Fast becoming one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions and described as ‘Scotland’s answer to Route 66’, the North Coast 500 stretches along Scotland’s northern coastline, taking in some of the most breathtaking views Scotland has to offer.
Launched in 2015, the route has been a shot in the arm for tourism in the northern highlands and was recently named among the best value for money tourism experiences on the planet by Travel Magazine who said that the NC500 “proves you don’t need a pricey trip to the states to get your road trip fix”.
The 516 mile route begins at Inverness Castle before it heads north on the A862 through Dingwall and on to the Black Isle. From there, it skirts the coastlines of Sutherland and Caithness before coming down into Wester Ross and the Applecross peninsula before turning inland back towards Inverness.
Rammed full of beaches, walks, castles and beauty spots, there are hundreds of things to do along the way but don’t worry if you need a pit stop or two as the tourist circuit has some of the country’s top food and drink destinations to keep you going.
• READ MORE: 10 secret beaches to visit on the NC500
(Kylesku Bridge, Sutherland, Lairg IV27 4HW)
Found on the on the shores of Loch Glendhu, the Kylesku’s restaurant and their local King Scallops and Loch Duart Salmon Tempura are a wonder to behold.
Torrridon 1887 restaurant
(The Torridon, Annat, by Achnasheen IV22 2EY)
This excellent restaurant offers daily changing 3, 4 or 7 courses menus prepared by chef Ross Stovold. Staff are also on hand to pair wines with each meal.
(Lochinver, Sutherland, Scotland, IV27 4LU, UK)
The now legendary Albert Roux’s tenure in the kitchens at Inver Lodge sees a menu that is described by Albert as “hearty country cooking using all the wonderful products from the sea, which is literally at the doorstep”. Book in advance.
(The Harbour, Scrabster KW14 7UJ)
Serving seafood sourced daily from Scrabster fish market, Jim Cowie and his wife Mary serve delightful dishes created using produce sourced (or foraged) within a 50 mile radius of Scrabster.
The Old Inn
(Flowerdale Glen, Gairloch IV21 2BD)
The Old Inn is a traditional Highland coaching inn overlooking Gairloch harbour, which offers some of the freshest Scottish seafood accompanied by some excellent beer created in the Inn’s own microbrewery.
(Please ensure you don’t drink and drive, most distilleries and breweries now have driver’s kits meaning you can take your samples away with you)
A trip to northern Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to at least one of the excellent distilleries situated close to the North Coast 500. Choose from the famous, like Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney and Dalmore, to slightly less well known like Clynelish, Glen Ord and Wolfburn. Don’t forget to also check out Dornoch Castle, which not only has one of Scotland’s best whisky bars but also has its own distillery.
(A9, Tain IV19 1PZ)
(Dalmore Alness, Highlands and Islands, Alness IV17 0UT)
Old Pulteney Distillery
(Huddart St, Wick KW1 5BA)
Dornoch Castle and Distillery
(Castle St, Dornoch IV25 3SD)
Dunnet Bay Distillery
(Dunnet KW14 8XD)
Not to be outdone by Scotland’s other spirit, the route also runs close to Dunnet Bay and the small distillery nestled there, home to Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka, which is well worth visiting if you are a fan of great gin (and vodka).
Two of Scotland’s exciting new breed of breweries are also on the route, Black Isle Brewery and Cromarty Brewing, both are a must visit for any beer fan.
(Davidston, Cromarty IV11 8XD)
Black Isle Brewery
(Munlochy IV8 8NZ)