Day 1: Arrive Inverness
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).
Day 2: To Torridon / Wester Ross
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
Day 3: Torridon & Applecross
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
Day 4: To Ullapool
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
Day 5: Ullapool
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)
Day 6: West Coast to Durness
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
Day 7: Durness & Cape Wrath
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)
Day 8: North Coast to Thurso
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
Day 9: Ferry to Orkney
The ferry from Scrabster (Thurso), whisks you over the water to Orkney (1h30). Rich in Neolithic history, wildlife and with its 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
Day 10: Orkney
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.
Day 11: Ferry & Drive to Inverness
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
Day 12: Onward Travel
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 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.
Single Rooms & Solo Walkers
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.
Navigation, Route Notes & Maps
We supply a detailed road book including walk descriptions, driving directions, a North Coast 500 map, places to see and personal recommendations.
The North Coast 500 truly allows you to get away from it all by visiting some of the most remote areas of Scotland. The result is that for most of the trip you will not have a phone signal, however Wi-fi is available at most accommodations.
Grade & Terrain
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.
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.
Do you supply a North coast 500 map?
Yes. We have a comprehensive route book which includes detailed descriptions of all the walks we suggest along the route, as well as a detailed NC500 map, so you need never worry about getting lost on this trip.
Do you have a NC500 Route Planner?
Our suggested itinerary and NC500 route map are all you will need to build a framework for your trip. You can then contact our NC500 specialists who will be able to tailor your trips and plan the route to your specifications.
How fit do I need to be?
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
How far in advance do I need to book?
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.
What personal equipment do I need?
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.
When is the best time of year?
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.
Am I able to take my dog?
Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets.