scottish summer isles

The North Coast 500, often referred to as Scotland’s “Route 66”, is a 516-mile (800km) odyssey that weaves through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Scottish Highlands. From vertiginous cliffs plunging into emerald waters to castles steeped in history set against wild backdrops, the NC500 provides an epic canvas for adventurers from all walks of life. At Adventures Scotland, we are passionate about discovering and exploring these untouched territories. Our goal is to guide you through these natural and historical wonders, ensuring a rewarding and unforgettable adventure on one of the world’s most beautiful roads. So, we asked our local travel consultants (Amy and Tom) to list their 20 favorite spots on the NC500, and here are the results!

1-Dunnet Head

The northernmost point of mainland Britain offers spectacular views of cliffs and the ocean, a paradise for photographers and contemplatives.

Tom: “Dunnet Head isn’t just the northernmost point; it’s where you truly feel Scotland’s untamed spirit. The cliffs and ocean merge in a spectacle that speaks to the soul.”

Amy: “Beyond its geographical significance, it’s a haven for those seeking a moment of reflection. The way the landscape interacts with the changing light can transform the mundane into the magical, making it an essential stop for anyone wanting to experience Scotland’s dramatic beauty.”


The white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters of Durness are a haven of peace, more reminiscent of the Caribbean than traditional Scottish coasts.

Tom: “Durness is a revelation. Its beaches challenge what people expect of Scottish landscapes. Instead of rugged, misty coasts, here we have this stretch of Caribbean-like tranquility.”

Amy: “It’s not just about the visual contrast. Durness offers a unique blend of Scottish culture and natural serenity. It’s a place where visitors can unwind in peace, yet feel the deep roots of Scottish heritage. The combination of white sands and clear waters with the backdrop of Scottish highlands is mesmerizing.”

3-Handa Island

This island is an exceptional nature reserve, home to thousands of seabirds. Its cliffs and wild beaches offer breathtaking hikes.

Tom: “Handa Island is more than a nature reserve; it’s a testament to Scotland’s rugged beauty and biodiversity. The sight of thousands of seabirds against the backdrop of cliffs is truly awe-inspiring.”

Amy: “The hiking trails offer an intimate encounter with nature’s raw power. Every step on Handa Island feels like walking through a living documentary, with each turn revealing a new natural wonder.”

4-Ardvreck Castle

The ruins of this 15th-century castle, located on the shores of Loch Assynt, tell a story of clans and conflicts, in a setting of melancholic beauty.

Tom: “Ardvreck Castle is a poignant reminder of Scotland’s turbulent history. Its ruins, set against Loch Assynt, are not just remnants of stone but of centuries of stories, conflicts, and lives lived.”

Amy: “Its melancholic beauty invites contemplation, not just about the past, but about the impermanence of power and the resilience of nature reclaiming its space. Visiting Ardvreck is like stepping into a historical novel, where every stone has a tale to whisper.”

5-Bealach na Bà

This mountainous road is a challenge for drivers and a treat for the eyes, with panoramic views of the Highlands’ mountains and valleys. We have listed this road among the most beautiful in Scotland.

Tom: “Bealach na Bà isn’t just a road; it’s a journey through the heart of the Highlands. The drive itself, with its twists and steep ascents, feels like an adventure, pushing the limits of what we consider accessible.”

Amy: “The views are a reward in themselves. It’s as if the entire landscape of the Highlands unfolds before you. It’s not just about reaching the top but appreciating the beauty and ruggedness of Scotland’s natural terrain along the way.”

6-Applecross Peninsula

Accessible via the Bealach na Bà, this peninsula is a haven of natural beauty, with welcoming communities and coastal landscapes to explore.

Tom: “The journey to Applecross Peninsula, through the Bealach na Bà, is like a rite of passage. Once there, it’s not just the landscapes that captivate but the sense of community. It embodies the spirit of Scottish hospitality.”

Amy: “The mix of coastal and mountain scenery offers something unique. It’s a place where you can find solitude along the shores or camaraderie in the local pubs. The peninsula encourages exploration, not just of the land but of the connections it fosters.”


The imposing massifs of Torridon are a playground for hikers, offering trails through some of the oldest and wildest landscapes on the planet.

