North Coast 500: A Guide to the Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

There are plenty of road trips to enjoy while travelling Scotland in a motorhome. There’s the Moray Firth route that takes you from Inverness to Loch Fleet, the Deeside route from Perth to Aberdeen, and the gorgeous Snow Roads route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey. 

Before setting off in one of our Scottish motorhomes, however, a lot of travellers ask us about the best road trip in Scotland, and our answer is always the same. If you want the quintessential road trip that wraps up numerous locations in one, then there’s no better option than the North Coast 500.

What is the North Coast 500?

The North Coast 500 is such a popular road trip that, according to disgruntled locals, it has driven up house prices by as much as 12%, such is its popularity and the boosted tourism that it brings. 

Starting in the northern city of Inverness and weaving around the coast 500 miles – 516, to be exact – to end in the same place, this is a stunning road trip that passes through all of the best Scottish locations. For those who remember the popular BBC show Top Gear, this route was described by Jeremy Clarkson as the ‘best drive in the world’, and considering how many places that trio have driven in, that’s high praise indeed. 

Why Should You Experience It?

There’s a lot to see on the NC500. Being a massive circular route that takes you all around northern Scotland, we can’t possibly go into every location here – you’re the explorer, so you’ll have to discover that for yourself! But we can certainly walk you through some of the must-see highlights. 

  • Inverness

The NC500 starts with Inverness, of course, which is the home of the incredible Loch Ness. With views of the rolling hills and the loch glistening in the sun, you wouldn’t be foolish to think the scenery has to go downhill from here, but you’d be wrong.

  • Dunrobin Castle

For those who want to feel like they’ve driven into a fairytale, the NC500 will take you past Dunrobin Castle, which is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. Make sure you stop off and explore the castle and gardens before going any further.

  • Rogie Falls

For the first time during your Scottish trip, you’ll be hoping that it rains when you reach the Black Water River, because the Rogie Falls are even more striking in stormy weather. With a bridge and viewing platform, you can stand right above the raging rapids, watching as the black rocks glisten and sparkle in the dark light.

  • Smoo Cave

There are plenty of hidden gems along the NC500, but one of our favourites has to be Smoo Cave, which is a natural sea cave in the cliffs of eastern Durness. With multiple caverns and even a cascading waterfall, you can take a walk through this cave and learn about some of its fascinating history – which includes tales of smuggling and witchcraft.

  • Culloden

Our other favourite spot has to be Culloden, which is the location of the last battle between the Highland clansmen and the army of the Duke of Cumberland. It is admittedly a sombre spot, full of tragedy and a dark, gloomy atmosphere, but if you’re into your history and you want to know more about the history of Scotland, then it’s a must that you park up and take a look.

Frequently Asked Questions about North Coast 500

Remember, these are just a few of the locations you can witness on your NC500 road trip, but there are many more, including the Summer Isles, Duncansby Head, Dunnet Head, Sandwood Bay, Camusdarach Beach, the list just goes on and on. If you’re anything like our other customers, however, you’re likely to have a few more questions before you set off. Take a read below to see if we can answer them right off the bat. 

Is This Road Trip Suitable for Motorhomes?

The NC500 is definitely suitable for our vehicles, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. There are a scattering of stretches that are a little tight, with sharp bends and steep gradients, so make sure you keep your map close and take some alternative routes when needed – and where available.

When’s the Best Time to Experience NC500?

No one can ever guarantee good weather in Scotland, but it’s obviously more likely to rain in the winter and spring. This shouldn’t put you off travelling then, of course. Just make sure you’re cautious on the roads and pack some warm, waterproof clothing for your explorations!

How Long Does the Route Take?

If you want to fully experience the NC500 – which we recommend you do – then you’ll want to give yourself at least seven days to make the trip. This is without stopping to take in all the best locations, however, so if you want a well-rounded, in-depth experience, you may want to give yourself a little longer.

Are There Motorhome Sites Along the Way?

There are plenty of motorhome sites along the route of the NC500. We’d recommend you take some time to pinpoint the closest and read up on the specific guidelines for each.

Is it an Easy Drive?

We mentioned before that the NC500 has a scattering of difficult stretches, but overall, one of the reasons this route is so popular is because it’s a safe, enjoyable drive that passes through some glorious locations. That being said, before setting off on your motorhome trip, make sure you brush up on Scottish road safety and be prepared to enjoy the NC500 in the safest way possible.