Even with an itinerary you will find it difficult to squeeze everything into each day. Here we offer our own itineraries for you to use, either as they are or just to give you ideas.
Our itineraries are done in an clockwise travelling direction but feel free to use it in reverse if you wish to go clockwise. This is our 5 Day Itinerary and we have highlighted in RED the places that we believe are a must.
Remember if you are at the overnight stay, and you have time then check out the 'Black' Stops for the next day as they may well be close enough to visit.
Each Place title allows you to click to view a Map to allow for easier reference.
Driving times that are shown on the route are estimated
We advise not missing the following:-
STOPS IN RED ARE A MUST
We firmly believe that the route should start at Culloden and not Inverness Castle.
Culloden Moor as this is the best place to get an understanding of what the Highlands is about and where it all changed forever.
Culloden is too important to miss.
Having an understanding will allow you to enjoy what you will come across. There are many places that will refer to the Highland Clearances and to most this event is still etched into many locals around the route, especially in Sutherland.
A 45 minute drive from Culloden.
Rogie Falls are well worth the visit, but make sure the weather is on your side as you will have a walk to make before getting to the Falls itself.
A 30 minute drive from Rogie Falls
Glen Docherty Viewpoint obviously after this stop you will need to back track to the route) Looking down Glen Docherty, you will catch a stunning Loch Maree, a magnificent fresh water loch dotted with over 60 islands which contain some of the last fragments of the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest.
A 145 -50 minute drive from the Glan Docherty Viewpoint
Lochcarron is a great wee village of many whitewashed little houses. Here is the start of your Highland adventure.
( Now rated one of the Best Drives in the World The Bealach Na Ba)
From the Bealach Cafe' (which we highly recommened) this is one drive that you will want to be able to take in the amazing scenery as you head to
Applecross, and drive the Bealach Na Ba Road, this is a must and to many the highlight of their trip although we think different.
Once at Applecross checkout the Applecross Inn, great food, great music, and great atmosphere.
Depending on you and daylight there is plenty to explore just on the Aplecross Peninsula itself. The Applecross Walled Garden is well worth a look.
Accomodation is normally not a problem in this great area but we recommend the Applecross B&B so enure you book in advance
Again another packed Day with so much to see and do. Just the scenery alone as you drive will knock your socks off
This is approximently a 1hr 30 mins drive from Applecross via Fearnmore
The Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve is a place you could spend the enitre day or even an enitre Holiday.
If you want to explore the area there are plenty walks available. All the information you need are at the Well put together visitor Centre. It is also "Free"
Approximently a 20 min drive from Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve Centre
Victoria Falls, Achnasheen from here you have wonderful views over Loch Maree, and you can follow the short path to the viewing area to see the falls.
They’re named after Queen Victoria, who visited in 1877.
The water that tumbles down the falls comes from Beinn Eighe.
A 25 minute drive from the Victoria Falls
Gairloch Museum is a great wee place that takes you back trough time and shows it was for the locals that lived in this area.
A 30-35 minute drive from Gariloch
Gruinard Beach is agreat stop as the beach is stunning and secluded with great view to Gruinard Island.
It is well liked by walkers and there are plenty of walking paths along the coast. It is also well know to geologists with it's many rare rocks that can be found.
Gruinard Islands main calim to fame was during WW2 when scientists involved in developing Biological weapons tested deadly anthrax on the island. The island was closed to everyone for 48 years and £500,000 was spent decontaminating the area
A good 30 minute drive from Gruinard Beach
Test your head for heights on the bridge and viewing platform over the dramatic gorge while the water surges many metres below your feet. The surrounding walk has spectacular views of waterfalls and the open countryside towards Loch Broom.
this is a real must visit, and if ypou feeling peckish there should be one of the Best Burger Vans to searve up a real treat, she is brilliant.
An easy 30 minute drive
Ullapool is one of the bigger settlements that you will come across as you travel the West coast, with a population of about 2,000. Although small in size it has plenty to offer the tourist here and around the village.
It makes a great place to stop for a bite to eat and a wee rest as you take in the village and its scenery.
Again plenty of accomodation in and around this area, so make your choice....
Another packed day, so up and at it as early as possible.....
A short 20 minute drive from Knockan Crag
Ardvreck Castle is another iconic Castle even though not much of it remains. This is a great place for photos. The ruined castle dates from the 16th century and stands on a rocky promontory jutting out into Loch Assynt.
25-30 Minute Drive from Ardvreck Castle
Achmelvich Beach. is a fabulous place, and you shouldn't let the idea of some unusually challenging single track roads put you off making the short trip from Lochinver. This is possibly one of the most visited beaches on the entire route.
A 30-40 minute drive from Achmelvich Beach
Stoer Lighthouse is a fully Furnished Self Catering Lighthouse dating to 1870' and is a great place for a few days.
To visit is well worth it as the views from the cliffs are spectacular,
A 30 minute drive from Lochinver or 20 minutes from Stoer Lighthouse
Clashnessie Falls is a very impressive sight when the falls are in full flow. The walk is not the easiest but certainly not the worst. Stick to the Footpaths and you'll be fine.
