The Ultimate North Coast 500 (NC500) itinerary with kids

The Ultimate North Coast 500 (NC500) itinerary with kids

Also known as Scotland’s Route 66, the North Coast 500 (NC500) itinerary is probably Scotland’s most popular road trip route boasting the most incredible scenery!

With the clue in its name, the Scottish North Coast 500 or NC500 route covers approximately 500 miles following the coastal roads around the top of the Scottish Highlands.

We completed the NC500 with kids and wanted to share how easy it is to do with kids and how much they love it! But there is so much to see and do, it really is an adventure for everyone, kids or not. 

You’ll find endless castles to explore, tropical-like beaches, dramatic coastline, lush mountain scenes with waterfall after waterfall and plenty of wildlife.

Our NC500 itinerary provides you with a detailed route to follow, the distance we drove each day and the attractions we visited, all of which are completely kid-friendly. 

We recommend the NC500 camping spots where we stayed in our motorhome as well as the top recommended NC500 campsites and accommodation

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Summary | NC500 itinerary with kids

Scotland’s North Coast 500 itinerary is a circular route that starts and ends in Inverness.

We chose not to return to Inverness and instead, added Fort William onto the itinerary and made our way back home straight from there. 

This NC500 itinerary is a counterclockwise route and we recommend this direction. You can do it either way but many choose this direction of travel, saving the western side which is arguably more scenic for the end. 

For us, we wanted to get used to driving our motorhome on the better NC500 roads before getting to the windier, single track roads.

A quick look at our NC500 itinerary

Day 1:     Inverness

Day 2:     Inverness to Dornoch

Day 3:     Dornoch to Wick

Day 4:     Wick to Dunnet Head

Day 5:     Dunnet Head to Strathy (near Tongue)

Day 6:     Strathy to Balnakeil

Day 7:     Balnakeil to Lochinver

Day 8:     Lochinver to Gairloch

Day 9:     Gairloch to Applecross

Day 10:   Applecross to Fort William

North Coast 500 route map

Useful information...

Spoiler alert… because I have so much to share about our NC500 itinerary with kids, this is a pretty long post! 

Grab yourself a cuppa! First, I have some useful information such as the best way to complete the route, what’s so good about doing the NC500 with kids, how long it takes, the best time to do it, NC500 campsites versus NC500 wild camping and more…

Or jump straight to the day by day NC500 itinerary here.

Best way to complete our NC500 itinerary

In a motorhome

We chose to complete our NC500 itinerary in a rented motorhome and for us, felt it was the best way to do it. Motorhome travel is also a great way to do the NC500 with kids. 

It gives you the excitement you get with camping but with the added luxuries of comfortable beds, a hot shower and flushing toilet. It’s also really convenient having your own facilities, which makes things a whole lot easier if you have kids. 

Completing the NC500 in a motorhome made us fall in love with motorhome travel. Not long after, we took the plunge and bought our very own motorhome. Then we set up a motorhome hire company so that we could help others to create their own motorhome adventures too. 

If you’re interested in hiring a motorhome visit Peak District Motorhome Hire or contact us for more information.

In a car / other vehicle

An alternate way to complete the NC500 itinerary is by car or other vehicle and either camp in a tent or stay in accommodation along the way. Just be aware that the midges in summer can be a real nuisance and make camping in a tent uncomfortable. Make sure you pack some Smidge to keep the little blighters at bay.

If you’re interested in hiring a car, Europcar offers car rental collection from both Inverness Airport and city centre locations.

Why do the NC500 Itinerary with kids?

Doing the NC500 with kids is an amazing adventure and experience for the whole family. The Scottish Highlands offer so much variety, there is something for everyone. 

All kids love beaches and Scotland certainly has no shortage of tropical-like beaches with super soft white sand and crystal clear water. Just remember to take wetsuits if you plan to swim in the sea as the water can still be cold, even in summer.

