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North Coast 500

North Coast 500

£1145 per person

Grade 4 Cycle TourCycling 500 miles around the Scottish coastline in 7 days is a tough ride but the spectacular scenery that you will cycle past is worth every pedal stroke.

We will be following the official NC500 route as far as Melvich but for a number of safety reasons have chosen not to continue with the official route past this point as it takes us on the very busy A9 dual carriageway. Instead, we have chosen a very quiet and safe route back to Inverness via Dornoch.

Travelling by train and arriving into Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands gives a taster of the countryside that will be on offer during the following week. Plan to arrive the night before the tour departs and you will have chance to savour the sights and sounds of the city that is the starting point of what will become a memorable cycling adventure into the Far North of Scotland.

There are women only trips available for this tour.
Our next women only tour will run from Saturday 5th to Sunday 13th September 2020.
Your Cycle Tour Leader for this trip will be Tori Gray.

Women Only Tour Available
NC500 Pedal Nation Cycle Tour

Highlights

  • Rolling out from Inverness Castle on the first morning of the tour
  • Spectacular scenery of Strathconon Forest
  • Gazing at the Isle of Skye from Shieldaig
  • The amazing climb up the Bealach na Ba
  • The beautiful smell of the sea at Applecross
  • The stunning view of Upper Loch Torridon from Badan Mhugaidh viewpoint
  • Counting the species of whales and dolphins seen by whale watchers close to Gairloch
  • The amazing ride from Rhiconich to Durness
  • Sighting the Atlantic Ocean at Bettyhill
  • Looking for a hen harriers in Strath Halladale
  • The final celebration in Inverness

Accommodation

Your accommodation, on a twin share bed and breakfast basis, will be in family run hotels and good quality bed and breakfasts. We will endeavour to accommodate the group in the same location however on occasions this might not be possible.

Single accommodation is available for a supplement price of £375.

Meals

A packed lunch will be provided.

You will need to purchase your own evening meals, which are usually eaten communally, although you are free to opt out if you wish.

In the Tour Plan, (B, L, D) refers to meals included in the trip cost i.e. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

Bike Transfers

Getting your bike to and from the Capital of The Highlands can be difficult, we aim to remove this difficulty by offering a totally free of charge delivery service to the start in Inverness and back to Sheffield at the conclusion of the event. All that you need to do in the days leading up to the tour is drop off your bike at our Sheffield office and we will deliver it to Inverness. On the day preceding your arrival the support crew drives to Scotland and we can arrange bike collection at convenient motorway services as we head north. We will be using the M1, A1, M6, M74 and the A9 as we drive from Sheffield to Inverness.  Please ring the office if you would like further clarification of our bike collection and drop off service.

Tour Plan

The route of this tour is flexible and should be seen as a guide only. Local conditions, weather or fitness could lead to changes in our daily plans. All times and distances are approximate.

