Move over Route 66, a new iconic drive has been born – Scotland’s North Coast 500. The newly-launched 500-mile route circles around the country’s northern wilds, past dune-backed beaches, turreted castles, towering mountains and windswept grasslands. And here are seven of the best sights you can expect along the drive.
Reputedly the most beautiful beach in Britain, Sandwood Bay in Kinlochbervie is as wild as it is spectacular.
Facing straight into the teeth of the North Atlantic, the beach has nearly two-and-a-half kilometres of pink sand, flanked by cliffs.
To the south stands the impressive sea stack of Am Buachaille, while backing the bay are huge sand dunes and a freshwater loch (which is full of brown trout).
Although there’s no road access to this remote bay, you can reach it via the flat, six-kilometre footpath from the carpark.
A lone village set beneath towering mountains, Torridon is an undeniably scenic stopover for roadtrippers. To get there, twist and climb along country roads on the northern shore of Upper Loch Torridon, past lakes, cliffs, gorges and green wooded slopes.
Then stretch your legs along one of the many great local walking trails, such as the magnificent ridge walk along the Liathach Massif, or the strenuous traverse of Beinn Eighe.
Alternatively, a rewarding walk that’s further afield is the 11-kilometre hike up the coast from Lower Diabaig (a 20-minute drive from Torridon village) to Redpoint.
Corrieshalloch Gorge Natural Reserve
Within the kilometre-and-a-half Corrieshalloch Gorge is the spectacular Falls of Measach, plunging 46 metres. Further downstream you’ll find a suspension bridge, which promises an excellent vantage point for looking up almighty gorge to the falls.
While the gorge itself is some 60 metres deep with near-vertical walls, it’s very narrow (just 10 metres at the lip).
Being so inaccessible to humans, it’s a rich haven for local wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled!
As the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands, Dunrobin Castle encompasses an extravagant 189 rooms.
Adding to its list of accolades, the castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously-inhabited houses, dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.
Dunrobin Castle, resembling a French chateâu with its towering, conical spires, has seen the architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. It was used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972.
Old Pulteney Distillery
The most northerly distillery on Scotland’s mainland, you’ll find Pulteney Distillery by Wick Harbour, renowned for its long seafaring history.
Here single malt scotch whisky is still produced using the same traditional methods that were used two centuries ago when the establishment opened in 1826.
Their iconic whisky is considered the genuine maritime malt, aged in hand-selected oak casks.
The best way to experience it is on a distillery tour, where you try a complimentary dram of the award-winning whisky, or purchase your own hand-filled bottle from the cask selection.
The visitor centre is also worth a look for history and tasty keepsakes.
Royal Dornoch Golf Course
The links of the famous Royal Dornoch Golf Club is said to be one of the finest golf courses in the world.
Remoteness is part of its charm (hidden in the highlands in the Sutherlands county), but is also the only reason why this magnificent links remains out of mainstream major championship golf.
Castle of Mey
As her lasting legacy to the country, Castle of Mey was the Queen Mother’s home in Caithness.
Whilst mourning the death of husband King George VI, she discovered the then-abandoned castle, drawn by its isolated charm, and decided to save it.
After renovating and restoring the castle, and creating the manicured gardens you see today, the Queen Mother spent many happy summers here for almost half a century.
The castle is open every day in season from 10.30am to 4pm, with guided tours available.