The 12 best road trips around Scotland

The 12 best road trips around Scotland

Whatever type of Scotland road trip you’re planning, there are many different routes you can take to see the most of this wild, beautiful, rugged country. There are plenty of road trips in Scotland that are planned by tour companies, but there’s also the flexibility of tailoring your own trip depending on what you want to see and how much time you have. We’ve broken it all down for you, so you can prepare for the greatest road trips that the country has to offer!

A Scotland road trip is perfect for the backpackers who are thrill-seekers, adventurers, beach lovers, history lovers and all those in between. While you might be used to using trains or buses to get around as a backpacker, renting a car is an exciting way to see Scotland. We’ve suggested some attractions, when you could visit, where to stay and possible itineraries. We’ve also estimated the length of the road trip, but your trip may be longer or shorter depending on what you decide to do! Here are 12 of the best Scotland road trips.

scotland road trip, road in the mountains in quiraing, portree

Quiraing, Portree 📸:@aridley88

Best Scotland Road Trips:

    1. North Coast 500: the best Scottish road trip for the ultimate getaway
    2. Fife Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for beach lovers
    3. Angus Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for the all rounder
    4. Argyll Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for classic road trip lovers
    5. Highland Tourist Route/Aberdeen to Inverness: the best Scottish road trip for history buffs
    6. Galloway Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for thrill-seekers
    7. Harry Potter road trip: the best Scottish road trip for Harry Potter fans
    8. Deeside Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for lush landscapes
    9. Borders Historic Route: the best Scottish road trip for learning about Scottish life and culture
    10. South West Coastal 300: the best Scottish road trip for getting off the grid
    11. Perthshire Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for those who want to spoil themselves (while on a budget)
    12. Isle of Skye: the best Scottish road trip for photographers

The best time to take a Scotland road trip

Spring/summer

With longer and warmer days, spring or summer would be the easiest time to admire the dramatic coastlines. This is a great time to find your inner adventurer and take part in activities like kayaking, mountain biking, surfing and hiking.

Autumn/winter

If you’re headed up north, then this is the best time to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and the many stellar constellations at night. There are still plenty of things to do indoors, such as a visit to one of the many whiskey distilleries or tasting the Scottish cuisine (we promise haggis is actually pretty tasty!) When planning what to see, check online for opening times as a lot of attractions are closed during the winter.

The best time of year for white-water rafting is in the colder months! There are lots of snow sport locations in Scotland, with Cairngorms National Park being a popular choice.

The Isle of Skye is incredibly popular with travellers during the peak season of around early April to mid-October, with July and August being the busiest. If you consider going around November, you’ll find that it will be much easier to drive around and get those all-important Instagram shots!

Useful info

  • If you’re a young backpacker it’s best that you research different car hire companies, as some don’t loan to people under 25 – or make it very difficult to do without spending a lot of money.
  • Check if your driver’s licence from your country legally allows you to drive in Scotland.
  • Consider getting a GPS navigation system, as some areas are remote and difficult to reach.

Car hire

When going on a road trip in Scotland, it’s probably easiest to hire a car from one of the main cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen). The main companies located in Scotland are: Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Alamo, Budget, Europcar and Enterprise.

Prices vary depending on the size of the car. It’s also cheaper for a manual car rather than an automatic.

A basic manual car hire from Edinburgh for 4 days is around £80. A basic automatic car is around £80-100.

For a basic manual car hire from Inverness, it’s around £100-130 for 5 days. An automatic car is around £180-200 for 5 days.

Cars can be rented from Stirling for around £50-70 for a manual and £90-100 for an automatic over 3 days.

1. North Coast 500: the best Scottish road trip for the ultimate getaway

This is the Route 66 of road trips guys. Hailed as one of the best coastal touring routes in the world, the North Coast 500 is a must do if you’re planning a Scottish Highlands road trip. Running over 500 miles through Scotland’s North Highlands, this is your chance to see sparkly beaches, ancient castles and draw-dropping coastlines. Prepare your Insta.

scotland road trip, dunrobin castle with a grey sky

Dunrobin Castle, 📸:@colinhorn

Major attractions

Length of road trip

5-7 days (13 hours 35 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

Around 30 minutes from Inverness is the small town of Alness, where there are plenty of eating options. The neighbouring town Dalmore also has its own whisky distillery that was founded in 1839, and they offer hour-long tours.

