The Scottish Highlands and the North Coast 500 have become hugely popular holiday destinations since staycations became the main option. With rich cultural history, beautiful coastline and amazing food and drink to try, it’s no wonder Scotland attracts visitors that fall in love with its highlands.
What always impresses me is how soon you can be in remote and beautiful places if you’re crossing the border from England. Pretty much anywhere in the UK, if you’re willing to start early you can be in the Highlands by the evening (for those of you keen on a more long distance trip such as Lands End to John O’Groats). Some people in Road Trip Club have even mentioned how they like to leave in the evening, to arrive near the coast by sunrise!
And while you can try to munch through the miles in the Highlands, many would say you can never spend too much time doing the NC500. There is always more to do and see. It’s worth bearing in mind that everything will get slower once you reach the Highlands. As I mentioned above, the Highlands have become extremely popular this year but the roads are not designed for quite this much traffic. In fact, a lot of areas weren’t really designed for traffic at all. If you’re choosing to travel in the peak of the summer holidays you might find yourself in a long queue around some narrow areas.
If you plan to take on any driving in the Highlands then the most important thing to be aware of is fuel stations. They become few and far between as you head north so it is always worth filling up when you see one. If you plan on doing long drives you should also do your research about when the stations are open, as some aren’t 24 hours, whether they will take card and if they actually sell the fuel you need.
This Highland Adventure is a day-long route that takes you on some of the north coast’s most famous roads. For starters, I’ve chosen one of my favourite locations in Scotland, although it’s in the Lowlands rather than Highlands. This is the town of Inveraray, on the edge of Loch Fyne where the restaurant chain gets its name from. It’s about 1.5 hours from Glasgow and this is where you first start getting a taste for the lochs and mountains.
If you love seafood, Scotland in general is not going to disappoint. Here in Inveraray you have the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, serving fresh seafood caught in the nearby lochs, and Samphire seafood restaurant, which is a must visit if you’re keen on a seafood platter. The town is quiet but has everything you could need for an overnight stop, with lovely hotels, restaurants, pubs and even a whisky shop. Inveraray Castle is a beautiful place to visit or go for a walk around the grounds, and heading by following the trails you can get a fantastic view of the whole town, loch and castle from the top of the hill.
By following the A82 north, you’ll be taken to one of the must see sights of the Highlands – Glen Coe. The road runs through an incredible valley that shows the incredible landscape in the Highlands. For those James Bond fans, there’s the option to drive down to Glen Etive too, but not a trip for large vehicles. The road begins at the A82 and is around 12 miles long but very narrow. The only way to reach the iconic point in the Skyfall film with Bond and M is to drive on this single track road.
If you’re on the lookout for film locations, Scotland with its ancient land is a prime location for many films. Following the A82 further north to Ben Nevis will take you to a location far more magical though. This route takes you to Fort William – the nearest town to the UK’s tallest mountain – and if you’re one for long walks and high climbs it could be another great place to stop for the night. Once you reach the town, you can continue onto the A830 that will take you to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This is famously used in the Harry Potter films for the Hogwarts Express. Although you can’t get too close to the train, you can park at the Glenfinnan monument car park for a view of it. The train runs through there daily, and if you can time your visit correctly you’ll be able to see it passing by.
However, if you’re in the Highlands for the incredible roads, then there’s one truly famous one to try. Called the Road to Applecross or Bealach na ba, this 25 mile stretch of road winds the coast of Scotland and is known as one of the best driving roads in the UK. It has absolutely breathtaking views but, again, is extremely narrow and if you want to drive it you’ll need to prepare to navigate some passing points. Although it’s only 25 miles long it takes around an hour to drive all the way. You may find, if you’d rather spend more time in the hills than behind the wheel, that it would be better splitting this route into two days as driving from Glenfinnan or Fort William will take around three hours.
The route starts, if you’re heading anticlockwise as we are on this drive, in Kishorn. This is a perfect place to stop at the Kishorn Seafood Bar for some must have seafood, but if that’s not your thing then as you turn off the A896 for the Bealach na ba you should also stop in at the Bealach Gallery and Cafe. Once you’re on the road you will reach Applecross – hence the name – and here there is a petrol station and more options for food. You then continue to Shieldaig to complete the drive.
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Interested in more UK Road Trips? Then check out the below –
We have teamed up with the awesome team over at The Road Trip Club to bring you some of the best road trips here in this very country. The Road Trip Club love the open road, finding new places and travelling by car, to find out more about the club head on over to - https://www.roadtripclub.co.uk/
July 30, 2021