First, the cold weather in Scotland is strong deterrent to most reptiles (and amphibians), so you are extremely unlikely to encounter any reptiles even if you go out looking for them. If you have read our planning guide already, we’d also recommend taking a look at our 7 day North Coast 500 and our camping itinerary. Along the NC500, Inverness has the largest selection and I’d highly recommend picking up your rental and any gear before you leave the city as there is much less opportunity to do so elsewhere on the route. You can also find local whiskies, beers, and other beverages made in the Scottish Highlands offered on most menus. You can find charging points using this interactive map (list only free and public ones) and this website/app (lists any kind of charging point, free, fee, and customer use only ones). What do you term a large RV? However, many of the scenic viewpoint stops are viewable from the parking area or a very short walk from it and even some of the longer paths have been designed for those with restricted mobility in mind such as this one in Assynt. ), Needed attachments or gear for RV or campervan (e.g., hoses, leveling blocks), Bike rack (if planning to take or rent bikes). What a brilliant resource and fabulous guide. Those driving this route should consider whether they should drive this section of the route or not, and if decide to do so, be sure to be careful. I wanted to ask you for ideas in regards of best places to take the kids to along the NC500 route; I have already noted Wyvis play park, Inverwere gardens, beaches, boat tours and some local indoors swimming pools for the rainy days. Melvich Beach, Durness Beach, Balnakeil Beach, Sandwood Beach, and Achmelvich Beach are a few of our favorites in the northwest. Glad the guide has been helpful in planning your road trip. The next day head south towards Isle of Skye and again you can consider if you have time to drive the scenic route via Torridon and Applecross or take the quicker route to reach the Skye Bridge. Started off from Stirling Perth - The black watch castle Perth - Scone palace Dundee Glamis castle Dunnotar castle Cullerlie Stone Circle Peterhead Fraserburgh, Cullen Elgin On this section the roads were pretty much dual carriage ways. We only have a camping itinerary up so far, but will have more NC500 itineraries up before your trip in Sept., if you want to sign up for our monthly newsletter to be alerted with our new articles. Yes, you would definitely have time for one of the islands if you think you have more time than you need for the North Coast 500. But the North Coast 500 is designed for touring, sightseeing, and taking things slowly. At a scenic minor road which winds along the northern shore of Upper Loch Torridon sits your hotel. And if you are stranded somewhere but not hurt, the 101 number might help you if you don’t know where else to call. I’d try local ones in your particular area to see if anyone is interested and maybe some specific to the NC500. I’d recommend heading over to either the main island of Orkney (get the ferry from John O’Groats or nearby) or to the Isles of Lewis and Harris (ferry from Ullapool). The North Coast 500 route follows the main roads across the coastal edges of the North Highlands. If you want to get really upclose to a large herd of deer, we can recommend a guided tour with gamekeeper Colin at, Laurence personally favors the western side for landscape photography, but we found great photography spot throughout the route. The ever-changing landscape will take your breath away, leaving you eager to get back in the saddle wanting more every day. We enjoy road cycling and walking/hiking (12 miles walking maximum) so would like to stop a little longer in some areas so we can do this. Isle of Raasay Travel Guide: Top Things to do on Raasay, Best Vacation Rental Websites: Where & How to Book Online. It is hard to accidentally stray too far from the route. Specifically, Highway Code, Rules 57 states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. No guarantees, but at least they have the request. Your earlier post on the NC500 already had me wanting to visit, so this practical guide was a great help! Note that if you are visiting a distillery or brewery, most will be happy to give samples in “takeaway cups” so that the driver can still enjoy a dram back at the hotel! Do your part to leave “no trace” on this area and encourage others to do the same. I have not done the NC500 yet, but after reading your articles, I have now bought a NC500 guide book and subscribed to your newsletter. 