The North Coast 500 - 3 Day Tour

Travel Itinerary

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Scott McGlynn
Itinerary by: Scott McGlynn
a year ago
Duration: 3 days

Scotland's North Coast 500 is now one of the most spectacular road trips in the world. From vast mountains, deep sea lochs and pristine beaches it offers something for everyone. Beginning and starting in Inverness, this three day itinerary offers the best that the North Coast 500 has to offer and is not to be missed. Having travelled the route twice, I can ensure you that this is one trip that you'll never forget! (Photo Credit - Milada Vigerova via Unsplash)

Day 1

West is Best!

Day one sees you leave Inverness and head into the wild. You'll drive over one of the highest roads in Britain before admiring the stunning scenery that Applecross and Torridon have to offer. You'll then head north to Ullapool and your first overnight stop of the trip.
11:00 - 12:00
Bealach ‘na Ba, Scotland
Bealach na Bà, Strathcarron IV54 8XF, UK
Leaving Inverness you head west en route to the infamous Bealach ‘na Ba (pronounced Bell-ach-na-baa) that is located in Wester Ross. The route leads you through some truly spectacular scenery but the best is yet to come! The Bealach 'na Ba is a single-track mountain road that is the third highest road in Scotland rising up to 626m (2,054ft) above sea level. It's also been named as one of the most scenic drives in the world and despite its height, is also enjoyed by cyclists! The views as you ascend the road are fantastic and there is a car park at the top to allow you to get out and stretch your legs and admire the view back down towards Loch Kishorn. Being a single-track road, there are ‘passing places’ located on it – it’s customary to pull in and let someone by if you're holding the traffic up. Please remember that this road is in everyday use for locals, not just for those driving the North Coast 500! (Photo Credit - Thibaut Marquis via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

12:00 - 13:00
Applecross, Scotland
Applecross, Strathcarron, UK
A short drive from the Bealach 'na Ba, Applecross is a stunning settlement located on the coast, offering wonderful sea views out to the western isles. It's a great spot to grab some lunch, perhaps sampling some locally caught seafood at the Applecross Inn, before continuing your trip up into the spectacular Torridon. (Photo Credit - Chilli Charlie via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

14:00 - 16:00
Torridon, Scotland
Torridon, Achnasheen, UK
Torridon is well known to climbers, photographers, wildlife enthusiasts and visitors from around the globe, with its scenery considered to be some of the best in Europe. Some of the highest mountains in Scotland including Liathach & Beinn Alligin, rise in places almost vertically to over 3500 feet from the deep sea lochs below - truly a sight to behold! Torridon can easily be a trip in itself, with many who pass through on the North Coast 500 venturing back at a later date to fully take in and explore this vast and spectacular area. On this trip however, take a slow drive as you continue your journey but be sure to stop and enjoy the endless sights you see. (Photo Credit - Z S via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

17:00 - 18:00
Gruinard Bay, Scotland
Gruinard Bay, United Kingdom
Gruinard Bay is a delightful spot on the North Coast 500, offering a sheltered sandy bay surrounded by beautiful mountains. On a clear day, you can also see the Summer Isles to the north, giving you a glimpse of what's still to come on your trip! The best photo spot to capture Gruinard Bay from, is the layby on the top of the hill on the A832 as you're travelling from Laide. Gruinard Bay is a fantastic spot to walk on the beach and relax before you continue your drive around the coast to Ullapool, your home for the first evening. (Photo Credit - Jacob Meissner via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

19:00 - 22:00
Ullapool, Scotland
Ullapool, UK
Ullapool is a small coastal town that is an ideal location to stop on the first night of your trip. There are a number of small hotels, B&B's and self-catering options available plus a well-maintained campsite. There is also a petrol station and a small supermarket, the final ones for many miles so it's best to fill up your tank and stock up on any supplies you may need for your road trip. There are various food and drink options in Ullapool, with many offering locally caught seafood such as langoustines and it's a great place to end day one of your North Coast 500 adventure! (Photo Credit - Andrew Buchanan via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

Day 2

Amazing Assynt and beyond!

Leaving Ullapool, you head north and enter Assynt, home to some of the most beautiful mountains in the whole of Scotland. Ruined castles and beautiful beaches also await as you head deeper into one of the most remotest parts of the UK!
10:00 - 11:00
Stac Pollaidh, Scotland
Stac Pollaidh, Ullapool IV26 2XY, UK
Although small in height, Stac Pollaidh is one of the most spectacular mountains in Scotland, seemingly erupting from the Assynt plain. It offers some fantastic photo opportunities and for those interested in climbing it, the top offers some of the best viewpoints in the UK. A round trip to the top and back takes about 3 hours with some mild scrambling near the summit. Please ensure you are adequately equipped though and check the weather forecast! For those not seeking to climb, venture down to the edge of Loch Lurgainn to soak in more of the Assynt atmosphere. Whether you climb Stac Pollaidh or not, make sure to keep an eye out for both Golden Eagles and Sea Eagles as you enjoy this stunning area. (Photo Credit - K B via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

