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North Coast 500 Escape & The Orkney Islands

(13 days / 12 nights)

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15% OFF IN 2022

Drive an iconic route and sail to majestic islands

Explore two of Scotland’s most famous and scenic regions, the Orkney Islands and the northern Highlands on a memorable 13-day self-drive itinerary along the North Coast 500 route. During your epic road trip, you’ll be immersed in Highland and coastal scenery, visit ancient landmarks and experience all that Scotland has to offer. With the Historic Scotland Pass we include, you’ll also have entrance included to historic landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and more.

15% OFF IN 2022

13 days / 12 nights

Price p.p. from

1796GBP

You save: 269 GBP per person

The amount will be charged in GBP

Approx 1527 GBP

See special offers terms

— Why book with Nordic Visitor

  • Hassle-free & seamless travel experience
  • Flexible & customisable tour options
  • Quality & value for your money
  • Trusted local experts in Scotland
  • Great customer reviews

Read more

— Book with confidence

  • 100% refund if you cancel due to Covid-19
  • Rearrange your dates once with no change fee
  • Yours with as little as 10% deposit

Terms and conditions apply

Tour Highlights

  • Drive along Scotland’s most iconic route, the famous North Coast 500
  • Visit the mysterious and ancient “Heart of Neolithic Orkney”
  • Stroll up the Royal Mile and discover the capital city Edinburgh
  • See the striking natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands
  • Explore Glen Coe and see the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Admire the stunning sea caves and sea stacks along the coast
  • Wander through quaint towns and villages like Ullapool, Durness and John O’Groats
  • Experience the spectacular beauty of the Bealach na Bà pass by Applecross
  • Discover historic sites around the country with the Historic Scotland Pass
  • Enjoy a road trip with peace of mind with your personal itinerary from a local travel expert

Travel style

Self-Drive i

Interest

Classic i, Countryside and natural scenery i, Heritage i, Highlands i, Hiking i

Season

Apr - Oct

Departure

Daily

Driving distance

1608/999 km/mi

Itinerary

A day-by-day plan to guide your journey.

Download PDF
  • Day 1: Arrival in Edinburgh

    Make your way into Edinburgh city centre where your hotel will be located. Many travellers opt to take a taxi or use public transport, but for a more direct and comfortable ride, we will be happy to organise a private airport transfer for you. For those arriving early in the day, we recommend spending the afternoon walking through the city, strolling along the Royal Mile and exploring the Old Town and New Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also plenty of museums and landmarks to visit within the city centre, including the majestic Edinburgh Castle.

    Spend the night in Edinburgh. 

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Optional Extras
  • Day 2: Into the Highlands

    Start your road trip driving up into the majestic Highlands. You’ll have many notable highlights to see and visit along the way. Stop by the quaint village of Dunkeld and take a walk through the Hermitage Forest to view the romantic Black Linn Falls and Ossian´s Hall of Mirrors. Continue to Pitlochry where you’ll find plenty of pubs and cafés for a delicious break.

    You’ll then be travelling north into the Cairngorms National Park. If time allows you could stop at Scotland’s highest whisky distillery, Dalwhinnie, or to visit the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore.

    Spend the night in the Inverness area.

    Driving distance: 251 km/ 156 miles

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions
  • Day 3: Explore the history of the Inverness area

    Inverness and its surroundings mark the true start of the North Coast 500. Today, take the time to explore the area and its fantastic highlights. Visit the famous Battlefield of Culloden Moor and roam the Bronze-age cemetery Clava Cairns. Pass by Cawdor Castle for some history or walk along a golden sand beach.

    Or drive south to marvel at the famous Loch Ness and look out for Nessie. You might wish to take a boat tour to admire the views of the loch or visit the nearby Urquhart Castle ruins.

    Spend another night in the Inverness area.      

