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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

North Coast 500

Experience Scotland's answer to Route 66 on our scenic self-drive tour of the North Coast of Scotland.

A carefully designed itinerary, travelling the North Coast 500 driving route – covering more than 500 miles of the best coastal scenery the North Highlands has to offer, but within a leisurely week’s holiday. Enjoy challenging drives such as the hairpin bends of the “Bealach na Ba” road to Applecross, then relax in our selection of characterful small hotels and guest houses.

Take a look at our other North Coast 500 itineraries as well, including Premier North Coast 500 and North Coast 500 and Orkney.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Mar - Oct. We particularly enjoy the misty lochs and autumn colours.

Why not...

extend your holiday to include 2 - 3 nights on Orkney?

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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.

Your Hotel

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 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.

Your Hotel

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 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

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 by the cute and genteel Highland town of Dornoch.

Your Hotel

In a peaceful rural setting, yet only five minutes’ drive from the centre of Dornoch, your accommodation in Sutherland is an impressive, recently repurposed barn, one of the original E-shaped structures built as a grain store on the Duke of Sutherland’s estate some 150 years ago.

Here, you’ll find many features of a modern small hotel, such as spacious, beautifully appointed bedrooms and splendid bathrooms. The striking guest lounge, heated by wood-burning stove, is the perfect spot in which to flop in an armchair with a dram from the in-house bar. Admire the exquisite scenery through the double-height cathedral-style windows, perhaps kept company by the resident dog.

Breakfast is continental and extensive, with hot porridge available as well as a vast range of cold delicacies.

Day Eight – Exploring Dornoch

This very pleasant seaside town 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.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

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.

Along the North Coast 500 (Part 1)

Along the North Coast 500 (Part 1)

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...


Check availability for North Coast 500

This holiday can be arranged from March to October.

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