At Hopscotch Travel we are often asked about the NC500 and whilst we plan to offer this as a route from 2024 we thought we’d share our insights on Scotland’s renowned scenic route that winds its way through rugged coastlines, enchanting castles, and majestic mountains.
This 8-day itinerary is designed to showcase the very best of the NC500, providing an ideal balance of exploration and relaxation. This blog gives some suggestions for the perfect start and end locations for your NC500 expedition as you discover the delightful experiences that await you at the local hotels each evening.
Day 1: Inverness – The Gateway to the Highlands
Commence your journey in the vibrant city of Inverness, known as the capital of the Highlands. Explore the historic sites, such as Inverness Castle and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, before venturing towards the mystical Loch Ness. Take a cruise on the loch and keep an eye out for the legendary Nessie! In the evening, immerse yourself in the city’s culinary scene and enjoy a delicious dinner at a local restaurant. Take a leisurely stroll along the illuminated River Ness, adding a touch of magic to your evening.
Day 2: Inverness to Ullapool – Coastal Charm and Untamed Beauty
Bid farewell to Inverness and set off towards Ullapool, a picturesque fishing village nestled on the shores of Loch Broom. Enjoy the scenic drive through the rugged landscapes of Wester Ross, with towering mountains and shimmering lochs accompanying you along the way. In the evening, head to one of Ullapool’s pubs or bars, where traditional Scottish music fills the air, creating a lively and welcoming atmosphere.
Day 3: Ullapool to Durness – Exploring the Northwest Highlands
As you continue your journey, venture into the remote and captivating landscapes of the Northwest Highlands. Visit the breathtaking Corrieshalloch Gorge and let the dramatic waterfall leave you in awe. Arrive in Durness, a hidden gem known for its pristine beaches and the impressive Smoo Cave. As night falls, step outside and marvel at the clear night skies, perfect for stargazing in this remote location.
Day 4: Durness to Thurso – Coastal Wonders and Ancient History
Embark on an adventure along the northernmost stretch of the NC500. Witness the stunning cliffs of Cape Wrath and take a ferry to the wild and windswept Orkney Islands. Discover the Neolithic treasures of Skara Brae and the ancient standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar before reaching Thurso for a peaceful evening. Take a leisurely stroll along Thurso Beach, relishing the tranquility and capturing the colors of the sunset.
Day 5: Thurso to John o’ Groats – A Journey to the Edge
Begin your day by exploring Dunnet Head, the northernmost point of mainland Britain. Take in the breathtaking panoramic views before continuing to John o’ Groats, a symbolic destination marking the end of the British mainland. Capture memorable photos at the iconic signpost and revel in the sense of accomplishment. In the evening, enjoy a delightful seafood dinner in one of the local restaurants, savoring the flavors of the surrounding coastal waters.
Day 6: John o’ Groats to Wick – Castles and Coastal Delights
Journey southward from John o’ Groats to Wick, a town steeped in maritime history. Visit the majestic Castle of Mey, the former residence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Explore the enchanting ruins of Sinclair and Old Wick Castles and enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding coastal landscapes. After a day of exploration, unwind in one of the cozy pubs in Wick, where you can relax and sip on a fine Scottish whisky. Engage in lively conversation with locals and fellow travelers, immersing yourself in the warm and friendly Highland hospitality.
Day 7: Wick to Dornoch – Highland Gems and Scenic Splendour
Leave Wick and venture towards the charming town of Dornoch. Admire the magnificent Dunrobin Castle, a striking French château-style castle with beautiful gardens. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Dornoch Cathedral and stroll along the pristine sands of Dornoch Beach, known for its tranquility and natural beauty. As evening falls, indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment or massage at one of the hotels, allowing yourself to unwind and pamper your senses.
Day 8: Dornoch to Inverness – Farewell, Highlands
On your final day, bid farewell to the Highlands as you return to Inverness. Take a leisurely drive back, savouring the memories of the breathtaking landscapes you’ve encountered throughout your NC500 adventure. Reflect upon the stunning vistas, friendly locals, and the unforgettable experiences that have made this journey truly remarkable. As you retire to your hotel in Inverness, look back on the incredible adventures of the past week and appreciate the unique charm and warmth of the local hotels that have been your haven during the evenings.
Embark on the North Coast 500 journey and let the beauty of Scotland’s landscapes and the warmth of its hospitality create an unforgettable experience from sunrise to sunset. From exploring historic sites and indulging in delicious cuisine to stargazing under clear night skies and relishing in traditional music, each evening along the route offers its own delightful charm. The local hotels provide comfortable accommodations and a range of activities that perfectly complement your day’s adventures. Allow yourself to be captivated by the rugged beauty, immerse yourself in the rich history, and connect with the friendly locals who make the NC500 a truly magical experience. Let this epic 8-day journey through Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes leave you with memories to treasure for a lifetime.