    Included: Entrance to Urquhart Castle
    Driving distance: 66 km/41 miles

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions
  • Day 4: Journey to Orkney

    Today your drive will take you north, across the Black Isle Peninsula, all the way to the north coast. We recommend making a stop on the way at the fairytale Dunrobin Castle. In the early afternoon, you‘ll catch a ferry to Stromness on Orkney, a beautiful 1.5-hour journey across the Pentland Firth with spectacular views of the Old Man of Hoy. Once you‘ve reached mainland Orkney, drive to the capital, Kirkwall, a former Viking stronghold. Here you can explore the city centre and the magnificent 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral. 

    Spend the night in the Kirkwall area. 

    Ferry from Gills Bay or Scrabster to Orkney: 1.5 hours
    Driving distance: 205 km/ 130 miles

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions
  • Day 5: The wonders of Orkney

    You have the whole day to discover the highlights of Orkney, admire its stunning scenery and explore ruins dating back millennia to the Stone Ages. The jewel of Orkney is the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site area that comprises a group of Neolithic monuments. This includes the 5,000-year-old prehistoric village of Skara Brae, the mysterious Ring of Brodgar stone circle, the huge megaliths at the Standing Stones of Stenness and the chambered cairn of Maeshowe, where 12th-century Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions. 

    Spend another night in the Kirkwall area. 

    Included: Entrances to Skara Brae & Maeshowe
    Driving distance: 56 km / 35 miles 

    Attractions
  • Day 6: Ferry back to the mainland

    This morning you have a little more time to explore Orkney before taking the ferry back to the mainland. Then you have the rest of the day to discover the many gems of this corner of Scotland. Take a short drive south to descend the 330 stone steps of Whaligoe down to the sea. You could explore John O’Groats and, if there is time, take a walk along the nearby sea cliffs to admire the Duncansby Stacks.

    We also recommend passing by Dunnet Point, the most northerly point of mainland Scotland and Britain. In the area, you could visit Castle of Mey, once owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

    Spend the night in the Thurso area.

    Ferry from Orkney to Gills Bay or Scrabster: 1.5 hours
    Driving distance: 93 km/ 58 miles

    Attractions
  • Day 7: Discover the true north coast

    Continue on the famous North Coast 500 route. Today’s journey is not particularly long so you have plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the incredible views of rocky cliffs and gold sand beaches. A must-see is the beautiful Smoo Cave, the largest and most dramatic sea cave in Britain. Make sure to also stop by the pristine beaches and turquoise waters of Durness. If you want a taste of history and stunning views, visit Castle Varrich near the village of Tongue.

    Spend the night in the Tongue/Durness area

    Driving distance: 114 km/ 71 miles

    Attractions Attractions
  • Day 8: Coastal adventures and scenery

    Start your day exploring the “Drumbeg Loop,” one of the most scenic circuits of the northwest Highlands. Visit the Stoerhead Lighthouse, built by a close relation of author Robert Louis Stevenson. A short walk will take you by the water to marvel at the Old Man of Stoer sea stack.

    You can also stop at some of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches including Achmelvich and the lesser-known Clachtoll Beach. Later, stop by the 15th-century ruins of Ardvreck Castle before arriving at the charming and whitewashed village of Ullapool

    Spend the night in the Ullapool area.

    Driving distance: 183 km/ 114 miles

    Attractions Attractions
  • Day 9: Day at leisure in the Ullapool area

    You have the option of enjoying some activities in Ullapool itself or you can travel a little further afield. For example, you could enjoy a walk at the breathtaking Corrieshalloch Gorge. Explore this national nature reserve, cross the suspension bridge and marvel at the plummeting Falls of Measach.

    Spend another night in the Ullapool area.

    Driving distance: 21 km/ 13 miles

    Attractions Attractions
  • Day 10: Stunning coastline to rugged hills

    Start your day by following the scenic road along the west coast towards Gairloch. On the way, visit the town of Poolewe where you can explore the Inverewe Garden. It boasts some 2,500 exotic plants and flowers, which flourish here thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream.

