6 Epic Alternatives to the North Coast 500

Sarah Clark ·June 23, 2023Reading time: 4 minutes

The North Coast 500 may have become one of Scotland’s most popular driving routes. But did you know there are plenty of other fantastic road trips which can deliver the same awe-inspiring experience? Check out these off-the-beaten-track driving routes for an incredible break in Scotland.

  1. The Crieff Cloverleaf Perthshire


    Scotland’s remarkable landscape is great for motorbike touring too. The Crieff Cloverleaf is a 4-day motorcycle route stretching 878 miles, from the beautiful hillside town of Crieff in Perthshire.

    Soar the heights of the northerly Cairngorms or cruise the undulating lowlands of the Scottish Borders. Skirt the stunning west coast with its gleaming lochs and mist-shrouded islands or head to the east to uncover unspoilt beaches and post-card perfect countryside.

  2. Heart 200 Central Scotland

    Blair Castle

    From tumbling waterfalls to romantic castles, Heart 200 will take you on a 200-mile circular route to the heart of the country. Connecting the Cairngorms with Loch Lomond, the route includes the Trossachs and Highland Perthshire, as well as the cities of Stirling and Perth.

    Beginning in the pretty town of Bridge of Earn, it meanders through Crieff, Comrie and Dunblane before turning west to the banks of Loch Lomond and then north to the edge of the Highlands.

    Along the way you can visit famous beauty spots like The Hermitage, explore legendary long-distance footpaths like the Rob Roy Way, or even try white-water rafting on rivers like the Tay and Tummel.

  3. The Kintyre 66 Argyll & The Isles

    Saddell beach

    Most people have heard of Route 66, but did you know about the Kintyre 66? The 66-mile loop follows the A83 and B842 and branches out in six directions allowing drivers to really delve into the Kintyre peninsula.

    Nestled between the magical isles of Islay to the west and Arran to the east, the drive offers spellbinding views all around, following a circuit from Campbeltown to Kennacraig.

    Once you’ve had your fill of the scenery, tee off on one of six golf courses in the area, or take advantage of the balmy effects of the Gulf Stream with some watersports at Westport Beach. You can also stop by the distilleries of Springbank and Glen Scotia in Campbeltown.

  4. South West Coastal 300 South Scotland

    Mull of Galloway Lighthouse in Drummore, Dumfries & Galloway

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    While the North Coast 500 route is all about rugged, dramatic scenery, this new driving circuit showcases the natural beauty of Scotland’s south west with its verdant, rolling hillsides and picturesque coastline.

    Marvel at the medieval stronghold of Caerlaverock Castle, gaze out at the granite island of Ailsa Craig on the banks of the Firth of Clyde, or take a walk to Scotland’s oldest lighthouse at Southerness and along stunning beaches like Sandyhills. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Mull of Galloway from the top of the lighthouse, and wander among the red sandstone ruins of Sweetheart Abbey.

  5. North East 250 North-east Scotland

    Cullykhan Bay in Banff, Aberdeenshire

    © VisitScotland / Discover Fraserburgh / Damian Shields

    This 250-mile loop of Scotland’s north-east follows the Moray Firth coast, which is dotted with pretty fishing villages including Portsoy and Cullen – the original home of the classic Scottish dish, Cullen Skink (a mouth-watering fish soup).

    The route heads along towering cliffs and pristine sandy beaches, before descending on the east coast in the direction of Aberdeen. From here it skirts the eastern edge of the Cairngorms National Park.

    Why not extend your road trip with and join the Snowroads Scenic Route? This 90-mile journey traverses the quieter but no less magnificent areas of the park, the largest in the UK.

  6. The Coig Ayrshire & Arran

    The beach at Brodick Bay with a view beyond to Goat Fell, Isle Of Arran

    The Coig (Coig is Gaelic for ‘five’) offers multiple routes around this splendid part of the country. First up is The Shire which skirts along the coast taking in seaside resorts like Ayr and passing places connected to legendary figures including Robert the Bruce and William Wallace.

    The Shiel takes in more lovely seaside towns like Largs, famous for its ice cream, as well as heaps of attractions including Kilwinning Abbey and Kelburn Castle. You can then catch the ferry to The Isle of Arran route and feast your eyes on incredible scenery, romantic ruins, beautiful beaches and bays.

    The shortest of the routes is The Cumbrae.  Set on the mostly flat Isle of Cumbrae, this route is perhaps better tackled on bike. It offers a leisurely 90-minute cycle around the edge of the island, dotted with tranquil bays and secluded beaches, where you can spot seals, porpoises and other wildlife.

    Lastly there is The Bute, measuring just 22 miles, offering a whistle-stop tour of this equally enchanting island, boasting a Victorian promenade at Rothesay and the neo-Gothic mansion of Mount Stuart.

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