5 day 500 mile drive that starts in Edinburgh/Inverness and provides you with the drive of your life as you experience the wild and forlorn far north coast of Scotland. Includes 3 star accommodation.
Day 1-189 miles
This is our driving warmup day as we travel from Scotland's capital, Edinburgh all the way to your first night in Edinburgh. Although this is not part of the North Coast 500 miles, it is a wonderful introduction to Scotland anyway. You will get wonderful views over the Firth of Forth and Brunel's Forth railway bridge, you will pass Loch Leven whose island castle was a prison for Mary Queen of Scots, you can stop at the Palace of Scone near Perth where Scottish kings were traditionally crowned. As you travel North the landscape becomes more wild and forlorn. You can drive all the way up on the aid nine trunk road or you can leave the route at the small town of Dalwhinnie and then travelling up the A86 visits Spean bridge and Fort Augustus before driving the full-length of the world-famous Loch Ness. You will stay in Inverness overnight
Day 2-182 miles
This is the start of the North 500. First we travel North across the Keswick bridge towards the small village of Strathpeffer where we turn West and travel across the country using mainly small winding roads the drop in and out of villages and across glens. Our target for the morning is a little coastal village of Applecross and to get there you will need to pass one of Britain's most remarkable roads, known as the pass of the cattle. It is Britain's highest pass and rises and drops extremely fast before you reach the small village. This whole peninsular is home to a mere 250 people. After stopping in Applecross and getting your breath back you can then drive along the winding coastal road into Torridon make sure you stop at the local nature reserve which was Britain's first ever national nature reserve. From here you drive along the beautiful Loch Maree and then onto Gairloch, take time to stop the little local museum which provides an account of life in the Highlands in the old days. Also on the route of the famous Gardens of Inverewe which despite being in the far north a home to many remarkable tropical species including palm trees. Another hour's drive brings you to Ullapool where you will sleep for the night.
Day Three - 100 miles
Today we explore the North West coast north of Ullapool and then in the afternoon we drive along the crest of Scotland facing the North. Make sure you stop at Knockan Crag a half hour north of Ullapool where a visitor centre explains the geological story of Scotland - very interesting to understand why the landscape is the way it is. Further along the road is the magnificent Ardvreck Castle which is built beside Loch Assynt and seems to have no purpose except to look wonderful and romantic.
At Achmelvich (*) we recommend a visit to its beautiful white sandy beach. The unique morphology of the area, means there are many nearby walks and climbs, including the famous Suilven, for those interested in hiking.
Lochinver offers some nice lunch options before continuing to Smoo Cave for a possible visit with photo stops at Kylesku Bridge.
Smoo Cave is a large combined sea cave and freshwater cave in Durness in Sutherland. Located at the eastern edge of the village of Durness it is a dramatic location and on the only primary road in the area, the A838.
Overnight in Thurso
Day Four - 181 miles
Departing this morning you are on your final leg of the North Coast 500 route.
(*) Today you may want to consider a visit at Castle of Mey, located in Caithness, 6 miles west of John o’ Groats (2 hrs driving from Tongue). In fine weather there are views from the castle north to the Orkney Islands. It was home to the Queen Mother’s and is the most northerly inhabited castle on the British mainland.
You may want to take lunch in John O’Groats before continuing on to Dunrobin Castle, family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. The Castle, which resembles a French chateau with its towering conical spires, has seen the architectural infl of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. The gardens of the Castle are wonderful and throughout the summer there are regular falconry displays.
Continuing towards Inverness and to conclude your North Coast 500 route, there may be time for a visit at Glenmorangie Distillery to round off the journey on one of the most stunning driving routes in Europe.
Overnight in Inverness.
NB * if you would like to make this a day with less mileage you can exclude Castle Mey and John O’Groats and take a shortcut from Thurso along the A9 via Achavanich to Dunbeath and along the coast road meeting the North Coast 500 route again. This reduces the route by 33 miles.
Day Five - 187 miles
It is time today to leave the Highlands and you will travel south following the A9, past Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park, the fi national park in Scotland. If you would like to visit another Whisky Distillery we recommend Dalwhinnie Distillery, which is the highest distillery in Scotland.
Why not stop at the Hermitage near Dunkeld for a short walk. A National Trust for Scotland-protected site, it is just to the west of the A9 on the banks of the River Braan in Craigvinean Forest.
At Perth you may want to turn off to make a worthwhile detour to Stirling to visit Stirling Castle and the pretty old town below it. Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once rode to the Royal Court at Stirling Castle to revel in the castle’s grandeur. Follow in their footsteps and see history come to live.
Return back to Edinburgh later that afternoon.