Scottish Highlands, North Coast 500, Scotland
Let’s take a quick tour of the west Scottish Highlands. At 0-60mph in 2.88 seconds this isn’t going to last long. Photo by Steve Carter.
The Scottish Highlands North Coast 500 route for cyclists or drivers
North Coast 500 cyclist Bob Cherry, photo by Cherry family.
The North Coast 500 is a spectacular 516 mile circular drive (actually rectangular) opened for business in 2015 in order to promote the northern Highlands. The route encompasses magnificent mountains, white sand beaches, lochs, castles and vast natural spaces devoid of humanity so it has become extremely popular with wheeled tourists in camping cars, sports cars and endurance cyclists as well as regular family vehicles.
The North Coast 500 runs roughly from Inverness on the upper east coast, directly west to the Isle of Skye, then northwest to Durness (near Kinlochbervie on our map), west to Britain’s far north tip of John O’Groats, and back south to Inverness along the east coast.
However! The immense popularity of the route has caused problems, particularly along the frequent narrow, winding or steep roads where slow vehicles such as camping cars (hired by newbies in Inverness) or older drivers can slow progress to a crawl.
North Coast 500 route map, Scottish Highlands, created by Thincat. Official website.
Shieldaig, a saltwater loch off the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Steve Carter.
Shieldaig Island is populated with Scotts Pines that were used to make masts for sailing ships to fight Napoleon two centuries ago. It is now a bird sanctuary and has nesting Sea Eagles.
Shieldaig Loch joins Loch Torridon and has a fleet of 6 fishing trawlers which mostly fish for Langoustine (which are transported to London, Madrid and even China the next day). The village itself was built to raise and train sailors to fight Napoleon.
Winter in the Torridon Highlands. Photo by Steve Carter.
The Torridon Hillsare the oldest in Europe. Rock in the Torridon area is between 2600 and 3000 million years old. Very nearly the highest in Britain, they rise in places almost vertically to 3500 feet from the deep sea lochs.
The hills are not only famous for the magnificent and dramatic views but also generally have steep terraced sides that provide excellent scrambling and climbing activities and are consequently popular with hikers, climbers and mountaineers.
Plockton promenade. Photo by NessyPic.
Often referred to as the prettiest village in Scotland, Plockton – population 378 – is on the shore of Loch Carron, off the Atlantic. The TV series Hamish Macbeth was filmed there.
Gairloch beach and loch, Atlantic Ocean. Gairloch is small fishing town with banks, shops and a museum. Photo by Steve Carter.
Achmelvich beach and loch, Atlantic Ocean. It’s just north of Lochinver and a popular camping destination. Photo by Steve Carter.