Best places to visit along Scotland’s North Coast 500

Explore Scotland’s answer to ‘Route 66’: the North Coast 500 – a breathtaking 500-mile coastal route in the north coast Highlands of Scotland with our pick of the best things to see and do on route

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Opened in 2015, the North Coast 500 (NC500) stretches along some of Scotland’s most northerly coastal points, including Caithness and John o’Groats.

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If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring wild landscape, spectacular beaches, impressive Munros to climb, castle ruins or simply want to enjoy the view, then take a trip along the NC500. Here’s our pick of the best things to see and do along the NC500. 

1. Climb a Munro

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The towering peaks of Suilven and An Teallach can be reached from the NC500 and offers breathtaking views of the northern Highlands if you fancy a scramble./Credit: Getty

No trip to the Highlands would be complete without climbing a Munro or two. The towering peaks of Suilven and An Teallach can be reached from the NC500 and offers breathtaking views of the northern Highlands if you fancy a scramble.

Alternatively, hike Scotland’s most northerly Munro, Ben Hope – an isolated mountain, accessible from the village of Tongue on the north coast of Sutherland. Test your legs with a short but steep climb to the top, where you’ll be rewarded with a view of the wild northern landscape.

 See: www.countryfile.com/walks to plan your walk

2. Take a trip to the beach

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Explore Scotland’s beaches, dunes and riversides along the NC500/Credit: Getty

You’ll find yourself spoilt for choice for beautiful bays and beaches along the NC500, but for a mix of dunes, beach and riverside, then visit Torrisdale Bay in Broch Invernaver. This is in the northern stretch of the NC500 and is also home to rare plants and archaeological remains. 

If it’s golden sandy beaches you are after, then Shandwick Bay near the villages of Shandwick and Balintore is an expansive sandy beach and one of Scotland’s Blue Flag beaches. Explore the extensive coastal paths to the beach and clamber on the dunes and rocky areas to the north and south. Easily accessible from Inverness.

See: www.visitscotland.com to find more beaches to explore

3. Explore a castle

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Visit the majestic Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland and step back in time/Credit: Getty

Step back in time and explore some of Scotland’s enchanting Highlands castles.

The Castle of Mey on the north coast of Caithness is six miles from John o’Groats and was built by the 4th Earl of Caithness, George for his son William Sinclair. The Orkney Islands can be seen from the castle on a clear day from the castle. 

If it’s fairytale castles you are after, then visit the majestic Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland. With the castle rising above the North Sea and its numerous spires and turrets and walled gardens it really does feel as though you’ve stepped into a fairytale. A short drive from the market town of Dornoch.

4. Splash in a waterfall

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Near Lairg, visit the Falls of Shin – a spectacular waterfall with plenty of forest walking and cycling paths suitable for children/Credit:Getty

Take a stroll along the wooded Fairy Glen in the Black Isle to discover two beautiful waterfalls. Keep an eye out and if you’re lucky you might spot grey wagtails, dippers and buzzards.

Near Lairg, visit the Falls of Shin – a spectacular waterfall with plenty of forest walking and cycling paths suitable for children. What makes this waterfall so special though, is that it is one of the best spots in Scotland to see leaping Atlantic salmon. Visit in the late summer months to see this spectacular event.

5. Go wildlife spotting

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Explore the coast of the Highlands by taking a boat trip from Avoch Harbour, Ross-Shire for the chance to see dolphins, whales and seals/Credit: Getty

Scotland is home to an incredible array of wildlife. Explore the coast of the Highlands by taking a boat trip from Avoch Harbour, Ross-Shire for the chance to see dolphins, whales and seals. See www.dolphintripsavoch.co.uk to book tours. 

The Highlands is also home to the UK’s largest popular of red deer and a great place to spot birds of prey. 

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Main image: The twisting Bealach na Ba mountain pass, Britain’s longest continuous ascent and third highest road, on the Applecross Peninsula in the Highlands of Scotland. Credit: Getty