Falls of Measach.
North West Highlands Geopark: Unearth Geological Marvels: Dive into the geological wonders of the North West Highlands Geopark. Car enthusiasts can delve into Knockan Crag's informative displays, while camper van travellers can embark on enlightening walking trails across this geological wonderland.
Caithness: Where Castles Meet Coastlines: Caithness lures with its castle ruins and rugged coastlines. Explore the dramatic Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and embrace the sweeping views from Dunnet Head, the northernmost point of mainland Britain. Both car and camper van travellers will be entranced by the historical intrigue and natural splendour.
John O'Groats: Journey's Pinnacle or Prelude: Finally, arrive at John O'Groats, a symbolic terminus or the gateway to the Orkney Islands. Bask in the breath-taking landscapes and reflect on the incredible journey that has unfolded. For both car and camper van enthusiasts, John O'Groats marks a pivotal moment in your North Coast 500 saga.
The North Coast 500 trail beckons to both car and camper van explorers, weaving a tapestry of Scotland's allure, from historic heritage to untamed wilderness. Whether you're captivated by the thrill of the drive or the serenity of sleeping under starlit skies, the North Coast 500 promises an odyssey that resonates with your personal sense of adventure. So, whether you're revving your engine or setting up camp, let the North Coast 500 lead you on a journey of breath-taking beauty, cultural immersion, and unforgettable memories.