North Coast 500 itinerary: Scotland's most epic road trip

North Coast 500 itinerary: Scotland's most epic road trip
Photo by John Young / Unsplash

In this epic North Coast 500 itinerary, we'll show you what to do and see on this 500+ mile scenic loop around the Highlands coast.

If you're tackling the NC500 road trip in a campervan or motorhome, we completed the whole loop in our van conversion in 11 days and have some excellent tips for you on some of the best wild camping spots.

We have divided our North Coast 500 itinerary into five sections, but you can easily adapt this NC 500 route planner to your own preferences and time constraints. So let's get started by answering some of your questions.

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How long does it take to do the North Coast 500 Route?

Our North Coast 500 itinerary covers 11 days, but most people complete the road trip in five to seven days.

However, if you want to fully experience the breathtaking NC500 scenery, we recommend spending at least seven days exploring the famous Scottish Route 66. With so many detours and sights to see, there is a lot to do on this road trip.

Do you need a 4x4 for NC500?

It can be helpful if you're planning to go off-road, but it's not necessary to explore the NC500. Most of the roads on the route are car, bike, and motorbike friendly.

A smaller motorhome may be more suitable as some roads can be quite narrow, but we've seen larger ones pass through without issues. As long as you're a confident driver, you should be fine.

We took several detours in our Citroen Relay van conversion and never got stuck thanks to Charlie's excellent driving skills.

What is the best time of year to do the North 500?

We recommend visiting between May and September, with October being the latest for the mildest weather and longest days.

We tackled the North Coast 500 in August and were rewarded with mostly sunny days, but I still had to break out the woolly socks a few nights.

Is the Isle of Skye on the NC500?

Although the Isle of Skye is not on the NC500 route, this stunning island deserves its own road trip. From the breathtaking Fairy Pools to the iconic Old Man of Storr and the majestic Cuillin Mountains, the Isle of Skye is a paradise for nature lovers.

Check out our post about the Isle of Skye for more information on exploring charming villages, tasting a wee shot of whiskey, and finding the best places to sample fresh seafood.

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Is NC500 a single track road?

Yes, you will encounter many single track roads on your NC500 adventure. Don't worry though, there are passing places along the way.

These are road pockets that allow you or oncoming traffic to give way safely. As a rule of thumb, remember to always stick to the passing places on your left.

Is it best to do NC500 clockwise or anti clockwise?

It ultimately comes down to personal preference. Initially, we had planned to go anticlockwise, but we changed our minds at the last minute.

Although the east coast has its own unique attractions, the scenery on the west coast is undeniably more dramatic.

We wanted to tackle the steep inclines and winding roads first, and then have a more leisurely drive towards the end of our trip. Regardless of the direction you choose, the NC500 will be an epic experience.

Where is the starting point of the North Coast 500?

No matter if you're going clockwise or counter-clockwise, the North Coast 500 itinerary starts in Inverness.

From there, you'll experience some of Scotland's most beautiful scenery, from the rugged coastline and the mountains of the Northwest Highlands to the charming towns of the Black Isle.

11-Day North Coast 500 Itinerary

Inverness - Applecross

Day 1-2

Day 1-2: Inverness - Applecross

Buckle up; you are about to embark on one of the most challenging parts of the NC500 road trip in Scotland - the Bealach Na' Ba Pass.

We completed the first section of the NC 500 road trip in two days, but we chose to spend a night atop the Bealach Na' Ba Pass, which we highly recommend.

If you follow our North Coast 500 itinerary clockwise, the first two days will include the following stops:


The epic Scottish road trip begins and ends in Inverness, whether you travel clockwise or anticlockwise.

Although you don't need to spend an entire day in the city, we recommend spending at least an afternoon here. Inverness is the largest city in the Scottish highlands, and it's a good place to stock up on road essentials.

Situated along the River Ness, itโ€™s an easily walkable city, with walking along the river being one of the best things to do. It's both relaxing and picturesque.

While exploring, make time to visit Leakey's Bookshop, an old church filled to the brim with second-hand books. It's very Harry Potter-esque.

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Beauly Priory - the Beautiful Place

From Inverness, it's only a half-hour drive west to Beauly. Follow the A862 road.

Located in the charming town of Beauly, the ruins of the monastery are still in excellent condition and are worth a quick visit. The original priory consisted of many buildings, but only the church remains today.

