7 BEST ROAD TRIPS IN SCOTLAND [2021 GUIDE]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
/
Last Updated:
August 24, 2021
Need some inspiration on the best road trips in Scotland? Look no further! We have put together a list of the BEST Scottish road trips on offer...
road trips in scotland
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Scotland is PACKED with amazing places to visit and roads to drive, and since we spent 2 months exploring all the amazing road trips this country has to offer, we thought we would put together a guide on the best road trips in Scotland based on our very own experience! 

Some of these are “official” road trips, and the others are ones we have designed ourselves. 

So let's get started!

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When is the best time to road trip Scotland?

Scotland is the sort of country that brings something unique to every season. 

If you don’t mind busy roads and tourist attractions, then you’ll love summer, and the fact it’s kind of the only time of the year you’ll get some sort of “heat” in Scotland!

The main problem will summer road-tripping Scotland is the midges.

They’re a real problem and if you don’t know what they are, they’re an insect that loves to bite! 

If you want to avoid the crowds and the midges, then we can recommend road tripping Scotland in the autumn months! 

That’s when we visited and we loved it. 

We didn’t experience too much rain, and we pretty much had the best places to visit in Scotland all to ourselves -- that was cool! 

road tripping scotland
Empty roads with amazing views!

Should I road trip Scotland in a campervan or car?

Naturally, we will say that road tripping in Scotland is best done in a campervan because we did it in our very own self-converted camper!

But, if you don’t have your own campervan, or it’s out of your budget to rent one, then driving is a good option. 

With driving, you can either bring a tent and get adventurous on your sleeping arrangements or stay in the many amazing Airbnbs and hotels dotted around these Scottish road trip routes. 

The perk of having a campervan, however, is the ability to wild camp in Scotland. 

Wild camping in Scotland is AMAZING! You’ll find yourself waking up to some EPIC views, so if you get the chance to hire a campervan, then choose that for your Scottish road trip itinerary.

For more help choosing a van, check out our guide on the best campervan rentals in Scotland.

road trip scotland in campervan
We loved taking our van with us!

How long do I need to road trip Scotland?

Short answer ... as long as you can spare! There really is so much to see in this incredible country.

Long answer, well, it will really depend on what you decide you want to see when planning out your road trip.

There are road trips in Scotland that will take a few hours, and others that will take a few days.

That’s the beauty of the country, you’ll find something to suit your needs. 

When I discuss the individual road trips in Scotland below, I’ll put the mileage covered and time estimated to complete so you can help make a choice based on your own personal time constraints. 

But if I had to tell you how long to put aside for an epic road trip in Scotland, at minimum I would say, give it 10 days! 

You may also like: Best Dog-Friendly Hotels in Scotland
scotland views
Beauty at every turn...

The Best Road Trips In Scotland

1. South West Coastal 300 

sw coastal route
  • Length: 300 miles / 482 km
  • Time: 2 days - 3 days
  • Location: Dumfries - Dumfries 

This was the very first road trip we did when we entered Scotland and it’s an “official” one that’s advertised and promoted on the Visit Scotland website. 

I loved this Scottish road trip because it took us to the coastline and I was excited to see the sea!

This road trip will take you through some beautiful sights including amazing castles, forests, towns and more.

It will also take you to the most South westerly point in Scotland, the Galloway Lighthouse from where you can see the North of Ireland, Isle of Man, Wales & England. Pretty cool! 

Highlights of the SW300 Scottish Road Trip 

Some of my favourite highlights of the SW coastal route include: 

1. Calverock Castle: there are lots of great castles along this route but I just loved this one. It was empty when we visited, it’s located within a forest and it just looks so well maintained! Plus, it’s free to visit and walk around, so great if you’re on a budget. 

2. Mull of Galloway Lighthouse: I love lighthouses. I’m not sure where the love came from, but if there is a lighthouse on the route, I’m going to visit it! This one as I mentioned above is the most south-westerly point in Scotland and there is a tea room built into the side of the cliffs, which has amazing views, so I loved it. 

