Touring the North Coast 500

The ultimate road trip through some of the world's most spectacular scenery

The North Coast 500 is often dubbed as Scotland’s version of ‘Route 66’. But the comparison fails to illustrate the breath-taking culture and heritage one embarks on, over this journey. Created in 2014 by the North Highland Initiative, the route brings together 500 miles (516 if we are being accurate) of the finest of Scottish scenery and landmarks.

Which route to take

The official NC500 route begins and ends at Inverness Castle. You can undertake the route either clock-wise or anti-clockwise. For spectacular views, we recommend heading west. Features such as ‘The Bealach Na Ba’ are guaranteed to excite your palate for the experiences yet to come!

Deep in the Highlands

If you fancy throwing yourself deep into the Highland route, why not fly direct to Wick John O’ Groats Airport? Arriving in the middle of the 500 miles you will enjoy close access to the magnificent features both on the east and west! Save yourself a day or two travelling and jump right into your journey. We at Mackays are more than happy to arrange a hire car to make your trip that wee bit less stressful!

Visiting attractions along the North Coast 500

With an ample supply of daily activities, it is understandable that choosing what to do during your available time scale can be quite challenging! To assist you in making this decision, the official NC500 website has created an interactive map. The map features all the available activities and accommodation during your journey. If you fancy an in-depth exploration of Sutherland and Caithness visit Venture North. This website features extensive ‘To Do’ lists ranging from accommodation to ultimate shopping experiences. Speaking on behalf of the locals, we have also created a map of Mackays recommendations of our favourite spots in the Northern Highlands.

North Coast 500 Accommodation

Mackays Hotel is ideally situated for those looking to relax and rejuvenate before the last leg of their NC500 journey. With an ample supply of local attractions, Caithness is an area not to be missed along the map of the Highlands. At Mackays, we guarantee award-winning dining and a soft bed to leave you finishing your tour bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Don’t take our word for it? They say seeing is believing, have a look at some of our former guest’s experiences.

Being proud owners of our Gold Tourism Award, green living is at the core of our business and weekend explorations! Ever aiming to minimize our carbon footprint, Mackays have installed a TESLA charging point for all guests. We extend a warm offer to all TESLA drivers, to charge while you dine at no extra cost! If you too share a passion for reducing your emissions, try out the carbon calculator as recommended by the Green Tourism scheme. Additionally if you are looking to complete some or all of your travels by bike, but don’t fancy the nuisance of extra baggage on the trip home, visit John O’ Groats Cycle Transport who supply bike taxis across the highlands.

North Coast 500 Maps and Apps

Plan your road trip of a lifetime with all the handy information and tools below:

Better safe than sorry! Download the NC500 Map for a trusty guide on your upcoming journey.

Get the NC500 App on Google Play or Apple App Store to explore everything there is to know about your upcoming journey.

Download the Venture North Heritage App to prevent missing out on breathtaking historic landscapes!

Things to see along the way

Here are some our recommendations of North Coast 500 things to see when you stay with us at Mackays Hotel in Wick. There are so many must-see places along the North Coast 500 that we thought would create the best pick to help you along your way.

The world’s shortest street

If you’re looking for an iconic landmark to highlight your NC500 journey, look no further than Ebenezer Place, the world’s shortest street and the home of Mackays Hotel! Existing since 1887, Ebenezer Place recently received acknowledgement for this Guinness World Record in 2006, measuring up to 6ft 9inches!

Castles and historic sites

Standing since the 1300s, Dunrobin Castle has been home to the Highlands most powerful clans. Great photo opportunities and garden walks and it is one of the great places to see on the North Coast 500.

This ruin, Castle Varrich is a great opportunity to stretch one’s legs and explore the remnants of the once-powerful Clan Mackay!

Ever fancied yourself as being royalty? Why not walk through the footsteps of the late Queen Mother. With spectacular views, gardens and an opportunity to play with local animals the Castle of Mey is a great way to stretch those legs.

Walk through the now abandoned settlement of Badbea, known as the Clearance Village. Despite its bleak history of families being relocated here during the Highland Clearances, this breathtaking walk is worth a venture for those looking to walk through the footsteps of their ancestors.

Open between June – September, the Clan Gunn Museum tells the story of Clan Gunn from their Norse heritage to present day in keeping with the changing history of the Highlands.

Stunning landscapes and coastline

While passing through Ulbster why not uncover the unusually situated port of Whaligoe? Leading to Whaligoe Haven descend each of the 330 Whaligoe Steps. Feel yourself step back in history and uncover untamed wildlife that has overcome remnants of this obscure fishing port.

Dubbed as one of the best reef breaks in the UK, Thurso is an ideal spot for those looking to destress and catch some waves!

Join the Geo Explorer for an exciting tour of the East Caithness coastline. Exploring caves, Whaligoe Haven, castles, geos, natural arches and much more. Close up views of seasonal nesting birds and marine wildlife.

Only a ten-minute walk from John O’ Groats, grab a quick stroll at the Stacks of Duncansby before continuing your journey. This remarkable landscape is home to breath-taking views and an abundance of highland wildlife.

Explore Smoo cave notorious for Vikings and Clan Mackay mischief. Take part in the tour to discover hidden waterfalls and other natural mysteries.

Bag yourself the most northerly Munro in mainland Scotland and climb Ben Hope. Home to spectacular views of ruined lochans and moors

Hidden in a valley of limestone walk through The Bone Caves where the remnants of countless beasties have been discovered.

Get up close and personal with Caithness seals often spotted near John O’ Groats in Sannick Bay.