Plan your trip to the northern coast of Scotland and enjoy a road trip around the most scenic landscape in the world with this relatable and reliable guidebook, detailing not only the best and most popular sights along the route but also the hidden gems that most overlook.
Pre-orders for the most in-depth travel guide to the North Coast 500 are now open.
As you venture into the mountainous region of northern Scotland, the landscape starts to resemble that of a fantasy novel. The hills begin to tower overhead and castles sit high above the still waters of lochs, waiting for the return of their lords or the hero to slay their resident dragons.
It is easy to see where the tales and fables of giants, witches and monsters came from as you drive along the winding road through humbling glens. This is the land where fantasy meets fact, and it is one of the most breathtaking places we have ever visited.
The North Coast 500 is one of the most popular road trips in the UK, with thousands of visitors flocking from both abroad and elsewhere on the island to see its famous beauty. With so many stunning sunsets, breathtaking mountains, golden beaches and turquoise shores to see, it isn’t difficult to see why.
By far, the most popular way of touring the NC500 is by car or campervan, with campsites being the choice of accommodation. There are so many beautiful campsites in Scotland near beaches this it is little surprise. With so much popularity and demand, there is no shortage of North Coast 500 campsites for you to choose from, however, which ones are the best for you?
This guide is here to help you plan your NC500 adventure and decide what campsites to stay at during your epic road trip.
If wild camping is more your thing, with the amazing freedom and money-saving privileges it delivers, then read our full guide to the best wild camping spots on the NC500. Please ensure that while doing so, you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and respect the beauty of the nature around you.
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NC500 Campsites – Best Campsites along the Scotland 500 Route
If you are planning to use campsites on your way around the NC500, we recommend investing in a Camping and Caravanning club membership. A great number of the best caravan sites around the NC500 (and the rest of the UK) are part of the CCC scheme, which provides members discounted prices and access to member exclusive sites.
Beware the NC500 Campsite Watch
In order to prevent disturbance and unrest from visitors to the NC500, the locals along the northern coast have come together to form a community known as the NC500 Campsite Watch. The purpose of this community is to share stories of unruly guests at any of the campsites along the North Coast 500, allowing each campsite to be aware of any unwanted disturbance.
It goes without saying if you choose to cause disruption, decide you are above paying or act like anything other than a guest to the highlands of Scotland, you will be refused entry to any of the other campsites along the NC500 (and can also expect pitchforks and torches at the next town).
North Coast 500 Campsites – Inverness and Easter Ross (East Coast)
As you begin your NC500 road trip in the northern capital of Inverness, there are a few options for campsites both next to the city itself and further north into the road trip. We recommend spending a day in Inverness and the surrounding area as there is so much history to learn about this fascinating part of Scotland.
Ardtower Caravan Park
Situated in close proximity to the infamous battlefield of Culloden, this campsite offers uninterrupted views of the Black Isle and even offers free wifi. The luxurious toilet blocks offer modern bathing facilities and even feature underfloor heating (fancy!). Prices for one night here with a power supply range from £24-33 for a campervan (two people) or £11 for a tent.
Areas of interest nearby the campsite include dolphin watching at the Cromarty Firth, monster hunting at Loch Ness and history lessons at the Culloden Battlefield.
Start your trip off in style at the Inverness Glamping grounds, with comfortable wooden glamping pods and a private decking area with fire pit. Inside each pod, there is a shower and bathroom, and outside of this private space, there is a communal “bothy” kitchen area to cook your romantic dinners.
Bunchrew Caravan Park
As well as the traditional touring sites, the Bunchrew Caravan Park also features 12 fully- equipped static caravans and 2 eco-friendly chalets. Spend your first days of the NC500 in comfort before you set off to explore the beautiful and rugged Scottish highlands.
Touring sites at Bunchrew Caravan Park range in price from £19-26 for caravans and motorhomes, or from £16-25 for tents.
Dingwall Camping and Caravanning Club Site
A pretty campsite on the outskirts of the Dingwall town centre, this site offers a comfortable and affordable place to stay to kick off your NC500 journey. Overlooking the Cromarty Firth, the site is a peaceful and well-equipped camping ground, with free wifi, shower and toilet facilities and easy access to the northern capital of Inverness with the nearby train station.