3. Culzean Castle: Another great castle, but more tourist established! It’s part of the Scottish national trust. I’ve written a guide on visiting it here, but it’s a dreamy castle where you can imagine beautiful weddings taking place. 

castles in scotland

Suggested road trip itinerary for the SW300 

  • Day 1: Calverock Castle, Sweetheart Abbey, Mull of Galloway, Logan botanical gardens
  • Day 2: Culzean Castle, Electric Brae, Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

Optional day 3: take it slower, or add in extra spots for walking in the Galloway National Park

READ: Road Tripping the Southwest 300: An Itinerary

2. Nc500

nc500 road trip route
  • Length: 500 miles/ 804 KM
  • Time: 3-5 days 
  • Location: Inverness to Inverness 

The NC500 (The North Coast 500) is, without doubt, the most popular and famous Scotland road trip there is.

It’s Scotland’s answer to Route 66 and it’s amazing! 

We actually spent a couple of weeks doing the NC500, but it doesn’t take anywhere near as long as that.

We were working whilst sightseeing so wanted to take it slow. 

But it’s the sort of Scottish road trip that you can dedicate as much time as you like to it. 

Just remember, since this is Scotland’s most famous road trip, it gets super busy in the summer months.

Expect traffic delays and the need to pre-book accommodation and/or campsites in advance. 

We did the NC500 road trip in autumn time and it was perfect.

We got lucky with the weather and only experienced a few days of rain and we were practically alone for the entire trip- which was perfect for us!

We absolutely loved the NC500 and it didn’t disappoint.

It lived up to our expectations! 

Highlights of the NC500 road trip in Scotland 

1 Applecross mountain pass: This is a mountain pass road that made me feel like I’d just been transported to Norway. The scenery was amazing and the road was a little scary (which added to the excitement!) The little town of Applecross is great to visit too, it’s just so secluded, you honestly feel like you’ve entered a corner of the earth that no one really knows about! 

2. Smoo Cave: I love caves and we’ve visited some pretty vast and unique caves in our travels, and I can’t say I was expecting much from a cave in Scotland. But I loved it! This is a large cave that you can wander in (when the tide is low), check out the powerful waterfall hidden inside, and you can take a boat ride at certain times of the year! It was really cool, and it was FREE!

3. John O Groats: I really liked this spot on the NC500. It marks the furthest northern part of mainland UK, and it’s a cute place to visit in Scotland. Take pictures of the iconic different colour of houses (very Balamory style!), grab a coffee, check out the beer distillery and go spotting for sharks and whales!  

john o groats

Suggested road trip itinerary for the NC500 

I’ll base this on a 5 day itinerary, but in my dedicated post on the NC500 I take you through both 3 day and 7 day road trip itineraries.

READ: 3, 5 and 7 North Coast 500 driving itinerary

3. Isle of Skye

isle of skye road trip itinerary
  • Length: 160 miles / 257 km
  • Time: 3 days 
  • Location: Eiliean Donan Castle > Armadale 

The Isle Of Skye is one of the many islands that Scotland has to offer.

I hope to visit many more in the future, but for now, the Isle of Skye is my favourite. 

I’d heard so many great things about this place before visiting and I worried it couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations in reality.

But, you’ll be happy to know that it did! 

The great thing about the Isle of Skye is that it’s small but mighty, so it makes for a perfect road trip in Scotland. 

You can drive the full isle of Skye in around 6 hours, but that’s without sightseeing, so if you want to truly see it all, then I would definitely recommend at least 3 days, simply because a lot of your sightseeing will include walking routes and hikes, and they will take up time! 

Highlights of the Isle of Skye road trip 

1. Old Man of Storr: this is probably one of the most famous attractions on the Isle of Skye. It’s essentially a hike within a dramatic landscape, but it’s epic. The hike itself will take around 2 hours round-trip and it’s tough-going up, but doable, even if you’re not fit (I don’t consider myself fit!). The views here are EPIC! And I suggest you go either at sunrise or sunset. 

