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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, nestled into the village high street, makes a picture-perfect base for exploring the dramatic west coast with its abundance of lochs, forests, mountains and rivers. Two snug lounges both feature glorious views over the peaceful loch – if you’re lucky you could even be treated to one of the west coast’s spectacular sunsets.
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.
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.
Located behind a traditional row of whitewashed fishermen’s’ cottages your hotel also features a coffee bar, book shop, arts venue and restaurant. The owners have developed their eclectic establishment over the years to become the hub of the local arts community – ceilidhs, plays, poetry readings, and local artists’ exhibitions are frequent events. Each bedroom features selection of books which guests are welcome to read during their stay, and are available to buy when they leave.
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.
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.
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.
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 traditional hotel extended around the core of the 16th century castle and just a few short steps from the cathedral.
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, 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.
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.
The trip ends making the short drive to the Highland capital of Inverness. We can arrange additional nights here or further south as suits.
This driving route could start in Inverness, or further south and we can tailor-make it to suit.
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.
£725 per person for March & November, £795 for April & October and £845 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.
Please note that the above pricing does not include stays over Christmas or New Year. If you are interested in taking this holiday across those dates, please get in touch for a bespoke quote.
You are requesting availability for
This holiday can be arranged from March to October.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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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