The North Coast 500, more commonly known as the "NC500", is a 516-mile long scenic route that winds its way around the north coast of Scotland. It was officially launched in 2015 and has quickly gained popularity, becoming one of the most popular road trips in the world. The route starts and ends in Inverness, the capital city of the Scottish Highlands, and takes you through some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the country, including rugged mountains, white sandy beaches, and remote fishing villages.
If you're a keen landscape photographer, the North Coast 500 is a must-visit destination. The route is packed with breathtaking vistas, so grab your camera and prepare to be amazed! In this guide, I'll take you on a virtual journey along the North Coast 500, revealing the 30 most beautiful photo spots that I've discovered along the way. Along with each location, I'll also provide directions and links to maps, so you can easily plan your own photography adventure.
Clythness Lighthouse, Lybster Lighthouse, Helmsdale, Dunrobin Castle, Tarbat Ness Point, and Loch Glass
Photo spot map overview
Exploring the NC 500: A Guide to Getting There
The NC500 officially starts and ends in Inverness, which is easy to get to by plane.
Inverness Airport is well-connected with major international hubs, so you can fly in from all over the world.
The main connection airports are Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted in London, along with Manchester and Birmingham.
There are also direct flights to Dublin and Amsterdam, which is handy if you're coming from Europe.
Once you're in Inverness, it's best to pick up a rental car to navigate the NC500.
If you're driving yourself to Inverness, you'll need to make a long haul up north through Scotland. Here are some rough estimates of driving times, but keep in mind that traffic can be a nightmare in the UK, so it's always best to factor in plenty of breaks.
Dover Ferry Port or Eurotunnel: 11 hours
London: 10 hours
Manchester: 7 hours
Edinburgh: 3 hours
Plymouth: 11 hours
If you're coming from the Orkney Islands, you can catch a ferry to Scrabster, and from the Isle of Lewis, you can hop on a ferry to Ullapool. This is a great option if you want to extend your
road trip and explore some of the other Scottish Isles.
I have also written photo guides for Orkney and the Isle of Lewis and Harris, have a look!
London North Eastern Railway (LNER): LNER offers the quickest direct train services from London Kings Cross to Inverness, with a journey time of around 8 hours and 30 minutes.
ScotRail: ScotRail operates direct trains between Edinburgh Waverley and Inverness, with a journey time of around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
TransPennine Express (TPE): TPE offers direct trains between Manchester Piccadilly and Inverness, with a journey time of around 7 hours and 30 minutes.
Once arrived in Inverness by train, it is best to get your rental car to discover the NC 500 as public transport to the Highlands is very limited.
Get inspired with even more photos in the YouTube video about the NC 500!
How Much Time Do You Need for a NC500 road trip?
The amount of time you need for a NC500 road trip depends on how much you want to see and do.
Here are some general guidelines:
Quick trip: If you're only interested in seeing the highlights, you could do the NC500 in as little as 5 days.
This would involve driving around the route and stopping at a few of the most popular photo spots.
Scenic road trip: If you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery, you could spend 10-14 days on the NC500.
This would give you enough time to explore the smaller towns and villages, go hiking with your camara in the mountains, and visit some of the less known photo spots.
Ultimate road trip: If you really want to immerse yourself in the Highlands, you could spend 3 weeks on the NC500.
This would give you enough of time to explore every photo spot of the route and really get to know the region.
Finding the Perfect Accommodation
Lots of people choose to explore the NC500 in a camper van or tent, and it's a fantastic way to connect with the Highlands and get off the beaten path.
However, if you're planning to do this in the peak season, July and August, I'd strongly advise against it! The sheer number of camper vans can make the single-track roads incredibly congested,
and campsites are often packed to the rafters.
Off-season, though, it's an absolute dream, and even has a touch of romance to it (just don't forget your warm blankets!).
If you're not the camping type, there are plenty of B&Bs and self-catering cottages dotted along the route.
But as the NC500 is becoming increasingly popular, it's crucial to book your accommodation well in advance, even if you're traveling off-season!
