Cycle Britain

Tour Overview.

The North Coast 500 is one of Britain’s most legendary road trips. We’ve adapted the route – avoiding main roads such as the A9, winding through more scenic regions, detouring to luxury accommodation options – to transform it into an epic cycling adventure.

This trip is packed with rugged coastal and mountain landscapes, and a road that twists and turns as though its sole purpose is to showcase the best of Scotland. Sure, this twelve-day itinerary is a challenge, but the brave cyclist who accepts it will find themselves well-compensated with jaw-dropping views and with memories guaranteed to outlive the saddle sores and tired legs!

We are keen to extend this tour to e-bike riders – we are the only guided company to offer this! – so that the North Coast 500 is now more accessible than ever before!

We also offer a 7-day North Coast 500 itinerary, if you fancy a faster pace and tougher challenge!

Cycle Britain

500 miles / 12 Days

Cycle Britain tours offer the best customer experience. This means we always go the extra mile, whether it’s our daily bike-wash policy, pre-tour presentation evening or celebratory banquet in Inverness. Every decision is made to create an experience you will remember and treasure forever.

This tour is fully-supported. Ride in a maximum group size of 8 and enjoy the support of our expert team of guides, mechanics and drivers who’ll carry your bags, distribute snacks, help with repairs and lead you along the route while sharing stories that bring each day’s riding to life! We also provide the GPX files for those adventurous souls who wish to navigate or travel at their own pace.

We provide 13 nights of high-quality accommodation. We book private rooms to guarantee optimum rest and recovery, however, room-sharing discounts are possible on request.

Tour Highlights.

  • 'Beallach na ba' - Applecross Pass
  • Lochinver. The fishing village offers stunning views to Suilven.
  • Low-traffic roads. This trip packs all the beauty of the NC500 but adapted specifically for cycling!
  • The rugged landscapes of the Highlands. Ride past shimmering lochs, craggy mountains and barren hills.
  • The satisfaction of riding the North Coast 500.
  • Making new friends and enjoying the camaraderie of riding in a group of 8.
  • Our celebratory evening banquet in Inverness.
  • Great accommodation, specifically chosen to be both comfortable and memorable.
  • Exceptional service that goes beyond your expectations.
  • Our small-group policy ensures you ride in a maximum group size of 8 people.

Summary of the Tour.

  1. Inverness to Achnasheen (43.9 miles)

    Leave Inverness on Scotland’s east coast, and begin heading for the west coast. Today offers a pleasant warm-up as it is one of the flatter days of the trip, rolling mostly through farmland and beside the occasional loch. Assuming availability, you’ll spend the first night in Ledgowan Lodge, a luxury country house on the bank of the River Bran.

  2. Achnasheen to Applecross (38.4 miles)

    Today’s demanding ride takes you up and over the breath-taking Applecross Pass, or to give it its Gaelic name, Beallach na ba, meaning Pass of the Cattle. Until 1975, this challenging yet iconic climb, comprised of alpine hairpins and the steepest ascent of any road in the UK, offered the only access in and out of Applecross.

  3. Applecross to Kinlochewe (41.7 miles)

    From Applecross, you’ll hug the coast on a quiet road around the Applecross Peninsular. You’ll pass south of the rugged Torridon Hills which offer some of Britain’s most dramatic mountain-scapes and then continue through Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve to Kinlochewe, situated near the head of Loch Maree.

  4. Kinlochewe to Poolewe (25.1 miles)

    Water provides a constant companion throughout today’s ride. You’ll begin along the shimmering shore of Loch Maree, cross heather-draped hills pocked with tiny nameless lochans and then descend to the sea alongside streams and rivers. Stay the night in Poolewe which sits at the sheltered head of Loch Ewe.

  5. Poolewe to Ullapool (50.2 miles)

    As you near Scotland’s north-west corner, the villages become more infrequent, the roads more desolate and the scenery even better! The route hugs the dramatic coastline where possible, but is forced to detour inland around lochs and mountains. Only 1,500 locals call Ullapool home, but it’s the region’s largest settlement and therefore an important port and tourist hub.