Riverside Chalet and Caravan Park
In the heart of the quaint, highland village of Contin is the beautiful campsite known as the Riverside Chalet and Caravan Park. This peaceful campsite sits on the banks of the River Blackwater and is locally famous for the resident Heron that fishes here.
The tranquillity of the surrounding countryside in this part of the NC500 is far removed from the rush of the main road leading north. It is the perfect place to stay if you prefer a more off-the-beaten-track place to camp on your North Coast 500 road trip.
Choose between onsite chalets, glamping tents of touring sites as your method of accommodation on the Riverside Chalet and Caravan Park, and spend the evenings watching the sunset over the river. Prices range from £48-63 for the chalets and from £14-20 for two persons in a tent or campervan.
Black Rock Caravan Park
Just 15-miles north of the city of Inverness is the Black Rock campsite, named after the huge Black Rock gorge in the River Glass. The park offers static and touring caravan pitches, as well as a bunkhouse for those who prefer four solid walls for the night. There are free shower and bathroom facilities and power supplies for caravans and campervans.
Prices here range from £40-120 for the glamping pods for 2 people and the bunkhouse costs £17 per person per night. For touring caravan and campervan costs, contact the Black Rock Caravan Park and enquire the seasonal rate directly from them.
Dornoch Firth Caravan Park
Continuing north from Inverness, overlooking the peaceful banks of the Dornoch Firth is the Dornoch Firth Caravan Park. Nearby the quaint Scottish towns of Tain and Dornoch, the Dornoch Firth Caravan Park is the perfect place for day trips. It is also the perfect place to stock up before you continue north to the remote highlands, with large shops such as Tesco and Aldi nearby.
The campsite offers touring sites, with prices varying from £25-28 for caravan and motorhomes, and £10-25 for a tent and a vehicle.
Dornoch Caravan and Camping Park
Closer to the town of Dornoch is the Dornoch Caravan and Camping Park, which sits right on the shores of the awards winning beaches of Dornoch. This is the perfect caravan site if you wish to explore the small town of Dornoch, visit the local cathedral or sample the “world’s best hot chocolate” at the Cocao Mountain cafe.
Touring pitches for caravans, motorhomes and tents are available here, with prices ranging from £14-25.
If you would prefer a more isolated night in Dornoch, you are sure to find a space on the beach that you can wild camp on. This may require you to park your car and walk down to the beach before you pitch up your tent, however, the beach views are absolutely worth it.
Grannie’s Heilan’ Hame Holiday Park
Further north of Dornoch, en-route to the beautiful Dunrobin Castle (one of the grandest castles on the NC500), is Grannie’s Heilan Hame Holiday Park. Don’t worry about the correct pronunciation, all you need to know is that at this caravan park there are activities for the whole family.
From the indoor pool and sandy adventure playground for the kids to the spa and sauna facilities for the adults, Grannie’s Heilan Hame Holiday Park has everything you need. Accommodation includes static caravans from £100/night and touring pitches for tents, caravans and motorhomes.
There are currently four Pods on site at the Brora NC500 pods. One luxury Honeymoon Pod and three regular pods (that still feel luxurious, just a different layout). A small sauna is also available to use onsite with a glass window and fantastic view towards the coast.
If the weather is nice, a BBQ in the communal area is the perfect place to and relax in the serenity of your surroundings. Each pod also has a large bean bag outside for your comfort when watching the sunrise from outside your deck. An excellent place to stay in Brora.
Brora Caravan Club Site
North of the small town of Brora, the Brora Caravan Club Site sits on a peaceful stretch of land, adjacent to the famous local beach. Whether you choose to use this beach for swimming, sailing or any other water sports, or simply want to relax and watch the local wildlife pass you by, this is a very tranquil site to do it on.
The Brora Club Site offers touring pitches for caravans and motorhomes, as well as non-electric pitches for tents. Prices start from £9.20 for one adult.
