Looking for spectacular rugged landscapes and not afraid to escape to the true wilds of Scotland? Well, The North Coast 500 route (NC500) is perfect for you! This is a Scottish road trip to rival Route 66.
ore part of the NC500, or do the full loop around the very top of Scotland. And here lies some of the most beautiful coastal scenery, and spectacular cliffs, stacks, and seascapes. And you will find plenty of areas offering peace and solitude to gather your thoughts and absorb the beauty surrounding you.
But one of the most stunning locations is Duncansby Stacks and Duncansby Lighthouse, which lies near John o’ Groats on the North Coast 500 route. But, don’t try and do it all in a day, take an overnight stay in Wick. This will ensure that you have a wonderful trip to this area of Scotland known as Caithness. And where better to base yourself than the famous Mackay’s Hotel. A little gem of a find, set in a historic building by the Harbour, this hotel is famous for its great food and homely hospitality.
Just along the coast from the Duncansby stacks is the famous Duncansby Lighthouse. It is well worth the 40-minute walk to explore. It was originally built in 1924 and in its time has seen plenty of drama, including being machine-gunned by a German bomber during World War 2. From here you can enjoy some more magnificent views out over the North Sea. Nearby the lighthouse is another geological formation called the Geo of Sclaites. This is like a slice of the earth has been taken out and in its place, hundreds of loud, squawking seabirds have been added!
But before this, on your way up to Wick and Caithness, you must visit the Whaligoe Steps! These flagstone steps lead down 250ft cliffs to the most extraordinary harbour in Scotland! And if you don’t fancy climbing the 330 steps, surrounded by cliffs, then explore this historical Scottish site by boat. But apart from these dramatic cliff steps, you will also find a remarkable harbour at their foot. And here was a base of successful fishing for herring, salmon, shellfish and whitefish boats. But the site was originally turned down as a “dreadful place!” by the famous engineer Thomas Telford. And as such, they were built later built at a cost of £8 by Captain David Brodie. As such, they became the successful home to some 20 fishing boats. Here fisherwomen would carry baskets of fish up the Whaligoe Steps, before walking all the way to Wick for sale.
It sounds like this is all happening in the far reaches of an inaccessible landscape. In fact, getting to Duncansby Stacks is simple! That’s because you can follow the North Coast 500 route. Whilst you can certainly do a day trip from Inverness to Duncansby Stacks, it might be more relaxing to stay overnight. A particularly welcoming place is Mackays Hotel in Wick. It is family-owned and often has deals if you can book in advance. As an added bonus, it is also situated on the world’s shortest street, as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records! Here you can relax after a day of exploring Duncansby, and have a lovely dinner in their No. 1 Bistro. Highly recommended.
There’s so much to see north of Inverness, and the North Coast 500 route is a great way to do it. It offers a whistlestop tour of the coast including sites like Duncansby Stacks and Lighthouse. And of course, if anything takes your fancy inland, there are plenty of other road trips and opportunities to explore the untamed Highlands of Scotland!
Thomas Telford was one of Scotland and Britain’s most celebrated engineers and was responsible for some of the finest bridges, harbours, tunnels and roads up and down the country. Held in such high regard, he was granted a burial at Westminster Abbey. However perhaps his greatest achievement, certainly in Scotland, was the planning and building of the Parliamentary roads and the Caledonian Canal.
In this post, you can travel along your own Thomas Telford Trail and admire some of the greatest engineering work the country has ever seen.
Small in stature when compared to some of his other designs, nevertheless this bridge stands as one of Telford’s lasting memorials to his hard work. About half-way down the north-western side of Loch Ness sits the small village of Invermoriston and Telford’s bridge is just nearby. One of over a thousand bridges built to connect up the towns and villages of the Highlands, its humpbacked design has stood the test of time. There are two bridges here because time and vandalism have taken their toll on Telford’s original bridge. A new bridge was built in 1933. This one gives a great view of Telford’s original construction.
Top tip: This is a great spot to see salmon leaping! The end of October is the best time of year, and going early morning or early evening will increase your chances of spotting one.
The Caledonian Canal took 12 years to build and was planned by Telford. It is a stunning feat of engineering even by today’s standards. if created today, would still beIt was originally planned as a safe route for the British Navy so they could avoid travelling around the dangerous waters of the Pentland Firth and Cape Wrath. Telford was given the charge to design and build it – and he did it with style!