Tom: “Torridon is a testament to the raw power of nature. Its ancient landscapes aren’t just beautiful; they’re steeped in geological history, offering a glimpse into the earth’s past.”

Amy: “It’s more than trails. It’s an opportunity to connect with nature on a profound level, surrounded by some of the oldest rock formations. Each path offers not just physical challenges but also moments of awe and reflection.”


This fishing village is the ideal starting point for excursions to the Hebrides or simply to enjoy the maritime atmosphere and live music.

Tom: “Ullapool’s charm goes beyond its role as a gateway to the Hebrides. It’s a cultural hub, where the maritime heritage and modern Scottish music scene blend seamlessly.”

Amy: “It offers a unique slice of Highland life, where the day’s catch and tales from the sea are shared alongside live music. It’s a place where the past and present coexist, enriching the visitor’s experience.”

9-Smoo Cave

A visit to this vast sea cave is an adventure in itself, with its impressive entrance and indoor waterfalls.

Tom: “Smoo Cave is a marvel, not just for its size but for the story it tells of natural forces at work. Its entrance and waterfalls inside make it a living showcase of geological and hydrological processes.”

Amy: “It’s like stepping into another world, where the power of water has carved out this incredible space. It’s a place that combines beauty, mystery, and the raw force of nature, offering visitors an adventure that’s both visual and exploratory.”

10-Inverewe Garden

A surprising botanical garden at this latitude, thanks to the Gulf Stream. Its collections of exotic and local plants delight visitors.

Tom: “Inverewe Garden challenges the stereotype of Scottish landscapes. Its existence, flourishing with exotic and local plants at this latitude, is a testament to the Gulf Stream’s influence. It’s a botanical wonder that defies expectations.”

Amy: “It’s not just a garden; it’s a symbol of adaptability and the unexpected surprises of nature. Visitors are treated to a visual feast, showcasing the diversity of plant life that can thrive in Scotland’s unique climate.”


This village, “the Jewel of the Highlands”, is known for its mild climate, palm trees, and picturesque waterfront, offering a striking contrast with the rest of the Highlands.

-Tom: “Plockton’s charm lies in its unexpected tropical vibe amidst the rugged Highlands. It’s like a little piece of paradise, with palm trees swaying in the mild climate.”

-Amy: “It’s this blend of Scottish village life with a nearly Mediterranean feel that makes Plockton stand out. The waterfront adds to its picturesque quality, making it a must-visit for anyone seeking beauty and tranquility.”

12-Eilean Donan Castle

Probably one of Scotland’s most photographed castles, it offers a spectacular setting, located on a small island where three large lochs meet. We have listed this castle among the most beautiful in Scotland.

(Eilean Donan Castle ©Tom)

Tom: “Eilean Donan Castle’s fame is well-deserved. Its location is unparalleled, standing where three lochs meet, embodying the romantic essence of Scotland.”

Amy: “It’s a place where history feels alive, surrounded by water and mountains. The castle is a bridge between the past and present, offering visitors a glimpse into Scotland’s storied heritage in a breathtaking setting.”

13-Loch Maree

With its wooded islands and tranquil waters, Loch Maree is one of Scotland’s most beautiful and poetic lochs.

Tom: “Loch Maree holds a special place in the heart of Scottish lochs. Its islands and tranquil waters are not just visually stunning but carry a sense of serenity that’s hard to find elsewhere.”

Amy: “Its beauty is almost poetic, offering a reflective space for visitors. The combination of ancient woodlands and clear waters creates a natural harmony, inviting exploration and quiet contemplation.”


Its beautiful beaches and boat trips to see dolphins make Gairloch a must-visit for nature lovers.

Tom: “Gairloch is a treasure for those who love the sea and its creatures. The opportunity to see dolphins in their natural habitat adds an unforgettable experience to the stunning beach views.”

Amy: “It’s a blend of scenic beauty and wildlife that makes Gairloch stand out. It’s not just about the beaches but the connection with nature that visitors can experience, making it a highlight for anyone exploring the NC500.”

