If you’re looking for the perfect road trip, Scotland is a destination that you need to add to your bucket list. The remoteness of the Highlands means long stretches of road where it’s possible to not see another soul for miles. And if the promise of peaceful escape isn’t enough to beguile you, the glistening lochs and dramatic mountain scenery sure will.
Along the way, you’ll find whiskey without an ‘e’, cozy pubs aplenty, divine rural gastronomy, and locals with warm and friendly faces. The pit stops and unexpected adventures are what makes a Scottish Highlands road trip unforgettable. Ready to get behind the wheel? Here are some of the most awe-inspiring road trip routes to inspire your next Scottish vacation.
North Coast 500
This is perhaps the most well-known driving route in Scotland, boasting over 500 miles (805 km) of stunning coastal scenery in the country’s far north region. This road trip journeys you to places less traveled within the Highlands, taking you to some of the most beautiful, remote and sparsely populated areas.
The long circular loop is considered to be one of the world’s most spectacular drives, and is said to be Scotland’s answer for Route 66 in California. Start and finish in Inverness and plan for a drive time of 13 hours 35 minutes (without stopping). We recommend that you stretch it out over a few days though and stay over in some of the coastal towns.
When you get to Bealach na Bà Road, the road that leads to Applecross, get ready to concentrate and keep your eyes on the winding road peppered with thrilling hairpins. This is not a drive for the faint-hearted and there’s a sign to warn tourists of the single track ahead which gets as high as 626 meters (2,054 ft) above sea level. The views are breathtaking though, so it will be worth every minute.
Inverness – Cromarty – Tain – Dornoch – Brora – Wick – John O’Groats – Thurso – Tongue – Durness – Lochinver – Ullapool – Poolewe – Applecross – Inverness
Sights along the way:
- Dunrobin Castle near Brora is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, and it’s the largest of its kind in the northern Highlands. Resembling a French château, it’s adorned with outstanding conical spires.
- Duncansby Head by John O’Groats is the most northeasterly part of the British mainland, and features dramatic cliffs and wonderful views of the North Sea. Be sure to pack your camera on a clear day to capture the incredible cliff drop hitting the water.
- Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve near Poolewe is worth a little detour if you want to enjoy a spot of hiking. The site’s biodiversity of fauna and flora make it one of special scientific interest for botanists, biologists and geologists. There are many challenging trails as well as some easier trails to be explored.
- Redpoint Beach is also worth a look if you want to see a beautiful red sand beach. Just before the main route from Kerrysdale and Gairloch, turn left down a narrow single-track road which will take you through a few small villages.
North & West Highlands Route
The North & West Highlands Route takes you on a smaller section of the NC500, starting at Duncansby Head and finishing in the village of Ullapool. Despite its small size, Ullapool is the most populated area for miles around, making it an ideal place to finish your journey.
If you want to focus your trip around the north of the Highlands, this stretch of road is a fantastic option. This part of the coast boasts over 500 million years of rock formations, more than 100,000 seabirds, and a selection of museums to learn about the crofts and clans of Scotland.
Duncansby Head – Thurso – Tongue – Durness – Lochinver – Ullapool
Sights along the way:
- The Castle and Gardens of Mey is just 20 minutes down the road from the starting point at Duncansby Head. It was famed at the Queen Mother’s Scottish home from 1952 to 1996. It has beautiful grounds for walking around, and one of the finest afternoon tea services is available at the Granary Lodge.
- Strathnaver Museum in Bettyhill (just past Armadale) is also worth a look if you’re interested in learning more about the Highland Clearances (the forced eviction of inhabitants of the Highlands and western islands of Scotland). Visitors will get to relive history through the stories of the famous Clan Mackay.
- Cocoa Mountain is another stop not to be missed, especially for dessert fans. Located at Craft Village, Balnakeil, this Scottish chocolatier is a treat for anyone with a sweet tooth. Shop and taste the luxury chocolate collection, with everything from handmade organic shards and chocolate bars to hot chocolate.
- Rhue Lighthouse is the very last stop and offers some of the most spectacular walks along the coast. The lighthouse provides an excellent vantage point with good views down Loch Broom and out to sea.
Glasgow to Inverness
This is one of our favorite drives of all time, with the most jaw-dropping natural sights and dramatic mountains views, plus plenty of places to stop for food and drink. The route from Glasgow to Inverness (or in reverse) is also one of the most accessible, linking two major cities with close proximity to international airports.
From Glasgow, the route takes you on the A82 (along the Glencoe Pass) and deep into the valleys where you’ll have spectacular rolling landscapes outside your window. The roads can be bendy in parts but there are no serious hairpins that could put a newbie driver off, and there are also many photography points where you can park up and admire the vistas in your own time.
Hiking around the Glencoe area is also fantastic, and gives vacationers a chance to really experience the wilderness. What we love most about this driving route though is the great selection of towns, including the wonderful Fort William (known as the “Gateway to the Highlands”). Our luxury lodge and estate is located close by, making it an ideal place to spend a week or two to break up your road trip.
