Ard Neakie on Loch Eriboll, Highlands © Richard Elliot

There's nothing quite like the freedom of the long open road. Never-ending back roads, wide meandering country tracks and beautiful bends through some of Scotland's finest coastal scenery are just a few things you can expect along the North Coast 500 - Scotland's answer to Route 66.

Strap yourself in for the road trip of a lifetime.

Where does it start?

The route starts in the northern city of Inverness, weaves along the west coast to Applecross and then northwards towards the towns of Torridon and Ullapool. From there, you'll venture to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, passing by Caithness and John o' Groats before heading south again through Dingwall and finally back to Inverness.

What is there to see?

From a tiny castle to several towering Munros and even an ancient sea stack, a vast array of enticing places await visitors along the way, so cameras at the ready!

Castles

Urquhart Castle

Explore the crumbling ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the edge of Loch Assynt, just north of Inchnadamph, or why not see one of our most famous structures, Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness?

Just south of Brora, you'll come across Dunrobin Castle, a French-style chateau. Inhabited since the 1300s, the castle was a war hospital during the First World War.

There are also several architectural wonders to be seen along the way. Check out the architectural guide to the North Coast 500 which features 48 inspiring structures.

Mountains

  Quinag

If you fantasise about finally bagging a Munro or fancy roaming the varied terrains of the rugged mountain ranges, the tall and shrouded peaks of Ben Hope, Stac Pollaidh, An Teallach or Suilven are calling you. These northern climbs are remote, challenging and beautiful, offering unparalleled views of the dreamy Highlands.

Beaches

Balnakeil Beach NC500

Whether you're looking for secluded sands, epic surf or pure natural beauty, the beaches of the northern Highlands have it all. You'll find a few unexpected discoveries too. Explore one of the tiniest castles in Europe, known as Hermit's Castle at Achmelvich Bay, witness all sorts of marine life at Gairloch Beach and walk along the pristine white sands at Balnakeil Beach near Durness. Swap the road with a deserted beach for the night, and wake up to the sound of crashing waves.

Natural wonders

Smoo Cave

Your journey will take you through landscapes framed by ancient geology. At the northern tip of Scotland, Smoo Cave is a beguiling and mystical limestone sea cave, home to one of the largest entrances to any sea cave in Britain with height of 50 ft, not to mention a spectacular cascading waterfall in wet weather.

Marvel at the Old Man of Stoer, a 60 m high sea stack sculpted from Torridonian sandstone which towers between the north-west Highlands and the Hebridean isles of Lewis and Harris.

For Foodies

Old Pulteney 

It's not just your motor that needs refueling. This corner of Scotland has plenty of mouth-watering food and drink to delight your tastebuds. Try the fresh seafood at the Kishorn Seafood Bar in Wester Ross or stop off at the Lochinver Larder for what have been deemed the 'best pies in the Highlands'.

Find yourself in need of a little sugar kick? We recommend an indulgent hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain or a wee home baked treat at the Whaligoe Steps, a hidden café just off the A9. Or, you could always stop for a Scottish picnic in the great outdoors and enjoy the scenery at the same time as sampling the region's scrumptious specialities.

Stop for a dram with some dancing and traditional music thrown in for good measure at the Ceilidh Place in Ullapool and spend a night in the cosy inn. Or, try a tipple at one of the famous distilleries at Old Pulteney or Glenmorangie.

Whether you're cruising in a vintage campervan, a motorbike or just taking a section on foot, there are many ways to take in the views along the North Coast 500. You can search for vehicle hire companies across Scotland. Choose a section, or do the whole route - it's up to you! 

Don't forget to share pictures from your trip

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