A view of Loch Craggie with hills in the background, Tongue, Scotland Alternative North Coast 500 Route

WIT: Alternative NC500 Scotland Part 1 (Around Tongue)

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.

It’s also a great base for walking the straightforward and rewarding Ben Hope, or exploring some of the lovely beaches surrounding it. Whether you’re heading clockwise or anti-clockwise on your Scotland road trip, this is what you’ll need to know about Tongue.

Things to Do Around Tongue:

As we’ve already explained in our North Coast 500 Overview post, Tongue was a great starting point for us. We decided to start as far north as we could, and slowly make our way south (and back to civilisation!)

A man walks through long grass near Achnanclach Bothy, Tongue, Scotland
Walking down to Loch Loyal for a sunset swim

This plan actually worked out really well. Our group really enjoy hill walking in Scotland anyway and we weren’t missing Ben Hope – Scotland’s northernmost Munro – which is just next to Tongue. We spent our first night in Achnanclach Bothy where the weather was kind and the whisky went down well. The Kyle of Tongue Bridge and Causeway also surprised us, and provided some great views to truly begin our scenic trip.

Climb Ben Hope and Cool Down in a Natural Pool
Ben Hope

Ben Hope is one of only four Munros found north of Ullapool. Incredibly, despite the beauty and the variation in this sparse landscape, there are only four peaks above 914m (3,000ft). Ben Hope is the most northerly Munro of them all.

A girl stands next to a sign which reads 'way up Ben Hope' near Tongue, Scotland
No getting lost on this one

It’s a small Munro, sitting at 927m. While some holiday-makers may find this intimidating, Ben Hope is a simple and worthwhile walk. Anybody visiting Tongue on their Scotland road trip should seriously consider hiking one of the least challenging Munros. The easiest route follows a well-marked path straight from the car park to the peak and returns the exact same way.

A view of Ben Loyal from Ben Hope near Tongue, Scotland
Outrageous views from the summit. The rocky faces of Ben Loyal in the distance

WEE TIP: be very careful with the road on the way to Ben Hope. It’s a single-track country road and there are the usual passing places. But it’s also pretty uneven. Mind the underside of your car and don’t travel over 20mph. If you do, you’re likely to scrape the underside of your car!

It’s only 4.75 miles in total, and rewards you with outstanding views of Scotland’s stunning north coast. On a clear day, you can even see some of Orkney’s islands. You’ll be able to spot a plethora of beaches and, when we were there, we could even spot the wilderness of Faraid Head.

We loved the walk and clearly made the most of the weather! There can’t be many better spots up north to enjoy your lunch than Ben Hope’s summit with views of Ben Loyal, Loch Hope and even Loch Eriboll.

Two girls stand and smile on the cairn at the summit of Ben Hope near Tongue, Scotland
Big smiles all round
The Swimming Pools

On the way up Ben Hope, you’ll have noticed plenty of natural swimming pools created by the stream and its many small waterfalls. These are incredibly refreshing on the way down. Please just make sure and pick one which looks stable. Make sure it’s deep enough if you’re jumping and that you can get to and from it safely.

We chose one of the pools nearest to the car park. It was perfect

WEE TIP: there looked to be plenty of wild swimming spots on Loch Hope. If you’ve brought your tent, then it looked like a good spot for some excellent wild camping too.

For more information on the route and downloading the GPX file, we recommend checking the Walk Highlands website. In all our years walking, we’ve found the most reliable site for weather forecasts is the incredibly useful Mountain Weather Information Service. They’ll provide you with a highly accurate forecast on your chances of getting a view from the top.

A man walks up Ben Hope near Tongue, Scotland
A simple but rewarding walk

Please, no matter level of walker you are, do NOT attempt this hill without the correct equipment and information. Make sure you are prepared – Scotland’s hills can be extremely dangerous and unforgiving. Don’t take any risks.

If you’ve already been up Ben Hope, or if the 4.75 miles round-trip sounds too easy for you, then check out Ben Loyal and Meall nan Con (Ben Kilbreck) too!

A girl stands with her back to the camera with Ben Loyal in the background, Tongue, Scotland
We got a lovely sunset. Ben Loyal is unmissable on the left
Stay in Achnanclach Bothy and Wild Swim in Loch Loyal

We were also determined to explore more of Scotland’s bothies on our trip, and Achnanclach Bothy fit the bill. This is one of the of the bothies closest to Tongue, and again one of only a few up in this part of Scotland. It’s located almost exactly between Loch Craggie and Loch Loyal. Unusually, you can even see this one from the road.

