One of the many reasons the amazing North Coast 500 road trip is so insanely popular is the huge number and variety of sights and attractions along its length. With rugged mountains, remote towns, unbelievable beaches, and crashing waterfalls, it is a road trip that has literally everything you could hope for. As you begin your epic North Coast 500 road trip in an anti-clockwise direction, one of the first stops along the route is the beautiful Falls of Shin visitor attraction. This peaceful collection of waterfalls lies just 60km north of Inverness and is the perfect spot to get out and stretch your legs. This is your complete guide to the Falls fo Shin, including all the information you need to plan the perfect North Coast 500 road trip.    

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Complete Guide to the Falls of Shin – WHAT, WHERE and WHY..

Hidden just off the main route of the NC500, the peaceful Falls of Shin is a must-visit attraction on Scotland’s Route 500. This small collection of waterfalls has an easily accessible viewing platform, toilets, a visitor centre and cafe, and is also the perfect place to watch the annual migration of leaping salmon.    

History of the Falls of Shin

The upper reaches of the River Shin have always been a natural breeding ground for wild Atlantic salmon, who make the same journey every year to return from the open ocean to the place they were born. Beginning their journey at the Dornoch Firth, the wild salmon swim along the Kyle of Sutherland, before turning onto the Rover Shin and beginning their (rather vertical) journey to the destination. The Falls of Shin is a small collection of waterfalls on the Rover Shin that is a very popular spot for watching the natural phenomenon of the salmon migration up the waterfalls. The view of the leaping salmon defying all odds as they battle the torrential flow of water crashing down the falls is simply breathtaking.   The visitor centre at the Falls of Shin is a replacement centre that was opened in 2017 and features a cafe and restaurant, toilets, gift shop, walking trails, outdoor playground, and even a mini-golf course. There is also an easily accessible viewing paltform overlooking the River Shin that is the perfect spot to look out for leaping salmon. The centre is free admission and there is plenty of parking available for visitors. The original centre was destroyed in 2013 as the result of a huge and disastrous fire, which had a heavy impact on the local economy. Thankfully, the new centre was installed and offers the perfect respite for adventurers in the Kyle of Sutherland area.    

Where are the Falls of Shin?

The Falls of Shin are located just north of the small town of Inveran, along the length of the River Shin. Linking Loch Shin and the Kyle of Sutherland, River Shin is a common commute for the Atlantic salmon as they make their annual migration to breed.  
smooth water at the falls of shin
There is something so peaceful about the crash of the water at the Falls of Shin.

How to Get to the Falls of Shin?

Getting to the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre is a very easy task, with lots of signposts and easily accessible roads leading to its large car park. If you are completing the NC500 road trip in an anti-clockwise direction, the Falls of Shin will be one of your first stops along the route. As you approach the Dornoch Firth, instead of cross the Dornoch Firth Bridge you should continue west following the signpost for the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre. From this roundabout, it will take you around 25 minutes to reach the centre. If you are heading south along Scotland’s east coast, then on the northern side of the Dornoch Firth you should take a right before you cross the bridge. Once again the route is very well signposted and it will take you around 25 minutes to reach the visitor centre.    

Why Should I Go to the Falls of Shin?

The Falls of Shin Visitor Centre is a hugely popular attraction on the North Coast 500 for all adventurers, from avid nature seekers to families in search of a fun day out. The visitor centre has everything you need for either a half day’s entertainment or a simple, 30-minute stop-off. Stop off at the visitor centre and check out the natural wonder of the leaping salmon from the viewing platform. After you have watched this in delight, the cafe and restaurant serve delicious food and refreshing drinks to fuel up before you set off on the rest of your NC500 trip. If you are wanting to stay at the Falls of Shin Visitor Centr for longer, there is a huge choice of nature walks to enjoy or you can simply relax with a coffee while the kids enjoy the outdoor adventure area.  
leaping salmon at the falls of shin
If you are patient, you might just catch a glimpse of the many leaping salmon at the Falls of Shin.

When Should I Go to the Falls of Shin?

