The TentBox Guide To The NC500
The TentBox Guide To The NC500

The TentBox Guide To The NC500

Neill Shurville
Last update by Neill
May 23, 2023

We love sharing our favourite places to visit with a TentBox, and how could the NC500 not feature on that list?! The NC500, or North Coast 500 as it’s also known, is one of the most popular walking routes in the UK.

Known for its beautiful castles, beaches and mountains, the NC500 has it all and is the perfect location for a holiday or longer trip. Discover the beauty of the North Coast of Scotland, and fall in love with the history, scenery and culture of this ancient land.

What is the NC500?

If you follow our community, you’ll likely hear people talking about the NC500. This amazing track is loved by off-roaders, campers and TentBoxers alike for its beauty and iconic landmarks, such as Inverness Castle, Duncansby Head and various stunning mountain passes.

The NC500 stands for North Coast 500 miles – aptly named as it is a 516-mile scenic route around the North Coast of Scotland. The route starts and ends at Inverness Castle and takes you through the incredible Scottish Highlands, past mountains and across the coast.

When was the NC500 created?

The NC500 was created in 2015. Well, not really. The route itself has been around for years and years, however in 2015 it was rebranded as one epic route that connects the northern highlands on one touring route.

The result has been that many travellers have felt more confident visiting the lesser known parts of the highlands now that they feature on the NC500. It offers a great opportunity to explore the traditional Scotland landscapes from the highlands, to the spectacular coast and historical castles and monasteries that date back to 673AD.

How long does the NC500 take?

You can tackle the NC500 however long you like. Many of the TentBox community members are from Scotland, so for them it’s easy to travel there on weekends and take on a little bit at a time. If you’re not blessed with the luxury of living nearby, you’ll likely want to complete the NC500 in one go, which will take you up to 10 days to complete.

You could probably cut that down to around 7 days if you’re travelling with a TentBox. 7-10 days is a healthy amount of time to allow you to complete the route and soak in all of the beautiful scenery too. You don’t want to feel rushed when you experience this truly magical touring route!

What mountains are on the NC500?

Plenty! On this track you’ll follow the rocky coast of the Applecross Peninsula which is full of mountain scenery to behold. Expect heather-covered hills at every turn, with a few standout mountains that are worth getting your camera out for.

With 37 Munros, 43 Corbetts (mountains of 2,500 feet, or 762 metres) and 38 Grahams (mountains of 2,000 feet, or 762 metres) you’ll be spoilt for choice as you navigate across the beautiful land.

Top mountain landscapes to keep an eye out for on the NC500 include;

  • Beinn Eighe – Britain’s first national nature reserve
  • An Teallach
  • Corrieshalloch Gorge, a mile-long box canyon
  • Suilven mountain
  • Ben Hope
  • Sgurr a’ Chaorachain, Bealach na Ba
  • Achnashellach

What beaches are on the NC500?

The beaches on the NC500 do a great job of marketing the trail. Images of Scottish beaches that look like Caribbean islands have appeared on social media, drawing in crowds who are looking to see the white sands and crystal clear waters. They really are the UK’s best kept secret!

The best part of these incredible beaches is that they’re often very quiet. You’ll be able to enjoy the crystal clear water with mountain views in peace and quiet as you absorb the stunning scenes.

Beaches to visit on the NC500 include:

  • Ullapool
  • Lochinver
  • Clachtoll
  • Achmelvich
  • Clashnessie
  • Sandwood Bay
  • Balnakeil
  • Sango Sands
  • Ceannabeinne

What sights are popular on the NC500?

There are so many incredible sights and landmarks worth mentioning depending on what you’re interested in. However, the ocean loch’s, waterfalls, castles and sea stacks are definitely some of the most popular views to soak in on this route.

Iconic sights of the NC500 include:

  • Pentland Firth, one of the most hazardous waters in the world
  • Old Man of Hoy sea stack
  • Dunnet Head
  • St John’s Point
  • Duncansby Head, Scotland’s most North-Easterly point
  • John O’Groats
  • Sinclair’s Bay’s
  • Wick – the world’s largest herring fishing port
  • Whaligoe Steps
  • Neolithic tombs of the Grey Cairns of Camster
  • Dunrobin Castle
  • Ackergill castle
  • Dornoch castle
  • Kincraig castle
  • Mansfield castle
  • Tulloch castle

How to travel the NC500?

The best way to travel the NC500 is considered to be by car (and then by foot). Many people will drive from location to location, walking areas of the route and visiting the iconic landmarks.

If you’re travelling with a TentBox however, you’ll have much more of an opportunity to immerse yourself in the route and see more of it. You’ll be able to wake up whenever you like and go exploring, as well as pitching up in the most secluded, beautiful locations.

It’s definitely a recommended route from many of our TentBox family, who love the varied landscapes that are encountered on this adventure.

Will you be taking on the NC500? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with us to share your stories on Instagram

Start your Adventure