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Road trips are our favorite way to travel, and there’s no better way to see Scotland. The roads are good quality, with little traffic, except for the occasional sheep on the road. Above else, the countryside is stunningly beautiful. So beautiful in fact, we’ve done two Scotland road trips. Once in April and again in August. With so many places on our bucket list, it’s rare for us to revisit a destination. Let us show you why Scotland is worth seeing again and again.
Combining our favorite areas from our two road trips, this route will help you plan your ultimate Scotland road trip route in minutes.
When we say ultimate, we mean it. You’ll need at least two weeks to follow the route in it’s entirety. However, we do provide suggestions on alternative shorter routes. In addition, if you have 10 days or less in Scotland, check out our Scotland Itinerary: 7 Days of Adventure which just focuses on Scotland’s highlights.
When Is The Best Time To Do A Scotland Road Trip?
Before we get into the route, let’s talk about when to go. As mentioned, we took road trips through Scotland in both spring (April) and late summer (August). You can’t go wrong with either, here are some of the main differences.
Scotland Road Trip In Spring
- Many tourist attractions close for winter and typically reopen for April 1st, or with the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
- Snow covered peaks make the scenery even more dramatic.
- Some areas in the north still have heavy snow.
- Except for Easter weekend, there are fewer tourists and it’s typically cheaper than summer.
- Weather is changeable year-round, but April is one of the drier months.
Scotland Road Trip in Summer
- Summer marks the height of Scotland’s event and festival season.
- Significantly longer daylight hours.
- Weather is typically warmer. Though, I still wore a jacket the whole time.
- Midges! These nasty, tiny, biting bugs are definitely a negative, but not impossible to mitigate.
- Popular attractions are busier and accommodation costs higher.
- Go in August to catch events like Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo, and the Highland Games.
- Otherwise, April provides the best views at the best value.
- September is also worth considering. The weather is typically very nice, prices are reasonable, but you will miss the events and the snow-capped mountains.
Going between May and mid-September? Check the Scottish Highland Games Association website to see if there are any highland games during your trip. About 60 different areas hold a version of the games so you have a good chance of catching one.
These cultural festivals are well worth seeking out. We were lucky to catch the Crieff Highland Gathering, one of the country’s largest games.
Scotland Road Trip: Start In Edinburgh
Often mispronounced (it’s Edin-bruhh), Scotland’s capital has a regal medieval feel to it. Its defining feature, Edinburgh Castle, perched high on a hill stands watch over the city below.
It’s worth spending two days visiting the city.
Going in August? Be sure to get tickets to one of the Fringe Festival comedy shows and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the castle.
Pit Stop In Stirling
Arguably one of the most historic cities in Scotland, the impressive National Wallace Monument is worth seeing. The imposing monument stands as a tribute to Scotland’s hero, Sir William Wallace. The small museum inside holds the Wallace Sword.
Have more time? Stirling Castle is also worth a look.
Scotland Road Trip: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
One of the most beautiful areas in Scotland is also one of the easiest to reach. About an hour and a half away from Edinburgh, the Trossachs National Park is a destination in its own right. There’s lots of hiking and things to do around the lochs. Give the area at least a full day, if not two.
To Oban Or Straight To Glencoe?
For longer Scottish road trips, keep reading as we follow the A85 to Oban.
If you’re short on time, follow the A82 north to Glencoe. It’s a gorgeous road with plenty of viewpoint stops. Feel free to skip ahead to our section on Glencoe.
Pit Stop At Kilchurn Castle
Stop on your way to Oban for a perfect panoramic shot of the 15th century Kilchurn Castle. The area is quite boggy, but rest assured there is a mostly dry pathway to the viewpoint.
Drive a little further for the castle carpark if you want a closer look. Kilchurn Castle is free to access.
Less than five minutes beyond that, you’ll find the magnificent St. Conan’s Kirk Church.
Scotland Road Trip: Oban & The Isle of Kerrera
Oban is a small town with a lot of charm. Sample whiskey from one of Scotland’s oldest and smallest distilleries, and get a lovely view of the harbor from McCraig’s Tower above the town.
We adored the luxurious Ardtorna Bed and Breakfast. It’s modern, comfortable, and the attention to detail is like no other. Sound proof rooms, complimentary whiskey and scones. Plus, possibly the best breakfast we’ve had at an accommodation. Felt so pampered!
Oban is known as the Gateway to the Isles. Many visitors ferry their vehicles to the Isle of Mull. However, a bit closer, the Isle of Kerrera makes a perfect day trip. No car required.
Follow the 6-mile (3-4 hour) circular trail around the southern side of the island. Grand vistas, encounters with the local wildlife, and a wander around the ruins of Gylen Castle await you.
Plan on getting to the only food stop on the trail before 12:30. The little tea house makes everything fresh. They only had cake left when we arrived. Good cake though! Note that it’s also the only public toilet, and don’t forget to pack for changeable weather.
Pit Stop At Castle Stalker
From Oban, head north to Glencoe. Along the route, on the A828, Castle Stalker makes another great classic Scottish photo opportunity.
Scotland Road Trip: Glencoe
Outstanding natural beauty awaits you in Glencoe. From Castle Stalker, turn on the A82 towards the Trossachs until the Glencoe Mountain Resort (16 miles east of the Ballachulish Bridge).
Plan plenty of time for stops, such as Etive Mor Waterfall, Buachaille Etive Mor Car Park, Glencoe Valley ViewPoint, Glencoe Waterfall, and Three Sisters Viewpoint. If you are a keen hiker, you may want a couple of days in the area to do some of the longer hikes. However, the quick pull offs and viewpoints give a phenomenal sampling of the area.
Coming to Glencoe directly from the Trossachs will deliver stunning views, especially around Loch Tulla.
