The North Coast 500 (NC500) cycle tour is a breathtakingly scenic route that loops around the northern Highlands of Scotland, covering approximately 500 miles of rugged coastline, majestic mountains, and charming villages. Our NC500 cycle tour offers a unique way to experience this stunning region, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the natural beauty and rich culture of the Scottish Highlands.
Route Map of Scotland's NC500 Cycle Tour
Distance and Climbing
This tour is designed with the ‘avid’ rider in mind (please see rider types) as it has some testing terrain and the added uncertainty of changeable weather conditions too! We recommend you come prepared.
The NC 500 cycle tour is a challenging tour with some longer days in the saddle. Days vary, but generally the route has some climbs of medium difficulty and a few which are challenging such as the well-known climb of Bealach na Bà on day 2. A winding single track road through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula.
You will most likely need to train for the event and ensure you are fit enough to complete the distance and climbing.
This tour is suitable for our AVID Riders. Find out if you are an AVID or ACTIVE style of rider here. The total distance is 924 km with a total of 11,423 metres of climbing. The daily average is 132 km and 1630 metres of climbing.
The price is £1,595 per person sharing. Some single rooms are available for an additional supplement of £495.
What is included in the tour
- 8 nights bed and breakfast in good hotels
- Lunches on at least two of the cycling days
- Suggested coffee and lunch stops (where not provided)
- Van support with snacks
- Support from an experienced Scottish crew with local knowledge
- GPX files of the route
- Daily briefings
- Route profiles with maps
- Baggage transfer
- Mechanical assistance and repairs
- Emergency pickup
- Final group meal
What is NOT included in the tour
- Airport transfers at the start and finish can be provided at a cost of £25 each way.
- Lunch and coffee stops. These will be provided on at least two of the days in remote areas. On other days you will be given some recommendations of where you may wish to refuel!
- Evening meals - Our stopovers all have reasonably priced restaurants and pubs nearby and most of the hotels have good dining. Breakfast IS included and lunch on some days
- Optional trips / entry fees for any excursions you arrange independently
- Insurance - you need to organise your own bike and travel insurance as required
- Gels, high energy bars, energy powder and shakes - bring your own as per what works best for you and your tummy!
- Flights to and from Scotland
North Coast 500 GPX Route Files
All our cycle tours are supported with GPX files of the entire route. These start at the door of the hotel you are leaving and finish right at your finish hotel. The GPX route files for the NC 500 will be sent well in advance for you to check uploading to your bike computer. Any revisions will be resent.
Scotland NC500 Cycle Route & Daily Itinerary
Our route largely follows the Scottish Tourist Board 500 mile route (but it’s better!) and takes in some tough climbs and beautiful mountain passes. This tour is designed with the ‘avid’ rider in mind (please see rider types) as it has some testing terrain and with the added uncertainty of the weather conditions up here and their tendency to change dramatically in no time at all we recommend that you’ve done, or are at least prepared to do, the odd ride in inclement conditions before.
- Day 1 - Arrive Inverness (no cycling)
- Day 2 - Inverness to Strathcarron 100 kilometers 640 meters
- Day 3 - Strathcarron to Gairloch 116 km 1,700 m
- Day 4 - Gairloch to Ullapool 108 km 1,400 m
- Day 5 - Ullapool to Durness 147 km 2,200 m
- Day 6 - Durness to Thurso 115 km 1,400 m
- Day 7 - Thurso to Lairg 146 km 1,000 m
- Day 8 - Lairg to Inverness 138 km 900 m
- Day 9 - Depart Inverness (no cycling)
Routes are subject to change if necessary.
Your Scotland NC 500 GPX route files will be sent in advance for you to upload to your bike computer.
Cycling Terrain and Bike Suitability
The entire route is approximately just under 10,000 metres of climbing elevation. A large part of this is on the western section of the coast line. The route has many sections of stunning scenery with a number of very quiet roads and amazing beaches along the way. With the amount of climbing on this route, we’d recommend something lightweight for your North Coast 500 bike. Whether this is a touring bike or road bike, you’ll be thanking yourself when you climb the Bealach na Ba!
