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9 Scotland Road Trip Routes to Explore

Our Guide to Scotland's Best Road Trips

With its rolling hills, rugged mountains, rivers, lochs, stunning coastline, and vibrant cities, Scotland really does have it all. Our guide looks at what makes Scotland such a great road trip destination. We’ll share top tips on planning a Scottish road trip from when to go, to choosing your route and getting there. Plus, we’ll reveal our pick of the 9 best Scottish road trips routes.


Why do a road trip around Scotland?


With a landmass covering a third of the UK and a population of just 5.4million, part of Scotland’s appeal lies in its wide-open spaces. Scotland’s roads crisscross the country from the borders in the south to the Highlands in the north, giving you the chance to see the variety of its landscapes. Wherever you travel in Scotland, whether you take ‘the high road or the low road’ to Loch Lomond or join the stunning B842 near Campbelltown, the inspiration for the Beatles’ Long and Winding Road, you’ll be following in famous footsteps.

Car hire Scotland
Scottish road trip

Deciding when to take a Scottish Road Trip

Weighing up when the best time of year to take a road trip in Scotland is down to the weather conditions. From April to September, you’ll get the longest hours of daylight with temperatures warming up from May onwards. The summer months of July and August will be busiest on the roads and so late spring and early autumn are a good bet.


Be aware though that summer is also midge season in Scotland. Midges appear at dawn and dusk on damp, still days. Not all parts of Scotland are affected by midges, with the coastal areas and some lochs free of the pesky critters. A daily midge forecast gives great advice on where and when to cover up.

Choosing your route

Planning a road trip route is not hard in Scotland with so many options to choose from. Your choice of route will depend on how long you have, whether you want to hire a car and travel just one way, or whether you plan a circular tour. In Scotland, which has such varied terrain, it also comes down to the landscape you want to explore and the kind of driving you want to take on. So, whether you have a couple of days and want to use Scotland’s capital Edinburgh, or the largest city Glasgow as your base or create a longer journey from coast to coast or across the Highlands, a Scotland road trip will leave you spoiled for choice.

Getting to Scotland

Getting to Scotland is so easy with four main airports - Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Glasgow Prestwick - all well-served by international airlines with both short-haul European and long-haul flights. Each offers a great base to start your road trip around Scotland, especially if you’re renting a car.


If you’re travelling from mainland Europe you might want to board a ferry and drive up through England. There are various routes to choose from including Rotterdam or Zeebrugge to Hull (a four-hour drive from the Scottish border) or from Amsterdam to Newcastle which is just an hour from the border. The most scenic way to start your Scottish road trip would be travelling from London on the overnight Caledonian sleeper service waking up in Edinburgh, ready to collect your rental car.

Travelling around Scotland

Because so many Scots live in the ‘central belt’ - the region between Edinburgh and Glasgow - this area is well-served by public transport. In more remote and rural areas, hiring a car can be the best option. Scotland is also a popular cruise ship destination and with so many islands to explore off the mainland – there are 60 in total - you’ll almost certainly want to experience the excitement of island hopping. You can find a ferry to reach nearly all of Scotland’s islands and packages are available for rover passes, giving discounts and unlimited travel for short breaks.

The Best Scotland Road Trip Routes

There are countless, extraordinarily beautiful routes you can cover in Scotland. To help you choose, we’ve hand-picked some of the best…

Inverness and The Highlands

If you want to plan a driving tour in Scotland with as much breathtaking scenery as possible, the Scottish Highlands are hard to beat. The small area means that you can start more or less wherever you want without missing out on much, but the town of Inverness would make a particularly good starting point.


Just a few miles outside Inverness is the village of Culloden, and from there you can drive to the site of the last pitched battle fought on British soil (the Battle of Culloden, back in 1745). After you’ve checked out this protected historical spot, it’s just over an hour to Tomintoul, in the Cairngorms National Park. This is the highest village in this part of Scotland, and it’s surrounded by the Glenlivet estate, belonging to the world-famous whisky company.


For a more leisurely Highlands trip, you could start from Inverness and visit the world-famous Loch Ness. But, before you go in search of lakeside splendour and mythical beasts, take a little time to have a look around Inverness itself. It’s a unique city, balancing its proud traditional heritage with plenty of art, music, and theatre.


When you’re ready to head out on your road trip to Loch Ness, follow the A82 and you’ll be at the home of Nessie in under half an hour. We can’t guarantee any sightings of the monster, but the loch itself is well worth exploring – take a cruise from Clansman Harbour, and check out the ruins of a medieval castle sitting right on the shore.

