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North coast 500

I Have just started learning about this north coast 500. I usually travel strictly by what I read in RS travel books but I’m very curious about this route. DOES this route beats what RS route seems to have for best of Scotland? I love the rugged mountains and being in the wilderness areas. Thinking about doing a combination of the Isle-of sky and then driving up to North Coast. This would be in late September early October, do I need reservations or are there enough places available day by day?

Posted by
5808 posts

I’ll just say that you’ll miss a lot of great places if you only go to the places mentioned in travel books. Use them as a first step for planning a trip, then research on your own. Go to places you want to visit not those that a book says you should visit.

Posted by
4051 posts

Any guidebook, RS included, can only ever be selective. Really good routes, like this, can be missed out. It is rarely a good idea to be a slave to any guide book- no matter how good it is.

As you research the NC500 route you will see that there is a core route, but many possible deviations from it.

In late September/early October the weather has a good chance of still being good, and it should be far quieter as the summer crowds will have gone.
On the single track roads which make up a large part of the route that is a good thing.
For much of the route accommodation is fairly limited (which is why many people do it by camper van), and some places may be closing for the season- so always a good idea to make reservations ahead, although you should always be able to "wing it".

Posted by
1430 posts

I agree with the people who tell you not to rely solely on any guidebook. Use it as a guide, but do other research, such as travel forums, and travel blogs, and use more than one guidebook. I especially would never rely solely on Rick Steves' guidebooks. I know for a fact he omits wonderful places. For example, and I digress here, in his Spain book he treats Malaga like it is nothing more than a transportation hub. And I have heard on this forum many people make comments that there is nothing to see or do in Malaga, and that is completely wrong. Research Malaga, and you will see there are many interesting and important sites in Malaga. Rick doesn't include Zadar in Croatia, as another example.

So please do yourself a favor and do not rely only on guidebooks, especially just one book. If you go to Skye, I suggest a blog by On The Luce. Lucy gives a wonderful 3-day driving itinerary around Skye that we followed, and it was awesome!

Posted by
7 posts

Sorry, I didn’t mean I just use with Steve’s books but I find them extremely helpful especially in big cities. I use YouTube, Pinterest, and many other sources. I’ve been around the world a few times and I enjoyed every second of it and study for hours to make the best plan. thanks for your responses.

Posted by
29 posts

We did the majority of the NC 500 last May/June as part of our 6 weeks in Scotland. We loved every minute of it especially the remoteness, absence of crowds, stunning scenery & no tour buses. Do not be alarmed by the single track roads. They are easily managed. We allocated 12 nights to this part of our trip; staying 2-3 nights in each location and exploring out from each one. No better tour guide than our hosts. We did take a break from the route with a departure to spend 3 nights on Orkney.

Here are the places we stayed along the way. Highly recommend each one.
Gairloch -
Lochinver - /
Tongue - /
Thurso - /
Cromarty - /

Here's a site that will give you a great overview of the NC 500:

Posted by
698 posts

RS also does not include Valencia, which is consistently rated as one of the best cities in Spain to visit!