Glencoe

Glencoe

If you’re one of the 55% of visitors to Scotland whose main reason for coming is to enjoy its landscape and scenery – the most popular reason cited by visitors (VisitScotland, 2012) – then you’re in the right place.  In this article I’ll take you on an insider’s guide to some of the most scenic routes in Scotland, and pointing out some great things to see and do along the way.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”  Ursula K. Le Guin in The Left Hand of Darkness

If you’ve made a special effort to travel to Scotland and only have a short time available, you want to ensure you make the most of your trip.  If the journey matters most (according to Hemingway) then you want to be on the most scenic roads rather than wishing later on you’d taken a different route.

For a small country Scotland boasts some of the most scenic roads in the world.  I remember talking to some US visitors some years ago who were surprised at the variety of the scenery in Scotland, and the fact that you could cover so much of the country in only a few hours.  No part of Scotland is more than 50 miles from the sea as the crow flies and you can easily drive coast-to-coast in a day (… if you really want to).  So while Scotland may lack the grandeur of the US or Canada, it makes up for in the quality and variety of its landscapes.  And compared to the rest of the UK and many places in Europe, of course, it’s far quieter.  Away from the built-up areas of the Central Belt there’s less traffic and you can easily escape the crowds and enjoy the views.

To see Scotland properly of course, means slowing down.  This includes getting off the beaten track, allowing time to explore sights along the way, meeting people in village shops and cafes, and experiencing local culture.  The ten scenic routes below give you the scope to do this.  I’ve highlighted recommended places to eat and drink, plus things to see and do, which will encourage you to linger.  (And just in case you haven’t got my ‘plug’ for rural tourism, please spend your hard-earned cash in the hard-working businesses that are the lifeline for their local communities all year round !).

The ten routes highlighted below are some of my personal favourites – and I’d be keen to hear if you think I’ve made any glaring omissions.  Choosing the ten ‘best’ routes for a road trip in Scotland is clearly a difficult and subjective matter.  However, I’ve selected roads from many corners of Scotland so please consider this a representative sample, designed to help visitors plan a road trip in the knowledge that they’ll enjoy some of the best scenery on offer together with some fantastic sights and landmarks.

To use the map below:

  • Hover your mouse over each route to highlight it on the index
  • Enlarge the map or zoom in more more detail
  • If the map doesn’t work, click on the ‘larger map’ text (the new version of Google Maps doesn’t always work with WordPress).
A welcoming piper at Carter Bar

A welcoming piper at Carter Bar

10. Carter Bar to Edinburgh

Forget the busy M74 or the rather boring A1, the A68 is the by far the best road to take when driving north into Scotland.  Of course, you won’t start your journey at the Scottish/English border (Carter Bar) but the best route is to follow the A68 north from the Tyne Valley along the straight lines of the old Roman road (Dere Street), with its stomach-turning blind summits, through the Northumberland National Park.  By the time you climb up to the border at Carter Bar (hopefully, a bagpiper will be there to welcome you), you’ll see the shapely hills of the Eildons and other hills of the Scottish Borders stretched out before you.

These lands have been fought over for the centuries by the Picts and, more recently, the reiving families of the Borders.  To this day, the Common Ridings in Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels and other towns re-enact the tradition of riding the boundaries on horseback to protect their land.  With the strength of community bonds still so strong it’s perhaps no surprise that Hawick folk will (only half jokingly) tell you in a thick Borders accent that “A day out of Hawick is a day wasted” !

North of Lauder you’ll climb Soutra Hill from where, on a clear day, you’ll get a great vista looking over Edinburgh with Fife in the distance.  The views on this route are best when travelling from south to north.

See and Do:  Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose Abbeys; take a walk to the top of the Eildon Hills; detour from St Boswells to Dryburgh and Scott’s View for the best views of the River Tweed and Eildon Hills respectively; the recently refurbished Abbotsford, former home of the author Sir Walter Scott (between Tweedbank and Galashiels).

