NC500 far North East day Tour – Itinerary
For the North East day tour on the North Coast 500 (NC500) we head north through the Struie Hills. Great views of the Dornoch Firth from a mountain location. Next we make a stop at the beautiful Falls of Shin, because of the short but lovely walk to a viewing platform. Heading due north from Lairg we pass Ben Loyal, Loch Loyal and some wonderful bog scenery. Eventually we arrive at the coast at Tongue. Following the coast eastwards along the far north of Scotland we visit John O Groats, the most northerly point on the public road in the UK. There are fabulous views of the Orkney Islands. We then travel down the dramatic east coast road back towards Inverness, making time to visit the pretty town of Dornoch en route.
Falls of Shin
The River Shin cascades prettily down Achany Glen, and the largest cascade – the Falls of Shin – is one of the best places in Scotland to see Atlantic salmon leaping. The most likely time to see them attempt to leap up the Falls is between May and September. This is the main reason people like to stop here – but the site’s popularity has led to the establishment of gift shop and coffee shop too. As a result, this makes a very good location for a short break on the route north.
Tongue is an attractive village on the Kyle of Tongue on the north coast. Being located in a limestone area, the surroundings are a little like a fertile oasis on the north coast – green fields and native woodland. The Vikings settled here and may have built nearby Castle Varrich. The village and castle then became the main centre of power for Clan Mackay. Tongue remained isolated from the national road network until 1828. Prior to that it’s only links were by sea.
Strathnaver Museum is located in the old parish church in Bettyhill. It is a fascinating stop, primarily telling the tragic story of the Highland Clearances. There are many other displays within its walls in addition, however. We enjoy the displays on the Picts, and in a totally different field the information on the ecology of the Peatlands. However there are also fine displays about crofting life in general and about Clan Mackay in particular.
Thurso was originally a Viking town, the name meaning Thor’s River, and was later the principal sea-port in the north. From it, as long ago as the 13th century, great quantities of malt and meal (oats and barley) were annually shipped for the Baltic, from which wood and iron were imported in return.
Castletown was once the capital of the Caithness flagstone industry. The sandstone rock splits perfectly into flagstones. By 1900 there was a workforce of 500 in Castletown alone, and 1,000 across Caithness. The Harbour here is completely constructed from flagstones – and if you ever go for a walk in the City of Westminster, look below your feet – you will be walking on Caithness Flag. Then in 1920 concrete was developed, and that, as they say, was the end of that.
Castle of Mey
Castle of Mey became famous as the Queen Mother’s summer home. When she first saw it, in 1952 it was in a terrible state. There were no bathrooms, and no electricity, and much of the heat from the massive peatfires in the fireplaces was escaping through yawning holes in the roof. Nonetheless the Queen Mother lovingly restored both castle and Gardens, and even though she has since passed on, the trust that she set up in 1996 still continues, and they open the castle to the public during the summer months.
John O Groats
John O Groats is the most northerly point on the UK public roads. Jan de Groot is the Dutchman who is reputed to have given his name to the village as a result of running a 15th century ferry to Orkney. His name derives from the small denomination (the groat) that served as the ferry toll. His seven sons proved troublesome and argumentative – and for a quiet life created an octagonal house, containing an octagonal table, and so no-one could be said to be at the head of the table. The site of this house was by the mound and flagpole on the site.
The very pretty town of Dornoch is located at the mouth of the Dornoch Firth. The buildings are an attractive honey-coloured stone, and the gardens are a blaze of colour through the summer. The cathedral dominates the centre of Dornoch – a magnificent building erected in 1224 by Gilbert de Moravia. It contains the organ where police found paparazzi hiding, before the christening of Guy Ritchie and Madonna’s son Rocco. The town has a great range of craft and gift shops as well as the beach and a famous golf course.
NC500 far North East day Tour – Price
£490 for the tour.
NC500 far North East day Tour – Departure
The tour departs from your Inverness accommodation, or any transport hub, such as bus station, train station or airport. You tell us, and we’ll be there.