North Coast 500 itinerary guide

Your free jam-packed North Coast 500 itinerary

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North Coast 500 spoiler alert. This Scot has a secret to share. I do not mean to alarm or upset but Scotland has been hiding something from you. Its north coast has always been there; the turquoise beaches, the fresh fish from line to lips and the friendly locals looking to share a sing song with you are not new but they definitely are unique and thanks to a strong (yet increasingly controversial) marketing strategy, the secret is out and Scotland’s North Coast 500 itinerary is on the map. The North Coast itinerary is now followed by drivers, cyclists, locals and visitors ticking over the 500 miles of ‘Scotland’s Route 66’ (the popular adventure, with four season in one day) heading west from Inverness to the top of Scotland’s mainland, John O’Groats, and back down the east coast (or in reverse). This thorough and free NC500 route planner will get you on the road in no time.

Craig and I (Gemma) made a wise (last minute) decision this July to stay in the homeland and explore what the North Coast 500 has to offer. I am not a last minute kind of girl, so cue frantic planning of potential route 500 options which you can now adapt to meet your own travelling style and needs. Don’t be me, be cool. If you have time – plan ahead, go off the path, be flexible but mindful that the North Coast 500 has blown up over the past year and accommodation books up fast in the summer months (check out our NC500 accommodation guide). Oh and word of warning; the further north you go, the stronger the accent gets and the later into the night you drink with the locals, the harder it is to interpret! Ps. We have no affiliation with NC500 at this time – this was an independent trip, all opinions are our own.  

North Coast 500 Scotland – how many days?

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is – how long does it take to drive 500 miles? The length of time you spend taking in the sights of this Scottish Highlands road trip really depends on how many days you want to spend in each location, the types of activities you would like to do while on Scotland’s North Coast 500 (hiking, boat tours, whisky?) and quite possibly the availability of accommodation. We met visitors who zoomed around the route in two days; while Visit Scotland suggests up to two weeks. Do tell us how long you decide to take and why in the comments below. If you like to hike, don’t miss the West Highland Way challenge on your next trip to Scotland – 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William!

Stac Pollaidh Ullapool | North Coast 500 Guide

North Coast 500 itinerary

There is no strict North Coast 500 route – where you stop, stay and play is entirely up to you but here is a flavour of the villages and activities we think make up the best North Coast 500 places to visit. We had 2.5 days of glorious sunshine then the dark skies took over. Be sure to pack a good quality waterproof (like my Marmot Precip, lightweight and folds into its own pocket, I love it)!

Check out the packing list – click here

Inverness to Shieldaig, Torridon (99 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Inverness to Torridon

Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands! Visitors can check out the first of many castles on the North Coast 500 – Urquhart Castle. You may also want to hop aboard the 88ft version of the Titanic or have a tot of whisky and a dance at Hootenanny . If you want to get on the water before the road, Loch Ness boat tours are also available from Inverness. Culloden Battlefield is also close by (although veering to the east); stand on the ground of the last Jacobite rebellion in 1746.

Bealach ‘na Ba, Wester Ross (yes Game of Thrones fans!)

From Inverness, we started our journey to the infamous Bealach ‘na Ba (pronounced Bell-ach-na-baa) in Wester Ross. At the start of the Bealach ‘na Ba (Scottish Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle), there is a sign that warns new drivers not to attempt it! Like many of the NC500 roads, the Bealach ‘na Ba is an A road also known as a single track road (only one lane for going and coming). If you are the passenger and have the confidence to take your eyes off the hairpin bends, check out the scenery! Don’t be surprised to see cyclists pedalling away or campervans trying to get by. Our Scottish A roads have areas by the side of the road called ‘passing places’ – it’s customary to pull in and let someone by. Please do remember that this road is everyday use for locals, not just a challenge for holidaymakers.