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
Located on the western coast of Scotland, Plockton is a picturesque fishing village nestled on the shores of Loch Carron. Renowned for its stunning scenery, charming atmosphere, Plockton has earned the nickname "The Jewel of the Highlands."
Plockton's idyllic setting, with its sheltered bay, palm trees (a rare sight in Scotland), and surrounding mountains, has attracted visitors for centuries. The village's white houses reflected in
the tranquil bay is a great photo spot to start your NC 500 adventure.
Just park up at the Harbour Car Park, take your tripod and camera, and get ready to capture those stunning reflections of the houses in the water with the mountains in the background.
2. Russel burn
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
Capturing the perfect shot at Applecross Passroad with a dramatic photo opportunity that's easily accessible.
Especially on a stormy day with gloomy clouds, the area offers a picturesque view.
An old stone bridge crosses the Russel Burn, forming small waterfalls that make for an outstanding composition.
To capture the perfect shot, frame the bridge, the burn, and the distinct shape of the munros in the background through a wide-angle lens. Use a tripod and ND filter to enhance your photo's appeal.
To park, there is a small layby close to the photo spot.
Overcast skies make it possible to shoot all day long.
3. Way of the cattle
Links to parking, viewpoint, more photos with print options and icons for best daytime and level of difficulty.
The Way of the Cattle, better known as Bealach na Ba, is a legendary route through the mountains of the Applecross Peninsula in Wester Ross. This stunning pass, soaring to an elevation of 2,053 feet (626 meters), is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and hair-raising driving conditions. In fact, the Bealach na Ba is often hailed as the "most scenic road in Britain," attracting photographers and motorists alike.
From this vantage point, you'll get a bird's-eye view of the numerous hairpin bends.
Simply park your car at the small layby and venture down the road a bit. You'll find a small hillock where you can climb up for an even more elevated view of the road.
For the best shots, aim for the afternoon sun or sunset, when the light hits the mountains and road just right.
Along the beautiful Loch Shieldaig, on the Applecross Peninsula, stands the iconic 'Red Roofed Cottage,' a much-loved subject for shutterbugs worldwide.
Its vibrant red roof pops against the verdant grass and shimmering waters, while the towering Torridon mountains provide the perfect backdrop.
There is a a lay-by along the narrow road near the cottage to park your car
Walk to the cottage and aim to capture the path leading to the house as your leading line.
Opt for afternoon light or sunset for a golden shot, but don't be afraid to try after a rain shower on an overcast day, as the humidity will intensify the colours.
5. Loch Torridon
There are plenty of stunning views of Loch Torridon, each one more captivating than the last. But this one stood out to me because it offers an almost symmetrical panorama, especially when the lake's glassy surface mirrors the majestic Munros behind them.
As you head from Shieldaig, you'll spot a small car park on your left-hand side. Park up and venture back a bit along the road, keeping an eye out for a composition that sparks your creativity. You might need to squeeze through a gap in the trees or bushes to find the perfect spot.
As the view faces north, you can catch the best light pretty much all day long.
However, wind is the key factor here, as this shot really shines when the reflections are on point.
So, if you have the flexibility, plan your visit for a windless day.
6. glen docherty viewpoint
This viewpoint is a must-visit for capturing the quintessential Scottish landscape: a winding road snaking through majestic Munros, leading to the shimmering expanse of Loch Maree.
Park up just beside the viewpoint and grab your telephoto lens to compress the scene, bringing the lake, road, and valley closer together.
Sunset is the golden time for this spot, and you might even be lucky enough to capture light trails from passing cars. I've seen some incredible photos like this, but I was there in the off-season when there were no cars around. If you're visiting in summer, you shouldn't have any trouble getting some light trails, as traffic tends to be heavier then.
7. Loch Maree
Loch Maree is one of my personal favourites among the many stunning lakes in the North Highlands.
Its photographic potential is immense, as the sample photo above demonstrates just a fraction of its possibilities. With lone trees standing sentinel, majestic Munros as a backdrop, and lush green vegetation all around, you could spend hours experimenting with different compositions.
And the best part is, this photographic paradise is easily accessible. There's a convenient car park right at the lakeshore. Simply take a stroll along the water's edge and discover your perfect shot. If you're lucky, the calm waters will reward you with a mesmerising reflection.
