The North Coast 500 is a 516 mile long scenic trip around the north coast of Scotland. It combines many features of Scotland’s finest north Highland features in one touring trip, ideal for touring caravans, motorhomes and camper vans. So, if you’re thinking of taking the beautiful journey, you’re going to need a plan of where you’re going and what to visit. You’ll need a number of campsites for overnight stays as you travel, and the key pitstop areas. Red Deer Village Holiday Park have created a short list of some of the best things to see and some background information to help you on your travels!
Details of Scotland’s North Coast 500 Road Trip
“Scotland’s Route 66” was designed to showcase the natural beauty and local businesses in this part of Scotland. Otherwise, you may have never thought to visit. The road trip has become a huge tourism success, with tens of thousands of people trying out the route. Main roads follow the coastal edges of the North Highlands. You’ll pass small towns and villages like Ullapool, Durness, Dornoch, Wick, Thurso and Lochinver. Sceneries will include rocky coastlines, beaches, rural farmlands and marshlands, rivers, forests, lochs and munros (which are Scottish mountains over 3000ft). You may also pass deer, birds of prey, Highland coos, sheep, and sea creatures such as dolphins, whales and seals.
The best time of year to travel the NC500 is between May and October, as this is when most attractions and restaurants will be open and the weather will hopefully be warmer. The North Coast 500 is designed for touring and sightseeing, so we’d recommend taking your time to take it all in. If you’ like to speed around, the trip could be completed in as little as 3 full days and nights, but you may not get to see much. At a minimum, take 5 days, but ideally 7-1o is perfect for getting into the road trip lifestyle, and taking in as much of Scotland as you can. Although, if you wanted to take plenty of detours, you could make the getaway last even longer!
The North Coast 500 starts, and ends, in Inverness, Scotland. However, for those travelling from further south, you may need a campsite pitstop on your way to Inverness. Red Deer Village Holiday Park in Glasgow is a 3 hour drive from Inverness, so makes a good stay-over location on your way. You could even fit in a tour of Glasgow city while you’re here!
What to Visit
There are several castles along the NC500. These include Cawdor Castle Dunrobin Castle, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe ruins and the Castle of Mey.
Alternatively, you could investigate one of Scotland’s well-known trades; whiskey. The eastern section of the route, between Inverness and Dunnet, is where you’ll predominately see most of the whisky distilleries on the route. You could try Glen Ord, Glenmorangie, Clynelish, Dalmore or Old Pulteney Distillery. However, if whiskey isn’t your thing, try Black Isle Brewery or Dunnet Bay Distillery, well-known for their gin and vodkas.
If you’re interested in wildlife, there are a few spots to try and fine some marine animals. The Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay can give some information on dolphins and other area wildlife. Other places you may catch sea mammals is Chanonry Point, North Cassock or Fort George. Duncansby Head, Dunnet Bay and Strathy Point are popular places for whale, dolphin or porpoise watching. There are boat tours in the Caithness area for a better chance of seeing wildlife. The Dunnet Head Nature Reserve is great for seabird lovers. You’ll also find plenty of red deer throughout the Scottish Highlands. For an up-close guided tour of a large herd, visit Reraig Forest near Lochcarron.
There are plenty of historical sights to check out too. Around Inverness you’ll find the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Fort George, Clava Cairns, Culloden Battlefield and Urquhart Castle. As you head north, you can find places like Beauly Priory, Groam House Museum, Tarbat Discovery Centre, Timespan Heritage & Art Centre and Hugh Miller’s birthplace. Although there are plenty of historical sites, so carry out some research before your trip to make sure you don’t miss anything you’d like to see!
If you’re planning on visiting several historical sites, it may be looking into passes such as the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass, which may save you money.
Whether geology is your thing or it isn’t, there are recommended must-sees that make up part of the NC500. Visit the North West Highlands GeoPark (internationally recognised by UNESCO). This covers sites such as Smoo Cave, Knockan Crag and The bone Caves near Inchnadamph.
As you’re travelling alongside coast, there’s no shortage of beaches on your travels. A short selection include Melvich, Durness, Balnakeil, Sandalwood and Achmelvich beaches.
Another of Scotland’s most famous attractions are its’ golf courses. If you detour slightly from the NC500 to the Nairn area, you’ll find the Nairn Golf Club, Nairn Dunbar Gold Club and Castle Stuart Golf Links. You can also visit Inverness, Fortress and Rosemarkie and Invergordon golf clubs or the Royal Links Championship Course & Struie Course.
Camping in Scotland on the North Coast 500
How you travel the NC500 is totally up to you. You could just take a car and stay in hotels or B&Bs. Or, you could rent or bring your own motorhome, touring caravan or camper van and stay on some of the many campsites around the Scottish coast. Some of these campsites even have availability for renting accommodation, such as camping huts, cabins or static caravans. Caravan and Motorhome Club Site have their own list of locations available, which work out quite well if you are a member of their club. However, you could also try out any of the following selection – Bunchrew Caravan Park, Fortrose Bay Campsite, Black Rock Caravan Park, Inver Caravan Park, Sango Sands Oasis, Clachtoll Beach Campsite, Shore Caravan Site and Applecross Campsite.
We’ll be covering the North Coast 500 tour of Scotland in a few more blogs to prepare anyone who’d be considering the journey. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more, or book your pitch at Red Deer as the stepping stone on your way to the north, please contact us! For a very detailed guide on the NC500 trip, visit websites such as Independent Travel Cats for everything you need to know.