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Day One – Torridon
This driving route could start in Inverness, or further south and we can tailor-make it to suit.
Your first destination is in one of the most scenically beautiful and secluded locations in the whole of Scotland in the wild and rugged area of Wester Ross. Your route today could include Loch Ness and the famous Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle), with its series of exhilarating hairpin bends.
This small, family-run inn makes a picture-perfect base for exploring the dramatic west coast with its abundance of lochs, forests, mountains and rivers. The grandeur of the surrounding mountains forms a stunning backdrop to your hotel, which nestles in the crescent-shaped village high street. Converted from a row of white-washed fishing cottages, the hotel overlooks an idyllic loch which reflects a tiny island covered in Scots Pines. Two snug lounges both feature glorious views over the peaceful loch, and offer visitors the chance to idle away an afternoon watching the occasional boat come and go, and maybe enjoy a wee dram from the honesty bar in the corner. If you’re lucky you could even be treated to one of the west coast’s spectacular sunsets.
Day Two – Day at Leisure
Shieldaig was originally built in 1810 to house and train sailors for the Napoleonic Wars, but following Waterloo, the place was left to its own devices. Quite literally at the end of the road north, the village has retained that other-worldly “Brigadoon” feel, and offers an overwhelming atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.
This area is right off the beaten track and completely unspoilt. It is perfectly possible to walk all day without seeing another soul, should you so wish. Photographic opportunities are limitless. The mild climate in this part of Scotland is due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream and this encourages a wide diversity of plant and wildlife. Scots Pines are a real feature and are extremely important for national and international conservation. Whilst you are here you may be lucky enough to spot a pine marten, or a golden eagle, or maybe even a peregrine falcon.
Day Three – Ullapool
Next head further north, following the coast road as it traverses deeply set lochs, and pass more soaring mountains. Plenty of time today to explore as you tour. Your next stop is the colourful harbour village of Ullapool.
This unique hotel offers visitors a genuinely warm welcome, and is a particularly interesting place to rest awhile. Behind a traditional row of whitewashed fishermen’s’ cottages lies an assorted collection of coffee bar, book shop, arts venue, restaurant and hotel. The owners have developed their eclectic establishment over the years to become the genial and sociable hub of the local arts community.
The large and cheerful visitors lounge on the first floor is stuffed full of comfy sofas and cosy corners, books, games and pictures. Conversations spill out into general discussions, with excellent advice offered on local things to see and do. Ceilidhs, plays, poetry readings, and local artists’ exhibitions are frequent events. Complimentary tea and coffee is available here and there is an honesty bar too. The excellent food is sourced locally with the emphasis on fresh seafood and vegetarian dishes.
The book shop is a great place to browse. Here you will find a large selection of special and unusual Scottish literature, arts and history books, and can stock up on scarce editions and hard-to-find volumes. Each bedroom also has a selection of books which guests are welcome to read during their stay, and are available to buy when they leave.
Day Four – Around and About Ullapool
The streets of Ullapool, laid out by Thomas Telford, are home to a fine selection of shops, cafes, galleries and pubs, and wandering between them is a pleasant way to while away an afternoon.
It’s probably fair to say that a visit to Ullapool without walking boots will leave your trip a little incomplete, as some of the world’s best walking is to be found all around this jewel-like fishing town. Mountains, rocky coastline, winding inland pathways and loch-side strolls are all within easy reach of town.
On the outskirts of town you’ll find a factory shop for Highland Stoneware, producers of world-class, highly covetable pottery. Here, you’ll often find pieces unavailable elsewhere, perhaps the perfect keepsake or gift for someone special. Housed in a Grade 1-listed ‘Telford church’, Ullapool Museum relates the history of Loch Broom and the hardy pioneers who made this place their home.
Day Five – Caithness
Drive further north, now entering Sutherland and some of Scotland’s most dramatic coastal landscapes, passing Durness and crossing the Kyle of Tongue before entering the area of Caithness at Scotland’s northeastern tip.
Your accommodation here is a friendly and welcoming family owned guest house, conveniently placed within easy walking-distance of the centre of the small, historic town of Thurso.
Day Six – Caithness
You have a full day to relax and explore Caithness – perhaps visit John O’Groats for those keen to cover one of Britain’s “extremities” and the Castle of Mey, as well as Wick, home of the Old Pulteney Distillery. A day trip to Orkney is also possible.
Day Seven – Dornoch
Your final section of the NC500, brings you south down the east coast of Caithness and Sutherland, perhaps stopping to take in the village of Helmsdale and clifftop Dunrobin castle. Your route could even take you inland to explore the remarkable flow country of Sutherland, on the way to your accommodation either by the cute and genteel Highland town of Dornoch, or slightly further down the coast in Cromarty.
In the centre of Dornoch, your accommodation is a cosy family owned guest house just a few short steps from the Cathedral. Long established by the friendly family owners, you’ll find this place a calming spot in which to gather the thoughts ahead of a day strolling on the beach or picking up a trinket or two in memory of your trip.
Alternatively, you have the option to stay in Cromarty in a beautifully presented, family-owned guest house of the highest quality. Set well back from the road, and decorated and furnished in natural tones, this is a peaceful and welcoming spot from which to explore this most charming corner of Scotland.
Each property is subject to availability – if you have a preference of which location you would prefer, please do let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Day Eight – Exploring the East Coast
Dornoch is a perfect place to linger for a while: take a lengthy walk along the expansive beach. Indulge in a little shopping for Scottish crafts. Enjoy a tasting of rare whisky. Dornoch boasts Scotland’s smallest cathedral, and in 1727, it became the last place in Scotland where a witch was burnt. The HistoryLinks community museum is the spot to learn all about local culture and history.
Miles of golden sand from Embo Beach to the Loch Fleet Nature Reserve make this a special place for those interested in nature and the great outdoors. The Loch Fleet Nature Reserve, a large tidal basin, with mudflats, dunes and pine forest, provides a natural habitat for an array of wildlife. Waders feed, whilst dolphins and seals can be spotted in this area designated as a Site of Scientific Interest, right on Dornoch’s doorstep.
This corner of the North East Highlands has plenty to offer the whisky fan, too, with world-famous Glenmorangie and lesser-known Balblair and Clynelish distilleries open for fascinating tours, each with their own stories about what makes their amber liquid unique.
Day Nine – Return Home
The trip ends making the short drive to the Highland capital of Inverness. We can arrange additional nights here or further south as suits.
Following the North Coast 500 touring route, from Inverness to the west coast by Torridon, Ullapool, then along the “top” of Sutherland to Thurso, and finally down the east coast to Dornoch. The itinerary also works perfectly well in reverse order.
£665 per person for March, £735 for April & October, and £775 per person for May to September.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin ensuite room for eight nights on a bed and breakfast basis in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guest houses.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions and recommended routes from your specified starting point, 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...
This is the 3rd holiday we have booked with you. The accommodation & information supplied is still excellent, and we will book through you again.Elizabeth & Michael, Birmingham, England
Excellent choice of varied accommodation, a wonderful journey, beautiful scenery.Peter, West Yorkshire, England
We did 1531 miles on the trip and I enjoyed every minute of it.Peter & Christine , Hull, UK
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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