5. Ordnance Survey maps are the ones we recommend (see below). Mel, Hi Mel, Sounds like you have a fun road trip coming up. We’d recommend 7 night along the NC500 to see all the highlights and have time to relax and enjoy it and go walking/hiking etc with your dogs. Thanks! A lot of people in Scotland travel with their dogs and you should find plenty to do. Ullapool to Torridon, 86 miles. (lists any kind of charging point, free, fee, and customer use only ones). Experience Scotland's answer to Route 66 on our scenic self-drive tour of the North Coast of Scotland. This is particularly true if you are planning to drive a rental car, caravan, or motorhome. So I would just avoid those 2 stretches and you should be fine. You can keep checking back or sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates (it covers both of our travel blogs). If you have more than 7 nights, I’d suggest adding a night to some of your overnight stops. Jessica. we have sorted out our accommodation, but wonder if there is a guide or similar detailing pertol stations on, or a bit off route? Have pinned it for future reference I’ve only been to the Scottish Highlands once, but I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to go back. You can stay at campsites with a tent or campervan, do wild camping if you don’t need any facilities, or rent out camping huts, static caravans, or cabins if you want to travel with limited camping gear. Yes, generally many of the B&Bs and hotels we recommend are booked up more than a month in advance so it definitely a good idea for those planning the drive to try to book as far in advance as you can. Definitely want to experience the NC500 when we make it to Scotland! Hope that helps, and just let us know if you have any additional questions! Currently, the best guided tour along the NC500 is this 3-day tour from Inverness from Rabbie’s Travel. How Many Days Does it Take to Drive the North Coast 500? Your guide is excellent, and very much appreciated as my daughter tells me she is planning to cycle the route, alone, later this year. This is an internationally significant geological site that has been recognized by UNESCO, so is a must-see for any rock hound (and recommended for anyone driving the NC500!). Hi Alex, Thanks for taking the time to comment and adding additional warnings for those planning to make this drive along the North Coast 500. Please choose a different date. I Don’t Have Time for the Full Route, What Section Should I Drive? But luckily, there are alternative routes for the most narrow sections. Since I loved my road trip to Isle of Skye I think I would really enjoy this one as well. But if you just prefer hiking, scenic drives, and time outdoors than you might prefer spending the extra night near Torridon instead. The rain in Scotland can be frustrating but if you come prepared, it doesn’t have to restrict you. For those interested in geology, I’d recommend heading to the North West Highlands GeoPark which covers a large section of the northwestern part of the route and includes sites such as Smoo Cave, Knockan Crag, and The Bone Caves near Inchnadamph. Off the route, is also the possibility of going south a bit to the Isle of Skye. Most campsites along the NC500 allow all kinds of BBQ (electric, gas, charcoal) but not all of them so something to double check if you are planning to camp. Want to keep up to date with us and our latest travel tips? Once you are in a town, any local person should be able to point you in the right direction if you do get lost. Hope this helps, it is not an easy answer. There are two main advantages of driving it counterclockwise (heading towards Invergordon and seeing the east coast first). It is definitely a place that you can bring your dog, but a dog will limit some of the places you can visit or stay. the Bealach Na Ba) may be closed due to bad weather. If you only have a 2 or 3 days, you can still get a taste of some of the things that the North Coast 500 has to offer without speeding along the entire route. Early risers will be rewarded by local wildlife sightings, especially the local deer and birds. Sorry, there are no tours or activities available to book online for the date(s) you selected. Each of these day tours explore different parts of the NC500. Your newsletter is fabulous for us first timers.We are hiring a motorhome on Saturday form Inverness and return it the following Friday – can you recommend a route plus any restaurants/pubs.Many thanks Will. I’d recommend looking for roads/routes just off the main route as they’ll be less busy as there aren’t any bike lanes in most places along the route. Finally going to get it sorted for early summer next year and your advice is a great starting point for our planning. Thank you so much! Most bike companies also rent bike gear and accessories and some also can arrange for guided day or multi-day tours. I could have predicted what you would say but I thought I’d ask anyway. The speed limits are often low and single-track roads mean a lot of slowing down and stopping. This is amazing article, thanks so much. Glenfinnan Viaduct Ben Nevis Barcaldine Castle Oban Follow a 816 for more coast miles and from Lochgilphead follow on A83 to Glasgow. Any flammable gas containers (e.g. Thanks in advance Inverness to the Black Isle. I’d recommend 2 nights on the Isle of Skye after you finish the NC500 drive. Glad you are finding our North Coast 500 guide helpful in planning your upcoming road trip! We have a NC500 hotel guide that has all the main castle hotels listed. The North Coast 500 is a 516-mile (830 km) scenic route around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle. No matter where you dine, I’d highly recommend trying dishes using the local produce and products such as local seafood (e.g., salmon, crabs, scallops), lamb, game, Stornoway black pudding (from the Isle of Lewis), and fresh in-season vegetables. If you want to know more about specific places to see and visit, you can check out Laurence’s post about some of the highlights of the North