Highlights of the North Coast 500

Highlights of the North Coast 500

It couldn’t be an Ultimate British Road Trip without incorporating Scotland’s own answer to Route 66. This 500mile loop skirting around Scotland’s northern tip was developed by the tourism board in 2014. The roads have always been in place but the government literally joined the towns with a highlighter and publicised the hell out of it. Their aim was develop economic growth across the highlands, and you know what? It worked!

 

The North Coast 500 is on everyone’s lips, is being added to everyone’s bucket list and is winning google rankings for being the best world wide road trips.

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Why?

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Because of all that raw and rugged Scottish scenery, the ancient legends and crumbly ruins, cliff top views and mountain passes.

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A few years ago, we drove up the West coast of Scotland to chase Prue’s ancestors, all the way up the Sinclair tree back to the 1500’s when Girnigoe Castle was about to collapse under the familial warfare of its owners. If you fancy looking deeper into the betrayals of that clan feel free to continue reliving the Sinclair history in Scotland. This year, thanks to a misplaced house sit in Assynt, we found ourselves up the East and while we didn’t get to complete the entire 500mile loop we now know enough about the #NC500 (of course it has its own hashtag) and why we are ever grateful for that 2014 publicity stunt putting it on our radar.

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So without further ado, here’s our highlights of the North Coast 500

(Labelled in a clockwise direction from Inverness)

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Rogie Falls

Rogie falls offers a quaint little stop and stroll through tall pine trees and mossy rocks. The settling of this idllic little waterfall is bursting with colour even in winter.

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Strathcarron

Strathcarron hamlet lies at the head of a sea loch. Bordered by looming mountains and featuring a ruined graveyard, what is there not to like?!

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Ullapool

Despite being the largest settlement for miles around but Ullapool is one hundred percent charm. Creeping out upon the waters of Loch Broom it not only looks good but offers visitors a glorious view at every turn.

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Cul Beag

The parking lot for this wee mountain literally sits on the edge of the road so I’m stoked to include it in our Highlights of the North Coast 500. It’s a boggy hike to the summit but you get to see an incredible view of Assynt from the top… or almost the top. We believe we would have got blown off the summit had we tried to get any higher than this, ha!

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The Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve

Our highlights of the North Coast 500 has to include this incredible landmark. Known to be one of Europe’s oldest landscapes Knockan Crag is a short, self guided hike through the geological events of the “Moine Thrust.” To find our more about the Earths continental shift that created this phenomenon visit The Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve. This place combines learning with great views and the chance to touch 500 million year old rock.

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Ardvreck Castle

There is nowhere more picturesque than this view of Ardvreck castle. Casually sitting on the North Coast 500 this little ruin is banked by Loch Assynt and several of the regions famous mountains. At over 500 years old Ardvreck castle began to crumble in 1672 when the Mackenzies captured it from the Macleods only to leave it in ruin.

Road Trip in Assynt

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Achmelvich Beach

Just one of Scotland’s finest white sand beaches. In winter we had it all to ourselves but don’t expect us to have taken the plunge.

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Mount Quinag Pass 

Mount Quinag is just out of view to the left side of this image. But we used this image as it captures the undulating North Coast 500 road meandering through the raw highland countryside. Every bump and every turn offers a brand new view.

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Unapool

Whether viewed from the road or from the famous Kylesku Bridge, Unapool is surrounded by unrivalled beauty. Loch Gleann Dubh almost playfully carves into the tumultuous landscape.

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Durness

Durness is a wind swept hamlet on Scotland’s most northerly coastline. Expect a scattering of houses, an interesting cave to explore and many stunning beaches. Just don’t expect your towel to stay grounded.

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Loch Eriboll

The North Coast 500 traverses both shorelines of the 10 mile long Loch Eriboll. It offers a safe deepwater anchorage and incredible vistas. The first shot is from the Loch’s west coast. The second is of the famous Ard Neackie on the eat. Ard Neackie would be an island if it weren’t for the string of sand clinging onto the Lochs edge.

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Views of Ben Loyal from the A838

The road stretching East from Loch Eriboll becomes devoid of human life. But Ben Loyal keeps you company, becoming ever more dominating of the barren landscape.

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Berriedale

A small village with a mighty lookout, a string of fisherman houses and a suspension bridge. It’s former navigation light remains spectacularly perched on the headland.

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Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Nearing the tip of mainland Scotland, just ten minutes south of John O’Groats, is Keiss. There you can find remnants of the Sinclair Clan both from the local business names (e.g. the Sinclair Lobster and Co) and from their crumbling castle which clings onto life at the cliffs edge. It’s Prue’s family history so we had to stop by and dig around. We wrote an article about the Sinclair clan in all it’s feuding glory

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OK, so there are our highlights from road , we must confess that it emits the famous Applecross Pass, Duncasby Stacks, Dunnet head and the almost obligatory Scottish gin tasting, which also rank high on must-see lists.

But… and this is even more important, what we’ve learnt is that just because a road isn’t a part of the #NC500 it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a spectacular drive. Sometimes it’s best to let your senses guide you and end up on a long trail to, well anywhere really.

Like these abandoned buildings, somewhere near Loch Loyal. It’s definitely not a highlights of the North Coast 500 because it’s somewhere off road… but we loved it! Actually all these little finds are!

 

Highlights of the North Coast 500

Highlights of the North Coast 500

Highlights of the North Coast 500

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Highlights of the North Coast 500

Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.
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