Bealach Na Ba NC500 Route

Applecross

Everyone raves about the beauty of Applecross and rightly so. Although remote, Applecross village is visited by many tourists and on a dry day they flock to the seated area outside of The Applecross Inn, which is a popular dinner stop (food served 12-9pm) for those who love game meat and fish. Check out our guide on Scottish food, haggis is not a furry animal that runs about the hills! At the Inn I tried langoustine for the first time, while Craig struggled to eat (picky eater). I hope you are ready for delicious fresh fish on this Scotland road trip. Applecross is home to one of the North Coast 500 campsites (you have to reserve your spot, see our camping article soon). Do not camp without purchasing Smidge or Avon So Soft as the midges are out in force from May until September in Applecross. Sands beach is approximately 4 miles from the Applecross.

Stunning Shieldaig

Our final stop for the day was Shieldaig, Torridon. This small village is postcard perfect. We stayed at the top of the hill with views of Shieldaig Island on tap. There is a campsite located here which I would consider in future. We dined on a shared stone baked pizza from the local pub and a few drinks to end day one of our Scotland road trip.

Shieldaig Torridon | North Coast 500

Shieldaig to Ullapool (123 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Route Torridon to Ullapool

Although the village of Shieldaig is sublime, you’ll be thankful to leave because next up is the experience of driving through the mountains of Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. No, you’ve not taken a wrong turn into New Zealand or Canada – this is Scotland!

Gairloch

Gairloch is a small village with a couple of sandy beaches (Big Sand and Red Point) and another couple of coffee shops. Gairloch is home to one of the most scenic golf courses in the country (world), good luck focusing on your swing with views of the Isle of Skye ahead. There are also boat tours in Gairloch for those looking to try to catch a glimpse of minke, humpback or killer whales.

NC500 Scotland Beaches

From Gairloch to Ullapool you are spoiled for beaches on the NC500. Mellon Udrigle Beach (Wester Ross) is the first of that white sand and turquoise waters that legends talk of and I can confirm, it is no myth, they do exist. Mellon Udrigle has a campsite which practically has you unzipping your tent on the beach, it’s that close. Bring a picnic and your camera (and kayak?)

Mellon Udrigle NC500

Gruinard Bay (Ross and Cromarty) is slightly redder toned and larger. Both beaches have car parks close to the entrance point. Gruinard Bay requires a short walk downhill.

Ullapool – the big village in Ross-shire

Ullapool is the biggest village on the west coast of the North Coast 500, 1500 inhabitants call this place home and many of them have not so hidden talents. Ullapool is a mecca for music lovers, especially those on the ‘trad scene’ (like my good friend Kim, you can see/hear her sing here!) There is always some form of performance, planned or not, kicking off at The Ceilidh Place, The Arch Inn or the Argyll Hotel. Ullapool is also home to the Stac Pollaidh for visitors hoping to do a self-guided North Coast 500 hike. This easy hill walk takes approximately two hours and the views from the top are now amongst my favourite in Scotland. Car park spaces are available at the bottom of Stac Pollaidh, please keep to the designated hike trail for your safety.

Ullapool – Kylesku Bridge (109 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Route Ullapool to Kylesku Bridge

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt

Within a short drive from Ullapool, you will reach the ruins of Ardvreck Castle and Calda House on the banks of Loch Assynt. This 15th-century castle was once home to the Macleod Clan then taken over by Mackenzies who then lost the three-story Castle to the Crown. Calda House, which is closer to the road, was the modern home built by the Mackenzies.

Did you know that you can stay in castles on the NC500.
They are surprisingly not too ridiculously priced – check out this post for details.

Ardvrek Castle NC 500 Route 500

Lochinver on the Route 500

The main reason people visit Lochinver is to purchase a pie from the Lochinver Larder. These pies come in sweet and savoury fillings, can be eaten in (£8.45 with salad/£14.35 as a main) or out (£5.35-5.55) or even posted home. Craig, the pie connoisseur feels that Lochinver pies are overpriced thus leaving a bad taste in his mouth. The NC500 trip is not cheap; expect a 1/3 mark up on food and on central belt prices. Check out what we spent via our NC500 budget below.

B869 – it’s incredible

Wow, this road (or loop for us) is special and well worth taking the time to drive along the coast. This area feels like Star Trek has beamed you up (Scotty) and you’ve landed on the lunar surface.

The surrounding hills swallow you whole but your escape is possible if you head for the water. Yes! More of those Highland beaches (Achmelvich Beach and Clachtoll Beach) are tucked away amongst the winding roads and engulfing hills. Experienced hikers may want to consider the striking Suilven Mountain in the Inverpolly National Nature Reserve which is close to Lochinver.

