The Best Alternatives to the North Coast 500

The North Coast 500 is the most well known stunning drive in Scotland. There is so much going for it but what if you are looking for an alternative?

There are lots of other excellent options. Below are some of the best. Along with resources to help you plan a great road trip.

Glenshee on Scotland's Route 666
Cairnwell Pass

Visit Scotland

The official Visit Scotland site has a list of most of the tourist organisation’s promoted road trips. Most of these are listed below:

  • Angus Coastal Route. This is the coastal road from Dundee to Aberdeen. It hugs the coast for some dramatic views. Distance 68 miles.
    • You can join this road from Route 666 by travelling South East from Dunkeld to Dundee.
  • Argyll Coastal Route. This is the West coastal road from Fort William to Arrochar. Distance 129 miles.
    • This trip is part of Route 666. 
  • Borders Historic Route. Starting in Carlisle and finishing in Edinburgh. This old route is now the A7. Some fantastic hilly scenery and passing through some interesting Borders villages. Distance 89 miles.
    • Route 666 picks up the A7 from Galashiels to Edinburgh so you could easily incorporate the rest of the Borders Historic Route.
  • Clyde Valley Tourist Route. Following the Clyde from Abington in South Lanarkshire to Hamilton. Plenty of variety of towns, landscapes and things to do. Distance 38 miles.
    • Part of this route in included towards the end of Route 666 (the A702 from Abington to Biggar). The official Clyde Valley Tourist Route doesn’t include the Dalveen Pass. If you’re driving or riding the Clyde Valley Route then it would be worth including the Dalveen Pass to the South on the A702.
  • Deeside Tourist Route. The A93 from Perth to Aberdeen. Includes spectacular roads through incredible scenery – one of Scotland’s most memorable. Distance 108 miles.
    • Route 666 covers most of this route: from Blairgowrie to beyond Braemar. The rest of this route to Aberdeen is a good addition to Route 666 if you want some more miles and things to do in the Granite City.
  • Fife Coastal Route. From Kincardine to Newport on Tay, this route takes you round the Fife Coast. Not the most exhilarating of roads but highlights include the chippie in Anstruther. Distance 77 miles.
    • You can join this road trip from Route 666 when you cross in to Fife on the Queensferry Crossing.
  • Galloway Tourist Route. From Gretna to Ayr. Via Dumfries and on to Castle Douglas in the South before heading for Ayr on the A713. The route passes Loch Ken where you can find water sports and nearby walks.  Distance 92 miles.
    • Route 666 takes in a section of this route between Dalmellington and St John’s Town of Dalry.
  • Perthshire Tourist Route. From Greenloaning heading North to Crieff then on to Aberfeldy and Ballinluig. A great drive through the hilly Perthshire countryside. Distance 43 miles.
    • Route 666 includes the section of this route from Gleneagles to Amulree. If you chose to carry on from Amulree to Ballinluig then you have the option of driving East from there on the A924 to rejoin Route 666 on the A93 between Blairgowrie and Braemar.

Scotland.org

Scotland.org highlight a few routes that aren’t mentioned above.

  • Snow Roads Scenic Route. From Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey. This epic road trip takes in the two highest roads in the UK through some incredible scenery. Similar to the Deeside Tourist Route above but instead of heading East to Aberdeen it goes North West to Grantown. Distance 90 miles.
    • Almost all of the Snow Road is included in Route 666.
  • South West Coastal 300. Much of the course follows the coast as you’d imagine. There are some spectacular views over to Ailsa Craig as you make your way along the West coast. The route is completed with a trip from Moffat to Ayr. These roads tend to be relatively quiet. Distance 300 miles.
    • Route 666 includes the coastal section from Ayr to Girvan.
  • North East 250. This trip includes part of the Snow Scenic Route between Spittal of Glenshee and Tomintoul. As well as the coastal route from Aberdeen round to Buckie. Distance 250 miles.
    • Route 666 includes the same section as the Snow Road overlap so it easy to add some of this route in to your itinerary.

Ride Magazine

Ride Magazine publish some good road trips. They are aimed at bikers but just as relevant for car drivers. The website is not the easiest to search but you can find some excellent drives.

An example from September 2020 is Tyndrum to Dornie in the West of Scotland. This particular route overlaps Route 666 between Spean Bridge and Fort William. You could easily incorporate the trip North to Dornie, just take the detour from Spean Bridge where the A86 meets the A82.

Adventure Bike Rider

Adventure Bike Rider highlight many European adventures but does also include an interesting journey in Scotland. Loch Lomond to Loch Ness on the A82 is a spectacular route. As ABR point out, it is one of the busiest routes with traffic during the main holiday seasons. But take your time and you can enjoy the views. Distance 140 miles.

Route 666 overlaps this route between Spean Bridge and Glencoe.

Hostel World

Hostel World cover some of the routes mentioned above but also include the “Harry Potter Road Trip” – essentially a journey that takes in some Harry Potter themed locations: Edinburgh, Glenfinnan Viaduct, Mallaig, Loch Morar and Glen Coe. The most interesting part of this route (that hasn’t already been mentioned above) is the spectacular journey on the A830 from Fort William to Mallaig (past the viaduct). This part of the trip is 44 miles each way.

Route 666 passes through Fort William. The trip to Mallaig would be an excellent addition to your itinerary if you’re keen on some extra miles.

Scotland’s Great Roads and Places

There are loads of great options for anyone planning a Scotland Road Trip. The selection above touches on most parts of the country, there’s a diverse selection of types of roads as well as different scenery along the way.

With Route 666 we’ve tried in many of these iconic roads in to one incredible route. And you can use it as the basis for something even bigger by adding sections of the road trips above.

You’ll see from these routes that the 666 mile road trip offers a great combination of Scotland’s highlights. Find out more here.