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The North Coast 500 is a classic 500 mile road trip around the Northern Highlands of Scotland. Our drive and hike trip combines great walking, welcoming accommodation, history, wildlife and more.
The Northern Highlands of Scotland, one of Europe’s last wild places are a beguiling mix of mountains, moor, lochs, sea and rich culture. Stride through empty highland glens and along deserted beaches. Dance at a local ceilidh. Wander amongst Neolithic standing stones.
Take a road trip with added WOW!
Sitting on the Banks of the River Ness, between Loch Ness and the sea Inverness is the capital of the Highlands.
Either fly to Inverness airport or drive from Glasgow/Edinburgh (~170 miles) or Aberdeen (~100 miles).
The North Coast 500 is a 516 mile route starting and ending at Inverness Castle that takes in the best of the best the North Highlands has to offer.
Today you head west through remote Highland glens past Garve, Achnasheen and Strathcarron to Applecross and Torridon.
Walks: choice of several
Drive: approx. 80-110 miles, 2—3 hours
The mountains of Torridon fall almost straight into the sea. There are numerous walks from Torridon and the adjacent Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, ranging from gentle strolls to epic mountain days.
Alternatively the Applecross Peninsula is a delight, drive over the twisting Bealach na Ba mountain pass, walk to the coral sands and tuck into a fresh caught seafood platter at the Applecross Inn. The Applecross Smokehouse is on the way home!
Walks: choice from 3-9 miles
You continue to wind your way through the mountains and lochs of Scotland’s wild west coast. The island-strewn Loch Maree is widely regarded as the most beautiful in Scotland and reputedly has a monster.
Stretch your legs on the sandy beach at Gruinard Bay and then reward yourself with some delicious home baking at the Gairloch Pantry. Continue to Ullapool, a fishing village nestled at the head of Loch Broom.
Drive: approx. 85 miles, 3 hours
Walks: Choice of several short walks
Free day in Ullapool, stroll on the pier and watch the fishing boats offload their catch, join in a traditional ceilidh at the Seaforth Inn or enjoy one of the many excellent walks in the hills around Ullapool.
Activity: Walks (1—6 hours)
Assynt, a wild concoction of mountains and lochs, is your first destination as you head north. Climb Stac Pollaidh, the perfect viewpoint.
The North Coast 500 continues through wild highland scenery to Lochinver, and the white sands of Achmelvich beach.
Kylesku Bridge takes you over the Atlantic to Scourie, the perfect stop for afternoon tea, and finally to Durness.
Activity: Walks (1—5 hours)
Drive: approx. 75 miles, 2—3 hours
The hardest thing today is choosing what to do. Either visit Cape Wrath, the isolated most north westerly point in mainland Scotland, Smoo Cave or Sandwood Bay.
Activity: Guided walks to Cape Wrath (optional, not included), numerous walks (2—6 hours)
Head east across the top of Scotland to John O’Groats and Duncansby Head, the most northerly point of the UK. Towering cliffs, hordes of seabirds and wild waves make this walk a classic.
Activity: John O’Groats & Duncansby Head Walk, 5 miles, 3 hours
Drive: approx. 70 miles, 2 hours
The ferry from Scrabster (Thurso), whisks you over the water to Orkney (1h30). Rich in Neolithic history, wildlife and with it’s own unique culture the Orkneys will delight you.
Spend the afternoon walking to the Neolithic sites of Skara Brae or the Ring of Brodgar.
Activity: Skara Brae (5km) of Ring of Brodgar (8.5km) walks.
Ferry: 1h30, Drive: approx. 12 miles
Why not island hop to the Isle of Hoy and walk to the Old Man of Hoy (approx. 6-14 miles), a sea-stack standing 137m tall.
Another option is a guided history and wildlife tour to the island of Westray. Noup head is a real highlight with its huge seabird colonies that include auks, fulmars, shags and skuas.
Activity: Old Man of Hoy Walk (6-14 miles) or other walks.
Return to Scrabster (1h30) and head south to Inverness. Dunrobin Castle, the scenic Black Isle and Cromarty Firth are just a few of the highlights on the way to Inverness. We have of course included a few optional walks.
