Disclaimer – This post is written in collaboration with the North Coast 500. The opinions below, however, are ours and are in no way influenced by this.
The west coast of Scotland is one of the most incredible places in the world and sits highly on many peoples bucket list. It is where the powerful mountain range meets white sandy beaches, combined with the rugged cliffs that line the coast. It is one of those places that you will visit and long to return to for more.
From sea kayaking to hiking and trying local whisky you won’t fall short on things to do on the west coast of Scotland. In this post, we share our experience around the Torridon and Gairloch area of Wester Ross.
No time to read now? No problem, save a pin to your Pinterest board for later!
Things to do on the West Coast of Scotland - NC500 Road Trip
Visiting Scotland is a bucket list trip for many people around the world and the west coast of Scotland is not to be missed on this trip of a lifetime. Get planning your trip of a lifetime with this guide and witness some the most beautiful scenery in the world for yourself. In this guide, we will discuss the best time to go to Scotland as well as the following;
- Activities on the west coast of Scotland
- Where to stay on the west coast of Scotland
- Where to eat and drink on the west coast of Scotland
- How to prepare for your trip to Scotland.
Activities on the West Coast of Scotland
The west coast of Scotland is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Epic coastlines, stunning beaches, endless horizons and beautiful wildlife are what awaits you along the west coast of Scotland. During the spring and summer months the area becomes a hot spot for those wanting to experience Scotland’s true beauty in the glorious sunshine.
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.
Outdoor Adventures with Liquid Footprints
Liquid Footprints offer adventurous outdoor activities around Scotland, offering bespoke, outdoor experiences for adults and family groups. This small family-run business will travel to where you are in the country to help you discover and explore the amazing things to do. They offer tailor-made activities such as skiing, gorge scrambling, mountain guiding, sea kayaking, and canoeing.
On our trip to the west coast of Scotland, we were guided up Beinn Damh mountain by the owner of Liquid Footprints, Chris. As an experienced mountain guide, Chris took us through the majestic glen and up the steep side of Beinn Damh. This incredible experience led to fantastic views of the Torridon area from the summit.
Visit the Badachro Distillery
Badachro Distillery is a small family-run distillery in the town of Badachro, distilling gin whisky and vodka. These delicious flavours are inspired by nature, with the flowers and fruits being foraged locally by the owners themselves.
Badachro Distillery don’t offer any official tours, however, if you are in the area, you are welcome to stop by and have a look around between 10-4pm. There is the option to have a taste in the storehouse and purchase your favourites to take home as a souvenir from your trip to the west of Scotland.
Sea Kayaking with Gairloch Canoe and Kayak Centre
If you are wanting to see some wildlife on the west coast of Scotland, then you won’t want to miss a trip out with Gairloch Canoe and Kayak Centre. Leaving from Sheildaig Lodge, you will head out on a kayak, tandem or single depending on your preference. An experienced guide will talk about points of interest whilst on the lookout for curious wildlife.
On our kayak tour, we were lucky to see a colony of seals, sunbathing and swimming around, following our kayaks. You may also see a variety of bird species flying around and nesting on the rocks.
Learn the History of the Region at Pool House
The Pool House is a magnificent part of history on the west coast of Scotland which offers tours around the house where you will learn of its transformation through the eras.
On the tour, you will learn about the Pool House throughout the Victoria era and World War II, as well as find out why there are items such as a Chinese marriage bed and Victorian bathing machines, which are still present in this family home today.
On your tour of the Pool House, you will learn about the well known local Osgood Mackenzie, who created Inverewe Gardens and contributed to a lot to the local region.
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.
Wander through Inverewe Garden
A highlight on the west coast of Scotland is the Inverewe Garden, located in the area of Poolewe. This part of Scotland has a rich history and you will learn about Osgood who built these gardens and planted some of the trees that remain there today. There is a lot more to the Inverewe Garden than looking at plants and trees, as this bio-diverse ecosystem is home to species from all over the world that are growing in unique part of Scotland.
Enjoy a hot drink and some food from the cafe, where your biodegradable cups and plates will be broken down on site and turned into feriliser for the garden.