Two girls stand outside Achnanclach Bothy near Tongue, Scotland
Big smiles at Achnanclach Bothy

Achnanclach was the perfect first night for us. It was a boggy 30-minute walk from the car and absolutely worth it. We met a lovely Polish couple in the main room, and we took the room to the right. There were x2 metal bed frames and plenty of floor space.

There’s also the ‘Green Room’ and another small cupboard, so the bothy could accommodate quite a few people. After getting the fire going we dumped our stuff and went out for a sunset swim in Loch Loyal.

We were only a 45-minute drive from the Ben Hope car park in the morning. We highly recommend the bothy if you’re in the area. Not sure what bothies are? Check out our North Coast 500 Overview Post and see if they sound right for you.

WEE TIP: if you’re looking to get a fire going in either of the two fireplaces, you’ll need to bring your own firewood. There are no accessible trees or driftwood near this one.

Check Out Torrisdale Bay and Skinnet Beach

We’re a little embarrassed that we missed these beaches. In all honesty, we didn’t even know they were there. We were so determined to start heading west that we completely missed them!

Nonetheless, Torrisdale Bay and even Skinnet Beach look like two lovely bays on the north coast. If, unlike us, you’re heading east, be sure to stop off and check them out. And if you’ve already been, leave us a Comment below to let us know what we missed out on!

Views from Kyle of Tongue Bridge and Causeway

The Kyle of Tongue Bridge and Causeway really can’t be missed. It’s a great crossing point and if you travel west like we did, you’ll go from Causeway to Bridge over the Kyle. Great views for everybody that isn’t driving.

Once on the west side, you’ll find Viewpoint Tongue. There’s plenty of space to park, and there are fantastic views of Ben Hope looming over Loch Hope. A little further to the east you should also be able to see the craggy face of Ben Loyal.

A girl stands with her back to the camera at Loch Hope, Tongue, Scotland
Loch Hope with a great view of glorious Ben Hope

You also have the option of taking the long way. An old road leads all the way around the Kyle, letting you see it from every angle.

Castle Bharrich

This is supposed to be another great spot for a view of the Kyle of Tongue. A short but steep walk takes you all the way up to a viewing platform at the top of the castle ruins. Park your vehicle in Tongue and follow the signs for one of the many castles in Scotland from there.

Shops in Tongue:

  • Tongue Stores & Post Office (09:00-17:30)

Bars, Cafes, Restaurants & Pit Stops:

  • Weaver’s Craft Shop & Cafe
  • There are no petrol stations in Tongue

Wild Camping Around Tongue:

  • Achnanclach Bothy
  • Some good spots around Loch Hope
  • Some decent spots around Loch Loyal
A girl sits on rocks at a high point looking over Scotland's north coast, Tongue, Scotland
Emma taking in the fantastic views of the Kyle of Tongue

Official Accommodation:

Whether you’re at the beginning or mid-way point of your trip, there’s a range of accommodation available in Tongue:

  • Kyle of Tongue Hostel and Holiday Park (Dorms from £21, Privates from £50)
  • The Bothy B&B (Double from £35)
  • Ben Loyal Hotel (Twin from £70 – low season)
  • The Tongue Hotel (from £140)
A group walk through long grass in sunset light near Tongue, Scotland
Time for a dip

Wherever you decide to go, Tongue will probably feature at some point on your Scotland road trip. As we’ve already mentioned, this area was our first stop. After a cracking night in the bothy and a brilliant hill walk, we headed west to Durness on Part 2 of our North Coast 500 Alternative Route.

Have we missed anything out? Did you find any other treats worth visiting? Let us know by leaving a Comment below. Otherwise, you can get in touch through our Contact page.

Around Tongue Budget Breakdown:

Getting There:
  • (included in Overview costs)

Total: n/a

Accommodation:
  • Achnanclach Bothy x1N
  • free

Total: n/a

Attractions:
  • n/a

Total: n/a

Local Costs:
  • x2 bottles of Smidge £15
  • initial food shop (camping food and alcohol) £30
  • bottle of whisky £20
  • coffee stop in Cafe Ralia £5
  • Ardgay Shop snacks £5

Total: £75

Total for 1D/1N: £75

The above budget is for x2 people. Food and alcohol prices are likely to vary. We drank our fair share, and had plenty of pub food.

This budget breakdown isn’t meant to be an exact record of what we spent, but should give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to spend.
*all currencies accurate at the time of writing (August ’19)

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