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North Coast 500: 12 of our favourite highlights

Assynt at sunset. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

There is so much to see and do on Scotland's famous North Coast 500 (NC500) route and one of the toughest decisions will be choosing just a few of the highlights. Starting and finishing in Inverness, the route extends just over 500 miles through beautiful north-west Scotland landscapes and alongside a dramatic and winding coastline.

The NC500 is circular and can be completed clockwise or anti-clockwise. It heads through six distinct areas, including the Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Sutherland, Wester Ross and Inverness-shire.

You could book to cycle the NC500 with Highland Transfers. You can choose how many days you take to ride the route and you can have your luggage transferred between chosen accommodations. We recommended you take your time to ride the NC500 because this will allow you to stop off to see some of the many highlights on the route.

12 highlights of the NC500

Bealach na Bà. Credit: Scott

Bealach na Bà

A must-do in many cyclist's lists, the Bealach na Bà (Gaelic for "Pass of the Cattle") is a challenging but rewarding Alpine-style road climb. From the settlement of Applecross the road zig-zags upwards from sea level to 626 metres.

Gradients approach 20 per cent in places and you will need to engage your easiest gears and keep pushing through the pedals. We recommend you start this climb early in the day, or later on, to avoid the worst of the steady stream of motorised vehicles.

Rogie Falls. Credit: Andrew Wood

Falls of Rogie

There are plenty of stunning waterfalls to visit in scotland and on the NC500. One of note is Rogie Falls on the Black Water river near the Victorian spa village of Strathpeffer.

It's only a short walk to reach a suspension bridge, where you get a fabulous view of the waterfall.

Loch Maree. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

Loch Maree

Again, there are so many amazing lochs to see on the NC500 route. Choosing just one is difficult but Loch Maree really is spectacular. The loch is home to numerous islands and is even claimed to have a monster (just like its more famous sibling Loch Ness).

Credit: Tom Parnell / Flickr

Fairly Lochs

Ok, so we couldn't choose just one loch for this list! The Fairly Lochs are located near the fishing village of Badachro and Loch Broom. A short walk allows you to visit the picturesque lochs.

Sandwood Bay. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

Sandwood Bay (and other beaches)

There are so many beaches and sandy bays on the North Coast 500 route for cyclists to enjoy. Some of our favourites are Gruinard Bay, norhjt of Poolewe; Big Sand near Gairloch; the white sands of Achmelvich beach, near Lochinver; and also the famous Sandwood Bay, which requires via an eight-mile walk (return) to visit it, but it's well worth the effort.

Mountain walk route in Beinn Eighe NNR. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

The mountains of Torridon are spectacular. Their majesty will leave you spellbound. If you are looking for a mountain walk taster head to Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, where there are a number of waymarked walks.

View of Suilven from Canisp. Credit: Fiona Outdoors


The other-worldly landscape of Assynt, north of the coastal town of Ullapool, is a true wonder. It will be enough for many cyclists to simply ride through the amazing scenery and stop frequently to stare in wonder at the remote mountains.

We recommend you take the time to walk one of the mountains, if you have the knowledge and experience to do so. A few to consider are Canisp, Suilven, Breabag, via the Bone Caves, Cul Beag and Stac Pollaidh.

Cape Wrath Lighthouse. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

Cape Wrath

The most north-westerly point on mainland Britain is named Cape Wrath. You can take a bus tour to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath and also enjoy a variety of guided walks. The cliffs at Cape Wrath are some of the highest in the UK.

John o'Groats.

John o’Groats

Well-known by cyclists as the start or finish of the John o'Groats to Land's End route, the landmark location is much-visited by NC500 travellers.

Duncansby Head.

Duncansby Head

The true "most northerly" tip of mainland Scotland is Duncansby Head. Here, you'll discover towering cliffs and numerous noisy seabirds. It's a much wilder and more scenic place to visit than John o'Groats.

Smoo Cave. Credit Julian Nyča

Smoo Cave

Located close to the village of Durness in Sutherland, Smoo Cave extends 60 metres into limestone cliffs. The cave is 15 metres tall. You can stroll inside on a walkway to see the cave and a waterfall.

Fyrish Monument. Credit: Fiona Outdoors

Fyrish Monument

The folly, Fyrish Monument, sits on top of a hill near Alness, Ross and Cromarty. The huge structure comprises three central arches and four flanking towers. It was built in 1783 by Sir Hector Munro, who was the local laird.

Take a short walk to see the monument heading through woodland on a well-trodden path. The coastal views from the hill top are superb.

Make plans for the North Coast 500

If you want to discuss any plans or ideas you have for cycling the NC500 route in Scotland please do give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodations and we have a wealth of other information that we can discuss with you.

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