The North Coast 500 is so much more than just a road through the Highlands. Whilst some that visit this spectacular part of the world may only be interested in driving the route for the sake of ticking it off the bucket list, most of us will be stopping off along the way to enjoy some of the unique attractions and activities on offer in the northerly reaches of Scotland.
What might make itinerary planning a little tricky however is the sheer number of possibilities awaiting visitors to the NC500. We were genuinely surprised on our eight-night trip about how much there was to do and see and therefore how quickly time ran away from us each day; it was simply impossible to do everything. So, we advise anyone heading to the Highlands to take the time to research and plan an itinerary around seeing the most of what you love.
To help you get started, we've done a little of the hard work for you. Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the amazing sights and activities in the region (it would take weeks to cover and do everything), these are the experiences or places that we tried, tested and thoroughly enjoyed, or that we know others will too. It's not got everything on offer on the route, but it certainly is a great starting point for your own itinerary plans. Each marker in the interactive maps below shows where to find each sight or attraction, along with a brief description (note that entry charges may be charged for some attractions).
So, whether you're an avid twitcher, an archeology fiend or love a good hike and a tipple - we've got you covered!
From the rare sighting of an orca off the north coast, to the humble highland cow, the NC500 offers so many opportunities for wildlife lovers. But where do you go to find them all?
Note that coastal sighting opportunities depend on the season. Roughly speaking, it can be broken down into common dolphin (May-August), white-beaked dolphin (July-October), minke whale (May-September), harbour porpoise (all year), basking shark (May-October), orcas (May-October).
Castles and Ruins
Scotland's history stretches back thousands of years and, unlike many countries, there are reminders of this fact all over the Highlands.
Whether you'd prefer to spend a night in a four-poster bed in a centuries old room or to capture the perfect shot of crumbling ruins at dusk, there's something for every history lover.
Unbeknownst to many, the north of Scotland is home to some spectacular beaches - in fact, on a bright, sunny day, you could be forgiven for forgetting you're in the UK entirely!
For those that love the feel of sand beneath you toes, don't forget to check out our favourite beaches along the route.
Outdoor Adventure and Attractions
Unsurprisingly in a part of Scotland known for its rugged landscapes and many Munros, this is a dream destination for those that love the great outdoors and the odd bit of adventure.
Whilst there are countless hikes and coastal activities across the Highlands (find out more here), we've focused on a handful that we think are just that little bit special and accessible for those who are driving the route, rather than visiting the Highlands for a hiking holiday.
Distilleries and Breweries
Whisky lover? Then the North Coast 500 is host to several internally renowned distilleries as well as a some up-and-coming breweries. Read this post to find out more about which ones we recommend visiting along the route.
Want to find out what other attractions and sights there are along the North Coast 500? Click here to find an extremely detailed and comprehensive interactive map by the official route organisers on all that's on offer on Scotland's best road trip.