Eat and drink:  Flat Cat Gallery and Cafe (Lauder).

Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders

Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders

9.  Perthshire to Royal Deeside

The A93 between Blairgowrie and Braemar is a favourite among (motor)bikers for its twisty climb up to the pass of Glenshee and the quick descent down the other side.  But the route deserves to be taken at a slower pace, particularly for the section west along Royal Deeside.

The hills in the southeastern corner of the Cairngorm National Park are heather-clad and rounded unlike the more pointed mountains of Scotland’s west coast.  But if it’s munro bagging you’re here for, there are around a dozen munros on either side of the Glenshee ski resort that are among the easiest and most accessible in Scotland.

It’s well worth a short detour west of Braemar to the Linn of Dee to see remnants of the Ancient Caledonian Forest; majestic native Scots’ pine trees standing proud in the broad valley with the Cairngorm mountains as the backdrop.  Royal Deeside boasts its fair share of castles and of course, Royal connections at Balmoral.  It’s an attractive drive alongside the River Dee with several good picnic spots along the route.  Another recommended detour is south from Aboyne up into Glen Tanar, where walkers can climb Scotland’s most easterly munro, lonely Mount Keen.

See and Do:  Walks from the Linn of Dee (near Braemar) and Glen Tanar (near Aboyne);  Loch Muick and Lochnagar; Balmoral and Craievar Castles. 

Eat and drink: Station Restaurant, Ballater.

8.  Loch Lomond to Lochgilphead

This route gives a great mix of lochs and hills en route to Kintyre and the islands of the West coast.  Be warned though, this is a classic coach tour route and so you may want to avoid the kitsch in certain tourist hot-spots (notably Luss and Inveraray).  Travelling north from Glasgow on the A82, you enter the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park at Balloch and soon see Ben Lomond towering over the east side of Loch Lomond.  Turning off on to the A83 at Tarbet a short climb over the hill takes you down to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, the first of the sea lochs.

Walkers may want to climb The Cobbler, one of the most popular of the Arrochar Alps despite not (quite) reaching munro height.  The drive west from here climbs steeply to the wonderfully-named Rest and Be Thankful where there’s a popular layby and viewpoint at the top.

Inveraray makes for a useful stopping-off point on Loch Fyne, the drive along the loch to Lochgilphead giving fine views of water and pine forest.

See and Do:  picnic spots along Loch Lomond; take a water bus from Tarbet across Loch Lomond to Rowardennan or Inversnaid; climb The Cobbler at Arrochar (allow 35hours up and down); Inveraray Jail; Inveraray Maritime Heritage Centre; Crarae Gardens (near south of Inveraray).

Eat and Drink:  Loch Fyne Oysterbar at the head of Loch Fyne.

7.  Trossachs Loop

Both the Trossachs and Arran (see below) are known as ‘Scotland in miniature’ for the sheer variety of scenery over a relatively compact area.  Sir Walter Scott set his famous novel The Lady of the Lake at Loch Katrine in the Trossachs which helped fuel the romanticism and the emerging 19th Century tourism industry in this part of Scotland.

Starting out from Callander, one of the gateways to the Highlands, the A821 follows the north shore of Loch Venachar, a popular sailing loch with several good picnic spots.  Shapely Ben Venue and Ben A’an grace the eastern end of Loch Katrine and it’s well worth a trip on the refurbished steamship, the SS Sir Walter Scott, on Loch Katrine.

The road south winds its way up to the summit of Duke’s Pass, notorious in winter weather, and down to Aberfoyle.  The road back to Callander passes by the Lake of Menteith, the only natural freshwater body of water called a lake (rather than loch) in Scotland.

See and Do:  See the curious Bicycle Tree at Brig o’Turk; climb Ben A’an, one of Scotland’s best small hills, with fabulous views; take a trip on the SS Sir Water Scott steamship on Loch Katrine; go for a walk and see wildlife via CCTV at David Marshall Lodge (near the summit of the Duke’s Pass); take a ferry (from the car park on the B8034) to the idyllically-situated Augustinian monastery dating from 1238 on Inchmahome island in the Lake of Menteith.

