The short walk to the Bone Caves of Inchnadamph in Scotland is one of intrigue as much as it is of natural beauty. Four epic caves are open for exploration. Inside, the bones of ancient animals have been found. Amazingly, these animals used to roam this part of the country, some of them as much as 47,000 years ago. Of course, the bones are no longer there, but the caves are just as compelling to visit. In addition, the walk to visit Bone Caves, near Ullapool, has quickly become one of the most popular stops along the NC500.
To see footage of the Bone Caves Circuit, please watch our NC500 Hikes YouTube production.
For more incredible hikes and attractions along the NC500, be sure to check out our Beinn Alligin, Wailing Widow Falls and Quinag hiking guides. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.
Table of Contents
The Complete Guide to the Bone Caves on the NC500
In this guide, we’ll cover where and what the Bone Caves along the NC500 are. In addition, we’ll provide a GPS map, stats and a brief trail description. Lastly, we’ll look at how to get there, and where to stay as well as answer a few FAQs on the Bone Caves in Scotland.
What Are the Bone Caves?
The Bone Caves near Inchnadamph in Scotland are a series of small caves. In the caves, animal bones were discovered, hence the name. There is no evidence to suggest that people used to live in the caves. Although, human remains were excavated at two burial sites found in the caves.
Animal bones found within the four caves include lynx, arctic fox, brown bear, reindeer and polar bear. Quite incredible!
Bone Caves History
The caves were first excavated in 1889. Although, it was 1928 when closer inspection was cast over the caves. The different types of bones found within each of the caves led to them being named – Badger, Reindeer, Bone Cave and Fox’s Den. The most widely considered theory as to how the animal bones came to be in the caves suggests they were washed downstream as glaciers in the area shrank. Some, of course, may have used the caves to hibernate in.
You can visit the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, to view the bones found in the caves.
Where Are the Bone Caves?
The incredible Bone Caves on the NC500 are located outside of Inchnadamph and not far from Ullapool in Scotland. They sit within the ruggedly handsome landscape of Assynt in the West Highlands of Scotland. It’s a beautiful part of Scotland to pass through, with the Bone Caves being an easy stop to make along the NC500 drive.
A short walk along the river stream of Allt nan Uamh provides access to the caves. A steep ascent up the limestone valley of Creag nan Uamh, known as ‘Crag of the Caves‘, brings you to the cave openings.
What To Expect on the Bone Caves Walk?
The short 5km hike to the Bone Caves near Ullapool is a picturesque trail of a walk back in time. The rugged landscape of Assynt, one of the sparsest populated areas of the Highlands, looks utterly splendid. You’ll find the Bone Caves nestled high on the cliffside of Creag nan Uamh. Expect some sharp, steep sections to access them. But otherwise, expect to be utterly enthralled by this quick and fascinating hike along the NC500.
Bone Caves Hiking Preview and Map
- Trail Type: Loop
- Distance: 5km
- Time: 1–1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 230m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: The Bone Caves Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Bone Caves Walk on the NC500
The walk to Bone Caves in Scotland is a truly beautiful, and therefore, understandably popular hike. Whether you visit as part of the NC500 or as an individual trip from places like Ullapool or Inverness, you won’t be disappointed.
The Bone Caves Car Park
From the car park, you’ll begin the walk by passing through a gate before continuing the trail along the left hand side of the Allt Nan Uamh River. You may find the trail to be quite muddy and boggy in sections. This is especially true if the weather is wet.
Note: at the Bone Caves Car Park, there is limited parking. It’s a dirt patch of land with no specific parking bays. Please park as considerately as possible to maximise spaces for other visitors.
Allt Nan Uamh Waterfall
After around 200m you’ll reach Allt Nan Uamh Waterfall. This pretty cascade is nestled in the picturesque valley. The trail continues to climb higher by the side of the waterfall, following further along the Allt Nan Uamh River.
Bone Caves, Assynt
After around 1.5km, you’ll reach a fork in the road. You should opt to take the trail to the right, crossing over the river. The short but steep hike leads directly up to the Bone Caves. After around 500m, you’ll reach the Bone Caves of Badger, Reindeer, Bone Cave and Fox’s Den.