Arriving for Your North Coast 500 Cycle Tour
The tour starts at our hotel in Inverness, Scotland on the first date of the advertised tour with a detailed briefing in the afternoon. We then prepare our bikes and spend the night in the hotel . This first night is included in the price of the tour. We begin cycling the next morning.
Inverness Airport serves limited domestic and international routes, but has direct flights from London, Amsterdam, and Belfast. However, it's also possible to fly into Aberdeen and drive the 2.5 hours to Inverness, or take the scenic train between the two northern cities. If you are travelling in Scotland for a long period of time, then you could also arrive in Glasgow or Edinburgh and spend time there before driving or taking the train north.
If you live in the UK, then you can of course opt to drive your own car or camper van up to Inverness as part of an extended road trip, or take the train to Inverness and rent your car there.
If required, we can provide transfers to the hotel for you, your bike and your luggage from Inverness Airport. Transfers from Inverness Airport can be provided for a small fee.
Please contact us if you have other travel requirements you wish to discuss and we will do our best to assist!
The tour finishes at the same hotel we started on the last date of the advertised tour. We will have a finishing meal and celebration. This is included in the price of the tour along with a final night's accommodation. The next morning you can depart at your leisure. Transfers to Inverness Airport can be provided for a small fee.
What to Expect on a Wild Atlantic Cycle Tour of Scotland:
Weather in Scotland
To be written
Group Size and Tour Leaders
Our groups are generally around 12 to 18 people. Our Scotland NC 500 tour will go ahead with a minimum of six people.
Our groups are supported by a Tour Leader and Assistant, both of whom have previous tour support experience and are themselves cyclists who fully appreciate just how it feels however your day pans out. The tour leader and assistant ride in the van to better aid a speedy assist where required. On most tours we also have a rider on the road with basic mechanical and first aid skills who will try to ride ‘mid-pack’, but the van generally gets there first.
At the initial briefing all cyclists are provided with the tour leader and assistant’s number, as well as that of the emergency services which they are instructed to use in the event of an emergency.
English is the main language of Scotland.
Camaraderie forms a big part of the whole experience our tours provide and although single supplements are available, our tours are priced and catered for such that a single cyclist can feel comfortable making a booking and opt to share a twin room with someone they don’t know.
People tend to settle into their own way of cycling throughout the day and groups can vary from day to day and evening to evening. You can cycle at your own pace for a solitary cycle or join others.
Navigating the North Coast 500 Cycle Route
We recommend you bring a bike computer onto which you can upload the GPX files of the route. GPX files of the North Coast 500 route will be emailed to you before the start of the tour.
Direction of Travel
We travel clockwise from Inverness to Inverness.
Each morning (and evening) bike cleaning materials, basic tools, pumps and lubricants will be available so you can groom your trusty steeds.
You can telephone any time for mechanical support where required.
With regards to mechanical issues it’s helpful if everyone knows how to repair a puncture or replace a tube. However, we are on call if you need help re-seating a stiff tyre on the rim.
Minor mechanicals can be dealt with roadside and where more specialist help is required we can transport you and your bike to a local bike shop to carry out repairs.
Support Van & Cyclist
Our support van with water and refreshments will pass you at least once each morning and afternoon en route to lunch and hotel so you will normally be able to access your day pack before lunch, at lunch and in the afternoon.
We usually have a Support Cyclist on the road as well.
In the afternoon we ensure we get your bag to the hotel before you arrive.
Every day starts with a hearty breakfast and a briefing.
Breakfasts are usually traditional cooked Scottish style, but for the most part will include cereals and fruit and cheeses, with coffee, juice and tea.
We’ll advise of a suitable morning coffee stop for ‘second breakfast’ and we’ll also specify a lunch stop where the van can be found. Sometimes there will be a choice of restaurant but in remote areas there may only be one suitable.
Evening meals are available in some of our Scottish hotels. We do however advise a little walk each evening just to sample the delights these towns have to offer.