Interested in an EV road trip? With the best photo spots? During my 5 months EV road trip through Europe I worked out some itineraries which could also work for you. This time I am going to introduce THE NC500 FROM WICK TO ULLAPOOL!
To see the exact position of a photo spot, you can click on the travel blog entry which is linked to every spot. This will open the travel journal which is combined with an interactive map.
The whole 5 month trip you can find here (it is in real time with live tracking):
This article is a must for anyone looking for the best photo spots along the NC 500.
The NC 500 of Scotland was part of our 143 days EV road trip.
Find out where to find rapid electric vehicle chargers when driving the NC 500 so you don't get range anxiety while enjoying the beauty of northern Scotland.
There are not many EV chargers but those are strategically positioned along the NC500 - if you know where to find them, your EV road trip won't be a problem.
If you don't like reading or want to get inspired before reading - you can watch here the video with the highlights:
Charging places along the NC500
The charging situation along the NC500 is ok - as long as all chargers are working...
There aren't many EV chargers, but these few are strategically positioned along the NC 500.
The number of chargers is sufficient to be able to drive the NC 500 without range anxiety.
Please note: you have to be ChargePlace Scotland (CPS) client (in 2023 that is, I think this will change in the near future) to be able to charge in Scotland. Make sure you order a RFID card at least 3 weeks ahead of your trip!
Often they have the old CPS chargers and the correct order of authorisation, plugging in and pushing the start button matters. Unfortunately every charger has a different order and the instructions don't tell you the correct one.
But so far we were able to start every charger (which was not marked as out of order by CPS itself), even when users of ZapMap signalled a faulty one. Best to have both apps in use (and the CPS RFID card, the app doesn't work with the old chargers).
The best and most reliable RAPID EV chargers (50 kW or more) we found, are in:
Vegan Food along the NC500
Usually Scottish gastro pubs, restaurants or cafés won't let you down completely if you ask for a vegan option. But unfortunately it will often be the famous hummus sandwich or at most a vegan burger.
The Indian takeaway in Wick called Bombay Spice (https://goo.gl/maps/x1uQMZbDE2dzNrfT6) is really tasty and if you aks for vegan they prepare a selection of vegan curries for you.
At John o' Groats you can eat vegan and charge your car 5m away. Very convenient! (See below for more information).
There is a lunchtime cafe at the Balnakeil Craft Village called Meet and Eat. They have quite a number of vegan options (see below).
And in Ullapool they have a pizza van with absolutely delicious handmade pizza and vegan cheese for you! It's called "Oak & Grain" (https://goo.gl/maps/rMrQnbqBnyfNgdiD7).
Best Photo Spots FROM WICK tO ULLAPOOL
>>>>> click on the travel blog entry to see the exact location on a map plus photos <<<<<
1. OLD WICK
Discover one of Caithness' most striking medieval sites, perched on a narrow promontory, flanked by towering cliffs.
There is a very small car park for 3-4 cars. From there it is a short and easy walk in direction castle to the viewpoint.
Be careful - the drops are sheer and if the wind is blowing it might become dangerous.
2. NOSS HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
If you park in the Noss Head car park (very small road with lots of potholes...) you can walk to the cliffs west of the lighthouse. Walking time 10 minutes and very easy. You'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the rugged coastline and the lighthouse towering above it all.
3. CASTLE SINCLAIR GIRNIGOE
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a complex of ruined stone structures built and modified over a 200-year period by the Sinclair earls of Caithness, historically one of northern Scotland’s most powerful families.
Today there is not a lot left of the former beauty. But exactly this makes it very charming, especially the position on top of steep cliffs and sea stacks.
Early morning or late night is the best to photograph this ruined castle. If possible, time your visit with high tide, as this looks especially dramatic with water around the stacks.
You can park at the Noss Head car park. Walk down an easy walk of 10 minutes to the viewpoint (just right of the castle along the cliffs).
You may combine this spot with Noss Head Lighthouse, see above.
Keiss is a bit off the beaten track which makes it a nice location to avoid crowds.
It has enough to offer to keep you busy with your camera for hours.
There is the tidal Keiss Harbour and warehouse which was built in 1831.
Park at the harbour and take the coast path towards the castle.
You will pass Keiss beach, where you can watch many seals during low tide!
And last but not least the ruined Keiss castle.
The castle is a few hundred metres north of Keiss harbour and you can take nice shots from the beach.
5. JOHN O' GROATS
John o'Groats is definitely not a place for those seeking tranquility. It swarms with people taking selfies in front of the famous signpost or the colorful houses.
The small coastal village is the starting point for many who embark on the famous "end-to-end" journey to England's Land's End, some 876 miles away.
If you want to take some photos without people, go there early in the morning.
6. DUNCANSBY HEAD
Duncansby Head is the real north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland, and probably exceeds John o' Groat's distance from Lands End by a good mile or two.
