The North Coast 500 has been a remarkable success in bringing motorists to Scotland by highlighting the terrific scenery and historical attractions around the north. While it is certainly possible (and legal) to cycle the entire way, the differing priorities that cyclists have over motorists mean that a few diversions are advisable for two wheeled tourists to get the most from the route. Here are a few alternative suggestions for day trips and scenic detours to get away from the crowds while still staying on the road (watch out for our guide to off road cycling in the Highlands coming later in the year).
As evidenced by the astronomical alignment of many groups of standing stones the Highlands has long been a place where people gazed at the heavens for meaning or inspiration. Due to its extremely low levels of light pollution the north coast has in recent years built an enviable reputation as one of the best places in Europe for stargazing and chasing a sighting of the Northern Lights. The appeal of the Highlands is well documented, but unknown to many, when the sun goes down then a whole new set of attractions reveal themselves.
Clava Cairns is a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. For many years, it played second fiddle to its more famous neighbour, Culloden Battlefield. That all changed in 2014, with the release of the TV dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander novel. Clava Cairns became a bucket list destination overnight, after it was suggested that Outlander’s fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site.