If you’ve been thinking of visiting Scotland recently then you have no doubt heard of the popular road trip route – the North Coast 500 (NC500). This scenic route explores all the beautiful and wild spots of the North Coast of Scotland covering 516 miles before ending back up where you started in the City of Inverness.
Now you may have heard of the popular phrase ‘West is best’ and we can’t deny that the West coast of the NC500 offers up some breathtaking scenery, however, in this blog we’re going to give you a list of 8 things to do on the East coast and show you why it shouldn’t be forgotten about!
Situated just over an hour’s drive from Wildtrax HQ and just past the town of Alness is Fyrish monument. Standing majestically on top of Fyrish hill, this monument dates back to the 1700’s when it was commissioned by local war hero Sir Hector Macdonald to provide much needed work to locals affected by the Highland Clearances. The walk itself takes about 1.5 hours and can be steep in places, however, you are rewarded in the end with stunning views over the Cromarty Firth. If you are feeling peckish at the end of your walk, head over to the Storehouse shop and restaurant for fresh, local grub!
Carry on down the Coast and you will eventually reach the old, seaside town (and formally Royal Burgh!) of Dornoch. Not only does the town contain some beautiful traditional buildings it also has a long stretch of sandy beach within 10 minutes walk of it’s centre. With its rich history (from celeb weddings to witch trials!), beautiful golf courses, charming cafes and scenic walks there’s something for everyone in this peaceful town. If you are looking for a place to call home for the night, Dornoch Campsite sits right by the beach.
If Dornoch campsite doesn’t take your fancy then only a few miles away from Dornoch you will find the small village of Embo. Situated beside a long, golden bar of beach which is framed by clear waters and sand dunes this makes for a very scenic spot to stop for the night. If you go and explore the sand dunes you will often find wildlife hiding amongst them!
Not much further on from Dornoch and Embo, sitting overlooking the Moray Firth is the enchanting Dunrobin Castle, home for many years to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. Go on a self guided tour of the castle before heading down to see the beautifully sculpted formal gardens where you’ll find the falconry, putting on daily bird shows. Exploring a castle builds an appetite so head to the tea room afterwards to sit on the veranda and indulge in some cake.
If you are partial to a spot of bird-watching then as you continue your journey down, just slightly off route from Helmsdale you can discover Forsinard Flows. This expanse of blanket bog is now considered to be a very rare habitat. Much of this peaty bog land is managed by the RSPB and has different trails you can follow where you will be able to spot an abundance of different bird, plant and wildlife. A nature lover’s paradise!
You can’t do the North Coast 500 and not stop at John O’Groats to get a photo in front of it’s popular ‘Journey’s end’ signpost. This little village forms one end of the longest distance between two inhabited British points on the mainland and is also where many people go to travel over to the Orkney islands. However, it is not the most northerly point, that title belongs to Dunnet Heads which is also well worth a visit. Duncansby stacks are on the way and are an impressive sight to behold, these huge red sandstone sea stacks date back to millions of years ago and provide a super backdrop for photos…don’t get too close to the edge though, yikes!
Whiskey and Gin fans rejoice! There are plenty of distilleries for you to go visit whilst on your journey. Tain is home to the famous Glenmorangie distillery which houses the tallest still in Scotland, in the summer months tours leave every half hour but booking is still recommended. If you are more of a gin lover then Dunnet Bay is the distillery for you, famed for its Rock Rose gin which comes in beautifully decorated clay bottles, they use only local ingredients foraged in the lands around them, find it just before Dunnet head, the most northerly part of Scotland.
Fortrose & Cromarty can be found not far from Inverness and are great places to stop on the last night of your Wildtrax 4×4 adventure. Cromarty situated on the tip of the Black Isle is a quaint and pretty seaside town, there is a lovely walk you can do which takes you around the town, up to the suitors and down to Macfarquhars bed, a big cave and natural archway right on the coastline. In the village itself you will find the popular Suitors Creek Cafe which does the most incredible, fresh pizzas. About 15 minutes drive along from Cromarty you will find the town of Fortrose which looks over to the old military base Fort George, head to the lighthouse on chanonry point and take a walk along the beach to be in with a good chance of spotting a pod of local dolphins. Fortrose also has its own campsite making it the perfect spot to stay, enjoy and get some rest on your final evening before heading back to Wildtrax HQ.
This is only a short list of the things and places to see whilst on the East coast of the North Coast 500, the list could go on and on! To find out more on what treasures are to be found whilst on your trip visit northcoast500.com, a fantastic website with lots of tips on places to stay, things to see and what’s not to be missed.
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