Head further up the road to Dunrobin Castle. This fairy-tale like castle is open from April to October and is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.

Drive to the Hill o’Many Stanes – which is around 200 small stones in rows. They are estimated to be around 4,000 years old and were predicted to be used for religious ceremonies. These stone arrangements are super rare in Europe so it’s definitely worth a visit!

Settle into the town of Wick for the afternoon and evening. Explore the historic town and head to Wick sea for some stunning views of the Scottish coastline.

Day 2:

First stop is the Sinclair Girnigoe Castle. These ruins were originally two castles with Girnigoe estimated to have been built between 1476 and 1496 and the Sinclair castle built around 1606. Throughout history it has been desired for its strategic position.

Next stop by Sinclair’s Bay for some Instagrammable views. The day’s major stop is RSPB Scotland Dunnet Head Nature Reserve, which is the most northerly mainland point in Britain. It’s free entry, but donations are recommended. Here, look out at the stunning cliffs as time stops for a moment. In the town of Dunnet and Dunnet Bay you can take surfing lessons (if the weather permits it!)

scotland road trip, smoo cave

Smoo Cave, 📸:@colinhorn

Day 3:

If you didn’t get enough beach yesterday, have a morning walk along Strathy Bay. Drive 20 minutes further to Strathnaver Museum, which explores the history of this town that’s been inhabited for over 8,000 years! Have a hot soup in town at The Store Café to recharge – then hit the road again!

Admire the coastline, you’re at one of the most northerly points in the UK. Base yourself at the town of Durness for the night. Close by is Smoo Cave – the largest coastal cave in the UK! Explore, take selfies, do your thing.

Day 4:

Today’s a big driving day – so chill back, put some music on and admire the views right from your car seat.

If you’re an avid hiker, stop by the stunning Eas a’ Chual Aluinn – Britain’s highest waterfall. This is quite a hike from the end of the road, so only attempt it if you feel physically capable. It will take most of the day (upwards of 5 hours).

If you want to visit somewhere more reachable, check out Inchnadamph and the River Caves. These are the entrances to the largest cave system in Scotland. Stop by the local hotel of the Inchnadamph for some lunch.

Drive along to Torridon for the afternoon and evening. If you want to get in touch with the rough Scottish wilderness, stop by Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve for some great walking trails suitable for all abilities.

Day 5:

Drive to Achnasheen for food and savour the stunning landscape as you head back to Inverness. Why not make a short detour to Loch Ness and try to find the famous Loch Ness monster, or add another day to your trip? Lastly stop off at Glen Ord Distillery in Glen Ord to celebrate your once-in-a-lifetime road trip in Scotland!

scotland road trip, loch ness with castle ruins

Loch Ness, 📸:@ramon_vloon

Where to stay

  • Inverness is a great starting point for the road trip. Take a day to look around the city; Inverness Cathedral and Inverness Castle are beautiful attractions to see! There are also some excellent hostels in Inverness that are close to the city centre, including Bazpackers Hostel.
  • Loch Ness is a great place to stay overnight (or many nights), as you’ll probably spend forever looking for the Loch Ness Monster!
  • The Lochside Hostel is right by the sea so you can search the waters right from your dorm room.
  • If you’re looking to stay far up north in the middle of your road trip, there’s Durness Smoo Youth Hostel in Durness, which would put you right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, situated right between the sea and green pastures.
  • On your way back to Inverness, why not stay at Torridon Youth Hostel where you can enjoy a glass of single malt around the panoramic mountains?

2. Fife Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for beach lovers

A breeze in comparison to the (Loch Ness) monster that is the North Coast 500, the Fife Coastal Route follows along the Firth of Forth coastline over 77 miles, while passing through charming little fishing towns, historic castles and endless beaches.

scotland road trip, view of the Edinburgh from calton hill

Edinburgh, 📸:@danoolvnoutchk

Major attractions

  • Dunfermline Palace and Abbey
  • Kingsbarns Distillery
  • Scottish Fisheries Museum
  • Devilla Forest
  • Royal Burgh of Culross
  • Kirkcaldy Galleries
  • Deep Sea World
  • Aberdour Castle – the oldest standing castle in Scotland
  • St Andrews University
  • Fife Coastal Path: a walking path that takes you through the beach, towns and parks

Length of road trip

1-3 days (2 hours 10 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

Spend the first day in either Stirling or Edinburgh. Soak up some culture, hire a car and prepare for your road trip to the starting point of Kincardine. See attractions such as the Royal Burgh of Culross and the Dunfermline Palace and Abbey.