The 22-mile canal has 29 locks and in 1873 Queen Victoria took a trip along it. People still flock to see it and enjoy time on a boat. It travels from Inverness on Scotland’s east coast to Fort William on the west. If you visit, make sure you head towards Neptune’s Staircase near Fort William. This is an astonishing feat of Telford’s engineering. It is a series of locks, raising the canal 19 metres over a quarter-mile. It’s a mesmerising sight to watch and takes a boat 90 minutes to traverse all the locks. It’s the longest staircase lock in Britain. You can find it at Banavie, near Fort William.
Top tip: Fort Augustus is at the south-westerly tip of Loch Ness and is the perfect place to watch canal boats enter and leave Loch Ness. Sit outside a local pub and enjoy the view!
So enjoy your first steps along a Thomas Telford trail, and admire amazing engineering examples. If you are looking for more examples of beautiful structures here near Inverness, then visit some of the beautiful castles in the area.
So, you want to see the best of our Scottish history and explore new places when visiting Inverness? Well, our East of Inverness History Trail is the ideal day trip for you. So make the most out of your visit to Inverness, Loch Ness, and the Highlands of Scotland with our planned day trips. Further, we’ve selected some of the best known, most beautiful, and historic locations to give you a sense of Scotland’s heritage.
You can travel to them all, starting at Culloden Battlefield and finishing at Brodie Castle. Or just select the highlights if you are short of time. Whatever you decide to do, you are sure to love the East of Inverness History Trail!
Fancy touching a piece of Scotland’s history that dates back over 4,000 years? Then a visit to Clava Cairns is what you are looking for. This is a burial ground from the Bronze Age which has lasted remarkably well through time. The Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava (as they are officially known) was a significant site for millennia for rituals and burials in Scotland.
It is believed that many of the stones used to build the cairns were actually from an even earlier farming settlement in the area, further adding to the historic significance of this ancient place.
The most remarkable aspect of this viaduct is that it is still in regular use today. Check out this video of an LNER train driver’s point of view as he heads from Inverness to Edinburgh.
The viaduct sits half a mile east of the Clava Cairns. You can view it on a map here, and it’s what3words is dreamer.forge.openly.
Whilst at Fort George, make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the water. This is a popular area for dolphins! Here and across the water at Channory Point are some of the best places to visit near Inverness to catch a really good sighting. Make sure you bring your camera as some of the dolphins like to play! Or you can book a boat trip on the Moray Firth to explore the sealife and spot dolphins with the experts at Dolphin Spirit!
Ready for a break? Then Nairn Beach is the perfect place to take a coffee or picnic and relax. With wide expanses of sand and breathtaking views over the Moray Firth, the beach is the perfect place to stop awhile. There are parking facilities, toilets, and some nearby cafes. There’s even a play area for the kids, Nairn Beach is dog friendly too.
If you can come when the sun is due to set, there’s a good chance you’ll get a beautiful display. In the colder winter months, it’s also a good place to spy the Northern Lights, if you are lucky. Narin beach can be found on a map here, and what3words are folds.bond.releasing.
By heading east of Inverness, you are guaranteed to find beauty, history, and culture. Enjoy your adventures in this beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands! If the East of Inverness History Trail has whetted your appetite for adventure, check out some more road trips near Inverness. So, now to head back to the start with a bit more history and Culloden Battlefield – one of the most popular attractions in Inverness.
This Inverness to Skye road trip takes around 3 hours each way to drive. Although this could be done in a day, we recommend the full two or three days to make the most of it. This is a very scenic trip, taking in many popular Highland sights and attractions.
Road trip details: Two or three day route, 113 miles, 6 hours driving time
Stops include: Glen Moriston, Glen Shiel, Loch Duich Viewpoint, Eilean Donan Castle, Sligachan. Portree, Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools, Dunvegan Castle and Gardens.
4. From Glen Moriston, head east towards Glen Shiel. It is worth stopping at the watershed, the point where when the rivers and burns all run towards a common point, for great views.
5. You’ll soon come to a brown crossed swords sign, marking the site of the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719, one of the lesser-known Jacobite Risings. You can stop here to view the information panels, which are set into a stone wall at the side of the glen.
