In the spirit of staycations, many of us have chosen to flock to some of Scotland’s wonderful cities for a short break rather than travelling outside of the UK as we might usually choose to do. Edinburgh and Glasgow are great but the country’s true charm lies in its countryside. Nature really is at its best in Scotland. And you’d be missing out if you didn’t take at least one trip to one of the amazing spots that it has to offer. In this article, we’ll guide you through some of the best scenic drives in Scotland. So jump behind the driver’s seat and head up north to pay a visit to some of the best views in Britain.
1. Argyll Coastal Route
How long is this Scotland road trip? 129 miles from Loch Lomond to Fort William
Loch Lomond and Ben A’an
Head over to Scotland’s western coast for 129-miles of one of the most scenic drives in Scotland. Before starting your trip from the stunning Loch Lomond, consider doing the short hike up Ben A’an for some unparalleled views over the Loch. It’s not too strenuous a walk and it is well worth the small detour. The view on a clear day is absolutely breathtaking.
Walk completed, hop back in your car and start the road trip of a lifetime along the shoreline. The Argyll Coastal Route takes you via all the lochs and islands from Loch Lomond to Fort William, letting you see the best of the country’s wildlife along the way.
Iona and Staffa
Given that this is a coastal route, the seafood you’ll find on your trip is some of the best you’ll ever try, so make the most of that! The fact that you’ll be travelling up the west coast also means you’ll have the chance to catch some incredible sunsets over the water. Every day will have the potential to end in a crown of blazing light.
When you reach the islands of Iona and Staffa, consider taking a boat trip. Keep an eye out for whales, dolphins, otters and seals on the way, and puffins when you reach the shores of the islands! Now that’s some seriously cool animal-spotting.
Inveraray, on the shores of Loch Fyne, houses a fascinating Neo-Gothic castle that is well worth stopping off for. The castle gardens bustle with rhododendrons and azaleas in spring and early summer, and it is a beautiful sight. The town also has guided tours of Inveraray Jail. So if historical criminals are your thing, definitely make the stop at Inveraray.
Fort William and Ben Nevis
At the end of the route, you will find yourself in Fort William, which is the gateway to some of Scotland’s most incredible mountain ranges. The jewel in the crown is Ben Nevis. So if you fancy a long walk after all those miles in a car, why not climb the UK’s highest mountain?
It’s not one for the faint-hearted though, so if you prefer a more gentle walk, make your way up Aonach Mor to take in the scenery in all its glory. All without having to do a strenuous walk to get there.
2. Borders Historic Route
How long is this Scotland road trip? 89 miles from Carlisle to Edinburgh
Wonder at the lush scenery of one of the most scenic drives in Scotland on this 89-mile route from Carlisle to Edinburgh. This is a route with loads to do on the way, and gorgeous views for the whole drive, so buckle up and enjoy! From fairy-tale woodlands to rolling hills, crossed with babbling brooks and gushing rivers, this route is absolutely jam-packed with nature’s beauty. As well as nature, you will also come across plenty of stately homes and the occasional castle, in classic Scottish style.
Gretna Green and Hawick
Start your trip by tying the knot at the infamous Gretna Green. Or if marriage isn’t really on the cards for you right now, maybe stick to checking out the museum? Leaving Gretna Green, follow the River Teviot on its northward journey to the coast until you reach Hawick. Here you can discover more about the impressive history of Scottish textiles. If you’re a rugby fan, then try and catch a game by Hawick Rugby Club, one of the best clubs in the Scottish league.
Next up, the area between Hawick and Selkirk offers up plenty of walking routes for you to stretch your legs. Expect stunning sights without the exertion you need to trek up the Scottish Highlands!
After walking off your weary muscles, keep on driving up to Scott’s View. This was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite writing spot and it’s not hard to see why. It gives you incredible vistas of miles of Scottish countryside. You can also stop off at the writer’s old home, Abbotsford House, which is a must-see with its 1400 acres of grounds.
As you get near to Edinburgh, you’ll come across Dalkeith Country Park, where there are 1000 acres to explore. While you walk around the park, be sure to keep an eye out for herds of deer around you and birds of prey overhead! If you fancy extending your trip, head to the Scottish capital afterwards where you’ll find many great free things to do.
3. Highlands Tourist Route
How long is this Scotland road trip? 116 miles from Aberdeen to Inverness
Scotland is famed for the Highlands, which conjure up images of stunning landscapes for many tourists. Oh, and Highland cows, of course. At 116 miles, this is one of the longer scenic drives in Scotland available to you. But it will ensure that you get to see all kinds of amazing sights, while also throwing in a distillery or two along the way. You might want to stop for a nightcap before you lay down your weary head at your chosen accommodation on the way, after all.
This is probably the best of the routes if you’re an outdoorsy type. But even if you’re not, the views that you will find on this route should be more than enough to tempt you to drive this one. At your starting point in Aberdeen, make the most of urban culture in the city by checking out some of its amazing architecture. We recommend starting at Marischal College, the second-largest granite building in the world.