For kids with lots of energy, there’s lots of hiking opportunities in the picturesque mountains, around lochs and to waterfalls. Our kids also loved exploring the endless ruined castles.

The wildlife is also a highlight of the trip with plenty of Highland Coos. deer and the opportunity to spot puffins and dolphins – both incredible moments for us!

If you want to help bring our NC500 itinerary with kids to life, you can check out our Instagram story highlights here.

NC500 itinerary with kids - Chanonry Lighthouse
Chanonry Point Lighthouse - Fortrose

How long to complete the NC500 itinerary?

The official NC500 route starts and finishes at Inverness but this itinerary finishes at Fort William and takes 10 days to complete. After Fort William we didn’t see the point in returning to Inverness so headed straight home. Our whole trip took 12 nights as we stopped near Dumfries on both our way to Inverness and on our way back home to the Midlands, to break the journey up.

This is a busy itinerary but we feel it’s a good balance between the amount of time driving and time spent visiting attractions. 

At the least, we would recommend a minimum of 7 nights if you choose to do more driving each day and stop off at less places. 

However, if you want to keep the daily driving time down and are doing the NC500 itinerary with kids, we would recommend at least 10 nights. You certainly won’t run out of things to do and see if you allow longer.

Best time to do the NC500 itinerary

It’s easy to assume that by doing the NC500 route in summer, you’ll get the best weather. In reality, it’s impossible to predict the weather in the Scottish Highlands. During our trip in August, we had days with glorious sunshine and days where it barely stopped raining. When it comes to packing for your trip, consider packing for all seasons.

Many people choose to visit between May and October as most places are open and the weather is warmer. If you’re doing the NC500 with kids, then the school summer holidays may be one of your only options. But it will be busier and the other downside is the midges. In certain places (still, humid conditions) and times (dawn and dusk), they are everywhere and can really bother some people. 

To avoid them altogether, you’d really have to visit in winter, or at least before mid-May or after mid-September. However, if you go prepared you can help keep them at bay. One of the best midge insect repellents to try is Smidge. You can also buy a Smidge Midge Proof Headnet and although we managed without, we saw people wearing them.

NC500 Driving and Road Conditions

Driving Scotland’s North Coast 500 is what I would describe as liberating, particularly if you are used to urban surroundings. You can drive for miles and miles surrounded by just incredible scenery and nature. 

The majority of the route has good condition roads for driving on and the great thing about Scotland is there are plenty of passing places on the single track roads.

The route is suitable for motorhomes and campervans but the roads on the western side are a little tricker. Completing the NC500 route in a counterclockwise direction allowed us to get used to driving the motorhome on the better roads before getting to the windier, narrow single track roads. Keep an eye on your wing mirrors!

The infamous Bealach Na Bà…

Part of the NC500 itinerary takes you along the infamous cattle pass road named Bealach na Bà that passes through the mountains from Applecross. With steep gradients, hairpin bends and sheer drops to the side, it’s not for the faint hearted… or large vehicles. 

We managed the 11.4 miles in a 4 berth motorhome fairly unscathed, but we did do it at 7am to avoid traffic. It was incredibly cloudy so we didn’t get to see the views it’s famous for anyway. 

We really wouldn’t recommend this route for inexperienced drivers or large motorhomes/vehicles. If you want to avoid this road, you can simply drive to Applecross and back along the coastal road.

NC500 wild camping or campsites

NC500 accommodation / campsites

You may choose to stay in accommodation or on campsites along the NC500 route and we provide our recommendations for each stopover. The advantage of doing this is access to facilities and electric hookup if you are camping. 

Accommodation will need to be booked in advance. We’d also recommend booking campsites if they allow in order to avoid disappointment if they are full when you arrive, especially in peak season. 

NC500 wild camping

It’s legal and free to wild camp in Scotland unless there are signs saying otherwise. However, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code does state it doesn’t apply to motorized vehicles. It does however state that if public or private land owners restrict or regulate parking on their land, you must comply with this.

