Puffin Cove is a must see attraction on the NC500, located on the border of Caithness and Sutherland. This is a small cove, at the end of a dirt track and is the home to many puffins on the NC500.

Puffin Cove is one of the relatively undiscovered things to do on the NC500 and if you didn’t know where you were going, it would be easy to miss it. This complete guide to Puffin Cove, will make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Puffins on Lunga Island Scotland

Puffin Cove - A Hidden Attraction on the NC500 Road Trip

Puffin cove is one of the best things to do on the NC500 and we can guarantee that if you love nature, it will be a highlight on your NC500 road trip. In this post we discuss how to get to to Puffin Cove as well as the following

  • What is Puffin Cove?
  • Where is Puffin Cove?
  • How to get to Puffin Cove?
  • Why Should I go to Puffin Cove?
  • When Should I go to Puffin Cove?
  • Preparing for your trip to the NC500
puffin cove from above

What is Puffin Cove?

Puffin Cove is the home to the UK’s largest puffin colony, with 3,500 pairs of puffins being recorded in there in 2019. It is a small cove where puffins, razorbills and other seabirds go to breed during the summer months. Puffin Cove is one of the more undiscovered sights on the NC500 that is definitely worth a visit. Photographing puffins is a great way to collect memories of this incredible spot.

rocks stacked at puffin cove

Where is Puffin Cove?

Puffin Cove is located on the north coast of Scotland between Thurso and Tongue. It sits on the border of Caithness and Sutherland. To get to Puffin Cove, you will need to follow a grassy moorland path towards the cliff and climb down a rocky path towards the small bay.

If you are camping around the NC500, there is plenty of open moorland that may make a nice wild camping spot on the NC500. Remember to wild camp responsibly if you do choose to camp here.

Puffin Cove is inaccessible to those with poor mobility and would not be suitable for prams or wheelchairs. We would advise wearing wellie boots or waterproof hiking boots to walk to Puffin Cove and give yourself an hour for this sight.

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How to get to Puffin Cove?

There are no sign posts for Puffin Cove, and it is quite a bit off the beaten track. The car park for Puffin Cove is right in between the border of Caithness and Sutherland. It is a very small car park with room for no more than 5 cars. If vans are parked up there will be considerably less room. We parked in a nearby lay by and cycled to the car park. Locking our bikes up on the sign at the side of the road.

Follow the path through the long grass towards the coast for around half a mile. If there has been recent rainfall you can expect this to be extremely muddy and boggy underfoot so make sure you are wearing clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

You will notice the path forking off, take the path to the left and follow it down the hill. Again, if there has been wet weather then this part can be very slippy to get down. 

Follow the path down the hill to the bottom and you will arrive in Puffin Cove.

Why Should I go to Puffin Cove?

Puffin Cove was a highlight of our NC500 trip and a place you must add to your NC500 itinerary. As we mentioned above, it can be a bit of a trek down, especially if it is wet underfoot, however this just makes it more worth it.

When you reach the bottom you are in an isolated cove with the sound of the waves echoing off the rocks, a waterfall falling nearby and seabirds squawking overhead.

When Should I go to Puffin Cove?

If you are wanting to see puffins at Puffin Cove, then we would definitely recommend visiting between the months of April and August. This is when the puffins, and other seabirds, come to breed.  Puffins are very small birds and can be difficult to see from a distance so to get a closer look, it would be worth bringing a pair of binoculars or a good zoom camera to get a glimpse of these beautiful birds.

Below is an example of the ground you can expect if you visit after it has been raining.

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.

Read more planning tips for the North Coast 500 in our full guide.

 

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.

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Bunk Campers over here.

Passing Place by the Bealach na Ba Pass.

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.

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 A7iii Mirrorless Camera

Main Lens – Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM 

Zoom Lens – Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8

Camera Stand – Neewer Portable 177cm

Vlogging Camera – Sony HX90v

Action Camera – GoPro Hero 8 Black

Drone Camera – DJI Mavic Pro 2

Camera Bag – Lowepro Flipside 300 AW

 

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.

camping in scotland

What is the Best Travel Insurance?

I know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.

To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.

Get a quote for your travel insurance right here and get covered!

So there you have it, a complete guide to visiting Puffin Cove. 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.

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