7 Day Trip
Seven Day North Coast 500 Itinerary
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! Treat yourself to dinner at one of Inverness’s fine restaurants or pubs, or prepare your own dinner in your campervan hire using the fine fare you picked up at House of Bruar.
Inverness to Applecross
If you didn’t have time to visit the castle, hit it this morning, or take a stroll along the cobblestoned streets of Inverness for some culture and shopping. Then 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 Bealachna Bà, 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. Don’t miss a visit to Applecross Beach, with its sugar sand dunes and archaeology sites.
Applecross to Ullapool
There’s a lot to see on this leg of the trip so get up early and then take your time. With several lovely beaches in the area, it’s hard to choose just one, but we love Gairloch Beach- it’s sheltered and gives stunning views over the islands. 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. Stop for supplies in Ullapool before heading to camp 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.
Ullapool to Durness
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! 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 for a famous Lochinver Larder Pie, yum! Pass the Kylesku Bridge and head to Sango Sands near Durness, where magnificent views and fine Highland hospitality await you- a welcome sight after your long drive.
Durness to Wick
You’ll awake to yet another amazing view, ready to continue the North Coast 500 into the wilds of Caithness in your campervan hire. The traffic will thin out 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.
Wick to Inverness
Head down the east coast of Sutherland, where the 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.
Inverness to Edinburgh
If you missed Urquhart Castle the first time, it’s definitely worth the short drive, or choose to explore the city some more or visit Culloden Battlefield. 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!