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.
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Smoo Cave is an incredible sea cave that is must visit on the NC500 road trip. This natural sea cave is located on the north coast of Scotland in the small village of Durness and is one of the largest sea caves in the UK.
Smoo Cave is one of the most popular places to visit on the NC500 and this unique sight has the option of a free look at the cave or a paid tour taking you deeper into the cave.
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Smoo Cave Durness - Visit an Ancient Cave on the NC500
Smoo Cave is a magical place to visit. The size of this natural cave is just incredible and really shows the true power of nature. We would recommend giving yourself an hour to visit Smoo Cave and if you are planning to go on the tour, leave yourself 2 hours on your NC500 for this stop. In this post, we will go into more detail on the following frequently asked questions about Smoo Cave.
- What is Smoo Cave?
- Where is Smoo Cave?
- How to get to Smoo Cave?
- Why Should I go to Smoo Cave?
- When Should I go to Smoo Cave?
- Preparing for your trip to the NC500.
What is Smoo Cave
Smoo Cave is a natural sea cave in Sutherland on the NC500 route. It is made up of three parts; the large entrance, the first chamber with a large waterfall and the second chamber which sits at the back of the cave.
The cave is open all year round and is accessible via a staircase. If the weather is suitable during the peak season, tours are operated which take you further into the cave on a short boat ride. The tours are weather dependent and will not run if there has been poor weather as heavy rain can cause the water levels to change within the cave meaning it can often be closed during winter. Smoo cave was formed due to erosion caused by the sea over time.
The water at Smoo Cave is inaccessible unless you have paid for the tour that takes you further into the chamber. You will travel through the cave on a small boat and no swimming is allowed inside the cave.
Where is Smoo Cave
Smoo Cave sits one mile to the east of the small village of Durness on the north west coast of Scotland. It can be found of the A383. It is the main tourist attraction in this area and sits in between some of the most beautiful beaches on the north coast of Scotland. There are not many sign posts for Smoo Cave, however it can be found by following the stairs down beside the public toilets in Durness.
How to get to Smoo Cave
There is a small car park that sits above the cave at the public toilets. Unless you arrive early, this will most likely be very busy. There is further pay and display parking across the road
There is a path to get down to the cave from the car park which is quite steep at some parts and the surface can be rough underfoot. There is a banister that follows down the path, however this is not entirely accessible for those with mobility difficulties. The walk down to the cave only takes around 10 minutes from the car park.
Why Should I go to Smoo Cave?
Smoo Cave is a very impressive place to visit on the NC500. After you have walked down the path from the car park you will cross a short wooden bridge across the spill of tidal water where you will be faced with the entrance to Smoo Cave. The entrance into the cave is 15 metres high, 40 metres wide and 61 metres long. This makes it one of the largest sea caves in the UK. When you arrive inside this magnificent cave, follow the path along the covered wooden bridge and you will arrive at a viewing platform of an incredible 25 metre waterfall, dropping into an 8 metre deep pool.
Access into this front part of the cave is free and open all year round. If the tours are running when you are at Smoo Cave, we would highly recommend you join one. It lasts for around 20 minutes and costs £10 per adult and £5 per child. The tour starts with a short boat ride that takes you deeper into the cave, you have to climb into the boat therefore it may not be entirely accessible for everyone. We would recommend wearing waterproof clothing and footwear that you are comfortable walking over rocky and uneven ground in unpredictable lighting due to the shadows from the flood lights.
When Should I go to Smoo Cave?
If you are interested to go on the tour the you will need to visit between April and October We would recommend that even if you are driving the NC500 outside of these months, it is worth visiting Smoo Cave to see the incredible waterfall that may well be full flowing if there has been a lot of rain.
Due to the popularity of Smoo Caves, we would recommend visiting early to avoid the crowds. If you have a dog, you are also welcome to bring your pooch along as Smoo Cave is dog friendly.
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.
So there you have it, a complete guide to visiting Smoo Cave on the NC500. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know if you have been in the comments below.
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