Published: 17/02/2017 17:30 - Updated: 17/02/2017 15:14

Highlands' Route 66 on CNN's top road trip list

Written byRachel Treasurer

Corrieshalloch Gorge, south-east of Ullapool, is on the North Coast 500 route.
Corrieshalloch Gorge, south-east of Ullapool, is on the North Coast 500 route.

AN American TV channel has described the North Coast 500 (NC500) as one of the world’s “must see” road trips.

CNN placed NC500 second on their list and described the drive, which skirts the north coast offering castles, beaches and ruins, one of the most “unspoiled” areas of Britain.

The article says while the drive can be completed over a weekend it is worth taking some time to stop and enjoy the small communities and stunning scenery.

Dubbed Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, the CNN news article suggests visiting the castles, lochs and glens on the way.

With start and end points at Inverness Castle, the route has already gained international attention, even featuring on car show Top Gear.

It was launched in March 2015 by the Tourism Project Board of the North Highland Initiative.

A spokesman for the North Highland Initiative was pleased that NC500 had generated so much attention over the last two years.

“We are absolutely delighted that CNN has included NC500 in their list of the world’s top road trips,” he said.

“This comes hot on the heels of Rough Guides citing the route as one of the main reasons to visit Scotland in 2017, and is a fantastic coup for tourism in the northern Highlands.

“We’ve already seen evidence that the initiative is bringing more visitors to the area, giving a much-needed boost to local businesses.”

Fraser Grieve, regional director for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said Scotland’s placing in the Rough Guide poll was “not surprising” and Inverness Business Improvement District (Bid) said it was fantastic news.

Bid manager Mike Smith said: “It all adds to an optimistic outlook for Scotland, and particularly the Highlands, for 2017.”

Hoteliers have also had a boost from the route.

Richie Paxton, the owner of Westbourne Guest House in Inverness, has seen “a real upturn” since its launch.

But while the route is bringing a tourist boom to some of the Highlands’ remotest communities, it has also become a highway to hell for many locals.

Venting their frustration on the drive’s website, they have complained of motorists who are bamboozled by single-track roads, with long, slow queues of camper vans and caravans, bikers in long convoys and, conversely, drivers trying to set such fast times that some locals have nick-named the route as the “Indy 500.”

Highland Council has invested in new road signs on some of the worst single-track congestion blackspots – in and around Durness – asking slower motorists, spellbound by the scenery, to pull over into passing places to allow others to overtake.

B&B owner Tom Forrest stormed on the route’s website with a comment.

He said: “To compare with Route 66, which has in parts six lanes, is somewhat foolish.

“A large section of NC500 is single track and as such not suitable for large convoys of sports cars, motor bikes, camper vans, motorhomes and any other wheeled object which en masse drive this route 24/7. Half-a-dozen idiots in rally cars with lights sufficient to illuminate a sports stadium taking a wrong turning into your drive at 3am is not particularly conducive to good relations.”

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