North Coast 500 Campsites – Caithness (North East Coast)
Continuing north into the remote highlands of Scotland, we begin to see more of the isolated and beautiful sights that the northeast has to offer. On this side of Scotland, the main highlights are the cliffs along the coast and the ancient castles that once ruled these lands. Here are the best campsites in northeast Scotland that you should check out.
Wick Caravan and Camping Site
This family-run campsite sits right on the banks of the River Wick and is just a 5-minute walk into the town centre of Wick itself. Despite its close proximity, the site is a tranquil and beautiful location, perfect for a relaxing camping trip in the north of Scotland. Prices range from £11-23 for tents and motorhomes/caravans.
Nearby activities include the town of Wick, a local golf course, the 3-miles of beautiful beaches along Wick Bay, as well as distilleries, castles and cultural centres.
John O’Groats Campsites
John O’Groats Caravan and Camping Site
As we approach the most northern area of mainland UK, we reach the beautiful campsite of the John O’Groats Caravan and Camping Site. This famous town sits as a bucket list destination to many travellers, some of whom have it in their sights as the finishing line for the 874-mile journey from Lands End in the south of Cornwall.
The campsite sits adjacent to the “last house in Scotland”, directly on the banks of the Pentland Firth. From here, you can relax with stunning views of the northern horizon, decorated with the Isle of Stroma and the distant outlines of the Orkney Islands. Also, with a clear sky and the right conditions, this is also the best place in the UK to view the beautiful phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
Powered pitches on this campsite cost roughly £24 and can be booked on their website.
Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome Club Site
Continuing along the isolated north coast of Scotland, you will eventually reach the small town of Thurso. Just outside of this quaint town, sitting right on the edge of Dunnet Bay is the Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome Club Site. This site is perfectly located for checking out the local wildlife, climbing Dunnet Head to admire the view and taking a boat to the Duncansby Stacks to see the local bird populations.
Prices on this site vary from £14-17 for one adult for tents and motorhomes/caravans.
For a cheap night camping in the Northwest corner of the mainland, head to the Duncansby Lighthouse and spend the night under the stars here for free. We wild camped here in our tent and were joined by a number of other vanlifers.
North Coast 500 Campsites – Sutherland and Assynt (North West Coast)
If you are driving anti-clockwise around the NC500, then this is where the route begins to get interesting. Don’t get me wrong, the northeast of Scotland is stunning, however, it pails in comparison to the rugged terrain, twisting, narrow roads and towering mountains of the west coast.
We highly recommend that as you reach this side of the country, start to slow your trip down a little and spend more time exploring the national parks, hidden coves and beaches, and the ancient castles that lie hidden around this part of the NC500.
The award-winning Sango Sands Oasis sits high above the spectacular, golden Sango Sands beach, one of the most popular north-west Scotland campsites. With an onsite bar and restaurant, stocked full of all the best Scotch Whisky, this cosy campsite is ideal for your stay in the north-west of Scotland.
Nearby sights and attractions include the ancient and fascinating Smoo Cave, Faraid Head, Cape Wrath and Loch Eriboll. From the vantage point of the campsite, it is also not uncommon to see the odd whale, seal and even bottlenose dolphin cruising past the bay.
Prices on Sango Sands are £9.50 per adult and additional costs for children and electricity.
Continuing south along the west coast of Scotland, you will eventually reach the peaceful spot of Scourie Caravan and Camping campsite. This campsite sits on the edge of Scourie Bay, with spectacular views towards Handa Island and beyond. This bay is extremely popular with sea kayakers as it is the ideal location to for camping north-west Scotland and to set off out to the open ocean.
The campsite will cost you a very reasonable £20 for 2 people, one car and an electrical hook-up. The laundry facilities are £2 for the washing machine and £1 for 30 minutes in the drier.
Located roughly 5-miles north of the busy fishing village of Lochinver is the family-run campsite know as Clachtoll Beach. Renowned for its stunning coastal views and beautiful mountain scenery, the Clachtoll Beach campground offers a selection of serviced and unserviced camping spots.
The campsite also has free showers, toilets and washing up facilities, including even hairdryers and curling tongs for the ladies. Clachtoll Beach is constantly striving to be an eco-friendly camping ground, with environmentally friendly washing powders and soaps used onsite. They also encourage campers to use eco-friendly chemicals in waste tanks when disposing of onsite as well.