  6. Ullapool to Lochinver (30 miles)

    Most of today’s riding unfolds along the C1047, a tiny, non-descript singletrack road that appears to have been forgotten by the rest of Scotland. The cycling is breath-taking as you wiggle northwards past lochs and mountains. Lochinver, where you overnight, is a small fishing port with one of the best views to Suilven mountain.

  7. Lochinver to Durness (52.7 miles)

    Today’s elevation profile resembles the teeth of a crocodile. The ride is one of short, sharp climbs and descents that exert a heavy tax on your energy. Reaching Durness is a milestone as this is the most northerly point of our NC500. From here, we head east.

  8. Durness to Bettyhill (40.8 miles)

    Except for a detour inland around Loch Erriboll, today’s route is more direct and heads east keeping the sea on your left. One highlight is crossing the 2.4 mile Kyle of Tongue causeway and another is watching the scenery begin to change; the rugged crag and rock of the west coast is replaced by greenery and woodland. The cycling remains hilly, but by now the worst is behind you.

  9. Bettyhill to Brora (57.2 miles)

    To remain on beautiful, cycle-friendly roads, the route leaves the coast from Melvich and heads into the rugged interior of the Highlands. The route climbs gradually beside the Halladale River, before a steep climb over the shoulder of Ben Uarie. This is the remotest section of the tour, hence today is the longest distance; it is necessary to reach Brora in order to find accommodation.

  10. Brora to Lairg (27.3 miles)

    After a short (two miles) stretch of the busy A9, we plunge back into the barren world of the Scottish Highlands. One highlight is riding on the singletrack road beside Loch Brora which sits in a valley of heather-clad mountains. Lairg, where you overnight, is one of the Highland’s only towns that isn’t situated along the coast.

  11. Lairg to Evanton (33.6 miles)

    This morning’s route parallels rivers as they head to the sea; first the River Shin, and then the Kyle of Sutherland. From Ardgay, the road climbs up and away from Dornoch Firth, before dropping back to sea level. We’ll stay in Kiltearn House, an imposing four-star Victorian guesthouse built in 1894 that offers stunning views across the Cromarty Firth.

  12. Evanton to Inverness (49.8 miles)

    From Dingwall, we hug the coast and ride a lap of the stunning Black Isle. Then, we cross Kessock Bridge, rolling high above the Beauly Firth, and land in Inverness, where the journey began twelve days ago. Congratulations! You have pedalled the North Coast 500!

Itinerary.

The North Coast 500 route is an iconic road trip. It starts and finishes in Inverness, completing a loop of Scotland’s jagged coastline. Designed for cyclists, this route sticks to low-traffic roads, challenging climbs and superlative scenery.
 
We tackle the NC500 anti-clockwise, embarking on the rugged west coast first. On Day Two, we tackle Beallach na ba, Britain’s steepest mountain pass. Then, the route heads north, hugging the coastline where possible, but detouring inland around lochs and mountains. There are tough climbs and undulations each day, but picturesque landscapes offer ample reward.
 
The north-west coast is one of the remotest sections. Except for small ports and fishing village, you’ll find yourself immersed in nature. From Durness, we turn right to head along Scotland’s north coast. By now, the route has flattened out slightly.
 
The traditional NC500 route traverses the busy A9 trunk road. This makes for unpleasant cycling; instead, we deviate from Melvich and continue inland. This wild stretch cuts through the heart of the Highlands. Villages are rare, the road seems forgotten, and the scenery is jaw-dropping.
 
We reach Black Isle and discover stunning views of the east coast. Returning to Inverness, congratulate yourself on completing one of Britain’s toughest cycling challenges. Cherish the memories, experiences and new friendships from your adventure.

Dates and Prices.

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Route.

