North Coast 500 Basics /
Well well, at last! I've planning this route for a long time and finally we did it a month ago! I'll be writing this post today so you can have a general idea as there is a lot to do in just a few days! You will have specific posts for each area soon :) this is just the beginning there are so many incredible places! There we go!
Our starting point was Inverness and from there you start to go north, and as I am obsessed with Lighthouses our first stop was Tarbat Ness lighthouse, it is off the route but it is worth it!! After visiting this magnificent piece of architecture, we passed by Dunrobin Castle we did not enter this time because we already visit this castle 10 years ago so :) But you MUST visit it is magical! We stopped again to visit 2 castles near Wick: Castle of Old wick, that is basically a ruin but it is placed in a beautiful location. And Castle Sinclair, another ruin but same as the other one the location of it is worth it. After that we went directly to John O'Groats, lovely wee village with some interesting places to go! We took our lunch here (there were restaurants so!) and visit the colourful houses next to the harbour and then the Duncasby Stacks! Amazing!! You have to go, it is a short walk, maybe in an hour you are done, so go!! Then straight to Dunnet Head to see the the most northerly lighthouse of the mainland, it was very windy but it was really nice! After this point it was all the way thought to Durness that was were we have the Airbnb for the night. Lucky us that we had lunch because when we arrived everything was closed! so we find the house (it was Halloween so.. a bit scary because there were no lights and Halloween decoration all around!!) and we took our dinner with some supplies. And that was the first day!! I have to say that it was the more intense day of all, driving only was 6 hours and 30 minutes!
Second day! First visit was Smoo Cave, I was thrilled as I wanted to visit this cave for years :) it is amazing but we couldn't see the second cave with the waterfall it was impossible, we ended soaked just trying to enter the cave... so we have to go another day maybe?? After that I had some visits planned that I had to cancel because it was raining a lot and very windy and it seemed pretty dangerous to reach our destination... but well we went to Ardverck Castle, another one in ruins but the loch where it stands is lovely! After that I wanted to go to the knockan Crag Natural Reserve, just because there is a rock ball that I found interesting hehe, and it was really close to the main road so... why not? Next visit: Falls Of Measach, really nice as well a bit disappointing because the bridge was closed you we couldn't really see the Falls! And that was it for the day, we stay for the night in Shieldaig, and we could have dinner! and it was really good :)
Last day, we went all over the coast of Applecross peninsula, very dramatic roads to end up at the entrance of Bealach na Ba or the Pass of the Cattle, dramatic as well? That is the most amazing road I've ever seen, I loved it! the views of the road going thought the majestic mountains... wow...we are almost there! next and last stop (again I had to cancel another visit due to the heavy rain), Rogie Falls, a short walk to see this great waterfalls, really worth it. And that's all! From there we went directly to our home, but it was a fantastic trip!!
Questions that you may have:
- How many days will I need to do the entire trip?
We did it in 3 days only, I can suggest to spend one or two more days, depending on what you want to visit. In our case we did not visit distilleries or some castles because we already visited some of them.
500! It is a bit more really because you will be stopping or going some other place nearby, but well this it the best part of Scotland! There are so many things to discover.
- Are the roads as bad as I think?
Well, most of them are single road tracks, but they are not that bad and in addition the scenery is breathtaking so you will enjoy every single mile!
- What do I need to be prepared for the trip?
First of all I suggest that if you are going with your own car do a check-up before you go, just in case because you don't want to have a breakdown in the middle of nowhere! If you are renting a car, then you will be fine. Another suggestion: bring some food with you and water, it can be tricky to find a restaurant or a supermarket in some areas! Or when you actually find a supermarket, get some supplies :)
- Do I need to be worried about not finding Gas Stations?
Not really, we found plenty of them (more expensive but...). Just don't wait too much to refill and you'll be okay
I think most of the people is starting in Inverness, we did travel to Inverness a Friday afternoon so we could start the trip Saturday early in the morning, and by early I mean 6am! So that day we took our breakfast on the road :) We went in October so we couldn't be wasting our time waiting for the breakfast hours in our hotel!!