Scotland Road Trip: Fort William & Glen Nevis
Fort William lies at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain. If you have clear weather, it’s worth taking the tiny road C1162 around the base of the mountain and into Glen Nevis.
Though climbing Ben Nevis is possible most of the year, summer is the best and most accessible time to make the trek. It’s about an 8 hour return trip starting from the Ben Nevis Visitor Center.
Pit Stop At Eilean Donan Castle
From Fort William head north on the A82, then west on the A87 towards the Isle of Sky. One of the most iconic castle’s in Scotland, Eilean Donan, sits in a strategic location on three different lochs, Loch Long, Loch Alsh, and Loch Duich.
Scotland Road Trip: Isle of Skye
If you have time on your Scottish road trip, continue with the A87 onto the Isle of Sky. The isle rewards visitors with some of the most jaw dropping views in Scotland, and that says a lot.
The island is only about 60 miles long, so you could drive most of it in a day. However, it’s packed with beautiful sights like Dunvegan Castle, The Old Man of Storr rock formation, and a dozen or so waterfalls. Plus, be sure to make it to The Quiraing area if you are an avid hiker.
At the very least, give the Isle of Skye two full days.
The Long Way To Loch Maree: Road To Applecross
From the Isle of Skye, or from Eilean Donan Castle, follow the A890 north and wind around Loch Carron on the A896.
You’ll meet up with the road to Applecross around Tornapress. Not for large vehicles or nervous drivers, this single lane mountainous track is full of fun but dangerous hairpin turns, steep gradients, but fantastic views.
Once at Applecross, head north. Follow the road around the peninsula, for lovely red beaches, cliff top views and gorgeous little harbors.
Detour To Lower Diabaig
Whether you go to Applecross or not, follow the A896 past Shieldaig and along the shore of Upper Loch Torridon.
At the town of Torridon there’s a short detour to Lower Diabaig, if you have the time. The viewpoint from Bealach na Gaoithe is stunning. At the bottom, the Lower Diabaig has an interesting shipwreck of an old fishing trawler washed up on the rocky beach.
The road ends at Diabaig. You’ll need to turn around and get back on the A896 and continue north to Loch Maree.
Scotland Road Trip: Loch Maree
We based ourselves at the Loch Maree Hotel for a few days and explored the area. The rooms were simple, but the views of the loch were gorgeous.
Along Loch Maree on the A832, the dominating Slioch mountain watches over the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. A little further, in the Slattadale Forest, the small, but pretty Victoria Waterfall is only a short walk from the carpark.
About 30 minutes away, Red Point has one of the prettiest soft red sand beaches.
The Long Way To Inverness
From Loch Maree there are two ways to get to Inverness and the famous Loch Ness. Both are stunning drives, so it depends what you want from your Scotland road trip.
The long way, follows the A832 along the coast until it meets with the A835 at the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve. This free area has a short, but lovely walk to the Falls of Measach.
Other favorite stops along the route include Gruinard Bay View Point, and the pull off across from the Dundonnell Hotel on Little Loch Broom.
Both the short and long routes go past Rogie Falls, another free waterfall area with a short walk.
The Short Way to Inverness
Following the A832 south east is the fastest way to Inverness. Though you will miss out on the coast, there are still plenty of jaw dropping views to enjoy, like Glen Docherty Viewpoint.
Scotland Road Trip: Inverness
Sitting on the River Ness is the cute little city of Inverness. Not really a tourist city, there are few attractions in the city itself. Even Inverness Castle, currently used as a court house, is not open to the public.
However, just outside of Inverness is Clava Cairns, a very well preserved sacred burial ground from the Bronze age. The historically significant, Culloden Battlefield also makes an interesting outing.
Directly south of Inverness is the infamous and beautiful Loch Ness. If you’re looking for that touristy feeling, and want all things Nessie, head to Drumnadrochit on the A82.
On the southern point of Loch Ness is Fort Augustus. A great spot to catch a cruise on Loch Ness, or to just watch the boats move through the canal lock.
Scotland Road Trip: Cairngorms National Park
The impressive Cairngorms National Park is a must stop for any Scotland road trip. With literally countless attractions on offer, you’ll want to reserve at least two full days in the area.
Views of the surrounding mountains made the Glenmore Forest Park one of our favorite spots. Nearby, the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre offers up close meets with the area’s cutest residents.
Follow the road up Cairnform Mountain for aerial views of the area. In April, snow continued to cover most of the ground. Strangely, the ducks seemed to enjoy their ice baths.
Head to the other side of the park for Balmoral Castle. Straight out of a fairy tale, this Royal Residence is the summer retreat of the Queen. Check before going, as the castle closes most of the winter and when the royals are in residence.
Scotland Road Trip: Aberfeldy
About half-way between the Cairngorms and Edinburgh is the town of Aberfeldy. The name may sound familiar. It is home to one of the most famous Scottish whisky brands, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery. In general, there are several distilleries in the area.
Also, nearby stops include the Queen’s View Visitor Centre, and Castle Menzies. The Scottish Crannog Centre is also interesting if you’d like to step back in time to the Iron Age.
Pit Stop in Falkirk
Our final stop on the way back to Edinburgh is the Falkirk Wheel. The worlds only rotating boat lift transports canal boats 35 meters (about 115 feet) in the air to connect two water canals. This amazing engineering feat is fascinating to watch, and even better, you can take a boat tour ride on the wheel.
We hope you have an amazing Scotland road trip!
Did we miss out anything you would include on your Ultimate Scotland Road Trip? If so, leave a message in the comments to help out other readers.
Other resources that may be helpful include:
- Crieff Highland Gathering: A Guide to the Scottish Highland Games
- Scotland Itinerary: 7 Days of Adventure