11:00 - 13:00
Assynt, Scotland
Loch Assynt, Lairg IV27, UK
For me, Assynt is the most spectacular area in Scotland and a place I return to often. As you continue north, there are sights to behold around every corner with stunning mountains and lochs. The most famous mountain in the area is the mighty Suilven. Like Stac Pollaidh, it may be small in height but the way in which it dominates the landscape is spellbinding. As you head towards Lochinver and Achmelvich Beach, many stop at the castle ruins of Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt. Lying in the shadow of the mountain Quinag, the castle is another popular Instagram spot! (Photo Credit - Chris Lines via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

13:00 - 14:00
Achmelvich Beach, Scotland
Lairg IV27 4JB, UK
For many visitors, Achmelvich Beach rivals some Caribbean beaches for natural beauty. The pristine sand and turquoise water offer a stunning backdrop to this beautiful location. Sadly, Scotland is not blessed with the Caribbean climate, so be prepared for a stiff breeze and freezing cold water for those brave enough to venture in for a swim! Many people will stop at the village of Lochinver for fuel and provisions (the Pie Shop is highly recommended) and then head to Achmelvich Beach to enjoy a picturesque picnic lunch stop before continuing their trip north towards Kylesku. (Photo Credit - Steve Bittinger via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

14:00 - 15:00
Kylesku, Scotland
Kylesku, Lairg IV27 4HW, UK
Despite only being 36 years old, the Kylesku Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Scotland, famed for it's remote and spectacular setting. Opened in 1984 by the Queen, the bridge is now one of the most photographed locations on the North Coast 500. An Instagram hot spot, the bridge spans the Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin with the towering Quinag mountain as a backdrop and is a must-do stop at any time of the year. For those seeking some refreshment or a toilet break, the Kylesku Hotel is open all year round and is clearly signposted. (Photo Credit - K B via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

17:00 - 22:00
Durness, Scotland
Durness, Lairg IV27, UK
The Durness area is a remote and wild part of the UK, home to many mountains and sea lochs. It is also the stepping stone for those seeking to make the trip to Cape Wrath - the most northwesterly point of the UK. Durness is a great spot to spend your final evening on the North Coast 500, with B&B's and a hostel available. Enjoy the remoteness of the area by exploring pristine beaches, or if you're feeling more adventurous, venture down into Smoo Cave, just a short drive along the coast. (Photo Credit - Moritz Jäger via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

Day 3

Views & Whisky!

The final day of your trip sees you head along the very north coast of Scotland to Dunnet Head & Duncansby Head before heading south back towards Inverness. A final stop on the Black Isle will see you enjoy a distillery tour at one of the many whisky distilleries in the area.
11:00 - 13:00
Duncansby, Scotland
John o' Groats, Wick KW1 4YS, UK
An early start will see you heading along the far north coast of Scotland, through some of the most remote countryside in the whole of the UK. Your targets for the morning are the most northerly point on the UK mainland - Dunnet Head, and Duncansby Head, the most northeasterly point on the UK mainland. Dunnet Head offers spectacular views towards the Orkney Islands and gives visitors a real sense of isolation. Duncansby Head, positioned past the better-known John O'Groats, again offers stunning views of the Orkney Islands. It is also a fantastic spot for whale watching at certain times of the year, with Orca pods spotted here on a number of occasions! A little further on from Duncansby Head are the magnificent Stacks of Duncansby - two large sea stacks that offer dramatic photo opportunities. (Photo Credit - K B via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

15:00 - 17:00
The Black Isle, Scotland
Black Isle, Munlochy IV8 8PQ, UK
From Duncansby, you head south towards Inverness, enjoying the coastal road down through Caithness and into Sutherland. Home to picturesque villages such as Helmsdale and Brora, this is another lovely part of the North Coast 500. Having crossed both the Dornoch Firth and Cromarty Firth, you then enter the Black Isle, home to a number of whisky distilleries and the final stop on your adventure. Although called the Black Isle, the area is actually a peninsula and is home to the Dalmore Distillery, the Glen Ord Distillery and the Glen Wyvis Distillery. All three distilleries offer guided tours that include a tasting sample, with those who are driving, able to take their samples home to enjoy later. It's a great way to end your trip around the North Coast 500 with tours aimed at all ages - not just whisky aficionados! From the Black Isle, it's then just a short drive to Inverness and the end of your 500-mile road trip! (Photo Credit - Jacob Meissner via Unsplash)
Article By: Scott McGlynn

About the author

Scottish traveller who has been around the world twice - once each way! Over 60 countries visited and counting!

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