Where to Stay on the West Coast of Scotland
There are many unique accommodations on the west coast of Scotland. Whether you want to stay in a hotel, a cottage, or a quirky shepherd’s hut, the west coast of Scotland really does have it all. Below, we will go into further detail on some of the accommodations we have stayed at in the Gairloch and Torridon area of the west coast of Scotland.
A beautiful cottage situated in the Ben Damph Estate area of Torridon. Four people can sleep at Ferroch and enjoy extended views across Upper Loch Torridon from the cosy front room.
There is a fireplace to snuggle up to after a day walking in the beautiful surrounding area and if you are lucky, you may even get to see a herd of deer meandering around the open area in front of the cottage.
If you are looking for a good bag for your time exploring the West Coast of Scotland, 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.
The Gairloch Hotel is part of the Bespoke Hotels group and offers seafront views over Gairloch Bay. The comfortable bed in addition to the delicious breakfast spread makes for a very comfortable stay in the Gairloch area.
The Gairloch Hotel is relatively central and within walking distance to beaches and into the town of Gairloch.
Fionn Croft – Shepherd’s Hut
Located in the rural Scottish countryside, just outside of the small village of Gairloch is the small Shepherd’s Hut at Fionn Croft.
This accommodation looks small from the outside but when you step inside this cosy hut, it feels incredibly light and spacious with all the amenities you could need.
The bedroom area has the most stunning views out to sea and there is a log burner fire to give you all of the cosy vibes.
Where to Eat and Drink on the West Coast of Scotland
The west coast of Scotland boasts some of the most incredible foods in the country. If you are into seafood, there is a vast range of seafood options around this part of Scotland. If you are vegetarian or vegan, the options are expanding and from our experience, you will be able to ask the friendly staff to make your meal suited to you.
Tigh An Eilean
Tigh An Eilean is a small restaurant in the small town of Sheildaig, overlooking Loch Shieldaig. The vast choice on the menu paired with a beautiful sunset view makes for a delightful evening in a relaxed atmosphere. As the season picks up, their woodfired pizza oven comes into action and you can sit outside in the sunshine with a drink and a delicious pizza.
If you want to try some local Scottish cuisine, you can enjoy a plate of haggis neeps and tatties and we were pleased to see they had a vegetarian haggis neeps and tatties on the menu as well.
The Badachro Inn is a rustic traditional bar and restaurant overlooking Loch Gairloch. They offer a delicious selection of meals with an incredible view from the decking or the large glass windows in the conservatory area. As the spring and summer season picks up, so does their pizza van, Stag and Dough.
If you are wanting to explore the local area, Badachro Inn also offers e-bike rental and self-catering accommodation onsite.
The Old Inn Gairloch
The Old Inn Gairloch is located across the road from Gairloch Harbour, also known as Charleston Harbour. There is a great selection of unique meals in the restaurant and we can highly recommend the focaccia pizza. If you enjoy seafood, they offer a great selection of seafood platters all caught locally.
There is a large outdoor seating area which will be lovely in the warm summer months and a cosy fireplace indoors for the winter.
The Pool House is a historic house on the west coast of Scotland offering tours and refreshments. The cafe area has a cosy fireplace and offers a delicious selection of hot and cold drinks as well as light bites and cakes.
The GALE Centre is a community hub in Gairloch serving delicious hot food and drink and cakes. All the money made in the GALE Centre goes back into the community. There are spectacular views out to sea and over the bay from the GALE Centre making it a great place to stop off and enjoy a bite to eat.
They also sell handmade goods and local produce in the GALE Centre.
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.
Struggling to plan your North Coast 500 road trip?!
Complete with all of the best sights, where to eat and stay, campervan facilities (water points and waste disposal), sample itineraries, and and so much more, this guide is a must-have for your next trip!
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 Spaceship Rentals.
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.
It is also important to stay hydrated, especially if you are out exploring in the marvellous landscape of Scotland. We use Water to Go water bottles to fill up with water from running streams when we are hiking.
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?
We 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.
So there you have it, all of the best things to do along the west coast of Scotland. If you have visited the this part of Scotland 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 west coast of Scotland 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.
- Best Beaches on the West Coast of Scotland – You Cannot Miss These
- Unmissable Things to do on the NC500 Route
- 7-day North Coast 500 Itinerary – FREE, Detailed and Unforgettable!
This article may contain affiliate links that provide us with a small income. For more information read our Affiliate page.