Eat and drink:  The Brig o’Turk Tearoom; The Pier Cafe at Loch Katrine; cafe at David Marshall Lodge.

Loch Venachar, looking towards Ben Venue

Loch Venachar, looking towards Ben Venue

6.  The Isle of Arran

Arran is the seventh largest Scottish island and the 55 mile circuit would make a great day’s journey, including stops.  It’s worth noting that it’s a popular route for cyclists; fit cyclists can arrive into Brodick (from Ardrossan) in the morning and return before the last ferry back.

The north of the island is more mountainous (where Goat Fell is a popular climb) and there are fine views of jagged peaks.  The east coast, between Whiting Bay and Brodick, has most traffic but away from these two settlements you’ll find Arran to be a relaxed and peaceful gem of an island.  There are some sandy beaches on the west coast and on the south coast at Kildonan, where on a clear day you have views towards the granite outcrop of Ailsa Craig.

See and Do:  Visit Brodick and Lochranza castles; see the King’s Caves at Blackwaterfoot; visit Glenashdale waterfall (a 140 foot drop), near Whiting Bay; visit the Machrie Moor stone circle on the west side of the island, erected 4000 years ago.

Eat and drink:  Arran has a growing reputation for the quality of its food and drink.  Follow the Food Trail along the east and north coasts sampling cheese, ice cream, beer, whisky, relishes, chocolates and other delicacies.  Creelers seafood restaurant at Brodick and the Brodick Bar and Brasserie.

The hills of Arran

The hills of Arran

5.  Fort William to Mallaig

The best mode of travel between Fort William and Mallaig is the train given that this section of the West Highland Line ranks as one of the most scenic rail trips in the world.  Steam afficionados and children of all ages will want to come in the summer months and take the ‘Hogwarts Express’ on the 84 mile round trip, which passes between the mountains, by the small villages of Lochailort, Arisaig and Morar and over the impressive viaduct at Glenfinnan (as seen in the Harry Potter film).

While making the journey by car doesn’t perhaps give the same quality of experience, it does have the advantage that you can at least stop off along the way.  A diversion to see the Glenfinnan monument, a poignant memorial to the final Jacobite uprising of 1745, is well worth a trip, as is a detour to see the fine white sands of Morar with views towards the small isles of Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna beyond.  These beaches, featured in the films Highlander and Local Hero really are stunning.

See and Do:  See the Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Shiel; take a dip in the sea beside the glorious white sands of Morar.

Eat and drink:  The Old Library Lodge and Restaurant and Cafe Rhu, both in Arisaig.  I enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at Cafe Rhu on a previous trip, using high quality local produce – highly recommended.

VW California

Camping near Arisaig with the islands of Eigg and Rum in the background

4.  Highland Perthshire Loop

This 65km circular route takes in some of Highland Perthshire’s best scenery and sights, making for a great half-day excursion.  Pitlochry and Aberfeldy are worth visiting in their own right but linking them with a route along the River Tay and Loch Tummel takes in some spectacular scenery.

See and Do:  For the more adventurous, go rafting on the River Tay or bungee jumping at nearby Killiecrankie; visit Castle Menzies; go on a Highland Safari; visit the Fortingall Yew, thought to be between 1,500 and 5,000 years old.

Eat and drink: Highland Safaris Cafe.

On a Highland Safari looking down over the River Tay valley

On a Highland Safari looking down over the River Tay valley

3.  Ardnamurchan Loop

I’ve previously blogged about Ardnamurchan being one of Scotland’s hidden gems.  It’s off the main through routes, there are few must-see sights and comparatively few visitors venture – but when you get the right weather the views and scenery are superb.  A few miles south of Fort William, take the Corran Ferry which transports you a short distance across the narrows of Loch Linnhe and immediately you get that ‘island’ feel.

