Durness - Day 3 in the Masterplan

NC500 advice – North Coast 500 in 6 Days

Maggie and myself (Malcolm) are now into our fourth season of running a Guest House in the heart of Inverness. During that time we have seen many travellers come and go, talked about their adventures, recommended places to see while they are visiting and have done our utmost to make their stay as enjoyable as possible.  Many have come to tour the North Coast 500, also referred to as the NC500. Inverness is the official start and end of the NC500 and Pitfaranne Guest House (corporate members of the NC500) is the ideal place to stay only 5 minutes walk from the Castle which signifies the official start and end point. In the time we have been in Inverness we have learned a lot about places to visit on the NC500 and this blog is a focus on some of those considerations, highlights and recommendations when embarking on an NC500 tour that we have picked up from our own experience and conversations with seasoned travellers that are our guests. It is based on using a car for transportation

Mode of Transport

In the four seasons we have had visitors doing the NC500 on foot, bike, motorbike and cars and they all seem to enjoy it equally, so the choice of transport is very much down to the individual, it is sometimes nice to have a car and bike so that you can explore the more remote parts of the route and get closer to nature as you explore, feeling the wind (and occasional rain) in your hair. Our preference is by car

NC 500 Direction of Travel

Many of the guidebooks recommend doing the NC500 clockwise, we would recommend anti-clockwise. The reason for this is that the scenery as you go down the West Coast of Scotland is breathtaking and needs to be savoured, so our feeling is ending with that will make the memory last the longest.  That said the scenery of the East Coast is not to be underestimated and as you go North up the east coast it is really important to stop and look back so you can take in how spectacular the East Coastline is.

NC 500 Places to Stay

It is important to plan this in advance as accommodation books up fast and far in advance, so planning is key. The type of accommodation is down to personal choice – we would always say to stay at Pitfaranne Guest House in Inverness (www.pitfaranne.com) and then as you do the route choose between hotels, B and B, camping to suit your needs. If you chose camping, we would always recommend registered campsites as the preferred venues, however should you wild camp it is really important to leave everywhere as it was found.

The Journey 

Once you have planned, booked and travelled to the start point it is time to begin the journey. We would recommend that the route is savoured and not rushed. This doesn’t mean take overly long to complete it, but don’t rush it in 3 or 4 days, take 6 as long as you need. In the time we have been talking to people about it we have concluded that the optimal time is around 6 days to have a nice balance of time, while keeping on the move. We aren’t going to make accommodation recommendations in this blog, so it is important that you research this before embarking on the journey

NC500 Day 1

Head North up the East Coast for John O’Groats with key stopping points along the way. Not to be missed stopping points on this initial stage are:

NC500 Day 2

With a relatively long drive the first day keep the second day short so that you can revive with a leisurely start and a slow drive along the North Coast of Scotland. We would recommend the second day heading for Bettyhill with some key stopping points along the way:

NC500 Day 3

From Bettyhill the roads get slightly more challenging so a 30 mile drive is equivalent to a 60 mile drive in real terms, we would recommend keeping the next few legs of the journey relatively short and that way you can take your time, drink in the scenery and not try to rush on what are relatively narrow roads. So on day 3 head for in or around Lochinver. Some of the key stopping points along the way:

NC500 Day 4

As you travel down the West Coast the scenery never ceases to amaze and the roads improve marginally as you head for Gairloch, We would recommend staying in or around Gairloch Day 4 with some must stops along the way:

NC500 Day 5

Continue heading South on a mixture of road qualities, nothing on the NC500 should be done in a hurry, so take your time and watch the scenery get more and more stunning with the aim of being in or around Applecross or Lochcarron for Day 5 night. The roads are very twisty and narrow at points along this leg so the journey should definitely be savoured and enjoyed. Some points along the way:

NC500 Day

Coming back onto better roads now you have the opportunity to reminisce and discuss your favourite parts of the NC500. Day 6 heading towards the official finish in Inverness with a few stopping points along the way:

It’s a Wrap

The end of your NC500 experience should be back in Inverness and of course our one accommodation recommendation is Pitfaranne Guest House (http://www.pitfaranne.com) where a warm welcome is guaranteed. From the Guest House you are a short walk into the centre of the City where you can enjoy the bars and restaurants, or simply enjoy a walk along the river in the evening sun reflecting on your NC500 experiences and all the new places that you have discovered along the way. We look forward to hearing your stories on arrival and as we serve you your last hearty breakfast of your trip. We really hope you found this useful in your planning and please don’t hesitate to contact us if there are any elements that you would like to discuss more (pitfaranneguesthouse@gmail.com)

Local Tips – Malcolm’s Interview for Holiday Scottish Highlands

Interview re-printed with kind permission from Holiday Scottish Highlands


Malcolm and Maggie Allan moved to Inverness in 2018. They’re loving their new life running a guest house and self-catering business. Malcolm shares his tips for things to do near Inverness and in the city itself. He tells you some great places to eat and where to get the best view of Loch Ness.

