A journey on Scotland’s North Coast 500 makes for a spectacular road trip in itself, with plenty of highlights along the way. But for those with the time and inclination to stray from the main route, there is so much more to see and do down endless tracks leading to far flung nooks of the land. In this guide we’ll cover the best North Coast 500 side trips, island add-ons, and extended itineraries – perfect for those looking to slow things down and explore even more of the spectacular Scottish Highlands and Islands.
In addition to the adventures outlined in this guide, check out our top 15 North Coast 500 Highlights to help you plan the perfect trip.
Watch the behind the scenes version of our Scotland road trip on Instagram stories
Watch the behind the scenes
version of our Scotland road
trip on Instagram stories
Use the map below to help lead you away from the NC500 to the places mentioned in this guide. You can also download an offline version to Maps.me. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view. Tap the star symbol to save to your own Google Maps.
Offline downloads are available for individual sections throughout the guide.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (ONLINE VERSION)
To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps. On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.
Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (OFFLINE VERSION)
You can easily navigate by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’.
You can use Maps.me offline or online, but note that the attached photos and links for each bookmark will only appear when you’re online.
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NORTH COAST 500 //
The North Coast 500 route journeys through some of Scotland’s most spectacular and varied scenery. It would be rude not to get out and see more of it up close, wouldn’t it? The below side tracks, hiking trails, scenic spots, and wild isles are all easily accessible from the main NC500 route, offering extra adventures that range from a few hours to a few days.
Download NC500 Side Trips Bookmarks
(for offline use with Maps.me app)
There are no shortage of beautiful beaches along the NC500, but quite a few of our favourites can be found off the main route. Firemore Beach is one of them. Not only does it have a cool name, but it’s a stunning spot overlooking the Isle of Ewe, with the munros of the Fisherfield rising in the distance. Whitewashed houses dot the flanking rocky outcrops, and a basic campsite sits at the back of the beach (May 1 – Oct 31, £5 a night). The beach is divided in two by a chubby finger of rock jutting out into the calm water. It’s a great spot for a stroll or picnic, and as with all Scottish beaches, it’s most beguiling when the sun is shining.
Turn off the NC500 at Poolewe, Firemore is just 11 km along the coast. There is a car park (57.8318, -5.6851) at the beach.
Firemore Beach reflection
Richly coloured sand and eye-pleasing rocks
Distant mountain views from the shore
The Fisherfield Forest, also known as ‘The Great Wilderness’, is a truly remote area of Scotland. It is home to a number of munros as well as an iconic bothy. The NC500 goes right by the trailhead where you can start hiking into the heart of this wild land. It’s possible to make a circuit to Shenavall Bothy and back in one day, or spend a night or two at the bothy and tackle the challenging ‘Fisherfield 6’. Either way, make sure you are properly equipped for a challenging hike through boggy terrain. Get an idea of what the area is like with this great video.
Want to know more about Scottish bothies?
This is another great NC500 side trip for all you hikers out there. It’s highly rewarding in the effort vs views stakes, and isn’t too challenging at around 3 hours/4.5 km. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a jagged crown of a mountain rising out of the hillside before you…. it’s quite the sight!