Imagine spending eight days and nights touring some of Scotland’s finest coastal scenery taking in the rugged mountains, tranquil beaches and ancient history, There’s nothing quite like the freedom of the open road, and this summer Social Circle took off on a unforgettable adventure along the North Coast 500.
It all began on a cold wet day in January…
The mighty few had gathered at Social Circle HQ to thrash out ideas for various holidays and weekend breaks that we cram into our Calendar. Of course, being a Scot himself, Steve told us all about the North Coast 500 and volunteered to take members on the road trip of a lifetime.
Maybe it was the rain beating against the windows, but some of us were somewhat sceptical. Steve was having none of it, he wanted to tick a couple of places off his bucket list, and assured us that by June, the weather wouldn’t be that bad.
Before we knew it, Steve had found 4 travelling buddies from Social Circle plus Bonnie the Bear volunteered to act as the Road Trip Mascot. As we could only cram so many people in the car, we thought we would revisit the memories in this little two part diary to inspire your own adventure.
Exploring the the North Coast 500
With suggested itineraries to appeal to foodies, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies, there are many ways to discover route NC500. We love our home comforts as much as we love adventure, so we took inspiration from the Luxury itinerary. We booked 4* family owned accommodation along the route. It made exploring the Highlands all the sweeter knowing we would have soft bed at night and a hearty breakfast to start the day.
Steve arranged for us to dine some of the best restaurants along the NC500 so we could taste the best the highlands had to offer. He took care of all the driving meaning the non-drivers amongst us could enjoy the route too!
Day One: Arrival in Inverness
We started our journey from East Didsbury. After loading up with snacks and drinks for the trip, we drove up to Inverness. We had a little roam around the Castle before jumping on a cruise across Loch Ness. No monsters were found but perhaps we were merely distracted by the beautiful scenery . We also popped into the Culloden Battlefield visitor centre to find out more about the Jacobites and harrowing and bloody battles that took place on the very ground we were stood upon. We were all rather tired after a full days driving so after a lovely evening meal we all got an early night.
Day Two: Inverness to Wick. 103 Miles
The morning was all about food, ale and of course, whisky! We explored the Cromarty area, which boasts a cheese factory, a organic brewer and a distillery. Of course we had to stop to sample a little of everything! A short journey across to Tain took us to the famous Glenmorangie Distillery.
In the afternoon, we were blessed by the sun as we explored Golspie. Dunrobin Castle is a fairy tale castle where we learned a few interesting facts about Clan Sutherland. The surrounding area is full of pinewood trees, rumbling rivers and waterfalls which made for some truly breathtaking walking.
We finally stopped at the pretty village of Dunbeath and enjoyed a walk along the harbour and around the Castle. Our evening was spent sampling fine seafood at the Bay Owl Inn as we watched the sunset over the harbour.
Day Three. Wick – Durness. 107 Miles
It was an early start to action-packed day of adventure. We left Wick and followed the route to John O’Groats, the most northerly village in mainland Britain, in order to tick that of our bucket list. Of course, we had to take a few photos – it is the law*. Looking across the water you can spot the ‘Duncansby Stacks’ poking out from the sea.
We spent the afternoon ambling around the gardens of Castle Of Mey. The Castle was the the late Queen Mother’s home- from-home and it was easy to see why. The Queen Mother loved roses, and the Albertine and Pride of London surround the gardens. It is the perfect place to watch the bees and butterflies buzzing around whilst enjoying a spot of afternoon tea.Talking of roses, just down the road you can enjoy a tour of the Dunnet Bay Distillery who make the wonderful Rock Rose gin.
Ancient churches and ruined keeps cast shadows on t the rugged wilderness as we took the road to Durness. A hidden gem is the tiny hamlet of Talmine, with a much-photographed boat known as ‘The Reaper’. This is particularly scenic part of the route includes the sights of Loch Eriboll, Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.
Day Four: Durness – Lochinver 60 Miles
Set into the limestone cliffs, Smoo Cave is a dramatic and spectacular sea cave . According to folklore, the Smoo caves were the original health spa for Vikings taking a break from pillaging. Of course, no visit to Durness would be complete without a visit to Cocoa Mountain, the north’s premier chocolatier.
Further down the coast magnificent Torridonian sandstone cliffs rise from the Atlantic. Each summer, nearly 100,000 seabirds breed here. We saw guillemots, razorbills and great skuas nesting amongst the pretty pink flowers that cover the cliffs.
The unrivalled white sands and turquoise waters of Achmelvich would have you believe we were in the Caribbean rather than Scotland! The long summer days and warm weather was perfect for sampling homemade ice cream and topping up our tan. *sighs*
If you love nothing more than getting away for a few days but find it difficult to organise or your friends don’t share your idea of a holiday, then click here for the perfect solution.
See here for Part 2. In the meantime, tell us who you would take on a road trip and why?