A Scottish Adventure: Exploring the NC500 on an Epic Road Trip

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Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure? Strap on your seatbelt and get ready to embark on the ultimate road trip through the breathtaking Scottish Highlands. The North Coast 500, also known as NC500, is a scenic route that takes you on a journey along the stunning coastline of the northernmost part of Scotland. In this article, I’ll provide you with a detailed itinerary and highlight some of the must-see attractions along the way.

Before you start off, make sure you plan out what means of transportation you will be picking. There are two options, a good sized car and you sleep in inns and B&Bs along the way, or you book a campervan and sleep in the wilderness. Personally I would go with the latter. If you are going with the former, make sure you get a comfy car, your trips are long and your arse and back will thank you for it later.

Arrival and Departure Points

Your Scottish road trip begins in Edinburgh if you want to catch a direct flight from Malta (roughly 4hrs). You can also opt to get a one stop route ending in Glasgow, however the trip will take much longer. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are the main international gateways to the country. Both cities boast excellent airports with numerous flight options, making it convenient for travelers from all over the world to start their NC500 adventure.

Glasgow/Edinburgh to Inverness

Your first stop on the NC500 is the vibrant city of Inverness. Take the opportunity to explore the historic sites, such as Inverness Castle and St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Don’t miss a visit to Loch Ness, where you can try your luck at spotting the legendary Loch Ness Monster. This city is remarkable and rich in history, with so much to see and do.

Inverness to Dornoch

As you leave Inverness, make sure to stop by the iconic Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale-like castle with stunning gardens and a falconry display. You can make a very tiny detour to see the magical Rogie Falls. This place is an amazing collection of breathtaking waterfalls that are simply a must-see. Continue your journey to Dornoch, a charming town known for its beautiful beach and the magnificent Dornoch Cathedral. There are plenty of cosy traditional pubs here so you can grab a quick pint and something to eat as you absorb the tranquillity of this place.

Dornoch to John o’ Groats

On day three, head north towards John o’ Groats, the northeastern tip of mainland Scotland. Along the way, make a detour to the picturesque village of Wick and explore the ruins of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. Again grab a pint and a bite to eat here. I would suggest going to the Old Pulteney Distillery. It’s a very old single malt distillery which also offers tours and tastings. You are in Scotland so this should be on your bucketlist. Once you reach John o’ Groats, take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. These views are akin those seen in the movies. I cannot explain the emotions you go through as you absorb the scenery… It simply feels surreal.

John o’ Groats to Ullapool

Today, you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular scenery Scotland has to offer. Drive through the dramatic landscapes of Caithness and Sutherland, stopping at the enchanting Smoo Cave and the stunning Kylesku Bridge. Finally, arrive in Ullapool, a charming fishing village nestled on the shores of Loch Broom. Ullapool is perhaps the most picturesque town on this road trip, so absorb and enjoy as much as possible, cause there are only a handful of places around the world that look as scenic as this one. If you are a gin lover you can book a tour at the Rhidorroch Distillery, they make award winning gins that can be enjoyed as you look at those amazing mountains.

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Ullapool to Torridon

Leaving Ullapool behind, continue your journey south to Torridon. Along the way, be sure to visit the Inverewe Garden, a lush oasis filled with exotic plants. Once in Torridon, take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking or kayaking. The dramatic mountainscapes here are iconic, so make sure you take plenty of pictures since there is no possible way to describe what you experienced with just words.

Torridon to Applecross

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable drive along the Bealach na Bà, one of the most scenic roads in Scotland. As you navigate the hairpin bends and steep gradients, marvel at the panoramic views of the Applecross Peninsula. Enjoy a delicious seafood meal at the Applecross Inn before continuing your journey, and wash it down with a fresh pint.

Applecross to Isle of Skye

On your final day, cross the Skye Bridge and explore the magical Isle of Skye. Visit iconic landmarks such as the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools, and soak up the mystical atmosphere of this enchanting island. Isle of Skye is home to some of the most awarded and popular single malts, so make sure to visit the picturesque distilleries here. There Talisker, Arran and Laphroaig to name a few. Personally I would visit the Arran distillery. Be sure to catch a breathtaking sunset before heading back to the mainland to catch your flight back.

As your NC500 adventure comes to an end, you’ll have experienced the best of Scotland’s natural beauty, historic sites, and warm hospitality. This road trip is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the wonders of the Scottish Highlands.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags, rent a car, and get ready for an epic journey along the NC500. Scotland is calling, and adventure awaits!

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