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I WOULD DRIVE 500 MILES

Bleakly beautiful, the North Coast 500 is Scotland’s very own Route 66. Buckle up for a road trip around Britain’s outer limits, where you’ll find otherworldly landscapes and down-to-earth welcomes

@mrtimmoore

The road snakes up to the viewpoint of Bealach na Bà from the inlet of Loch Kishorn.
Photographs DANIEL ALFORD @danielalford_

DAY 1 INVERNESS TO INVERGORDON 25 MILES

From the capital of the Highlands, head north, making stops for a roadside feast and a walk to an eerie hilltop monument before bedding down at a baronial mansion

Even in its brisk overture, just another A-road ferrying Inverness commuters and HGVs to and from Scotland’s northernmost city, the NC500 can’t help exuding a sense of hardy portent. Thirty minutes into the journey is the Storehouse of Foulis, a restaurant in an 18th-century granary that sounds like a place where Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow might victual his men for a ride to the Wall. It looks it, too, with steam rising from a platter of potato-andsausage stovies, through a view of windswept bracken and the blue-black waters of Cromarty Firth. Working off Highland food becomes a routine duty on the NC500. I reach the lofty 18th-century Fyrish Monument after an energetic hike over a carpet of brown heather studded with fairy-tale red toadstools.

The 18th-century Fyrish Monument stands on a hill above Evanton

The reward for seeking out this tribute to Scotland’s colonial past – built after a siege in India, won by the local laird – is a prospect of its uncertain future. Moored down the firth looms a fleet of mothballed North Sea oil rigs. Further on are the turrets of Kincraig Castle, a baronial clan-mansion reinvented as a grand but convivial hotel. ‘People think the NC500 is all about the great outdoors,’ says owner Ray Grant, proffering a fireside armchair in the wood-panelled sitting room, ‘so it’s nice when they find out the indoors aren’t bad, either.’

DAY 2 INVERGORDON TO JOHN O’GROATS 98 MILES

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