Driving Route

Driving Route

Forth Valley Tourist Route

The Forth Valley Tourist Route is an action-packed 69km drive offering a short trip from Edinburgh to Stirling with the chance to take in everything from mighty castles to ancient battlefields, whisky distilleries and the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. The route traces the south bank of the forth of Firth and includes two includes two UNESCO heritage sites – the Forth Rail Bridge and Antonine Wall.


The route starts along the A904 in South Queensferry, heads inland to Linlithgow and joins the A9 at Falkirk before approaching Stirling. Famous for its castle, Stirling is well worth exploring over a couple of days - there is so much history in the city and surrounding areas. To the north you’ll find the Wallace Monument and the close by Bannockburn village and battlefield visitor centre, the final destination on this whistle-stop tour.

Argyll Coastal Route

The 208km Argyll Coastal Route is a mini tour of the Highlands giving you a taste of the magnificent western side of Scotland, ending in the dramatic mountainscapes of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.


The tour starts from Glasgow, a city with a more modern, artsy vibe than the capital, and a uniquely friendly atmosphere. Just half an hour’s drive outside of Glasgow, the route begins with one of Scotland’s best natural wonders – the Devil’s Pulpit. This is a moss-covered, 100-foot gorge, with a river rushing over a series of waterfalls.


Further north, you reach beautiful Loch Lomond. This serves as the gateway to the highlands as the road heads west hugging the shoreline and offering breathtaking scenery and the chance for island spotting as you pass Loch Fyne, Inveraray and Oban. It’s hard to pick a highlight from this stunning trip but the steep-sided glen at Glencoe has to be one of the ‘bucket list’ moments of any Scotland road trip - and if the weather is on your side, the most magical of sunsets awaits.

Driving Route

Driving Route

Isle of Skye

The idyllic Isle of Skye is just 80km (50 miles) long and you can drive around it in a few hours. However, there’s so much to see that an Isle of Skye road trip can easily take two days. The nearest airport to Skye is Inverness, a 2.5 hour drive from Skye. To cross onto Skye there are two options – you can either drive to Mallaig and catch the 45-minute ferry, or head further north to the Kyle of Lochalsh and drive over via the A87 and the Skye Bridge at Loch Alsh. There is no toll to cross the Skye Bridge.


On the first day in Skye, we’d suggest starting on the south of the island and driving first to Loch Coruisk, with a stop off on the way to walk up to the magical Fairy Pools. Back in the car, your route takes you to the Talisker Distillery, with time to check out Dunvegan Castle, a 13th-century fortress built on a rocky summit. A little further along, you’ll reach the western most tip of the island at Neist Point. The lighthouse here is a short walk from the car park and a great place to observe whales, dolphins, porpoise and basking shark.


On the second day, travel to the north of the island and explore the most remote part of Skye via the A855. From here, head inland and walk up to the Old Man of Storr, a rock formation on the skyline above the Trotternish Ridge. The route takes you back to the coast to Kilt Rock and the stunning Mealtfalls waterfall before circling around the top of the island and across the Uig where you’ll find the enchanting Fairy Glen, a place of folklore and legend in a remarkable landscape of conical-shaped hills.

Cairngorms National Park

A road trip around the Cairngorms National Park offers so much, with forests and landscapes well worth stopping to explore.


Starting from Aberdeen, set off inland heading west with a stunning drive along the A93, following the River Dee and passing through the Glen Tanar Forest. Stop at Glen Tanar Estate for a stroll around the private loch and take in the views from the beautifully restored Victorian Boathouse. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could even try cycling, mountain biking, pony trekking or fishing in the grounds of the estate.


Driving back towards Ballater and then southwards, stop to take a walk around the mysterious Loch Muick. This 12.5-kilometre circular route offers amazing mountain views over the loch, and great trails with a few detour options if you want to see some waterfalls. Visit in the autumn and you might be lucky enough to catch the red deer in the hills during rutting season, when these majestic creatures put on a captivating performance for mates.

Driving Route

Driving Route

Edinburgh and the East Coast

Edinburgh is an ideal jumping-off point for some of the best Scotland road trips, and the capital itself is a great place to spend a couple of days. Both its Old Town and New Town are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, offering stunning architecture that dates to the 17th century, and the spectacular Edinburgh Castle which overlooks the hilly streets. If you have the time, try climbing to the top of the famous Arthur’s Seat, which gives you panoramic views of the entire region.


