Scotland’s far north is more accessible than ever thanks to a brand new touring route that charts a 500-mile stretch along its coastal edges.
If you’ve ever wanted to escape civilisation and experience the incredible Highland landscapes that have bewitched travellers for centuries, there’s no better way to do it than on the North Coastal Route.
The concept was inspired by America’s iconic Route 66; with the same idea in mind, the North Highland Initiative – established by HRH Prince Charles – set out to map a route that would promote all the area has to offer. Along the way there is plenty of food and drink, accommodation, culture, landscapes, heritage and outdoor adventure to be found – everything you need for a once in a lifetime journey.
The North Coastal Route – formally named the NC500 – begins in the Highlands in Inverness. The city is a great place to start your trek and has plenty of hotels and B&Bs you can use as a base when you begin the journey. The city is also serviced by a small airport that connects the Scottish Highlands with cities like London, Manchester, Bristol and Dublin, so you could fly in and rent a car if you face a long journey just to get to the route itself.
From Inverness, the NC500 follows the A835 towards the west coast, trailing the coastline towards the North West Highlands. From there the route winds past the north edge of mainland Britain before reaching its most northerly town, John O’Groats. Finally, the road follows the east coast south along the A9 back towards Inverness where you complete the loop.
Planning your itinerary
The road has been designed for cars and motorbikes, but is also safe for cyclists and walkers, so you’re free to explore however you like. To do the entire route and enjoy the best of the area you’ll need 5 days; this is a good amount of time to enjoy the scenery without being too rushed.
You can take the route at your own pace, or, for a more guided experience, choose from one of six itineraries:
- Luxury – for those in search of the finer things, the luxury itinerary is for you.
- Active Adventurer – Seeking thrills? Get your adrenaline pumping on the active adventurer itinerary.
- Golfing – Tee off against a stunning backdrop with the help of the golfing itinerary.
- Motorcycle – For the best route on two wheels, try the motorcycle itinerary.
- Happy Campers – If you want to really experience the great outdoors, take a walk on the wild side with the help of the happy campers itinerary.
- Cyclists – The cyclists itinerary is a challenging test for any cyclist and a great way to enjoy the best of the North Coastal Route on this nine day trek.
If any of those don’t feel quite right, take a look at the North Coast website; there are detailed ideas of things to see and do plus an interactive map that can help you plan your journey from start to finish.
So tell us: are you keen to try the North Coastal Route?