A good 45 minute drive from Clashnessie Falls
Kylesku Bridge opened by the Queen in 1984. This is not just a spectacular bridge but also a fantasic place for photos with a great view.
Just a 5 minute drive from the Kylesku Bridge
Assynt Viewpoint is well worth a quick stop. The views are well worth the time.
Oldshoremore Beach is a pristine and lovely beach. When the tide is out lots of colourful jelly fish are washed up on the beach, bright blue and brown. It can be so peaceful especially in the evening and when no one is around....
Durness is proobably the area where it will be hard to choose where to go and what to see. Accomodation is plentiful from Sango Sands for campers etc and an endless list of B&B's and hotels although our favourite was Smoo Cave Hotel.
There is so much that choices will have to be made. The only alternative is to make it more than one night. The advantage of the summer is daylight lingers here virtually till mid night and is light in the wee small hours so an early start is highly recommended......who said this is a holiday......
We will list the places we feel you should visit, then you will have to make your choices to either do them today or the next day
This was our No1 place of the entire trip in 2018. Cape Wrath is an amzing wilderness and is well worht the time to visit. It has the only 24hr 365 days a year Cafe and Giftshop. You take a ferry from East Keodale Pier and check out their website as you cannot book in advance which is a shame. I suggest email of calling them. Between the Ferry and Bus the guys are great and the banter and stories we got were just so good as you bump your way to spectaular view at the Lighthouse.
Smoo Cave is possibly the one stop virtually everyone makes and rightly so. Just ensure you are fit enough for the walk down and back up, although it is certainly recommended to all except those with walking problems and families with buggies.
A Personal Favourite although the Gardens are tiny and not the greatest, it is a place to remember this Legend of a Human. Take time to read the words from the song he apparently wrote about his time in Durness as a child, "In My Life"
Along with the nearby beach this is another one of those places that a photo or two are great for the memory box.
A very popular place with folk mainly local with lots of different crafts available to see and buy......
Cocoa Mountain has gone from strength to strength since it was founded and opened in 2006 by two entrepreneurs James Vincent Findlay and his civil partner Paul Maden. One of the most popualr places in Durness and in fact on the route itself.
Yet again another great Beach and well worth a wee walk and paddle.
A quick 10-15 minute drive from Durness
The Golden Eagle Zip line is one of the Newest addition to the route which has proved extremly popular with many.
How do you fancy jumping off from the top of the 37 meters high coastal cliff and enjoy the flight next to the Atlantic Ocean high across one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern Highlands with speeds up to 40 mph? It is a fun and thrilling zip lining experience in really unique and spectacular location.
No booking is required. Just come and have a go during our opening hours 10AM-6PM.
A 45 Minute drive from the the Golden Eagle Zip Line
As you enter Tongue you cross the amazing Kyle of Tongue and it is well worth a stop on the Crossing Marker to grab a few photos....
A good 30 minute drive from the Kyle of Tongue Crossing Marker
The Strathnaver Museum is possibly the one museum you should visit on the route, there are many.
A quick 10 minute drive from Strathnaver Museum
A Great place for a photo especially with the last glimpses of the West looking towards Ben Hope.
A Good 20 minute drive from Bettyhill
At Krikton Farm come and have some fun on an off road all terrain 4 wheel drive buggy. Get off the beaten track and get an insight into sheep and cattle farming. Get up close to sheep and cattle including some highland cows. Hopefully you will see some deer and wildlife as you go round the hill and see some stunning views from the top of the hill.
Thurso a 25 minute drive from the Kirkton Farm.
A 20 minute drive from Thurso
Mary Ann's Cottage is a fantastic place to take you back in time as to exactly how we lived in the old days in Caithness. Certainly worth a visit.
A couple of minutes from Mary Ann's
One of the Big success stories of the North of Scotland in recent times. The Dunnet Bay Distillers have produced award winning Gins Like Rock Rose and Holy Grass Vodka. Well worth a Visit and definately well worth the Taste.....Hard luck if your the driver.....
Dunnet Bay Distillery
A 20-25 minute drive from the Dunnet Distillery
What more can one say about this iconic place. John O'Groats is to us a place to get your photo with the famous sign post and apart from the great Ferry that will take you to Orkney on a great day out, sadly John O'Groats is a big let down for most. Sadly we agree, so head east to the wonders of....
A Quick 5 minutes from John O'Groats
Duncansby Head has two great things going for it, and first is the Lighthouse where the road ends. A a good walk away but well worth it are the Duncasby Stacks. We cartainly recommened walking past the Stacks for even more terrific photos.
John O Groats. ( a very tourist place so head Walking to the Duncasby Stacks and beyond, you will love them (I personally don’t rate John O’Groats, once you’ve been that’s enough).
A Good 30 minute drive from Duncasby Head
Plenty sto see and do in and around Wick so these are our top picks if you get time.