Founded by French monks in 1230, the name "Beautiful Place" comes from the riverside setting (beau lieu). According to the plaque, Mary Queen of Scots endorsed it during her visit in 1564.

From here, drive further west for under two hours and witness the scenery becoming increasingly dramatic as you climb the legendary Bealach Na' Ba Pass.

The Bealach Na' Ba Pass

Bealach Na' Ba, also known as the Pass of the Cattle, is the steepest road ascent in the UK, like many mountain passes in the Alps.

It rises to 626 metres (2,053 ft) and the single track road twists and turns sharply in places, so it should be approached with care. It's a perilous yet breathtaking drive.

The road across the mountains of the Applecross peninsula is open all year round except during extreme weather conditions when it may be closed. We drove up in the rain, which made some sections uncomfortable.

On a clear day, you can explore the spectacular summit of Bealach Na' Ba and visit the viewpoint post that points to some of the iconic landmarks in the area. Weather permitting, you can see the Old Man of Storr on the beautiful Isle of Skye.

During rain, visibility can be limited, so take extra care when crossing the road. There are many hairpin bends and blind summits.

Applecross village

Halfway down Bealach Na' Ba, the tiny village of Applecross will start to appear. Locally known as "the street", it is one of Scotland's earliest settlements.

Today, it is home to the famous Applecross Inn and Smokehouse.

Applecross - Ullapool

Day 2-3

Day 2-3: Applecross - Ullapool

The second leg of the North Coast 500 itinerary, from Applecross to Ullapool, is just as exciting as the first. While you can take the quick route (approximately two hours), you'll miss out on some epic drives.

We recommend taking the longer route and several detours, such as Torridon Glen. As you cross the valley, you'll feel like you're in a James Bond movie, racing through vast wilderness to save the world.

Here are the main highlights worth checking out between Applecross and Ullapool:


From Applecross, head east towards A896. At Kinlochewe, the road turns left onto A832 to Shieldaig.

The village was established in the 1800s to train seamen for war against Napoleon, which is why there's a cannon along the seafront. Today it's a peaceful fishing village with a name that means "herring bay."

For us, the idyllic Shieldaig will always be remembered as the "best banana bread stop" on Scotland's stunning North Coast 500 route.

While strolling along the seafront, keep an eye out for "Bread in a Cupboard." It's a little hut filled with sourdough, rye, and the most delicious banana bread for sale. Grab your treats and leave the payment in the box.

Unspoiled Red Point Beach (detour)

The drive from Shieldaig to Red Point Beach, especially towards Torridon, is absolutely stunning. The A896 takes you through the Torridon Valley, where you'll have a view of the mighty Ben Eighe and its many summits.

Red Point Beach is wild and remote, and just one of the many stunning North Coast 500 beaches. It's worth a quick detour or an overnight stay if you're taking on the North Coast 500 in a motorhome.

As you leave the valley, follow the road sign to Gairloch and Ullapool. The turn-off for the beach is at Kerrisdale. Look out for the sign on your right-hand side pointing to Red Point. Then, cross the stone bridge on your left (if driving clockwise), and continue for around 9 miles on a one track road.

The beach is at the end of the road, past the inn, gin distillery, and many small communities. You'll see a smaller red-hue sand beach in the distance, but keep driving until you cross two stone bridges and reach a small car park.

The last settlement before the beach is called Opinan.

If you have time, check out Badachro Inn and the small gin distillery under the same name. And don't forget to look out for the pretty Heilan' Coos, the long-haired Highland cows, as soon as you cross the first stone bridge.


Gairloch is a pretty harbour village located on the shores of Loch Gairloch, along the A832 road. It features galleries, pubs, shops, and a post office.

If you have some spare change, consider taking a glass-bottomed boat tour to observe sea stars, urchins, seals, and sea birds. You can find more information on their website here. For additional activities and sights, visit the visitor centre in town.

As you leave the village, be sure to look out for a lovely beach on your left and stop at the viewpoint of Loch Gairloch.

Enchanted Inverewe Gardens

Inverewe Gardens, Scotland, NC500 Route
Inverewe Gardens, NC500 Route, Scotland

A quick 15-minute drive northwest of Gairloch will bring you to Inverewe, a lovely botanical garden that truly embodies the founder's vision to plant and grow as many exotic plants as possible.

The garden features several woodland trails, rose gardens, a museum, and a cafe, making it the perfect stop to unwind from the winding one track roads on the North Coast 500 route.

