Moderate
Difficulty level
Cycling
Activity (Bike)
7 Night, 8 Day
Duration

Scotland: North Coast 500 Bike

Seven nights; eight days of cycling on quiet, single-track paved roads along the new North Coast 500 route from Strathcarron to Inverness via John O’ Groats.

“This was a truly wonderful trip – fun, relaxing, physically challenging, and beautiful. And I’ve never giggled so much with 12 people I didn’t know!” – Louise M.



WHY THIS TRIP?

  • Challenging and rewarding cycling on quiet roads through the Scottish Highlands.
  • Authentic Scotch tastings.
  • Majestic peak of Beinn Bhan.
  • Iron Age ruins and ancient castles.
  • Tolkien’s middle earth in Durness.
  • Highest sea cliffs in Britain.

 

ROUTE EXPECTATIONS:

Requiring moderate fitness levels, these cover terrain with hills and valleys, and tend to include distances of 50-80km (30-50mi.)/day cycling, or 3-6 hours of walking per day. Most Freewheeling Adventures fall into this category, and are suitable for most ability levels.


Lots of climbing, and beautiful descents. Relaxed riders may be encouraged to rely on van support, or to rent e-bikes. Advanced riders will enjoy longer options.


Daily Distance:

  • DAY 1: Introductions, ~83 km
  • DAY 2: ~75 km
  • DAY 3: Up to ~95 km
  • DAY 4: ~61 km
  • DAY 5: ~83 km
  • DAY 6: ~72 km, or up to ~108 km
  • DAY 7: ~75 km
  • DAY 8: Inverness & Farewells

Scotland: North Coast 500 Bike – Elevation Profile

(Click image to enlarge)

 

Not sure about difficulties, and support level? Check out our What to Expect page!

 

Start: Inverness, Royal Highland Hotel, 09:00, day one.

Finish: Inverness Railway Station, Inverness, 10:00, day eight

Please contact us to arrange alternate plans, if necessary.

1

Inverness to Kerrysdale ~83km

Meet in Inverness at for a short transfer to Strathcarron where your adventure begins. Warm up your legs in the shadow of the majestic peak of Beinn Bhan, towering 3000 feet overhead. Rolling hills and winding single-track roads lead through Torridon, around the foot of the Beinn Eighe massif, and alongside Loch Maree before returning to the sea. Arrive at Kerrysdale, your resting place for the night, where you will be treated to lovely views of Strath Bay. LD (Meal inclusions provided for guided trips. Self-guided trips include breakfast only)

Shieldaig Lodge, Kerrysdale

2

Kerrysdale to Ullapool ~75km

Cycle past the sandy bays of Gairloch toward Poolewe, where you will find the splendid Inverewe Gardens, a private collection of sub-tropical plants and trees. Near Laide, around the halfway point of today’s route, is a 10km diversion to Mellon Udrigle Beach, a spectacular spit of white sand tucked between breathtaking rock formations. The afternoon path hugs the sparsely populated coast before veering inland along Little Loch Broom. Snaking through verdant pastureland framed by balding hilltops and craggy peaks, you’ll arrive at the Falls of Measach, a waterfall nestled in Corrieshalloch Gorge. From the falls you can transfer or ride to Ullapool, the largest town you’ll see for days. BLD

Waterside House, or, The Arch Inn, Ullapool

3

Ullapool to Kylesku, ~95km

Today’s long, hilly route can be shortened if preferred, though you should still expect some notable inclines. From Ullapool you will head into the wilds of the northwest. The high moorlands may seem like the end of the earth, and we suggest you take your time on these low-traffic passes to reflect on the beauty of open space, fresh air, and wandering livestock. Stop to ponder the ruins of Castle Ardvreck, a 16th century keep on the shores of Loch Assynt, before heading into the hills on a breathtaking coastal loop though the isolated hamlets of Clachtoll, Stoer, Nedd, and Kylesku. BLD

Kylesku Hotel, or, Kylesku B&B, Kylesku

4

Kylesku to Durness ~60km

Begin with one of the most isolated rides in Scotland, through the moorlands to the beautiful parish of Durness. This is the most sparsely populated region in Western Europe, considered by many to be the most lovely, and is one of the highlights of the tour. Home to towering sand dunes, traversable sea caves, and a golf course thought to be the most playable hidden gem in the UK, the compact community is well worth exploration. John Lennon came here as a boy, and some say the unique terrain of Durness inspired Tolkien’s vision for Middle Earth. Depending on how much time you choose to devout to discovering the area, you may decide to cycle an extra 65km or take a transfer to your inn. BD