So there are still places where you can park up and spend a night, providing there are no signs to say otherwise. It’s pretty amazing being able to stay overnight in incredible settings with stunning views, often completely on your own too. 

We stayed in some amazing places (watch our Instagram story highlights). I list our NC500 wild camping locations in the itinerary along with a link to the Google Maps location. 

If you are in a self-contained motorhome or campervan, you will still need to visit campsites or designated facilities every few days to empty your toilet cassette, grey water and top up your fresh water. Many campsites offer this for a small fee. Most fuel stations also allow customers to fill up with fresh water. 

Please make sure you act responsibly and park in sensible locations, leaving no sign that you were there. The few that wild camp irresponsibly spoil it for others. Make sure you follow the saying ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’.

Resources to help you plan your NC500 itinerary

The Official Facebook page for the North Coast 500 – Facebook groups are a great place to get inspiration, information and ask questions. There are lots of NC500 Facebook groups including this one North Coast 500 | Facebook.

The Official North Coast 500 app – really informative travel and cultural guide. It also works offline so you can download routes and use them if you don’t have data or signal – download the app here on apple or android.

Park4Night app – this is the main app we used to look for overnight stops on our route. It has both wild camping spots and campsites. Download the app here on apple or android.

Searchforsites – another good resource similar to Park4Night but web based – click here.

Campa Waste Disposal – a list of motorhome waste disposal locations in Scotland – click here.

Getting to Inverness

Driving north to Inverness is an easy but long drive depending on your starting location. 

From the Midlands it takes over 7 hours to get to Inverness (known as the capital of the Scottish Highlands). We broke the journey up and stayed overnight near Dumfries, just after crossing over the Scottish border.

When we completed the NC500 itinerary in August 2020, the Forestry and Land Scotland operated the ‘Stay for Night’ scheme which allowed motorhomes and campervans to park overnight for free at a small selection of their forest car parks. 

We stayed overnight in the peaceful AE Forest car park (DG1 1QB – see Google Maps location here), surrounded by the most beautiful woodland trails. We loved this spot so much, we chose to stay here again on our return journey home.

The Stay the Night scheme has now finished but they have taken feedback and are considering options for the future so watch this space.

You can also easily get to Inverness by train, bus or fly into Inverness airport.

Day by day NC500 itinerary with kids

Day 1: Inverness

DISTANCE / DRIVING TIME: Dependent on where you’ve travelled from. 

ATTRACTIONS: Inverness city – Ness Islands – Loch Ness – Dores Beach – Urquhart Castle

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Alongside Loch Ness (B852 road). Some spots are closer to the loch with better views than others – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Ardtower Caravan Park – Inverness

ACCOMODATION: The Craigdarroch Inn

Day 1 for us started in the Ae Forest near Dumfries after a very peaceful overnight stay the night before (see Getting to Inverness for more info). We continued our journey, arriving in Inverness for lunchtime.

We only had the afternoon so wanted to use what time we had to explore the city known as ‘The Capital of the Highlands’ and starting point of the North Coast 500 route.

Ness Islands

We parked up on Bught Road, a good parking spot for motorhomes about 1 mile from the city centre and directly opposite Ness Islands. Ness Islands is a lovely green area made up of a group of small islands in the middle of the River Ness connected by ornate Victorian suspension bridges. See if you can find Nessie the Loch Ness Monster!

Inverness city

From here we walked along the River Ness, approximately 25 mins (1 mile) into Inverness city centre. We walked around the city and up to the castle before returning back to the motorhome.

Dores Beach / Loch Ness

We didn’t want to miss the sights of the famous Loch Ness and the girls were desperate to try and spot Nessie. It’s just a short 20-minute drive before you reach Loch Ness. On the way, you might want to stop off at Dores Beach, a pebble beach that stretches along Loch Ness.  

