JC Travels: The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip

May 10, 2016

The ultimate Scotland Road Trip Guide - all you need to know to plan your trip - Travel Inspiration

So I know it’s been almost a year since my big Scotland trip, but I’ve been asked a lot recently about the ultimate Scotland road trip. So I thought I would pull together all my posts and put everything in one place so if you are planning a trip to Scotland then this is all you will need! And trust me, everyone needs a Scotland road trip in their life – it was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on!

The Route

So what was the route? Well essentially we did a big circle around Scotland, starting on the left, heading up the coast, turning across and cutting diagonally down the middle to the bottom. You can see it all plotted out on the handy map below.

In total, we did this whole trip in around 12 days including driving up from Manchester. It was a grand total of 650 miles and I’ve put all the driving distances in the locations below.
Scotland trip

Scotland Key info

Roads: In general, driving in Scotland is really pleasant! A whole lot of open roads and very little traffic on the way. There are a few single lane roads on the back lanes as you find anywhere but they are easily navigable. We even had a slight break down in the most remote of locations but there were garages within a reasonable distance of pretty much everywhere.

I do think that driving is the best way to go to Scotland if you are planning on doing the Highlands as the public transport just isn’t frequent enough and doesn’t service a lot of destinations. If you don’t drive then there are a heap of tours which you can do as well and we did actually pick up some hitchhikers whilst we were up there!

Booking: We booked all of our accommodation before we headed up there which I would recommend especially for the warmer months as we found some places (like the Isles and Edinburgh) can get quite pricey and places will be booked up quickly. Try and stay in little B+Bs which there are definitely more of, as they were some of the best we have found.

Weather: Finally, make sure you are prepped for all weather! Even in summer we got a whole lot of every kind of weather and usually always within one day. Bring a big coat and good walking boots!

Locations

Glasgow / Loch Lomond
Driving: Manchester to Loch Lomond – 244 miles

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We drove up from Manchester where we were staying with family, but you could fly into Glasgow and rent a car if that’s easier. From there, we actually ended up just driving through Glasgow and heading to Loch Lomond but I would recommend stopping off if you have the time as I’d love to go back.

As for Loch Lomond, it is truly a gorgeous area and ideal for all kinds of outdoor activities – make sure you get out on the lake and hike up some of those tree filled hills. There are a load of lovely pubs tucked away in little towns throughout – perfect for after a long walk!

Fort William and surrounds
Driving: Loch Lomond to Fort William – 47 miles
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Fort William itself isn’t the most amazing of towns but the surrounds are essential so you can make a base here. Spend a lot of time in Glencoe which is truly spectacular and also a great hiking area. From here you can also start hiking some of the surrounding mountains, including Ben Nevis! It is also the home to mountain biking if you are keen.
Isle of Skye
Driving: Fort William to Portree – 89 miles
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Although it is an Isle, it is connected by bridge to the mainland meaning it is an easy drive to Skye. The isles are renowned for unsettled weather but here is where you truly feel like you are in the depths of Scotland. Spend some time seeing all the sites from the Old Man of Storr to the Fairy Pools. We only did a couple of nights on the Isle of Skye but if we did it again then I would definitely stay for longer!
Inverness / the Cairngorms
Driving: Portree to the Cairngorms – 113 miles
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We didn’t spend much time in Inverness but it definitely has a few sites to see including the gorgeous castle. The Cairngorms for us were more of a stop gap but we did get out for a gorgeous walk and if you are big on hiking then do stay longer and really explore the area.
Edinburgh
Driving: Cairngorms to Edinburgh – 155 miles
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One of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been too and one which has to be a must do on your Scotland road trip. From just wandering around all the gorgeous scenery, to visiting the Castle, Holyrood House or the Scottish Parliament to going on an amazing food tour – there is something for everyone here!

Want more? Extra ideas:

Far North

Although Inverness is very north, Scotland does indeed keep going! If you want to add a few more days then you could drive up from the Isle of Skye to Ullapool and right to the top at John o Groats.

Aberdeen
If you are looking for whisky then this is the place to be! You can get whisky in most locations and we did go to the distillery on the Isle of Skye but if you are a whisky buff then this is where you should be heading to. The lovely Claire has visited recently to give you some more info!
If you did want to add this on then I’d recommend either flipping the trip, starting in Edinburgh, heading to Aberdeen then cutting across, or going from the Cairngorms to Aberdeen before Edinburgh.

The Borders
An area of Scotland which is often overlooked in the Borders, this is the area between the English border and Edinburgh / Scotland. I’m soon to visit this area so I will be sure to update with what I find!

Oban
Oban is a gorgeous fishing town near Loch Lomond. You could drive via Oban to the Isle of Skye or take the Harry Potter train over which looks more than amazing. This is the one location I really wish I had added onto the trip!

Other Isles
One that I’m desperate to do soon is to explore the other Isles of Scotland – none of the others are connected by Land but must be visited usually by ferry. I especially want to get to the Shetland Isles after watching Shetland earlier in the year! If you want to add this onto your trip the Skye is your best bet as you can get the ferry from there to the outer Isles.

Phew, so there we have it  – all about the best spots to hit in Scotland. I reeeeally recommend it, especially if you live in the UK and you don’t want to go too far afield.

Tell me, where else would you visit in Scotland? (For my next trip of course!)

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