Bettyhill Hotel, Bettyhill

5

Bettyhill to John O’Groats ~83km

Today you will ride to the end of the world! Well, the mainland of Britain at least. Striking east, following the fissured northern coastline, the route passes countless bays, hidden sandy coves, and the majestic Castle of Mey. Your destination is John O’ Groats, commonly known as the northernmost community in Britain, and the start/stop point for the famous John O’ Groats Land’s End journey. For a chance to admire stark sea cliffs at the true northernmost tip of land, take an optional 4km ride out to the lighthouse at Duncansby Head. When you’re finished exploring, transfer back to Bettyhill for another night by the sea.

Same lodging

6

Bettyhill to Dornoch, ~72km or up to ~108km

Cycle southward, deep into the interior of the highlands. Following the lush River Naver, famous for its salmon population, your route pushes into the wilds of the central moorlands. Shorter, and less hilly than other days, today’s route offers a slower pace, perfect for stretching your legs and taking in the stillness of this sparsely populated area. Finish in Lairg, “The Crossroads of the North”, and home of the largest single-day sheep sale in Europe. BLD

Dornoch Castle, Dornoch

7

Dornoch to Dingwall, ~75.5km

A challenging day of ascents awaits, beginning with the quiet, single-tracked road past Loch Buidhe to Bonar Bridge. Climb Struie Hill, where, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see Dornoch Firth in the distance as you cross the plateau. Finish in the historic town of Dingwall, whose castle dates from the 12th century. BLD

Tulloch Castle Hotel, Dingwall

8

Inverness and farewells

Following breakfast, transfer 25 minutes to Inverness. B

All details and pricing are subject to change without notice.


Guided: C 4985 (per person, double occupancy)

Includes 8 days, 7 nights, 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners, luggage handling, van and guide support, maps and route instructions, taxes


Self-Guided: C 4275 (per person, double occupancy)

Includes 8 days, 7 nights, 7 breakfasts, inn to inn luggage transfers, rider transfers as outlined in the plan, maps, route instructions taxes


Single Occupancy: 1195


Bike Rentals:

Hybrid-Fitness: 295

Aluminum Racing: 455

Carbon Racing: na

Electric-Assist: 555


All details and pricing are subject to change without notice.


2022 Guided dates:

  • May 16-23
  • Aug 15-22
  • Sep 12-19

2023 Guided dates:

  • May 15-22
  • Aug 14-21
  • Sep 11-18

Self-Guided available any dates, except for those listed above. New dates are also welcomed for guided or private departures.

Interested in custom or private departures?


Please see above for accurate pricing and inclusions, unless we have proposed a customized trip for you and those details are provided in your custom proposal.

1. Choose an advertised date to join a small group, or see our Join a Group page to see where groups are already forming.

2. Pick your own dates. We will confirm quickly, and are happy to talk with you as you make your choice. If you would like a private guided date, price remains the same as advertised if you have at least six. If you prefer self-guided, we usually only require two participants to initiate a new date at the advertised price, and can sometimes reduce prices for you if you have four or more.

 
PLEASE NOTE: Trip Cancellation Insurance is highly recommended. If this is not provided by your credit card or elsewhere, please let us know and we can provide recommendations.

More Reading:


There is a fresh feeling of clean air, water, and mind when you ride the less-traveled moorlands and coastlines of Scotland’s dramatic north. The isolated and profoundly scenic landscape, the ineffably polite and friendly inhabitants, and the echoes of the past among the ancient castles and Iron Age ruins will leave you with a deep appreciation for Scotland, as well as memories for a lifetime.

This challenging adventure starts in Inverness on the northern end of Loch Ness, where you can keep an eye out for Nessie in case she rises from the dark and mysterious depths. Riding north along the west coast you will pass sandy stretches of land that sometimes resemble the Caribbean more than northern Scotland. In Durness you will glimpse Tolkien’s middle earth, and the highest sea cliffs in Britain. Pedal through John O’ Groats, the northernmost community in Britain, before veering south and plunging deep through the interior of the highlands all the way back to Inverness, thus completing the beautiful North Coast 500 loop. The combination of charming villages, gorgeous landscapes, and abundant wildlife on this adventure is likely to inspire your life-long love affair with Scotland, if it hasn’t taken hold already!