The NC 500 begins and ends at Inverness Castle, Scotland, and one of the few urban stretches on the route which is quickly left behind after photo stops to annoy the morning commuters.
It's not long before you find yourself outside one of Scotland's many whisky distilleries (and subsequently inside). This is Glen Ord at Muir of Ord, the only remaining single malt distillery on the Black Isle.
An early start is a must in Wester Ross as the incredible, empty, sweeping roads run past great lochs, mirror smooth in the morning mist. It's a truly unforgettable sight.
As you reach the west coast the road narrows and climbs high into the hills of Torridon, with spectacular views of Upper Loch Torridon. Snowball fights are possible up here late into the year.
A sportscar or bike is the perfect way to enjoy the mountain roads. The scenery is more breathtaking at every turn and the roads ever more rewarding, in the right car.
Keeping your eyes on the road can be a challenge with views like this. As the road snakes around the coast, lochs and mountains, they surround the car. Glance in the mirror as the view can be even more breathtaking behind you.
The locals are not too chatty. The highland cattle roam freely and don't always give way to traffic. Weighing more than half as much as a car they shouldn’t be messed with.
Home to at least two ghosts, so they say, Ardvreck Castle (in background) sits on the edge of Loch Assynt and opposite the ruin of the castle's historical rivals. The A837 twists past but it's well worth stopping to explore.
With so much stunning natural beauty around, man made structures struggle to compete, but the distinctively curved and graceful Kylesku Bridge stands out from the rugged scenery with its clean lines.
Some sections are optional or seasonal, and drivers of wider or lower cars, or those with caravans may be better sticking to the main road. However, the less-travelled tracks offer access to remote bays and hidden spots others will miss.
Passing the north east section, the route touches John O’Groats, featuring the most northerly tea shop on the mainland. The true honour of the remotest point belongs to nearby Duncansby Head, but there's no gift shop so no one has heard of it.
After a couple of hours we began to feel scenery overload as one spectacular loch or mountain gave way to another, and this is the lasting memory — the perfect combination of an empty twisting road and a great car.

Great Drives: Scotland's North Coast 500 in pictures

Get your kicks with a Highland fix

OFTEN SPOKEN of as Britain’s answer to Route 66, the North Coast 500 (NC500 for short) follows the edge of the Scottish Highlands and takes in 500 miles of the best roads and most varied scenery in the country, from sandy beaches to rugged mountains.

Scroll through the image gallery above to follow the route.

Great Drives: Scotland's North Coast 500 in pictures

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