Overnight stay

To finish off the day we found a beautiful parking spot right on the edge of Loch Ness with stunning views across to Urquhart Castle.

North Coast 500 - Ness Islands
Ness Islands - Inverness
NC500 itinerary - Loch Ness
Loch Ness

Day 2: Inverness to Dornoch

DISTANCE: 60 miles (less if you stay at our wild camping spot)

DRIVING TIME: 1.5 hours

ATTRACTIONS: Culloden Battlefield – Clava Cairns – Rosemarkie – Fairy Glen Falls – Dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: A really quiet off road parking spot on the B9176 road in between Fyrish and Dornoch  – see Google location


Black Rock Caravan Park (close to Fyrish Monument) or Dornoch Caravan & Camping Park

ACCOMODATION: Kincraig Castle Hotel

Culloden Battlefield & Clava Cairns

We soon realised that today’s itinerary had too much for us to do in one day. We chose to skip our planned visits to the Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns but you could still do these with an early start. They’re really close to each other and only a slight detour from the route.


After enjoying breakfast with beautiful views from our motorhome across Loch Ness, we set off north stopping in Inverness to fill up with fuel. We drove over Kessock Bridge and onto a peninsula known as the Black Isle. From here, the beautiful coastal road is dotted with charming little fishing villages such as Avoch, Fortrose and Rosemarkie.

Fairy Glen Falls

Parking in Rosemarkie is free and from the car park you can walk to Fairy Glen Falls. There are two waterfalls fairly close to each other. To reach them it’s just over a 3-mile circular route and a fairly easy hike for kids. 

Dolphins at Chanonry Point

After lunch we walked from Rosemarkie along the beach to Chanonry Point (approximately 2 miles) but there is a car park if you don’t want to walk. This is one of the best places in the world to see bottlenose dolphins and was by far one of the highlights of our whole trip!

Check for this website for times of the tide coming in as this is the best time to spot them. Within 10-minutes of us getting there we saw them frolicking and jumping out of the water – a completely amazing experience that we and the girls will never forget.

Overnight stay

We ended up watching the dolphins for quite a while and by the time we got back to our motorhome, we didn’t have time to complete the final stop on our itinerary – Fyrish Monument. Instead of driving to Dornoch, we stayed overnight close to the Fyrish Monument ready for the following day. We found a remote parking spot that we had all to ourselves.

North Coast 500 itinerary - Fairy Glen Falls
Fairy Glen Falls - Rosemarkie
NC500 highlights - dolphins at Chanonry Point
Chanonry Point - Rosemarkie Beach

Day 3: Dornoch to Lybster (near Wick)

DISTANCE: 60 miles

DRIVING TIME: 1.5 hours

ATTRACTIONS: Fyrish Monument – Dornoch / Dornoch Beach – Golspie – Dunrobin Castle 

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Roadside parking just off the coastal (A9) road overlooking the cliffs and sea – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Inver Caravan Park

ACCOMODATION: North Star Glamping

Fyrish Monument

The Fyrish Monument is an impressive landmark that can be seen for miles, standing proud on top of Fyrish Hill. From the car park, it’s a 2-mile climb through beautiful woodlands and up onto the hills. There’s plenty of purple heather to admire and stunning views across Cromarthy Firth and the sea. 

The monument was built under the orders of a Lord who wanted to help keep the locals in work when survival was a problem. The walk back down is certainly easier and we jumped straight back into our motorhome for a cuppa and some lunch.


Next stop, Dornoch where we spent a short time walking around the lovely town and quick play on the sandy Dornoch Beach.

Dunrobin Castle

Our final stop for the day was Dunrobin Castle, just past a little village called Golspie. This fairytale castle is owned by the Earl of Sutherland. You can pay to go inside but we chose to wander the gardens for free.

Overnight stay

After the girls had finished running around the gardens, we headed on towards Wick. stopping overnight near Lybster ready for our first stop – Whaligoe Steps in the morning.

