Hiking by the NC500

Best Munro and Corbett hillwalking routes near the NC500

Around the North Coast 500, the 'ultimate road trip around the North of Scotland', there are lots of hiking and hillwalking routes. Here's a selection of the best.

The "North Coast 500", or simply the "NC500", is a coastal driving or cycling route starting and finishing in Inverness. Following more than 500 miles of fairly quiet roads in the Northern Highlands of Scotland, the route takes in some of the finest scenery Scotland has to offer. Ocean views, dramatic Munro and Corbett mountains, white beaches, picturesque fishing villages and lonely lochs are all visited on route.

The NC500 route is a superb cycling challenge for keen cyclists and takes several days to complete. The route also attracts drivers and motor-bikers wanting an escape to enjoy spectacular scenery. Driving the NC500 at a leisurely pace, perhaps setting aside a week or more and staying at various locations will allow the route's delights to be savoured.

Overlooking the route are some magnificent mountains and I've tried to put together a 'top 10' list of the finest of these. I couldn't squeeze all my favourites in, so ended up with a list of 12, including Suilven, a spectacular hill but of such modest height it misses out being in the Corbett list. Below is the list in the order of a clockwise NC500 route.

More hillwalking routes in the Northern Highlands are listed here.

Ben Wyvis

1 - Ben Wyvis

From Garbat

Ascent : 960m
Distance : 12km
Duration : 4:35hr
Inverness's 'Ben' and the first mountain encountered on the NC500. Ben Wyvis is a huge whale-back shaped mountain that dominates the landscape above the Moray Firth. There's a fine path leading through forestry and up onto the mountain's western shoulder, from where a pleasant walk on a wide, grassy plateau leads to the summit.

Beinn Damh

2 - Beinn Damh

From Torridon

Ascent : 960m
Distance : 12km
Duration : 4:50hr
On south-western tip of the NC500 and the southern side of Loch Torridon, Beinn Damh towers above coniferous and Scot's Pine forests. The finest route up this mountain begins from the Torridon Inn, where parking is available and is an excellent place to return to relax and mull the day over a pint.


3 - Liathach

From Torridon

Ascent : 1280m
Distance : 6km
Duration : 3:40hr
Liathach is situated in the heart of the Torridon in the south-western section of the NC500. It is a dramatic looking mountain made of sandstone topped with quartzite blocks. Forboding on first aquantiance and for more experienced hillwalkers only, there are however some chinks in Liathach's armour which has allowed a rough but loose route to develop over time.


4 - Slioch

From Incheril

Ascent : 1035m
Distance : 18km
Duration : 6:15hr
Majestic Slioch towers above Loch Maree and its beauty is often featured on scenic calendars. It's one of those mountains that looks truly impenetrable from most viewpoints, however there is one fairly easy route going in from the south-east along the calm shores of Loch Maree.

An Teallach

5 - An Teallach

From Dundonnell

Ascent : 1775m
Distance : 18km
Duration : 7:30hr
Dramatic An Teallach with its spires and crags guards a beautiful remote area containing some wonderful peaks. The 'classic' traverse of the main An Teallach ridge requires a good head for heights, scrambling skills and care, particularly on Corrag Bhuidhe. There is a bypass path on the south side of the ridge that avoids difficulties.

Seana Bhraigh

6 - Seana Bhraigh

From Inverlael

Ascent : 1320m
Distance : 29km
Duration : 7hr
South-east of Ullapool, the vast areas of Inverlael, Freevater and StrathVaich Forests lie waiting to be explored. There are several peaks here, some visible from the NC500, some hidden well from view. Seana Bhraigh is the most dramatic of these peaks with its glacially carved and beautiful northern corrie requiring with some scrambling to reach its eastern top Creag an Duine.

Cul Mor and Cul Beag

7 - Cul Mor and Cul Beag

From Loch Lurgainn

Ascent : 1650m
Distance : 16km
Duration : 6:25hr
Cul Mor and Cul Beag sit in Coigaich which holds some of the most stunning scenery in Scotland. These hills stand isolated above the peat land and lochans and although neither of them reach Munro height, they have very individual character. A quick jaunt up nearby Stac Pollaidh, around 4 miles west of the NC500, is a must !


8 - Suilven

From Glen Canisp

Ascent : 1425m
Distance : 22km
Duration : 7:50hr
Starting from Glencanisp and finishing at Inverkirkaig some 6km apart, this route combines the best of Suilven, the Falls of Kirkaig and their surrounding scenery into one circular route. Suilven's ridge requires a bit of hands-out-of-pockets on the crest to reach its summit, Caisteal Liath.


9 - Quinag

From Loch Assynt

Ascent : 1150m
Distance : 13km
Duration : 5:10hr
Quinag is a stunning mountain from any angle. It has five summits, three of which - Sail Gharbh, Sail Gorm and Spidean Coinich - are distinctive enough to be classed Corbetts in their own right. The mountain shields itself with many cliffs and buttresses, however it is relatively straighforward to access the peaks from a fine path leading from a car-park on the A894.

Foinaven and Akle

10 - Foinaven and Arkle

From Loch Stack

Ascent : 2175m
Distance : 31km
Duration : 11:30hr
At just under 3000ft above sea-level, Foinaven and Arkle are magnificent mountains regardless of list status and reminiscent of Beinn Eighe in Torridon. Enjoy superb ridge-walking on quartzite crests above dramatic corries. Stunning vast views can be savoured on clear days on one of the best hill routes in Scotland.

Ben Hope

11 - Ben Hope

From Strath More

Ascent : 915m
Distance : 7km
Duration : 3:10hr
Ben Hope, a distinctive peak, lying a few miles south of the NC500 near Tongue is the most northerly Munro ! There are two main approaches - a quick and easy route from the south, or a more complex, longer route in from the north with some exposed scrambling. Either way, reaching the summit is rewarded with some far-distant stunning views, including to Orkney.

Ben Loyal

12 - Ben Loyal

From Ribigill Farm

Ascent : 975m
Distance : 14km
Duration : 5:15hr
Ben Loyal is an isolated and prominent mountain in north of Scotland. Weird tors dot along the crest and impressive crags rise up from the glens below. The most popular route is to head in from near Tongue, where farm tracks lead to the base of the mountain.


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