Download the North Coast 500 Itinerary

7 days of cycling
Approx 520 miles Age
  • Destination
  • Depart from
    Inverness, Scotland
  • Return from
    Inverness, Scotland
  • Road surfaces
    Lots of hills. Tarmac (conditions can vary).
  • Bike Type
    Hybrid / Tourer / Road bike
  • Included
    North Coast 500
    Accommodation
    Lunch
    Cycling guide
    GPX files
    Vehicle support
    Baggage transfer
  • Not Included
    Evening meals (unless specified)
    Bike hire
    Travel to start & from finish
    International flights
    Airport transfers
    Travel insurance
    Visas
1
Arrival Day
Arrive in Inverness ready to set off the next morning.
2
Cycle from Inverness Castle to Lochcarron
64 miles (103km) with 2429ft (740m) ascent
After a hearty Scottish breakfast we will make our way to Inverness Castle for the obligatory start of the tour photographs and then cycle through the city, crossing the River Ness and heading out to Clachnaharry and Bunchrew, to our right we will have tremendous views of the Beauly Firth. From Bunchrew we will head west, before turning northwards and cycling to Muir of Ord. As we leave Muir of Ord we will pass the famous fish ladder at Rogie Falls, onwards through Garve and Lochluichart whilst passing the diminutive railway station at Achanalt and continuing along the A832 to Achnasheen. At Achnasheen we turn left onto the A890 and ascend alongside Loch Gowan with spectacular views of Ledgowan Forest away to our right. We will now be riding alongside Loch Dughaill with stunning views of Achnashellach Forest to our left, pine trees line the carriageway and as we head from Achnashellach Station the A890 becomes a single track road with passing places. This transition marks the final miles to Lochcarron, which is where we will be stopping for the evening. (B, L)
3
Cycle from Lochcarron to Gairloch
79 miles (127km) with 6916ft (2108m) ascent
After a comfortable night in our accommodation we will be fresh and ready to tackle one of the most memorable day’s cycling in the United Kingdom. As we gently roll out of Lochcarron the landscape gives a big clue as to the type of day that lies ahead. Yesterday was a warm-up, whilst the preparation of the previous weeks should pay dividends and ensure you will have a brilliant day in the saddle. With Loch Kishorn away to the left, the climb up Bealach na Ba begins with a left turn at Tornapress. Select a very low gear and gently grind away, up and up, breath deeply and negotiate the hairpin bends and watch the magnificent view unfold. As you reach the car park at the summit of the pass a silver coloured information plate outlines all the mountains in the distance. From here there is a long, steep and tricky descent all the way down to Applecross. From Applecross we will now be cycling to the north, with some gorgeous views of the Isle of Raasay away to the west. As we reach our most northerly point at Fearnmore we turn south-east and now have Loch Torridon and Loch Shieldaig to the north-east. The next village of any note is Shieldaig, a place where sea otters can occasionally be spotted close to Shieldaig Island. Leaving Shieldaig we have some more short sharp ascents and descents, whilst the route gives some exceptional views of Torridon, a tiny village on the shore of Upper Loch Torridon. Leaving Torridon we will be cycling through Glen Torridon along the southern front of Liathach one of the most imposing mountains in all of Britain, eventually we will reach the village of Kinlochewe itself dominated by Beinn Eighe the largest mountain of the Torridon Peaks. Leaving Kinlochewe we head alongside Loch Maree before turning to the north-west to eventually arrive in Gairloch. Perhaps a little tired but undoubtedly excited and inspired by what we have seen and achieved during a superb day on the bike. (B, L)
4
Cycle from Gairloch to Ullapool
56 miles (90 km) with 4156ft (1265m) ascent
Today is a shorter and less hilly ride but once again it is spectacular. From Gairloch we climb out of the village on the A832 and head to Poolewe. We pass the WWII anti-aircraft batteries going into Aultbea and you may want to visit the Arctic Convoy museum just outside the village.  We then cycle along the first and second coast and along Gruinard Bay with Gruinard Island – site of the anthrax experiment in 1942 to our right. We then climb up to  Badcaul with  Little Loch Broom to the north and the An Teallach Hills to the south. This range of hills is comparable in terms of beauty with the Torridon Peaks and the Cuillins of Skye. Crossing Fain Bridge marks the beginning of the Dundonnell Forest which is a wild and magnificent ride, which after another long and gentle descent eventually reaches the junction with the A835 at Corrieshalloch Gorge. We then turn north-west and cycle along the A835 to reach the picturesque village of Ullapool and from there we will be once again be in open countryside, a viewpoint just to the north of Strathcanaird gives magnificent views of The Coigach Peaks which include Beinn an Eoin and Cul Beag amongst others. (B, L)
5
Cycle from Ullapool to Kinlochbervie
80 miles (128km) with 7021ft (2140m) ascent
Today is the hilliest day of our tour of the northern coastline of Scotland. With 7,021 feet of Scottish climbing in prospect a good breakfast is essential. We will be rolling out of Ullapool and heading northwards for a few miles before turning to the northwest at Drumrunie and cycling alongside Loch Lurgainn with beautiful views and undulating terrain. We continue on through Inverkirkaig andStrathan before arriving for a breakin Lochinver. As we leave Lochinver we turn northwest once again, cycling alongside the coastline on the B869. The landscape is notable for its numerous small limestone lochs, many un-fished for years and holding the wildest of trout and possibly some red-throated divers. By now you will be in the familiar routine of short sharp ascents and similar descents. As you cycle through Drumbeg and Nedd look out for the striking Y-shaped Quinag which dominates the landscape. Near Unapool we will be leaving the B869 and taking the A894, stopping at the Rock Stop café, before heading northwest over the curved bridge at Kylesku which traverses Loch a Chairn Bhain.  We head to Scourie, once a stronghold of the Clan Mackay, and now situated in the very heart of the North West Highlands Geopark. The final miles of this memorable adventure take us through Laxford Bridge and at  Rhiconich we turn off to Kinlochbervie along the side of Loch Inchard and the tranquil Kinlochbervie Hotel, our home for the night, is nearby. (B, L)