Coast 500 and our detailed North Coast 500 itinerary. Along the North Coast 500, you have a range of lodging options from hostels and campsites to inns and seaside cottages to historic castles and country homes. While most lodging doesn’t accept dogs, there are a number of hotels and B&B that do so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a place to stay. In some ways they are similar in that they are great routes for a road trip and both offer some great scenery and attractions along the way. Inverness is probably the most convenient place to start a NC500 tour, but tours can also be arranged to depart and return from Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness. Can you recommend any places in particular that would be good to do this? You can check out this NC500 camping itinerary for some ideas for campsites along the North Coast 500 and camping tips. We are planning to do the NC500 in September. On this tour, your driver-guide takes you to the best spots to sample the sumptuous seafood, admire amazing landscapes, and learn the legendary tales. The North Coast 500, which only opened a couple of months ago, was named fifth in a list of ‘six of the best’ coast road trips on the planet by Now Travel magazine. For hiking/walking – you have lots of options along most of the route really so you can find hiking opportunities located near probably any section of the route. Then I’d add a week or so for time on the islands. Here is a guide to some of the, There are a lot of great sites, depending on your interests, in and around Inverness such as, If your interests lie in historical sites (churches, museums, prehistoric sites, old homes), I’d highly recommend checking out the, To save money, I’d also take a look at the, or those interested in geology, I’d recommend heading to the. A trip over to Handa Island might be nice as well, particularly if you like birds/wildlife, you get a foot ferry over and then follow a designated path that is about 4 miles. Or if I walked to the nearest village, are there certain places where we can transport to other places? Indoor attractions often don’t allow dogs (as you probably expect) but you can always take turns watching the dogs when you want to visit these places. We are three couples from Australia who are planning a trip next June. The route that circles around Scotland’s top north highlands has always been there, but never got a name, until not so long ago. But generally, I think she should have no problem checking in each day as long as there is no set time she needs to call. Now that we’ve convinced you to start planning your North Coast 500 (NC500) road trip, it’s time to find your ideal hotel. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard! The Official North Coast 500 route begins and ends in Inverness at Inverness Castle. If the license is not in English or Latin alphabet, then you will need to get a validated English translation or have an International Driving Permit. Thank you! We’ve driven this route several times now and happy to try to help! If you only have a day or two, you might consider doing a couple day tours from Inverness that explore some of the NC500 highlights, such as this in-depth Black Isle day tour (including optional dolphin cruise), this tour of Wester Ross (including Applecross & the Bealach Na Ba), or this day tour up north to John O’Groats (includes visit to Dunrobin Castle and Duncansby Head). Just wanted to know if these creatures are commonly sighted in highlands in summer months. Note that the North Coast 500 route is a route that has a lot of single-track roads and it is best to drive it slowly so we would recommend a minimum of 5 days to do the full route without being too rushed which might be hard with only 6 nights total in Scotland. They will be very grateful! In addition to nature and wildlife, there are loads of things to see and do along the route which include hiking, golfing, castles, heritage sites, prehistoric sites, a geological park, museums, beaches, whisky distilleries, and much more. After reading your reply I think we might go for around 10 days for the NC500, a week for the islands en some days for edinburg / inverness etc. But do let us know if you have further questions and we will try to help! My Dad and I are planning a trip May 2020! Surcharges may apply to drivers under age 25. I can not recommend this road trip enough. I also wanted to say that there are several people who are part of our Facebook group who are planning to drive the North Coast 500 at the end of summer or in September. Hi Janis, Thanks! We picked our map up at the Inverness Visitor Center along with some other information. Hope that helps, and wishing your daughter a wonderful trip! The popular adventure, with four seasons in one day, heading west from Inverness to the top of Scotland’s mainland, John O’Groats, and back down the … Really useful , Thanks Lois, glad you enjoyed our guide and hope you have a wonderful North Coast 500 road trip. The Bealach Na Ba is a narrow windy stretch of road near Applecross, and the most difficult and steepest stretch of the official NC500 route. See our prior article for more information on where to stay along the NC500 which covers some of our favorite hotels and B&Bs along the route. Best, Jessica, Hi guys