2. The Magical Fairy Glen: This is my favourite place on the Isle of Skye. It seriously feels like a completely different country that’s been plotted into a random bit of the island. It’s a natural phenomenon and reminds me of New Zealand (even though I haven’t been, it’s what I imagine New Zealand looks like!). Visit early to beat any crowds. 

3. Eilean Donan Castle: so this isn’t technically on the Isle of Skye itself (but within the region) and it’s just before the Skye bridge. But this is such a cool castle to visit. There is a bridge to walk over the water to visit the castle, and you can just imagine what it was like to be in this castle back when it operated! A real gem of a place to visit on your Scottish road trip. 

fairy glen isle of skye
The Fairy Glen

Suggested Isle of Skye itinerary

I’ve done a whole separate post on a suggested Isle of Skye road trip itinerary, but I’ll give you the basics here. 

  • Day 1: Eilean Donan Castle, Sligachan Old Bridge, the “capital” of Portree, then a sunset hike at the Old Man of Stor. 
  • Day 2: Mealt Falls & Kilt Rock, The Quariang (Walk Or Viewpoint), The Fairy Glen, Dunvegan Castles & Gardens (Neist Lighthouse for sunset if you’ve got time)
  • Day 3: The Famous Fairy Pools, Armadale Castle Gardens, Point of Sleat viewpoint, and visit a whiskey distillery! 

From Armadale, you can get the ferry across to Mallaig, or you can drive back out of the Skye bridge.

Read More: Best Places To Stay On The Isle Of Skye

4. Cairngorms National Park Route

caingorm national park driving road trip
  • Length: 160 miles / 257 km
  • Time: 1 days 
  • Location: Aviemore to Blair Castle 

So this isn’t an official road trip in Scotland, but one I’ve created based on our driving.

So if you want to experience the best that the Cairngorms National Park has to offer this is the driving route for you. 

If you’ve got a full day, then you might be able to squeeze everything in (at least in the summer months), but if you’re visiting in winter, or you just want to take things slower, then you can do this route in 2 days. 

Highlights of the Cairngorms National Park Route 

1. Braemar Castle & town: This is one of my favourite little towns in all of Scotland. It was soooo charming and I would move in tomorrow if I could! Not only that, but this town is home to one of the really cool castles in Scotland and it’s really nice when it's lit up at night. 

2. Cairngorm Mountain: This is a really cool place to visit, even if you’re not there for ski season. It offers amazing views over the whole of the Cairngorms national park. 

Read Also: Interesting Scotland Travel Statistics
breamar town

Suggested road trip itinerary 

Aviemore > Cairngorm Reindeer Centre > Cairngorm Mountain > Balmoral Castle > Braemar Castle > Blair Castle 

5. Glasgow to Fort William 

glasgow to fort william road trip
  • Length: 131 miles / 210 km
  • Time: 2- 3 days
  • Location: Glasgow to Fort William

If you’re looking for a short but sweet road trip in Scotland then this is the one for you.

This mini road trip will allow you to see the delights of Scotland, the epic beauty of Glen Coe and the chance to ride the Harry Potter train! 

If you want to do some hikes in Loch Lomond, then you’ll need the two days for this Scotland road trip to make it to Fort William. 

Highlights of the Glasgow to Fort William Scottish Road trip 

1. Glen Coe: Glen Coe is without a doubt one of my favourite places to visit in all of Scotland. This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and this road trip means you can visit. You should definitely make a stop at Rannoch Moor viewpoint, and the famous James Bond filming picture point. 

2. Riding the Jacobite: Fort William is home to the Jacobite, a world-famous train ride that is otherwise known as “The Hogwarts Express”. Yes, it’s the same company of the famous train used in the movie, and if you take the train ride to and from Fort William to Mallaig, you’ll go past some pretty famous Harry Potter filming locations, including the Glenfinnan Viaduct! 

3. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum: This is a really great place to visit in Glasgow, and definitely worth stopping by if you spend some time in the city! Glasgow is actually a really charming city and a great place to simply walk around too. 

