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North Coast 500: Part 2 – Over the Top

Posted by True Highlands in Kit and Caboodle | 3 comments

The North Coast 500 route hits the top-left corner of the mainland at Durness. Just outside the village is the beautiful Balnakeil Beach, where cows often wander along the sand. Check out the nearby Balnakeil craft village, created in the 1970s from a disused military camp and now a creative community of artists. Don’t miss the hot chocolate and sweet treats at Cocoa Mountain.

Beinn-Spionnadh

Beinn Spionnadh, near Durness

Since you’ve come all this way, it would be rude not to take a side trip to Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point of mainland Britain. It’s owned by the Ministry of Defence and often used as a training area, so it can only be reached by a small ferry and connecting mini-bus service in summer. The cape features a Stevenson-built lighthouse and spectacular cliffs filled with seabird colonies, including guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, puffins and kittiwakes.

Heading east from Durness, the gorgeous Sango Bay has panoramic views of the North Minch. There’s also an excellent campsite and visitors centre. Nearby, and set into the limestone cliffs, is Smoo Cave, where a walking path leads right down into the huge mouth of the cave. At 15 metres high and 40 metres wide, it’s an impressive sight. Follow the path inside to see the magnificent 25 metre waterfall. You can also take boat trips further into the cave from April to September, weather permitting.

The route continues east and is single track in most places, often with more sheep and deer for company than other vehicles.

Highland Traffic Jam

Highland Traffic Jam

There are superb views of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope as you head towards Tongue.

View to Loch Hope and Ben Hope

View to Loch Hope and Ben Hope

The Kyle of Tongue itself has stunning white beaches and sparkling water, and the village makes a good overnight stop.

Other sights include Strathy Point, with the first Scottish Lighthouse built as an all-electric station and Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Scotland where you’ll have views right across the north coast on a clear day.

Strathy Point Lighthouse

Strathy Point Lighthouse

Close to Thurso is the Castle of Mey, holiday home to the late Queen Mother for nearly 50 years. You can stroll through the stunning castle gardens, visit the animal centre then refuel in the tearoom.

How are those plans coming along? Final leg tomorrow….. Saturday 16th May at 10am! Why not subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss it!

Written by Michael Surmon of Out there Campervans

All photos © Jiri Skripsky except Strathy Point. For more pictures visit www.skripsky-foto.ch

For North Coast 500 route map and GPS information visit the NC 500 website

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Comments (3)
  1. Stella says:

    Another Durness attraction is The John Lennon Memorial garden at Durness community gardens

  2. Billy Johnstone says:

    Im glad you covered the area around Durness and Tongue today. My post yesterday would have been more fitting for today. This area was most memorable for me. You have me reminiscing of my road trip around this route last year.

    Your coverage is good. I’ll never forget the herd of black cows on the beach on the white sand beach outside Durness. Sango Bay was jaw dropping on the hot summers day we passed. A beach you would expect to see abroad!

    The route is certainly an escape from modern day life. We definitely saw more sheep on the roads than cars on the route!

    I dont understand why some people are criticizing this coverage. I think it inspires people to go on a journey they wouldnt usually consider seeing historical and unspoilt Scotland without tripping over hundreds of other tourists along the way.

    There are many other routes to choose from that these critical people could write about themselves if this is not for them.

    • True Highlands says:

      I’m glad it brings back memories! Lets hope the blog and North Coast 500 encourage more to go out there and see it. 🙂

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