Personally, I felt that this part of our NC500 itinerary covered plenty for one day. However, we headed to Kylesku Hotel for a coffee, food comes recommended by others but the kitchen was closed so we could not sample it.

Kylesku Bridge

Kylesku Bridge is built over the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin, replacing the ferry service in the 1980s. This is only my opinion but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit the Kylesku area, you can blame the outrageously overwhelming beauty of the B869 for this advice! On night three, we actually returned to Ullapool as we struggled to find accommodation available on the route to Durness. However, you may want to consider the options detailed in our North Coast accommodation guide.

(Ullapool or) Kylesku Bridge – Durness (42 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Route North Coast 500 Itinerary Route Ullapool to Kylesku Bridge to Durness

Leaving Ullapool (again) head north to Cape Wrath, leave early (and be flexible) if you plan to take the ferry ride over the Kyle of Durness and then the bus to the most northern westerly lighthouse on the mainland. Ferry times vary depending on the time of year, and weather throughout the day. There was no afternoon ferry when we arrived. Check the Cape Wrath website for details. The trip lasts three hours and there are no toilet facilities so be prepared before you leave (closest facilities in Durness). Did you know that the MOD own a large part of Cape Wrath and use it for training? Craig’s Dad is an ex MOD diver and has spent a fair bit of time in the waters up here!

Balnakeil Beach

As you drive up the northwest you will see this massive stretch of white sand poking out in the distance. On approach you will discover that Balnakeil Beach is different to the others; it has sand dunes layered up at the back of it with cows grazing on any spare grass!

Balnakeil Beach North Coast 500

Durness

Durness is known for two things – Smoo cave and Chocolate Mountain. Smoo Cave is free to enter and open every day of the year. It costs £5 to take the small boat ride deeper into the cave where the tour guides tell you about their successful discoveries and scary encounters (May-September). Wear closed toe footwear.

To get to Smoo Cave, drive past the tourist information centre and park at the YMCA hostel or the cave car park (can get busy). Walk down the pathway to the beach and cave entry.

Chocolate Mountain is tucked away in Durness’s Balnakeil Craft Village and sells ‘the world’s best chocolate’ and truffles at tourist prices. The village is also home to the John Lennon Memorial Garden, the Beatles singer used to holiday in Durness with his family as a kid and visited again with his own. Beatles fan? Our trip to Liverpool article is coming soon! 

Durness has one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve seen but if windy there is limited coverage. The site has a restaurant/pub at the side of it (was closed until 18:30 when we visited).

Addition: Handa Island

Tarbet of the northwest (not to be confused with Tarbert on the west coast near Oban) is the gateway to Handa Island where you can do a spot of Puffin watching (we ran out of time, let us know how it goes). Tarbert is reached after Unapool (near Kylesku) and Scourie but before Cape Wrath and Durness.

Durness – John o’ Groats (90 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Route Durness - John o Groats

Thurso

The northernmost town of the Scottish mainland, Thurso, is known for its surf! Yes, surfing in Scotland. Thurso East is located at the mouth of the Thurso River and has hosted surf competitions.  Move over Gold Coast * waves *, the east coast is in town. Naturally we don’t get the sun like Australia so dress accordingly (suits not shorts). For more on what to pack – read out NC500 packing list.

Dunnet Head (Caithness)/John o’ Groats

At Dunnet Head, you’ve reached the ‘end of the road’ – the most northern tip of mainland Scotland! Visitors can take the scenic coastal path from John o’ Groats to Duncansby Head (reminds me of the Isle of Skye) and the Stacks of Duncansby. Alight at John O’Groats for a sidestep to Orkney or  just take a picture of that famous white sign and hit the road again. Next stop…

John o’ Groats – Inverness (119 miles)

North Coast 500 Itinerary Route John o Groats to Inverness

NC 500 itinerary – Castles!

And these ones aren’t just ruins. Castle of Mey (near John o’ Groats) and the clan of Sutherland’s Dunrobin Castle (further down in Golspie) vary greatly in aesthetics. Both have an entry fee.

