14 Day Trip
To really explore the spectacular North Coast 500, take a 14-day touring holiday in a luxury campervan hire. While you can see the highlights in seven days, that is spending only one night at a time in any one place. There is so much to see in the gorgeous part of the world, so take some extra time and see more for this holiday of a lifetime in a campervan rental!
Edinburgh to Inverness
You’ll arrive in Edinburgh to pick up your campervan hire at Roseisle, and then head off on your first leg of the journey. The Official North Coast 500 route begins and ends in Inverness at Inverness Castle. The Castle is a perfect starting point to the route as it is perched on the hill and offers unparalleled views over the capital city of the Highlands.
From Edinburgh head north on the A9 towards Inverness, stopping in Pitlochry at the world renowned House of Bruar to stock up on kit- fine sport clothing and Scottish gourmet goodies such as meats, cheeses, breads, sweets and snacks. Continue to Inverness and settle in one of its scenic touring parks for the night. If you get there in time, go ahead and visit the castle- try to catch the sunset from there, it’s incredible! Prepare your dinner in your campervan hire using the fine fare you picked up at House of Bruar.
Take some more time to explore Inverness and its quaint, cobbled streets, chic shops, fine dining and lively pubs. Take a drive to Urquhart Castle, then see if you can spot Nessie- maybe even go to the Nessie Museum! Enjoy dinner at one of the city’s award winning restaurants.
Inverness to Applecross
It’s time to head west- towards Wester Ross through Strathpeffer and Strathcarron (by the way, “Strath” is Scottish for a broad mountain valley, so that gives you an idea of the stunning scenery you’ll encounter!) If you have time, stop at Garve, a charming village steeped in history. Stop for lunch at one of the lovely local inns before you hit the pass, or find a postcard perfect spot to stop on the way in your campervan rental.
80 miles doesn’t seem like a lot, but it will take a while to reach your campsite for the night, as you’ll be driving through BealachnaBà, which is Gaelic for “the Pass of Cattle.” This famous and historic pass offers a thrilling drive and spectacular mountain scenery as you ascend from sea level to over 2,000 feet! Don’t let the hairpin turns scare you- the road is fine for even the largest campervan hire. Just take it slow and easy, and simply pull over to one of the many passing places if cars start to queue behind you.
Explore the Applecross area. What about a day at the beach? With several lovely beaches here, it’s hard to choose just one, but we love Gairloch – it’s sheltered and gives stunning views over the islands. Or visit Applecross Beach, with its sugar sand dunes and archaeology sites. Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve- Britain’s first- offers a range of trails for all abilities, each winding through its ancient pine forests. Spot golden eagles and crossbills while taking in the views- wild Scotland at its best!
If something a bit more manicured is to your taste, visit Inverewe Garden and Estate, a lush sub-tropical botanical oasis set amid the rugged Wester Ross landscape.
Applecross to Ullapool
There’s a lot to see on this leg of the trip so get up early and then take your time. Stop for supplies in Ullapool before heading to camp for two nights at Ardmair Point, one of Europe’s most wild and magnificent settings. You just might stumble onto a céilidh- a traditional Scottish village dance- or live music nearby at The Céilidh Place.
Discover Ullapool. By now you should feel well and truly on the edge of the world as you gaze west over the Summer Isles- what a feeling of peace and tranquillity in your campervan hire! Why not take a cruise- you can just relax and enjoy the ride or get in on the action with some diving or fishing. There are several charter services that offer boat trips and activities at Loch Broom or around the Western Isles. If you are a landlubber, rent a bike or take a hike- there are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors in Ullapool. Check out the Ullapool Museum, an A1 listed Thomas Telford Church housing various exciting exhibitions.
Ullapool to Durness
You’ve got a big day of driving and panoramas ahead of you as you head north to Durness. Stop for an early picnic lunch at Achnahaird Bay, one of Scotland’s best beaches. At Knockan Crag, take a walk to see geology in action on the dramatic rocky Moine Thrust. You’ll have worked up an appetite after that hike, so head to the nearby wee village in your campervan hire for a famous Lochinver Larder Pie, yum! Pass the Kylesku Bridge and head to Sango Sands near Durness to camp for two nights, where magnificent views and fine Highland hospitality await you- a welcome sight after your drive.
Discover Durness. You’ll awake to yet another amazing panorama, ready to explore Durness, known as “the most spectacular corner in Scotland.” Sango Sands is arguably one of the nicest beaches in the area, so you might just want to hang out there for the day, but if you are up for a bit of adventure, seek out Smoo Cave, a sea and freshwater cavern complex that has hosted humans for at least 5,000 years. Discover it by charter boat or the walking path. The village has a lovely pub and services.
Durness to Wick
Are you ready continue the North Coast 500 into the wilds of Caithness in your campervan hire? The traffic will thin out even more as you head north and the scenery even more remote- what a feeling of escape!
Take your pick from a range of beautiful beaches along the way as well as seaside villages such as Thurso and John O’Groats. Look for archaeological sites, such as ancient burial cairns and the “Hill O’ Many Stones”, or wildlife reserves, where you can spot seals or rare birds. If you feel like getting off the beaten path, explore Talmine Bay near Melness- the drive will be rewarded with a real hidden gem. Stop in at the Strathnaver Museum- you’ll start to see the Norse influence in the vibrant local culture the further north you go, hearkening back to the time when Vikings ruled here. Castle Mey, near Thurso, is the Queen Mother’s “home in Caithness”, and its breath-taking gardens and views across to the Orkney Isles alone are worth a visit. Your destination for the night is Wick, which has an excellent touring park with everything you need.
Days 10 and 11
Explore Wick, which, in addition to being a dazzling part of the world, is steeped in history, with strong Norse cultural influences. The Wick Heritage Centre offers a fascinating look a the local history. Visit Castle Wick and Castles Sinclair and Girnigoe, each in dramatic settings. The Caithness Broch Centre features an excellent wee museum that interprets these dramatic ancient buildings. Whisky lovers get a reward in Wick- established in 1826, Pulteney Distillery is the most northerly on the Scottish mainland and continues to make malt whisky using traditional methods nearly two centuries after its opening. Take a tour and finish with “a wee dram,” and get the chance to hand fill your own bottle of cask strength aqua vitae.
Wick to Inverness
Head down the east coast of Sutherland, where the sweeping coastal views, while not as rugged as the west coast, are just as gorgeous. Take some time to experience Dunrobin Castle in Golspie, where they host falconry displays, a history museum and yet more fabulous gardens. Take your pick of quaint seaside villages, such as Dornoch, where there is a cathedral and a golf course, not to mention great fresh seafood. For you bird watchers, don’t miss Tollie Red Kites, run by the RSPB, with views across Easter Ross to Ben Wyvis. You can even watch volunteers feed these magnificent birds of prey.
You are then back in Inverness for your last night on your epic North Coast 500 campervan hire trip. If you missed Urquhart Castle the first time, it’s definitely worth the short drive, or choose to explore the city some more. Culloden Battlefield is nearby, and shouldn’t be missed by those interested in the Jacobite history of Scotland.
Inverness to Edinburgh
Take a leisurely drive back to Roseisle- perhaps stop at Blair Atholl Castle in Pitlochry.
Congratulations, you’ve conquered the North Coast 500 in a campervan rental!