    Then, continue south to the Torridon Hills, a spectacular mountain range. We recommend stopping by the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve Visitor Centre for a short nature walk.

    Spend the night in the Torridon area.

    Driving distance: 138 km/ 86 miles

    Attractions Attractions
  • Day 11: Experience the thrilling Bealach na Bà

    Today you have the option to take one of Scotland’s most incredible roads – the historic mountain pass known as the Bealach na Bà, or “Pass of the Cattle”. With tight hairpin bends, this single-track road climbs high above sea level. En route, you could stop by the quaint village of Applecross to enjoy some delicious seafood.

    After your scenic driving adventure, you could take a detour to the charming village of Plockton, on the shores of Loch Carron. On your way to Fort William, take photos at the picturesque Eilean Donan Castle

    Spend the night in the Fort William area.

    Driving distance: 224 km/ 139 miles

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions
  • Day 12: Travel along dramatic glens

    Today’s drive through the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park will take you to Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow (you can choose to end your trip in Edinburgh in the optional activities).

    Start the day with a short detour to Glenfinnan to visit the Glenfinnan Monument and admire the Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in Harry Potter. You’ll then journey past the magnificent Glen Coe, Scotland’s most famous and scenic valley. For a fun photo opportunity, don't miss the Doune Castle, featured in Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Outlander. If time allows, you could also visit Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s top attractions.

    This evening, round off your amazing NC500 trip in one of Glasgow’s many fantastic restaurants.

    Spend the night in Glasgow.

    Included: Entrance to Doune Castle & Stirling Castle
    Driving distance: 251 km/ 156 miles

    Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Attractions Optional Extras
  • Day 13: Departure from Scotland

    On your day of departure, make your way back to the airport. If you would like to add any additional nights to your trip or to arrange a private transfer, you can do so during the booking process. If your flight is in the afternoon, you may have time for some last-minute shopping on Buchanan Street, a visit to one of Glasgow’s museums, or one last stroll through the charming West End.

    Attractions Optional Extras

Map

Here’s a map of your travel route, to help put things in perspective.

Accommodation

Sleep soundly, in the accommodation type of your choice, and wake up ready to enjoy another day of exploration.

Comfort Plus

Standard rooms in good quality and comfortable three-star hotels in combination with well-appointed guesthouses or country hotels.

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Superior

Standard rooms in four-star hotels or boutique guesthouses in combination with Superior rooms in premium three-star hotels.

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Rental car

Enjoy your journey with two driver authorization, free GPS and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) to reduce liability.

Toyota Yaris (manual)
or similar

  • x4
  • x3
  • x1
  • M

Toyota Yaris (manual)
or similar

  • Description: Economy
  • Passengers: 4
  • Luggage: 1
  • Doors: 3
  • Transmission: Manual

Vauxhall Astra (manual)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x2
  • M

Vauxhall Astra (manual)
or similar

  • Description: Compact
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 2
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Manual

Toyota Auris (automatic)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x3
  • A

Toyota Auris (automatic)
or similar

  • Description: Economy
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 3
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Automatic

Ford Mondeo (automatic)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x4
  • A

Ford Mondeo (automatic)
or similar

  • Description: Standard
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 4
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Automatic

BMW 520 (automatic)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x4
  • A

BMW 520 (automatic)
or similar

  • Description: Premium
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 4
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Automatic

Kia Sportage (manual)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x3
  • M

Kia Sportage (manual)
or similar

  • Description: Intermediate SUV
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 3
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Manual

Kia Sportage (automatic)
or similar

  • x5
  • x5
  • x3
  • A

Kia Sportage (automatic)
or similar

  • Description: Intermediate SUV
  • Passengers: 5
  • Luggage: 3
  • Doors: 5
  • Transmission: Automatic

Mercedes Vito (manual)
or similar

  • x8
  • x3
  • x5
  • M

Mercedes Vito (manual)
or similar

  • Description: Premium Passenger Van
  • Passengers: 8
  • Luggage: 5
  • Doors: 3
  • Transmission: Manual
  • *upgrade to automatic available upon request
15% OFF IN 2022

Price per person from

You save: 269 GBP per person

The amount will be charged in GBP

Approx 1527 GBP

See special offers terms

Monthly price comparison Our best price per person when booking for two.