6. As you continue along the road, you’ll see the Five Sisters of Kintail mountains on the right, and The Saddle mountain on the left. When you come to the junction, follow the Skye Road over the causeway and through Inverinate. You have now reached the west coast, as you drive along the shores of Loch Duich.
7. Just after Inverinate Service Station, you can go off the main road, following a sign for Loch Duich Viewpoint. This will take you onto an old part of the road and up to the viewpoint for amazing scenery. You will then rejoin the main road and continue on to the village of Dornie.
8. As you reach Dornie, you’ll see Eilean Donan Castle on your right, a 13th century castle, which was reconstructed in the early 20th century. You can stop here for a visit or simply to take in the views.
12. You can head back to Inverness the same way that you came, allowing around three hours driving time.
We hope you enjoy this Inverness to Skye road trip. Find more road trip ideas here.
This Loch Ness Circuit road trip takes one or two days to complete, starting and finishing in Inverness. Making a full loop around the whole of Loch Ness, we recommend the full two days to make the most of all there is to see and do. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Nessie!
Road trip details: One to two-day route, 67 miles
Stops include: Jacobite Cruises, Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, Nessieland, Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus, Caledonian Canal, Falls of Foyers, Boleskine Graveyard, Dores beach.
4. As you leave Drumnadrochit, you’ll pass Urquhart Castle. These ancient castle ruins date from the 13th century and are well worth a visit.
5. Next you’ll come to a small village called Invermoriston, where you can take a short walk to Invermoriston Falls and the historic Invermoriston Old Bridge, engineered by Thomas Telford.
6. Continue along the road to Fort Augustus, at the southern end of Loch Ness. This vibrant village on the Caledonian Canal is a must-see. With gift shops and plenty of places to eat and relax. You can walk along the canal and watch the boats pass through the locks. Take a walk along the waterfront for views of Fort Augustus Abbey. Or, enjoy a boat trip from Cruise Loch Ness. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.
9. Heading on from Foyers, you will pass the historic Boleskine Graveyard and the remains of Boleskine House, which was once owned by Victorian occultist Aleister Crowley and also rock star Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.
10. Our final stop is Dores, great for beach walks and food at Dores Inn. This is also where the famous Nessie Hunter, Steve Feltham, can often be found.
11. Continue heading north from here, back to Inverness and your Loch Ness circuit is complete!
We hope you enjoy this Loch Ness Circuit road trip. Find more road trip ideas here.
This Loch Ness and Glencoe road trip takes one day to complete, with about 2 and a half hours of driving time. Starting in Inverness, it follows Loch Ness, through Glencoe and on to Fort William. With spectacular scenery and lots of opportunities to stop off along the way.
Road trip details: One-day route, 85 miles each way, 2.5 hours driving time
Stops include: Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus, the Caledonian Canal, Loch Oich, Commando Memorial, Well of the Seven Heads, Old Inverlochy Castle, Loch Leven, Glencoe.
3. Next follow the A82 to Fort William. You will pass Loch Oich and the Well of the Seven Heads. Stop here to visit the monument and store, and learn the gory story behind its name.
4. Cross another swing bridge over the Caledonian Canal. Then drive along the south side of Loch Lochy. If the weather is good, the lochside is a great place for paddling and skipping stones.
5. After Loch Lochy, pass the Commando Memorial, then drive through Spean Bridge. There is a Woollen Mill and Café here if you’re looking for a stop.
6. Look out for a sign for Old Inverlochy Castle as you arrive into Fort William, after the Road to the Isles roundabout. This castle ruin is site of the first and second battles of Inverlochy and is free to visit.
11. Now go back towards Fort William via Ballachulish. Before reaching the bridge, look out for a huge former slate quarry on your left.
12. Enjoy some time in Fort William. This pretty Scottish town has plenty of great attractions, activities, stunning scenery and places to eat.
13. (option 1). Leaving Fort William, return home by the same route to Fort Augustus. (option 2) Alternatively, take the Road to the Isles and turn right at Neptune’s Staircase of lochs on the Caledonian Canal. Follow the back road to Gairlochy and the Commando Memorial.
14. From Fort Augustus, return back to Inverness along the banks of Loch Ness. If you drove along the north side on the way out, drive back via the south side .. and vice versa.
We hope you enjoy this Loch Ness and Glencoe road trip. Find more road trip ideas here.