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The roads of the North Coast 500 have been in existence for years – in fact we travelled them long before they were marketed as such. But today those same roads are described as ‘The Ultimate Road Trip. The new scenic route showcasing fairy-tale castles, white sand beaches and historical ruins’. 

A grand job has been done of sharing this with the world over the last few years and bringing folk to it. But what do people expect when they say “how many days do I need to travel it?”

In simple terms the route is 516 miles. At an average of 60 mph, it will take you just over 8/1/2 hours. But let’s be realistic, with single track roads to negotiate complete with tractors doing their daily work, motor homes being driven by folk unsure of how to drive them or which side of the road to be on and sheep traffic jams, a more realistic 40 mph average is likely – taking you almost 13 hours – with no stops!

Yes, it is possible to cover the route in 2 or 3 days but in truth you’ll be doing it just for ‘the drive’ – and bearing in mind that the roads vary from decent single carriageway roads to single track roads with passing places, blind summits and maybe even grass, then a smooth, flowing drive with the wind in your hair is unlikely to be what you find.

If you have 4 to 5 days, this is do-able. You will get a flavour of what the North Highlands has to offer but you will also miss out on so much. Skimming the surface with a few pertinent stops will surely leave you wanting more.

Allowing 6 to 7 days for your journey (or even longer if time will allow) will unquestionably provide you a more complete experience – having time to take in the views and the fresh air, discovering more of the (often unmarked) sites just off the beaten track and generally giving the North Coast 500 the chance to ‘fill your soul’!

Many people would instantly say that it is a waste of time, and money, to travel this route in less than 5 days. But, for many in our busy world, we recognise that time is precious and not always easy to come by. So plan carefully, think about why you are doing it and what you want to achieve.

And bear in mind one final thing – travelling from October to March, a beautiful time of year in its own right, will bring much shorter days than the height of the summer, with less daylight driving time but probably quieter roads. Worth a thought!

31st January 2020


Remember ‘it’s a route, not a race’. (PJ, Facebook) 

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