2021
2022

Tour Information

We recommend that all our travellers read through the following information about driving in Scotland, what the tour includes, the itinerary, accommodation, and other useful information for your travels.

ABOUT OUR SELF-DRIVE TOURS
This is a self-drive tour, which means you will follow a detailed and personalised itinerary during your road trip in Scotland. No dedicated driver or tour guide is included. All accommodation, rental vehicle, and other planned activities or added services will be pre-booked by Nordic Visitor (as specified in the itinerary). As this is a self-drive tour, you are welcome to stop when and where you wish on your drive. Except for accommodation and booked activities, other highlights we’ve listed in the itinerary are suggestions based on Nordic Visitor favourites.

TRAVEL SEASONS IN SCOTLAND
Scotland is beautiful all year long, but we want travellers to be aware that the summer is the high travelling season, with July and August being the peak months. Due to this fact, many of the highlights, such as Isle of Skye and Edinburgh, will be extremely popular and offer limited availability, for attractions, accommodations, restaurants and tours alike.

For a more relaxing experience, we recommend booking well in advance or arriving during the shoulder season, from April to June or September and October. However, if you wish to travel in July or August, we will endeavour to make this a great adventure.

ACCOMMODATION
Our team of local travel experts carefully selects hotels, B&Bs, and guesthouses around the country based on excellent ratings, personal experience and comfort. Generally, in Scotland, whilst room sizes may vary, our room types are based on European standard sizes. Please note that twin rooms, triple and family rooms are not commonly available in Scotland, so please contact us for booking assistance if that is something you would like. Please also be aware that, due to the historic nature of the properties we usually select, most of the rooms are only accessible by going up stairs, as there are often no lifts available. Please contact us if you are not able to walk up stairs.

DRIVING IN SCOTLAND
The roads in Scotland are usually in good conditions all year long and are renowned for their road trip worthiness. Please be aware that in the UK motorists drive on the left side of the road (and on the right side of the car). If you are not used to driving on the left, we highly recommend choosing a vehicle with automatic transmission for your self-drive tour. If you want a manual transmission vehicle, keep in mind that you will need to shift gears with your left hand (floor pedals are the same). Drivers will also have to get used to the narrower roads of the UK as well as the rural single-track roads with passing places and be careful of animals on the road.

For inexperienced drivers who still want to explore and discover Scotland, we recommend one of our guided small group tour or our privately guided tours, where you will have a local, experienced guide at the wheel.

View all Scotland tours for other alternatives.

ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE FROM GLASGOW
If you are planning on arriving in Glasgow, you could book a private transfer from Glasgow Airport to your accommodation in Edinburgh to start the journey in a comfortable way. During certain tours, you will have the options to end your trip in Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh, as well if that is more convenient for you.

SAFETY & WEATHER CONDITIONS
Please note that sightseeing and transport is dependent on weather and road conditions and might need to be altered if conditions are not favourable. This includes ferries and drives. If something unexpected occurs, you can call our 24-hour helpline to speak directly with a Nordic Visitor staff member.

CURRENCY RATE
All bookings are charged in British Pounds (£, GBP). Prices displayed in other currencies are indicative only and based on the daily exchange rate. Therefore, conversions from GBP to other currencies will fluctuate from day to day.

AFTER BOOKING WITH NORDIC VISITOR
After booking your package with Nordic Visitor, you will be contacted within two business days by one of our travel consultants who will serve as your dedicated contact person for all your travel needs before, during and even after your holiday. Your travel consultant will provide you with details about your booking and your remaining payment (if not paid in full). You will also receive more information about what to expect during your holiday.

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