Riding the North Coast 500 (NC500) by motorcycle is a must for anyone touring Scotland, or indeed the UK, but there is much more to Scotland than just this route. Starting and finishing in Edinburgh, this seven-day ride includes the best bits of the North Coast 500, along with the Cairngorms National Park, the Isle of Skye and the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. From the Speyside distilleries, the twists and turns of the epic Bealach Na Ba to humble fishing villages way up North, the route takes in much of what the spectacular Scottish Highlands has to offer. If you’re looking for a more relaxed seven-day ride, that only takes in the North Coast 500, you can check out our North Coast 500 self-guided tour, starting and finishing in Inverness.
- Surface: 100% paved road
- Difficulty: All levels of experience. Suitable for pillions.
- Riding Distance: Around 610 mi, 980 km. We can extend your ride if you’d like to reduce the daily distances or explore more.
- Dates: Ride from April to November.
We have a number of self-guided motorcycle tours that include the North Coast 500. Our five-day version, out of Inverness, sticks to the main route and covers it in five days. We also offer a longer version out of Inverness, that also takes in the Isle of Skye.
Here are just a few of the main highlights you will see on your North Coast 500 self-guided motorcycle tour:
- Conquer the famous ‘Bealach Na Ba’
- Visit John o’Groats, the most northerly village in mainland Britain
- Explore the famous Speyside whisky region
- Discover spectacular lochs and beaches in the north
- Ride around Loch Lomond
What you get
- GPS route (.GPX file)
- Detailed route notes
- Hotel and guesthouse accommodation suggestions
- Suggestions for the best food, distilleries and sights along the route
What else we can help with
In addition to the route notes, our sister business Yellow Yeti Travel is a fully insured tour operator and can help with:
- North Cost 500 self-guided tour (ex Inverness)
- Motorcycle rentals in Scotland
- Customised routes & notes
Day 1 – Edinburgh to Grantown-on-Spey (139 mi, 223 km, 3:30 hours)
Warm up for your Scottish Highlands motorcycle tour with a ride north of Perth, where you will join the Old Military road and ride through the Cairngorms National Park, home to five of the six highest mountains in the UK, and on to your accommodation in Grantown-on-Spey. If you’re up for more riding, you can either wind your way up around Loch Tay, or spend your afternoon exploring the Speyside distilleries.[/tg_accordion]
Day 2 – Grantown-on-Spey to Wick (169 mi, 270 km, 4:00 hrs)
Today you can ride along the shores of Loch Ness, before joining the official North Coast 500 route in Inverness. From there you will make your way up along the fishing villages of the east coast to Wick. Along the way, why not check out Dunrobin Castle – the seat of Clan Sutherland and Whaligoe Haven. If you are still looking for more at the end of the day, it’s a short ride out from Wick to Girnigoe Castle, an exceptional ruin situated in a dramatic location, poised at the top of steep cliffs overlooking Sinclair’s Bay. Or you you can relax off the bikes with a whisky tasting at Pulteney Distillery, home of the Old Pultney.
Day 3 – Wick to Badcall (136 miles, 218 km, 3:30 hours)
Continuing on up to the very top of the Scottish mainland, today you can check out Duncansby Head and John O’Groats (the most northerly village in mainland Britain), before making your way west, across the top of Scotland. If castles are your thing, you’ll be riding past the Castle & Gardens of Mey (bought and renovated by The Queen Mother), which is well worth a ride by, even if you didn’t want to go in.
As you travel around the Highlands, you will find lots of wee hamlets and villages to explore off the route. Pull over in Strathy and find yourself a walk way up the beach. A secluded spot with a wee small cave in-let, it’s well worth the little walk and you may even be met by some of the famous hairy heilan coos!
Before you start your journey south, you will have a chance to explore the village of Durness, one of few villages which can only be reached by single track road, with large farming and crofting communities. Why not check out Smoo Cave, while you are there. It’s well worth doing the little tour to learn about it’s history. Heading south from Durness, you will ride one of the nicest (and most remote) sections of the route, the A894 down to Scourie.
Day 4 – Badcall to Gairloch (146 miles, 234 km, 4:15 hrs)
Start your day with a stop at Kylesku – a photo of Kylesku Bridge is becoming something of a tradition here on the North Coast 500 – park up your bikes and capture the amazing backdrop of this stunning bridge, before continuing on to the Assynt coastal route. On your way along the route, enjoy a stop at Clachtoll and Achmelvich beach – often said to be the best beaches in the Highlands!
Day 5 – Gairloch to Isleornsay (118 mi, 190 km, 3:30 hrs)
Leaving Gairloch and riding along the southern shores of Loch Maree, you will make your way down to the the charming Applecross peninsula, where you will floolow the coast aroudn to the peninsula’s namesake town, where you will head inland and approach the famous<a href=”https://adventuremotorcycletravel.com/listing/bealach-na-ba/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”> ‘Bealach Na Ba’</a>. Notorious due to its winding steep gradients, single track road and tight bends, take your time going around this and don’t forget to take a picture at the summit. Also known as the ‘pass of the cattle’ – you can see the Cuillin hills of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Rum beyond.
In the afternoon you will also have the chance to check out Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most visited castles in Scotland and even if you aren’t keen to go in, it is well worth a stop to check it out from the outside. Finishing up your day you can either ride over the bridge onto the Isle of Skye or take a short ferry there from the Glenelg Pier, making your way to Isleornsay, where you will spend the evening.
Day 6 – Isleornsay to Inveraray (157 mi, 253 km, 4:00 hrs)
Taking the ferry back to the mainland from Armadale, today you will wind your way south and then east, crossing over the southern end of the Great Glen, before you come to the historic village of Glencoe, famous for the massacre of the Clan MacDonald in 1692 and set in one of the most scenic areas of Scotland. While you are near Glencoe, why not check out the road made famous in the James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’, before making your way to Inveraray, the ancestral home to the Duke of Argyll, for the evening (in the town, not in the Inveraray Castle!).
Day 7 – Inveraray to Edinburgh (125 mi, 201 km 3:15 hrs)
What a day to finish on, your final day will take you along the shores of Loch Lomond itself, the biggest loch or lake in Britain, and have you explore the roads of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. On your way be sure to stop off at the little village of Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond, before you head up to Duke’s Pass, regarded as one of Britain’s most scenic roads, before making your way back down to earth and on to to your end point of Edinburgh.