The A861 takes you past Strontian and along the shores of Loch Sunart, where the road narrows.  This is a frustrating road to take a caravan (and to be stuck behind one) but there are plenty passing places.  For a real treat, turn off on the B8807 to the Point of Ardnamurchan (the most westerly point in mainland UK) and lovely Sanna Beach.  But to take the scenic loop back to Fort William, follow the A861 as it turns north to Moidart with mountains to the east and gorgeous coastal views to the west.  The faster A830 takes you past the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct which is worth stopping to see.

See and Do:  Stop off at the village of Strontian; climb the Corbett Beinn Resipol for fantastic views to the Inner and Outer Hebrides; visit Kilchoan Castle; climb the Rois-Bheinn Horsehoe (three Corbetts) 

Eat and drink:  Glenuig Inn, Scotland’s exemplar green inn.

View to the islands of Eigg and Rum from Beinn Resipol, Ardnamurchan

View to the islands of Eigg and Rum from Beinn Resipol, Ardnamurchan

2.  Stirling to Skye

For many people a trip to Skye will be on their itinerary and the A82 is the most popular route from the south.  If you’re coming from Glasgow the A82 takes you up the western shores of Loch Lomond, a road which is narrow and windy in places, but from Edinburgh the best way to come is from Stirling on the A85.

The journey will take you about 3 to 3.5 hours drive time (excluding stops) but you will certainly want to make a day of it and see a number of iconic Scottish landmarks along the way.  First, a visit to Stirling Castle situated high on its volcanic outcrop is a must, many people rating Stirling higher than Edinburgh Castle on their must-see list.  Callander and Killin make for good stops en route offering places to eat.  The road winds its way in among the mountains with Beinn Dorain in particular making an impressive statement just to the north of Tyndrum, with the loop of the West Highland Line immediately below.

The flat expanse of Rannoch Moor’s heather and lochans is finally punctuated by one of Scotland’s best-loved mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor, guarding the entrance to Glencoe.  You will want to stop in Glencoe itself, either at the top of the valley where you can take a walk up to the ‘lost valley’ where the MacDonald Clan hid their rustled cattle valley or at the Visitor Centre a few miles further on.  Ballachulish Bridge takes you over Loch Leven with the sea loch, Loch Linnhe on your left as you drive towards Fort William.

Unless you want to make a point of stopping off in Fort William, you may want to visit the Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge instead.  The next section of the A82 as well as the A87 west of Invergarry allow quicker progress to be made as traffic thins out.  Try to find the viewpoint as the road climbs and turns north just towards the middle of Loch Garry to see the shape of its western end – in the shape of Scotland !

Passing the Cluanie Inn on your left the hills start to close in around you as you descent into Glen Shiel with munros either side; a fantastic wild mountain landscape.  If time allows you might want to consider a short detour over the steep Ratagan Pass to Glenelg from Shiel Bridge.  Glenelg is a fine village which is also home to the Glenelg-Kylerhea Ferry (summer only) – and the experience of taking the ferry ‘over the sea to Skye’ beat the new bridge hands-down !  However, the most direct route to Skye takes you past Loch Duich and iconic Eilan Donan Castle to Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge.

See and Do:  So much !  Visit Stirling Castle; see the Falls of Dochart (waterfalls) at Killin; climb Buachaille Etive Mor (or any number of munros along the route); take a walk to the lost valley in Glencoe; see the Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge; take a photo of Loch Garry’s ‘Scotland-shaped’ western end; visit Eilan Donan Castle.

Eat and drink: The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum; Bridge of Orchy Hotel; Clachaig Inn, Glencoe; Loch Leven Seafood Cafe; Invergarry Hotel; Cluanie Inn; Glenelg Inn.

Looking over Loch Leven to the Pap of Glencoe

Looking over Loch Leven to the Pap of Glencoe

1.  Ullapool to Durness

With the possible exception of some sections of the Ardnamurchan and Arran loops, all of the routes described so far include popular roads where traffic can build up, especially in summer.  However, the route up the far northwest of Scotland covers some of the most spectacular and quietest spots in Scotland.  For many, this is Scotland at its wildest and most scenic, where mountains, lochs and small communities combine to give an experience not found anywhere else in the UK.  This is a journey to savour, to stop off, linger and soak up the experience.