Have lunch in Dunfermline or in the neighbouring seaside towns of North Queensferry and Inverkeithing. Then head to Aberdour Castle and the town of Burnisland for some history and charming coastal views. Stop in the town of Kirkcaldy and admire the Kirkcaldy Galleries featuring art from local artists.

Settle in Anstruther for the evening and take a walk along the beach. Why not grab some fish and chips to finish the perfect day?

Day 2:

Head to the town of St Andrews to see the famous St Andrews University. Take the optional whiskey distillery tour at Kingsbarns Distillery along the way and try some authentic scotch whiskey (it might be early, but we won’t judge).

Drive up to Tentsmuir forest for a nature walk or mountain biking. Then on to Newport-on-Tay, where your coastal tour is now complete!

Where to stay

scotland road trip, inside Kick Ass Greyfriars hostel social area with vw campervan bar

Kick Ass Greyfriars, Edinburgh

  • Think about staying in the fascinating cities of Stirling or Edinburgh before your road trip as they both have so much to do! Check out our free things to do in Edinburgh.
  • Kick Ass Greyfriars in Edinburgh’s city centre is super funky and in a very lively area.
  • In Stirling, the Willy Wallace Hostel is only a 2 minute walk from the station, so it’s convenient to get to from a different part of the UK or from Edinburgh airport.
  • Along the coast, the Murray Library Hostel in Anstruther is a great base point to explore the neighbouring fishing villages and coastal views.
  • For the end of your trip, the St Andrews Tourist Hostel is in a perfect location to explore the lively and historic university town.

3. Angus Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for the all rounder

The Angus Coastal Route extends from where the Fife Coastal Route ends, so if you’ve got some extra time and want to soak up more of the Scottish coast why not combine two road trips in one? Along this road trip why not soak up the culture of the city of Dundee, swim in the beach, or explore some castles?

scotland road trip, view of the sea from dunnottar castle

Dunnottar Castle 📸:@rosssneddon 

Major attractions

  • V&A Dundee
  • Arbroath Abbey
  • House of Dun
  • Dunnottar Castle

Length of road trip

1-2 days (1 hour 40 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

Starting in Dundee, take some time to explore this culturally rich city. Dundee has a Victoria and Albert Museum (the only one outside London), which exhibits the different eras of design. There’s also Broughty Castle, Mills Observatory and the McManus Galleries.

Day 2:

Drive to the coastal town of Arboath and check out the Arbroath Abbey. Founded in 1178, it’s now a ruin which you can explore. Stop by some of the beaches along your drive, like Lunan Bay. Visit the House of Dun, a Georgian mansion where you can stroll along the gardens like you live there. Then hit up the coastal town of Stonehaven for lunch and check out Dunnottar Castle which sits high above the green sea cliffs.

Drive up to Aberdeen for the end of your trip.

Where to stay

scotland road trip, dorm in citi hostel aberdeen with white metal bunkbeds

Citi Hostel Aberdeen

4. Argyll Coastal Route: the best Scottish road trip for classic road trip lovers

Another one of the best road trips in Scotland is the Argyll Coastal Route. This road trip combines both mountains and coastline for a priceless experience. Gain an understanding of traditional Scottish culture as you cruise through many different lochs.

scotland road trip, a bench on ben nevis

Ben Nevis, Fort William 📸:@nitin_mathew

Major attractions

  • An Ceann Mor: a manmade viewpoint to look at the sprawling landscape of Loch Lomond
  • Inveraray Jail
  • Auchindrain: a museum about Scotland’s last Highland farming township
  • Kilmartin Museum: learn about the historic monuments that surround the area of Kilmartin Glen, including ruins of a 15th century tower house
  • McCaig’s Tower: monument built in 1897 as tribute to a local family in the town of Oban
  • Castle Stalker
  • Glencoe Folk Museum
  • Glen Nevis: the highest mountain in Scotland

Length of road trip

2-3 days (2 hours 55 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

Start your road trip in the town of Tarbet, around 1 hour 15 minutes from Glasgow. Make the trip up to An Ceann Mor in Loch Lomond, where you’ll be welcomed to breathtaking mountain views from the viewpoint. Head to Loch Fyne Restaurant and Oyster bar for some delicious seafood, or head into the town of Inveraray. Here you can also go to Inveraray Jail in a fun interactive museum.