Toxic Gruinard Island (quick detour)

Don't miss the tiny sheep-inhabited Gruinard Island. Located between Coast and Mungasdale in Guinard Bay, it holds a grim past dating back to WWII when the British tested Anthrax, a dangerous infectious chemical for use in the war.

They filled bombs with the Bacillus Anthracis bacteria and dropped them on Gruinard Island to check if they could contaminate cities in Germany.

Although the government started the cleaning process in 1986 and declared the island safe to visit in 1990, it's still uncertain whether it's entirely safe to visit.

You can catch a glimpse of the oval-shaped island from the car park along the road as it's only one kilometre offshore.

Little Loch Broom

With picnic tables and fantastic views of Little Loch Broom and An Tellach, the highest mountain in the area, this spot embodies what the NC500 route is all about - Scotland at its finest.

A large car park on the A835 provides ample space for parking even the largest motorhomes. Tour buses also make stops here, so there may be a crowd of tourists blocking the view, but they typically stay for only a short time.

If you need a quick stop to stretch your legs, there are some lovely beaches between Coast and Mungasdale.

Corrieshalloch Gorge

After visiting Little Loch Broom, continue driving on the main road to reach the magnificent Corrieshalloch Gorge and Falls of Measach.

Take the woodland trail and cross the Victoria suspension bridge to witness the spectacular falls plunging into the River Droma.

If you are not planning to explore the gorge, enjoy the scenic drive to the next destination on our North Coast 500 itinerary: Ullapool.

Ullapool - Durness

Day 4-8

Day 4-8: Ullapool - Durness

This part of the trip includes some of the most amazing beaches along the North Coast 500 route. You don't have to see them all, but be sure to stop or stay overnight at Achnahaird Beach. It's definitely worth a detour, especially on a sunny day.


Ullapool, located on the shores of Lochbroom, is the first major village on the North Coast 500 route (when driving clockwise) and a great hub from which to explore the surrounding sights.

Wrapped in stunning scenery, Ullapool offers excellent hiking and cycling routes, good accommodation options, and several charming cafes.

From here, you can also catch a ferry to Stornoway and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides if you want to add an extra detour to your North Coast 500 itinerary.

We highly recommend visiting the town's Ullapool Smokehouse shop and stocking up on malt whiskey-cured salmon and other locally produced goodies. We enjoyed a few delightful breakfasts made from traditionally smoked salmon in our van conversion.

Achnahaird Beach (detour)

Achnahaird Beach requires a slight detour from the main NC500 route, but what a find! It's a tidal almost-white sand beach located on the Coigach peninsula.

If you crave peace and a spot off the beaten path, you simply must add Achnahaird Beach to your North Coast 500 itinerary. It is worth the detour.

From Ullapool, head southeast and follow A893.

The road to the beach is a beautiful winding one-track drive for about 12 miles from the turn-off.

Another great thing about the beach is that it's only a short and easy walk across the cliffs from the car park.โ€Œโ€Œ

Knockan Crag

Starting from Achnahaird Beach, head southwest and rejoin the A835 at Drumrunie for a short drive to Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve.

The walk along Knockan Crag was a pleasant surprise. We discovered how continents collided millions of years ago and had a great circular walk atop the ancient crag.

At the start of the walk, there is a hut with lots of information about the oldest rocks in the world. The boards explain in detail the controversy of the 19th century when two Scottish geologists, Ben Peach and John Horne, discovered something wrong with the sequence of rocks here.

Their discovery that older rocks had moved on top of younger rocks due to tectonic action had significant impacts on the science of geology. This phenomenon had never been detected anywhere else in the world at that time.

The walk is easy but steep in places, with minimal visibility on a rainy day. We were lucky to see panoramic views at the summit just before the mist covered the site entirely.

As you explore, you'll also find many lovely stone art pieces and poems carved into the rocks and stones.

The ruin of Ardvreck Castle

As you join the A837 road at Ledmore towards Inchnadamph, take a moment to explore the ruins of the 16th Century Ardverk Castle, which was once owned by the Macleods of Assynt Clan.

Nearby, you'll also find the ruins of Calda House - once a lavish mansion it has remained a ruin since 1745.

White-sand Clachtoll Beach (detour)

Like many roads in the Scottish Highlands, the stunning single-track route from Lochinver to Clachtoll Beach is full of turns and twists as it winds through the rocks.