Distilleries on the North Coast 500

The water of life, whisky, plays such a large part of Scottish culture and tourism. For those who like a dram and/or a wee story during their holiday should check out one of the many whisky distilleries dotted around the east coast of the NC500 such as Dunnet Bay Distillery (Dunnet near John o’ Groats), the Balblair Distillery or Glenmorangie (close to Tain), Dalmore Distillery, GlenWyvis, and Glen Ord Distillery (near Dingwall). If you are limited on time and whisky sampling is your goal, I would suggest heading east first! There is a zero tolerance for drink driving in Scotland. This means that the ‘day after’ is just a big of an issue as the night before. Please ensure you have a designated driver or dip into the distilleries with a pre-arranged bus/driver tour. If whisky wets your whistle you want to head west to the Isle of Islay and pay homage to her eleven distilleries (best make it a long weekend trip). 

North Coast 500 Itinerary Distilleries

The Black Isle

Although not officially inclusive of your 500 miles, if you have the time I recommend swinging by the village, Cromarty, so quaint and full of friendly people. I’m drinking out of my ‘I love Cromarty’ mug as I type.

Hey Outlander fans! You can tour the locations of the hit series, read more here

Fin

500 (ish) miles later your NC500 tour is over, get out of the car and consider bagging one of our many Munros to stretch out the legs.

Gruinard Bay | Scotland North Coast 500 itinerary
Gruinard Bay

GPS, mapping and not killing each other

We trialled using Google Maps to guide us through the NC500 and with a bit of planning it worked well. For the most part, your 3/4G will not work (write out/screenshot accommodation addresses and telephone numbers), when in WiFi and the areas you would like to visit using the directions function of Maps, hit the three dots and select ‘add the route to home screen’. Before you leave your accommodation, start the directions; you can’t do this out of WiFi/4G. The blue dot will become your best friend. We could not add Cape Wrath or Balnakeil Beach to our North Coast 500 map. It is against the law to use your mobile/cell phone while driving in the UK and the roads you are navigating are going to be tough at times so I would recommend a phone holder attached to your dashboard like this one. It has a magnetic part you place in between your phone and cover which keeps the phone neatly attached to the holder. You can also download this free NC500 map. Wheelchair users, you may find this guide useful. 

NC500 budget

Dig deep Scotland lovers; this can be an expensive ride!

  • Accommodation: £68 average p/n on the NC500 + our last night was £84 in Killin (we were heading for the Harry Potter train in Fort William!)
  • Food: £48 (for 2) p/d (to put this into perspective, we used to live off this when travelling around the Americas and Europe)
  • Trips: £5 Smoo Cave
  • Petrol: £143, approximately 3 tanks (from Fife to NC500 to Fife –> check out our guide to The Kingdom)
    + alcohol

Naturally you could do this cheaper by opting for the youth hostels and campsites on the NC500 or you could go all out and stay in castles. Our accommodation guide will has options for every budget.

This was an independent trip. This means we were not hosted by Visit Scotland, regional tourist boards, hotels or any tours. If you are a business and would like to advertise with Two Scots Abroad please contact us.

Driving in Scotland

We drive on the left in the UK, which I’m sure you are aware of. It is more common for drivers in the UK to use manual (shift stick) cars however it is not uncommon to hire an automatic car. Unbelievably, there are no road signs indicating that you are on the North Coast 500 route, which baffles me since it is so heavily marketed. However there are the typical brown tourist information signs which indicate where tourists hotspots are. Remember to check your oil, water and air tyre levels before you leave each day. Petrol stations are available on the NC500, petrol is obviously more expensive than other areas of the country and it is wise to fill up whenever you see a station (some are manned, others are self-use machines like in Durness). 

Hiring a Car

Car hire is available in the airports or cities. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness city and airports all have car rental pickups, Dundee city also has options. You will need your driving license and a credit card to hire a car in the UK. Here’s more advice on international car hire.

Going to Edinburgh? Check out our whopping guide to 70 things to do in the capital!

Stac Pollaidh Ullapool | NC500 Route

Camping around the NC500

The NC500 can be done on a budget thanks to hostels and campsites dotted around the route. Campsites on the NC500 post will be live soon. Please check out our information on the Highlands midges below before committing to the campsite.