6
Cycle from Kinlochbervie to Melvich
73 miles (117km) with 6071ft (1850m) ascent
We shouldn’t really say that one day of the tour is the best of all, but some of our clients think this is it. Kinlochbervie to Melvich is  hours of pure cycling heaven. Rolling terrain, a few hefty ascents, rollicking descents and views that surpass each other at every turn, all this goes to make it undisputed strong favourite for best leg of the journey. On these 70 miles, take your time, there’s no rush, the days are long in the Far North so soak it up, it’s what the North Coast 500 is all about and why you have come to ride it. After a good night’s sleep we will be back on the road, rolling out of Kinlochbervie and retracing our steps back to Richonich before rejoining our route. The first half of the day starts with a wild and exposed ride from Rhiconich to the Kyle of Durness, famous as a great place for fishing for sea-trout at low tide.   At Durness we will stop at the Balnakeil Craft Village to visit the famous Cocoa Mountain café. From Durness we hug the coastline, stopping off if we wish to visit the Smoo Cave, cycling southwest in the remote countryside alongside Loch Eriboll before turning back north and then west to cross the Kyle of Tongue. The terrain stays undulating for a few more miles and we can stop for a brew at the Bettyhill Hotel if we need to before we eventually reach Melvich. (B, L)
7
Cycle from Melvich to Dornoch
93 miles (149km) with 3926ft (1196m)
We thought long and hard about the route from Melvich to Inverness, should we follow the ‘official’ NC500 route back to Inverness, which follows the A9 south from Wick. Undoubtedly, the Caithness coastline is beautiful. However it’s a trunk road, it’s fast, the only road north and south for articulated lorries,  is very narrow in places, it has a number of blind corners and all these factors make cycling the A9 not worth the risk. So from Melvich we will follow very gentle National Cycle Network Route 1 (NCN 1) and then turning inland and cycling alongside the Halladale River, famous for its salmon fishing and then through Strath Halladale which is known for its hen harriers. Continuing due south, we will pedal through Achiemore, Craigtown, Croick and the delightfully named Trantlebeg before reaching Forsinard Station where the RSPB Forsinard Flows is situated. The terrain is undulating rather than hilly and nothing-in comparison to what we have tackled earlier in the tour. At Kinbrace we head west on the B871 and now push our pedals alongside the River Helmsdale before passing Badanloch Lodge, Garvault Hotel and eventually reaching Syre, an infamous location associated with the Highland Clearances in Strathnaver. Look out for the board telling you about Donald MacLeod’s book ‘Gloomy Memories, about the clearances The final miles take us through the beautiful Naver Forest and a gorgeous section of undulating road alongside Loch Naver before stopping for a rest at Altnaharra. We then have a challenging climb, as we push on along Strath Vagastie under the towering presence of Ben Klibreck and after a steady climb we will reach the top of the long incline. As we descend from here we pass Crask, whilst a short distance beyond is one of our favourite watering holes, the The Crask Inn. From the Crask Inn we have some gentle downhill cycling on the NCN1, which is also a single track road (A836) to arrive into Lairg, a village with a population of around 900 and known as the ‘Crossroads of the North’, Lairg is also famous for its huge one-day sheep sales which are held in August. We finally head out to the east coast and after a very short section of A9 we cycle along the banks of Loch Fleet, where we may see seals basking in the sun, before arriving at Dornoch. (B, L)
8
Cycle to Inverness Castle
55 miles (88km) with 3268ft (996m) ascent
We push again away from the coast, cycling on relatively flat terrain, with good views over the Dornoch Firth, to Bonar Bridge and Ardgay, where we’ll stop at Ardgay Highland shop and Café which is a treasure trove if you are looking for gifts to take home.  After leaving the café we have a long occasionally steep climb over the ‘Struie’. As we come down off the Struie we’ll cycle through Evanton after which we have another short section of A9 to cross the Cromarty Firth,before we turn off to Culbokie.. The end of our journey is in sight as we cycle through the Black Isle. We go through Munlochy and some undulating countryside before we cross the Beauly Firth to the west and the Moray Firth to the east on the Kessock Bridge cycle path. The last couple of miles involving some city centre cycling to take us back to Inverness Castle where it all began a week ago. After celebratory photographs we will be having a meal in one of Inverness’ many fine restaurants to round off a great cycling adventure. (B, L) Before we have our celebratory dinner, the support crew will be loading bikes onto the support van for transport to the south. They will be able to advise on transport to Inverness Airport (e.g. Stagecoach offer a Jet Bus Service to the airport which departs every 30 minutes). The support crew will be leaving early the next morning.
9
Departure Day
Time to depart for your journey home. (B)