While not all are munros the Assynt hills are certainly some of the most distinctive in Scotland, and keen walkers will want to climb Suilven, Quinag, Foinaven and others.  For others, detours (sometimes fairly long given the narrow, slow roads) are well worth taking.  Trips to Achiltibuie (with views to the Summer Isles), Lochinver and Kinlochbervie (to walk out to Sandwood Bay) are highly recommended.  Take a detour past Durness also to visit the lovely beach at Ceannabeinne.

See and Do:  Use Ullapool as a departure point for ferries to the Western Isles; climb Suilven (or one of other iconic hills in Assynt); take a trip to Handa Island to go birdwatching; take a walk to Sandwood Bay, one of the most beautiful (and quietest!) beaches in the UK.

Eat and drink: Summer Isles Hotel, Achiltibuie; Albannach Hotel, Lochinver.

Further resources:

Top 10 Roadside Pubs in Scotland

Top 10 Campsites in Scotland

Ceannabeinne Beach, Sutherland

Ceannabeinne Beach, Sutherland

54 Comments on “Top 10 Scenic Roads in Scotland

  1. Excellent article and one which I will keep and hopefully do some of when I get the opportunity to travel in Scotland, something I have wanted to do for a number of years now.Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience which is very much appreciated.

  2. Brilliant resource I’ll come back to this when I’m planning my two week jaunt during the Summer. We stayed in Lochgoilhead last year and drove around Inveraray and some of the lovely lochs. It has definitely inspired us to return. Thank you!

  3. Great shout for the A68. Once had to drive that road for work reasons on a very sunny day in a very nice Karmann Convertible. It was the best day’s work I ever had. I enjoyed it so much I considered returning my wages (only considered it, didn’t do it).

    • That sounds like a fabulous job !! Yes I’m partial to the A68 having lived near it on both sides of the border. The Borders are an often overlooked part of Scotland but with real character.

      • I used travel down the A68 as well for my job 2-3 times a week. Like duckfatchips I too felt like handing back my wages. Great road. (Great job)

  4. Thank you for a wonderful facility – a site that captures the essence of Scotland and points to unmissable places. Looking forward even more now to a few days in the Ullapool area.

    • Thank you for your very kind words. I enjoy writing this blog and I’m glad you like reading it too. I hope you enjoy your trip to the North West.

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  9. Thanks a million very useful tips especially my first visit to Scotland and to see the Northern Lights,

  10. hi, many many thanks for such an informative site. i love this site.
    just want to know what route is shown in the video – north west scotland. i would like to do it myself as well. please provide detailed route i’ll be ever so much greatful to you.

    kind regards
    rais
    london

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. The video shows highlights of the road from Durness in the far NW of Scotland South to Ullapool along the A838, A894 and A835. It’s a fabulously remote and scenic part of Scotland and at its best in sunny weather. There are some gorgeous beaches and other places worth making a detour to en route – take a look at a decent map which will point these out.

      This route is also part of a longer, 500 mile circular journey from Inverness, up the east coast to John o’Groats, along the north coast, South to Ullapool and back to Inverness. This new route – the North Coast 500 – will be formally launched in May 2015 but you can see some info on their Facebook site already.

      • Hi,
        I just completed a trip from Aberdeen to do the NR500 but with my own twist on it as i’ve driven along most of the route before.
        Original plan was to stop at Dornoch Bridge but had made good time and decided to press on to Bonar Bridge and then continue to Achiltibuie,which was absolutely superb.
        Camped overnight at Port a Bhaigh and went to Lochinver on the B869,stopped at Clachtoll for the night and decided to go to Unapool following the B869. That was the best driving decision i’ve ever made,what a road,Mountains,waterfalls,beaches (Clashnessie),viewpoint at Drumbeg,Deer/Sheep on road,hairpin bends,drops,and the narrowness of the road led to exhilaration and exhaustion by the time we reached Kylesku.

