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#TAKE5FORTOURISM: Exploring the North Coast 500

Posted on 28th August 2020 by Karen Hemmati

#TAKE5FORTOURISM: Exploring the North Coast 500

#TAKE5FORTOURISM is an epic campaign run by Visit Scotland to support Scottish tourism. One of the five simple actions is to take a staycation in bonnie Scotland itself, which is exactly what I did!

Having been born and bred in Edinburgh, I have to admit I had never ventured further than Aberdeen. So, I jumped at the chance to head up and explore the famous North Coast 500 (NC500). I booked my Airbnb’s, packed up the car, bought A LOT of midgie spray and headed off to spend four days exploring the northern part of the Scottish Highlands.

We drove the NC500 from West to East. The scenery on the West coast will make you think you are on the set of Jurassic Park with a lot of castle ruins, waterfalls and breath-taking mountains. On the East coast you have spectacular views of the North Sea whilst driving through beautiful wee towns and villages before heading back through the Cairngorm National Park. Here are some of my top tips if you fancy an adventure!

Edinburgh > Fort William

Leaving from Edinburgh we headed straight to Fort William for our first night’s stay. Driving through Glencoe gave us an insight into the epic views that awaited us on the West coast. When you get to the Hidden Valley, make sure to stop at Kingshouse Hotel for some yummy pub grub along the way.

Fort William > Durness

After our overnight stay in Fort William, we took a short stop at Corpath’s stony beach of Loch Eil, where the MV Dayspring proudly sits on the shore with a backdrop of the stunning Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak. Unfortunately, in 2011, a heavy storm caused a chain to break and she ran aground and has been there ever since.

Back on the road; sit back and enjoy the stunning views of the West coast. Make sure you leave time in your schedule to get out the car and explore as there is nothing quite like taking in the scenes on foot.

Durness > Wick

On this stretch, there are loads of activities you definitely need to stop and do. First thing in the morning we walked along the beach in Lairg with a quick stop at Cocoa Mountain for a hot chocolate to warm us up.

From here; we headed to the Smoo Caves.  Volunteers run the caves and they’ll take you on a boat sharing the history with you. Sadly, the tours weren’t happening when we were there, but you can still go for a wander inside. From the caves, you can take the stairs to the top of the cliff and walk to what feels like the end of the earth, where(if you are lucky) you will see dolphins in the water!

For your adrenaline rush of the day, I would highly recommend the Golden Eagle Zipline – don’t be fooled, it will take less than 10 seconds to get across but is so worth it!

 

Our last stop of the day, was the famous sign at John O’ Groats – the very top of Scotland! There are always hordes of people having a photoshoot beside the sign so, to be different I took some photos of the other angles from this beautiful spot. You really do feel like you are at the top of the world!

Wick > Nairn

After arriving in Wick we made sure to visit the French gem, Bord De L’Eau for dinner. The chef came out to speak to us and the food was amazing!

The next day we headed South to Nairn, stopping for breakfast at The River Bothy in Berriedale (The Travellers Choice 2020 restaurant), and the hype is most definitely deserved! Check out these pancakes:

 

As this was our last day, we took a leisurely drive to our glamping pod in Nairn where we set up a bonfire for a BBQ and took a walk in the literal fields of gold!

Nairn > Edinburgh

On our way back to Edinburgh, we stopped via the Cairngorm National Park where we found this hidden spot; built by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband, Prince Albert. It is a bit of a climb but it is so worth the view and was the perfect end to our Highland tour!

I am so lucky that I have these amazing places right on my doorstep! I still can’t believe this is where I get to call home and I am looking forward to exploring more of Scotland in the future.