Scotland’s stunning North Coast 500 route is now on most lists of the top road trips in the world! But why just pass through so many great places further south in Scotland?
So huge thanks to Debbie and Lee for sharing their 2-week Scotland motorhome tour route which began at Inverness, the official start of the 516 mile NC500 route, but also made the most of some other amazing locations on their route.
As the name suggests, the North Coast 500 is a 516-mile route around Scotland’s stunning northern coastline, you can explore white sandy beaches and remote fishing villages, with dramatic coastlines and mountains along the way. Heading north from Inverness, the route takes you up the east coast, through the Black Isle and Easter Ross, then Caithness at the very tip of Scotland. The route then winds back down the western coast and through Sutherland, Wester Ross and back to Inverness.
Debbie and Lee’s route covers most of the NC500 route, plus Skye, the western Peninsulas and right down to Loch Lomond. So if you can take the time to see more of Scotland, here’s what we’re calling their NC1500 route. That might be a bit much time or distance for you, but just like the NC500 itself, you can focus on the parts that appeal to you most, and make your own route.
Skip to our ‘Route Highlights‘ for a summary of the route, or stay here for a long read with all the details
On the first day we opted for an early start so we could make it all the way to Inverness. It was a long drive but we were there by 5.30 in the afternoon and found our pitch right on the shores of the Beauly Firth.
There wasn’t much to do but after a long drive it was perfect to just sit back and enjoy the views over the water and to Ben Wyvis in the distance.
Loch Ness/Easter Ross
Having passed Loch Ness and our first day, it was just a short drive to properly explore. We had great weather and the views were stunning, no sign of Nessie though. There are lots of nice little villages around Loch Ness, we stopped at Drumnadrochit to have a look around the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre and also visited the ruins of Urquhart Castle.
As we headed north again, we stopped off at the site of Culloden Battlefield (visit Scotland site) exhibition as well as battlefield itself. and getting to Caithness in the afternoon. That night we stayed in the small fishing village of Keiss, on Sinclair Bay, park-up was right next to the pub where the food was good and the locals very friendly. Sinclair Bay Camper & Caravan Park up has 5 spaces, no bookings taken just turn up and pay (£10/night).
The next day we spent some time exploring Keiss, a tiny place but lovely place. There’s a lovely sandy beach and Nybster broch near the harbour which is well worth a look. Then it was off to see the amazing Duncansby Stacks, that look almost like witches’ hats rising out of the sea. Duncansby lighthouse (plenty of parking suitable for motorhomes) views over the Pentland Firth to the Orkney islands. is a little further.
Then on to John O’Groats, you can park a motorhome in the main car park here, minutes from the famous sign (it isn’t actually the most northerly point in Scotland, but the furthest point from Lands End). There are a few cafes or try the newly restored John O’Groats hotel looking out over the dramatic coastline.
The next part of our journey was west past the castle and gardens of Mey to Dunnet Head which is actually the most northerly point of Scotland. The view was amazing and we could just see the Old Man of Hoy stack in Orkney. Dunnet beach just to the south is beautiful and well worth stopping at.
As we travelled further west we passed so many beautiful beaches, we couldn’t name them all. The coastline from this point and around to the west starts to look like you really are in a different country, if not another planet! That night we stayed at Sango Sands in Durness beach, we got a spot right at the front overlooking the sea – the table with the best view over dinner was right in our motorhome.
In the morning we visited Smoo Cave (just outside Durness) from the top of the cliff you find stairs taking you down to the entrance of the cave. You can explore part of the way in yourself or pay for a tour to go further in and see the waterfall (only really worth it if it’s raining).
We headed south-east from Durness then started following the coast again and crossed the Kylesku Bridge. You can sometimes you can see seals from here, we weren’t that lucky but it’s a good place to stop for nice restaurants with great views.
We kept heading south to Lochinver, a good place to stop for a little visit, There’s a good-sized car park where you can park a motorhome. We had a walk around and tried the famous pies – so many it’s hard to choose and they’re huge – be prepared to queue for your pie but it’s worth it.
Our next stop was at Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt. This ruined castle has an interesting history of feuding clans. There’s also a small rocky beach here.
Then on to Ullapool to stay overnight. This was the biggest village we’d seen in ages and has plenty of supermarkets, so a good place to stock up. You can also catch ferries to Stornaway on Isle of Lewis. We stayed in the Royal Hotel car park (with electric hook-up) and ate at The Ceildh Place Club House – great food, and sometimes has live music. There are palm trees in Ullapool, like many places on the West coast of Scotland.
We continued south with a nice stop off at Corrieshalloch Gorge National Park, it’s easy to park up and you can just enjoy the view or walk across the metal bridge that spans the gorge. Then on to Plockton, this was one of our favourite places. A lovely quiet village with 2 pubs and a tiny pier on the shores of Loch Carron. There are more palm trees and you can see Duncraig Castle across the water.
After leaving Plockton, we stopped at the iconic Eilean Donan Castle – this stunning 13th-century castle on a tiny island where 3 lochs meet. There’s a visitor centre and you can pay to go inside the castle, or you can just walk around the outside.
Then it was on to Kyle of Lochalsh (land of castles and lochs) and over the bridge to Skye.
We stayed overnight stay in Portree Campsite (Torvaig, Staffin Road) (£22 with EHU and full facilities) Potree itself is very nice and we found a good bakery.
