The North Coast 500 is not the Indy 500… is not the Le Mans 24hr… is not The Gumball Rally… is one of the top 5 coastal touring routes in the world, with the emphasis on touring and scenic views. When you are on this wonderful touring route, you will be sharing it with the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on the roads in and around the NC500, as well as your fellow travellers from all over the world, so make sure you know how to drive and ride responsibly, safely and respectfully.  


Country Roads 


Brake before the bend or blind summit, not on it

60% of all fatalities occur on country roads. On these roads you will experience sharp bends, blind bends and blind summits which can hide unexpected hazards of many kinds. Stay in control and give yourself time to react. Keep your speed down and brake before a bend or summit, not on the bend or summit.

The Facts (United Kingdom)

  • 60% of all fatalities occur on country roads
  • Three people die each day on average on country roads
  • The number of people killed on country roads is nearly 10 times higher than on motorways
  • In 2014, 10,091 people were killed or seriously injured on country roads

The Law

You must not drive faster than the speed limit for the type of road and your type of vehicle. The speed limit is the absolute maximum but it doesn’t mean it's safe to drive at this speed in all conditions.

      Find out more about speed limits

The Department for Transport's THINK! campaign has produced a range of materials to help raise awareness of unexpected hazards on country roads and to encourage drivers to "break before the bend, not on it". This includes their "Helpful Hazard" film, and "If you could see" film and radio ad below. 

It also has a list of case studies to highlight the consequences of not being aware of potential hazards on the road. Visit the THINK! website to find out more.


Drivers should read the road ahead and anticipate potential hazards. Look out for upcoming bends, hidden dips, blind summits and concealed entrances.

Country roads often have sharp bends. To stay in control and give yourself time to react to unexpected hazards, brake before the bend or summit, not in it.

Please DO NOT park on the roads, DO NOT park in passing places and DO NOT park in field accesses - this is dangerous and irresponsible! Use designated parking spaces instead.

Overgrown verges, bushes and trees on country roads can block your view and potentially obscure an oncoming hazard. Always drive at a speed which will allow you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear (HALF the distance you can see clear on a single track road). Allow more time to stop on wet or slippery surfaces.

The speed limit is a limit not a target. The national speed limit on single carriage roads is 60mph, but there will be times you need to drive under that in order to drive correctly for the conditions. In fact, most people do so on these roads – the average free flow speed is 48mph.

If you get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle be patient. Dips and summits in roads, bends and other junctions joining the road you are on, often hide oncoming vehicles, so unless it's absolutely essential, DON’T overtake. Be aware that a vehicle approaching from behind may be a doctor or nurse on their way to visit a patient or EMERGENCY. Please pull in at the first passing place to allow them to proceed.

Should you see a large vehicle approaching you from the opposite direction, please be prepared to stop in the next passing place, even if it is on your right, to allow the large vehicle a straight run past the passing place, rather than to have to deviate into and out of a passing place, which may not be long enough to accommodate it. 

Long lengths of the NC500 are unfenced, resulting in cows, sheep, goats, deer and in some area horses roaming free and can decide to cross the road ahead of a vehicle or can be found wandering along the road. Even when they decide to leave the road, do not take it that is the end of their actions, as they are just as likely to decide that they want to re-cross the road ahead of you as you approach.

DO NOT TRAVEL IN CONVOY as many passing places are only capable of accommodating one vehicle. Rather travel the distance of one passing place apart. This will not only mean that passing places do not become congested, but will also mean that you have a more enjoyable, relaxing journey.

If passing more vulnerable road users such as horse riders, cyclists and walkers, pass wide and slow. Allow horse riders to access a field access or wide verge before attempting to pass and walkers and cyclists should preferably stop on a convenient verge to allow vehicles to pass for their own safety.

Even if you’re familiar with a country road, never take it for granted as the conditions can be different every time.

On wet, rainy days, as a result of vehicles over running the verge and causing blockage of drainage channels, water may lie along the edge of the road and vary in depth. Avoid driving or riding through this water if possible, or if unavoidable, do so at a slow speed.

Our road safety section contains public sector information from the Department for Transport’s 
THINK! campaign licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


Other Useful Resources/ Links

Other road safety campaigns produced by the Department for Transport’s THINK! campaign:

Speed:  Read this
Cycling: Read this
Motorcycles: Read this

Driving Single Track Roads in the Highlands

Transport for Tongue have produced an excellent guide on how to negotiate single track roads along the North Coast 500. Have a read below!

You can also download the above here

Need more information on single track roads? Please read the below links Read this
Undiscovered Scotland: Read this


North Coast Road Safety


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Top Tips and Advice for Drivers and Cyclists

  • Give cyclists plenty of room when you pass them - the Highway Code rule 213 (2007 edition) states that "motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room ’’

  • The Highway Code further defines this distance in rule 163 (2007 edition) as “ least as  much room as you would give a car ..." 

  • This is particularly pertinent to Highland roads which often have uneven, broken and/or potholed verges.  

  • On the Continent and other countries such as Australia and the USA, 'plenty of room' is not left to the driver's interpretation but is usually defined as 1.5m (3 feet in USA)   There are often signs on popular cycling roads reminding motorists about this safety advice such as those here.  If 1.5m is not possible, such as if you find yourself head on with a cyclist on a single track road because one of you has missed a passing place, slow down and give the cyclist as much room as you can; you may have to slow down to a walking pace or even stop, as may the cyclist.  

  • A good resource with further advice and videos about minimum overtaking distances:  Read this

  • Cyclists also have a responsibility to use suitable passing places to allow motorised traffic to pass. Cyclists should not delay other vehicles any longer than is necessary for their own safety

North Coast 500 Blog


Road safety advice for cyclists on the North Coast 500

Welcome to the new NC500 cycling blog, written by local cyclists, where you will find 
useful and interesting information to make your cycling holiday more enjoyable 
and safer.  Read more


WATCH: '‘Helpful Hazards’' Think! has partnered with a farmer to turn potential hazards on country roads into ‘helpful hazards’

WATCH: '‘If you could see’' If you could seeOpens new window THINK: film uses 3D scanning technology to allow viewers to see through the bends on a country road and spot the hazards ahead.

LISTEN: If you could see (.mp3 - 1.14mb)

READ: Think! 3 case studies highlight the serious consequences of having an accident or collision on a country road.
Alison Eames – Horse rider [.pdf - 164kb]
Rob Odams – Head on collision with a coach [.pdf - 24kbB]
Janet and David Warin – Parents whose son died in an accident on a country road [.pdf - 16kb]