NC500 route - Fyrish Monument
Fyrish Monument
NC500 Beaches
Dornoch Beach
North Coast 500 - Dunrobin Castle
Dunrobin Castle

Day 4: Wick to Dunnet Head

DISTANCE: 30 miles


ATTRACTIONS: Whaligoe Steps – Castle of Old Wick – Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe – John o’ Groats – Duncansby Head (for puffins, Geo of Sclaites and Stacks of Duncansby)

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Dunnet Head car park next to the lighthouse (postcode – KW14 8XS) – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Dunnet Bay Caravan Club Site

ACCOMODATION: The Hawthorns B & B

Whaligoe Steps

If you plan to do everything on our itinerary today, prepare yourself for a busy but incredible day. Getting to the first stop, Whaligoe Steps early is definitely worthwhile. The car park is small and there isn’t really anywhere else close by to park (turn at the brown ‘Cairn of Get’ sign). 

There are 330 ish steps down to the bottom of the cliff face where the fishermen would offload their fish. The women would then carry them back up the steps in baskets at the peril of the sheer drop to the side. Fortunately, it’s much safer today so suitable for kids. It’s a strange experience once at the bottom, looking back up at the cliff faces and hearing the echoing screeches from the birds.

Castle of Old Wick

The Castle of Old Wick is one of Scotland’s oldest castles. There’s not much left of it but it’s still worth a look and the coastal cliff views are just beautiful.

Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe

Second castle of the day is Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe. This castle would have been an impressive sight, particularly back in the 17th century when it had been further developed. Sadly it now stands severely eroded from the elements. Still fascinating reading about its history and wandering around its remains.

John o’ Groats

John o’ Groats is Great Britain’s northeastern tip. We stopped for an obligatory photo but other than that there’s not much more to see.

Duncansby Head

Head to Duncansby Head for the Stacks of Duncansby – incredible rock structures in the sea. For the best views, you’ll need to walk from the car park across the fields where you’ll also be rewarded with views of the Geo of Sclaites (deep clefts in the cliff face). We were incredibly lucky to see puffins too – beautiful bold coloured little birds! 

Overnight stay

Even though we were exhausted after such a busy day, we drove a further 30 minutes to Dunnet Head to park for the night next to the lighthouse. Dunnet Head is also the most northerly point in Great Britain and we made it just as the sun went down and the lighthouse came on. This really is a magical and surreal wild camping spot underneath the lighthouse (don’t worry the light doesn’t keep you awake).

North Coast 500 - Whaligoe Steps
Whaligoe Steps
NC500 scenery
View from Castle of Old Wick
NC500 itinerary - Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe
NC500 itinerary - Castle of Sinclair Girnigoe
NC500 route - Duncansby Head
Duncansby Stacks - Duncansby Head

Day 5: Dunnet Head to Strathy

DISTANCE: 40 miles


ATTRACTIONS: Dunnet Beach – Thurso – Scrabster – Melvich Beach – Strathy Beach

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: An amazing hidden parking spot overlooking the stunning Strathy Beach – see Google location

CAMPSITES:  Halladale Inn –North Coast Touring Park

ACCOMODATION: Bettyhill Hotel

This part of the NC500 itinerary takes you across the most northern part of Scotland. This is where you’ll find the most beautiful sandy beaches. 

I didn’t want to miss any of the beaches so we tried to stop off at them all. If we had to choose, Melvich and Strathy were in our opinion the best.

Dunnet Beach

Dunnet Beach is beautiful, sandy and huge. It’s very shallow so great for paddling but not the best for swimming.


We stopped off in Thurso for fuel and food shopping from Tesco and then stumbled across this little beach in Scrabster. It’s a little hard to find and accessed through an industrial area near Scrabster Harbour. It was a great little find as we were able to park right next to the beach. We made a little picnic in the motorhome and carried our chairs down onto the beach for lunch.

