The North Coast 500 (also known as NC500) was created by the North Highland Initiative and was designed to bring together the best of the north Highlands of Scotland in one iconic touring route.
The route runs through the traditional counties of Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness.
Working clockwise, the route starts at Inverness and runs via Muir of Ord, Applecross (including the notorious Bealach na Bà), Gairloch, Ullapool, Durness, Thurso, John o'Groats, Wick, Dunrobin Castle, Dingwall then back to Muir of Ord and Inverness.
The route of the North Coast 500 takes in many areas of the North Highland Way, a walking route along Scotland's North Coast.
The concept of the North Coast 500 was launched in March 2015 by the Tourism Project Board of the North Highland Initiative (NHI) in an attempt to work with all aspects of the tourism sector to bring unified benefits to businesses across the route.
It was identified that a gap existed in the market within the North Highlands for a tourism offering that included each county of the area (Caithness, Sutherland & Ross-shire) and that the North Coast 500 would address that. The initiative was supported by Visit Scotland and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.
In 2015 the route was named fifth in Now Travel Magazine's "Top 5 Coastal Routes in the World". It has been described as "Scotland's Route 66".
The NC500 is also regarded as a challenge for endurance cyclists. In August 2015 adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont established the record for the 516 mile route, completing it in 37 hours and 58 minutes.
On 18 June 2016 former pro cyclist and commonwealth games medallist James McCallum completed the ride in 31 hours 23 minutes beating the initial record by more than 6 hours.