- A classic driving and hiking trip along the north coast of the Scottish Highlands
- Enjoying fresh-caught seafood on the pier in the coastal village of Ullapool
- Wide-open moorland and heather-clad hillsides
- Ancient standing stones, prehistoric villages and the Old Man of Hoy on Orkney
- A selection of hikes through the Highlands or along the coast each day
Discover Scotland on this classic itinerary along the North Coast 500. Miles of breath-taking scenery through the northern Scottish Highlands, with a choice of hikes, over 12 days. By day discover remote lochs, glens and wild mountain landscapes and enjoy Highland hospitality each night at your friendly hand-picked B&Bs and guesthouses
The North Coast 500 is a classic 500-mile scenic driving route beginning and ending at Inverness Castle. Experience the Northern Highlands of Scotland, one of Europe’s last wild places, a beguiling mix of jagged peaks, expansive moorland and coastline, and rich culture. Stride through empty highland glens and along deserted beaches. Dance at a local "Cèilidh," a traditional Scottish social gathering full of folk music. Wander among Neolithic standing stones. Take a look at our North Coast 500 map to see the roads you will follow on this epic exploration of northern Scotland.
Our Destination & Adventure Specialists can tailor this trip to your needs, so our North Coast 500 Itinerary below is just a framework for your adventure.
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 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.
Inverglen Guesthouse - Inverness
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.
Torridon Inn - Torridon
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.
Riverside Guesthouse - Ullapool
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.
Mackay's B&B - Durness
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 Marine B&B - Thurso
The seafront Marine B&B offers 5 superior ensuite rooms with outstanding views of the bay, Orkney Islands and Pentland Firth.
Asgard B&B - Stromness
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.
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.
Getting to/from Inverness
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.
- 11 Nights in 3 and 4 star B&Bs and guesthouses.
- 11 Breakfasts.
- A detailed road book and maps.
- Ferry crossings: Scrabster to Orkney return (1 car per booking).
- Emergency telephone support from our office.
- Travel to Inverness/Scotland.
- Car rental (available as an optional extra).
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
- Travel Insurance.
- Personal Equipment.
- Single room supplement.
- Hotel accommodation upgrade.
- Extra nights along the way.
- Car rental - we can arrange on request.
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 walking.
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.