By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 15th May 2018

Top Boat Trips of the NC500

The North Coast 500 is, first and foremost, a driving route, but travelling by road isn’t the only way to see the beauty of the North Highlands!

Why not view the other side of the North Coast 500 with an exhilarating trip on a powerboat? Alternatively, you could monitor and survey Hebridean wildlife from one of the longest running wildlife operators in Europe. At the start or the end of your journey, explore the waters of the Moray Firth- here you’ll find pods of more than 200 bottlenose dolphins that live on the east coast. Alternatively, try searching for the Loch Ness monster – you have to sail it to believe it!

Read up about some of our recommended boat trips below, and head out on the open water to see the North Highlands from a very different angle.

Take a trip on a RIB with Eco Ventures

Based in the beautiful town of Cromarty at the heart of the Cromarty Firth, EcoVentures specialises in marine wildlife watching trips using a custom built 9.5 metre RIB. Their trips frequently encounter bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises, seals, minke whales and a wide variety of seabirds. An informative commentary is given throughout the trip, with refreshments provided, as well as waterproof clothing, lifejackets, headbands and goggles. Sailings depart daily from Cromarty Harbour, starting in April and running until the end of October, although booking is always recommended to avoid disappointment. What’s more, by booking with Eco Ventures, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that the company aims to run all their trips in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner. Eco Ventures are fully accredited with the Dolphin Space Programme, and with the WiSe Scheme.

Search for the Loch Ness Monster with Jacobite Cruises!

Loch Ness by Jacobite has been running short day trips on Loch Ness for more than 40 years. With 10 different cruise and tour experiences available, you’ll be sure to receive a warm, Highland welcome! As you sail down the loch, you’ll learn more about the history, mystery and myths of perhaps Scotland’s most famous loch – and who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of Nessie herself! Loch Ness by Jacobite runs excursions seven days a week, 363 days of the year. For more information, visit

Hire your own boat with Glendale Boats!

Sheltered from the open sea, the shoreline at Loch Gairloch is truly diverse and makes a fascinating day trip by boat. Hire a boat with Glendale Boats to explore Loch Gairloch and its abundance of wildlife, or to go fishing for a few hours. These waters are home to an abundance of wildlife, including many seabirds such as cormorants and shags. The shoreline also provides several nesting points for seals and otters, too. Or, if you don’t fancy driving yourself, you can book a trip around the harbour visiting Shieldaig Bay, Badachro Bay and Strath on ‘Vision 1’ or ‘Vision 2’, Glendale Boats’ ex MOD patrol boats. For more information, visit

Sail in the Seacoast

Join the Geo Explorer for an exciting tour of the East Caithness coastline. Here, you’ll explore caves, Whaligoe Haven, castles, natural arches and much, much more. With an informative commentary throughout, these Seacoast trips are family-friendly and suited to adults and children aged 4 years and above, providing seating for up to 12 passengers and fitted with twin outboard engines for improved safety. Enjoy close-up views of seasonal nesting birds and marine wildlife as you cruise at up to 30 knots – as long as sea conditions allow. While these coastal tours are not recommended for children under 4 years old, Seacoast offer leisurely cruises of the harbour and bay, each of which lasts for half an hour – perfect for smaller children. Sailing times are flexible, depending on demand. For more information, visit

John o’Groats Ferries

Wildlife Cruises are available from 20 June to 31 August daily from John O’Groats. Departing John O’Groats 2.30pm for 90 mins. No booking is required. Just turn up at the ferry office in John O’Groats by 2.15pm and buy your ticket. Capacity is 250 pax. Enjoy a spectacular afternoon cruise. Arctic skuas, storm petrels, colonies of guillemots, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes, Atlantic grey seals and much more! You may be lucky enough to see some killer whales. Plenty sightings throughout the summer.

If you wish to tie in a trip to Orkney, we offer day trips from John o’Groats or Inverness daily between May and September.


Gairloch Marine Boat Trips

Established in 1989, Gairloch Marine Life Centre & Cruises is one of the longest-running marine wildlife operators in Europe. Not only this, but it boasts the longest-running porpoise survey in the world. The centre is located in one of the most picturesque areas in Wester Ross, where you’ll be spoilt for choice – there’s just so much to see and do. Join the team on their daily boat trips between March and October, where they monitor and survey Hebridean wildlife including harbour porpoises, whales, grey and common seals and dolphins, as well as a wide variety of seabirds, such as white tailed eagles, golden eagles, black-throated divers, and Great Northern Divers. For more information, visit

North Coast Sea Tours

From Kylesku In the far north west book on line with North Coast Sea Tours for a magnificent guided boat tour along some of Scotland’s most stunning and least explored coastline including The Old Man of Stoer, Cape Wrath, and the seabird cities of Handa Island. Also, new for 2018 is the opportunity for a big day trip to visit the remote and now uninhabited islands of North Rona and Sula Sgeir, famous for the ancient and ongoing Hebridean tradition of the Guga Hunt.


Featured Itineraries

View All Itineraries

Enhance Your NC500 Experience

Experience More

NC500 Champions

Route Sponsor

Our Corporate Partners

Achnagairn ecosse EV Ackergill Singleton Clynelish Natural Retreats Dunnet Bay Distillers Cottages and Castles Galbraith Arnold Clark