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Driving the north-west coast

I originally discarded the idea of driving the coastal road from Thurso to Ullapool but am now considering it again.

Anyone with personal experience of this road, how long to take and suggested stopovers? We are from Australia and used to driving on the left.


Posted by
1586 posts

We drove Ullapool to Thurso, June, 2015. This was a day trip - we were heading to Thurso to take the ferry. If this is your first trip to Scotland (it was our 6th), I would not make that drive a priority unless you want to go to Orkney. The area is very bleak, mostly treeless, and there are almost no amenities - be sure you have a picnic, a full gas tank, and a giant bladder! The road is single-track with a passing point every few miles which is OK since there is almost no traffic.
IMHO your time in Scotland is better spent driving the Great Glen, Glencoe, Skye, Lewis, Mull, and the border abbey areas.

Posted by
62 posts

We are considering this drive from Ullapool to north coast but considering stopping mid way to break up the drive. Has anyone stopped along the way and where did you overnight? I

Posted by
33 posts

I'm planning the same (though from Ullapool to Thurso). We'll be heading up to Orkney, but I want to stop in Durness for Smoo's Cave and Balnakeil, as well as checking out Ardvreck Castle and Dun Dornaigil Broch.

Considering all I want to see on the way, we're definitely planning for an overnight stop somewhere. I'm not sure yet if it will be Ullapool or Durness; probably the latter.

Posted by
62 posts

My plan for the moment is to drive from Isle of Sky to Ullapool and spend the night.
Day 2 would be from Ullapool to Durness and spend the night.
Day 3 would be from Durness to Scabster (catch ferry) then spend next 2 nights in Kirkwall.

Does this sound reasonable or should we go all the way from Ullapool to Scabster on day 2?

Posted by
940 posts

Hi, Jeff,

You may want to shoot for a bit farther north than Ullapool. Lochinver and Scourie are both attractive villages, with good accommodation. Lochinver a bit more so than Scourie. It still leaves you with a long drive to Scrabster, but it's certainly doable in a day. Just watch out for those European tourists (Sorry, Continentals!) in their high powered racing cars, trying to do the NC500 in the shortest time possible!

best wishes!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
62 posts

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your response to my post.

In your opinion does it make sense to break this drive up into 3 parts?
Day 1 - Portree, Isle of Sky to Ullapool
Day 2 Ullapool to Durness
Day 3 Durness to Scabster and ferry to Orkney Island then on to Kirkwall

We have the time to do so I didn't want to rush but on the other hand if the drives are rather short and if there's not much to see or do at each stop then maybe we could eliminate Ullapool and drive all the way from Sky to Durness on day 1 and make day 2 Durness to Scabster. I want to make sure I have plenty of time to drive to Scabster and catch the ferry.

How many ferry crossings are there from Scabster to Stromness? Do I reserve this ferry from the USA or buy ticket at Scabster?