For capturing the essence of Loch Maree, afternoon light and sunset are the ideal times to visit.
Another great viewpoint of Loch Maree is near Poolewe, offering a picturesque panorama of a traditional Scottish farm nestled amidst the shimmering lake and majestic mountains.
Pull over in a layby on the small road leading to the farm and put on your wellies for a walk onto the boggy Scottish moorland. Seek out a vantage point that captures the farm and the lake in
Don't forget your telephoto lens, as the scenery lies a bit further afield.
For the best light, aim for evening or sunset.
9 . Fain Bothy
The Fain Bothy, also known as Fainmore House, is a traditional bothy with a bright red roof, nestled amidst the boggy Scottish Highlands, surrounded by awe-inspiring Munros. It's a classic shot that captures the essence of the Scottish Highlands.
The bothy is conveniently located right next to a road where you can also park. But be warned, if you park too close, your car might end up in the frame!
Put on those wellies and venture into the boggy moorland for the best composition.
The ideal spot is somewhere behind the bothy, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
And don't forget to experiment with different angles. The mountains stretch out in every direction, so each spot will yield a unique perspective.
As for the best time to visit, I personally prefer an overcast or even rainy day. The bleak atmosphere adds a touch of drama and authenticity to the shot.
10. Rhue Lighthouse
Granted, this isn't the tallest lighthouse you'll ever see, but it's still a charming photo op, especially if you utilise the petite tidal pools for reflections. The lighthouse is close to Ullapool, making it a lovely photo stop when you're staying in the only real town for miles and stocking up on groceries for your road trip.
Head there early evening or sunset.
You can park up the cliff, there's an official car park (no overnight stay though).
Don't follow the private road down as it will end abruptly, instead take the small trampled path through the grass down towards the lighthouse. It will be muddy and wet, so waterproof shoes with good grip will come in handy.
After a 15-minute walk down, you'll reach the lighthouse.
Walk on the rocks and find some compositions where tidal pools and rocks will create a pleasing foreground. A wide-angle lens will be essential.
Be careful, the rocks are very slippery and have sharp edges.
11. Stac Pollaidh
Stac Pollaidh, a truly distinctive peak, stands tall and proud in the North Highlands. The best shots of this mountain can be captured from the road that winds along Loch Lurgainn.
You can either use the road as a leading line or venture down the short path to the shore to incorporate rocks and water into the foreground. Either way, Stac Pollaidh's unique shape will steal the show!
Park your car in the small car park and scout for the perfect spot either along the road or on the path leading down to the shore. The path is easy to walk down, taking just a few minutes. If you're lucky, you might even catch the peak reflecting in the water!
There are plenty of other spots along the road to stop, with ample laybys for you to do so. For the best time, aim for a sunrise shots (if the Scottish sun decides to bless you with its presence), and take your time afterwards to explore Loch Lurgainn for more stunning views.
12. ardvreck castle
Ardvreck Castle is a legendary ruin on the shores of Loch Assynt, a popular stop along the NC500. While not much of the castle remains, its setting against the stunning backdrop of the Highlands makes it one of the most famous photo spots in that area. It was built in the 14th century by the MacLeods of Assynt and was reduced to ruins in a fire in the 17th century.
Turn around to admire the equally impressive Calda House, another crumbling mansion that once stood proudly on the shores of Loch Assynt. Constructed in the 17th century by the Mackenzies of Assynt, it suffered a similar fate, succumbing to a fire in the 18th century.
Both attractions tend to get pretty crowded during the day, so if you want to capture that elusive solitude and the best light, prepare to wake up early. The early morning hours offer a magical combination of soft hues, calm waters, and a chance to have the photo spot all to yourself.
A car park is located next to the road. From there, it's a pleasant 10-minute stroll down to the photo spot. Waterproof shoes or wellies are recommended, as you might want to venture onto the shallow shores for a different perspective.
Once you're there, creativity is your guide. Explore the castle from various angles to capture its unique shapes and textures. Calda House can be photographed from both the waterside and the road.