Due to how popular this centre is, during the peak seasons of June-August the centre will be very busy with other tourists to the area. We visited at the end of June and it was not overly busy, which meant we could relax with a view of the Falls of Shin without it being too crowded. In order to view the natural phenomenon of the leaping salmon at the Falls of Shin, the best recommended time to visit is between May and September. They are especially visible leaping up the crashing torrents after an especially dry spell, as the river is slightly drier. In order to avoid over-tourism in the north of Scotland, we recommend that you try to tour the NC500 during the shoulder seasons of May-June or September-October. Not only will the route be a lot quieter and more enjoyable, but the late Spring months of May and June are actually the best in terms of weather and a lack of insects.      

Before You Leave on the North Coast 500

Before you head off on your trip around the NC500, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.  

How Do I Get Around?

Given the remote location of the NC500 and the majority of the sights along the route, the best way to get around this road trip is by driving. There are of course other methods that are still popular, such as cycling and hiking, however, if you have a short amount of time on the route, neither of these are very suitable. As for public transport, the use around the NC500 is understandably difficult due to how remote each location is, however, with the increasing problem of congestion along the route, this is a good option to research if you have time. If it is something that interests you, you can read a public formed itinerary of how to get around the NC500 by public transport over here.   If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip along the NC500, we highly recommend hiring through Bunk Campers. We toured with these guys around the up-and-coming Heart 200 road trip in Scotland’s central highlands and could not believe the comfort and customer service we experienced with their vans. Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Bunk Campers over here.  
The peaceful River Shin flowing past the visitor centre.
The peaceful River Shin flowing past the visitor centre.

What Should I Pack for the NC500?

When it comes to packing for a trip to Scotland there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your North Coast 500 road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket. As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.  

Also Read – North Coast 500 Packing Guide – What You Will Need for the NC500

  Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C   As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.  

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

  Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below. You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.  
Photography Equipment

Main Photography Camera – Sony A7 Mirrorless Camera

Main Lense – Sony F3.5-5.6 28mm-70mm

Camera Stand – Neewer Portable 177cm

Vlogging Camera – Sony HX90v

Action Camera – GoPro Hero 8 Black

Drone Camera – DJI Spark

Camera Bag – Yahan Camera Bag


Where Should I Stay?

The remoteness in the highlands of Scotland will leave you with little choice of accommodation in each location along the NC500, however, there are still enough options to choose from to ensure a comfortable trip. These are mostly in the shape of B&Bs, Airbnbs, converted cottages and other quirky accommodations. For the best place to rest your head after your first, whirlwind day on the North Coast 500, there are plenty of places to choose from in the Dornoch town centre. The best value hotels that are all within walking distance of the pubs and restaurants in Dornoch are the Dornoch HotelRoyal Golf Hotel, and the Albatross B&B. Click here for more options for accommodation near Dornoch.   Depending on how adventurous you are, there may be more accommodation choices than just the above, often with an even better view. Caravan and camping sites are abundant along the NC500, drawing camping enthusiasts from all over the world. For some of the most spectacular bedside scenery along the North Coast 500, we recommend packing a tent and getting in touch with nature for the week. As we travelled along the North Coast 500, camped in our trusty Vango tent on a mixture of campsites and wild sites. Wild camping is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the highlands, however, it must be done respectfully. Read our full guide to Wild Camping if you wish to give it a go so you know everything you need to for a comfortable and sustainable trip.    

What is the Best Travel Insurance?

No matter what type of adventure you are heading on, whether it is a mountain adventure or a relaxing beach destination, one thing we all need to be aware of is that accidents can happen. The last thing you want is for an unexpected medical emergency to ruin your trip of a lifetime. Luckily, that is what travel insurance is for. Whenever we travel abroad, we get covered with World Nomad’s Travel Insurance, a reliable, friendly and extremely affordable method of covering yourself on any adventure. With years of experience working for backpackers around the globe, the service they provide is perfect for whatever type of trip you have planned. Get covered for your next trip and get a quote from World Nomad’s right here.     So there you have it, your complete guide to the Falls of Shin. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know what you thought of the sights listed above, or if you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below. As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own North Coast 500 adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country. When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.     Now Read:    

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