15-Cape Wrath

The most northwestern point of the Scottish mainland offers wild landscapes and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Tom: “Cape Wrath marks the edge of Scotland’s vast wilderness, offering dramatic landscapes that are both challenging and awe-inspiring. It’s where the land meets the Atlantic in the most dramatic fashion.”

Amy: “Its remote location and rugged terrain embody the untamed spirit of the Scottish Highlands. The views of the ocean are a powerful reminder of nature’s scale and beauty, making Cape Wrath a pinnacle experience for those who venture to the northwest extremity of Scotland.”

16-Dunrobin castle

Dunrobin Castle, the historical residence of the Sutherland Dukes, stands as the most expansive estate in the Highlands. In the mid-19th century, the Sutherlands hired Sir Charles Barry, renowned for designing the Houses of Parliament, to remodel the castle into a French chateau aesthetic, complete with gardens reminiscent of those at Versailles. The castle and its meticulously designed gardens welcome visitors, offering a glimpse into a grand era of architectural and horticultural design.

dunrobin castle in the highlands

Tom: “”Dunrobin Castle isn’t just a historical landmark; it’s a bridge between Scottish heritage and French architectural elegance. Its transformation by Sir Charles Barry introduced a touch of Versailles to the Highlands, blending grandeur with the ruggedness of its setting. It’s also a symbol of journey’s beginnings and the vast possibilities that lie ahead on the NC500.”

Amy: “The gardens, inspired by those at Versailles, add a layer of sophistication and beauty that contrasts with the natural Highland landscape. It’s a unique fusion that offers visitors a rich cultural experience, merging Scottish history with international design influences.”


This Victorian village, known for its thermal springs, and its maze is a charming detour with its historic buildings and gardens.

Tom: “Strathpeffer captivates with its Victorian elegance and therapeutic thermal springs. It’s a step back in time, offering a blend of historical charm and natural wellness.”

Amy: “Its gardens and historic buildings provide a serene escape. Strathpeffer shows that the NC500 isn’t just about landscapes but also about Scotland’s rich cultural heritage and the healing power of nature.”

18-Loch Ness

No roadtrip on the NC500 would be complete without a stop at the legendary Loch Ness, searching for the monster or simply to admire the ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Loch Ness Dores
Loch Ness Dores (©Leading Lines)

Tom: “Loch Ness embodies the mystery and allure of the Scottish Highlands. Its deep waters and the legends that surround them draw visitors from around the world.”

Amy: “It’s not just about Nessie; it’s about experiencing the vastness and beauty of Loch Ness, along with the historical depth of Urquhart Castle. This loch offers a blend of natural wonder and folklore, making it an essential part of the NC500 experience.”

19-Castle of Mey

The former residence of the Queen Mother, its gardens and the view of the Orkneys are fascinating.

-Tom: “The Castle of Mey, with its royal heritage as the former residence of the Queen Mother, offers a unique glimpse into Scotland’s aristocratic past. Its gardens and the views overlooking the Orkneys add a layer of natural beauty and historical depth.”

Amy: “A piece of Scotland’s history, beautifully preserved. The gardens are a testament to the personal touch of the Queen Mother, making it a deeply personal and visually stunning visit on the NC500.”

20-Corrieshalloch Gorge

This deep gorge and its suspension bridge offer dramatic views of one of the Highlands’ most impressive natural wonders.

Tom: “Corrieshalloch Gorge is a spectacle of natural force, showcasing the raw power that shaped the Highlands. Its suspension bridge offers a unique vantage point to appreciate the gorge’s depth and the surrounding landscape’s grandeur.”

Amy: “Standing above the gorge, you’re confronted with the immense beauty and scale of Scotland’s natural wonders. It’s a reminder of the earth’s age and the forces at play, making it a highlight for anyone seeking to experience the majesty of the Scottish Highlands.”

The North Coast 500 is a journey through time, culture, and unparalleled natural beauty of Scotland. Every turn in the road reveals new treasures, from spots known only to locals to panoramas that are among the most photographed in the world. At Adventures Scotland, we are here to guide you through these experiences, ensuring that your Scottish adventure is as rich and varied as the landscapes of the NC500 itself. Come discover with us the best-kept secrets and wonders of this mythical route! And dont forget to check our NC500 roadtrip suggestion and Feel free to contact us.

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