Activity: Optional walks, 1—3 hours.
Drive: approx. 110 miles, 3 hours
Your trip ends after breakfast. The return drive to Glasgow (3h30) or Aberdeen (2h30) is truly beautiful.
Drive: approx. 185 miles to Glasgow, 100 miles to Aberdeen
Overnight: Not included
You will stay in carefully chosen small 3 and 4 star guest houses and B&B’s.
We regularly use the following properties but may accommodate you elsewhere if these are unavailable. We do recommend that you book this trip early as the areas covered are always popular and the guesthouses and inns do fill up early, especially in high season.
This independent walking holiday is available to solo walkers. As all our trips are priced per person based on two sharing there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs that are not shared. If you require single rooms within your party we will of course try to accommodate your request, subject to availability.
Breakfast is included each morning, while lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Your accommodation will be more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival, alternatively your guidebook also includes details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants.
Many of our walkers choose to add extra nights on the tour and these can be added at the time of booking.
Located in a quiet residential area, just a 5 mins walk from the city centre, this lovely guesthouse has free off-street parking, free WiFi and a guest lounge with an extensive library.
The Torridon Inn lies close to the shores of Loch Torridon and enjoys superb views of the mountains. Stay in cosy en suite accommodation. There is a traditional pub with great food and a homely atmosphere.
The Riverside Guesthouse has a central yet quiet village location. Stay in modern, en suite rooms with free WiFi, flat screen TV and tea and coffee making facilities. There is a guest lounge and drying room for wet weather gear.
Fiona, Robbie, their family and friendly staff will welcome you warmly to their scenic retreat with every aspect of Highland hospitality. All seven bedrooms are individually decorated with their own unique style, offering total relaxation and comfort.
The seafront Marine B&B offers 5 superior ensuite rooms with outstanding views of the bay, Orkney Islands and Pentland Firth.
A quality bed and breakfast establishment located in the picturesque town of Stromness in the Orkney Islands and offers friendly accommodation with a beautiful view of the town, the harbour and the hills of Hoy.
You can start your tour on any day. The best time of year is from early-April to late-October when the weather is best, most attractions are open and the days are long. The weather in winter is wild, the days are short, many attractions close and not all walks may be possible. You will have the place almost to yourselves though.
This independent walking holiday is available to solo walkers but as all our holidays are priced per person based on two sharing, there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs that are not shared. If you require single rooms within your party we will of course try our best to accommodate your request, subject to availability.
We supply a detailed road book including walk descriptions, driving directions, maps, places to see and personal recommendations.
This holiday is graded easy to moderate overall. We offer a choice of walks each day so can choose to do as much or little as you wish.
Car hire is not included as standard in your arrangements. You can either bring your own vehicle, or we can provide you with arrangements at an additional supplement.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
The distances and ascent/ descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.
For public transporation within Scotland, including train and bus timetables, please see the excellent Traveline Scotland website.
Car Hire: Car hire is available as an optional extra. Collection and drop-off available in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.
We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any further help.
This trip is graded easy to moderate and is perfect if you enjoy a good level of fitness. However as all of the walks are optional, you can choose whether or not you'd like to walk each day. The trails we recommend follow footpaths, bridleways, coastal trails, open fields and some minor roads. The walks may involve some relatively steep ascent and descents and days of up to 6 hours of walking.
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the Highlands are popular and accommodation can be limited, especially over April/May and July/August. All trips are subject to availability and we will always try and accommodate your plans.
You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack and hats/gloves etc. We provide you with a comprehensive kit list so you're fully prepared.
The best time of year is from early-April to late-October when the weather is best, most attractions are open and the days are long.
The weather in winter is wild, the days are short, many attractions close and not all walks may be possible. You will have the place almost to yourselves though.
Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets.
Reviewed by 1 customer
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Comments about macs adventure Drive & Hike: North Coast 500:
Not enough room above so to finish Cons - some of the maps supplied were poorly done. It would have been so easy to improve them simply by giving a direction of travel if on a loop ie: clockwise etc. Also simply labelling the location on the map that was referred to would be an immense help. Rooms were adequate but extremely variable... although I understand there is not a lot of choice in some locations.