By Mikaela MacKinnon
Published: 15th May 2018

Unmissable Craft Retail Experiences

While art galleries and craft makers abound on the North Coast 500 route, it’s important to also highlight the wide range of shopping opportunities available on the NC500 – perfect for indulging in a spot of retail therapy! Our recommendations here span the full 516 miles of NC500 coastline, so wherever you are, and whether you’re looking to shop for yourself, a friend or family member, or even for your children or grandchildren, you’ll be spoilt for choice. By visiting craft shops on route, you’ll help support local makers and the local economy. Browse our suggestions here, from east to west.

Along the east coast…

The North Coast 500’s spectacular east coast takes in the Black Isle, Easter Ross, Sutherland and Caithness. This impressive coastline stretches from Inverness – the capital of the Highlands and the official beginning and end point of the NC500 route – up to John o’ Groats in the north. Along the way, make sure to visit…

This boutique gift shop in the heart of Tongue specialises in a range of jewellery, homewares and other gifts, each with a touch of Highland design. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/thecourtyardgiftshop

Bonnie Prince Charlie is one of the oldest listed buildings in Scotland, and one of only two working Smiddy’s. It specialises in local hand-made gifts and crafts. Visit and take a step back in time, to learn about traditional craft work.

More than 40 individual craft makers showcase their items at Forse of Nature, which is situated within the historic Forse House in Caithness. While you’re there, take time to explore Forse House’s beautiful grounds. From woodturning and needlework, to art and knitted goods, there’s something for everyone in this eco-friendly destination. For more information, visit www.forseofnature.com

Along the north coast…

The halfway point of the North Coast 500 route, many of the artists and craft makers along this stretch of coastline are inspired by the Northern Isles. While you’re driving the far north of Scotland, make sure to stop in past…

A small family run business on the north-east coast, The Fragrant Mind’s Mission is to deliver high quality, unique, handmade perfumes, personal care products, toiletries, candles and everything else aroma-related. All products are formulated and created by Olga, who strongly believes in the significance of the often undermined olfactory system, as well as the individuality of people!

Olga and her team will be delighted to create a bespoke product based on personal needs, preferences and desires. In the small, on-site shop, you’ll find a range of unique, skin-friendly, handmade natural soaps, shampoos, hair and body conditioners, creams, perfumes, balms, candles and many more products.

The Fragrant Mind also concentrates on the production of solid versions of their products, as they are more environmentally and consumer-friendly. Their other speciality is small – often one-to-one – friendly and easy-to-follow product-making workshops, including ‘Create Your Own Signature Perfume’, ‘Bath Bombs Making’ and ‘Formulating Balms, including Lip Balms.’ For more information, visit www.facebook.com/The-Fragrant-Mind

Photo: Fragrant Mind

Weavers Cafe and Gift Shop is a VisitScotland 4 Star Tourist Shop, selling local crafts, Orkney pottery and candles, Harris Tweed, silver and glass jewellery, body products for her and him, knitwear and outdoor clothing, as well as postcards and many other Scottish products. Food is served for most of the day, from delicious homemade pies and sandwiches, to a fabulous range of coffees, hot chocolates and cakes. http://www.weaverscraftshop.co.uk/

Weavers Gift Shop

Located on the Thurso’s riverbank, Riverside Interiors has built up an unrivalled reputation as the north’s premier shopping experience, due in no small part to the shop’s insistence on high-quality goods sourced from world renowned manufacturers. Riverside Interiors combines traditional Scottish gifts with an exclusive collection of contemporary and design led gifts – from watches, handbags, designer jewellery, scarves and homeware, to high quality furniture, sofas and lighting which will leave you spoilt for choice. Stop in past for a browse and some Caithness hospitality! For more information, visit www.riversideinteriors.co.uk

Newly opened in May 2018, Far North Gifts specialises in unique one-off products which are handcrafted and locally sourced. It also aims to provide visitors with other carefully selected quality crafted goods, which will enhance the watercolour and mixed media paintings of Tim Aykroyd. www.farnorthgifts.co.uk 

Photo: Far North Gifts, Old Stromness

Along the west coast…

Rugged, wild and windswept, the west Highlands are home to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful coastal scenery in the world. Savour your journey along the hairpin bends of the NC500’s winding west coast roads, and make sure to stop at…

This arts and crafts shop with a nautical flair is a hidden treasure, tucked away off the west coast’s beaten track. Located within historic Badachro House, Latitude 57 specialises in gifts ranging from tweed to hand-made soaps, jewellery and pottery. The shop’s owners are happy to open Latitude 57 by appointment outside regular hours, too. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/latitude57

Photo: Latitude 57

Venture off the beaten track and down a single track road by Achnasheen, and you’ll find The Perfume Studio, home to a range of perfumes, skin creams, toiletries and soaps, all of which are manufactured on the premises and sold in the on-site gift shop. Take time to stop in past the Aroma Café, too, for a coffee and beautiful views of the Torridon mountains. For more information, visit www.perfume-studio.com

The Culkein Store specialises in a wide range of homemade jams, marmalades and chutneys, all made within the seaside cabin’s kitchen in the traditional hand-made stove top method. Due to this artisan method of production, batches are smaller and more refined than large, commercial brands, and because of this, no additives are needed – and the flavours speak for themselves! For more information, visit www.culkeinstore.co.uk

Photo: Culkein Stores

From the roadside, Assynt Aromas Candle Shop appears to be just a small shed – but don’t let appearances deceive you! A wide range of luxurious and natural handmade fragrances are produced and sold here, alongside artisan soaps and other products. Meanwhile, the Secret Tea Garden makes the perfect stopping-off point on the north-west section of your NC500 trip – shelter under a parasol and enjoy a clotted cream scone. For more information, visit www.thelittlesoapandcandlecompany.co.uk

Photo: Assynt Aromas

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