13. pine tree islands
The pine tree islands in Loch Assynt are a group of small islets dotted around the loch's shoreline, home to a variety of trees, including Scots pines, Corsican pines, and Sitka spruces.
These islands, sculpted by glaciers during the Ice Age, now play host to a wealth of wildlife and serve as a popular nesting spot for birds.
The islands' unique character is further enhanced by the presence of dead trees, adding a touch of mystery and intrigue to the landscape.
There's a car park by the main road, with a 5-minute stroll leading you to the shores of Loch Assynt.
The terrain is boggy, so wellies are a wise choice.
For the most atmospheric shots, venture to the islands on a gloomy day.
Embrace the minimalist aesthetic by packing your tripod and ND filters for long exposures.
Black and white photography will also works here!
14. Loch druim
Loch Druim Suardalain, a hidden gem near Lochinver, offers stunning views of the iconic Suilven reflected in its tranquil waters. It's a must-visit spot for capturing the grandeur of this majestic mountain.
Navigate to the small road where the hiking trails to Suilven begin. There, you'll find a conveniently located car park.
From the car park, start a 15-minute walk along the path, keeping the lake to your right. Once you spot the water, prepare to walk into the boggy moorland towards the shore. Find a vantage point that perfectly aligns the island adorned with trees, the mirrored mountains, and the towering Suilven in the background.
Remember to wear sturdy shoes, as the terrain can get a bit soggy.
For those seeking long exposure shots, grab your tripod. Sunset is the ideal time, as the fading sunlight will paint the mountain peaks in a warm glow.
15. stoer lighthouse
Stoer Lighthouse stands on the tip of a remote peninsula, accessible via a narrow and winding road that promises stunning scenery along the way.
The lighthouse itself perches dramatically atop rugged cliffs, offering a sheer drop into the sea below.
Park your car near the lighthouse and take a short hike up the cliffs on a small footpath leading north. The path winds its way up and down but is not too strenuous. After about 15 minutes, you'll reach a spot where the cliffs on your left frame the lighthouse perfectly.
If you prefer an easier shot, there's a spot closer to the car park (just a 5-minute walk) that offers a less dramatic view, featuring the bay and beach as a foreground.
This photo spot is ideal for capturing the sunrise, illuminating the lighthouse and cliffs in all their detail.
For a silhouetted lighthouse with colourful skies, sunset is also a great option.
16. Loch Stack
This secluded bothy on the shores of Loch Stack is hands down my favourite photo spot in the North Highlands of Scotland. It has everything a Highland photo should have – moody ambiance, towering mountains, a serene loch, and a traditional stone bothy in impeccable condition.
The spot is incredibly accessible, and I never encountered any crowds during my visit. It's a delightful detour off the main NC 500, making it a hidden gem.
Literally, step out of your car from the small car park and start snapping away! Sunsets are undeniably magical here, but I personally prefer the dramatic atmosphere created by heavy, overcast
skies following a rainstorm. This eliminates any postcard clichés and delivers an authentic Highlander shot that's sure to captivate your senses.
If you drive a bit further down the road along the shore of the loch, you will see a nice boathouse which is also worth a photo or two!
17. Balnakeil Church
Balnakeil Church is a small tumbledown chapel perched on the edge of Balnakeil Bay, a picturesque spot in the Scottish Highlands. It's believed to have been built in the early 18th century and
served as a place of worship until the 1810s.
Today, its half-crumbling facade, draped in ivy, and the old gravestones in the foreground make it a popular photogenic spot, capturing the essence of Scottish history.
In the summer months, the place can get pretty packed, thanks to the lovely sandy beach right next door.
But during the off-season, you'll have no trouble finding parking right in front of the chapel.
Pop through the gate into the graveyard and explore the various angles to frame the church beautifully with the gravestones.
This shot works any time of day, so don't be afraid to experiment with different lighting conditions to capture the perfect image.
18. Sango Sands
Sango Sands is a legendary stretch of golden sands along the coast of Sutherland, way up north in Scotland. The beach itself and the whole coastline are worth a couple of photos. But the real star attraction is the viewing platform perched atop a towering sand dune, accessed via a winding staircase made of wooden planks.