Exploring the Bone Caves
Despite the beautiful surroundings that the Bone Caves sit within in Assynt, Scotland, the highlight of this walk is, of course, exploring the caves. Access in and out of the caves is steep and slippery. You should take care, especially in wet weather. Also, it’s important to note that rockfall is not uncommon. You’ll find signs notifying you of this.
Looking out from the caves themselves provides perfect window frames to the wild landscape of Scotland. With the caves sitting so high up on the Creag nan Uamh hillside, the views are, expectably, outstanding.
Returning to the Bone Caves Car Park
After exploring all four caves, the trail carefully starts to descend back down the limestone hillside, towards a small run off of the Allt Nan Uamh River. There is an option, at this point, to take a short out and back to another cave. This cave is Rana Hole. It actually sits on the top of Creag nan Uamh, above the other main Bone Caves.
Certainly, the chance to see another cave here is exciting. However, Dan and I can attest to the fact that Rana Hole is not, especially, worth the add-on. All you can see here is a fenced off small hole in the ground, of very little to write home about. Still, if you’re after some incredible views, it’s truly lovely up here. Breabag and Ben More, in particular, pop in the distance.
Retrace your steps back to the main trail, and continue down to the steam. You’ll cross over Allt nan Uamh once more as you reach the base of the hillside, and then once again as the trail veers to the left, where you’ll walk along the riverside. From here, you can marvel at the height of the Bone Caves, as you pass them on your left.
Eventually, the trail joins back up with the initial fork in the road. Then, you’ll follow the same trail, back past Allt Nan Uamh Waterfall, to the car park.
How To Get to the Bone Caves
If, like Dan and I, you’re visiting the Bone Caves near Ullapool as part of the NC500, you’ll enter, from either direction, along the A837. The Bone Caves lie a little south of the small village of Inchnadamph and Loch Assynt. We recommend tying in a visit to Ardvreck Castle on the same day.
If visiting from Ullapool, take the A835 towards Ledmore, before turning left and joining the A837 towards the Bone Caves. The drive time is around 30 minutes and is 21 miles (34km).
If travelling directly from Inverness for the day, the drive will take you a little under two hours.
The Best Way To Travel the NC500
To travel the NC500, you really need your own set of wheels. Whether that be car, camper or motorbike. It is, after all, a scenic road trip. Of course, this is true of visiting the Bone Caves near Inchnadamph.
Public transport options are few and far between. It’s possible to take bus Line 809 from Ullapool to Inchnadamph and the Bone Caves. Buses seem to leave just twice a day and you can check the timetable here. The bus route passes by the entrance and car park to the walk. As to whether it’s possible to alight here by politely asking the driver to stop, I don’t know. Still, I imagine it’s possible. Otherwise, alight at Inchnadamph. From here, you will have to walk to the entrance. It’s a 3 mile (5km) walk, taking about 1 hour.
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Bone Caves FAQs
Below, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding visiting and walking to the Bone Caves in Assynt, Scotland.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Bone Caves in Scotland?
There’s no real ‘best’ time to visit Bone Caves. Come winter or summer, rain or shine, the caves offer the same. Of course, summer offers the chance to experience a less muddy and therefore much drier trail. But, as long as you’re dressed appropriately, this trail is fine to walk any time of year.
Summer equals peak tourism time, so expect the trail and the Bone Caves car park to be much busier. If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting first thing in the morning or last thing in the day. Also, you should try and avoid school holidays, if possible.
Having said all that, Dan and I visited the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph in August – peak season and during the school holidays. We found the trail was not overcrowded and we were able to park, comfortably.
Where Is the Best Place To Park?
The best place to park for the Bone Caves near Ullapool is at the official car park. See Google Maps here for the exact location. The car park is small and has room for perhaps a dozen vehicles. It’s also possible to park further in the car park at the small property you’ll find there. There is a fee for parking there.
You will not find parking options along the roadside of the A835, so do not try and park there as this will cause a hazard on the road.
How Long Does It Take To Walk to the Bone Caves?