Following a well trodden path over the highest part of the surrounding landscape, behind the lighthouse.
Your first highlight will be cliffs full of seabirds, including Puffins (from May to August).
Walk further South along the coast path on top of the cliffs and some stunning views will be revealed - the Duncansby Stacks and the Thirle Door. I recommend to walk even further, although it is a bit of a steep path, to admire the stacks from both sides.
High tide is a good time and so is early morning or late evening.
Take your tripod and your ND filters to take some long exposures.
The effort is really worth it, promised!
7. CASTLE OF MEY
In 1952, HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother saw what was then known as Barrogill Castle while staying at the House of the Northern Gate on Dunnet Head, a short distance to the west. Despite its poor condition, Her Majesty fell in love with it and purchased the castle and set about renovating and restoring both the castle and its gardens and parklands. She also restored the castle's original name changing Barrogill Castle back to The Castle of Mey.
It is a nice short stop to admire the gardens and the castle itself.
8. DUNNET HEAD
The most northerly point in mainland Britain, Dunnet Head has stunning sea cliffs, a lighthouse and coastal grassland. These are home to puffins, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags and cormorants.
Walk to the west along the coast and just wait patiently for your feathered models.
Pass the waiting time by taking some photos of the lighthouse on the cliffs.
9. HOLBURN HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
Just next to the ferry terminal of Scrabster is a cute little lighthouse.
A short walk along a private road from Thurso Lifeboat Station leads to the now disused lighthouse at Holburn Head. It is an unusual shaped square white tower, tapered at the top towards the lantern.
Go uphill behind the lighthouse to see the best viewpoints. If you are lucky - a Northlink ferry will pass the lighthouse while you are shooting!
10. LOCH LOYAL
The first real Highland Loch on the tour!
And it won't disappoint.
Coming from Tongue and driving the A836 along the Loch, you will pass a quaint bothy with a majestic tree next to it.
Sitting isolated on the moorland near the village of Tongue, Lettermore is the name given to this abandoned cottage. Leading up towards Loch Loyal and Ben Loyal, the cottage is believed to have been a former bothy that was left to ruin but it is now a perfect photo location.
If you continue driving along the Loch, you will see a boathouse with lovely mountains in the background. Take your long lens and an ND filter to take your shot!
Drive the causeway of Tongue and stop probably every other yard to capture the beauty of the mountains, especially of course Ben Hope.
12. MOINE HOUSE
This ruined travellers shelter sits abandoned in a desolate bog.
The house sits on the edge of a vast bog that covers much of Sutherland and Caithness, known as Flow Country. The long stretch of bog between the Kyle of Tongue and Loch Hope was often referred to as A’ Mòine, simply meaning “The Moss.”
This area was difficult and dangerous for travellers to traverse until the 1830s when the Duke of Sutherland had a road constructed. The Mòine House was designed along the edge of this road as a shelter for travellers at the halfway point of the roadway.
Although known for taking in weary travelers, the tiny house was also a family home. Around the late 19th-century, an old forester and his family of eight children and grandchildren lived at the residence.
It was probably a bit crowded with travellers on top of that...
To take the best photos, gain a little distance to the house and get your long lens out of your bag.
On a clear day, Ben Hope will make the perfect backdrop.
12. ARD NEAKIE
Ard Neakie is a peninsula jutting out into Loch Eriboll connected to the mainland only by a thin isthmus of sand linking it to the east shore.
The photo spot is easy enough to reach, it is only a convenient stop along the A838.
An other very easy spot is the white Eriboll church along the A838.
Try to take the dry walls or the road as leading lines.
14. CEANNABEINNE BEACH
Sited underneath Beinn Ceannabeinne, a mountain with an elevation of three hundred and eighty three metres, is the beautiful sand of Ceannabeinne. A steep grassy slope gives access to this stretch and when the tide is fully out access to little remote inlets are easily available.
There are quite a few spots, the best (for my personal liking) are from the top (along the road) to oversee the whole beauty of the beach.
15. SANGO SANDS
In the far north is a bay of golden sands and clear, turquoise waters. This is Sango Sands Beach in Durness. Also known as Sango Bay, the picturesque beach is surrounded by craggy cliff walls and interesting sea stacks.
A perfect photo opportunity are the steps leading up to a look out on top of a dune.
To get to Balnakeil Bay you simply take the minor road running west out of Durness.
The first thing you see is the substantial bulk of Balnakeil House. This was built between 1720 and 1744, on top of the remains of the earlier summer palace of the Bishops of Caithness.
On the other side of the road is a gate leading to the churchyard and remains of Balnakeil Church. With views extending over Balnakeil Bay to Faraid Head, there can be few more spectacular final resting places. The church itself was built in 1619, on the site of a much older church. The church went out of use in 1814 and is now roofless and ivy-clad.
