Riding the North Coast 500 (NC500) by motorcycle is a must for anyone touring Scotland, or indeed the UK. The route highlights all of the best bits of the Highlands. From the twists and turns of the epic Bealach Na Ba to humble fishing villages way up North. Lined with natural beauty for each of the 516 miles, this journey is one to savour and take your time with.
Here are just a few of the main highlights you will see on your North Coast 500 self-guided motorcycle tour:
Warm up for your Scottish Highlands motorcycle tour with a relaxing ride out around the infamous Loch Ness, with stops at Urquart Castle, Falls of Foyers and Dores Beach.
Inverness Castle is the official start and end of the North Coast 500. Climb the north tower for 360 degree views of Inverness and the surrounding area, plus find out some intriguing myths and legends about the city (today the castle is a court and otherwise not open to the public).
Heading out west, you will start your trip proper approaching the famous ‘Bealach Na Ba’, notorious due to its winding steep gradients, single track road and tight bends! Take your time going around this and don’t forget to take a picture at the summit. Also known as the ‘pass of the cattle’ – you can see the Cuillin hills of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Rum beyond.
After exploring the charming Applecross peninsula, you will make your way to Torridon, where you will spend the evening.
This morning’s journey will take you through the scenic town of Gairloch and on to Ullapool. Spend your morning learning about the history of the area, why not check out Gairloch Heritage Centre. They will take you on a journey through time showing you how local people lived and worked in Gairloch through the ages. Alternatively, visit the Russian Artic Convoy Museum in Aultbea. Loch Ewe was the hive of activity during WW2.
Back on the road, after lunch in Girloch or Aultbea, catch the fresh open air as your drive past the picturesque Loch Broom and Gruinard Bay to Aultbea – a lovely fishing village perched on Loch Ewe, before riding on to the picturesque fishing village of Ullapool, where you will spend the evening.
Start the morning off with a ride out to Achiltibuie and Coigach – definitely worth the detour, a pleasant ride off the beaten track, the road passes through magnificent mountains and loch scenery, the views are incredible! Enjoy the twisting single track road out towards the Summer Isles – a perfect picnic spot!
Retrace your route briefly then head continue North to the foodie haven of Lochniver and onto the B869 road, through dramatic coastline, past pristine white sand beaches and turquoise clear waters – making you feel like you are in the Caribbean. The scenery here just gets better and better! Enjoy a stop at Clachtoll and Achmelvich beach – often said to be the best beaches in the Highlands!
Shortly after leaving the Assynt coastal route you will arrive at Kylesku – a photo of Kylesku Bridge is becoming something of a tradition here on the North Coast 500 – park up your bikes and capture the amazing backdrop of this stunning bridge, before continuing on to Durness.
Spend part of the morning exploring the village of Durness, one of few villages which can only be reached by single track road, with large farming and crofting communities. Then a quick stop at Smoo Cave, before you head off for your ride along the top of Scotland. On your way you will ride through the amazing scenery of Loch Eriboll, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope. Look out for safe parking stops as you will definitely want to capture this on camera!
As you travel around the Highlands, you will find lots of wee hamlets and villages to explore off the route. Pull over in Strathy and find yourself a walk way up the beach. A secluded spot with a wee small cave in-let, it’s well worth the little walk and you may even be met by some of the famous hairy heilan coos!
Continuing on East, you will continue your ride through Thurso, then on to the Castle of Mey and finally to John o’Groats, the most northerly village in mainland Britain.
A shorter ride today, you can start the morning with a ride up to Duncansby Head and enjoy a leisurely morning stroll to its two large sea stacks. These can be seen up close by taking a short walk through the field.
Turning south, you will have the chance to check out Old Kiess Castle and Girnigoe Castle, both exceptional ruins situated in some of the most dramatic locations, poised at the top of steep cliffs overlooking or extending out into Sinclair’s Bay.
Continuing your ride down through Wick, an on to your lunch stop of Whaligoe, where you can stretch your legs with a descent to Whaligoe Haven by the 330 steps!
Enjoy the run south in the afternoon, soaking up the scenery of the coast on your left, before arriving at your evening’s accommodation in Brora.
On your final day on the road, start your morning with a visit to Dunrobin Castle – the seat of Clan Sutherland, before continuing south through Golspie and then venturing west, to discover the villages of Lairg and Bonar Bridge…Keep your eyes peeled for the famous Broon’s House on its tiny island on Little Loch Shin. In the summer months, you can often see salmon leaping upstream at the Falls of Shin.
Riding along the Dornoch Firth, you will head south at Edderton, taking the scenic route down to Evanton. If you have time and the inclination the Glenmorangie and Dalmore distilleries are only short little detours, if you want to stock up on your final day. If not, you will continue on to Dingwall and finally finish your North Coast 500 adventure in Inverness, just in time for a hard earned beer or three.
Itinerary for this North Coast 500 self-guided motorcycle tour may change without further notice due to weather, road or any other condition that the operator feels will jeopardise rider safety.
From price per rider (based on dual occupancy)
Single room supplement = £185
Prices are to be used as a guide and will be confirmed before booking.
Want to do the ride and organise everything yourself? Check out our guide on riding the North Coast 500. We can still help you with great value rental.s. Contact us for more info.