IT is billed as Scotland’s answer to Route 66.
The North Coast 500 road trip, starting and ending at Inverness Castle, is a drive on the wild side just like the all-American classic that runs across eight states from Chicago to Santa Monica.
But the 516-mile route — opened in 2015 and linking highlights of the northern Highlands — is often very busy with tourist traffic.
So why not plot your own alternative route to NC500?
Instead of beginning in Inverness with everyone else, set out from Glasgow and have the whole south-west of Scotland in front of your windscreen.
It is only half an hour’s drive to Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (1 on the map).
Treat yourself to a flight with Loch Lomond Seaplanes (lochlomondseaplanes.com) and you will get a window seat for a scenic swoop over the loch and Scotland’s southern mountains.
Your pilot will point out Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly munro — a mountain more than 3,000ft high — and you will see the islands of Bute and Arran, as well as the wee isles dotted across the loch itself.
You could head out by boat to one of them, Inchcailloch (2), to see the wildflowers and walk through quiet woodland.
Or drive around the loch and into the Trossachs for an easy hike up the small, pointy peak of Ben A’an (3).
Most people with reasonable fitness will not find this too strenuous and you can enjoy sweeping views across the surrounding lochs.
There are also tons of shorter walks in this part of the park — try the stroll to Inversnaid Waterfall (4) on the eastern bank of Loch Lomond or a three-mile circuit from Benmore Botanic Garden (5) along the river (route details and maps at lochlomond-trossachs.org).
Strike out west now and select your route.
Follow the A83 and you will pass along the edge of Loch Fyne.
Worth a stop-off at Inveraray’s town jail and courthouse (6) — where actors greet you as you enter the cells and you can put your child in thumb screws (inverarayjail.co.uk) — and Loch Fyne Oyster Bar where you can feast on freshly shucked catch (lochfyne.com).
Continue on this road to Tarbert Harbour (7) and take the ferry across to Islay, Scotland’s whisky isle (calmac.co.uk).
Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg distilleries (8) are lined up along the south coast, linked by a walking track.
Lunch at Ardbeg’s cafe then do a tasting at each one as you wander back to the town of Port Ellen (9), where the Islay Hotel has a well-stocked whisky bar and rooms (theislayhotel.com).
From Islay you could go truly off the beaten track by taking the ferry to the island of Jura (10).
Here, deer outnumber humans by about 30 to one and you can walk among some of Scotland’s wildest scenery, spotting golden eagles and seabirds.
You can take a boat trip to see the Corryvreckan (11) — the whirlpool that nearly killed author George Orwell when he was staying here writing his dystopian novel 1984 (juraboattours.co.uk).
For something different, take the A85 from Loch Lomond instead and you will reach the resort town of Oban (12), home to superb seafood — do not miss the wee green shack on the quayside for scallops and mussels.
Take the ferry across to the Isle of Mull and drive to the pretty town of Tobermory (13) for short walks out to iron-age forts and extinct volcanoes. There is a whisky distillery here, too (tobermorydistillery.com).
From Mull, can take a boat trip to Fingal’s Cave (14), dramatically formed from basalt columns, or across to Iona Abbey and Nunnery (15)(historicenvironment.scot).
Whichever route you choose, on your return to Glasgow be sure to loop back along the River Clyde (16), one-time king of the world’s shipbuilding industry.
Here you will also find Hill House (17) , masterpiece of the world-renowned Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (nts.org.uk) — and Clydeside Distillery (18), one of Scotland’s newest (theclydeside.com) and the perfect place to raise one last wee dram to a brilliant Scottish adventure.
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