Uncovering some of the most remote, awe-inspiring, and incredible places, the North Coast 500 is one of the best road trips in Scotland. Spanning more than 500 miles in the northernmost mainland regions of Scotland, this road trip will take you on a bountiful adventure, dabbling in the freedom of the long, open road along the way. Here are some of the North Coast 500 highlights and what not to miss on this road trip in Scotland.
One thing about these North Coast 500 highlights is that they are adjustable to your timeframe and interests. You could race around the route in just a few days, but you wouldn’t get to experience too much. Instead, a leisurely drive of a week or two will you allow you the time to see the best of the North Coast 500 at your own pace, with your interests in mind.
Plus, the beauty of travelling through Scotland by car is the freedom it gives you. Allow yourself more time to venture onto curious roads, sit by the sea embracing rare views, and sipping fine whisky in a quaint and cosy pub. When it comes to Scotland, slow travel is the way to go.
This page uses affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you use my links and make a purchase without incurring an additional fee yourself. Many thanks for supporting this website. Please see my legal page for more details.
- Get to and from the Airport: Save on airport transfers with HolidayTaxis. From only US$69.08
- Rent a Car from a local Celtic Legend who offers the most competitive rates for car rental in Scotland
- Or find great deals on worldwide car rental here
Begin your journey from Inverness
The capital of the Highlands, Inverness is the most typical starting point when beginning your North Coast 500 trip. Spend a day or two acquainting yourself with Inverness, and if you’re a fan of Outlander, you won’t be disappointed here.
When you’re ready to kiss a farewell to bonnie Inverness, load up the car, grab some snacks and a tasty cup of coffee from a local cafe, and let your wondrous road trip in Scotland begin. You are now heading west and then further up north.
Things To Do In Inverness
See the ruins of Beauly Priory
One of your very first stops is in the wee town of Beauly. What’s special here are the ancient ruins of Beauly Priory. These uniquely forested ruins are that of a 1230 church ad graveyard, founded by monks. It’s a short, almost-eerie walk through the abbey, and it’s completely free of charge to visit. Make this one of your first spots!
Witness the beauty of an abandoned castle on an unnamed road
This spot is a bit of a secret – even for the North Coast 500 route. Just outside of Beauly and Muir of Ord (where you can visit the Glen Ord Distillery), you can stumble upon the abandoned Redcastle & Gardens.
It’s a charming, hidden gem in Scotland and a must-see for anyone who loves eerie historical buildings and castles. However, because the castle is not maintained, you can’t go inside, but the views from outside inspire enough mystery and enchantment.
Visit Scotland’s first royal borough
As you continue your journey north, you’ll eventually come across the small yet charming village of Tain. This little place is known as Scotland’s royal borough, dating back to 1066. While wandering this North Coast 500 highlight, check out the historic Tolbooth & Clock Tower and the medieval St. Duthac Collegiate Church.
If you have spare time, you can also tour Tain Through Time, which includes three buildings focused on the story of the medieval pilgrimage to Tain.
See the unique Smoo Cave
As one of the most interesting caves in Scotland, it’s one of the best North Coast 500 highlights. This is the only cave you’ll find in the entirety of the United Kingdom that was formed by both seawater and rainfall. The sea created the first large chamber through erosion, while the interior caves were formed by rainwater.
The cave sits beautifully among grassy vibrant greenery, lingering mountains, and quaint cottages. It’s one of the most picturesque places to see on the North Coast 500 route in Scotland.
Visit the picturesque ruins of Ardvreck Castle
What remains of this fascinating 15th-century rests beautifully alongside Loch Assynt, and it has a long history to share. The castle itself has been in ruins since 1672 when Clan Mackenzie attacked and destroyed the Clan MacLeod-built castle.
Today all that remains is the ruined tower and parts of the castle’s foundations. But don’t let that steer you away – it’s still one of the best North Coast 500 highlights.
Enjoy the views of Loch Torridon
Loch Torridon is one of the most charming lakes of the North Coast 500 route – and it boasts one of the best towns too. Spend some time in Torridon, revelling in the picturesque views, and enjoying fantastic restaurants and hotels along the way.
Torridon is basically synonymous with tremendous mountain scenery, and they are all around you here. Plus, between the towns of Shieldaig and Torridon, you’ll be treated to sweeping views over Upper Loch Torridon and the mountains. It’s a must!
Get a close look at Scotland’s wildlife
It’s not one of the best road trips in Scotland without a bit of wildlife. From highland cows and deer to fluffy sheep, there is plenty of natural life to uncover through the North Coast 500 route.
Outside of Inverness, the Robertson Larder and Farm Shop is home to magnificent highland cows, and it’s a great spot to stock up on snacks and picnic foods. You can also expect to see highland cows at the Torridon Hotel as well as just outside of the town of Ullapool.
These are the almost guaranteed spots, but highland cows can be spotted throughout your journey too. Keep your eyes peeled!
As for sheep, the hillsides will be dotted with them, so have your camera ready if you want to photograph these beautiful animals.
If you want to see the beautiful highland deer, visit the Reraig Forest outside of the village of Strathcarron. It’s easily one of the most magical destinations on Scotland’s North Coast 500 route.