North Coast 500: Everything you Need to Know

Planning your next road trip? Check out my ultimate guide to the NC500!

The North Coast 500 route is often hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful road trips, and based on my experience, it truly lives up to the hype! In 2015, Now Travel Magazine ranked it fifth in their “Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World.” With its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and charming villages, this iconic 516-mile journey offers an unforgettable adventure along Scotland’s rugged coastline. So here’s everything you need to know before planning your trip…

Kylesku Bridge

Travel top tips for the NC500:

Firstly, lets get to the basics, what is the NC500?
The North Coast 500 is a route of just over 500 miles (516 to be exact) featuring incredible scenery, picture perfect white sandy beaches and epic mountains. The route was officially launched under the NC500 name in 2015 by the Tourism Project Board, to boost visitor numbers travelling along the route. It has since been named fifth in the “Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World” by Now Travel Magazine, making this a popular destination for road trip enthusiasts like myself! 

So, you may be thinking where does the route start and end?
Simply put it’s just one big loop! The NC500 traditionally starts and ends in the Scottish city of Inverness. If you’re hiring a car or campervan from Inverness, you’ll complete the full loop. However, If you do the trip in your own car or campervan, there probably isn’t any need for you to return to Inverness once you’ve completed the route. Additionally you can easily add on visits to places including the Isle of Skye and Glencoe & Fort William, at the end of the trip.

I’ve also created the ultimate NC500 road map containing all major destinations and the NC500 route itself.

NC500 Route Map

Next, making your way to Inverness to begin your road trip! 
You guessed it, it’s going to be long drive from most of England and Wales (I recommend creating a decent playlist for the journey if you’re travelling from here!). The route to Inverness will lead you up the M6 until it reaches the M74 towards Glasgow. You’ll then drive on the M73 and M80 until you reach the famous A9 road right to Inverness. Additionally, the train is also an option travelling via Glasgow or Edinburgh. If you’re looking for time saving hacks, you can also fly to Inverness from most UK airports! 

How many days should you spend doing the NC500?
As a meticulous planner I strongly recommend factoring the number of days you want to spend completing the route. From first-hand experience at least 5 FULL DAYS MINIMUM, is a must! If you’re looking to enjoy your trip at a more relaxed pace 7 days is great. For those really wanting to take their time and see all the sights, 10 days is ideal.

Also, having extra time on the NC500 is useful to allow you to go off the beaten track, explore and do a range of excursions. If you have 14 days to play with, you should really consider visiting The Isle of Skye and Glencoe! You definitely won’t be disappointed!

Sango Sands Beach

When is the best time to do the NC500?
In my opinion there isn’t a wrong time to do the NC500! There’s pro’s and con’s to all seasons, I’ve visited in both the winter and shoulder season. Both were excellent, but make sure you prepare for unpredictable weather conditions.

In the summer season (May to September) you’ll generally get better weather, but don’t bet money on it! All attractions will be open and there’s lots of outdoor activities and excursions you can go on. You’ll also get the chance to see specific wildlife such as puffins and other migrating birds. However, with this being the most popular season roads will be at their busiest, and you’ll need to book in advance for accommodation.

Alternatively, the shoulder seasons are quieter with less traffic along the route, and hotel availability is generally good. You’ll also be able to explore sights on your own or alongside only a few other people!

After deciding when to go, it’s time to look at where to stay! 
Well, there are two different ways to approach accommodation across the NC500. The first option is camping! There are many campsites in great locations across the route, most of which have top facilities and electric hook ups, you can find some of my top picks in my travel guide.

If you’re simply not a fan of camping, the NC500 has a wealth of fantastic hotels, B&B’s, cottages and glamping pods. Prices are often more expensive in the summer season, and they do get booked up months in advance so please please please plan ahead!

Rogie Falls

I’d recommend completing the NC500 anti-clockwise…
So you might be thinking why head North East to begin your trip? Well there’s a few reasons. Firstly, the roads are much easier. This allows you to adjust to the roads and ease yourself into the Scottish Highlands. Secondly and more importantly the scenery will just continue to get more breath-taking as you weave your way to the epic Northern and Western Coast. Lastly, if you’re thinking of purchasing my NC500 guidebook it’s written in an anti-clockwise order, making it much easier to follow!

NC500 best places to explore…

You can find my ‘Top 10 2024 Must-see Locations’ when exploring the NC500 in my video below, be sure not to miss these on your trip! 

I can’t express how important it is to plan your journey if you’re looking to complete the NC500 route! To make things super simple and stress-free, I’ve created an essential guide with all the best travel tips and advice to make this an unforgettable trip.


Featuring incredible locations, practical tips and stress saving hacks to ensure your road trip is simply unforgettable...
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Robbie Roams

Collie dog lover, keen traveler and travel guide writer. In 2022, I launched No Fuss Travel Guides with 'North Coast 500 - The Road Trip of a Lifetime' which became an Amazon best seller. I've since worked with tourism boards including Visit Wales and have been featured in The Guardian 'Best of Travel'.

Hopefully you find some value in my videos & blogs, if there's something you want to ask me, fire away.

Don't forget to follow me on Youtube, Instagram & Facebook for the latest updates.

Rob, Staffordshire, UK