The North Coast 500 is a 516 mile-long circular tour of the northernmost parts of mainland Scotland. The route was developed and is promoted by the North Highland Initiative and has been described as "Scotland's answer to Route 66". The NC500, has succeeded in establishing itself as an iconic route, taking in much of the very best that Scotland has to offer and packaging it in a way that has seized the imagination of many visitors to Scotland.
It’s a wonderful journey and at a real push, it’s possible to drive the NC500 in two long days, but that misses the point and we'd not recommend you try. At a practical level, the route contains a number of stretches of single track road, especially along the west and north coasts, and these help ensure that a more leisurely approach is likely to be more rewarding (and safer). The official website of the NC500 suggests taking at least 5-7 days to cover the route and that seems sensible and practical. It has become the norm to travel the route in a clockwise direction, and that is also the way we'd recommend you tackle it.
The start and finish point for the North Coast 500 is Inverness Castle, in the heart of Inverness. You leave the city on the A862 heading west. This leads you through Beauly to Muir of Ord, to traverse the south westerly part of the route, taking in Achnasheen, Lochcarron, Applecross, Torridon and Gairloch. The Studio Hoose is located just as the route approaches Ullapool before it heads northwards into Assynt.
Fuel is available at various locations along the route of the NC500 including Lochcarron and Applecross, but harder to find between Ullapool and Thurso. Given the range of most modern vehicles, we'd suggest anyone aiming to travel the NC500 fills up before leaving Inverness. And to give more scope for diversions and excursions, it might be wise to top up in Ullapool.
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