The North of Scotland

is the most sparsely populated area of the UK mainland

It is a region of rugged mountains, haunting ruins, beautiful coastlines, and one of the world’s most stunning road trips: the North Coast 500.

This guide will introduce you to our favourite places in Scotland’s North. Technically, the Isles of Skye, Orkney and the Shetland Isles also count as North Scotland, but we explore these in our guide to the Scottish islands.

Get in touch with us for more detailed trip advice, or to talk about travelling the North Coast 500 by motorhome. And check out our Scotland campervan hire fleet if you’d like to get planning!

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Loch Ness

We had to start with one of the most famous and mysterious bodies of water in the world. Loch Ness holds more freshwater than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. 

As to what else it holds… since the sixth century there have been reports of a “water-beast”, a “stubby legged” salamander, a “whale-like fish” and a “beast [which]…sent out waves that were big enough to have been caused by a passing steamer”.

While keeping a look out for “Nessie”, you can also see otters, pike, salmon and eels. The lake is an incredibly diverse ecosystem which you can appreciate from a boat, paddleboard or kayak, easily rentable in the area.

There are some really beautiful walks around the area too, including the Loch Ness Trail and a woodland trail to the Falls of Foyers waterfall. Loch Ness lies on the Great Glen Way, a stunning route from Fort William to Inverness.


Speaking of which, Inverness has been described as the “happiest place in Scotland”, famous for healing waters and for being a centre of the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance, (a movement for the revival of Scottish Gaelic language and literature). 

Poetry is part of the architecture in Inverness, carved into roads and river banks as part of a recent project to celebrate the city’s artists. Visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery for a fabulous immersion into the history of the Highlands, as well as some captivating contemporary art works.

Take a walk in the grounds of Inverness Castle, look out for Highland Games events during summer months, and don’t forget to try a dram or two of local whisky. Some of the most renowned distilleries lie around Inverness, including Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Macallan.

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The Black Isle

Not far from Inverness, the Black Isle is a beautiful peninsula known to be one of the best places in Scotland to see bottlenose dolphins. Each dolphin has its own signature whistle, much like having their own individual name. You may see dolphins saving energy by ‘bow riding’ in the artificial waves caused by ships.

The Black Isle cycle route is a truly immersive way to explore the beaches, rivers, and farmland in the area. For mountain bikers, Learnie Red Rocks has purpose-built trails from beginner to expert levels.

In the village of Rosemarkie, Groam House Museum is a treasure trove of Celtic art. This museum also holds art from the Picts, an ancient people who lived in Scotland during the late Iron age. Discover ancient symbols and intricate designs in this special collection.

Durness and Smoo Cave

Durness is Britain’s most north-westerly village, and John Lennon’s childhood summer holiday destination! It is a thriving village, right on the beach, with nearby neolithic remains and a good campsite. 

A short distance north of the village is Cape Wrath, the remote headland that marks the most northwesterly point of the British mainland. Home to puffins, eagles, and a rare species of arctic poppies, the untamed beauty of this area is second to none.

Heading east from Durness, you can find Smoo Cave — a 15-metre-high cave that can be entered on a wooden walkway. Light from the giant entrance reflects off the spray of the magnificent Allt Smoo waterfall which cascades into the mossy main chamber.

Smoo Cave is said to have been used as a hideout by the Vikings, and in summer you can follow in their footsteps with boat tours into the cave’s inner depths. It has yielded a significant number of fossil remains, such as the extinct giant elk.

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Scotland’s Northern Castles

Northern Scotland is home to several castles, but not all are open to the public. Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland is the largest, and it is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating back to the 1300s! 

Dunrobin Castle is open to visitors from April to October. Both the castle and grounds are well worth a visit; spot the exotic giant Gunnera in the gardens and enjoy a daily falcon flying demonstration with local experts.

Slightly younger, the 16th Century Castle of Mey is situated 10km from John o’Groats on the North Coast 500 route. It boasts a lovely walled garden and an animal centre with donkeys, rabbits and a cow simulator for those interested in trying their hand at milking!

If you are travelling the western side of the North Coast 500 and love a ghost story, we recommend visiting the ruins of Ardvreck Castle. One story goes that a laird made a pact with the devil, who agreed to help him construct the castle if the laird gave him his daughter Eimhir’s hand in marriage.

On discovering her plight, Eimhir flung herself out of a tower window, haunting the castle ever since. An alternative story suggests she plunged into the caverns of the loch below to become the “mermaid of Assynt”.

The North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 is a very popular and very scenic driving route across northern Scotland. The 500-mile loop starts and ends in Inverness, and takes travellers along the North Highlands coastline. This coastline is said to have inspired Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and holds a mystical other-wordly splendour.

The route takes in the Black Isle, Dunrobin Castle, Durness and Ardvreck Castle mentioned above and also includes Wester Ross and Easter Ross. 


Wester Ross offers a dramatic combination of mountains, lochs and coastal scenery, and the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve, rich in rare wildlife and beautiful hiking trails. Easter Ross is a more serene, easterly region, with picturesque coastal villages and sandy beaches. 

Travelling the North Coast 500 by motorhome is a really wonderful way to explore, offering the freedom to stop at hidden, breathtaking views and to take in the scope and diversity of the region. Our Scottish motorhomes for hire are well equipped for this route’s steep gradients, and give you the sense of adventure without losing some cosy comfort.

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While preparing for your trip to this spectacularly remote region, do get in touch with us if you’d like to know more about our motorhomes and campervans.