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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > December 2018 > I WOULD DRIVE 500 MILES

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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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

In the December issue… find out which countries, cities, regions and individual attractions made it onto Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2019 list; read more in depth on some of the winning destinations, including the northern regions of Sri Lanka far from the tourist trail, Copenhagen with its ongoing dining revolution, and the North Coast 500 road around some of the wildest corners of the Scottish Highlands; add in a short break to Estonia's winter-perfect capital Tallinn; and much more