By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 29th May 2018

Adventure & Outdoors

Driving the North Coast 500 is already an adventure, but why not use your time in the North Highlands to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors? With plenty of activities to suit visitors of all ages and abilities, you can try your hand at fishing, mountain biking, or even embark on a camping trip! In this section, we’ll highlight some of our favourite activities along the North Coast 500 route – perfect for planning that extra adventure of your very own.

Create family memories that will be cherished for years to come.

Avid Anglers!

Fishing is a great way for parents to bond with the children in a relaxed setting. The North Highlands have some of the best lochs and rivers for trout and salmon fishing in the country, as well as fantastic sea fishing. Remember to book your permit!

If you are a keen fly fisher, or are interested in giving this popular sport a try, then speak to Roger from TroutQuest. TroutQuest offers guided fly fishing for salmon and wild brown trout on numerous rivers and lochs throughout the North Coast 500, plus fly fishing instruction.

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Photos: TroutQuest

Alternatively discover our Highland estates!
The Assynt Foundation in Assynt have some of the world’s best brown trout fishing with boats available to hire – or check out Langwell Estate’s fishing.

Venture off route for a few days to Alladale Wilderness Reserve. With a choice of 10 lochs, you can spend days there! Bettyhill Stores on the north coast provides fishing permits and you can pick up some equipment at The Dingwall Sports and Model Shop.

Try a new activity!

From fishing, canoeing, rock climbing and gorge scrambling to archery, clay pigeon shooting or  bagging yourself a Munro – there is something fun for all the family.

Bag your first Munro on the North Coast 500. Pick a peak or an activity and find out more from our following activity providers: Hamlet Mountaineering, Gairloch Canoe and Kayak Centre, Torridon Activities or Liquid Footprints.

World class mountain bike destination

The North Highlands have fantastic mountain bike trails for all levels. Visit the Learnie Red Rocks at the start or end of your trip and make the most of these 10 magnificent miles of exhilarating man made trails. Great for all levels of mountain bikers, these trails are particularly suitable for novices and intermediates – perfect for building your confidence or refining your biking skills. Mix up the green, blue and black graded trails with the forest tracks and the orange graded bike park and dirt jump area. Plan your route now with their Learnie Red Rock Map.

Photo: Torridon Outdoors, Mountain Biking

Explore the Highland Wildcat Trails in Golspie, directly on the route. Did you know they have the longest single track decent in the UK, at around 7000m? Their trail head is not a remote car park, but the village of Golspie. While some members of the family may want to experience the trails, others may wish to visit Golspie Gallery or enjoy a gentle stroll around Golspie’s hidden gem, Big Burn – or sample the various catering establishments and visitor attractions such as Dunrobin Castle.

Check out Ticket to Ride for mountain bike hire and equipment or discover the remote Torridon area with Torridon Activities mountain bike hire.

Beaches galore!

The north highlands boast remote Mediterranean style beaches. Fly a kite, build sandcastles, explore the rocpools or discover Europe’s smallest castle ‘Hermit Castle’ at Achmelvich Beach.

Photo: Maggie Harrison, Achmelvich Beach

For a celebrity beach, head to the end of the Redpoint road where two stunning beaches are to be found – featured in British comedy-drama, “What We Did on Our Holiday” starring David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, and Billy Connolly. On a clear day you can see the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Loch Torridon. The red sands come from the iron in the hills, hence the namesake ‘redpoint’.

Take a camping trip!

Feeling adventurous? One of the best ways to experience the Highland countryside is camping.

Stay a couple nights or visit a new destination each day, it’s entirely your choice! Pitch up your tent, campervan or mix it up a little with a stay in a wigwam, glamping pod or bunkhouse.

Disconnect from the screens and breathe in the fresh Highland air. Plan ahead – campsites fill up quickly! For inspiration, check out our camping itinerary.

Take a bike ride

There’s nothing better than getting out on your bikes as a family, and Ticket to Ride make this possible while you’re visiting the North Highlands. With a range of bikes to suit all ages ready to hire, make the most of the accessible, traffic-free paths starting at their office in Bellfield Park, Inverness. Their local knowledge is second-to-none, so make sure to talk to a member of the team to learn more about all the wonderful places to stop along your journey.

Photo: Ticket to Ride, Caledonian Canal

Why not discover the Caledonian Canal by bicycle – take the leisurely ride along the Caledonian Canal towpath from Inverness to Dochgarroch or explore some of the Great Glen by mountain bike.

You might want to make the most out of their bike bus and explore the cycle tracks around the Black Isle. Ticket to Ride can also hire out child seats, trailers and tagalongs for those not quite ready to cycle on their own. Children’s bikes come with a helmet, high visibility vest, bike pump, lock and spaces, and, just like the adult bikes, these are carefully inspected and maintained between each trip.

Experience Wildwoods!