Along the drive you could stop at Auchindrain, which is a museum dedicated to Scotland’s last remaining Highland farming town. Make your way to other historic spots like Kilmartin Museum, an ancient stone formation. Then head to the town of Oban for the night.

Day 2:

Head to Castle Stalker in the town of Portnacroish for some lush views and top it off with a pint at the Old Inn. Drive to the town of Glencoe where you can visit the Glencoe Folk Museum (open late March – end of October) for some insights into the history of the town.

Complete the coastal drive at North Ballachulish.

scotland road trip, view of castle stalker from above

Castle Stalker, 📸:@ascend_film

Day 3 (optional):

If you have an extra day, stay in the town of Glencoe and then head to the far-west coastal town of Ellenabeich for sea-animal watching. Or you could spend some time in Ben Nevis for hiking or mountain biking. In winter, it’s a great skiing spot.

Where to stay

  • On your 2-3 day exploration, the town of Oban is the perfect base.
  • Oban Backpackers is a bright and spacious hostel which is a 10-minute walk from the ferry, bus and train stations.
  • Spending a night in Glencoe is a great way to end your Scottish road trip, with Glencoe Youth Hostel a popular choice with backpackers.

5. Highland Tourist Route/Aberdeen to Inverness: the best Scottish road trip for history buffs

Spanning over 116 miles, this Scotland road trip is perfect for history buffs as you’ll see many castles and museums along your journey on the Highland Tourist Route. Let’s take you back in time…

scotland road trip, road through Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park, Ballater 📸:@mili_vigerova

Major attractions

  • Gordon Highlanders Museum: located in Aberdeen, it shows the history of the Gordon Highlanders Regiment up to the Cold War
  • Pitfichie: a forest that’s perfect for adventurers, mountain bikers and horse riders
  • The Lecht 2090: skiing and snowboarding base
  • Glenlivet Distillery
  • Grantown Museum
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Fort George
  • Culloden Battlefield and visitor centre

Length of road trip

2-3 days (2 hours 50 minutes driving time)

 

scotland road trip, sign by Culloden Battlefield

Culloden Battlefield, 📸: Danny Nicholson

Itinerary

Day 1:

Starting in Aberdeen, head to the first museum on the tour: Gordon Highlanders Museum. Here you can learn about the history of the Gordon Highlanders and their service to the British Army.

Move on to Pitfichie Forest, which is a popular stop for mountain biking (with 3 different cycling routes). Or if it’s winter, stop by The Lecht 2090 at Cairngorms National Park, a must-visit for any Snowsports fan. You might want to add a day or two to your road trip! In summer it transforms into a great mountain biking track.

Top off a busy day with a whiskey and a distillery tour at the legendary Glenlivet Distillery, which is open from mid-March to early November (check their website for specific times). Located ten miles from Tomintoul, not only does it offer straight whiskey, but also whiskey cake at their coffee shop!

Day 2:

Explore the small town of Grantown and visit the Grantown Museum; which includes local art and history about the Clan Grant. Drive along the vast Scottish mountains to Cawdor Castle, a picturesque castle dating back to the middle-ages. The castle is open from mid-April to early October (check their website for specific times). Stop by Fort George for some history and dolphin spotting, then drive to the final spot, the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre, and learn about the Jacobite uprising.

Where to stay

scotland road trip, dining area with painting of the countryside inside Black Isle Hostel

Black Isle Hostel, Inverness

6. Galloway Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for thrill-seekers

This Scotland road trip is great for all adventurers and adrenaline junkies! With a range of hiking trails, the 92-mile Galloway Tourist Route will get your heart rate spiking.

scotland road trip, Scottish Dark Sky Observatory

Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, 📸:Colin Baird

Major attractions

  • Dumfries Museum
  • Robert Burns’ birthplace
  • Outdoor activities: mountain biking, kayaking, ziplining etc
  • Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
  • Visit to Seaside town of Ayr

Length of road trip

3-4 days (2 hours 10 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

From the starting point of Gretna, head to the town of Dumfries to explore. Here you can see the Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura (open during winter), telling the local history and displaying artefacts. The town is known for its charming farmer’s market and its medieval stronghold ruins. If you’re a fan of poetry, there’s a Robert Burns road trip that you can take which shows you his birthplace, places that inspired his writing and his gravestone.

