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SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM: Porsche 911 Turbo classic car driving on the North Coast 500 route the Scottish highlands United Kingdom. (Photo by Martyn Goddard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Photo by: GettyImages/Martyn Goddard

GettyImages/Martyn Goddard

An Epic Road Trip in Scotland’s Remote Highlands

By: Lucy Sherriff

Drive 500 miles of stunning scenic roads and forget relying on GPS -- this road trip is for explorers only!

September 30, 2019

More than 500 miles of jaw-dropping scenery with the road hugging a dramatic coastline and winding through dense forest - this road trip isn’t the PCH through the California coast, but instead, in Scotland’s northern highlands.

The North Coast 500 - known as the NC500 - was opened in 2015, but is still a relatively undiscovered gem. Around 29,000 people drove the route on its first year, compared to the 13 million-odd visitors that some stretches of the PCH receives.

The road curves through thick fir trees, moorlands, and alongside vast lochs, with barely another car in sight. If you’re truly feeling adventurous and want to experience the epic silence of the rural highlands, then consider hiring a Tesla to fully appreciate your surroundings - and feel secure in the knowledge you’re contributing minimal impact to your environment.

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SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM: Porsche 911 Turbo classic car driving on the North Coast 500 route the Scottish highlands United Kingdom. (Photo by Martyn Goddard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Photo by: GettyImages/Martyn Goddard

GettyImages/Martyn Goddard

Phone signal is unreliable and intermittent, and forget relying on GPS - this road trip is for explorers only and a map is a must.

Starting at Inverness, the notoriously hair-raising Bealach na Bà road will be your first experience of adventure, taking you through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula. Built in 1822, it’s one of the most challenging drives in Scotland with hairpin bends aplenty. 

The car will hug the single track country roads silently, meaning you can creep up on majestic stags and highland cattle without making a sound, and, if you’re lucky, come face to face with some of the grandest creatures on earth without having to camp out with binoculars in the drizzle.

Hunker down at The Torridon, an old country house hotel perched atop a loch and with stunning views of the Highlands, before chancing the icy waters in a sea kayak, or heading into the moorlands to hike. The next day, visit crumbling Ardvreck Castle, with a pit stop at Gruinard Bay with its pink sand beaches, and hope for some rare rays of Scottish sunshine. Alternatively, scramble up Stac Pollaidh, a mountainous peak with pinnacles and steep gullies, with panoramic views over the vast wilderness below; explore Corrieshalloch Gorge, 1.5km long and 60m deep, spanned by a Victoria suspension bridge and flanked by cascading waterfalls; or marvel at the Old Man of Stoer, a 60m high sea stack of Torridonian sandstone, which is the site of numerous fishing vessel wrecks.

As you begin to reach the Northernmost tip of Scotland, you’ll be wowed as the scenery turns from moss-green and purple heather-tipped moorlands to pristine white beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. 

Stop at Smoo Cave in Durness, and explore the huge mystical limestone cave - combining both sea and freshwater - with its waterfall chamber and huge 50-ft entrance and if you’re brave enough to venture in, the surfing at Thurso has world-class barrels. 

On the drop down back to Inverness, make sure to stop at Cromarty Firth, an arm of Moray Firth, and a chance to encounter dolphins, seals and even humpback whales. 

The NC500 may not be as long as Route 66, or as photographed as the PCH, but it’s a chance to drive off road to scale mountains or kayak across lochs; explore ancient castles and mystical forests; and witness some of the most beautiful wildlife on earth - all against a backdrop of that tumultuous Scottish weather. And, if you took the Tesla, you can do so without a drop of gas – or guilt.

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