4. Loch Lomond: This area of Scotland is massively popular not just with locals but tourists too. Loch Lomond is an EPIC loch with beauty on every corner. Whether you want to grab lunch in a local pub, take a boat on the loch, discover castle ruins, stay in some unique accommodation, or do a hike, Loch Lomond has it all! 

glen coe in scotland

Suggested road trip itinerary 

  • Day 1: Start early with Glasgow (make sure you see the best sights, including the outdoor harbor museum!), then head to beautiful Loch Lomond, if you like hiking, make sure you try the Ben Lomond hike (the highest peak in Loch Lomond!)
  • Day 2: Make your way to St. Conan’s Kirk, a really cool and scenic church! Then head to Glen Coe and drive around the beautiful mountains, rivers and more. If you like walking, you’ll find lots of hiking and walking routes around Glen Coe! But either way, it’ll be one of the most scenic drives you’ll take in Scotland (you’ll constantly want to pull over for pictures!), and finish the day at Fort William

On your 3rd day, you can either take the Jacobite train ride OR, if you’re feeling adventurous and the season is right, why not hike the highest mountain in all of the UK? Ben Nevis! 

READ: Ultimate guide to hiking Ben Lomond

6. The best of the Highlands

  • Length: 520 miles / 840  km
  • Time: 5-7 days
  • Location: Glen Coe to Loch Ness (but not that simple :P) 

Bradley and I spent quite a bit of time in the Highlands of Scotland, so I’ve come up with this epic road trip that I think highlights the BEST that the highlands have to offer.

This is completely based on our own experience and the sights we saw on our Scottish road trip adventures. 

This road trip will basically allow you to undertake the best parts of the NC500, alongside some of the best sights that the Scottish highlands have to offer, so you really get to experience everything, and the slower you can take the trip, the better it will be! 

You can even make this trip more EPIC, by combining the Isle of Skye road trip with it! 

Highlands of the Scottish Highlands road trip 

1. Glenfinnan Viaduct: This is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland and I don’t think any Scottish road trip would be complete without visiting here. It’s honestly one of the most picturesque places we’ve ever witnessed. 

2. Kylesku Bridge: The bridge itself is pretty cool, but really it’s this whole area in general that is just beautiful. Driving this area of Scotland is a real treat, and we got to meet so many highland cows and deer along the way. It was amazing! 

3. Inverness city: Inverness is often regarded as the “capital” of the highlands and we both really loved it! It’s a city, but it’s not overly big and you can easily see all the best sights in one day. From the charming Victoria Market, to Inverness castle! This is a great place to pick up any souvenirs for your road trip too.

4. Loch Ness: Imagine going all the way to Scotland and not trying to find the famous Loch Ness Monster! Loch Ness isn’t too far from Inverness, so it’s a leisurely and beautiful drive. There are wild camping spots right on the lake too. You can get boat trips out on Loch Ness which will give you a chance to learn about the history of the legend of the Loch Ness Monster, and the chance to actually spot Nessie! 

Book your Loch Ness Boat Tour right here in advance!
glenfinnan viaduct

Suggested itinerary for The Highlights of the Highlands Road trip 

  • Day 1: Start in Glen Coe and make your way to Fort William and Glenfinnan to see the Viaduct, then head towards Mallaig and take the ferry across to the Isle of Skye! 
  • Day 2: If you want you could sightsee some parts of the Isle of Skye, or if not, just head over the Skye bridge to visit the Eilean Donan Castle. Then make your way up to the cute town of Gairloch! Try the mountain coffee Co for delicious coffee! Make sure you stop at Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve for a really beautiful viewpoint. 
  • Day 3: Make your way to Kylesku bridge and stop along the many lochs, beaches and viewpoints along the way, then head up to BettyHill!
  • Day 4: From Betty Hill, it’s time to visit the most northerly part of mainland Scotland, John O Groats! Afterwards, make your way down the North East coast and enjoy the beautiful views and castles on the way. 
  • Day 5: If you haven’t made it close to Inverness yet, then get closer and spend the day sightseeing the beautiful city of Inverness! 
  • Day 6: Make your way to Fort Agustus to get ready for your Loch Ness boat tour, and you’ll be driving alongside Loch Ness for the entire drive too. 