thanks for all the great info. Hopefully, you enjoyed your first taste of the North Coast 500 yesterday and are … – Loch canoeing is possible with Tim Hamlet of Kayak Summer Isles, we can highly recommend him as a local guide. Take a break from the city on a full-day trip through the Isle of Skye with convenient round-trip transport from central Inverness. It is easy to avoid as you can take the slip road up to the A896 instead. Don't miss out on our exclusive monthly giveaways with lots of fun travel and photography related prizes! The North Coast 500, the Route 66 of Scotland has been opened since 2015, to link the beautiful scenery of Northern Scotland. Hi Karen, So glad to hear that and what a great birthday trip for next year! Hi Kathleen, Yes, unfortunately, cars are not legally required to carry a spare tyre in the UK so many of the rental cars do not come with a spare. The most popular way to experience the North Coast 500 is by car, but it is also a popular route for motorcyclists and cyclists. If you are planning on drinking, even one drink could put you over the legal limit, so plan to stay in after drinking, have a designated driver, or call a taxi. But I need a recommendations still. I think if there is one general piece of advice that people who live and work along the NC500 route would give tourists is to slow down, stop rushing, and spend more time helping support the region. Hi. Best, Jessica, Hi, Your guide is great, easy to read and not “dry”! But if you just need a campsite with just basic amenities (access to toilets, shower block, waste disposal station, drinking water), then you have much more flexibility. Large sections of the Scottish Highlands have unfenced livestock which include cattle, sheep, goats, and horses. This is fine when you have a relaxed and flexible day, but not ideal when you need to cover a lot of ground in one day. I think Scotland has a lot more single-track roads and they are pretty essential as some are the only ways to get to many smaller towns and villages in the Scottish Highlands and islands. Yes, if you prefer not to drive yourself you do have some options to book a guided North Coast 500 group or private tour. It also depends if you prefer towns or plan to camp or stay in more rural locations. The first is that if you are not used to single track roads, driving the route counterclockwise helps ease you into them better than driving it clockwise. Chanonry Point (one of the most popular spots), North Kessock, Fort George, and Spey Bay are popular places near Inverness to spot bottlenose dolphins as well as potentially seals, porpoises, and whales. Discover 13 of Scotland’s most spectacular driving routes, from the Fife Coastal Route to the epic North Coast 500. I can see us going time and time again.. Hi Julie, So glad that you found our North Coast 500 guide so helpful I am sure you will have a great time. You can see individual campsites mentioned throughout our suggested 1 week NC500 itinerary and you can also see our NC500 camping guide for more information on camping along the route. Bring your camera: This trip offers endless panoramic views of Scotland’s natural landscape. that you would want to book in advance. Peppered with average speed cameras. Currently the need is exceeding the demand at different points in the summer. I would focus on either a section of the route or focus on a special interest or theme (e.g., castles, historical sites, beaches, distilleries). Heritage Sites, History, Geology, Culture, & Museums: Pictish stones, local history and heritage museums, cairns, crofts abandoned during the Highland Clearances, important geological and archaeological sites, churches, castles, old battlefields, and more can be discovered along the North Coast 500. Another great post and really informative, you’ve managed to cover so much. Then you can use this to create your own personalized North Coast 500 Packing List. So for any medical or criminal emergency, I’d definitely start there. If you were able to walk to the nearest village, the folks at the local store/service station/police/visitor center should be able to help you find a local shuttle or taxi company that could take you to say Inverness or where you needed to go with your bikes. If you are starting in Edinburgh or London, There are several places to rent bikes along the NC500. Fun :D Follow A861 towards Glenuig, Resipole to Corran The Ferry to Corran was broke so had to add extra coast miles to the journey but it was beautiful to see Ben Nevis from a different side. 4. You can see their UK listings here. If you are looking for stunning landscapes, fascinating history, endless horizons, ancient castles, golden beaches and crystal-clear water, all wrapped up in a 500-mile road trip, then the NC500 is for you. Jessica. For rental cars, you can see our recommendations above in the article. Now, you’ve probably stumbled upon this post because you’re already planning to drive the North Coast 500, an award-winning route in north Scotland. Inverness Rogie Falls – add extra time for walk if you like nature Dunrobin Castle John o' Groats Dunnet Head Dunnet Bay There are some nice places but still meeehh for me. A large amount of the North Coast 500 involves narrow single track roads, so you’ll need to use designated passing places. You’ll