Since its official launch in 2014, the NC500 has been described as the UK’s answer to Route 66, the only way to discover the Highlands and the best road trip in the world.
Luckily one of our very own team here at Finlay, Alice, had recently completed the NC500 and was delighted to share some of her experiences and knowledge with us.
So, if you are looking for the road trip of a lifetime and have always wanted to experience the highlands then this is just for you.
What is the North Coast 500?
“The actual route has always been there. It has only recently been re-branded with the new name of “The North Coast 500”. The route is 516 miles long travelling the complete coast of the north of Scotland”
Where does the NC500 start?
“It begins and ends in Inverness, a beautiful river city in the heart of Scotland. You can go any way you like from there but the most common route is towards the Applecross peninsula before tackling the winding roads of the stunning west coast. Or you can travel north-east through the Black Isle and towards Wick and John O’Groats.
We found the most picturesque parts of the route were on the west and northern sections, and started with those.”
What's the best way to travel the north coast 500?
“We chose to just drive our own car, however many people take caravans, hire luxury sports cars or motorcycles, and we saw quite a few VW campervans on the road too. One guy did the whole thing on foot! You can also cycle however it is no easy feat.”
How long does it take to drive the north coast 500?
“Personally I’d say the minimum should be five days, but seven to ten days is ideal. We spent 10 days on the route, and we could have spent more. You could technically drive it in 2 days but you’d miss everything that makes it special.
My biggest tip would be to give yourself plenty of time as there is so much to see and you will wish you’d planned in more time.”
Where to stay on the north coast 500?
“We planned out our journey step by step, booking our accommodation well in advance. Hotels, B&B’s, luxury cabins or wild camping (which is allowed if sensible) are all viable options. We chose to do a mixture of camping, B&B’s and hotels.
For camping I would recommend Clachtoll Beach Campsite, although it can be a bit windy! And for a more luxury experience after quite a few nights of camping we stayed at the Durnoch Castle Hotel. Other more luxurious accommodation we considered included: The Toridon; The Links House at Royal Dornoch; and the stunning Rocpool Hotel in inverness."
What is there to do on the north coast 500?
“There really is a surprisingly diverse array of attractions and activities along the NC500 so plan for what you’d love to do from visiting distilleries, to eating exquisite seafood and hiking or sea kayaking and wildlife spotting. One of our highlights was to get a ticket on the Hebridean Whale Cruise in Gairloch. I cannot guarantee you will see a whale like we did, however you're very likely to see something spectacular from dolphins to puffins.”
Your favourite pair of FINLAYS’ to take with you?
“I brought my pair of Percy Sunglasses in light tortoise with grey polarised lenses, which really helped when driving and being out at sea with reduced glare and amazing clarity. I also packed my brand new Kendell Sunglasses in Dark Havana with brown lenses which added some snap to my outfits for dining out during the day and drinks in the evening."