The best time to visit NC500?

Yes, it’s true; Scotland’s weather is temperamental. The spring to summer months of April to July enjoys more sunshine but the weather can change quickly to rain and the wind. The winter months of November to February are best to be avoided. The weather can have a great impact on Scotland’s infrastructure, A roads become more dangerous and ferries are prone to closure. Naturally, Scotland sees more daylight in the summer months where you can expect up to 17 hours, this drops to as low as 6 hours in winter so consider this when planning your Scotland NC500 trip. Then there are our local fiends, the midges.

What are midges?

Nicaragua has Mosquitos; the North Coast 500 has midges! Midges are small flying insects that nip the skin and leave a mark. These bites are often itchy, some people swell up in reaction to the bites (bizarrely I react like Quasimodo to mosquitos abroad but not midges in Scotland), others do not even notice them.

How do I avoid them?

You can’t, they are attracted to the C02 in your breath, so unless you stop breathing (I don’t suggest this option) you are most likely to meet one and then their pals along the way. After they recognise the CO2 they look for other things like odour, heat, movement, until they find your juicy skin. You can, however, avoid areas of high midge count like still and humid conditions at dusk (like you would with mosquitos). They don’t like the wind so although it may be ruining your holiday photos, it is keeping the mass midge party at bay. They hate hot summers, we don’t but they don’t happen often unfortunately although we cannot complain since we have that lush green landscape.

How can I repel midges?

There are two options, avoid the above conditions and times of year (tricky if you are camping or even moving out side a car) or purchase a repellent such as Avon So Soft and Smidge.

The dark side of the North Coast 500

I was elated to see my home country gain so much attention through the North Coast 500 advertisement however not everyone is. Many locals feel that the infrastructure around the Highlands is not set up for this many family cars, sports cars and campervans. A park ranger we met in Ullapool showed disgust to the way that holidaymakers were treating the NC500 environment especially to those who are using the side of the road as a toilet (for a number two). They said that there is a greater need for facilities. So please be cautious that you are using the roads that locals use every day, treat nature with respect and use the flipping loos on your coffee stops.

Final Words

Whether you are in browsing or in planning mode, I hope you’ve enjoyed our free North Coast 500 itinerary. During this trip we made it as far north as Durness then headed to Killin to meet family, moving on to Fort William for the Jacobite train ride to Mallaig (aka ‘the Harry Potter train’, a brutality honest review coming up soon). However, as east coasters ourselves (and Craig’s job a gas engineer taking him all over Scotland), we’re confident we’ve thrown in best bits of the east coast discovered on previous trips and believe that’s the beauty of the NC500 – there’s so much to see, whether you have two days or two weeks, you’ll be left wanting more so… haste ye back!

Read more: everything we’ve written about Scotland can be found in this travel guide

Achmelvich Beach Scotland NC500

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North Coast 500 Itinerary | NC500 Scotland

Please tell us about your NC500 tour in the comments below, we like to hear about your experiences.
If you have any questions, do ask below also.

 

Comments 58

  1. Wow, this itinerary really makes me want to just book the tickets now. We spent a little time driving through the East of Scotland and got a taste of what the country has to offer and I can still see it in my mind, how incredibly beautiful it is there. I can’t wait to do the whole 500 miles. Definitely will be stopping at some of those distilleries for sure.

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  2. Thanks for the blog, I found it very interesting & helpful. We are doing the Nc500 in September, doing it over 5 days, will let you know how it goes.

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  3. This is a really great guide! Being from Orkney I’ve done the eastern part of this many, many times and it’s kind of funny to me that it’s become so popular all of a sudden. I’m yet to do the west coast so this was really interesting and useful for planning it! But I’m surprised you haven’t really covered anything on the east coast – the Berriedale brae is one of my favourite pieces of road (huge hairpin bend) and there are a bunch of really cute villages, like Helmsdale! I dunno, maybe the west coast is much better haha.

    P.S. Dunnet Head is the northern most point of Britain, Duncansby is the most northeastern. 😉

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      Thank you for reading! I’m an east coaster too, Fifer. A very good marketing strategy has been the cause of NC blowing up, some people really are concerned about the impact though so I was torn between advertising our beautiful country and annoying the locals! There’s so much to see, you really need to drive Bealach na Ba if you like Berriedale Brae! Offt! I see yo are abroad, where are you based?