        I would recommend this route for Campers.not so much for Motorhomes though,the road is really narrow in places.

        Anyway,great site you have here,thanks for passing on your knowledge.

        Kind Regards

        Mal

      • Hi Mal, thanks for some great feedback on your route and description of what it’s like. Very useful. Thanks again !

  11. hi, many thanks for sharing the route mentioned in the video.

    the moment i got your reply i packed and left – i ended it at ullapool from inverness. as time was runnung out to head back to london :)) i stayed for the night at inverness.

    i enjoyed the whole route to the max on way back from ullapool as well. breath taking and serene.

    next one is ullapool to durness.. will plan for time.

    many thanks. as a token of thanks, happy to take you up for a lunch or dinner anytime.

    regards
    rais

    • Great, glad you really liked the route. And make sure you get back to do the route north of Ullapool – that’s the best bit !

  12. Great article! Looking forward to including some of these this summer. I love the video too, what’s the name of the song?

  13. Great article!

    You were so close to our favourite road in Scotland though and didn’t go on it! If you’re ever up towards Skye again, keep heading north towards Applecross. The Road to Applecross is a brilliant 600 meter ascent over 5 or so miles. When you get to the top, there’s unbelievable views across the islands.

    If you’ve got a moment, check it out here (last road of the three): http://www.caledonian-couriers.co.uk/best-driving-roads-scotland/

  14. thanks for sharing all these great info.. I shall be in Dundee around mid September and likely to have 2-3 days spare time so will them as much as time permits

  15. Would you be so kind as to give me the bust points of interest on the drive from Edinburg to Ballater. Is St. Andrews Castle worth visiting? We can go at out leisure so we are able to get a little ways off the path.

    • Given that the journey from Edinburgh to Ballater will take you half a day without stopping off I think you have a choice to make. If you decide to visit St Andrews then I suggest spending a few hours there then heading straight up to Ballater without any other stops (although Glamis Castle is worth a stop if you have time). The most direct route north from St Andrews is via Dundee on the A90, taking the A957 from Stonehaven over to Crathes, before turning west to Ballater. I confess I have never actually been to St Andrews Castle (!) but the town is really lovely and well worth visiting – there’s the Cathedral, the University, golf (of course), shops and a nice beach.

      However, if there are other sights you’d prefer to see (and maybe you’re not into golf ..?) then I would give St Andrews a miss and head to Ballater via the A93. The sights I would suggest worth seeing would be (assuming you’re into castles) Scone Palace in Perth, perhaps a walk around Braemar and then Balmoral Castle on Deeside.

      Further reading here:
      http://www.visitstandrews.com/
      http://visitroyaldeeside.com/
      http://scone-palace.co.uk/
      http://www.glamis-castle.co.uk/

      I hope this helps – there’s a lot to see and you can’t fit it all in !

  16. Great article! We recently embarked on our first road trip to the Isle of Skye which was amazing and has definitely left us itching to see more of our beautiful country so these route suggestions are great to give us some inspiration – thank you! :o)

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  18. I’m staying on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond on my way to do the ‘3 peaks in a week’ starting with the Ben. If I do part of the Trossachs loop to get onto the A85 Stirling to Fort William road from Cashel campsite, are the roads ok for a 6m campervan? I’m assuming the A road will be fine, it’s just getting from Cashel east onto the A85 via Gartmore. I want to do as scenic a route as possible and take all day to get there if necessary so I can take in the stunning scenery. Thanks

    • Hi and thanks for getting in touch. The road narrows between Balmaha and Cashel and so this is the only place where I think you may need to take care. It’s not quite a single track road but you may have to squeeze past traffic coming the other way. But there are a couple of campsites along that eastern side of Loch Lomond so they’re used to caravans, motor homes etc. it sounds a great trip – good luck !

