For years my dad has been telling me that when the weather is right the Highlands of Scotland can rival anywhere in the world for beautiful scenery, white beaches and clear blue sea. Having spent some time in beautiful countries with some of the best sea and beaches I’ve seen (Croatia, the Philippines, Honduras) I was always sceptical of his claim.
My husband is Scottish, and we’ve made plenty of trips up North, but these have been pretty much limited to visiting family across Southern Scotland, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Glasgow, with an occasional visit to the beautiful town of Pitlochry. This winter we read about the North Coast 500 route; a 500 mile circular route that begins and ends in Inverness, covering the coastal towns and villages of the Highlands. It’s been widely labelled as “Scotland’s answer to route 66”, and has been listed as one of the top coastal drives in the world. We decided that we would stay in the UK for once and explore this part of the world, and we are so glad we did! White sands, turquoise seas, rugged wilderness, castles, dolphins, and if you’re extra lucky, maybe even an orca or two.*
Looking at the route, we did plan to make a few alterations. The official map (available from the North Coast 500 website) misses out the Black Isles, and we decided rather than coming back round to Inverness at the end to carry on down so that we could take in the picturesque town of Plockton, got hunting for Nessie along Loch Ness, and see the magnificent Glen Coe on our way home. We also did it anticlockwise, rather than the clockwise suggested so that a) we could end our journey as I outlined above, and b) save the best until last – the West Coast of Scotland is just incredible!
Other than the alterations to the route we would take, we didn’t have much of an agenda. Hostels booked for the first two nights, tent in the back of the car just in case (wild camping is legal in Scotland so we figured if we couldn’t find somewhere to stay we’d just pop the tent up and sleep in that for the night), and a rough route and we were ready to go.
First though, a visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a few drinks and a bit of live music. If you’re staying in Inverness the night before you set off for your trip I’d highly recommend Hootenanny. Local ale, live music, ceilidh dancing at the weekends. It was such as welcoming bar, and is definitely an authentic Scottish experience and a perfect start to the journey…..
Stay tuned for my next post on the North Coast 500, where we see dolphins, visit the most northerly point in Britain and explore some caves…
* Unfortunately we didn’t see any Orca’s but it’s worth keeping an eye out for Whale Watch, a week in May where they monitor numbers of whales in the area and regularly post updates on Facebook detailing the most recent sightings. Even if you don’t get to see any Whales there are enough dolphins, seals, highland cows and wild deer to see along the way that you won’t feel disappointed.