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!