North Coast 500 Tour, Scotland
(Above image is a capture of a herd of Highland Cows on the road in Wester Ross.)
Depart Inverness and drive west to Applecross via Lochcarron. About two thirds of the Loch Carron-Applecross route entails a single-track, back road which may be inaccessible in winter. However, this mountainous back road is a unique experience and offers excellent views of the local landscape.
Back road to Applecross
On arrival at Applecross (the name means 'confluence' and is not connected with fruit) consider stop for refreshment at the Applecross Inn which sits above the beach.
Next, continue north, following a single track road around the coast via the village of Shieldaig and then connect with the A896 passing through Torridon and then along the west bank of Loch Maree. Consider staying overnight at Loch Maree Hotel, Talladale where Queen Victoria stayed for six nights in September, 1877.
View west towards Isle of Skye
Wester Ross Landscape
Loch Maree at sunset
Depart Talladale and follow the coastal route via the A832 then A835 to Ullapool.
First, a mile or so north of Talladale turn off left along track to view the Victoria Falls.
Next to Poolewe and Inverewe Garden via Gairloch. Depending on season, boat trips on Loch Ewe, with emphasis on ecology and wildlife, may be available from Inverewe Garden
Seals near Inverewe Garden
Next, continue north following the coast to Loch Broom and Ullapool where a range of accommodation is available.
Road to Ullapool
Depart Ullapool and follow the A835 north with aim of reaching Lochinver on the coast. For a scenic, single track route turn left near Drumrunie to connect with the minor road. On reaching Lochinver return east via the A837 or follow the coast round via the B869.
Loch Lurgainn via single track road.
If opting for the A837 ignore left turn for A894 on banks of Loch Assynt in order to view or visit Ardvreck Castle and small waterfall opposite.
If opting for the B869, connect with the A894 and drive south to Ardvreck Castle as adverted to above.
After departing Ardvreck Castle turn north to join A894 to Scourie and then on to Durness on the northern cost. A popular visitor attraction at Durness is Smoo Cave where visitors can opt for an escorted trip underground using a boat in order to learn about the geology, ecology and history of the site.
Landscape en-route to Durness
Underground boat transport at Smoo Cave
View out from Smoo Cave
Coastal scenery en-route to Tongue.
Finally, continue east along the north coast, around Loch Eriboll and across the Kyle of Tongue, to the village of Tongue where avail of overnight accommodation.
This entails a route around the N.E. coast of Scotland culminating in an overnight at Wick.
First, consider a 1 hour (approx.) round trip hike to visit Castle Varrich the provenance of which is unknown.
Next, depart Tongue and follow the A836 east to the village of Bettyhill. Here is an excellent community run museum which should prove of interest to persons who wish to connect with local ancestry and/or the Highland Clearances. A small number of locally produced craft items can be purchased at the museum.
Display inside Bettyhill Museum
Next, continue east to the town of Thurso where refreshments can be obtained.
Thurso Town Centre
Next, a turn north to join the B855 which connects with the viewpoint of Dunnet Head.
Cliffs at Dunnet Head
Lighthouse at Dunnet Head
Next, return to the A836 and further east to the well signposted visitor attraction of the Castle of Mey.
Castle of Mey
Next, to the N.E. corner of Duncansby Head and John o'Groats. The latter has achieved fame because it sits at one end of the longest distance between two inhabited points on the British mainland with Land's End in Cornwall lying 876 miles to the S,W.
Signpost at John o'Groats
Next, south to Auckengill where, on right hand side of the road, can be found the Caithness Broch Centre which provides information on the extensive collection of brochs in the Caithness. Brochs are high status, circular dwellings dating back about 2000 years and are unique to Scotland. Just a short distance down the A99 on the left can be accessed remains of a number of brochs situated on the coastal cliffs. Directions can be obtained from the Broch Centre.
Remains of Broch near Aukengill
Finally, stay overnight further south at the town of Wick, which has an extensive harbour and a marina.
Explore Wick where, at Ebenezer Place, can be found the world's shortest street. Then on to the nearby harbour and marina.
Next, depart Wick and travel a short distance north to the coastal point of Noss Head where can be found the ruins of Sinclair Girnigeo Castle.This complex is based on an original, late 15th century Tower House with the site dating back to the late 14th century. Official records are sketchy pre-1700 but the castle was associated with the Sinclairs in 1606.
Sinclair Girnigeo Castle
Next, south following the coast along the A99 with optional stops at the Badbea Clearance Village site and Dunrobin Castle both of which are signposted.
Another option on the way south is to connect with the A839 (right) after passing through Golspie, then to Lairg where connect with the B864 and travel south until reaching the Falls of Shin at Achany Glen.where can be found waterfalls and (in season) leaping salmon.The scenery along this route is very pleasant, passing along the valleys of the rivers Fleet and Shin.
After departing the Falls of Shin, travel south and connect with the A836 then A9. At Tain can found Glenmorangie Distillery on the banks of the Dornoch Firth (bay/estuary). Regular tours are provided, typically lasting about 1 hour in course of which are illustrated the malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation processes. Principal product is a 10 year old, very lightly peated whisky with alcohol by volume at 40 pct.
Glenmorangie Single Malts
Finally, return to Inverness at conclusion of the tour.