We could have stayed for days on Skye, but in this quick visit, we went to Dunvegan Castle, the strange and beautiful Fairy Glen at Uig and Rha waterfall nearby. There are stunning views of the old man of Storr as you drive around Skye, there’s a walking route if you have more time.
We headed back to the mainland, past Eileen Donan Castle again and the small town of Dornie, with a pub for a quick stop. The drive inland through forests following the river Sheil and past Loch Cluanie was stunning. Our next stop was at Invermoriston to see the Waterfalls and stone circles, you can also take a walk along the river.
Our final stop of the day was Fort August on the southern tip of Loch Ness, it’s very picturesque and great for walks along canals and loch, particularly nice in the evening
There’s a choice of restaurants and bars here, we ate and then stayed overnight in the Bothy Restaurant & Bar car park. There are no facilities but free to stay if you eat there.
If we only had a week, we could have ended our road trip here, having done our own take on the NC500. But we were lucky to have another week for exploring futher south.
Our drive south took us along the lochs through the great central rift of Scotland. We way stopped at the Commando memorial at Spean Bridge. As we contend south to Fort William we had great views of Ben Nevis. Fort William was the biggest town we’d seen since we left Inverness, good place to stock up and you can park in Supermarket car parks. You can also get boat tours from here.
We drove past Glencoe then along the stunning Glen Etive road made famous in ‘Skyfall’ and towards Loch Lomond.
We stayed overnight at Luss Campsite ( (£24, EHU, full facilities) right on the Loch. Luss us a traditional village, a short walk from the campsite with a few places to eat.
Exploring from our base in Luss, we went to Stirling Castle, of all the castles we visited, we enjoyed this the most – you could easily spend a day there. We looked around the castle and museum, It’s a good idea to book in advance in high season. You can’t park a motorhome in the main car park, so park further out.
Falkirk Wheel amazing feat of engineering, a rotating boat lift as an alternative way of connecting 2 canals instead of using locks. You can take a boat trip to experience this, it’s open until 4pm.
We also went to the Kelpies; massive (30m) sculptures of 2 horses. They are well worth a visit, much more impressive than we imagined, you can go inside them during the day and they look amazing when they are lit up at night. There’s is a big car park just a short walk away
At this point, we were slowing down and had another night at Luss Campsite
Argyll & Bute
West today with a short drive to Inveraray. Inverary itself is a small picturesque town on the shores of Loch Fyne. We visited Inverary Castle and had lunch at the Brambles – famous for its lovely cakes and desserts. We visited Inverary jail, it has a reputation as one of Scotlands’ most haunted locations so you can also do ghost hunts here.
Then to Lock Awe – Kilchurn Castle, is a good little stop-off. It’s a 10-minute walk from a big car park, you can walk around the outside of the caste and even have a picnic. The castle itself was closed when we went. We also stopped at Oban – a good place to go if you fancy a boat trip.
Overnight we stayed further south at Lunga campsite near Craobh Haven (£6pp, with toilets, no other facilities) We went to the Marina at Craobh Haven and ate at the stunning Loch Melford Hotel with amazing views.
The next morning, we went to Kilmartin; a great place to visit with over 800 monuments within a six-mile radius, to explore. Not easy for motorhome parking in the centre so we used Lady Glassary Wood Car Park. Then went to the nearby Nether Largie South to see the neolithic chambers
We had lunch at Smiddy Bistro in Lochgilphead before heading off towards Mull of Kintyre and its historic lighthouse. Great drive with amazing scenery, we stayed overnight at Machrihanish Holiday Park near Campbeltown. At £25, with EHU it was a little more expensive but a great campsite with great facilities which was nice after wild camping. It’s near the beach and looks out over the golf course outside Campbeltown.
We ate at Number Forty-Two, an excellent Seafood restaurant in Campbeltown. We had drinks at Royal Hotel too
We had a lovely morning walk to Beach at Machrihanish (it’s about 10 minutes from the campsite) we liked this beach, and it’s good for surfing. We also had a walk around Campbeltown and the harbour. We found some nice places but liked the areas outside the town better.
We stayed another night at Machrihanish Holiday Park
We left Machrihanish and drove up the west coast to Tayinloan on the A83 , this was a great drive and we saw whales and dolphins
We headed back to the mainland following the sea loch of Loch Tyne and stopped at the famous Loch Fyne Oysters in Cairndow for lunch. The oysters lived up to the reputation, you need to book in advance for restaurant or you can just eat outside.
We had a walk around Cairndow and did some ‘shopping’ at Fyne Ales Brewery Tap -it’s a bar, brewing place and shop
Then it was back to Loch Lomond where we did a 1 hour boat trip. It was pretty quiet, we felt like we had our own personal tour and found out a lot about the history of the Loch (though it’s probably much busier in peak season). (£13pp) approx. 1 hr round trip
We stayed overnight at the Slanj Restaurant on Loch Lomond (no facilities, but you can use the pub toilets that open from 7 in the morning). As well as food in the pub, there’s also a food van outside from 7am-9pm. It’s a 2-minute walk to the Loch where you can take a ferry trip, or go kayaking.
from Scotland to the Lake District
It was time to leave Scotland, to break the journey back, we decided to spend our last night in the lake district. We got well on our way and stopped in Moffat with lunch at Rumblin Tum, a little bistro and coffee shop. Then driving south again to the Lakes.
We stayed overnight – Waters Edge Caravan Park a quiet site on the edge of the Lake District.
Our final motorhome drive (for now) as we returned our motorhome to Vista Motorhomes. We were pretty tired of driving at this point, but knew we were going to be missing it very soon.