Day 2:

First stop – Dalbeattie! In this quaint little town lies a great adventure. This is a great location to mountain bike. Even if you’re a newbie, this is something all adventurers should try out, because the views are one in a million – and the sunset atop the mountains is something you won’t forget. This is just one of the seven mountain biking regions in Scotland, so why not make a whole tour out of it?

scotland road trip, Threave Castle

Threave Castle, 📸:William Marnoch

Day 3:

Stop by Threave Castle on your drive – this haunting ruin is only reachable by boat! Spooky. Tickets to get across start from £3.60. Along the drive, consider stopping at Galloway Kite Trail for some great walking trails and viewpoints. Then head to the Galloway Activity Centre for some fun! Here you can do water sports like kayaking, sailing and windsurfing on Loch Ken. Or if you like dry land, there’s archery, mountain biking, ziplining and climbing – even laser tag. It’s not just for kids!

For the afternoon and evening head to the peaceful town of New Galloway for a traditional pub meal and a rest after an exhausting day. Take the optional drive to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, giving crystal clear views of the night sky and the sprawling mountains. They offer guided tours of the constellations and planets, but you’ll need to book in advance.

Day 4:

The final day to take in the stunning Scottish landscapes. Drive to the town of Ayr to finish your road trip. This popular seaside town is a great place to explore further!

7. Harry Potter road trip: the best Scottish road trip for Harry Potter fans – obviously!

This isn’t totally a Scottish road trip, as it includes a train trip (aboard the Hogwarts Express) and is spread out around Scotland. It could also be done completely by train, so if your budget doesn’t stretch for a rental car, then this is a great alternative! With this Scotland road trip, you’ll become the ultimate Potterhead!

scotland road trip, train on Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glenfinnan 📸:@jack_anstey

Major attractions

  • JK Rowling’s writing locations
  • The bridge that the Hogwarts Express crosses – and where Ron and Harry fly the car!
  • Loch Morar (AKA Hogwarts Lake)
  • Glen Coe (Hagrid’s Hut)

Length of road trip

2-4 days

Itinerary

Day 1:

Admire the city of Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter in many of the cafes.

Spoon: This is where she wrote the majority of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was originally a coffee shop called Nicolson’s Café, but has since changed ownership.

The Elephant House: labelled the ‘birthplace of Harry Potter’, this café is very popular with tourists. It’s also supposedly hosted other writers such as Ian Rankin.

Balmoral Hotel: This is where JK Rowling wrote most of the final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – room 552 to be exact.

Day 2:

Drive (or take the train) from Edinburgh to Fort William. It takes about 4 hours, so this would be a full day trip. There are some charming hostels in Fort William so why not snuggle up under the fire and read Harry Potter in the very land that inspired it? We think that sounds magical.

scotland road trip, lake at glen coe

Glen Coe, 📸:@helloiamtuan

Day 3:

You’ve got your acceptance letter, now It’s time to go to Hogwarts! Take The Jacobite train, AKA the Hogwarts Express(!!), to Mallaig. Make sure you book ahead of time because this train journey is VERY popular – and we’re afraid you can’t use your invisibility cloak. An adult day return ticket is £37.75. The train crosses over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct – the bridge in the movies! When in Mallaig take a trip to see Loch Morar, which was used as Hogwarts’ Lake throughout the films.

Day 4:

Return to Fort William to see some more of the filming locations. 35 minutes away is Glen Coe, which featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the setting for Hagrid’s Hut. Under an hour from Fort William is Loch Arkaig, which served as the setting for Dumbledore’s resting place in the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and the dragon escape in Part 2. There is a lot to explore, so take your time to research!

Where to stay

8. Deeside Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for lush landscapes

The Deeside Tourist Route runs for 108 miles from Perth to Aberdeen (or vice versa). It varies in landscape as it covers national parks, farmland and the Royal Deeside.

scotland road trip, view of Lochnagar in Ballater from mountain top

Lochnagar, Ballater 📸:@paulrysz

Major attractions

  • Cairngorms National Park
  • Scone Palace
  • Royal Lochnagar Distillery
  • Cambus O’May Cheese Co
  • Drum Castle
  • Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve

Length of road trip

1-3 days (2 hours 55 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

Starting in the pretty city of Perth, drive to nearby Scone Palace. Here you can learn about the lengthy history of Scotland’s kings, including the famous Macbeth. The palace and grounds are open from 1st April to 31st of October. Within the grounds of Scone Palace is a great café with even greater views.