All our routes are available to our Komoot followers.  Follow Cycle Britain on Komoot.

What’s Included.

Fully-supported tour

The Alex Wagon is the name of the Cycle Britain support vehicle. It is named after our amazing lead support manager, Alex. He's there to help with anything you may need and will track you on your journey to ensure you have the support required.

Nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

After a hearty breakfast, the Alex Wagon becomes a pop-up cafe providing nutritious lunches, snacks, and sports drinks throughout your ride.

Cycle Britain tour guide, komoot mapping & detailed route notes

We are an official partner with komoot and make your route available to you once you have booked so you can check the full details of the tour. We provide GPX and TCX files. These can be transferred onto Garmin and Wahoo. When you attend a tour you will receive all the route notes and our free guide as a PDF. Information is also provided in our navigation notes to read on arrival. With detailed trip notes, komoot mapping and your guide, you can't go far wrong.

Live Tracking

Our live tracking allows you to share your journey.

Microsoft Teams Tour Groups

We use Microsoft Teams to help you get to know your team before your departure.

Castelli Cycle Jersey

We provide a high-quality and professionally-designed Castelli Jersey for your tour.

Free use of soft bike bag if needed

Storage bag for your bike if required to take it into your hotel.

Accommodation

13 nights accommodation in 3* and 4* hotels and inns. Unless requested otherwise, we book single rooms to ensure the best rest and recovery.

Expert staff

We are available to support your trip and answer any questions.

Route plans

Accessible as a GPS track on your phone before you even leave. All you need is your phone to use our turn-by-turn navigation.

Daily luggage transfer

We carry your bags between hotels so you don’t have to! When you arrive at the hotel your bags will be waiting in your room for you. We also manage your day-bag and ensure it’s available when you need something.

Unrivalled knowledge of cycling in Britain

We pride ourselves on being the experts on cycling in Britain.

Free guide to nutrition, training and bike setup

To help you prepare for this demanding tour, we provide you with free guides on what to eat, how to train and general bike setup tips.

Celebratory final evening banquet

We love to conclude our trips with a celebratory meal on the final evening.

What’s Not Included.

A bike and helmet.

Please provide your own bike and helmet for this trip. Get in touch if you have any questions regarding whether your equipment is appropriate.

Travel Insurance

We highly recommend you take out insurance.

Transport to/from Inverness

Our tour starts and finishes in Inverness.

Evening Meals

We prefer to give you flexibility for your dinners. We do, however, include a
celebratory banquet on your final evening.

Accommodation.

Accommodation options in rural Scotland are limited; however, we always choose the highest-quality option available. Sometimes this will be an excellent B&B and other times it will be a hotel or country house.

We always choose comfortable accommodation where we are sure you’ll find warm hospitality and enjoy a pleasant, memorable stay.

Trip Suitability.

This is a Grade 3 tour, which means it is suitable for ‘regular cyclists who enjoy regular cycling whether training indoor or outside.’ The focus is on a ‘half day of cycling with fun stops and sightseeing.’

The average daily distance is 42 miles, and over 12 days, you will climb 27,750 feet (8,450 metres).

Gallery.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Do you cater to vegan and vegetarian diets?

Absolutely! Inform us in advance of any dietary requirements and we will be glad to cater to you.

Will we be able to wash our clothes on the trip?

There will be opportunities to wash clothes and leaders can take your items to a launderette.

Can I charge my phone?

We have a charging station in the support van.

What level of fitness do I need?

This is our epic road journey which requires a good level of fitness. You probably need to be riding on a regular basis, possibly a member of a club. Cycling is likely to be your main sport. Check out our coaching section for more info.

What level of ability do I need?

A high level of ability and experience is required for steep ground and long descents.

What level of support is offered?

This trip has full vehicle support meaning everything you need is taken care of. We provide breakfasts, lunches and snacks and can offer advice on nutrition, equipment, preparation and training. We provide detailed route notes and GPX files.