Even in its brisk overture, just another A-road ferrying commuters and HGVs to and from Scotland’s northernmost city, the NC500 can’t help exuding a sense of hardy portent. Thirty minutes into the journey is the Storehouse of Foulis, a restaurant in an 18th-century granary that sounds like a place where Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow might victual his men for a ride to the Wall.
It looks it, too, with steam rising from a platter of potato-and-sausage stovies, through a view of windswept bracken and the blue-black waters of Cromarty Firth. Working off Highland food becomes a routine duty on the NC500. I reach the lofty 18th-century Fyrish Monument after an energetic hike over a carpet of brown heather studded with fairy-tale red toadstools.