As you return to Durness from Balnakeil Bay, keep a look out on your right for the collection of old military buildings that have for many years housed the Balnakeil Craft Village. This is the home and workplace of a number of artists, craftspeople, and their families.
You see - there are many photo opts!
17. LOCH STACK
If you love lonesome cottages or bothies - this is THE spot for you!
I don't think I know a more photogenic bothy as the one at the shore of Loch Stack.
If you drive a bit further down, you will also find a photo worthy boat house.
For my personal liking - I prefer this place on a gloomy day with heavy clouds. It just fits better to the atmosphere than purple sunsets or blue skies... But whatever you prefer - it is well worth a visit with your camera!
Both spots are super easy reachable, you can park your car just next to the view points along the A838.
This crofting community is a bit off the NC500 and worth the short detour.
It offers fantastic coastal sceneries with little bays, sea lochs, hills, harbours - and very friendly locals!
19. STOER LIGHTHOUSE
Stoer Lighthouse is a fantastic place for the early morning sun - or during a storm with dramatic waves and clouds.
You can drive all the way to the lighthouse.
From there walk the coast path to the north (right of the lighthouse) until you found your favourite spot (there a a few which are worth to take photos of).
It is a bit steep, but only 10 - 15 minutes walk, so absolutely doable, even with heavy camera equipment and tripod.
Be careful - if you are too late and it is a sunny day, you will have to much shade for your photos.
20. HERMIT'S CASTLE
Hermit's Castle in Achmelvich is believed to be the smallest castle in Europe.
The castle was constructed in the 1950s by David Scott, an architect from Norwich, England, who was drawn to the rural nature of the Highlands. The castle stands around seven to eight feet tall.
It’s believed Scott spent six months in secrecy on the project, buying materials from local fisherman and bringing it to the lonely outcrop in his open-top boat. After this herculean effort, it is said that the architect only spent a single night in the building, before vanishing back to Norwich never to return.
You can park at the public car park and take the walk to the castle via the public foot path to the peninsula beyond the campsite. The castle is small and blends in perfectly with the rocks around it, so many people miss it.
21. LOCH ASSYNT ISLANDS
The pine trees on the islets of Loch Assynt are a well known and often photographed attraction.
Good accessibility by car and availability of parking spaces right next to the photo spot makes it a great opportunity to go there early or late. Or on a rainy day, which is the best time to capture the moody atmosphere of the place.
Bring your tripod and ND filters to smooth the water!
22. CALDA HOUSE AND ADVRECK CASTLE
One of the most photographed sceneries in that area: the ruined Calda House and the Advreck Castle.
Today Advreck Castle is only a finger of stone, pointing accusingly at the sky. But it has once been a three storey tower house. The castle dates back to about 1490 and was attacked and captured by the Mackenzies of Assynt in 1672. In 1726 they replaced it with the more modern Calda House.
Calda House burned down in 1737 and before the Mackenzies were able to rebuild it, their estates had been seized by the Crown for their support of the losing side in the 1745 uprising. It has remained a ruin ever since.
This is the perfect spot for a sunrise shot.
There is a car park and from there you can walk down to the Loch and castle within 5 minutes.
Calda House stands directly next to the road, but if there are some reflections it is also nice to shoot it with the Loch (and the reflections) in the foreground. Often it is too windy though, so keep your fingers crossed!
23. STAC POLLAIDH
Leave the NC500 for a few hours and take the small road through Inverpolly, direction Summer Isles.
It is supposed to be one of the most scenic road Scotland has to offer!
The stack (or hill, but not high enough to be a mountain) Stac Pollaidh will accompany you. There are numerous photo opportunities along the road, with the stack clearly visible in the background. Just be creative and find nice foregrounds and leading lines like the road, the lake, some trees, rocks, etc.
23. RHUE LIGHTHOUSE
Ok, this is more a beacon than a tall lighthouse, despite its name. But it is still a beautiful photo opportunity!
The whitewashed beacon, guarding the spectacular coastline of Loch Broom, stands in an enviably scenic position.
There are some water pools around the lighthouse, try to capture the reflection!
There is a small car park above the lighthouse and the walk only takes 15 minutes down (not very steep, easy walk), but it is very boggy and wet, so best to take your Wellies with you!
The NC500 is definitely a very interesting road trip and there are so many fascinating places to stop!
For me, the northern part, which I describe here in this blog, is the best part of the tour for photographers.
However, be aware that in summer it can get very, very crowded and you will see camper vans and tents everywhere. That might spoil the fun a bit. If you don't like crowds, I recommend going there out of season.
I hope you liked my summary of the (for me) best photo spots between Wick and Ullapool.
And don't forget to watch the video!
Thank you for reading!
More of my vegan EV adventures you can read here: