I've always wanted to drive the famous North Coast 500, but in a way that would allow me to appreciate the nature and the pure wildness that Scotland has to offer.
The North coast 500 is a popular driving route that will take you through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Scotland, and some say that the route is the most beautiful drive in the world. The route, which is approximately 500 miles long, begins and ends in Inverness and will take you along the rugged coastline of the northern Scottish Highlands.
Most people take this trip during the summer months, but I felt that the North Coast 500 trip in the winter would be an unforgettable experience.
However, It wasn't easy, as the end of 2022 the UK experienced some very wintery and snowy conditions. And this time of year in Scotland, isn't exactly pouring with tourists and travellers (i'm sure that I met the 5 that were travelling in this area during this week before this Christmas). Doing a solo trip meant always being careful just in case something unexpected happened. Even in a 4x4 things can unravel quickly (as i found on a snowy bend). The other thing I found whilst planning this trip, was the lack of accommodation, quite simply there isn' a lot. So it did involve a lot more driving that planned (about 900 miles in total), staying in a combination of AirBnb's, traditional Scottish hotels and some Crofts. One element that i didn't consider, was that with the additional driving and the shortened days (9:30 to 3:30), didn't give a lot of time for walking the hills or exploring out of the car.
The timing was perfect though, it truly offered me a highly unique and rewarding experience with stunning scenery and peaceful solitude of the Scottish Highlands in the winter months.
I drove North from inverness in an anti-clock wise direction, heading into the Cairngorms National Park via the snow road scenic route.
The Snow Roads Scenic Route is a 90 mile journey which takes you from the picturesque market town of Blairgowrie through to the traditional Highland town of Grantown on Spey. The route traverses the highest public road in Britain (highest point at Cairnwell Pass 670 m (2199 ft) above sea level by the Glenshee Ski Centre) taking you through some of the most outstanding landscapes on the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park. The journey links.
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
Duncansby Stacks @ Duncansby Head
Because of the lack of accommodation in the Winter time, I had to come off the North Coast 500 road for accommodation and stay in a croft near a small town called Lairg. There are two routes to Lairg from the route, connected by two mountain roads/tracks
Start of the mountain track near Bettyhill
Mountain road near Lairg
Mountain road between Tongue and Loch Eribol
Near Lairg (Reminded me of the Hoth Planet)
(Hoth is the sixth planet in the remote system of the same name, and was the site of the Rebel Alliance's Echo Base. It is a world of snow and ice, surrounded by numerous moons, and home to deadly creatures like the wampa)
Constructing Wind Turbines
I changed my direction in Sutherland (clockwise) driving through the rain, suddenly this view of Suilven appeared with a rainbow. Just a few minutes to grab this shot.
Leaving the mountains behind
Weather changes very quick in this part of the world
Some super narrow and steep hills up on the North West
View of Ben More, On the way back to Lairg
On the way to Applecross, Loch Maree, Achnasheen
Loch Maree, Achnasheen
Small village and view of Loch Torridden
On the way to Applecross, view of Isle of Raasay
The small Village of Applecross, Strathcarron.
View of Isle of Raasay from Applecross
Isle of Raasay is an island between the Isle of Skye and the mainland of Scotland. It is separated from Skye by the Sound of Raasay and from Applecross by the Inner Sound
With Applecross behind me, was time to head down Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle)
View of some lower moorland
Final view of the mountains, as the sun was setting, back to Inverness and to Northumberland to head home