With so many great options for motorcycle touring in the United Kingdom, there is likely no better choice than the Scottish Highlands. In the Highlands there is some of the most beautiful scenery and unspoiled wilderness in the county. There are a variety of ways to go through stunning Scottish nature. Going through the region on the North Coast 500 with a motorcycle will not only provide the healing solitude many riders yearn for, it offers things to do and see. The NC500 is the ultimate road for biking, and there are multiple ways to do it.
Guided or Solo
Depending on your preference, you can ride the NC500 through the Highlands with or without a guide. If you can handle the section of intense riding, you will be fine on your own. Furthermore it can provide a sense of serenity and peace when you are riding through the rolling hills of the Highlands. But if you are looking for companionship or someone to help you know where you are and where you are headed, getting a guide can be fulfilling. It all has to do with what you are looking for. Do you want a sense of adventure or to get where you’re going as safely and peacefully as possible? You have the option.
Scenery in the Highlands
It goes without saying that the scenery in the Scottish Highlands is gorgeous. Riding through the nature of this region is captivating and spiritual. It is arguably the main reasons to take a tour on the North Coast 500. Along this route you go through the Trossachs National Park, go into a Cairgnorms National Park, and pass by Lake Lomomd. Furthermore, there is the town of Loch Ness, home of the Loch Ness monster also called Nessie. You will travel through the Caledonian Canal to Fort William, which is the adventure capital of the United Kingdom. You will also have the chance to visit some of the tranquil and beautiful islands around here, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, and the Isle of Skye.
Stuff to Do
In addition to some spectacular vistas, there are some great things to do and see on your route. There is the Smoo cave, which is a dramatic sea cave that boasts on the largest entrances to any sea cave in the UK. You can also visit the Eilean Donan Castle. Near Cairgnorms there are the Balmoral Castle and famous whiskey distilleries. If you are interested in prehistoric history, the Camster Ciarns are a burial site on the coast that was originally built five thousand years ago.
Things you Should Know
While a lot of visitors will come to ride through the Highlands in the summer, it can get pretty busy during these peak months. The shoulder seasons are better for both the road and the weather. The North Coast 500 is really great in either direction but it is arguably a more pleasant ride to go counter-clockwise. Riding this way takes you along the coast for the duration, it also puts some of the tough riding in the beginning so you can enjoy leisurely during the last days of your trip. The stretch over the Pass of the Cattle that goes into Applecross is one of the most challenging sections of the NC50, which is known for adverse conditions.
If you are willing to rough it a bit here and there, you can save some money on your trip through the Highlands. According to MoneyPug, a site that is used in the UK to find cheap holidays, there are hostels in the region and a free campsite by the YHA in Torridon. There are fuel pumps open for 24 hours along the route. While some people do the NC500 in just three days, it can be better to take more time and enjoy the scenery and the sites.
It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for in a ride, you can find it in the Scottish Highlands along the North Coast 500. It is not surprising that this route is known as one of the best for bikers around the world. It is rugged, full of things to do, people to meet, and, above all else, it is gorgeous.
Ryan Beitler is a journalist, writer, and travel blogger. He has written for Paste Magazine, New Noise Magazine, The Slovenia Times, Deadline News, and many travel publications.