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK

9.5
Superb
8.2
Accommodation
9.6
Route & Rest Locations
9.6
Food & Refreshments Provided
9.8
Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
10.0
Tour Guide & Support Crew
10.0
OVERALL SATISFACTION

Comments:

  • Tom Lunt
    20 September 2020 at 13:30

    Its a brilliant challenge and the scenery is beautiful. Overall PN worked hard to make the holiday a really fantastic experience in difficult circumstances.I thought Ang and Ken were really good leaders very pleasant and straight forward.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • Chris Farrell
    17 September 2020 at 13:20

    Pedal Nation delivered the excellent service and support as offered. The weather and other road users offered another dimension and experience. Both Ken and Ang provided an excellent service and support, tailored to suit the individual and varied needs of the participants.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • Jacqueline Ferguson
    27 November 2018 at 00:20

    A fabulous cycling journey made all the better by being supported by Pedal Nation. We had some tough conditions on our week in September and being supported by Ken and Julie ensured we all had a positive experience. Many magical memories ! Thanks to our guides and our fellow cyclists for a great week. Now which one next…?!

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • S. Barsby
    30 September 2018 at 17:43

    We had considered doing the NC500 unsupported but decided to do the ride with Pedal Nation. We were very pleased with our decision as Pedal Nation were a top notch company to deal with. If I were to go on another cycling holiday Pedal Nation would be the first company I would turn to. Very professional.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • M. Barsby
    29 September 2018 at 10:02

    I would first like to thank Pedal Nation for putting this trip on, it was an amazing experience of life long memories. I would also like to thank Julie and Ken for being our leaders they were so positive and kept us going. They have turned a group of strangers into friends.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • M. Hay
    28 September 2018 at 19:17

    Great support & lots of effort made in picking a great route.
    Thank you for some really special memories x

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • J. Kunka
    26 June 2018 at 11:21

    Excellent guides and organisation. Thank you for a great trip!

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • K. McLelland
    31 May 2018 at 21:49

    They worked very hard to give us a wonderful holiday experience and went out of their way to help e.g. had bags in the room each evening when we reached the hotel, got local cafes to make sandwiches which were much nicer than the Tesco ones, gave individual briefings to people with different needs (e.g. me with no sat nav!). They were professional, friendly and gave good advice to the less experienced cyclists (like me!) Very happy with my first cycling trip, thank you so much for everything.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • S. Campbell
    30 May 2018 at 20:06

    I thought Ken, Simon and Julie were among the best leaders I’ve experienced. They were very conscientious and caring without being overbearing. Their attention to detail was excellent and they never seemed to switch off. They were also extremely nice and good fun.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION
  • K. Taylor
    28 May 2018 at 16:18

    Couldn’t have asked for more. Friendly, down to earth, good fun, supportive, helpful. Glad Julie insisted I load the routes on my Garmin. Grateful also for Simon changing my brake pads. Glad also that Ken chose a route that didn’t spend much time on the A9. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and the support from Ken, Si and Julie was super.

    Accommodation
    Route & Rest Locations
    Food & Refreshments Provided
    Cycling Pace & Time in Saddle
    Tour Guide & Support Crew
    OVERALL SATISFACTION

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