To get there, park at the Durness Village Car Park. Then, follow the footpath that leads up north just outside the campsite, until you reach the viewing platform. It's a breeze – just a quick 10-minute stroll.
A wide-angle lens will perfectly capture the staircase winding its way up the sand dune. If you can capture someone soaking in the breathtaking view, that's the icing on the cake. And for a truly spectacular shot, try using long exposure during sunset to capture the movement of the clouds and the water.
Here's a bonus tip: if you're lucky enough to visit during the summer months, you might even spot some dolphins frolicking in the waves.
19. Ceannabeinne Beach
Ceannabeinne Beach is a true beauty, no wonder it's won so many awards for its stunning scenery. It's been named one of the world's best beaches multiple times, and in 2022 it even snagged the title of Scotland's best beach!
The beach's appeal lies in its sheer size and the fine, golden sand that creates a picture-perfect panorama. Low tide reveals an even vaster expanse of sand.
While you can capture the essence of Ceannabeinne Beach any time of day or year, I recommend an off-season visit or an early morning stroll to avoid the summer crowds. The beach is a serene haven, but during peak season, it can get a bit lively.
Park your car at the convenient public car park and start taking photos from the roadside viewpoint. A short walk north along the road (about 5 minutes) will lead you to a bend. This spot offers a breathtaking vista of the beach's iconic shape – check out the sample photo above for inspiration.
20. Eriboll Church
Eriboll Church is a charming ruined church that sits along the scenic NC 500 route in Sutherland. Thought to have been built around the 18th century, it served as a place of worship until the 19th century.
This easily accessible spot makes for a perfect photo op as you'll be driving past it anyway on your NC 500 adventure. The weathered stone walls and the surrounding street can serve as captivating leading lines for your photo composition.
Capture your shot anytime of the day, and park your car in one of the many lay-bys near the viewpoint, just below the church.
21. Ard Neakie Lime Kilns
Ard Neakie Lime Kilns are old lime kilns, located on a scenic promontory that commands breathtaking views of Loch Eriboll.
The unique shape of the peninsula, coupled with the serene lake and majestic mountains in the background, creates a truly picture-perfect setting.
Park your car in the small car park overlooking the viewpoint. Climb over the side rail and explore the area to find the perfect composition for your shot. The old stone wall can serve as an effective leading line, adding depth and dimension to your image.
This easily accessible photo spot is just off the road, making it a convenient stop-off for capturing this charming location. While you can take photos anytime of the day, the morning sun (or sunrise/sunset) casts the most flattering light, afternoon is rather to avoid as you would shoot into the sun.
22. Moine House
Moine House is a ruined cottage on the edge of the Flow Country in Sutherland, Scotland. It was built in the early 19th century as a shelter for weary travellers and foresters. The cottage was abandoned in the late 19th century and has since fallen into disrepair, but it remains a popular photo spot, particularly because the scenery is simply stunning, with the majestic munro Ben Hope looming in the background.
Park your car near Moine House on the car park and grab your camera. Explore the cottage from different angles, trying to incorporate the mountains into your shots.
If you step back and keep your distance from the house, it will allow you to capture the perfect balance between the ruins and the breathtaking backdrop of Ben Hope with a long lens.
For the best lighting, aim to visit in the evening or at sunset. However, sunrise can also produce magical results.
23. Holborn Head Lighthouse
Holborn Head Lighthouse is a charmingly petite white lighthouse perched near Scrabster, offering stunning views of the ferry terminals and the ferries gliding between the mainland and Orkney. Its design is reminiscent of a lighthouse drawn in a child's storybook, making it an irresistible photo opportunity. If you're lucky, you might even catch the Northlink Ferry embarking on its Orkney voyage.
Park your car at the public car park near the ferry terminal and take the small road towards the lighthouse. Just before reaching the lighthouse, turn left and follow the public footpath that transforms into a grassy trail. Ascend the hill and locate a vantage point where the house appears slightly diagonal, adding depth and dimension to your photo. This perspective avoids the flat, two-dimensional effect that can occur with direct frontal shots.