also want to book most activities such as guided hikes, kayaking, boat rides, fishing trips, wildlife tours, surfing lessons, etc. This looks amazing! – Royal Marine Hotel in Bora – dog-friendly hotel that caters a lot to golfers However I’ve never crossed (yes I’m from NL) with my 2 kids (2 and 4). Wishing you a wonderful trip next year, and feel free to reach out if you have other questions as you plan your trip. – Dunrobin Castle – This might be a bit expensive for taking the kids if they are not that interested in the interior, but there is also a beautiful garden here and a falconry display (usually once or twice a day, I’d check times in advance) is also often appealing to kids. You can book your RV for the UK through them here. The whole article has been well thought of and easy lay out with valuable sections of different travel options, tips about accommodation, etc. Planning a North Coast 500 road trip, PIN this article to Pinterest to read again later: **Disclosure: We partnered with North Coast 500 who helped us plan the logistics of our trip and also arranged many of our meals and accommodation in order for us to share our experiences as travel writers. If you plan to hike, you may want to invest in a good set of hiking maps, especially for those planning to do longer distance hillwalking, climbing, or hiking. This post may contain affiliate links. It is easy to avoid as you can take the slip road up to the A896 instead. Probably the least expensive way to stay would be to buy a tent and get some camping gear and camp at campsites along the route as there are a number of campsites along the route. Can you help? Glad you are finding our content on the NC500 and Scottish Highlands helpful in planning your trip . I’ve yet to travel to Scotland, but would love to visit one day. Historic Sites, Military Bases & Facilities. If you are not bringing along your own vehicle, you can easily rent one in Scotland. Kincraig Castle or Tulloch Castle are two options. We have gotten a lot of messages and emails about people planning to drive the North Coast 500 in August/September/October so I would definitely book your accommodation in advance as well as any guided activities. That will give you more time to explore there. Be a good traveler and respect this beautiful area of Scotland, which has been relatively unspoiled by mass tourism. Winter can be a nice time for photography and solitude, although the weather can be bad and certain minor roads (e.g. Route at a Glance The North Coast 500 (NC500) was created in 2014 by the North Highland Initiative to highlight some of Scotland’s magnificence to the world. … Me and my boyfriend are doing this for our joint 50th birthdays next year (2020) and we cannot wait! Most of the campsites have facilities for tents, campervans, and RVs, and many also have structures such as camping huts, set up tents, static caravans, wigwams, or cabins you can rent if you want to “camp” but want to bring limited camping gear. There are places along the route where it is hard to get a phone signal or there isn’t Wifi access. In terms of budgeting for lodging, it will depend a lot on your accommodation type and time of year. There are a lot of great sites, depending on your interests, in and around Inverness such as Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Fort George, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Culloden Battlefield, and Urquhart Castle. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens The Quiraing The Storr Cuillin Hills Fairy Pools Armadale Castle If you like hiking there are several must go places in the above list. If you are looking for stunning landscapes, fascinating history, endless horizons, ancient castles, golden beaches and crystal-clear water, all wrapped up in a 500-mile road trip, then the NC500 is for you. If you plan to speed around, you could do it with 3 full days and night, but we’d recommend more time. Be sure to check the weather before you go and pack for Scotland’s notoriously fickle and damp weather (e.g., rain gear, layers, warm coat). We are planning for a 5 day trip to the Scottish highlands and Isle of Skye starting from Inverness. Head into spots that require some hiking such as Sandwood Bay or climb up one of the munros. My Dad (82), has never been out of the states and has left me in charge of this trip (no pressure) It will truly be memorable for the both of us. Hi Chris, Wishing you the best of luck on your upcoming North Coast 500 road trip! One common issue is that tourists are throwing garbage into proper trash receptacles but the receptacles are already overflowing so the garbage ends up on the ground or in the water anyway. Is it too short of a timeframe to plan the trip. Do let us know if you have any questions – we are actually currently traveling along the NC500 again ourselves Best, Jessica, Hello Jessica and Laurence If we will later be visiting Skye, would it make sense then to just do a portion of the East Coast of the NC500, rather than the West Coast? We’d recommend at least 3 days for the time between Ullapool and Inverness. There are a couple of good museums there and the remains of a fort. The slower you go, the more you’ll see and the more you are likely to enjoy your trip! 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