      1. Yeah, I have to say I find it quite funny because I’ve always loved that drive and thought it was underrated. But now that it’s so popular, like you I’m worried there may be a shift. And the answer to Route 66? I don’t really understand that comparison at all.

        I’m actually back in Orkney for a few months of downtime and saving up for a new adventure! May move out to Canada for a few months soon, so we’ll see what happens! 😉

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          We’ll be following you – we hope to move to BC or Calgary by 2020! Spent 6 months on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver in 2015, the dream! Route 66 is just clever marketing = a road trip. It really is incredible how quickly good marketing can turn an area of route around!

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  4. I really enjoyed this article – very informative and I’m really looking forward to doing the NC500 with my boyfriend the week after next! I’ve already scheduled similar activities like Smoo Cave and Chocolate Mountain and we’re going for the campervan route to save some money. I’m definitely going to look up the anti-midge stuff you recommend!

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  5. We’ve done some small roadtrips around Scotland before, but we’ve been dying to head to the far north! I’m hoping we can make it happen next summer. Thanks for all of the awesome info, I’ll be back when we are starting to plan!

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      Cheers Lauren! We were the same, a few trips to Skye, Islay, the west coast but never further than Ullapool – so glad we got to see the beaches! Creating an accommodation guide today, should be live by tomorrow. Have you signed up to receive new articles? No spam, I promise! You can sign up here.

  6. Lovved the blog, but you mentioned that you found the food one of the best parts of your trip, yet you don’t mention eateries at all. What a shame and missed opportunity.

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  7. Thanks for the information, I’ll be touring your route in October after walking Ben Nevis. I have a motorhome the size of a Peugeot boxer van and wonder if I’ll be able to to manage all the roads!! Also I’ll be trying to keep costs down by hopefully wild camping, is there much opportunity to do this in your opinion? Many thanks, Tom.

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  8. Great write up….wish I’d seen it earlier!
    Hubby and I just followed the same route earlier this month and took 8 days (although we had 2 days at Glencoe and the Eilean Donan beforehand and 2 days in Perthshire afterwards too).
    We stayed in a mix of B&Bs , self catering and hotels…including the treehouse at Ackergill Tower. All accommodation was booked in advance…necessary even in September!
    The weather was very variable…we got all the heavy rains as a result of the first hurricanes but the heavy downpours were interspersed with sunny spells and it was warm. Thankfully we saw very few midges!
    Luckily the roads had quietened down somewhat although it was still busy…no convoys of motor homes blocking the roads though.
    We took a Toyota pick up this time…next time we’re taking an Ariel Nomad (just hope we don’t get as much rain!).

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  9. Great review folks hope to do the NC 500 this year , i spent every holiday from the time i was 1 right through till i was 14 at Mellon Udrigle in the White Croft just up from the beach .
    I have not been back up there for about 14 years so looking forward to it .
    Last time i was up there it was in an old Subaru ,so will be fun in a GTR

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  10. Lovely article thank you. Just done Ullapool up to Tongue and down to Lairg and back up to Scourie. All stunning. Eddrachilles Hotel, Badcall does fabulous porridge served with large pot of cream and large pot of Drambuie, Lochinver circuit a beautiful day drive, coffee and Cullen Skink at the Kylesku Hotel was impressive

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  11. We’re planning on doing this during February half-term. Do you think it’s nuts to do in February? Will we be missing all the views due to terrible weather?

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  12. I’m currently planning to do the NC500, your guide has been very clear and helpful. I was thinking when out at Applecross area was to go to Eilean Donan Castle, then off to Dunvegan castle and Portree. Since skye would be nice to do when there. Adds an extra 190 miles and a day possibly to the trip but the castles and the views would be worth it. Was also thinking about heading to Mallaig, They have the white sands at morar which are beautiful. You can go by ferry or those wanting to drive could go by car which from applecross is roughly a 284 mile round trip which would also add an extra day about as its roughly a 7 to 8hr drive time. Alot of possibilities on the beautiful west coast. Planning for between May to August 2018. If I done all I mentioned it would nearly a 1300 mile(including central belt mileage to and back from inverness) trip of beauty and fun driving.