You can either capture the scene with a long exposure using a tripod or capture the dynamic movement of boats and ferries as they pass by. If you continue your uphill journey, you'll discover more photogenic angles from the other side of the lighthouse.
The entire walk takes approximately 15 minutes and involves a slight incline in certain sections.
For the most captivating lighting, aim to be there during the late afternoon or evening.
24. dunnet Head
Dunnet Head is a breathtaking peninsula located in the far north of Scotland. It is officially considered the most northerly point on the British mainland, offering panoramic views of the North Sea, Orkney Islands, and the Pentland Firth. The rugged landscape is dotted with lighthouses, cliffs, and sea stacks, making it a popular destination for photographers.
From May to August, during the nesting season, you can spot adorable puffins clinging to the steep, rocky cliffs.
A large car park conveniently located next to the lighthouse can get a bit crowded during peak seasons. If capturing the lighthouse in your shots is your goal, the best viewpoint lies just outside the car park.
However, if you're seeking a closer encounter with the puffins and want cliffside photos, head to the footpath that runs westward along the cliffs (be mindful of your steps, there's a sheer drop). You'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the cliffs, but the lighthouse will slowly disappear from view.
For the most captivating lighting, time your visit for the afternoon or evening.
25. Castle of Mey
Castle of Mey, a picturesque fortress perched on the shores of the Pentland Firth in Caithness, Scotland, was once a retreat for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Built in the 17th century, the castle radiates an aura of elegance with its imposing towers, sprawling gardens, and breathtaking views of the surrounding seascape.
In the Netflix series "The Crown," Castle of Mey takes center stage in a pivotal scene where Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visits the castle to escape the rigors of her public life.
You can explore the castle's grounds during its opening hours, which may vary depending on the season, please check online for an up-to-date information. An entrance fee is required. Ample parking is available on-site.
Within the castle grounds, you'll discover endless photo opportunities, including a walled garden brimming with blooms and an alley that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland.
26. John o' Groats
John o'Groats is a quaint little village nestled in the far north of Scotland. It's renowned for being the most northerly point on the British mainland and the starting point for the legendary Land's End to John o'Groats walking route. The iconic signpost is one of Scotland's most photographed landmarks, attracting throngs of tourists.
However, if you want to experience the true charm of John o'Groats, I highly recommend visiting early in the morning, ideally before the sun rises. During the day, the spot transforms into a bustling scene busier than Piccadilly Circus. But in the quiet solitude of the early morning, you'll have the place to yourself.
Capture the signature signpost if you must, but for even better photos, head to the jetty. From there, you'll be able to frame the colourful houses and the fishing boats bobbing in the harbor, creating a picture-perfect scene.
There's a large car park, and you'll have no trouble finding a spot in the morning. However, during the day, it can get pretty crowded.
27. Duncansby Stacks
The Duncansby Stacks in the far north of Scotland are one of the most awe-inspiring seascapes I've ever witnessed in Scotland. With countless viewpoints and diverse perspectives of the stacks, you can easily spend an entire day exploring the stacks.
Park your car near the lighthouse and follow the footpath southwards towards the cliff's edge. In about 15 minutes, you'll reach the first breathtaking viewpoint, where the sea stacks stand majestically on the other side of the bay.
While many visitors stop here, I highly recommend walking further along the cliffs. Every hundred meters presents a new photographic opportunity, showcasing the stacks from ever-changing angles. Their varying forms and shapes will keep your camera busy.
Continue your ascent until you reach the perspective of the stacks from behind. This 45-minute trek from the car park is well worth the effort! There's only one moderately steep section, making it easily manageable.
Don't forget to bring your tripod and ND filters to capture some long exposure shots.
For the best experience, aim for an early morning visit. The gentle light and fewer crowds will let you enjoy the scenery even more.
28. Old keiss Castle
Old Keiss Castle, a ruined tower house on top of cliffs, is overlooking the Sinclair's Bay, a mile north of Keiss village centre in Caithness, Highland, Scotland.
This scheduled monument truly shines when the tide cooperates. Capture the contrast between the azure waters and the verdant algae-covered rocks lining the bay.