Pitches on the Clachtoll Beach costs between £10-21 for a pitch and one adult.
North Coast 500 Campsites – Wester Ross (West Coast)
Nearing the end of our North Coast 500 adventure, the final region is the mountainous lands of Wester Ross. If you are driving anti-clockwise then you are truly saving the best for last as this region is an absolute treat. Wester Ross is home to our favourite sights on the NC500, from the wild camping spots near Ullapool to the winding, single-track roads of the Bealach na Ba.
Get ready for some serious beauty!
Broomfield Holiday Park
The only campsite in the town of Ullapool, Broomfield Campsite is perfectly located for those wanting to spend the night in the buzzing town centre. With loads of bars, restaurants and shops to explore and try along the seafront of Ullapool, we highly recommend this campsite for during your visit to the port town.
As the sun sets over the nearby mountains, the local pubs come to life with live music, great atmosphere and fantastic company of locals and tourists alike.
Prices at the Broomfield Holiday Park range from £17-21 for 2 adults in a tent, caravan and motorhome.
Badrallach Campsite, Bothy and Holiday Cottage
Sitting on the banks of the bonnie Loch Broom, the Barallach Campsite offers space for camping, a stone bunkhouse for backpackers and even a holiday cottage for a more luxurious trip. The campsite itself has 12 spaces for both vehicles and tents, with prices ranging from £5 per adult, £2.50 per car and £2.50 per caravan/campervan/tent.
It is possible to either share the bothy as a communal space for £8 per adult or alternatively you can rent the entire building with your friends for £100/night. The cottage is available all year round, with prices ranging from £43-58/night, with a 3 night minimum.
Inverewe Gardens Poolewe Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Sitting in the peaceful glen of Loch Ewe, you will find the unique Inverewe Gardens Campsite. Named after the tropical gardens that were opened in the mid-19th-century, the Inverewe Gardens campground is just walking distance from this botanist paradise.
Aside from the gardens, other sights in this peaceful part of the world include the small village of Poolewe, which has a small shop, tearoom and hotel, is the Rubha nan Sasan, an artillery stronghold that defended the mouth of Loch Ewe during WWII.
Prices at the Inverewe Club site range from £7-13/night for tents, motorhomes and caravans, with and without electricity.
Sands Caravan and Camping Park
Looking out towards the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides, the Sands Camping and Caravan Park is a beautiful place to camp. The location of this campsite is ideal for those who prefer a coastal view, with easy access to the town of Poolewe and the breathtaking mountains of Wester Ross.
Accommodation options here include touring pitches for caravans, campervans and tents, static wigwam cabins for those wanting something a little different, and luxurious cottage available for rental. Prices for these vary from £20-23 for two adults (depending on the season) for camping or £50-61 for the wigwam cabins for two people.
Kinlochewe Caravan Club Site
Hidden away on the towering slopes of Beinn Eighe, the peaceful setting of the Kinlochewe Caravan Clube Site makes it a very popular choice of accommodation in the Bein Eighe National Nature Reserve. With beautiful lochs, rugged mountains and an abundance of local wildlife, this campsite are far removed from the hustle of the main NC500 route.
Residents of the campsite have access to the onsite BBQ area, the shower, toilet and dishwashing facilities and the amenities of the local town, which is just a short walk away. Here you will find a shop, cafe, hotel and petrol station.
Prices on the Kinlochewe Caravan Site range from £9-11 for one adult in a tent, and £14-16 for one adult in a caravan/motorhome.
Our final campsite on the North Coast 500 route lies in one of our favourite parts of the country, the small village of Applecross. Far removed from the rest of the UK, this tiny village has only two entrances, one along the northern coast of the peninsula and one that wide its way directly up the ridge of Beinn Bhan, also known as the Bealach an Ba. This drive is definitely one of the highlights of the NC500.
