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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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

Table of Contents

puffin cove from above

Where to Stay Near Puffin Cove?


Pentland View Croft  is an accommodation located near Melvich with the most beautiful sea views and only a 10 minute walk from the beach. 

Read more about Pentland View Croft and book your stay here.

Tigh-na-Clash Guesthouse is an accommodation located in Melvich, near Puffin Cove that has a shared lounge, garden and free WiFi. 

Read more about Tigh-na-Clash Guesthouse and book your stay here.

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.

Please note that this parking is no longer available for Puffin Cove.

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If you are looking for a good bag for your time exploring Puffin Cove, we can highly recommend the Wandrd Bag PRVKE 41L if you are carrying camera equipment around. If you are looking for a smaller backpack, The Nest by Tropicfeel is one of the most comfortable bags I have ever owned and perfect for a day of exploring.

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.


Your trip to Scotland will be a lot more comfortable with a midge net and midge spray. These little biting bugs can be enough to ruin a trip if you don’t have the equipment to protect yourself from them. A repelling candle can also be helpful if you are sitting oustide.

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.


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Destination North Coast Map

Make sure you have all the resources you need to make the most of your trip to the North Coast of Scotland. Our Destination North Coast Map is the perfect addition to any traveller’s toolkit. With detailed information on all the best spots, along the NC500, this map is your ultimate guide to exploring the rugged beauty of Scotland’s north coast.

Read more about this map here.

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 for 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.

Where to Stay on the NC500

There is a wide range of accommodations around the NC500 route, so you will not be short on options. Depending on how long you are spending in each area will depend on how long you spend in that location. It is worth bearing in mind that some accommodations will require you to stay a minimum number of nights so it is worth researching this when you are planning your North Coast 500 itinerary.

Our new book North Coast 500 Where to Eat and Stay shares the best places to eat and stay around the NC500 and includes whether places are dog friendly, accessible, have wifi and EVC ad whether they cater to dietry requirements.

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.

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.

achmelvich beach

What Should I Pack?

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 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 (men’s / women’s).

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.

We would also recommend taking our NC500 guidebooks with you on your journey. This will help you plan your itinerary and ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the best places to go on the NC500. Our Destination NC500 guidebook is well paired with NC500 Where to Eat and Stay and you can buy the combo here.

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.

What is the Best Travel Insurance for the North Coast 500

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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