The Bone Caves circuit takes around 1–1.5 hours to walk. Of course, this depends on how long you spend exploring the caves.
Where Are the Bone Caves?
The Bone Caves lie south of the tiny village of Inchnadamph, on the shores of Loch Assynt. The Bone Caves are within easy driving distance of Ullapool and Inverness. Please see above for more information and a map.
How High Are the Bone Caves?
According to our Wikiloc GPS file, the highest point of the Bone Caves walk is 294 metres above sea level (excluding the out and back to Rana Hole). Given the elevation level at the start of the trail, this means the total height up to the Bone Caves is 165m.
Other Things To Do Nearby
- Ardvreck Castle: don’t miss a stop at this beautiful castle ruin, with an interesting history, on the banks of Loch Assynt. It’s free to visit with plenty of lay-bys to park in.
- Hike Ben More: Dominating the surrounding skyline is the impressive figure of Ben More. A worthy hike in the immediate vicinity, and another Munro to bag, if you’re counting!
- Traligill Caves: If you want to see more caves on Scotland, then you’ll be pleasantly pleased to hear about the Traligill Caves. This cave system is the largest in Scotland. You access the caves via a hike from Inchnadamph village. But, you can’t enter these caves, unlike those of the Bone Caves.
Where Should You Stay for the Inchnadamph Caves?
Here, we’ll take a look at your accommodation options for visiting the Bone Caves along the NC500 in Scotland.
Given its location near the Bone Caves, Inchanadamph is your closest stay to visit the caves. Perfect for if you’re wanting an early start or late finish to avoid the crowds.
The Inchnadamph Hotel is a popular stay in this part of Assynt. However, the hotel is only open from March to October. So don’t expect to stay here if you visit Bone Caves in the winter months. The hotel was originally built as a coaching house some 200 years ago. It’s dog friendly and a great base in which to explore the area.
The Inchnadamph Explorers Lodge is one of the most highly rated places to stay in the area. The hostel comes with a shared lounge and kitchen. The comfortable rooms have the option of shared or private bathrooms. Due to its remote location, star gazing is particularly wonderful from the grounds.
Note: Inchnadamph Explorers Lodge is also known as Inchnadamph Bunk House.
Camping Near the Bone Caves
Dan and I stayed at Ardmair Point Holiday Park in Ullapool. Our tent pitch was great and the facilities top notch.
Of course, you can always wild camp in Scotland. To that end, pulling up along the shores of Loch Assynt, and watching the sunset over Ardvreck Castle, sounds utterly perfect.
Hotels In Ullapool for the Bone Caves
If you want to base yourself in one location to explore the Bone Caves and surrounding attractions along this stretch of the NC500, then Ullapool is a great choice. Given Ullapool is just a 30 minute drive from the Bone Caves, you can be there in no time at all.
Options include the Harbour House, which gets fantastic reviews and is positioned with incredible views over Loch Broom. Ullapool Youth Hostel offers a more budget-conscious option, whereas Bungalow 500 Bed & Breakfast offers one of the best B&B experiences, making it the perfect place to rest after packed out NC500 exploration days.
Five Hiking Essentials for the Inchnadamph Caves
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Bone Cave circuit! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen.
Travel Insurance for the NC500
Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a real necessity.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Use the widget below to suss out a quote today.
- Smoo Cave: if you loved these caves, be sure to stop in at Smoo Cave as you travel along the NC500. The large entrance mouth and inner waterfall make this old smuggler’s den quite the spectacle.
- Caving in Scotland: this area of Assynt has some of the greatest cave systems in Scotland. Included are Cnoc nan Uamh and the Traligill System. Smoo Cave is another, further north. Whereas, further south, there are caves around Appin near Glencoe, as well as on the Isle Of Skye.
- Fingal’s Cave: this cave is arguably Scotland’s most epic cave. It can be found on the Isle of Staffa, just off the east coast of Mull.
- Caves in the UK: the UK actually has a wealth of cave systems. Some of the best caves in North West England can be found in the Peak District. Also, the Yorkshire Dales, parts of Wales, and down on the English south coast provide fantastic caving opportunities.