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The UK’s answer to Route 66, this epic Scottish Highlands roadtrip offers scenery stunning enough to rival that of its American counterpart. Unlike Route 66, the North Coast 500 is circular and the views on offer are of more well-watered terrains, rather than the arid deserts of southern USA. Starting off in Inverness, work your way around the coastline stopping off at several idyllic locations along the way. Spend a night in John O’Groats, the most northern point of mainland UK, before making your way around the coast. Breath-taking stops such as Ullapool, Tongue and Lochniver offer something so incredible, you’ll struggle to believe you’re still in the UK. With scenery reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, this route is the perfect way to discover some of the gems the UK has to offer.
Lake District (1 Night) >Inverness (1 Night) > John O’Groats (2 Nights) > Lochniver (2 Nights) > Dumfries (1 night)
If you’re starting your trip in Leeds, the Lakes make a great spot to break up your journey up to the Highlands. The drive should take just over three hours, and we would recommend taking the road through Skipton, so you’ll pass through the Yorkshire dales. You should have enough time in the Lakes to get a quick bit of walking in, or a chilled evening in one of the friendly Lake District towns.
Next up is a five-and-a-half-hour drive North to your first stop in the Scottish Highlands, Inverness. The way Google maps takes you will be your quickest way, and once you’re north of Perth, the drive will start to get really pretty. Stops in Glasgow, Stirling and Perth would all break up your journey nicely.
Kick off your Scottish Highlands roadtrip with the journey up to Inverness, the cultural capital of the Highlands. Step back in time and discover the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and explore majestic Scottish castles and ancient ruins. Spend a day discovering the Ness Islands, a collection of islands in the River Ness connected by foot bridges. The circular route will take you through Inverness Botanic Gardens and Inverness Cathedral. Having spent the day exploring, start your journey to John O’Groats by following the A9 along the Eastern Scottish coastline. This route will take you over the Cromarty Bridge which offers incredible views over the Cromarty Firth. The small Viking town of Wick is a great place to stop for a quick break and a picnic before arriving in John O’Groats.
As the most Northern point of the UK, John O’Groats is incredibly rural and this unspoilt coastal village is the perfect destination for nature lovers. The village itself has only a post-office, grocery store and a handful of independent shops selling hand-made souvenirs. The John O Groats’ ferry which links the mainland to the Orkney Islands is a highlight! If you’re lucky, you might spot puffins, dolphins, or even killer whales on your crossing. After two nights exploring ‘the end of the road’, you’ll follow the Northern coast along the A836 and A837 to Lochinver. This route takes you past Loch Hope which is a great place to pause for lunch and along Kylseku Bridge for amazing views of Loch a’ Chairn Bhain and the Quinag mountains.
Lochinver is a small fishing village on the West coast of Scotland that boasts a harbour with impressive views of the Quinag mountain range. From here you can take a trip to Achmelvich Bay, arguably one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches thanks to its crystal-clear water. You can even take a day trip to Handa Island, an impressive nature reserve known internationally for its puffin population! From Lochinver, continue to your next stop, Kinlochewe, driving through the coastal village of Ullapool via Loch Broom. Park-up on the shores of the Loch for a quick break with a great view of Beinn Dearg mountain!
The final stop on your Scottish Highlands road trip is the former Royal Burgh and market town of Dumfries. Visit Caerlaverock Castle and explore the ruins of what was once one of Scotland’s finest forts. Just next door you’ll find the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve where you can take a stroll along the boardwalks and have a picnic above the saltmarshes. From Dumfries, you’ll begin your journey God’s country the Yorkshire Dales. Take the scenic route through both the Lake District, stopping for an hour or so in Penrith if you have the time for a quick lunch in this bustling Lake District town.
Add any of these experiences to your Scottish Higlands roadtrip when you check out. They have all been hand-picked by us to fit around your route. Find out more about them on each experience page.