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Day one – Inverness to Wester Ross
Designed to begin in Inverness, though we can tailor-make your holiday to suit your individual requirements, your first stop is at a breath-takingly beautiful location in wild Wester Ross. You can choose a route from Inverness that traverses the shores of Loch Ness, passes much-photographed Eilean Donan castle and includes the Bealach na Bà on the Applecross peninsula, one of the most exhilarating roads in the UK.
Your hotel in Wester Ross
Formed from a row of whitewashed cottages, your hotel in Wester Ross is a small, family owned inn that presents an ideal spot from which to explore the many dramatic and picturesque attractions nearby. Surrounded by fabulous mountain scenery, the hotel is set on the shores of a serene loch, visible from the upstairs lounge and restaurant, where no-one would blame your for whiling away an afternoon with a dram from the honesty bar, watching the odd boat make its way along the loch. Evenings in fine weather here bring wonderful west coast sunsets – for the fortunate visitor!
Day three – North to Ross-shire
Heading north today, you can afford to ease off the gas a little and make as many stops as you wish, taking time to soak in the incredible scenery in this part of Scotland. Deep sea-lochs, endless sandy beaches and towering mountains combine to put on a spectacular show around every bend.
Your hotel in Ross-shire
One of the area’s more unusual hotels, we love this most interesting property, its setting and ethos. An amalgam of coffee bar, restaurant, bookshop, art space and hotel, the place has been moulded over the years by its owners, and established as the prime social centre of arts and crafts for miles around.
The relaxing guest lounge upstairs features a collection of the most comfortable couches, from where the array of books and games can be enjoyed over a never-ending supply of free tea and coffee or a drink from the honesty bar. There’s every chance you’ll strike up dialogue with locals and travellers alike, while the sound of traditional music and poetry drifts in from the bar. Food served here is of good-quality local produce, with seafood and vegetarian dishes dominating the menu.
The in-house bookshop carries a unique selection of books on Scotland, Scottish writing, art and history, while rare publications and special editions are a feature of the available stock. A selection of books from the shop feature in each bedroom too, and guest are welcome to purchase on check-out.
Day five – the North Coast and Caithness
Your route today takes you through some of the last genuine wilderness left in Europe, featuring vast stretches of uninhabited land interspersed with the odd isolated crofthouse, ruined castle or humble bothy. Scotland’s North Coast boasts some of the country’s best unspoiled beaches and dramatic landscape, as well as a wealth of fascinating history just off the thrilling roads you’ll find here. Your destination at Thurso is a relatively bustling town, with authentic bars, a couple of terrific restaurants and a rich history.
Your guest house in Thurso
A warm welcome is assured here at this locally owned guest house, whose host is only too happy to impart her vast knowledge of the surrounding area. The house blends traditional and modern elements and is conveniently placed for Thurso town, its bars and restaurants and historic centre, while the stunning Caithness coast is right on the doorstep.
Day seven – Across the sea to Orkney
This morning cross by ferry from Scrabster – a mere 90-minute crossing – and find yourself in the evocative and atmospheric landscape of Orkney.
Steeped in ancient history, the Orkney Islands (or ‘Orkney’, but never ‘the Orkneys’) make for an extraordinary holiday destination. UNESCO has designated parts of Orkney Mainland a World Heritage site, including the Standing Stones at Stenness, some of which stand 6m tall, while the nearby Ring of Brodgar is accessible at any time, and especially enchanting near dusk.
Dating from 3000BC, the dwellings at Skara Brae beautifully illustrate how ancient communities thrived on these islands, while the impressive chambered cairn of Maeshowe is another must-see.
Reminders of Orkney’s role during two World Wars are dotted around and throughout the islands, the Italian Chapel constructed by POWs is a particularly poignant relic.
Of course, there’s no shortage of wildlife here, birdwatching being of particular appeal, while you might be lucky to spot seals and various other sealife – dolphins, porpoises, minke and even killer whales are often seen frolicking. Back on land, there’s no shortage of fresh seafood, while local craftspeople produce an array of world-class products including knitwear and jewellery.
Your hotel in Orkney
Located on the outskirts of Kirkwall, the hotel is traditionally furnished, offering you the chance to find out just how comfortable Orkney chairs really are! The owners have put tremendous effort into creating a genuine feel throughout the hotel. All rooms are individually styled with Orcadian names.
Boasting an excellent reputation as a destination for locals, the restaurant features menus packed with local produce, including lamb or mutton with its distinctive flavour, due to the seaweed diet of North Ronaldsay sheep, plus local seafood including mouth-watering prawns, succulent salmon and delicious stir-fried squid. The hotel has ample lounge areas and a whisky snug, where you will be tempted to try a dram or two from a very wide range.
Day nine – a short ferry crossing to ‘the Egypt of the North’
Today make a day trip to the island of Rousay, often called the ‘Egypt of the North’, due its abundance of ancient sites of archaeological interest. With a unique feel, the island – one of Orkney’s hilliest – offers terrific walking, gorgeous beaches and a peaceful place to explore, ensuring you see a different side to the archipelago.
Day 10– return to mainland Scotland and head for Royal Dornoch
Your journey south begins with a different ferry, from St Margaret’s Hope to Gills Bay close to John o’ Groats. You will probably want to stop here to record your visit to the most northerly UK settlement – and maybe venture to Dunnet Head, the northernmost point on the UK mainland. From here you’ll drop down the east coast, with plenty of fascinating stopping points along the way as you head to your last destination, the pretty Highland town of Dornoch.
Your accommodation in Dornoch
Steeped in Scottish history and fascinating legends, this 15th century Castle is now well-established as a comfortable hotel in this attractive historic town.
It firmly stands its ground opposite the inspiring 12th century Cathedral. Rooms are divided between the old castle and a tasteful modern extension, which enjoys views to the garden.
Day 12 – completing the North Coast 500
It’s a fairly short hop today towards Inverness via Dingwall and Beauly, though there are a number of terrific whistle-stops you may wish to make as you head to the Highland capital; Glenmorangie distillery visitor centre is very close by, for example. As you ease in to the city, steer towards Inverness castle, park up and give yourself a pat on the back, as you have just completed the North Coast 500 – with added Orkney!
This self-drive touring holiday will take you around the north coast of Scotland, with your first two nights’ accommodation in Shieldaig, followed by two nights in Ross-shire and two in Thurso. You will then travel by ferry to Orkney for three nights, and finally finish back on the mainland in Dornoch.
£1195 per person in March, £1225 per person in April & October, £1295 per person in May through September.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin en-suite room for 11 nights on a bed and breakfast basis in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guest houses, return ferry crossings to Orkney and to the Isle of Rousay, and an Historic Scotland Explorer pass allowing entry to Orkney’s key historical sites.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
Drive the North Coast 500, Scotland’s acclaimed 516-mile touring route around some of the country’s remotest parts, and chances are you’ll end u...
Every day we looked forward to a stay in a lovely place with a warm welcome…the scenery was breathtaking.Graham & Blythe, California
The scenery was quite spectacular on the West Coast!Julie & Timothy, UK
The view from Bealach na Ba on a perfectly sunny day was a highlight.Susan & Iain, Bedfordshire
This holiday can be arranged from March to October.
To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.
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