Clachtoll Beach is a lovely white-sand bay framed by beautiful black rocks that extend into the sea. It's a great spot for relaxing, paddle boarding or dipping your toes in the crystal-clear waters.

To access the parking lot for the beach, drive through the town and then through the campsite. During our visit, the latter was extremely busy.

Clashnessie Beach

Located a 10-minute drive northeast of Clachtoll Beach, Clashnessie Beach is another beautiful beach in the area.

Despite being situated close to the road, this beach is surrounded by stunning scenery. Itโ€™s broad, easily accessible, and has a small patch of land for parking.

Scenic B869 road alongside Clashnessie Bay

Scenic B869 Road, Scottish Highlands, NC500
Clashnessie Bay, North Coast 500 Route, Scotland 

If you're an experienced driver, the stone-walled road alongside Clashnessie Bay is a joy to navigate despite its narrowness and hairpin bends.

Most of the route is a one-track road, so be sure to keep left at passing places and watch out for charming sandy bays on your left (if going clockwise).

The detour drive from Clashnessie Bay to Balchrick (detour for Sandwood Bay) is breathtaking, even on a misty day.

It feels like passing through a mini-highlands or movie set with the deep green and brown-coloured rocks perfectly reflected in the mirror-like lakes.

Also, be sure to stop at the Drumberg Viewpoint for a beautiful sight of Eddrachillis Bay, Handa Island, and mainland Sutherland.

Sandwood Bay (detour)

To reach the unspoiled Sandwood Bay beach, start from Drumberg and head towards Balchrick. From there, you'll have to walk around four miles each way.

This one-mile-long, fine-sand beach is truly spectacular, framed by dunes and adorned with Am Buachaille, a sea stack in the distance.

However, if the weather is gloomy, be prepared for a mundane eight-mile round trip with rain drumming into your face and a hazy view of the beach. We came back soaking wet despite wearing waterproof gear.

Luckily, our van conversion was waiting patiently at the car park, and a hot cup of tea was the ultimate reward.

If you don't fancy sloshing through puddles in the rain, there are many other equally beautiful and easily accessible North Coast 500 beaches, so feel free to skip Sandwood Bay.

Durness - Wick

Day 8-10

Day 8-10: Durness - Wick

Starting with the Smoo Cave, the rest of the ride between Durness and Wick will be spectacular, with many high viewpoints along the North Coast 500 route.

If you are following our North Coast 500 itinerary, here are our top recommended places to visit:

Spooktacular Smoo Cave

From Balchrick, head towards Rhiconich and from there, join the A838 road to Durness. Smoo Cave is located on the main road and easily accessible from the car park.

Best of all, it's free of charge, just like many other incredible sites around this Scottish road trip.

Formed over thousands of years, Smoo Cave in Durness is well worth a visit. The cave's first chamber was carved out by the sea, and the second was carved by the river, which was dry during our visit.

Wooden steps lead down into the waterfall/lake chamber, but during heavy rains, the cave floods, and you might be unable to access it. However, you can still admire it from the top of the stairs.

Once inside the cave, take the wooden path into the waterfall chamber, but protect your camera. The den may greet you with a violent spray of water.

Unfortunately, boat tours were not available during our visit. We would have loved to see what's inside the cave further down.

Sadly, Colin, the main Smoo caver and tour operator, passed away in early 2019. You'll see a plaque tribute for him as you explore the information boards outside the cave.

Check out the official page for Smoo Cave to see if the tours are currently running.

Thrilling Golden Eagle Zipline

As soon as you leave the cave to continue your epic North Coast 500 adventure, there will be two fabulous and easily accessible beaches on your left-hand side.

The further one, Ceannabeinne Beach, features a zipline if youโ€™re seeking thrills on your Scottish 500 route. You can show up and glide over the Atlantic at 40 mph with no booking required.

Cape Wrath - Scotland's most north westerly point (detour)

Cape Wrath is a significant detour on the NC500 route. The only way to access the peninsula is via the Cape Wrath Ferry, which is exclusively for foot passengers.

The journey across the Kyle of Durness takes around 10 minutes.

After crossing, a minibus service picks you up and provides a three-hour tour with commentary. Once you arrive at Cape Wrath, you'll have time to explore the area independently before boarding the bus for a return journey to the ferry terminal.

