North Coast 500 - 8 Day Itinerary

North Coast 500 - 8 Day Itinerary

Elliot Forbes

This is our 8-day itinerary around the absolutely incredible North Coast 500 (NC500) route in Scotland. We cover the best places to visit, where to stay and what to do.

Day 1

Inverness to Dornoch

The official start to the NC500 is in the heart of Inverness, the capital of the highlands. Grab yourselves a bite to eat and take a wander around Inverness to potentially see the castle or walk down the river. Once you’ve gotten something to eat, jump in your van and start making your way up the coast to Dornoch.

The campsite here has to be one of my favourites of the trip - it’s right on the beach and has a few good places for food onsite. I’d also highly recommend taking a walk into Dornoch to try out the incredibly rich hot chocolates at Cocoa Mountain or hitting one of the local pubs for a refreshing pint on the first night of your trip.

Day 1 Itinerary
Day 2 Itinerary
Day 2

Dornoch to John O’Groats

The second day sees you travelling on to the famous John O’Groats, the most northerly town in mainland Britain. On the way, you’ll want to make a point of going to see the incredible Dunrobin Castle. This is a must-see, and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around the gardens and the castle itself although it’s a little pricey at £14.50 per person. If you time your visit right, you might even get to see the Falconry display!

After stopping in at Dubrobin, head North towards the Whaligoe Steps. Be warned though, the carpark here is a little tight, so if you’re in a larger motorhome then finding alternative parking just down from the main parking would be a good idea.

After the steps, you can go and see the ruined Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. This is a very short hike from the carpark, and I’d say definitely worth the visit. Whilst it isn’t quite as impressive as Dunrobin, it’s certainly a great place to stop. If you’re into drone photography, then it’s a great place to get the drone out and try and capture some epic shots of the ruins and the beach.

Day 3

John O’Groats to Kyle of Tongue

Day three of the trip - Take some time to explore John O’Groats a little longer in the morning before making your way to the nearby Duncansby Stacks (there is a car park at the Duncansby Lighthouse to cut down on some of the walk if you wish!). This impressive rock formation is stunning and really reminds me of some of the incredible sights of the Faroe Islands.

This is another excellent place to get the drone out and get some impressive shots of the stacks, although keep it respectful and avoid getting too close and upsetting any potentially nesting birds.

You’ll then carry on along the coast, you may be able to see the Castle of Mey. On this trip, we were unfortunately a little early in the season to see it, so check the opening times before you go!

Finally, we make your way to Coldbackie Bay for a quick stop to admire the views and then onwards to the incredible Kyle of Tongue. We stayed at the Kyle of Tongue Hostel and Campsite which allowed us to see some truly incredible sunset lighting over Ben Loyal and Ben Hope.

Day 3 Itinerary
Day 4 Itinerary
Day 4

Kyle of Tongue to Durness

We hit the road and stopped in at the viewpoint for the Ard Neackie Lime Kilns. This is another great opportunity to get your camera out or perhaps your drone for some aerial photography shots. Next, we headed on past Ceannabeinne Beach which is another incredible looking beach which features a zip line that you may be lucky enough to go on!

Day four’s highlight is Smoo Cave, which has to be one of my favourite stops of the trip so far. This massive limestone cave boasts an impressive internal waterfall and I’d definitely recommend making this your top-priority for the day.

After our stop at Smoo cave, we headed on just down the road to try and reserve a pitch for the night at the Sango Sands Oasis campsite. This is a very popular campsite, and we were lucky to get a pitch for the night!

The views from the campsite are absolutely incredible and the beach is worth a visit even if you aren’t staying in Durness. We spent the day relaxing and wandering around the beach.

Day 5

Durness to Clachtoll

The stunning Oldshoremore Beach has to be first on the agenda today, it’s a little bit of a detour, but well worth the visit.

Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, it’s time to head on down to the impressive Kylesku Bridge. There are carparks on either side of the bridge so you’ll have the chance to stop and get an impressive photo from both sides!