Pitfichie Forest, Grampian Transport Museum and Craigievar Castle
If you’re a bit of an adventurer, make sure you stop off at Pitfichie Forest, which is well-loved by walkers and mountain bikers. Looping around Cairn William you will find an 11.5-mile trail with a healthy dose of incredible views, making the hike feel more than worth it.
Once you’ve had your fill of adrenaline, take a rest stop at Alford and check out the Grampian Transport Museum. If you’re not a vehicle lover, try a trip to Craigievar Castle, the pretty pink castle that is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella.
Cairngorms National Park and The Glenlivet Distillery
One of the best stretches of the trip runs from Strathdon to Tomintoul, where the Cairngorms will take your breath away. This leg of the trip could easily be one of the most scenic drives in Scotland by itself. Home to five of the six highest peaks in the UK, this is where you will see some of the most unbelievable natural landscapes that you have ever come across. Make sure you don’t take a nap for this bit!
We’d suggest spending as much time as possible in the national park, as you can do everything from skiing and racing huskies to seeing some of the clearest night skies in Europe at the Dark Sky Park.
If all that fresh air has made you crave a tipple, stop off at The Glenlivet Distillery. Nestled away in the remote countryside, this world-famous distillery was illegally set up in 1822 to hide away from the prying eyes of officers. It was also where its founder, George Smith, started his whisky smuggling empire. Drinks include some incredible vintage whiskies, so try them out. But make sure you have somewhere within walking distance to stay after drinking!
Cawdor Castle and Culloden Battlefield
The last castle on the route is Cawdor Castle, famous for being Macbeth’s haunt. Peek into the dungeon to see the holly tree that has grown there since 1372, then wander through the inside of the castle and its gorgeous gardens.
For your final stop on the Highlands Tourist Route, visit Culloden Battlefield to see where the last battle on UK mainland took place. That’s one for the historians among you, for sure!
4. North and West Highland Route
How long is this Scotland road trip? 158 miles from Ullapool to Dunnet Head
No surprise that the Highlands feature twice, given their worldwide fame! This one covers a hefty 158 miles of both the West Highland Way and the North Highland Way and is one of the best UK road trips. You’ll love this if you’re a big fan of wilderness and stunning sea views. There’s a LOT of water along this route, as it is lined with sea and lochs. So all you water babies, this one is certainly the trip for you!
You’ll be travelling along some of Europe’s quietest roads, so it’s a great trip to take if you need some respite from a busy life. Not to worry though, there’s plenty of adorable villages along the way, so you’ll be able to stop off for a bite to eat or a toilet break if need be!
Corrieshalloch Falls, Ullapool and Rhue Lighthouse
Start your Scotland road trip of dreams with a visit to Corrieshalloch Falls, which are set in an ancient gorge with a beautiful tumbling water feature at the end.
You can then head up to the lovely village of Ullapool, which boasts historic houses and incredible beaches for you to enjoy before you head off on your trip. The walk up to Rhue Lighthouse is great too. Located at the head of Loch Broom, it will be your first of many aquatic vistas on the trip.
Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
The North West Highlands Geopark is along the route and is home to some of Europe’s oldest rock formations. If geology is your thing, hop out the car at Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve, the spot where scientists solved the mystery of plate tectonics. Cool, right?
If rocks aren’t really your thing, then there’s more than enough amazing views around to bide your time with while your pals check out the geological stuff.
Much of the route is through wild country, with a smattering of sandy beaches and cute villages. From April to September, boat trips run to Handa Island, which is home to a whopping 100,000 seabirds including puffins, great skuas, razorbills and Arctic terns. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot the odd dolphin, basking shark or minke whale.
The only village on the island now lies in ruins and was last inhabited in 1847. So if you’re feeling a bit Dora-the-Explorer-esque, why not check it out?
Once you reach the northern coastline, the village of Durness will present you with Smoo Cave, which has a towering 50-foot entrance, a sinkhole, and underground waterfalls. It’s basically the stuff of fairy-tales and legends. Does it get much cooler than that?
The village also houses Balnakiel Craft Village, where there’s a great community of artists and artisans who you can buy unique souvenirs from.
Dunnet Head and Orkney Islands
Further north at Thurso you’ll find yourself at the most northern point of Britain. Stretch your legs with a walk to Dunnet Head, where you’ll be stunned by dramatic views across the cliffs. The view stretches all the way out to the island of Orkney in the distance.
You can visit Orkney or one of the other 69 islands in the archipelago by taking a quick 40-minute boat ride, which is a great way to top off one of the most scenic drives in Scotland.
It’s safe to say Scotland is an incredibly beautiful country. These best road trips in Scotland will allow you to see some of the country’s most stunning sights. Isn’t it funny that we so often overlook staycations when we have such amazing places to visit just a stone’s throw away from us?
We couldn’t recommend adding some of these Scotland road trips to your travel list enough. So rent a car and zoom up north for some of the most beautiful scenic drives in Scotland, be it with your friends, your partner, your family, or alone.
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