The North Coast 500
For many people, a highlight of a trip to the coast is viewing the vistas by car, watching the scenery unfold and change whilst driving by. If you are looking for a show-stopping coastal driving route as this summer draws to a close, a recent survey has revealed some of the best spots in Europe to steer towards.
The best summer driving road in the UK has been named as the North Coast 500 in Scotland. Regarded as the UK’s equivalent to the world-famous Route 66 in the US, this 516-mile stretch of winding road hugs much of the Highland coastline. The circular route begins and ends at Inverness, taking in Applecross on the west coast and the towns of Torridon and Ullapool towards the north. The route touches Caithness and John O’Groats in the far north before swinging south through Dingwall and back towards Inverness.
A drive on the North Coast 500 may be all about the open road, but it is worth taking your time to stop off along the way and get up close to the beguiling scenery. There are many castles to explore, perching on the edges of cliff tops. Ardvreck Castle and Dunrobin Castle are two noteworthy examples to put on your itinerary; however, it is the wild, rugged and deserted beaches, such as Gairloch Beach and Balnakeil Beach, that really demand some attention during this road trip. The intriguing limestone Smoo sea cave at the top of Scotland has one of the largest entrances in the country and is also well worth stopping the car for.
Be sure to check out the tide times before you reach your coastal destination so that you know what conditions to expect upon your arrival. The various tidal conditions can also influence your viewing experience; for example, if you want to enjoy great swathes of open sand, get there when the tide is out.