There are a several bustling towns and cities no more than a couple of hours outside Edinburgh, including Stirling, the site of William Wallace’s defeat of the English army in 1296, which has a well-preserved medieval fortress and an ultra-modern university campus. You should also pay a visit to St. Andrews, which is an hour and a half drive along the Fife coast, taking you past a number of old-timey fishing villages.

North Coast 500

Known as the ultimate road trip in Scotland, the North Coast 500 was opened in 2015 and is a breathtaking 500-mile (516 to be precise) drive around the northern most coast of Scotland. You’ll start your journey in Inverness and head up to reach Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point of mainland Scotland. It’s part of Dunnet Bay, an exciting surfing spot that offers two miles of white sand dunes.


On your way back down, the wonderful Glenn Affric is a destination that must be seen to be believed. With a vast expanse of lochs, moorlands, mountains and forests, it could plausibly claim to be the most beautiful place in all of Scotland.


On your way around the North Coast 500 you’ll cross five regions each with their own charm. Our favourite is the Black Isle, an unmissable destination for foodies and a great place for spotting dolphins.

Driving Route

Driving Route

South West Coastal 300

This 300-mile route in the southwest of the country is a circular Scotland road trip, giving you an easy way to take in some of the best scenery that the region has to offer, with historical sites not far from idyllic beaches and breathtaking clifftops. Starting in Dumfries, you’ll reach the Solway coast in around an hour which gives you incredible views. The route takes you past Southerness, one of Scotland’s oldest lighthouses then continues westwards to Kirkcudbright, a haven for Scottish artists during the 19th century and still a creative mecca today with galleries and art shops.


The route continues to the Mull of Galloway, the most southwesterly point in Scotland. Further up the coast perched on the Ayrshire cliffs is Culzean Castle the final must-see spot before you head back east. Inside its sprawling grounds are a deer park and a decorative garden, and you’ll find a lush forest just outside the walls.

Royal Deeside Tourist Route

A road trip along Aberdeenshire’s coastline promises history and enchanting seascapes as well as lots of castles - hardly surprising in an area known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’!


Starting in Aberdeen, you’ll follow the coast road south and enjoy the open scenery. Stop at Stonehaven to watch the busy harbour with visiting boats and yachts passing through.


Two miles south of Stonehaven lies Dunnottar Castle, a dramatic clifftop ruin perched above the North Sea. A place which holds many secrets of Scotland’s past, this castle has lived through some turbulent times including fights between Wallace and Cromwell, and the Jacobite Risings.


Drive northwest for a spot of home-baked lunch at Crathes Castle before continuing along the A980 to find Craigievar Castle, the fairytale castle that is thought to have inspired Walt Disney.


Finally, you’ll reach Balmoral Castle, a firm favourite with the British Royal Family. When the Royal Family are not in residence the property is open to the public and you can enjoy a stroll around the castle gardens, visit the ballroom and see family photographs from generations past to present.

Driving Route

Tips for driving in Scotland

If you are driving abroad for the first time, our top tip for driving in Scotland is that the rules are the same as the rest of the UK. You’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road and speed limits are generally 30mph (48.3km/hr) in built-up areas. What makes Scotland different is that you will often be tackling a much more varied terrain than in most parts of the UK. You’re going on an adventure and many Scotland road trips will involve driving off the beaten track.


Plan and check the weather before you set off if you’re driving in mountainous areas. And if you’re in areas of open farmland, watch out for sheep and other farm animals grazing near the road. In forested areas, be alert to deer appearing in the road in front of you and on narrow roads, keep an eye open for passing places pulling in on your left if you meet another car.

For more advice on driving in Scotland, check out our guide to the latest road rules in the UK.

Get ready for your Scottish road trip adventure

So, there you have it, our guide to some of the best road trips in Scotland, with something for everyone from breathtaking mountains to incredible coastlines.


With a hire car in Scotland, you can go where you want to with full flexibility. One day you can be on an astonishing 150-mile round-trip taking in standing stones, lochs and white-sand beaches looking out onto sparkling seas and the next you can be soaking up the film set magic of the Glenfinnan viaduct near Fort William (which plays a starring role in the Harry Potter films).


If this guide has given you a taste for travel in Scotland, why not go in search of the Loch Ness Monster or explore a little piece of Hebridean paradise by heading to the islands?