7. The City Hop 

city hop road trip
  • Length: 150 miles/ 241 KM
  • Time: 3 days
  • Location: Edinburgh to Edinburgh 

If you love cities, then you’ll enjoy this mini road trip of 3 of the best cities that Scotland has to offer.

You can even experience some local nature and lochs too in the form of Loch Lomond, which doesn’t take you off route! 

Since Edinburgh is a popular place to fly into, this would be one of the more convenient road trips from Edinburgh, especially if you’re short on time! 

This isn’t a long driving road trip in Scotland, but your time will be taken up with all the awesome sightseeing you’ll have to do. 

Highlights of the City hop road trip 

1. Ben Lomond: If you like hiking, then you’ll love Loch Lomond. There are so many scenic hikes and viewpoints around this area, and if you like a challenge, you can hike the highest peak in the Loch Lomond area, which is Ben Lomond. 

2. Stirling Old Town: The old town of Stirling is super cute and quirky. The first thing I saw when we arrived was a shop selling only handmade bagpipes, and I thought, this is Scotland! There’s also the beautiful Stirling Castle to see, among many other great attractions.

3. Harry Potter heaven: Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and it’s bursting with amazing sights to see, including Edinburgh Castle, but it’s also really popular with tourists for another reason! J.K Rowling wrote all of the Harry Potter books whilst living in the city, and you’ll see constant sources of her inspiration for Harry Potter as you walk around the famous sights Edinburgh has to offer. 

hiking ben lomond
Ben Lomond Hike

Suggested road trip itinerary 

  • Day 1: Get sightseeing in the beautiful capital city of Edinburgh, and honestly, that’ll probably take you a full day! 
  • Day 2: Head to the beautiful town of Stirling and check out the highlights, then make your way to the beautiful Loch Lomond. Try and get some time to do the Three Lochs Forest Drive, which is like another mini road trip, within a road trip! 
  • Day 3: Head to Glasgow and sightseeing all the amazing things to do there! 

Then make your way back to Edinburgh from Glasgow...which won’t take you long at all! 

Tips for road tripping Scotland 

Before I leave you, I just want to point out a few of tips which may help planning your Scottish adventures easier. 

  1. The further north you go, the fewer shops there are - I mean this in terms of, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, the choice of shops becomes less, so I would suggest stocking up on what you regard as essential items in a larger city before you begin your adventure! 
  2. Book the Jacobite ahead of time: This is a world-famous train ride, so it sells out, we only really got a seat because tourism was low when we visited, so if you know you want to do it, book at least a month in advance. 
  3. Fuel is cheaper in supermarkets: Fuel is available throughout the island of Scotland, but it’s cheaper at supermarkets such as Morrisons and Tesco, so top up there when you can. 
  4. Scotland road trips are electric car-friendly: There are lots of electric charging points on all of these road trips in Scotland, so if you’ve got an electric car, don’t fret!
  5. I mentioned it above, but if you need a recommendation for a campervan rental company in Scotland, then we can suggest Spaceships Campervan Rentals which you can get a quote right here. 
  6. People are REALLY friendly in Scotland, so don’t be afraid to wave from your car! 
  7. Use these routes as a guide to planning your Scotland road trip itinerary. There is so much to see in Scotland and it's always better when you can add your own stops and routes, really go off the tourist trail!
  8. Consider staying in some unique spots - We spent a few nights on a private lighthouse cottage when on the Isle of Skye and it was an unforgettable experience. With 2 months in Scotland, it was nice taking some time to have a proper bath and a log fire! So if you can spare a few nights, then consider staying in some unique locations you won't find elsewhere. For more tips, check out my guide on the most romantic hotels in Scotland.
tips for road tripping scotland

So there you have it, my guide to the best road trips in Scotland as voted by me!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and hopefully, you’ve got some inspiration for planning your next Scottish road trip. If you’ve got any questions or suggestions to add to this post, then please do drop me a comment below!

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