View down Loch Ness from Dores – a favourite of Malcolm and Maggie

About me

We moved to Inverness in April 2018 to run a small business that includes a 5-bedroom guest house and one self-catering apartment in the centre of Inverness. I moved from the IT industry into hospitality and Maggie moved from education into hospitality, so it has been a massive, but hugely rewarding change in career and direction.

The pleasure of welcoming guests to Inverness and to the guest house has been amazing and thoroughly enjoyable. We are delighted with the feedback that we have received from our guests and in the second season had the pleasure of welcoming both new and returning guests.

We enjoy walking, cycling, eating out and socialising. Keeping us company at Pitfaranne is a 12 year old Labradoodle called Cassie that also enjoys speaking to and welcoming our guests and a not so welcoming 15 year old cat called Lily (our daughter named her after Lily Allen), which is kept well away from guests.

How long have you lived in Inverness?

We have lived in Inverness for 2 years and moved here to have a lifestyle change to run our own small business in the Capital of the Highlands. We moved up to Inverness from Fife where we lived in Cupar for 26 years. We are now going into our third season and so far have loved every minute.

Favourite beach

There are many beautiful beaches in the Highlands and Islands a couple that are special to us are:

Arisaig beach – because it is just stunning
Dores Beach as it’s nice and close to Inverness and provides a great view right down Loch Ness (see above)
Nairn Beach – close by and great for a walk in a nice summers evening

Best walk

There are loads of choices for walks in and around Inverness:

  • The Great Glen Way, it’s a fantastic way for both visitors and locals to experience Scotland, the scenery, the people and the ruggedness of the landscape.
  • The Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie on the Black Isle – it is a lovely walk up the glen with the Fairys at the doors at the bottom of some of the tree trunks.
  • The walk round Loch Ness – this is great now that we can walk right round the Loch – it needs to be done over a few days, but the scenery is stunning and places like Falls of Foyers is amazing.
  • Walk over the Ness Islands in Inverness – Lovely city walk where you feel you are away from the hustle and bustle of a city.
  • Walk up Ord Hill in Inverness – great way to get a view over the city.
  • Walk along the canal tow path to Dochgarroch – this is a really relaxing walk with the boats slowly passing as you walk down the edge of the canal.

The Rver Ness by the Ness islands (near Pitfaranne)

Most special time of year in the Inverness

Summer, with all the visitors it provides a fantastic mix of cultures and nationalities and it’s a delight to see them all come together in Inverness City.

The one thing every tourist should do in the Highlands

Stay in Inverness for more than one night and use it as a base to explore the surrounding areas.

Your best wildlife encounter

Red squirrels in Inverness, salmon at Rogie falls and dolphins at Chanonry Point on the Black Isle.

Favourite road or drive

North Coast 500 especially the west coast. The scenery is stunning and you see parts of Scotland that are a rare and very unique experience.

Most loved view

The road down the east side of Loch Ness, just after Dores the road goes up around 700 feet and at the top of the hill it provides a stunning view down Loch Ness.

Favourite place to eat and drink in Inverness

There are many great restaurants in Inverness, a couple that stand out are:

  • Roc Pool in Inverness is outstanding and our favourite dishes are scallops for starter and venison wrapped in parma ham with haggis, parsnip puree and parsnip crisps for main course. A wee dram to finish – there is a great choice.
  • We also love Sam’s Indian restaurant in Inverness and our favourite dishes are king prawn puree starter and herb sizzler main.
  • For a drink the Black Isle Bar and Malt room are excellent.

Inverness is also great for getting to the Speyside whisky trail and experiencing the abundance of great malt whisky that is available. Further afield we also love going to Islay and Tayvallich on the west coast of Scotland for their natural beauty and, of course, a wee dram on Islay.