“I can’t believe how many mountains there are in Scotland!” my friend squealed as we turned another corner to yet another amazing view.
The North Coast 500 had blown both of us away – my friend, because she hadn’t visited Scotland outside of Edinburgh and had no idea how beautiful it all is; and me, because I’ve lived here most of my life and had no idea this was all right on my doorstep.
As the NC500 has been more and more hyped up over the last few years (marketed as “Scotland’s answer to route 66”, which it isn’t, but why let that get in the way of a good marketing campaign?), I felt like I was setting myself up for disappointment.
Spoiler alert: I was not. In fact, holding my expectations firm and not buying into the hype almost made it better, because the entire route is incredible.
And in case you’re wondering what it’s all about, here are 40 photos from my recent jaunt around the route.
Lochcarron – this village was our first official stop on the North Coast 500, as we’d driven up through Glencoe and dipped into Skye for a couple of days before starting it. So although we didn’t start from Inverness, we got a pretty good start to the route!
One of the most famous views of the NC500 – Bealach Na Ba, unofficially known as the Applecross pass. This single-track road was so much fun to drive, but isn’t for the faint-hearted!
Bumping into some locals on the road between Applecross and Torridon!
Torridon is one of the most picturesque villages (if you can even call it a village, it is that tiny!) I’ve ever been to!
Sunset in Torridon – followed by one of the best nights of stargazing I’ve ever had! Camping has its moments, and this is one of the best.
Driving towards our next stop: Ullapool.
Ullapool is way smaller than I expected it to be – I always imagined it to be around the same size as Kirkwall in Orkney, but it’s absolutely tiny! It’s even smaller than Stromness, which is a quarter of the size of Kirkwall.
Enjoying being out on the road again finding these absolutely phenomenal views!
Saying hello to some more locals.
One of Scotland’s many beautiful beaches.
Chilling out on Achmelvich Beach for the afternoon – a great place to sunbathe. Yes, you read that right!
The view from our tent by Achmelvich beach while we cooked dinner!
Spot the sheep – she had been plonked in front of the phone booth when we drove past, which would have made a fantastic photo, but nevertheless she needed to be in it.
Clashnessie Falls – the start of a waterfall-filled day!
Wailing Widow Falls are completely hidden from the main road, but luckily we knew roughly where it was and stopped. Even more luckily… we looked over the edge and noticed a path down below.
10000000% worth the walk!!
Even when the weather takes a turn, Scotland still throws up the good stuff.
Durness beach – it was so windy the night before that I was convinced our tent was going to end up down there!!
Smoo Cave is a highlight of any NC500 road trip! It’s blimmin’ massive (in fact it’s one of the biggest sea caves in the UK)! We also took a boat tour inside the cave and got our geology on. The tour is really interesting and highly recommended!
I thought the scenery might calm down along the north coast… nope!
We passed SO MANY amazing beaches along the north coast, but this was probably one of the best ones… I think this is Sangobeg beach, although I may be wrong because there really were quite a few beaches!
Dunnet Head – the most northerly point of mainland Britain (NOT John O’ Groats, as many people think!). In the background you can see Orkney!
If you make it to John O’ Groats, DO NOT MISS these amazing sea stacks out at Duncansby Head, as I did for almost 30 years. Ridiculous, huh? The stacks are gigantic and so impressive in real life – I’ve noticed that photos rarely do them justice.
And finally – one of my absolute highlights of the whole route and in my view an outstanding way to end the trip. Dunrobin Castle is absolutely magical! Make sure you also catch the falconry show if you’re there before April and September, because it’s easily the best part of visiting the castle (followed by a meander around the absolutely stunning gardens).
I’ll be writing all about our North Coast 500 road trip in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that as I’ve got plenty more where this has come from!
The more I explore Scotland, the more I am so happy to call this place home.
And with these views around, I’m sure you can see why!
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