The white-knuckle drive of the Bealach an Ba pass (translated to Pass of the Cattle) takes you up the highest road in Britain, reaching 2053ft, before dropping back to sea-level. It is not a route that is recommended for unsure or beginner drivers and is absolutely not suitable for large motorhomes or caravans. If you are any of these, please take the longer (but still very scenic) route around the north of the peninsula.
Once you reach Applecross, the campsite sits on the road that winds its way down from the Bealach an Ba viewpoint. The campsite sits above the town of Applecross and delivers spectacular views of the distant Isle of Skye and its iconic Cullin Mountains.
Prices at the Applecross Campsite range from £9-17 for a tent and £11-19 for a campervan/caravan.
North Coast 500 Guidebooks
Check out these recommended guidebooks for your road trip! [affiliate links]
- Charles Tait’s North Coast 500
- The Rough Guide to the North Coast 500
- The North Coast 500 map
- Rough Guide to the Scottish Highland’s and Islands
- The Wild Guide to Scotland
Where does the North Coast 500 start and finish?
The official starting point (and ending point) of the North Coast 500 circuit is at the beautiful city of Inverness. It is, of course, is entirely up to yourself where you wish to join the circle, so long as you make sure you see as much of it as possible. We recommend starting on the East coast and saving the incredible West coast for last.
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 the NC500?
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.
What Should I Pack for the NC500?
When it comes to packing for a trip along the NC500 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 7-day NC500 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.
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.
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.
Where Should I Stay on the NC500?
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.
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.
FAQs on the NC500
Where can I Camp on the North Coast 500?
There is a huge selection of campsites spread along the length of the North Coast 500 road trip, all of which are perfect for anyone wanting a comfortable sleep with showers, toilets and power. However, if you fancy a trip a little more on the wild side, it is legal to wild camp in Scotland and there are a lot of wild camping spots along the NC500 route as well.
Is Wild Camping Allowed in Scotland?
It is generally legal to wild camp around Scotland, with the exception of some specific areas due to bye-laws. For example, it is not legal to camp on the western shores of Loch Lomond due to overuse and lack of respect. When you are wild camping in Scotland, the most important thing to remember is Leave No Trace.
Where Can I Wild Camp NC500?
The best spots to wild camp on the NC500 are those listed in greater detail in this article:
- Dornoch – Dornoch Beach
- John O’Groats – Duncansby Lighthouse
- Thurso – Strathy Point Lighthouse
- Durness – Ceannabeine Beach / Village Trail
How Long Does it Take to Drive the North Coast 500?
A very popular and important question when it comes to the Nc500 driving experience. The answer to this is a simple one; it can take however long you want it to. Some people race around it in one day, and some people slow travel it for over a month.
For us, 7 days was the answer, with no two nights spent in the same place, although plenty of time to see lots of sights. You can pitch up in a spot here and explore the surroundings for two of three days before moving on, or you can make some quick pit stops at each one and get going.
Is the North Coast 500 Suitable for Motorhomes and Caravans?
In short, yes it is. Touring the NC500 in a caravan or motorhome is a very popular choice, given the freedom that it brings. Given the additional size that these vehicles possess, I can only say that you should take extra care while driving the roads around this route, especially on the western coast.
There is one road, however, that is NOT suitable for larger vehicles and that is the Bealach na Ba pass towards Applecross.
So there you have it, your ultimate guide to the campsites of the North Coast 500. If you have been to Scotland recently, let us know how you found it in the comments below. What were your favourite sights? What did you think of the castles? Where was your favourite stop? Let us know in the comments below.
If you are planning a full trip to Scotland, make sure you check out the rest of our guides and Scotland content to ensure a stress-free adventure. We will gladly answer any questions you have with regards to your trip, so either DM us or send us an email.
Don’t forget that sharing is caring! Be sure to share this article with your family and friends to let them know all about your big plans. Maybe even inspire them to visit the NC500 castles themselves! Catch up with us on social media and see what we are currently up to. Tag us in your photos from your North Coast 500 adventure on Instagram so that we can share them with the rest of our community.
- Wild Camping North Coast 500 – The 10 Best Places to Wild Camp
- Castles of the North Coast 500 – The Best of Scotland’s History
- North Coast 500 Budget – How Much Does the NC500 Cost?
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