Drive up to Braemar and base yourself there for the night. Here you can see Mar Lodge Estate, which is a section of Cairngorms National Park. In winter you can try your luck at snowboarding or skiing at Glenshee ski centre. There’s also Braemar Castle, to cross another castle off your list. Finish the night with a scotch whiskey at the Royal Lochnagar Distillery (seasonal opening times are on their website).

Day 2:

Stop by the Cambus O’May Cheese Company to learn about the historic process of cheese-making. Taste test different varieties and maybe have a wine or two. Then get your camera ready for something truly Insta-worthy…

Nearby is the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, inside the Cairngorms National Park. This reserve contains the Burn o’ Vat – a giant pothole created in the Ice Age, and one you can now explore for yourself. There are heaps of hiking trails for you outdoor lovers.

Stop by the town of Banchory for lunch, it has quaint restaurants and teahouses, including Number One Community Café that has affordable meals and is run entirely by volunteers.

Not hungry? Banchory is a great place for mountain biking, hiking or even a round of golf! Head up to Drum Castle to learn about its varied history starting from medieval times (check the website for seasonal opening times). Then embark on your final location of Aberdeen!

Howies Aberdeen offers both British and Scottish food, including dishes like haggis and Cullen skink. Why not warm up with a hearty meal to finish your epic road trip?

scotland road trip, path surrounded by mountains through cairngorms national park

Cairngorms National Park, 📸: Manuel Osdoba

Where to stay:

  • With a 10 rating on Hostelworld, Bankfoot Inn just next to Perth is a safe bet. Indulge in their FREE breakfast and feel welcomed into their homely environment. There’s also Perth Youth Hostel which is open from June to August. Check out more hostels in Perth here.
  • Along your journey, Braemar Youth Hostel is a great resting stop for the first night. Further into the road trip, Ballater Hostel in the small town of Ballater is another great choice.

9. Borders Historic Route: the best Scottish road trip for learning about Scottish life and culture

The Borders Historic Route Scottish road trip runs from Gretna Green to Edinburgh for a charming sightsee of cute villages and green countryside.

scotland road trip, Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, 📸:@joerga

Major attractions

  • Gilnockie Tower
  • Lochcarron of Scotland
  • Abbotsford House
  • Stewart brewing
  • Dalkeith Country Park

Length of road trip

2-3 days (2 hours 20 minutes driving time)

Itinerary

Day 1:

As this starts on the border with England in Gretna Green, it might be easiest to hire a car from the town of Carlisle and spend a couple of days exploring – Hadrian’s Wall is not a far drive away! Then head to the first location of the trip – Gilnockie Tower. Here you can also visit the Clan Armstrong Information Centre to learn about the local history.

Drive to the town of Hawick for lunch and some exploring. Here you can check out Hawick Museum, Wilton Lodge Park or Hermitage Castle. Drive to the town of Selkirk to settle in for the night. If you need to get some shopping done, check out Lochcarron of Scotland – an iconic Scottish textiles company. You can even go on a mill tour to see how they make their tartans.

Day 2:

Driving from Selkirk, head to the glorious Abbotsford House which was home to the writer Sir Walter Scott. There’s an affordable café on the grounds for a good lunch spot. Take the time to explore the neighbouring town of Galashiels. Edinburgh is just over an hour away from there, so why not stop at some attractions along the way like Stuart Brewing, Dalkeith Country Park or Midlothian SnowSports Centre in wintertime?

As you arrive in Edinburgh, take some time to explore this richly vibrant city. St Christopher’s Inn in Edinburgh has its own sports bar with delicious dinners! Guests of the hostel also get an extra 25% off.