Due to the hazardous tide and often inclement weather, the ferry and bus service do not have a regular schedule. It's best to contact the minibus company first. Visit their website for more information.

Uninhabited Eilean Choraidh Island

There's no need to make a special detour to admire the view here. But you can always slow down and snap a few shots of Eilean Choraidh, a tiny island connected to the mainland by a causeway.

The causeway is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Kyle of Tongue Bay and looks particularly beautiful on a clear day.

In the 19th century, the island was used for lime quarrying. The lime was then calcinated in a limekiln on the nearby peninsula.

Talmine Viewpoint (detour)

Just before the Kyle of Tongue bridge, you can take a quick detour to the Talmine Viewpoint. From here, you can enjoy a lovely view of the bridge.

Unfortunately, we missed the sign for the viewpoint and ended up going all the way up into the tiny village. However, it turned out to be lucky because we needed to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Plus, there was a nice view of another bay from the village. As it goes, you're never short of bay views on the NC500 route.

Farr Beach near Bettyhill

Farr Beach, Bettyhill, Scotland, NC500
Farr Beach, NC500 Route, Scotland

After our rainy eight-mile trek to Sandwood Bay, we swore off beaches. However, the sun shining made us change our minds and we found ourselves heading towards another one.

And we're so glad we did! Farr Beach is absolutely stunning, with the purple-colored River Naver flowing into the blue sea.

To get to Bettyhill, a small historic town, take the A836 road after crossing the Kyle of Tongue bridge. From here, you can reach the beach with a leisurely five-minute stroll across the fields.

Hallandale Inn - great lunch spot

Take a wee break and visit the Halladale Inn in Thurso. This lovely spot offers delicious food, cosy glamping pods, and ample space for camping and motorhomes.

During our visit, we enjoyed a filling lunch and even discovered a Route 500 sign, which is a replica of the iconic Route 66 in the United States. The sign made for a fun backdrop for photos.

Dunnet Head - the most northerly point of mainland Britain (detour)

Driving from Thurso, you can take several dramatic detours, starting with Dunnet Head, a peninsula on the north coast of Scotland.

To get there, drive northeast from Bettyhill via A836, then take a left turn onto the four-mile-long B855.

Dunnet Head is the most northerly point of mainland Britain and is home to puffins, razorbills (which we were lucky enough to spot), shags, and cormorants. On a clear day, you can even see the islands of Stroma, Hoy, and the Orkney Mainland.

Afterwards, wander up the hill from the lighthouse to investigate the bunker and other tiny huts built during World War II. The hill was used as a monitoring station, as it affords good visibility across the Pentland Firth.

John o' Groats - the end of the road (detour)

To reach John o' Groats, head east from Dunnet Head. While this stop may not offer any dramatic views, John o' Groats is an iconic landmark in Britain.

It signifies the longest distance (874 miles) between two extreme points in the country: Land's End in Cornwall to the southwest and John o' Groats to the northeast.

Charity walks or cycling challenges often begin or end at John o' Groats, with the end-to-end trail taking up to 14 days to complete. If you opt for off-road routes, however, the journey can take months to finish.โ€Œ

Jagged Stacks of Duncansby: a must-see on the North Coast 500 route (detour)

Thirle Door and the Stacks of Duncansby
Stacks of Duncansby, NC500 Route, Scotland

Starting from John o' Groats, drive up to Duncansby Head. Although busier than other peninsulas on the road, it's worth the trip for the striking coastline.

Don't miss the path leading over the peninsula's highest point, which offers fantastic views of the Thirle Door and the Stacks of Duncansby.

While you can see the craggy rocks from further away, the most enjoyable part of Duncansby Head is a little further along. We highly recommend taking a short hike there.

A well-trodden path leads up to the summit, where you can see the breathtaking craggy sea stacks. You'll also get a great view of the Duncansby Head cliffs that broke away from the main peninsula.

Noss Head and the ghostly Sinclair Girnigoe (detour)

From Duncansby, you can drive directly to Wick along the A99 road, where you'll find Noss Head.

Nestled on a dramatic coastline, the 16th Century Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is the star attraction of this site. Be sure to carefully walk around the cliff to view the thrilling rocks beneath the castle.

Although the castle is currently undergoing renovations, a portion of it is open for visitors to wander around the atmospheric courtyard just across the windy bridge.

Visit during sunset or early morning to hear the wind howling between the walls. I felt chills when taking pictures early in the morning with no one else in sight. Maybe I wasn't alone after all?!?!?

