Use the North Coast 500 accommodation map provided to view accommodation and begin planning your route. We have a selection of unique hostels and campsites in our network on the North Coast 500. So there are more than enough places to stay on your NC 500 journey. Why not book a few days in one place and really get to know the area?
What is the North Coast 500?
North Coast 500 was created in 2015 and has gone on to be a huge success with people from all over the world travelling it every year. And with good reason, the route encourages you to live the adventure and explore the stunning wilderness of the Scottish coastline at your own pace and in your own way. Everyone’s experience will be different. Do you enjoy the finer things in life such as craft ales from independent breweries and fresh produce from farmers’ markets? Or perhaps you prefer testing your abilities in outdoor sports such as white water rafting and mountain biking? You can tailor your North Coast 500 journey to suit your interests.
How many miles is North Coast 500?
Contrary to its name, North Coast 500 is actually 516 miles long. Though the route is not set in stone, it is merely a guide to exploring the wonders of the north coast of Scotland. There is so much to explore that you will wish you could stay longer. Make your NC 500 journey your own. Live a little, venture off the beaten track and see what you can find. Though Wester Ross, Sutherland, Inverness-Shire, Easter Ross, and Caithness are good places to start…..
How long does the North Coast 500 take?
Set aside at least 5 days to drive the North Coast 500. Treat yourself and perhaps take some more days to really explore the coastline and all its facets of interest. From mystical, crumbling castles to isolated fishing villages to beaches that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean. The route has something for everyone.
How busy is the North Coast 500?
The NC500 can be travelled all year round and is one of the most popular long-distance routes in the world, the summer months are generally busier than the winter months. Nevertheless, you can tailor the route to your needs; want to see the hustle and bustle of Scottish Highland life? Visit coastal towns and villages such as Plockton or Gairloch and immerse yourself in Scottish culture. Or would you rather immerse yourself in the remoteness of the rugged mountains? The choice is yours.
Best 5 places to visit on the NC 500.
Wester Ross is loosely defined as the area in the northwest highlands of Scotland. Known for its misty, jagged mountains, meandering roads, and sparkling white beaches, Wester Ross has one of the lowest population densities in all of Europe. You are bound to get stunning views of shrouded mountains all to yourself. A trip to Wester Ross would be incomplete without sampling the famous Wester Ross salmon. Hand reared in the oldest salmon farm in Scotland, its unique umami taste will make any other salmon pale in comparison.
A large part of the North Coast 500 is located in Sutherland. Known for its dramatic scenery as mountains surge up from the sea. Fairy tale castles and hidden lochs add an air of mystery to the landscape. Why not visit Durness Beach while you are in Sutherland? The beach boasts pristine golden sands and turquoise waters. On a nice day, it’s impossible to resist a paddle!
Inverness-shire is far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life; its sheer remoteness will have you hooked. Explore tumbling castles such as Eilean Donan Castle. Originally built in the sixth century, it is perched on its own island at the intersection between two sea lochs. It has a rich history of battles and violence and, as a result, has been destroyed and rebuilt a great deal over the past 14 centuries. Nowadays, the castle is much more peaceful and open to the public.
Visit Easter Ross Peninsula, with coastline on three sides, there is no shortage of beautiful trails to explore on Easter Ross. Why not try the Seaboard water trail, a short trail that leads you to five sculptures on the coast of Easter Ross? The trail ends with the Mermaid of the North, the most northerly mermaid sculpture in all of Scotland. Beautiful and imposing, she is 10 feet tall and unbothered by the relentless waves crashing around her. Or perhaps the Fairy Glen tickles your fancy? There is something magical in these waterfalls.
Caithness is the most northerly part of Scotland. It is worth visiting for the dramatic landscapes – much flatter than the rest of Scotland but no less beautiful. You won’t be able to take two steps without running into a stunning castle. Its northerly location and lack of light pollution make it a great location to see the Aurora Borealis. The best time to see the Aurora Borealis is in the winter months as the nights are long and cold.
What to expect from an NC 500 campsite, bunkhouse, or hostel?
