Our Journal

Route Suggestions, Tips & Advice
09 April 2021
Kim Pierce

A Guide to Scotland’s North Coast 500

Spectacular beaches, rugged coastlines, fascinating castle ruins and so much more, the NC500 is fast becoming one of the most popular road trips in the world.

Gaining notoriety in 2015 thanks to the North Highlands Initiative, established as a non-profit organisation by Prince Charles, the routes beautiful lochs, magnificent mountains, sea caves and wild coasts are capturing visitors attention and standing out in their memories.

Here’s our guide to the most commonly asked questions.

Scottish Highlands – image by @katjnem via Unsplash

How long does it take to drive the North Coast 500?

You can rent our vehicles for a minimum 7 days, which is conveniently also our recommended time to spend getting the most from this stunning roadtrip. Check out our 7 day NC500 itinerary blog for ideas to help you start planning.

Where does the North Coast 500 start and finish?

The NC500 is a scenic route around the north coast of Scotland approximately 516 miles or 830 km. Traditional it starts and ends in Inverness Castle. However, when you hire one of the Highland Overland vehicles you will met at Inverness Airport with your car so your adventure starts as soon as you step off the plane.

Where does the North Coast 500 go?

Covering the north coast of Scotland, the NC500 starts in Inverness and can be driven either way round but most go clockwise, starting out by heading along the west coast to Applecross, it then curves northwards and works its way to the towns of Torridon and Ullapool. As you travel along the most northerly points of Scotland through Caithness and John O’Groats, you’ll then head south again and back to Inverness.

Highland Overland vehicles driving through the highlands – (C) Highland Overland

Whens the best time of year to drive the NC500?

Most people visit between May and September when the weather is at its warmest, most attractions and businesses are open and its also the best time for wildlife viewing. However, for the adventurers looking for a more quiet escape, the shoulder months of May and October can still provide some warmer weather with the benefit of fewer crowds and off-season rates.

Where can I find a 7 day itinerary for the NC500?

Check out our blog on our recommended week long highlights itinerary. More itineraries tailored to specific travellers and their interests to come so keep an eye out!

Can you wild camp along the NC500?

Yes! Wild camping is legal in Scotland, however there are still guidelines to follow so make sure you read up on the rules before you set off. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is a little stricter due to over use so camping is only permitted in designated areas or with a camping permit. Keep an eye out for our guide to wild camping in Scotland coming soon.

Breakfast at the side of a loch – (C) Highland Overland

What activities are there to do along the NC500?

The North Coast 500 is the outdoor adventurers paradise. Mountain bike trails, white water rafting, miles of stunning hikes and water sports are all available for those who love a challenge. If you enjoy the more laid back activities, there’s some great golfing, world renowned distilleries and stunning heritage and castles to explore.

There is something for everyone and we’ll be covering everything there is to do, see and experience over the coming months.

Can you drive the NC500 in winter?

We always recommend a bit of planning but if you choose to do this route in winter then its extra important as the conditions in the Highlands get a little more extreme and you want to ensure you always have support if you need it.

Some attractions and businesses will be closed so reach out if there are any must-do’s on your itinerary to make sure they will be available.

We recommend winter travel for the more experienced road tripper or for the more novice wanting to hunt down the Northern Lights or experience the stunning snowy landscapes make sure to book some accommodation along the way so you can escape the cold and enjoy some fabulous Scottish hospitality.

Winter camping along the NC500 – (C) Highland Overland



With the NC500 route becoming more and more popular and especially busy in the summer months, it is well worth planning your trip and booking accommodation in advance. Although remember with our beautiful fully equipped vehicles you don’t have to. With wild camping being legal in Scotland, just pull up, unload, pump up the tents and you’re ready for a great nights sleep without the hassle.

You can find official NC500 maps in selected shops across the North Highlands area. Or visit www.northcoast500.com where you can sign up to be a member, receive a map as part of your membership pack, explore their interactive map and download the official North Coast 500 app.

Image by @crystalmariesing via Twenty20

For more information on the North Coast 500 and hiring one of the G.O.Y.A. Adventures vehicles, get in touch with the team or follow us on Facebook and Instagram or subscribe to our page on YouTube.