Wick - Inverness

Day 11

Day 11: Wick - Inverness

After enjoying the dramatic coastline, you may want to visit some of the lesser-known sights before concluding the Scottish 500 route and heading straight to Inverness.

Here are some of the sights we discovered on the east coast of the NC 500:

330 Whaligoe Steps (detour)

About 10-15 minutes south of Wick, there is a quick detour to Whaligoe Steps on your left, just before Ulbster.

At the top of the stairs, there is a small car park and a sign leading you to the 330 steps descending into the harbour.

To the left of the steps, there is a bump on your right-hand side. If you are not afraid of heights, you can cross a narrow path to the summit of the bluff. From there, look to your left to discover a lovely waterfall rushing down the impressive rocks.

Take care when going up and down the steps, as they are steep, uneven, and cracked. Also, avoid holding onto the walls as they may be unsupported or recently repaired.

This is a small site maintained by a local chap who works hard to replace the dilapidated steps. Please be respectful and leave a small donation if possible.

Grey Cairns of Camster - Neolithic tombs (detour)

The next stop on our North Coast 500 itinerary is the Grey Cairns of Camster, intriguing Neolithic tombs that are duplicates of Scotland's oldest monuments, built over 5,000 years ago.

Despite their age, they are still fascinating to investigate and provide a lovely, peaceful site to explore on the NC500 route.

Like a true explorer, Charlie crawled into each of the three tombs through narrow passageways to explore the inside of the monuments, getting a bit muddy in the process.

To get there, look for a large brown sign for Cairns of Camster just past Camster, a quarter of a mile past Occumster. Turn right and drive on the road that feels like a Roman road for around 8-10 minutes until you see grey bumps in the grass.

Lybster's best crab rolls (detour)

Once a bustling herring fishing village, Lybster is now a sleepy harbour town. Although we did not plan to stop there, we were intrigued by the large brown heritage sign.

To visit Lybster, turn left off the main road, pass through the main town, and drive down the steep road into the harbour.

Down in the bay, you can park at the harbour and enjoy some of the best crab rolls on the North Coast 500 route. The ladies at Waterlines Cafe serve freshly prepared rolls with different fillings and delicious homemade cakes.

It's a great place to stop before continuing along the remaining east coast of the epic Scottish 500 route.

Dunrobin - a castle out of a fairytale

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland, NC500
Dunrobin Castle, NC500 Route, Scotland

Elevated so that you can enjoy the elaborate mansion from the gardens, Dunrobin Castle is the seat of the Clan Sutherland. Although the family still lives here, a large portion of the manor is open for exploration.

The garden is beautiful and is in full bloom in May, but it cannot quite compare to some of the stately homes in England. Nonetheless, it is still lovely to walk around the grounds, play cricket, and unwind after an adventurous 11-day road trip.

If you time your visit to this fairytale castle on a weekday morning, particularly on a Monday, you can enjoy it without too many crowds.

Close by, you can also explore the fantastic tidal Littleferry Beach, which is part of the Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. The 15-minute drive along the road, hugged by Scotch pine trees, is just as lovely as the beach itself.โ€Œโ€Œ

Clootie Well on Black Isle (detour)

After leaving Dunrobin Castle, cross the bridge into the Black Isle and head towards Inverness. To discover the unique site of Clootie Well, follow the A9 motorway for about an hour until you reach Munlochy village.

Clootie Well, also known as Cloth Well, is associated with ancient Scottish and Irish traditions dating back to pre-Christian times. It is a wishing well where pilgrims make offerings by leaving a piece of cloth for the water spirits.

The belief is that leaving a piece of clothing here will relieve the body of illnesses over time as the fabric disintegrates.

But thereโ€™s much more to explore on the Black Isle. From fishing villages to nature and wildlife, you may need an extra day on your North Coast 500 itinerary to see it all.

Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness

Nestled on the banks of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, Urquhart Castle is a breathtaking fortress that has withstood the test of time.

Dating back to the 13th century, this historic landmark played a crucial role in Scotland's Wars of Independence.

Today, Urquhart Castle is a must-see destination for travellers from all over the world. With stunning views of Loch Ness and the surrounding mountains, itโ€™s a true gem of Scotland and could make it a nice end or start to your Scottish road trip.

We chose the latter, but were too late to arrive as the castle had already closed for the day.