Where to stay

scotland road trip, social area with tables, sofas and pool tables at Castle Rock Hostel

Castle Rock Hostel, Edinburgh

10. South West Coastal 300: the best Scottish road trip for getting off the grid

Whether you need an escape from the big city or just a quick breather, the South West Coastal 300 road trip will have you feeling rejuvenated and at one with nature. Set over 300 miles, this is a big Scottish road trip that you should set aside a lot of time to do.

scotland road trip, Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle, 📸: Andy Muir

Major attractions

  • Sweetheart Abbey
  • Coastal town of Kirkcudbright
  • Whithorn
  • Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
  • Culzean Castle
  • Scottish Dark Sky Observatory
  • Moat Brae – Peter Pan’s birthplace

Length of trip

4-5 days

Itinerary

Day 1:

Starting in the town of Dumfries, check out attractions like Moat Brae – the place that inspired Peter Pan, Robert Burns’ house or Dumfries museum. Check out the 13th century ruins of Sweetheart Abbey close to Dumfries.

Stop in the town of Kirkcudbright for food, where in summer they have a large farmers market. Basecamp café at Laggan Outdoor offers locally sourced food with picturesque views of the coast. Here you can also do activities such as ziplining and Segway tours. Then drive to the Isle of Whithorn, where the local museum tells its unique history of bringing Christianity to Scotland.

Stop by Mull of Galloway Lighthouse for some spectacular sunset views (closed in the winter), before driving around the coast and then heading to the village of Stranraer for the evening.

scotland road trip, Mull of Galloway Lighthouse at sunset

 

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse, 📸: Colin Baird

Day 2:

Admire the stunning coastline as you drive right beside the ocean for most of the day’s journey. Stop by the little town of Girvan for food and then drive on to Culzean Castle (closed in winter). This domineering castle dates back to 1792. US President Eisenhower was even gifted part of it after his many visits! The castle is open from late March to late October but check their website for specific dates. Choose to stop by the town of Ayr, then treat yourself to a dinner under the stars at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.

Day 3:

From the town of Sanquhar, venture around the north of the driving route to marvel at the grand mountain ranges. Stop by the town of Moffat for a pint at some of its pubs and bars. Consider stopping by the town of Lockerbie to learn about the town’s influence in modern history, before completing your journey in Dumfries.

11. Perthshire Tourist Route: the best Scottish road trip for those who want to spoil themselves (while on a budget)

The Perthshire Tourist Route will have you feeling in touch with the natural settings and rocky coastlines that you’ll see out of your window. Take the time to hike around some of the national parks on this road trip to really understand Scotland’s beautiful and untamed landscapes.

When backpacking it can be hard to treat yourself, but this tour has some great indulgences like whiskey distilleries and a chocolate factory. So yeah… you’ve been good, why not live in luxury for a bit?

scotland road trip, a house in middle of fields in Glen Artney in Crieff

Glen Artney, Crieff 📸:@fredmarriage

Major attractions

  • Library of Innerpeffray
  • Drummond Castle and Gardens
  • Comrie Croft/Crieff walks
  • Glenturret Distillery
  • Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery
  • Iain Burnett The Highland Chocolatier

Length of road trip

1-2 days

Itinerary

Day 1:

This road trip starts in the small town of Greenloaning. As you drive along, there are some significant landmarks worth seeing, like The Library of Innerpeffray – the oldest library in Scotland! Also visit Drummond Castle Gardens – its stunning formal gardens were created in 1490. If you’re in the mood for some adventure, head to Comrie Croft where there are many mountain biking tracks. Stop for lunch at the Glenturret Distillery and explore the town of Crieff.

Day 2:

Drive up to the town of Aberfeldy. Here there’s an ancient house on the bank of Loch Tay. There’s also a museum teaching about the Iron Age period in Scotland. If you still haven’t had enough whiskey, close by is Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery. But here’s the real treat: in the town of Grandtully is the Highland chocolatier – Iain Burnett. Once you’re full to your stomach, drive to Ballnluig for the end of your road trip!

Where to stay

  • Stay in Perth for a night before beginning the road trip and get to know this fascinating town. Check out all of our hostels in Perth!
  • For the end of the trip, drive to nearby town Pitlochry, where there are some great options. Pitlochry Backpackers has a movie lounge and a pool table, while Pitlochry Youth Hostel has an accommodating lounge room with beer and soft drinks available.

 scotland road trip, road through Pitlochry with a starry sky

Pitlochry, 📸:@stuchy

 

12. Isle of Skye: the best Scottish road trip for photographers

My-oh-my, the Isle of Skye. Leaving arguably the most stunning road trip for last, the Isle of Skye is a must-visit for anyone seeking some of the best landscapes our earth has to offer. Here you can truly feel in another world.

