Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Because Scotland is so vast, the country is perfect for a road trip. Whether you’re interested in exploring the small towns of the Scottish Highlands or seeing the beaches of the southwestern coast, there’s a road trip for every traveler. Scotland has several official road routes, including the South West Coastal 300 and the Borders Historic Route, which makes things easier on travelers who are looking for a pre-set itinerary (although, of course, you can always deviate from the route). Many visitors opt to rent a camper van to camp out along the way, but Scotland is also filled with great small hotels and B&Bs. So grab a map and start planning your next great road trip in Scotland.

01. Glasgow to Glencoe

Head out of Glasgow to Glencoe, a route that stretches about 90 miles and travels along the banks of the famous Loch Lomond. The drive, which takes around two hours, brings you first to Glencoe, the main town in the Glencoe National Nature Reserve, which boasts one of the most famous driving roads in Scotland. For more, continue on to Fort William, where you’ll find Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the U.K

02. Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail

The Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail stretches for 165 miles, offering the opportunities for a four- or five-day road trip along the coastline. Start in St. Cyrus, in southern Aberdeenshire, and wind your way up past scenics spots like Cruden Bay, the Forvie National Nature Reserve and Banff, which is home to the historic Duff House. It’s a great way to experience the beaches of Scotland, as well as eat great seafood and see some of the country’s smaller towns. You’ll pass through Aberdeen itself, but consider staying in the more remote spots along the trail before you finish near Spey Bay.

03. Isle of Skye

Fly into Inverness or Glasgow and rent a car to experience the wild beauty of Scotland’s Isle of Skye. Once on the island, which is about five hours from Glasgow by car, there’s a lot to explore, so you can make your trip as long or short as you prefer (and then potentially extend it with a drive around the western Highlands). Don’t miss the iconic fairy pools, near the Black Cuillin Mountains, and, of course, every visitor needs to hike to the Old Man of Storr. A lot of Skye is wilderness, so this road trip is best for outdoorsy explorers, although there are several small towns worth visiting as well. Be sure to bring a good map as cell phone service on Isle of Skye can be spotty.

04. Snow Roads Scenic Route

Get a glimpse of the Highlands on the Snow Roads Scenic Route, a 90-mile drive through Cairngorms National Park. Start in Blairgowrie and wind your way north through the park, stopping Braemar and Ballater before you reach Grantown-on-Spey. There’s a lot to see and do along the way, including for families with kids. The roads on the Snow Roads Scenic Route can be narrow and winding, so use caution when driving and be sure to bring a good map.

05. South West Coastal 300

Explore southern Scotland via the South West Coastal 300, a 300-mile circular route that takes travelers along the coast as well as through the countryside. It’s best done over several days, with stops in picturesque destinations like Port Logan, Whithorn, and Ballantrae. There’s a lot to fit into your itinerary, from hiking along the coastline of Solway Firth to seeing historic spots like Dundrennan Abbey and Caerlaverock Castle. At the center of the route is Galloway Forest Park, which offers opportunities for hiking, cycling, camping, and horseback riding, and is even well-known for stargazing.

06. North Coast 500

One of Scotland’s most epic roadway adventures can be found on the North Coast 500, which loops around the northern part of the country from Inverness. It includes the rocky coastline of Caithness, the castles of Sutherland, and the lochs of Wester Ross. It’s a route for serious road-trippers, especially since many of the roads are small and require some precision driving (which may be why it’s known as “Scotland’s Route 66”). Give yourself a week, at least, to explore the different regions and towns, and be sure to book hotels in advance (or consider camping). Be sure to include Ardvreck Castle, Dunrobin Castle, and Smoo Cave on your itinerary.

07. Borders Historic Route

Explore the Scottish Borders region with a drive around the area, found south of Edinburgh and Glasgow. There are many historical sites to discover along the way, from Abbotsford, the former home of Sir Walter Scott, to the National Mining Museum of Scotland. Start your journey in Edinburgh and follow the route, which extends for 89 miles south. Don’t miss Melrose, the home of Melrose Abbey, and consider stopping off at several small towns along the way. The route can take as long or as short as you prefer, but consider making it into a full weekend before it comes to end outside Carlisle.

08. Argyll Coastal Route

Pick the Argyll Coastal Route if you want to stay close to the water and see some of Scotland’s most beautiful sights. The official route runs from Tarbet to Fort William over 129 miles, passing along Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, through Inveraray and into Glencoe, where you can spot Ben Nevis. It’s a windy, remote drive, with lots of opportunities to get out and walk along the beach, and it’s best done over several days at a leisurely pace. Plan to spend a few nights in Glencoe at the end, especially if you’re into hiking and camping.

09. The Malt Whisky Trail

Eight malt whisky distilleries make up Scotland’s Malt Whisky Trail, a route that can be found in the Highlands. The trail takes visitors through the Moray Speyside region and is best accessed from either Aberdeen or Inverness. A drive to all of the distilleries spans about 70 miles, so give yourself a few days to fully experience everything, from Glenlivet to Craigellachie to Glenfiddich. It’s not all about the booze, either: the Trail also is great for seeing small towns, historical sites, and beautiful countryside. Be sure to drive responsibly when tasting the whisky.

10. Royal Deeside Tourist Route

The Royal Deeside Tourist Route runs from Perth to Aberdeen via the southwestern region of the scenic Cairngorms National Park. The route, which stretches 108 miles, also includes Blairgowrie and the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, which is located within the park. This is a good choice for visitors who want to see the Cairngorms, as well as several of Scotland’s cities, and can be easily paired with a visit to Edinburgh or Glasgow (where you’ll likely fly in and out of). Be sure to stay in the park at least one night, whether it’s in a camper van, campsite or hotel.

11. Highland Tourist Route

Cross the eastern part of the Scottish Highlands with the Highland Tourist Route, a 116-mile trek that takes visitors through Cairngorms National Park. Kick things off in Aberdeen and then drive west towards Inverness, passing by destinations like Culloden Battlefield, the Glenlivet Distillery and Cawdor Castle, which has ties to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” This route is a good way to get a sense of the Highlands and Cairngorms without committing to a long drive, making it a great pick for families. Consider stopping off in the national park to camp for a few days and don’t miss Loch Ness, located near Inverness, at the tail end of the journey.

12. Fife Coastal Route

Those who don’t want to venture too far from Edinburgh or who are looking for a quick weekend getaway should consider the Fife Coastal Trail, which includes St. Andrews. Head north from Edinburgh to explore the towns around the northern edge the Firth of Forth, including Buckhaven and Crail. The route continues past St. Andrews up to Dundee, offering opportunities to see historic sights like Aberdour Castle and Dunfermline Palace & Abbey, as well as St. Andrews Links. The official route is 77 miles long, but travelers should opt to do it in two days to fully experience everything.