Driving from Ullapool to Gairloch you’ll be approaching the end of your NC500 trip. But that’s only if you’re following our North Coast 500 Alternative route, of course. If you’re heading the opposite way then you’re only at the beginning. Lucky you!
There are certainly things to do around Ullapool, but let’s just say that, like us, at this stage on your road trip you may have become a little spoilt. Ullapool itself is far from the most inspiring place on any North Coast 500 route, but it’s still an incredibly useful pit stop. Thankfully, there’s a plethora of thunderous waterfalls, gorgeous bays and towering hills to ogle at in the surrounding area. A brilliant range of Grahams, Donalds and Munros also means that there’s hiking for visitors of every level.
We’d never heard of Handa Island – not until our pal Neil told us about it this summer. We’re local and we love exploring the Scottish islands. After all, we’ve been to Skye, Rúm, Mull, Arran, Bute and more, but we’d never been to Handa Island. How can you visit somewhere when you’ve never even heard of it?
It’s incredible that we hadn’t – Handa Island is a fascinating place and has a lot to offer every type of visitor. So. Now that you’ve heard of it, you’re already one step ahead of us. In this post, you’re also going to learn how to get there and why even non-birdwatchers should have a visit to Handa on their priority list. Driving our North Coast 500 Alternative Route? Then it’s one of the many worthwhile detours.
Scotland’s famous North Coast 500 route is slowly growing in popularity, year after year. But you won’t need to worry about any of the complaints you’ve read online. This spectacular stretch of Scotland is still empty enough to enjoy some of Britain’s best beaches and atmosphere all to yourself. But only if you do it right.
Kearvaig Bothy sits pretty on untouched, undisturbed ground. It’s the Highlands at its most wild, most heartbreakingly bare. Kearvaig – known locally as ‘Kerwick’ – combines gorgeous white sand with rub-your-eyes-blue water. It’s a quiet, calm and mesmerising inlet, soft and solemn while the fierce Atlantic waves crash in to the crumbling sea cliffs all around it. It’s an incredibly special place.
Kearvaig is, moody, serene, unsettling… it’s hypnotic and placid and still a place to sip whisky by warm fires and play cards with old friends. Keep reading to find out how you can experience all of that, spot some entertaining puffins and even combine your trip with Scotland’s most north-westerly point.
Entering Assynt, you’ll realise that the drive from Scourie to Lochinver has quickly become the drive you’ve been dreaming of. After visiting Handa Island and hopefully enjoying some top-class seafood at Shorehouse, it’s time to hit the road again. You won’t have covered much ground in the last few days (there’s so much to see!) Now, the main highlight is taking in the glorious views of Scotland on one of the best, most scenic drives around. And the best way to do that drive is on our North Coast 500 Alternative Route. But you already know that by now.
Scourie is the next base on your Scotland circuit. On the second day, anyway. Spend your first night in Sandwood Bay after a glorious day on Scotland’s most impressive beaches. Tomorrow you’ll need to slowly make your way to Scourie and spend the night there. That’s if you’re following our Alternative North Coast 500 Route, heading anti-clockwise.
It’s all wilderness and emptiness around Durness; you’ll find much of the same when you head south. Next up are some of Scotland’s most impressive beaches and an absolute cracker in Handa Island. Scourie provides a good base to explore from. If you’re following the traditional route, then check out our Guide to the Tongue Area instead.
The drive to Durness is next on your Scotland road trip. But that’s only if you’re following our Alternative North Coast 500 Route, heading anti-clockwise. You’ll now be leaving the Tongue area, hopefully after a beautiful Ben Hope climb.
You’ll pass through Tongue at some point on your trip along the north coast of Scotland. It’s unavoidable. Tongue is a pleasant enough place but is certainly no sprawling metropolis – just like a lot of the towns on the NC500 route. Despite that, it’s still a useful place to pick up some supplies or find a comfy bed for the night.