Melvich Beach

This beach tops the previous two for pristine white sand and crystal clear water. If you only have time for one, we’d recommend this one!

Strathy Beach / Overnight stay

Our final stop and amazing overnight wild camping spot was Strathy Beach. We parked up, packed the BBQ things and walked down the grass banks to the beach. It was the perfect evening, sitting on the best beach we’d found so far. We stayed there until dusk, listening to the gentle waves rolling in just a few metres from us, watching the girls play and keeping warm by the BBQ.

North Coast 500 beaches
Dunnet Beach
NC500 with kids - Strathy Beach
Strathy Beach

Day 6: Strathy to Balnakeil

DISTANCE: 55 miles

DRIVING TIME: 1.5 hours

ATTRACTIONS: Armadale Bay – Torrisdale Bay – Tongue (Varrich Castle) – Loch Eriboll – Ceannabeinne Beach – Smoo Cave – Balnakeil Bay

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Parking area right next to Balnakeil Bay – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Sango Sands Oasis Camping and Caravan site

ACCOMODATION: Northern Lights

Armadale Bay & Torrisdale Bay

We planned to stop at two more beaches on Day 6 (Armadale Bay and Torrisdale Bay). We drove past them but they didn’t beat Strathy or Melvich so we decided to continue to our next stop.

Tongue (Varrich Castle)

We carried on to Tongue and walked up to Varrich Castle. This is a fairly gentle walk with some uphill stints from the village and up through some woodland. The castle stands prominently overlooking the Kyle of Tongue (a shallow sea loch). From the viewing point at the top of the castle, there are stunning 360 degree views of the loch.

Loch Eriboll

The drive from Tongue to the second stop, Ceannabeinne Beach takes you around Loch Eriboll. This is an extremely rewarding drive with stunning scenery of sparkling water and untouched mountain views. 

Ceannabeinne Beach

After these incredible views, you continue driving and within minutes you drive around a corner to the sight of Ceannabeinne Beach, which just looks tropical. The road sits above the bay which gives you the amazing view of the expanse of golden sand and bright blue water. There’s also the Golden Eagle Zip Line for the thrill seekers.

Smoo Cave

Smoo Cave has one of the largest entrances to any sea cave in Britain! From the car park, it’s just a 5-minute walk down the steps to the cave entrance. The limestone cave has a story that the devil left the cave through the roof, leaving three holes. The chambers were actually created by both sea and fresh water erosion.

Balnakeil Bay / Overnight stay

Our final stop and parking for the night was a beautiful spot next to Balnakeil Bay. We were so close to the sea, you could hear the waves rolling in. Free overnight parking here is popular so arrive before teatime if you can.

NC500 itinerary - walk to Varrich Castle
Walk to Varrich Castle
NC500 beaches - Ceannabeine Beach
Ceannabeine Beach
North Coast 500 - Smoo Cave
Smoo Cave

Day 7: Balnakeil to Lochinver

DISTANCE: 65 miles


ATTRACTIONS: Cocoa Mountain (#thebesthotchocolate) – Clashnessie Falls – Lochinver

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Off road parking spot tucked away on the A837 road – see Google location


ACCOMODATION: 4 Wheelhouse Apartment 

Cocoa Mountain

Just a few minutes drive from Balnakeil Bay is a little craft village and Cocoa Mountain (@cocoamountain), which is famous for serving #thebesthotchocolate. We’d recommend the hot chocolate chaser which comes with 4 chocolates of your choice (our favourite – lemongrass and chilli).

Clashnessie Falls

After fuelling ourselves with hot chocolate, we set off for Clashnessie Falls. It’s only a short walk to the waterfall but it’s certainly impressive and well worth a visit. We managed to get really close for photos and got a little wet from the spray.

