It is billed as Scotland’s ultimate road trip, with stunning coastal scenery, white sandy beaches, rugged mountains and “a wealth of unforgettable experiences”.

However, tourists embarking on the North Coast 500 flagship route, which takes in Inverness,Wester Ross and the Black Isle, might be less blown away by the prices.

The director of a hotel group that offers packaged breaks on the flagship route, which was launched to help rural businesses, has admitted “we got it wrong” after a meal receipt shared on social media went viral.

It shows that diners at the three-star Kylesku boutique hotel in Sutherland were charged almost £50 for two beer-battered cod and chip dinners.

A  tweet shared by Ullapool Craic, a local tourist guide, accused the company of “trying to franchise the NC500 and charging extortionate prices for mediocre food”.

The post prompted hundreds of replies, with one person responding: “That’s bloody ridiculous. As perfect an example of profiteering as €20 ice cream at the Trevi Fountain."

READ MORE: North Coast 500: Hidden gems on Scotland's answer to Route 66

Another wrote: “Twenty five quid?? I’m genuinely shocked, and I live in London!” while others said inflated prices risked turning the area into the “Cornwall of the north”.

The price exceeds a fish tea at TV chef Rick Stein’s restaurant, where deep fried hake in dripping with chips, garden peas and tartare sauce will set you back £23.95.

A three-course meal at Tom Kitchen’s Michelin-starred Edinburgh restaurant, including Scabster Plaice, is priced £52.50.

The Kylesku is owned by Highland Coast Hotels, which also runs The Royal Marine in Brora and The Plockton Inn.

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The hotel was named winner of the Best Hotel for Sustainability by Luxury Lifestyle Magazine Readers’ Travel Awards in 2022.

Trip Advisor reviews show the hotel is highly rated but a number of guests have cited the cost of food as the only negative.

One reviewer from last month wrote: “Only disappointment was the cost of food…it was beautiful but prices were extortionate & disproportionate, particularly for the Highlands but with no alternative you become a captive audience. We’ll not be back & wouldn’t recommend.”

Another said: “The lovely setting/restaurant didn’t justify having to pay £35 for a very small starter-sized portion of venison haunch. “The food was tasty, however we left hungry after paying over £74 for 2 small meals and a coke.

However, others simply remarked on the quality.

One guest said: “The restaurant was fabulous. In the two weeks I travelled around Scotland this was by far the best dinner I had.”

Responding to criticism over its prices, David Whiteford, director of Highland Coast Hotels, said: “I’ll be the first to admit we got it wrong.

“We made a mistake there.

HeraldScotland:

“We are in a remote part of Scotland, so everything is expensive up there.

“Our mantra is to create a great experience for our guests and really show great value for money. On this occasion, I don’t think we achieved that.”

Mr Whiteford said the fish may have been haddock rather than hake, which is more expensive but conceded, “It was probably about six quid too expensive.

“The [price] order would be haddock, cod then hake.”

He added: “We try to use local as far as possible. He said the short-term  

menu would be revised and fish and chips would be “sub £20”.

Mr Whiteford said he was “desperate to grow the economy of the Highlands.”

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He said: “I’m a local man, I want to get it right. I’m a farmer, I know the cost of production has gone up, our protein, our fertiliser.

HeraldScotland:

“Beef has become more expensive and so has fish but there is a point when you’ve got to get the balance right.” 

He said he had created a community card that gives local people 30% off their hotels.

A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: “We know that rising costs are having an impact on some businesses and on occasion this may result in an increase in the price visitors are paying. 

“While we cannot directly influence the amount that providers may change, we would urge businesses to consider that value for money plays a hugely important part in the overall visitor experience. 

“We want to create a legacy that will see visitors return year after year.”

A spokesman for North Coast 500 Ltd added: “One of the key draws of the North Coast 500 is that the route, in all its enormous variety, caters to travellers with every taste and budget.

"We know from feedback that 95% of visitors say they will return to the area and that’s down to the combination of choice, superb value and excellent hospitality they receive from businesses across the region.”