Next, you’ll want to take a small detour to Wailing Widow Falls. This is a short, but potentially boggy hike to an incredibly impressive waterfall where you can grab some great photos.

You’ll then want to retrace your steps a bit to take the B869 which takes you past the Drumbeg viewpoint and down some fairly technical single-track roads (including a 25% decline at one point). This definitely isn’t suitable for larger vehicles, if you’re in a larger campervan, then you may want to take the road that continues on past Loch Assynt to get make your way to the Clachtoll campsite. The Clachtoll campsite requires pre-booking and has the best amenities of any campsite we stayed at on the trip, not to mention being right on the beach.

Day 5 Itinerary

Clachtoll Beach

Day 6 Itinerary
Day 6

Clachtoll to Ardmair

Day six - you’ll be continuing down the beautiful, ragged west coast towards Ullapool.

First stop of the day is Ardvreck Castle, which is a ruined castle which dates back to 1490! There is ample parking at multiple spots alongside the road next to the castle and the path to the castle is a nice way to stretch the legs before the longer hike at the Bone Caves.

Drive a few miles further and you’ll find the car park for the beginning of a hike to Allt nan Uamh, otherwise known as the Bone Caves - which are an impressive cave formation that contained the remains of the likes of a Northern Lynx, reindeer, polar bear, arctic fox, wolves and even brown bears.

The circular hiking route for the caves will likely take you around 1.5-2 hours in total and you’ll cover about 288m of elevation. I’d recommend putting on your hiking boots for this one as the path features loose rocks and gravel and can be boggy in places. If you’re doing this in winter, I’d recommend wrapping up warm as the route itself is incredibly exposed!


The Bone Caves

Day 7

Ardmair to Gairloch

Day 7 - The first stop of the day is back into Ullapool to stock up on some supplies for the final few days of the trip.

Next, you’ll want to head on down to the Falls of Measach in the Corrieshalloch Gorge. This was a short hike from the carpark which features a cafe should you wish to grab a coffee or a small bite to eat. Definitely worthwhile as it was visually stunning the size and depth of the gorge.

After seeing the impressive Falls of Measach, you have the option to stop in at Inverewe Gardens which is a National Trust property that was established over 100 years ago and features plants from all over the world that thrive in the local microclimate. This surprised us with how good it was, definitely worth checking out and stretching the legs!

Once you’ve had a wander around the gardens, it’s time to check out Firemore beach which is a remote red-hued sandy beach that overlooks the Isle of Ewe.

Finally, it’s time to head on down to the town of Gairloch where you’ll be spending the night. Grab a curry in the Millcroft Hotel and enjoy the incredible views from the Gairloch Holiday Park.

Day 7 Itinerary
Day 8 Itinerary
Day 8

Gairloch to Applecross

Day 8 - the last full day of the trip before you venture on homeward bound.

This day is a little more relaxed than the previous days, with the first stop being the Victoria Falls.

Next stop, you’ll want to check out the Glen Docherty Viewpoint for some incredible views before then heading on to the Loch Torridon Viewpoint.

Finally, you’ll want to head on over to Applecross where you’ll spend your final night of the trip. You should pass through the Beinn Eighe national nature reserve which is a truly spectacular place to drive through. This is definitely somewhere that I’ll be coming back to in the future for some more photography sessions!

Day 9

Applecross to Inverness (Or Home)

The final day of the trip - the highlight of this is the Bealach Na Ba, this famous single-track road is a must-do for any road trip enthusiast. The road is incredibly steep and winding, so be sure to take it slow and enjoy the views.

Once you’ve managed to navigate the technical Bealach Na Ba, you’ll want to start making your way down the west coast and onwards to home. This is a great opportunity to stop in at the iconic Eilean Donan Castle which has to be one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland.

Once you’ve taken in the incredible castle, you can start the long journey back home. Bring plenty of snacks and safe travels home!

Day 9 Itinerary

Wrapping it Up!

Hopefully this itinerary helps you plan your own epic adventures around the beautiful North Coast of Scotland! If you’ve got any questions or need any advice, feel free to reach out to us on instagram - @donnaandelliot.

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