Begin your adventure by parking at Keiss harbour and take the easy walk northwards along the public footpath. After 15 minutes, you'll reach a picturesque stony bay.
With caution, navigate the slippery stones towards the water's edge to take the castle in the background and the green stones as your foreground. Timing is crucial, as low tide is essential for this captivating shot; otherwise, the stones will be submerged.
During this low-tide window, you'll have the added bonus of witnessing the bay's seal colony. Basking in the sun's rays, these adorable creatures, including their playful pups, will add a touch of wildlife magic to your photographs. But remember, respect their space, especially around their young ones!
If you're seeking more vantage points, continue your ascent along the cliffs closer to the castle.
Late afternoon and evening are the best choices for the time of your visit.
29. Castle Sinclair Girnigoe
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is a captivating spot that seamlessly blends two of my favourite things: sea stacks and ruined castles. The ruins stand on these sea stacks, leaving me to wonder how long they'll remain, given the relentless coastal erosion. And did you spot Bart Simpson in the photo? Once I had that illusion, I can't see the landscape without him anymore...
A convenient car park lies not too far from the castle. Take the walk towards the castle, and just as you reach the cliff's edge, turn right. Continue along the path until you come to a bay with distinctive sea stacks and the castle silhouetted in the background. The entire walk is a mere 15 minutes and is flat and easy.
To capture this panorama, aim for an early morning visit or opt for an overcast day devoid of direct sunlight. Harsh shadows can overpower the delicate interplay between the sea stacks and the castle, diminishing the overall impact of the scene.
Once the sun has risen, take your time to explore the castle further. There are plenty of interesting close-up shots to be captured.
You can also go a bit further North to explore the fantastic views of Noss Head Lighthouse and the steep cliffs!
30. Old Wick
Castle of Old Wick, also known as the Old Man of Wick, is a ruined castle on top a narrow headland in Wick, Caithness, Scotland. Its exact construction date remains elusive, but it's believed to have been erected in the 14th or 15th century. The castle once served as a stronghold for the Sinclair family, but it was abandoned in the 17th century, gradually falling into ruin.
While the castle itself might not be the most photogenic subject, the surrounding scenery featuring jagged rock fingers jutting out into the sea and the ruins perched on top of them creates a truly unique photographic opportunity, especially during a gloomy evening.
Park your car at the beginning of the footpath leading to the castle. After a 10-minute walk, you'll spot a natural platform on your left. Carefully descend onto it, but exercise extreme caution! Resist the temptation to chase the perfect shot by clambering down the rocks and venturing too close to the cliff edge. The cliffs are unstable, and the drop is sheer, with the rough sea crashing below. Instead, incorporate some of the cliff edges into your foreground composition.
Plan your visit for a gloomy day or sunset. Bring a tripod and ND filters to capture long exposures. While the strong winds can sometimes hinder long exposures as this spot is highly exposed, it's still definitely worth the try.
save the highlands and travel responsibly
This guide barely scratches the surface of the countless wonders that wait along the NC 500.
But I hope it's whetted your appetite for exploring the most northerly reaches of the enchanting country of Scotland. The long drive – or flight – north is well worth it. This region of Europe remains untamed and authentic, offering a truly unforgettable experience.
As many of you know, I'm a big advocate for sustainable travel. On my recent NC 500 adventure, I opted for a compact EV (Fiat 500e), trying an eco-friendly transportation. Now, let me share some thoughts on sustainable travel practices.
The NC 500 has witnessed a surge in campervan traffic in recent years. While these vehicles are permitted to camp freely in Scotland, the summer months bring an influx that strains local infrastructure. Remote areas are no longer secluded havens but bustling campgrounds, diminishing the wilderness experience.
Moreover, this campervan boom places an undue burden on local communities without providing substantial economic benefits. To alleviate these issues, consider avoiding the peak summer months of July and August. And when you do visit, support local businesses by dining out, picking up souvenirs, or simply enjoying a cup of tea at local cafes. By doing so, you'll contribute to the well-being of the communities that work so hard to preserve this remarkable landscape for us all.