Highland coastal route ‘best summer driving road in the UK’

The North Coast 500 route passes Gairloch on a scenic route around the north of Scotland. Picture: Robert Perry/TSPL
The North Coast 500 route passes Gairloch on a scenic route around the north of Scotland. Picture: Robert Perry/TSPL
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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.

Among the Highland landmarks the North Coast 500 passes is Dunrobin Castle. Picture: TSPL

Among the Highland landmarks the North Coast 500 passes is Dunrobin Castle. Picture: TSPL

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.

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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

READ MORE: Accident map: Scotland’s most dangerous driving regions