Lochinver / Overnight stay

Lochinver is a little fishing resort and home to Lochinver Larder who are renowned for their delicious pies. We ordered takeaway pies and drove to a nearby overnight parking spot to devour them. As we were leaving Lochinver, we spotted some wild deer just casually roaming the village! Another magical moment for us all.

NC500 with kids - Clashnessie Falls

Day 8: Lochinver to Gairloch

DISTANCE: 100 miles

DRIVING TIME: 2.5 hours

ATTRACTIONS: Ardvreck Castle – Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve – Ullapool (for fish & chips) – Corrieshalloch Gorge and Waterfall – Gruinard Island

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Off road parking spot tucked away on the A837 road – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Sands Caravan and Camping Park

ACCOMODATION: Myrtle Bank Hotel

Ardvreck Castle

From our overnight spot, it was only a short drive to Ardvreck Castle and one you can’t miss if doing the NC500 route as it’s not far from the roadside. You only need to spend about half an hour here.

Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve

This is a great place to visit with kids with fun ways of explaining the geology of the rock formation and Scotland’s journey across the globe. We learned that millions of years ago, Scotland was close to the South Pole and then part of North America before separating and colliding with England. We climbed the 386m to the top of the crag which gives you impressive views over the lochs.


This is a popular village on the NC500 itinerary and the place to go fish and chips! We had really good fish and chips from The Seaforth and would highly recommend it. There’s also a Tesco here so we topped up with food before moving on.

Corrieshalloch Gorge and Waterfall

This is definitely one not to miss! Parking is clearly signed and on the main road. The 61m deep and 1 mile long gorge is just a short walk. Where the waterfall plummets down the gorge, there is a suspension bridge which only allows a maximum of 6 people on at a time (not good for people afraid of heights). If you walk a little further there is a second viewing point on a platform that allows you to peer down into the gorge. This is definitely an impressive sight.

Gairloch & Gruinard Island

On the drive to Gairloch, you pass Gruinard Island, a tiny island not far at all from the mainland. Back in 1942, biological warfare testing was carried out using anthrax by the British military.

80 sheep were taken to the island and anthrax bombs exploded near to them and sadly, they all died. The island was quarantined for 48 years and only deemed safe in 1990 – 4 years after a decontamination mission took place. 

Overnight stay

Our parking spot for the night was in the car park near Victoria Falls, ready for our first stop the next day.

NC500 route - Ardvreck Castle
Ardvreck Castle - Loch Assynt
NC500 itinerary - Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
NC500 highlights - Corrieshalloch Gorge and Waterfall
Corrieshalloch Gorge and Waterfall

Day 9: Gairloch to Applecross

DISTANCE: 65 miles


ATTRACTIONS: Victoria Falls – Torridon Loch Viewpoint – Loch Shieldaig – Applecross

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: Small area next to the loch in Applecross – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Applecross Campsite

ACCOMODATION: Hartfield House

Victoria Falls

We’d parked just 150 metres away from the waterfall so was able to tick this one off straight after breakfast. Another beautiful waterfall that is worth a quick visit but not as impressive as Clashnessie.

Torridon Loch Viewpoint

There’s some beautiful scenery on Day 9 of our NC500 itinerary and Torridon Loch Viewpoint is one of them. Unfortunately for us it was raining so we stopped and had lunch in the motorhome but were happy to sit and take in the view!

Loch Shieldaig

We passed through the pretty village of Shieldaig but only stopped to take a photo of the famous red roof cottage. If you have time it’s worth a wander around.

Applecross / Overnight stay

If you have followed our NC500 itinerary through Shieldaig, the route continues to Applecross on the single track coastal road. As we got close to Applecross, we came across some gorgeous Highland cows with their calves at the side of the road. We arrived in the charming village of Applecross and parked right near the loch. Applecross is a popular destination on the NC500 itinerary so we’d recommend arriving early if you need an overnight parking spot.

