NC500 Do’s and Don’ts

Are you planning a tour of the North Coast 500 (NC500) and looking for the perfect place to stay? Mackays Hotel offers an ideal place to stay for your journey through Wick. Mackays Hotel combines comfort, convenience and a warm welcome, ensuring a memorable stay. Plus we are dog-friendly! Read on to discover dos and don’ts for your NC500 adventure, helping you make the most of this iconic route.

What is the North Coast 500?

The North Coast 500 or NC500 is a circular driving route that starts and ends in Inverness, Scotland. Spanning 516 miles, this route takes you through Caithness in the north and both Wester Ross and Easter Ross, offering a stunning journey through Scotland’s unspoilt beauty and wildlife. If you haven’t added the NC500 to your bucket list yet, you should.

Kylesku Bridge along the NC500 in Northern Scotland
The Kylesku Bridge along the NC500.

DO book your hotel in advance

Accommodations along the NC500 can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Booking your hotel in advance ensures you have a comfortable place to stay each night. At Mackays Hotel in Wick, we offer a great location, dog-friendly accommodation and comfortable amenities for your journey.

DON’T rush, take your time

The NC500 is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. We recommend spending at least five to seven days on the route if you can stretch 14 days is perfect. This gives you time to truly soak up the Scottish Highland wilderness and experience different activities along the way. Top tip, avoid driving every day, instead spend more time exploring each area.

DO plan your route

While the official NC500 map is a guideline, venturing off the beaten path to explore Highland villages and coastal towns is highly recommended. Planning your route helps ensure you see the sights that interest you most.

Glasses with red frame on map of Scotland.
Plan ahead before starting your North Coast 500 trip.

DON’T rely solely on Google Maps

The NC500 includes many single-track roads which can take longer to travel than expected. Give yourself plenty of driving time and don’t rely entirely on Google Maps. Remember, it’s a journey, not a race.

DO set bases along the route

Setting up a series of bases around the route allows you to spend two or three nights in each location. This way, you can explore on foot and travel around each area without constantly packing and unpacking.

DON’T visit distilleries and drive

Scotland’s whisky distilleries are a highlight, especially on the west and east coasts. However, plan your visits responsibly. Never drink and drive. Instead, arrange tours or tastings that don’t require immediate travel.

Flight of single malt scotch whisky in glasses served in bar.
Visiting a whisky distillery is a must-do while on your Scottish road trip.

DO become an NC500 member

For £15, becoming an NC500 member offers a great digital map and guidebook. Most information is also available on their website, including an interactive map.

DON’T underestimate the Scottish weather

Scottish weather can be unpredictable, often experiencing all four seasons in one day. Pack clothing for various weather conditions, including hats, walking boots, waterproof coats and sunscreen.

DO book restaurants in advance

Popular dining spots along the NC500 can get busy, especially during the summer months. Booking restaurants ahead of time ensures you enjoy the local cuisine without the stress of finding a last-minute reservation. You can book ahead in our restaurant at Mackays Hotel.

A chef plating up Fine dining cuisine.
If you are looking for restaurants in Wick that offer fine dining and good company, then look no further than Mackays Hotel’s No1 Bistro.

DON’T plan every detail

Allow flexibility in your itinerary. The NC500 is unique because of its unexpected discoveries and changes in plans due to weather. Embrace the spontaneity of your trip.

DO fill up petrol when you can

Petrol stations are sparse along the NC500, so fill up whenever possible. For those with electric vehicles, there are several EV chargers, mainly operated by ChargePlace Scotland.

DON’T expect constant phone service

Internet and mobile phone connections can be limited along the NC500. Leave work expectations behind and enjoy the digital detox. Mackays Hotel offers free wireless broadband for those staying with us.

Drone shoot capturing motorhomes on scenic A838 road near Kyle of Durness and Beinn Spionnaidh at bright day in North West Highlands of Scotland - NC500 Route
Remember to take in the beautiful scenery on the NC500 route.

When touring the NC500, consider staying at Mackays Hotel in Wick. Located on the main route in the northeast of Scotland, Mackays Hotel provides a comfortable and convenient stay for exploring the NC500. With excellent amenities, a warm welcome and dog-friendly accommodations, it’s the perfect place to rest and recharge before continuing your journey through Scotland’s stunning highlands.

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