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There's nothing quite like the freedom of the long open road. Never-ending back roads, wide meandering country tracks and beautiful bends through some of Scotland's finest coastal scenery are just a few things you can expect along the North Coast 500. Strap yourself in for the road trip of a lifetime.
Please remember to plan your trip in advance. It is crucial for the wellbeing of Scotland's landscapes, as well as for local residents and businesses, that the areas around the route are respected and looked after properly. A few things to keep in mind:
Please remember to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres at all times, both indoors and outdoors, when required.
The NC500 starts in the northern city of Inverness (and the Glenmoriston Townhouse is the perfect start & finish point), weaves along the west coast to Applecross and then northwards towards the towns of Torridon and Ullapool. From there, you'll venture to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, passing by Caithness and John o' Groats before heading south again through Dingwall and finally back to Inverness.
Explore the crumbling ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the edge of Loch Assynt, just north of Inchnadamph.
Another spectacular ruin not far off the NC500 route is Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness.
Just south of Brora, you'll come across Dunrobin Castle, a French-style chateau. Inhabited since the 1300s, the castle was a war hospital during the First World War.
Take a look at the architectural guide to the North Coast 500 which features 48 inspiring structures, for more.
Climb this prominent ridge in Wester Ross for stunning views across Assynt on a clear day, and a massive sense of achievement, of course! Stac Pollaidh is just one of the mountains you can ascend along the NC500, with others including Ben Hope, An Teallach and Suilven.
Whether you're looking for secluded sands, epic surf or pure natural beauty, the beaches of the north Highlands have it all. Balnakeil Beach near Durness in Sutherland is renowned for its pristine white sands.
Your journey will take you through landscapes framed by ancient geology. At the northern tip of Scotland, Smoo Cave is a mystical limestone sea cave, with a staggering 50 ft entrance and impressive cascading waterfall which is especially mesmerising following wet weather.
See if you can spot the resident dolphin population in the Moray Firth from Chanonry Point, a narrow peninsula between Rosemarkie and Fortrose. Dolphin spotting boat tours take place in the summer months.
Find other recommended locations for spotting these delightful creatures.
© Neil McIntyre
For those in larger vehicles, and drivers who don't fancy it, there is an alternative route - phew!
The walk to Sandwood Bay may take a couple of hours, but the beautiful beach, dramatic cliffs and impressive Am Buachaille sea stack make it worth it.
It's time to create a splash! Watersports enthusiasts will find themselves well catered for along the NC500. Brims Ness near Thurso in Caithness is particularly popular with surfers, as well as Thurso East.