Tomorrow, you’ll leave Applecross and need to make a decision whether to take the coastal road back that you came on, or take the infamous Bealach Na Bà pass straight across the mountain. This is an unlisted road, with steep inclines, hairpin bends and sheer drops either side of the extremely narrow road. 

We sat and chatted to a young couple who had set up camp for the night close to us. They had driven Bealach na Bà in a Corsa and nearly got stuck trying to pass a motorhome! 

Famous Red Roof Cottage at Loch Shieldaig
Famous Red Roof Cottage at Loch Shieldaig
North Coast 500 itinerary - Highland Cows near Applecross

Day 10: Applecross to Fort William

DISTANCE: 115 miles


ATTRACTIONS: Bealach Na Bà – Lochcarron – Plockton – Loch Alsh Viewpoint – Commando Memorial (Spean Bridge) – Inverlochy Castle

OUR NC500 WILD CAMPING SPOT: a secluded area by the river approx. 1.5 mile from Glenfinnan Visitor Centre – see Google location

CAMPSITES: Lochy Caravan Park

ACCOMODATION: Inverskilavulin Estate Lodges

 Bealach na Bà

As mentioned in Day 9 of the NC500 itinerary, there are only 2 roads in and out of Applecross… the coastal route which we came in on and the other, known as ‘The Pass of Cattle’ or Bealach Na Bà. The single track mountain road climbs 626m with hairpin bends and drops either side (basically there’s not much room for error). 

The signs at the beginning warn against inexperienced drivers and no caravans or large vehicles (we recommend heeding this advice). 

We got up early, left at 7am to avoid traffic and attempted it in our 4 berth motorhome. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side and as we ascended, we drove into a thick blanket of fog. 

The second half was a little trickier as we had to deal with the hairpin bends and the poor visibility made it hard to spot the passing points. It also meant that the stunning views that Bealach na Bà is famous for were non-existent for us – you just can’t plan for the Scottish weather!


Once we’d made it over Bealach na Bà we stopped in the village of Lochcarron. We pulled over by the loch, breathed a sigh of relief that we’d made it and relaxed whilst eating breakfast. 


Plockton is a beautiful, hidden little fishing village that’s definitely worth a stop and walk along the pontoon.

Loch Alsh Viewpoint

We pulled over at Loch Alsh Viewpoint for lunch, overlooking the Isle of Skye and Skye Bridge.

Commando Memorial (Spean Bridge)

This is an impressive and poignant memorial to symbolise the British Commando Forces raised here during World War II.

Inverlochy Castle / Fort William

This castle is located in Fort William and more intact than many of the other castles we’d visited.

NC500 itinerary with kids - Plockton
Plockton village
North Coast 500 itinerary - Inverlochy Castle
Inverlochy Castle - Fort William

End of our NC500 itinerary… options?

As we come to the end of our NC500 itinerary, there are a number of options you can do. 

If you are sticking to a 10-day itinerary, you may choose to head home from here. 

If time allows and you are doing this NC500 itinerary with kids, we would highly recommend staying another night and visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct. For all you Harry Potter fans, this is where the Hogwarts Express is filmed travelling to Hogwarts.

We stayed overnight in a secluded spot near the river and made it to the Glenfinnan Viaduct in time to see the 10:15am Jacobite steam train pass through. Our girls truly believed it was the Hogwarts Express and even thought they saw Hermione waving!

NC500 with kids - Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct - Hogwarts Express

Final thoughts...

Well that’s it! I told you there was a lot to share but I really wanted to provide enough detail for you to replicate this NC500 itinerary, with kids or without. 

The Scottish Highlands really is a beautiful place for an amazing road trip and this NC500 itinerary gives a taste of everything the route has to offer. 

We’ve certainly not included everything and there’s plenty to do to fill a longer itinerary. 

The Scottish NC500 also offers so much variety, so you can tailor the itinerary to what you like doing.

I hope this helps you create your own NC500 road trip adventure – enjoy!