The distance of the route is 174 miles (280km), and without stopping it would take just over four hours.
Glasgow – Glencoe – Fort William – Fort Augustus – Inverness
Sights along the way:
- Loch Lomond is one of the most famous lochs in Scotland. It is located inside the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, which you will pass on your route. The lake, which is surrounded by oak woodland, is also home to red deer, making the park ideal for spotting these beautiful animals. On the loch, there are a number of cruises setting off each day, and there are also some fantastic watersports to try in the summer months.
- Ben Nevis is the tallest peak in Britain, standing at 1,345 meters (4,411 ft). It is best climbed during the warmer months as conditions can be treacherous in winter. Even in the summer though, the rise to the summit is still often covered in snow. So anyone who wants to climb it will need to pack for all weather.
- Loch Ness is another loch that isn’t to be missed while visiting Scotland. It’s the largest loch by volume of water, but that’s not all it’s famous for. The lake is also home to a mythical legend, with the most recent sightings of the folklore Loch Ness Monster just a few years ago.
- Highland Wildlife Park is the perfect detour for families and nature fans. Located in the Cairngorms, east of Inverness, this is the place to see polar bears, pandas and snow leopards. The park has also received acclaim for its Scottish wildcat breeding program.
At Corrour Lodge, we arrange a wide selection of outdoor activities on our private grounds, including 4×4 safaris, quad biking, abseiling, archery and canoeing. If you’re looking for luxury accommodation on this driving route with plenty to keep you busy, take a look at our exquisite lodge stays.
Fort William to Isle of Skye
If you want to experience the Isles then a road trip to Skye is a must. This is one of the most accessible islands, with two different ways of getting there from Fort William. The first is to use the A87 Morvich Causeway, which crosses over from the Kyle of Lochalsh over Eilean Bàn and finishing on the Isle of Skye after the scenic Skye Bridge. The second is to take the ferry over from Mallaig to Armadale, taking passengers on foot or by car.
From our luxury lodge accommodation near Fort William, you can be at the ferry port in less than 2 hours. The ferry journey is around 50 minutes, giving you enough time to get out of the car, stretch your legs and enjoy the ocean views.
If you prefer the non-ferry route, the entire drive (without stops) will take 2 hours 55 minutes, with the journey finishing at Sligachan. Once you’re there, you should give yourself enough time to explore the rest of the island. Villages like Portree, Dunvegan and Tarskavaig are all worth visiting, and if you have time there are some excellent hikes too.
Route 1 (causeway):
Fort William – Invercarry – Ratagan – Kyle of Lochalsh – Broadford – Sligachan
Route 2 (ferry):
Fort William – Mallaig – Armadale
Sights along the way:
- Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. Located at Kyle of Lochalsh, this 13th Century fort offers the most spectacular views across the water. For many who come here on vacation, the castle is recognized as a major landmark and has had its images shared across the world. The Visitor Center includes a ticket shop, coffee shop and gift shop.
- Sligachan Old Bridge is a beautiful arched bridge with beautiful views. This is one of the first landmarks you’ll see when you arrive on Skye. It’s definitely worth a stop and short walk from the nearby distillery car park.
- Head north to Dunvegan Castle & Gardens if you’re looking for a family day out. The castle grounds are great for walking around, with 42,000 acres of land to explore. There are tours available daily, and there’s a café and separate coffee shop for lunch and refreshments.
- The Storr is a well-known walk with a big summit. The route passes through the iconic landscape of the Sanctuary with the Old Man of Storr and many other rock formations on the island.
- The Fairy Pools is another hike that is particularly nice in the summer months. During hot weather, it’s possible to take a dip in these pools located in Glenbrittle. The entire trail stretches about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) so it’s an easy walk, and there are plenty of opportunities for photos throughout.
Argyll Coastal Route
The Argyll Coastal Route is a popular tourist alternative to the A82, starting from Glasgow or further up on the banks of Loch Lomond and ending up at the amazing Highlands town of Fort William, where we are based. It’s the perfect road trip adventure for anyone who loves seafood, sea air and stunning sunsets.
This delightful route treats your eyes to every natural wonder from seashores to mountain tops, giving you the best of the west over the stretch of 129 miles (208 km). You can complete the trip in a matter of hours, but we recommend stopping at several places to take in the views and to sample local catches. For foodies in search of the freshest fish and oysters, this is the place to be.
Glasgow – Tarbet – Inveraray – Arduiane – Knipoch – Kilmore – Oban – North Ballachulish – Fort William
Sights along the way:
- Loch Fyne Oyster Bar is not to be missed if you love oysters and seafood. Enjoy a fantastic lunch with wine overlooking the beautiful loch.
- Stop off at Inveraray Jail, an 19th Century prison building and museum, to experience local history in all its glory. It’s one of the best preserved jail and courtroom museums in the UK, and it’s open 7 days a week.
- McCaig’s Tower is Oban’s main landmark. Walk right up to the top for amazing views of the Inner Hebrides. The town itself is also a top pit stop for seafood and fish and chip takeaways.