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      If you have the time I would recommend these sidesteps. I’ve been to Skye twice (you can read about it here and also did the Harry Potter train from Mallaig (I wasn’t massively impressed, the journey is stunning but the extra cost for that train isn’t worth it in my opinion). Have a great trip and thank you for reading!

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  13. Thank you for your well written blog! Your English is clear and quite easy to follow for us… 🙂
    We are a 60+ couple (Dutch/French) who will be in Scotland next May or June.
    We will begin our camping travel (auto + caravan) on May 1st from Newcastle up to north/east, then driving anticlockwise to the west coast for about one month. June should bring us slowly to south England.
    Again thank you for the good tips!
    Viviane & Chris

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  14. Well thats it we are off to explore the NC500 at the end of june 2018.Cant wait but a little apprehensive to………………….having read your article, great read, its given me and the wife the courage to tackle it head on!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Midge nets are on order as we speak lol
    Thank you.

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  15. We’re planning to do the NC500 in June. We’ve pretty much done it all before, but did Thurso down to Gairloch in one day with horrendous fog the whole way. The following day the trip from Gairloch down to Skye was stunning and I’d like to get the weather for that stretch especially.

    We’re going to take our time and take 7 nights. I’ve already booked good B&Bs in advance.

    We’ve done many visits up to Thurso and west along as far as Reay. We’ve also visited Ullapool a few times. Last time we were there was the first ever Sunday ferry crossing from Stornoway.

    Haven’t done the Applecross bit, so looking forward to that. Enjoyed your review and will come back with a report.

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  16. Great review. My husband and I are looking at travelling the NC500 in late July/early August. He does not like booking accommodation ahead of time but find somewhere to stay when we arrive (worries me!). Are we likely to have trouble finding accommodation that way? Will we spend most of the time sleeping in the car?!

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      1. There are A roads and then there are A roads , yes we are up for the adventure I work on the theory if the bin lorry
        can get through well I can .

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  17. Hi we (wife, myself and dennis the dog) are doing half the west coast of it in mid April for the first time in our motor home and we can`t wait, (fantastic blog by the way) applecross is my main concern but if bigger vans can do so can we, it looks and sounds great and hopefully we`ll miss the midges but if we don`t we don`t. Eat, drink and be merry and take in the views.

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  18. I love your blog. Have had a wee house in Caithness for over 24 years for holidays , not sold on NC500 for a night or two, as I think the area needs more time to explore, than on a road trip in 5-6 days. Northern Scotland, East and West, is beautiful and different. Anyone doing NC500, please enjoy the scenery and support the local people and give respect to those who use these roads on a daily basis. It is not a holiday for them. Some roads are a bit different but full of character.

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  19. hi iv been inspired by your report i have currently bought a bongo and plan to do the nc 500 on the 30-3-2018 and i am so looking forward to it

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  20. myself, my husband and two children 17 An 14 have planned the NC500 late July/early August for my husbands 50th bday. We had read reviews about booking accommodation before so have all sat down together and booked our over night stays. We are staying at Edinburgh for 2 nights then overnight stays along the NC500. We’re staying at Inverness, Gailoch, Lochiver, Tongue, john o Groats, Tain then down to Fort William for our last night. Your review sounds fantastic and makes us even more excited. We didn’t know about the chocolate mountain now the kids are excited and have added this to their to do lists 👍. (Smoo cave was already on our to do list). My husband is from Liverpool and he didn’t know about the John Lennon memorial so that’s also been added to our list. One of our over night stays is at a camping pod at john o Groats so really hope we get the weather for this one🌞. But we’re from Manchester so we are use to the rain. Excited to try some good seafood and the whole driving/scenery experience! Roll on holidays.

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      Ahhh I love this! Wishing you all of the positive weather vibes! I’m actually heading down to Liverpool and possibly Newcastle in July. Big fan of Liverpool, very friendly people and great food/drink scene! Come back and tell me how you get on and remember the Smidge/Avon So Soft (here’s our NC500 packing guide).

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