What Is the Scotland Road Trip 500?
The North Coast 500 Scotland road trip is arguably the best route you can take if you want to experience the Highlands of Scotland. The NC500 is a circular route where you begin and end in Inverness, which is the biggest city in the Scottish Highlands. It’s a very convenient location because it has a bus station, train station, as well as an airport, giving you plenty of options on how to get there. So, how about we give you an idea of what you can do if you have seven days to take on the Scotland road trip 500?
Day 1: Inverness to Dornoch
This is an exciting day for you because it’s the start of your Scottish adventure! Starting from Inverness, you’ll be heading to the east coast to Dornoch. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of beaches, cultural attractions, hiking trails, and a variety of wildlife. Of course, your Scottish road trip 500 will officially begin at Inverness Castle. You can then visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Inverness Botanical Garden, and Ness Island Walk. Apart from that, try to see Fort George, Cawdor Castle, Culloden Battlefield, and Loch Ness.
When you reach Dornoch, you’ll love it if you enjoy playing golf. Visit the Royal Dornoch Golf Club but do book tee time ahead of time first. When you’re done with golfing and just want to have a relaxing time seeing this lovely town, go to Dornoch Cathedral, Dornoch Castle, and The Witch’s Stone. If you’re feeling like enjoying a hot drink, visit the famous Cocoa Mountain. They make handmade chocolate there, and you can also have some hot chocolate to end your day.
Day 2: Dornoch to Wick
For this second day of your Scotland road trip, you’ll experience the beauty of nature. You can join birdwatching as well as wildlife spotting tours at Loch Fleet. If you want to learn more about the local history, visit Dunrobin Castle and marvel at its gardens. It also has plenty of archaeological sites! Another chance to play golf is in the town of Golspie. If you’d rather stretch your legs, then take the Big Burn hike, where you can just walk a trail into a tranquil wooded area with streams and small waterfalls.
You’ll end Day 2 of the Scottish road trip at Wick. The history of this place is truly interesting, so be sure to get to know the town of Wick by visiting the Wick Heritage Centre. In case you’re already thirsty from all the driving and walking, the Old Pulteney Distillery is waiting for you! It’s open for tastings and public tours. You wouldn’t want to miss a few drinks before visiting Old Wick Castle. You’ll be hiking for this one because it’s a 12th-century ruin located on top of a cliff.
Day 3: Wick to Tongue
By the end of Day 3 of your road trip across Scotland, you’d have finished the western part of the North Coast 500 route. You’ll then be heading to Scotland’s far north. But before that, take time to appreciate the scenic landscape, peaceful coastline, and historical sites that you’ll see along the way. Do note that you’ll be driving on one-lane roads on some parts of this journey, so you may want to know the important road laws and how to drive on single-track roads if you’re not used to it.
You’re almost halfway on your Scottish adventure. Rest for the night at Tongue or Durness. Both are quaint towns with dining and lodging options. There are also shops, post offices, and fuel stations if you need to refill your tank. While you’re in Tongue, enjoy the views of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal, as well as Loch Loyal, which is a short drive away. If you want to camp, there are several campsites near Tongue, such as the Altnaharra Caravan Club Site, Sango Sands Caravan & Camping, and Bayview Caravan Site.
Day 4: Tongue to Lochinver
You’ve already seen plenty of historical and cultural sites at this point. How about seeing a geological wonder? The North West Highlands Geopark is definitely one of the places to visit while you’re in Scotland. You’ll be amazed at its natural beauty. Explore caves, walk along the white-sand beaches, and meet the locals at the craft village. The drives from one stop to the next won’t be long but note that you’ll be driving on one-lane roads again today.
Day 4 ends at Lochinver, the biggest village in Assynt and a vital fishing port. Visit the Highland Stoneware and learn about the pottery-making process there. You can also buy products to take with you as souvenirs of your Scottish adventure. Hungry? Go to Lochinver Larder and eat their famous sweet and savoury pies! You can also try your hand at fishing and join a guided fishing trip. This can be done on shore, on a river, or from a boat.
Day 5: Lochinver to Ullapool
Get your camera ready because you’ll be driving through the rest of the Geopark today. Take your time and stop and take in the beauty of the landscape. Be sure to take plenty of photos, too! You’d want to remember this moment. It’s also a good idea to go on a hike if the weather is nice. Other activities you can do are canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
After a busy day full of outdoor activities, rest at Ullapool, the largest village on the route’s western part. It has a large harbour, as well as a ferry terminal. You can visit Lewis and Harris from Ullapool. If you want to know the local history of the village, there’s a museum located at a former Parliamentary church, which was designed by the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. During September, the Loopallu music festival happens there, so do join the fun if you’re in Ullapool that month!
Day 6: Ullapool to Kinlochewe
On this day, you’ll be driving through the magnificent Wester Ross. Try walking across a gorge at the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve, relaxing on a sandy beach around Gruinard Bay, listening to the sound of the waterfalls at Dundonnell River Falls, or visiting a peaceful garden at the Leckmelm Shrubbery and Arboretum.
There’s a small village south of Loch Maree, Kinlochewe. While you’re there, visit the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. This is the first national nature reserve in the UK! Go on a hike, do birdwatching, and take in the natural beauty of this place and the wildlife found in the area. There are several options to choose from when looking for dining and accommodation, such as the Kinlochewe Hotel and the Kinlochewe Mountain Chalets.
Day 7: Kinlochewe to Inverness
This is your final day on the North Coast 500 Scotland road trip! From Kinlochewe, you’ll be driving back to Inverness. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to see lochs, coastlines, and mountains. Visit Torridon and enjoy the views, and then proceed to Applecross and take in the coastal views. If you enjoy seafood, this is your chance to taste the local seafood cuisine!
When you reach Inverness, then congrats! You’ve already completed the NC500 Scottish road trip. While you’re in Inverness, you can see more of the city and even go to the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle, as well as the Black Isle. If you have more time to stay in Scotland, you can head south and take the North East 250! You’ll love every minute of it!
Carmoola blog has tons of useful information about all things cars and driving. We love exciting road trips around the UK, Scotland, Ireland and Europe! Check out more of our insightful articles to make the most of your new car and freedom to travel. We can even advise on great gadgets to take with you.
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