4 Minute Read

North Coast 500 – Have you taken Scotland’s ultimate road trip?

Posted by - Tim Earnshaw on 23 February 2024 (Updated 4 March 2024)
UK Drives

Classic car storage should go hand-in-hand with enjoying your vehicle – and few British road trips are more evocative than Scotland’s North Coast 500.

Windrush might be in the classic car storage business – but it’s not our goal to turn your vehicle into an inanimate object. In fact, the love and attention we lavish on your car is ultimately all in service of making it run better than ever next time you turn the key – and there’s only way to check how well we’ve done our job.
Right now, as we approach the glorious gearshift between winter and spring, there’s no better time to check your car out for a road trip – and if you’ve never driven the wild and rugged coastlines of Scotland’s North Highlands, the NC500 is calling. From planning your route to the best spots for recharging your batteries, here's advice from our classic car storage team in London...

Timing your trip

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Unfolding across 516 glorious miles of public roads, the North Coast 500 is open to drive all year round – with caveats. It’s true that in the warmer months of spring and summer, you’ll enjoy longer days, lighter evenings and potentially a greater choice of activities (it’s a brave soul who snorkels off the Scottish coast in January). But you might also find this former best-kept-secret grows frustratingly busy in the high season, with tailbacks of motorhomes and caravans not uncommon.

As such, for those who want to use their right foot more than their left, autumn and winter could be the better option. The benefits of an off-season visit extend beyond the driving conditions, too: while the temperatures remain crisp and the roads clear, you’ll get a wider choice (and often better prices) when it comes to accommodation, not to mention a chance of witnessing the northern lights and the Highlands’ iconic stags (who descend to lower altitudes during the colder months). 

Our suggested NC500 itinerary

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While everyone travels at their own pace, a reasonable guideline is to allow between five and seven days to navigate the NC500 (this should be ample to cover the major staging posts, explore a little off the beaten track and get the flavour of the area). No route is set in stone, but many first-timers choose to start at Inverness Castle and make their way up the east coast, loosely following this itinerary.

Day 1 – Inverness to Dornoch (via Beauly, Dingwall and Tain), stopping at Fort George, Culloden battlefield, Cawdor Castle, Loch Ness and the Dalmore whisky distillery in the charming village of Alness. Dine at the Conservatory Restaurant while soaking up views over Royal Dornoch golf course and stay at 15th century Dornoch Castle Hotel (toasting your successful first day with a wee dram at its whisky bar).

Day 2 – Dornoch to Wick (via Brora, Helmsdale and Dunbeath), stopping at the Loch Fleet nature reserve, Golspie golf course and the Disney-worthy Dunrobin Castle. Eat at Bord De L’Eau (famous for its French-inspired dishes) and stay at 19th century Mackays Hotel in Wick (notable for its location on the world’s shortest street).

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Day 3 – Wick to Tongue (via John O’ Groats, Thurso and Bettyhill), taking in Duncansby Head lighthouse, Broubster Leans birdwatching reserve and the endless sands of Strathy Beach (if you’ve always wanted to explore the Orkney archipelago, now is the time). Choose from the acclaimed seafood menu at the Ben Loyal Hotel (closed in winter) and stay at the Tongue Hotel (a characterful restored 19th century hunting lodge).

Day 4 – Tongue to Lochinver (via Durness, Scourie and Drumbeg), stopping at the UNESCO-designated North West Highlands Geopark, prehistoric Smoo Cave and – for bolder adventurers – the Golden Eagle Zipline. The finest dining is provided by the Inver Lodge restaurant (formerly owned by the Roux Brothers) while the impossibly snug Hideaway cabin is your bolthole for the night.

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Day 5 – Lochinver to Ullapool (via Inchnadamph and Elphin), stopping at the remains of 15th century Ardvreck Castle and hiking to Knockan Crag for its bracing views. Eat at the waterside Arch Inn and rest your head at Ullapool’s 19th century Royal Hotel.

Day 6 – Ullapool to Kinlochewe (via Aultbea and Gairloch), stopping for the views around Gruinard Bay and at the Shieldaig Lodge estate (where you can join a local creel fisherman to catch your dinner, prepared that night at the hotel restaurant).

Day 7 – Kinlochewe to Inverness (via Applecross, Lochcarron and Strathpeffer), stopping to sample the wares of the Strathcarron craft brewery and spend a final afternoon meandering in the Attadale Gardens. Spend your last night gazing out at Inverness Castle from Ardentorrie House – and recharge with the hotel’s famous Scottish breakfast before heading for home. 

Click here to view the full route.

Next-level classic car storage and no-fuss collection

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It’s not just that Windrush offers the finest  classic car storage service in London, from our discreet high-security location to our ongoing maintenance programme. Another reason why Windrush clients choose us is because it’s so quick and easy to check out your vehicle. We keep all the cars in our care permanently ‘on the button’, so when you fancy stretching your classic’s legs – whether on the NC500 or another famous route – simply let our team know and we’ll make the arrangements within minutes. It’s all part of a classic car storage service that always goes the extra mile.

Contact the Windrush team to enquire about our classic car storage in London and the Cotswolds. We’re ready to assist you on info@windrushcarstorage.co.uk

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