There is something for everyone at Wildwoods – exhilarating activities set in a beautiful Highland location! From world class paintball to Lasertag, archery and bush crafts, you can rely on Wildwoodz to create memories that will last. Or bring out your inner Viking with Axe throwing… yes, you heard us right!

Sea Glass searching

Turn a walk along the beach into an adventure for little ones as you search for sea glass together! Formed from old broken bottles, tableware and even lights, worn smooth and flat by the tides, searching for sea glass is nature’s very own treasure hunt. Ullapool, John o’Groats and Golspie are our favourite locations to begin your search. For more information, read our comprehensive guide to searching for sea glass here.

Photo: BB’s Bunkhouse , sea glass searching

Gold Panning

In 1868, when a local man found significant amounts of gold in the Suisgill and Kildonan burns, Suisgill Estate became the centre of the ‘Great Sutherland Gold Rush’, with hundreds of would-be gold prospectors flocking to set up camp at the site of Baile an Or and try their luck at making their fortune. Although this gold fever was short-lived, recreational gold panning is still allowed certain parts of Suisgill Estate today, and potential gold panners of all ages are welcome to try their hand at this absorbing past-time. For more information, please see our gold panning article.

Photo: Ashley Bird (not at the Kildonan River)

Find a forest rich for exploring at Ferrycroft

There’s plenty to see and do at Ferrycroft, from fun activities in the four-star visitor centre, to splendid views of Loch Shin from the top of ancient Ord Hill. This is a rich and fascinating place with high-quality archaeology, interesting wildlife and pretty forest trails. Spend an hour here or the day.

Discover some of the oldest rocks in Europe

The North West Highland Geopark is one of the oldest landscapes in Europe, occupying a significant area of the North Coast 500. The park is well signposted, with information panels highlighting the stories behind the scenery; choose to walk the main rock route, or one of the four pebble routes, and see how many natural wonders you can spot. The walk which leads to the ancient bone caves near Inchnadamph is suitable for families, though not for pushchairs – and make time to stop at Knockan Crag, where tales of the area’s natural history come to life through poetry, sculpture and interactive exhibitions. Browse the Geopark’s map for things to do and where to go if it rains!

Photo: Knockan Crag by Katrina Stewart

Rocpool Exploring

Grab your welly boots, bucket and net and set forth to the beach! Discover the wildlife that exists among the shoreline of our magical beaches. Search for spiny urchins, nippy crabs and slippery blennies in the rockpools at Rosemarkie Beach on the Black Isle or why not venture off the beaten path and explore some of our undiscovered beaches.

Pirates and Merfolk Adventure Package

For all those families with wee adventurers, this is the perfect family adventure. Their Pirates and Merfolk package offers the whole family the chance to lose themselves in their own exciting story. Your experience begins with getting dressed up. They will bring fancy dress outfits for the children and even a couple for the young at heart. They also bring along water pistols to fend off any of those pesky monsters you may encounter. You will then head out in their canoes, safely guided by your canoe instructor, where you will embark on a treasure hunt that will involve exploring islands, figuring out riddles and puzzles and finally finding the treasure. There will be adventures and high jinks along the way with plenty of time to take photos and make some very special memories, finishing off with a barbecue on the shoreline. Find out more with Liquid Footprints.

Photo: Liquid Footprints, Pirates and Merfolk Adventure

Cruise ships at Invergordon

Venture off the main route along the east coast and check out the various cruise ships at Invergordon – or why not detour and explore the charming fishing villages along the east coast? Perfect for young and young-at-heart explorers alike! Check the timetable here: Invergordon Cruise Liner List 2018.

Photo: Andrew Dowsett Photography, Invergordon

Stay in a castle or Europe’s Largest Tree House!

No North Coast 500 adventure is complete without a stay in a castle – and Ackergill Tower, with its fairy tale architecture dating back to the 15th century, fits the bill perfectly. You could even opt to stay overnight in the largest treehouse in Europe – now there’s an adventure your children will always remember!

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Photos: Ackergill Tower (Tree house, Smuggler’s Inn, Ackgill Tower)

Disc Golf Course

Also known as Frolf and Frisbee Golf – Disc Golf is one of the fastest growing sports in the world! What is this you might ask? Basically, it involves throwing a flying disc accurately from a tee in the direction of a pole with chains that catch discs in a basket. Ace Adventures has three nine hold disc courses – perfect for beginners.  Similar to the traditional sport golf – there is also more or less the same terminology used. For example: eagles, birdies, par, bogies and so. In disc golf – the term for a hole in one is an “Ace”! Trust us! Its addictive! Check this out at the start or end or your NC500 travels…or why not try river tubing, canyoning or white water rafting ago.

Ace Adventures & Hideaways, Disc Golf

Want more inspiration on your NC500 travels? Why not become a member and receive access to all our itineraries? From camping, cycling and adventure, to luxury, whisky, history and our 7 day highlights schedule, there’s something for everyone. When you become a member of the North Coast 500, you’ll also receive discounts for offers around the route.

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