  19. This website has been great in planning our upcoming trip to Scotland which includes a self-drive experience for three days. We wish it were more. So…my question is if you have ONLY three days of driving, which of these scenic drives should we take???

    • So in other words … if you could ‘do’ Scotland in three days, what route would you take ?! One response to this would be to check out some of the many tour companies and see what routes they choose. But a lot depends on (a) where your start/end points are and (b) the balance you want to have between driving and sightseeing.

      Sticking my head out (and assuming you’re starting from Edinburgh or Glasgow), my suggestion would be to aim for no more than 3-4 hours driving each day so you’re not seeing Scotland only from behind a windscreen. You want to be able to plan a route that gives you lots of opportunities for seeing attractions along the way.

      So my suggestion would be to take the A82 north through Glencoe on Day 1. You could maybe stay around Glencoe or Ballachulish (Fort William has lots of options too but isn’t perhaps Scotland’s most scenic town). Stirling and Glencoe would be obvious stopping-off points. On Day 2 I’d cross from the west coast along the A86 from Spean Bridge to Aviemore and stay overnight in the Cairngorms National Park. There’s lots to see and do in the National Park. On Day 3 you could drive south along the A9, perhaps visiting Blair Atholl, Pitlochry and/or driving the Highland Perthshire loop.

      This is just one suggestion but gives a variety of landscapes with lots to see along the way.

      • You are correct that we are starting from Edinburgh and returning at the end to the same location (Edinburgh). Thank you for the route suggestion. In our initial planning, we also identified the area of Glencoe/Fort William as one destination. From there, we were thinking of visiting the Isle of Skye. Do you think that’s possible, using the Glencoe/Fort William area as one base?

        Does the A9 take you anywhere near St Andrews, Glamis Castle, etc? Is that logical to do? Then, we were going to drive from there back to Edinburgh.

      • I think you would need to make some trade offs so as to avoid doing too much driving in only 3 days. I’m suggesting that up to 4 hours driving each day would still allow for relaxed sightseeing along the way. Of course you could go to Skye but then you’d not have time to see the Cairngorms and would probably end up taking the same route back to Edinburgh. And before someone else makes the obvious point – all these places deserve much more time. Glamis Castle and St Andrews would be detours from the A9 and you could possibly see one but you wouldn’t have time to see both. So I think you need to be selective and leave some sights for your next visit!

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  21. Thanks for the useful info. We are heading to Scotland next August 2017 for two full weeks! We were there last year on a guided tour and even though it was a wonderful way to see your beautiful Scotland, this time we want to drive ourselves and do more back roads and local pubs and such. We will be flying into Glascow and heading to Jedheugh area for a reunion, then a friend who is traveling with me wants to visit her family castle in Kirkcudbright, after that we want to head north. Any suggestions of scenic routes to take from this area?

    • Hi,

      In my article I highlighted those routes I consider to be among the most scenic. Dumfries and Galloway (the region around Kirkcudbright) is lovely – off the beaten track by and large. You could head over to the coast at Girvan and follow the A77 back north towards Glasgow. Troon is a famous golf town and Culzean Castle is also worth visiting. Consider taking a ferry from Ardrossan across to the island of Arran, staying a couple of days. From there you could either take another ferry west to Claonaig (Kintyre) and continue up the west coast towards Oban or head back to Ardrossan and north (past Glasgow again) to Loch Lomond. There are too many options ! Just some suggestions …

  22. Hi,
    Just came back from our trip to Scotland visiting mostly the west coast, ( Arran, Tarbet, Glasgow. Skipness is also a great place to visit . It has a great seafood restaurant , walking trails and cottages to rent in the summer.

  23. Hello,

    We are planning a drive/camping trip this summer around the north of Scotland, leaving from Banff. Want to go wild and remote, with Beaches as well.
    If possible Avoiding the West coast midges, as our two wee kids hate the wee bites. Does the Western Isles have an issue in the summer with midges then? Planning for about 5-7 days. Any advice would be great especially places to camp or campsites.