Increasingly frequently these days, hostels provide breakfast for guests. From a properly cooked breakfast to something more continental, be sure to check with the hostel in advance to see if this is a service they provide. Some accommodation provides evening meals too. Such as Bunkhouse @ Invershin Hotel. They provide an evening meal using locally sourced fish and meat alongside vegetables grown in their garden as well as a real cask ale. They also frequently host music nights at their on-site bar.
It is also important to check the location of the hostel before arrival as the hostel could be totally remote and a long drive to the nearest open food shop. Equally, you might have your eye on a local restaurant within walking distance of the hostel only to get there to realise there is an impassable mountain standing between you and your evening meal. Talk to the hostel in advance as they will be able to use their local knowledge to recommend where to eat and buy food.
Out on the open road in rural Scotland, the phone signal will be patchy, to say the least. Many of our hostels aim to provide free WiFi. So guests can check up with friends and families and post those stunning landscape pics on Instagram! Be sure to check with your hostel in advance though as, more stripped-back accommodation such as camping barns may not provide this service.
Increasingly, hostels provide bedding for guests and if it is not provided it is quite common to be able to hire bedding for a small fee. Though it wouldn’t hurt to pack a sleeping bag in your car just in case, especially for more rural bunkhouses and camping barns.
What are the differences between Hostels, Bunkhouses, and Camping Barns?
Although hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns are similar in lots of ways such as the self-catering kitchens and shared spaces, the buildings they are in vary greatly. On the NC 500 route, our hostels differ from bunkhouses to campsites and camping barns to hostels and lodges. This rich and varied infrastructure means accessibility within each accommodation will vary. From completely accessible for a person with disabilities with lifts, hand-rails, sit-down showers, etc throughout to partially accessible. Check out our full list of accessible accommodation here. Always check in advance the accessibility of a property before booking to avoid uncertainty.
Dogs on the NC500
Many of our hostel owners are avid outdoor enthusiasts and understand the importance of having your four-legged friend by your side for your North Coast 500 adventure. A good deal of NC 500 hostels are pet-friendly. Hostels have varying degrees of dog friendliness, from only allowing them in certain rooms and on a lead to allowing them free reign. It is important to check in advance and let the hostel know your dog is coming as often there is a small extra fee to cover the cost of your dog.
North Coast 500 Campsites
We have three campsites located on the North Coast 500 route.
Kyle of Tongue Hostel and Campsite has stunning panoramic views of Castle Varich, Ben Hope and Ben Loyal and is only a short walk from the beach. There is a fully licensed shop on-site meaning there’s no need to worry about picking up groceries on the way. This campsite has everything you may need while camping such as a heated toilet block, electricity hookups and laundry facilities. Camping is a super affordable way to travel this route while getting close to nature and learning about the land.
The Ceilidh Place Bunkhouse is a hub of activity located in Ullapool. The Ceilidh Place Bunkhouse consists of a music venue/performance space, restaurant, hotel, bar, bookshop, coffee room, gallery, bunkhouse and campsite. There is a café open 7 days a week that provides hot food, soups, salads, great coffee and cakes. The perfect stop-off when travelling the west coast of Scotland.
Badrallach Bothy and Campsite is located on the peaceful shores of Little Loch Broom. The campsite is the perfect place to pitch up for a few nights and explore the nearby mountains of An Teallach. There is plenty to do in the area such as hike, fish, or look for wildlife. There is space for 12 pitches on a gentle slope, so be aware this campsite is not suitable for motorhomes. The campsite has a relaxed vibe. You’ll soon feel at ease once you have pitched your tent next to an abundance of wildflowers and wandered down to the nearby loch for a paddle.
Why you should stay in a hostel throughout your NC 500 journey
Hostels, bunk barns, campsites and camping barns are much cheaper accommodation choices than hotels or private self-catering accommodation. This is because they tend to be a bit more basic than what you would expect in hotels. But what hostels lack in luxuries they make up in character and a personalised experience.
Use the money you saved on accommodation to make the most of your time in the Scottish Highlands! Book that boat tour! Eat at that restaurant! And still have money to spare.
The communal areas in hostels are amazing places to meet new people with similar mentalities. Share experiences and learn about new places you could explore. Heck, you might even find your new traveling companion.
The people who run hostels are passionate about the place they live. They chose to run a hostel in the Scottish Highlands because of their love for the area. Staff in independent hostels are fantastic resources for tips on amazing places located off the beaten path.