Passing fairy-tale castles and ancient ruins, alongside scenic coastlines and beautiful landscapes, the North Coast 500 is Scotland’s answer to the famous Route 66.
The circular 500-mile long route takes you on a journey through the Scottish Highlands, starting and ending at Inverness, it weaves along the northern Scottish coastline. Along the way, you’ll witness some of the most dramatic views in Britain, from sandy beaches to towering mountains and hilltops.
People generally spend five to seven days driving the whole route, but you can discover a stretch of the journey for yourself, as two of our holiday parks in Scotland are located right in the middle of some of the route’s best features. For those who’d like to explore the first stretch of the North Coast 500, here are some of our favourite parts.
History and Heritage
Castles have many stories to tell, and the ones found along this route are no exception. Dunrobin Castle, just over 20 minutes from Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame Holiday Park, looks like the setting of a fairy-tale, with its spires, turrets and beautiful gardens. Discover the history of the families that called Dunrobin home, and look out for the popular falconry displays that take place throughout the year.
Continuing up the North Coast 500, you’ll also pass the dramatic ruins of Sinclair Girnigoe and Keiss Castle, both perched on cliff tops overlooking the sea.
Video sourced from Toor Boy
Just past John O’Groats, in the far north of Scotland, you’ll find the Castle of Mey – which has an impressive royal history. The castle was once the former holiday home of the late Queen Mother, who renovated the castle and saved it from dereliction. Here you can explore the rooms she stayed in on her visits to Scotland, and wander through the beautiful gardens. There’s also an animal centre to enjoy, where you can get close to all sorts of farmyard animals. Other historical highlights on the route include the Whaligoe Steps, the Camster Cairns, and Hill O’ Many Stanes.
To help you discover the fantastic history of the area, look out for one of many Highland heritage centres dotted along the route.
Stunning Scottish Scenery
The North Coast 500 is famous for having some of the most spectacular views in the whole of the Scottish Highlands, so you’ll want to make sure you take your camera with you.
Just over 30 minutes inland from Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame, you’ll find the beautiful Falls of Shin. As one of the area’s best known sites, this waterfall and the surrounding landscape captures the essence of the Scottish Highlands. The waters of the Falls of Shin are extremely powerful, and in the summer months, salmon can be seen attempting to make the leap up the falls. Take a stroll around one of the walking trails to see the best of this ancient woodland.
Around 20 minutes away from the holiday park you’ll stumble upon the wild landscape of Ledmore and Migdale Woods. From beautiful woodland, to heather moorland, and rocky crags, this area has it all. An important area for nature conservation, enjoy the peaceful surroundings and stretch your legs on a variety of walking routes.
If you prefer a coastal view, the North Coast 500 offers up some of the best. Driving up towards John O’Groats you’ll pass some of the most beautiful coastlines and viewpoints. At Duncasby Stacks, you can walk across the clifftop fields to see nature at its best, and soak up the view towards Thirle Door and the Stacks of Duncasby. Here you’ll feel as though you’re on the edge of the world, looking across the crystal clear waters at the most northern tip of mainland Britain.
Video sourced from Rotorworx
The Highlands are a nature-lover’s paradise, and you’re sure to come close to some of Scotland’s wildlife as you explore the first stretch of the North Coast 500.
Puffins, razorbills and dippers are just some of the sea birds that can be spotted along the coastline – diving between the towering clifftops where they build their nests. Look to the skies for the opportunity to see birds of prey too, which can be seen circling above the heathers and wetlands searching for food. In the waters, dolphins, seals, and even whales are known to have been spotted splashing in the waves.
At the very beginning of the North Coast 500 is the Moray Firth, home to the world’s most Northerly population of bottlenose dolphins. There are thought to be over 130 dolphins living here, as well as a large population of seals. Head to Chanonry Point, the best location to see these beautiful creatures, which is less than 50 minutes from Nairn Lochloy Holiday Park.
Video sourced from Rab Adamson
Scotland is known for some of the best beaches in Britain, and the ones found along the North Coast 500 route are no exception.
Just 10 minutes away from Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame Holiday Park, you’ll find the beautiful Dornoch Beach, with miles of golden sand stretching along the Dornoch Firth, from Dornoch Point to the mouth of the Fleet Nature Reserve. Look out for bottlenose dolphins which can sometimes be spotted splashing in the Firth.
After exploring Dornoch Beach, continue along the North Coast 500 route for a further 30 minutes until you reach Brora Beach, a small stretch of sand with rugged Jurassic rocks. Peaceful and relatively untouched, this is a great location for wildlife watching, and makes a lovely spot for a stroll or a relaxing family day out.
Video sourced from Dougie Smith