Be mindful of visiting this island though, as it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland and overcrowding is on the rise. Think about going in the off-season after August.

scotland road trip, Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye 📸:@czermak_photography

Major attractions

  • Fairy Glen
  • Trotternish Loop
  • Mealt Falls
  • Quiraing
  • Old Man of Storr

Length of road trip

3-5 days

Itinerary

Day 1:

The Isle of Skye is 2 and a half hours from Inverness, so that’s probably the best place to stay and hire a car from before starting. From Edinburgh it’s around 5-6 hours and from Glasgow it’s around 5 hours – they’re all stunning road trips in their own right!

Drive in to the town of Broadford, where there are restaurants, pubs and accommodation. Here you can kayak, fish and bike ride. From there, drive to the main town of Portree, where you can find great food options. Nearby you can see the Old Man of Storr – a scenic walk around a large pinnacle of rocks. Nearby are Loch Mealt and Kilt Rock – two picturesque sites worth seeing!

Drive along to Staffin, where the rock formations of Totternish Loop and Quiraing lie. The Columba 1400 Restaurant is a good stopping point for food, as the café windows overlook The Quiraing.

Then drive to the most northerly point to Duntulm Castle along the Trotternish Peninsula. Here you’ll find ruins which are free to roam around!

scotland road trip, road along skye coastline

Skye Coastline, 📸:@simonmigaj

Day 2:

Drive to the town of Dunvegan to see Dunvegan Castle, which has long been home to the Macleod Clan. Dunvegan Bakery has some delicious sweet and savoury treats to take along on your journey.

Skye Museum of Island Life is not far away and will give you more of an understanding about this breathtaking island and its inhabitants.

Stop by the town of Uig for a traditional pub lunch at The Pub at the Pier. Explore the picturesque Fairy Glen – a range of tiny green hills – and the standing stones of Eyre.

Head down to Dun Beag Broch next to Struan to see ruins from the Iron Age that was once a tower built around 2000-2500 years ago.  Drive to the famous Talisker Distillery for a tour and warm up with a glass of scotch. Talisker Bay is a spectacular walking spot caved in by looming cliffs.

Day 3:

Drive further inland to explore some of the mountains and hiking trails along your drive back to Inverness. This part of Skye is really for true adventurers. Stop by Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh and Sgurr na Banachdaich for some brilliant hiking trails (but these are recommended for experienced and dedicated hikers as they are hard to access). Further down is Cuillin waterfalls, which if brave enough you can swim in!

If you’re looking for something more accessible, Glamaig is closer to the main A87 road. It’s still a very tough walk, and if you’re experienced enough the top viewpoints are some of the best in Skye.

If you plan on hiking in Skye, take some time to research as you’ll need to find the right hiking trails for your capabilities and that are easily accessible.

Where to stay

scotland road trip, people sitting under globe bubble at skyewalker Hostel

Skyewalker Hostel, Isle of Skye

  • There are a lot of great hostels on the Isle of Skye thanks to its popularity with backpackers.
  • In Broadford, start your journey by staying at Skye Basecamp.
  • The Skyewalker Hostel (yes it’s Star Wars themed) is located in Portnalong and gives some of the best views of the glittering sky with a massive see-through tent.
  • There’s the shabby chic hostel The Cowshed in Uig, which is a short walk to the Fairy Glen.

scotland road trip, road through mountains in skye

Skye, 📸:@tmarquis

With our guide to the best road trips in Scotland there’s no need to feel like an outlander! Grab your clan, a bottle of whiskey and a fire playlist (because it’s cold out there) – and you’re good to go.

Love some of these activities and not others? Why not make your own Scottish whiskey tour or mountain biking tour from the places listed here? Let us know in the comments!

Keep reading:

🌟The best hostels in Scotland

🌟14 totally secret things you never knew you could do in Scotland

🌟The ultimate guide to backpacking Scotland

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About The Author

Hayley McKenna

Just another Aussie living in London with travel on the mind. Junior Content Writer and #HostelworldInsider at Hostelworld. I have a bad habit of spontaneously buying cheap flights to random places. I love antique shopping on the weekends. 🌍Favourite place on earth: Nice, France. 🏠Favourite hostel: King Kong Hostel Rotterdam, Netherlands. Keep up with my travels on Instagram: @suitcaseonmysleeve

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