    • Hi there,

      There are some fantastic sites in the NW and N coasts as well as the Western Isles so no shortage of wild and remote locations. Check out my Top 10 beach campsites post (https://wildaboutscotland.com/2013/08/04/top-10-scottish-beach-campsites/) for some ideas. You might also want to read my post on midges (and avoiding them!) https://wildaboutscotland.com/2016/04/30/the-dreaded-scottish-midge/.

      Midges can’t cope with wind and although you certainly will find them in the Western Isles (or anywhere else for that matter) on still mornings/evenings your best bet is to stay on coasts where you’re likely to get a good breeze.

      If you’re after good wild and remote campsites have a look at Sango Sands (if you’re driving part of the NC500), Clachtoll (Lochinver), Port a Bhaigh (Achiltibuie, Shore Campsite (Achmelvich), and Sands Campsite (Gairloch). Camping tends to be more informal in Lewis and Harris (eg honesty box, minimal facilities) and my post has a few suggestion there too.

    • Yep, I climbed the 15 3000 footers in Snowdonia over 3 days last year. It was great – similar in some ways to parts of the Scottish hills – and somewhere to return to.

  24. I’m looking forward to my 4th trip to Scotland this summer. Although weve previously done various parts of these suggested routes, we plan to make use of some of your suggestions. I would, however, like to know the distance of the trips and approximately how long they would take. Thanks!

    • How long’s a piece of string ?! I could list mileages and times from A to B without any stops but I guess the point is that to really enjoy the routes you will be stopping off en route – and not necessarily travelling just the most scenic parts I’ve highlighted.

      As a guide, I’d recommend allowing half a day minimum to allow for travel time and stop-offs (with the Trossachs and Highland Perthshire routes maybe a little less) and a whole day for the others (especially Stirling to Skye and the Ardnamurchan loop). I suggest consulting the AA route planner so you can put in your exact start/finish times http://www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp. Note that this just includes travel time without any stops. Hope this helps !

      • I can speak from recent personal experience that you indeed need a whole day of car travel time to go from Stirling to Isle of Skye. We did this in September last year and took the scenic route. Admittedly, we had a flat tire issue which really put us behind. Because of that, we had to scramble to make the drive from Stirling to our hotel in Skeboast. Even then we didn’t arrive until around 9 PM. You ideally should split the drive up to two days and stop at all those places that make visiting this part of Scotland so special. You also have to factor in the weather conditions. If it’s a beautiful day, you will want to make stops. This is particularly so once you cross the Skye Bridge (and even just before). It’s just beautiful!!!

      • Thanks, these are great points. The times I suggested are ‘minimum’ times. There’s plenty to see on all of these routes so why rush? Take your time – you’ve come to Scotland to enjoy it so make the most of it.

        As you say, John, weather is a key factor. On a grey, damp day you may not be in the mood for stopping but on a crisp, sunny morning you’ll want to enjoy the trip.

        One final point … I mentioned in the article that I overheard some US visitors talking about their trip. They simply looked at the distances and related travel times to how they were used to travelling back home – and were then surprised that the journey took much longer than they’d expected. Remember that none of these journeys are on motorways or fast roads. (Quite the opposite in fact, while you won’t encounter the same traffic volumes than in England for example, you’ll be slowed down by the hills and corners ! And the stunning views.)

      • Amen to that. There’s so much to see and simply looking at driving distances and times on a map are extremely deceptive. I know I’m speaking to the choir but for those who are planning a road trip to Scotland for the first time, listen to this expert and to our own first time experience. Give yourselves the time and take the time to enjoy Scotland. Factor in any other times such as rental car pick up and drop off. If you are first time drivers in England/Scotland, you must also come to the reality that driving on the left side, etc. is different.

  25. I’m 52 …and always wanted to see the fantastic scenery in Scotland,and I’ve just booked 12 days in a Winnebago..cant wait to get there…thank you for your article…very valuable information…will help greatly…

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