Five ways to explore the North Coast 500 this autumn

From the UK’s most northerly reindeer to the North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, folklore, storytelling walks and the UK’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery, here are five alternative ways to explore the world-famous North Coast 500 (NC500) at this quieter time of year.


  1. UK’s most northerly reindeer – Lichen Caithness, Harpsdale, Caithness

Meet Sven, Levvi and Mr Antlers, the UK’s most northerly reindeer at Lichen Caithness at Harpsdale. As well as learning more about the reindeer habitat, food sources, and incredible climate-specific adaptations, visitors will get to feed the furry residents with reindeer moss in a Nordic-style Kota hut and enjoy a deluxe hot chocolate with marshmallows toasted over a fire.

Two daily reindeer experiences last 1.5 hours and are suitable for all ages. Lichen Caithness is owned by Chris and Elizabeth Irwin.

Prices: £20 for adults and £10 for children (under 16), payable in advance or on arrival by cash or card. Children 4 years and under go free, but need to be added while booking.



  1. North West Highlands UNESCO Global Geopark, Sutherland

Get out and explore the North West Highlands Geopark the first UNESCO Geopark in the North West Highlands of Scotland, including world class landscape, geology and cultural heritage, visitor centre, guided walks and adventures.

Stretching over 2,000 square kilometres in the far corner of mainland Scotland, the North West Highlands Geopark is a striking example of different rock geologies. Starting at 3 billion years old, the Lewisian Gneiss is the oldest rock in Europe.

It’s also home to the earliest evidence of life to be found anywhere in Europe. But the geopark is not just about incredible science. It’s also about beauty.

Think white sandy beaches, rocky mountain ridges, atmospheric rock caves, and grass, peatland, moors and forest. Then there’s the wildlife – not just the current seabirds, eagles and sealife, but also the evidence of creatures that once walked this land, hidden deep in caves.


  1. Guided story walks with Griogair MacAllein – Kylesku & Lochinver, Sutherland

Award-winning storyteller, folklorist and poet, Griogair MacAllein, and Kylesku Hotel

Stroll back in time with a guided walking tour led by award-winning storyteller, folklorist and poet, Griogair MacAllein.

Based in Lochinver, Griogair and can take you on a bespoke ramble to visit old crofting settlements, peat roads, rivers and woods that he feels have been overlooked and underappreciated.

Griogair is able to show you history lying hidden beneath ancient stones and bracken, and tell you about old beliefs and forgotten ways as you amble along the riverbanks and beside dark lochans.

Griogair’s Guided Story Walks cover a range of places around Lochinver and Assynt and can be adapted to suit all levels of experience and abilities.

Expect it to last at least half a day, but luckily a delicious picnic or packed lunch can also be provided by the kitchen team at the Kylesku Hotel kitchen. Various locations near Lochinver near Kylesku.


  1. UK’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery – 8 Doors Distillery, John O’Groats, Caithness

8 Doors Distillery, John O’Groats, Caithness

Take a tour of UK’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery, take in the views from the tasting room overlooking the Pentland Firth towards Orkney, sample some of their Seven Sons whiskies and taste their Five Ways blended liqueur.

In 2022, 8 Doors Distillery filled their first cask to become the first whisky made in John O’Groats for over 180 years. The distillery name is inspired by the legends surrounding Jan De Groot – the man whom John O’Groats takes its name from, and the story behind the 8-sided house he built near the shore.

The water for making their whisky comes from an on-site borehole. Drilled 60 metres below our feet the water is taken from the rock below your feet which holds groundwater, ‘Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky’ certainly holds true here.

8 Doors Distillery tours last 1.5 hours (approx.). Over 18’s only with a maximum 10 people per tour.


  1. Above & Beyond Tours – Caithness & Sutherland











Above and Beyond Tours provide bespoke guided experience of Caithness and surrounding area by car and foot, including health and wellness, history and heritage and food and drink. Itineraries including the Castle of Mey and Gardens, Dunnet Head, John O’Groats and Duncansby Stacks.

Alternatively, take a Thurso walking tour to learn more about its Viking heritage, history and culture through local knowledge, stories and legends. Meander through the quaint streets and discover what life was like and how Thurso has become the vibrant town you see today.

Above and Beyond can also keep whisky lovers happy with visits and tours of local distilleries with a tasty local lunch included.

A pick-up and drop-off service is available, allowing guests to totally relax and enjoy their time spent in Caithness.


Read more on Scottish Field’s Outdoors pages. 

Plus, don’t miss the October issue of Scottish Field magazine.