A 5 Minute drive from Wick
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is located about 3 miles north of Wick on the east coast of Caithness, Scotland. It is considered to be one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair. It comprises the ruins of two castles: the 15th-century Castle Girnigoe; and the early 17th-century Castle Sinclair.
Established in 1826 this is one of the best Distilleries and Malts in Scotland. Pultneytown Distillery is certainly worht a visit and taste.
Possibly the Best Heritage Museum on the Route. Wick Heritage Museum is definately a stop that will take an hour of your time, but you will learn so much that it makes it a great visit.
Our Final Day and we need another early start to cram this lot in. The East seems to get a raw deal in comparison to the scenic West.
The East may lack in scenery, but we can assure you it has an abundance of that. It also ozzes, culture, History and Highlnad legends and folklore like no other part.
10-15 minute drive from Wick
Whaligoe steps is surrounded on three sides by 250ft cliffs and forms one of the most remarkable harbours you will find anywhere. It is reached by the Whaligoe Steps, which descend to the harbour: and a trip down the steps and the hard slog back up them make for a spectacular experience. Count them 365 ? And as an added bonus you hace the Cafe at the top which serves up tremendous food. Downside is the car Park is tiny and that it is not sign posted from the road so keep you eyes open for the turn off.
A good 30 minute drive from the Whaligoe Steps
The Berriedale Braes is a well known landmark and road in the North. Over the last 20 years effots to make it safer and wider has somewhat taken away some of its characteristics, but i supposae that's progress. Although tiny Berridale has a great wee harbour and a great wee Cafe called The River Bothy, try it, you won't be disappointed. As for the Viewpoint, gives great view across the County and well worth the stop.
A short 5 minutes from Berriedale
Badbea (pronounced bad-bay) is a former clearance village perched on the steep slopes above the cliff tops of Berriedale on the east coast of Caithness, Scotland. Situated around 5 miles (8 km) north of Helmsdale, the village was settled in the 18th and 19th centuries by families evicted from their homes when the straths of Langwell, Ousdale and Berriedale were cleared for the establishment of sheep farms.
A short 10-15 minute drive from Badbea
The Emigrants Statue is just by the road side as you leave Helmsdale. It is certainly worth a look and to be able to understand its meaning to the Highlands past and present. The Highland Clearances is still soemthing that modern day Highlanders still feel very strongly about. As you pass Golspie, take a look on the Hill and you will see a reminder of the clearances, a 100 foot / 30.4 Mtrs tall, it sits on top of Ben Bhraggie, and is of the First Duke of Sutherland. Ask a local and they will tell how much the man to this day is hated by Highlanders.
A 15-20 minute drive from Helmsdale
Another great Distillery, the Clyneish Distillery was originally built in 1819, adjacent to the new Clynelish. The original Clynelish closed in the year 1968 as the new Clynelish distillery had been built in 1967
A 10-15 minute drive from Clyneish Distillery
Dunrobin Castle has been Top attraction on the NC500 Route for the last few years and a visit will show why. This is not just a stunning Castle but has much more to offer. You could easily spend a day here due to the ammount of attractions on offer. It is definately worth the stop
A 30 minute drive from Dunrobin
Embo, what can one say about a childhood haunt. For those who have never been, then it is certainly worth a visit. There has been a settlement here since the bronze age and an example of that can be seen with a burial cairn at the centre of the village st the entrance to the carvan park.
A short 10 minute drive from Embo
Dornoch Cathedral Like any other Cathedral it is ceratinly worth a look. It is old in that it was built in the 13th Century. Also of interest, are the stained glass windows on the north side of the chancel. These windows were donated in memory of Andrew Carnegie, who was born in Dumfermline and often summered at his estate Skibo, located four miles from Dornoch. Carnegie is possibly best known in the USA.
15-20 minute drive from Dornoch
If you have never been to a distillery then this is one of the best and would nigh on complete your Highland Adventure.
A 30 minute drive from Glenmorangie.
Worth every mile. Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is on this great wee penninsula which has so much to offer over and beyond the Lighthouse.
If you can fit this in, then to me you would have covered the Best that the Route has to offer, but there is so much more. What this trip gives you is a blalance of the scenery along with the Real Highlands, the People and their Story. If you have never driven on single track roads then please check it out as it is vital you know what your doing. Ensure you have packed all the necessaries: Waterproof Clothing, Good Shoes for walking, a torch for emergencies. Phones don’t work in many places and you could break down miles and miles from nearest House let alone Garage.
DO NOT RELY ON SAT NAV there are many places it will send you in a totally different direction.
If the weather goes in your favour, then like I say, you will want to come back. You cant beat sitting in the evening sun on a deserted White sandy Beach as the sun goes down, a great place to sit and think, of nothing…..
What ever you do and where ever you go on the route, stay save, drive carefully and Glory at the awesomeness of the Highlands, Enjoy. One other thing, we have a saying in the Highlands, We love your Visit, but please leave only footprints…..Not your litter