IT IS a scenic route around the north of Scotland that has enchanted drivers from around the world.
Now the North Coast 500 has been judged the best summer driving road in the UK and the fifth best in Europe by psychologists.
The 516-mile route, which starts and ends at Inverness Castle, was rated on factors including the number of bends, hills and the expected seasonal volume of traffic.
Dr David Holmes, a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, compiled a table of the best roads following nominations from 14,000 drivers across Europe.
Norway’s Atlantic Ocean Road - which is just over miles long - was rated the best in Europe. Portugal’s Estoril Ocean Drive was second, the drive round Lake Como third and Greece’s The Peloponnesus fourth.
“Holiday driving can combine the thrill of the new and novel with a sense of adventure, unlocking a sense of excitement and freedom,” Dr Holmes said.
The North Coast 500 - billed as Scotland’s answer to Route 66 - begins in Inverness and runs north via Muir of Ord, Applecross, Gairloch, Ullapool, Durness, Thurso, John o’Groats, Wick and Dunrobin Castle and back to the Highland capital.
The winding circuit, which spans vast swathes of the nation’s Highland coastline, was named the most spectacular drive in the UK earlier this year.
The brainchild of the North Highland Initiative, backed by Prince Charles, the touring route was only officially launched in June 2015.
The survey of summer best driving roads was commissioned by sat-nav manufacturers Tom Tom.
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“Summer motoring should be relaxed and exciting - driving to be enjoyed and relished,” said Tom Brown, the firm’s UK vice-president.
In the survey of drivers, 70 per cent said great scenery was a key part of the best drives, particularly with the rise in selfies and posting holiday pictures on social media.
One in four wants a road with gentle bends and good visibility and one in five said they enjoyed a remote, near empty, route.
TomTom split the summer driving routes into five categories and the featured roads are as follows:
Best Coastal Roads
Amalfi Coast – Italy
Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route – Ireland
Costa Brava – Spain
Estoril Coast Drive, Portugal
Dalmatian Coast – Croatia
Best Woodland Roads
Route 500 Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, Black Forest – Germany
A5 Chirk to Bethesda via Snowdonia Park – Wales
Los Alcornocales national park – Spain
New Forest – England
Lake Como – Italy
Best Mountain Roads
Furka Pass – Switzerland
The Stelvio Pass – Italy
Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse – Austria
Col Volteux – France
Trollstigen – Norway
Most Epic Road Trip Drives
The North Coast 500, Scottish Highlands
Atlantic Ocean Road – Norway
Route One – Iceland
Wild Atlantic Way – Ireland
Basque Circuit – Spain, France
Best Historical Drives
Route Napoleon, Alpes-Maritimes – France
Romance Road – Germany
The Marguerite Route – Denmark
The Peloponnesus - Greece
Transfagarasan – Romania