Wild camping on the North Coast: the best spots for campervans

Wild camping spots on the Scotland NC500 route
Wild Camping Spots on the Scotland NC500 Route

After completing our epic Scottish road trip in our campervan, we wanted to include some of our favourite camping spots for motorhomes in our North Coast 500 itinerary.

In clockwise order, these are our top wild camping spots where we stayed during our 11-day road trip. We loved some of the sites, such as Achnahaird Beach, so much that we stayed there for two nights.

Our top tip is to download an app called park4night and it will show you all the facilities and parking spots around the NC500 route.

Wild camping spots between Inverness and Applecross:

Bealach Na' Ba Pass: Driving through the pass is an unforgettable experience. If you want to make it even more memorable, consider sleeping atop Bealach Na' Ba if youโ€™re travelling in a campervan or motorhome.

The viewing platform is perfect for an overnight stop, but make sure to pack warm pyjamas, as it can get cold at night, even in the summer. A hat will also come in handy for wandering the valley later in the day.

When we arrived, the valley was covered in thick mist. However, the weather cleared up around 9 pm, and we were able to witness the legendary valley in all its glory

Camping spots between Applecross and Ullapool

Red Point Beach: If you're not in a rush, consider wild camping here. During our stay, only a few families were camping on the beach, and two other campervans were parked beside us. It's a peaceful and lovely spot to spend the night.

If you're an early riser, leave the beach before 9 am to have the one-track road all to yourself. The countryside is beautiful and fresh in the morning light, making it a great opportunity for taking photos.

Broomfield Holiday Park in Ullapool: This was the only campsite on the North Coast 500 that we stayed at. Itโ€™s spacious and has showers, a washer, and a dryer, but it can get very busy. Great views over Lochbroom.

Wild camping spots between Ullapool and Durness

Achnahaird Beach: This is our top wild camping spot on the NC500 route. The car park is small, but if you can fit your campervan in, it's worth staying here for the night. The view of the bay, beach, and distant hills is magnificent.

We stayed here for two nights and found it peaceful. It was relatively quiet during the day as well. A hidden gem for sure, and worth the detour if you're after a good wild camping spot on the NC500.

Clashnessie Bay: There is a small car park across the road from Clashnessie Beach that can accommodate around four to six motorhomes for overnight parking.

However, we opted to continue driving further west along the scenic B869 road for about five minutes until we arrived at a small lake by the roadside.

We found a suitable patch of gravel land for overnight parking. Although it was busy during the day, the traffic died down at around 9 pm.

Sandalwood Bay: In case you run low on drinking water, there is a tap located behind the toilet block. Although we only stayed here briefly, the car park is suitable for wild camping in a motorhome or campervan.

Wild camping spots between Durness and Wick

Hollandale Inn: At the back of the pub, there is a camping and caravan/motorhome site, as well as glamping pods. You can check prices and availability on the website.

Achiriesgill and Keoldale (ferries for Cape Wrath): There are numerous wild camping spots between these two locations.

Dunnet Head: This is a popular nightspot for campervans on the NC500. It can get crowded and a little noisy with people coming and going, but it is generally quiet at night.

Noss Head: This is a great spot if you want to be the first or last to take a spooky wander around the Sinclair Girnigoe castle. The car park is less crowded than Dunnetโ€™s Head, and has plenty of space for caravans and motorhomes.

Wild camping spots between Wick and Inverness

Littleferry Beach: This is the second-best spot for wild camping on the North Coast 500 route. The site is peaceful and offers superb walks and views. During our stay, only two other campervans were parked next to us.

We highly recommend staying here before visiting Dunrobin Castle if you want to beat the crowds and arrive as soon as it opens.

Clootie Well: If you are not easily spooked by nature spirits and need a place to stay for the night, consider camping in the woods beside the wishing well. Although dog walkers visit the area throughout the day, it is quiet at night.

Is the North Coast 500 worth it?

This is the ultimate question, and the answer is 100%: embarking on the North Coast 500 route is one of the best ways to experience the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands.

The route offers plenty of opportunities to see historic sites, wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes. Whether you're interested in hiking, photography, or simply taking in the scenery, we hope our North Coast 500 itinerary will help you plan your perfect trip.

You don't have to drive a campervan to follow this North Coast 500 itinerary. The route can be easily completed in a car; you simply need to arrange your accommodation. Use the search box below to find your ideal accommodation option.