A Scotland road trip is the perfect way to explore the dramatic landscapes of this fantastic country.
With drastic coastline, towering peaks, medieval ruins, and an excellent network of roads connecting the best spots, Scotland might be purpose-built for road trips.
A road trip gives you the freedom to get off the tourist trail, and in a country with so many hidden corners, there is no better way to explore and find exciting places.
But how do you possibly decide where to go?
Fear not, in this post, I countdown the 8 best road trips in Scotland.
This list of ultimate Scottish road trips has everything.
There are week-long circular routes, cross-country adventures, and coastal jaunts.
Whether you want the best 7 day self-drive tour of Scotland, or simply want to get out for a day trip, you are sure to find something you’ll like.
Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown of the 8 best Scotland road trips out there…
THE HIGHLAND TOURIST ROUTE
Kicking things off is a classic Scotland road trip. Who doesn’t think of the famed highlands when thinking of Scotland?
Stretching 116 miles between Inverness and Aberdeen, you can travel in whichever way is more convenient.
The magical Highland Tourist Route is packed with awe-inspiring panoramic views of the rolling highlands, mystical forests, endless scotch distilleries (including Glenlivet) and no less than 4 impressive castles.
History buffs will love Culloden Battlefield, Fort George, Cawdor Castle and the many museums, while nature lovers and thrill seekers can get their fix in the mighty Cairngorms National Park. Here you’ll find a huge network of hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as an abundance of Scottish wildlife. Pitfichie forest is also a hotspot for outdoorsy types.
THE GALLOWAY TOURIST ROUTE
The beautiful Galloway Tourist Route stretches 92 miles between Gretna and Ayr. It’s perfect for roadtrippers seeking out a shorter Scotland road trip, but one that still offers an excellent mix of cultural and natural attractions.
The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory located near Loch Doon is a fantastic experience for all ages, as you gaze upon the natural beauty of some of the darkest night skies (and therefore brightest stars) in the UK. There are two large telescopes to get an even closer look!
For the nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts amongst you, the attractions are also outstanding.
Enjoy the range of hiking trails in the various woodlands, rip down the trails in the infamous mountain biker’s paradise of 7Stanes, and take to the waters of Loch Ken for a boat-load of thrilling watersports.
For a more mellow but equally fascinating experience, head to the Galloway Kite Trail for some wild red kite birdwatching.
Regardless of what outdoor activities you pursue, one thing is for certain:
The lush scenery and unbelievable panoramic vistas are second to none.
THE ARGYLL COASTAL ROUTE
Looking for some fresh sea air? A fan of world-class local seafood? Love to soak up a beautiful sunset?
The Argyll Coastal Route could be the Scotland road trip for you.
This 129-mile route – which explores the best of Scotland’s west coast between Loch Lomond and Fort William – combines both mountains and coastline.
You’ll see traditional Scottish lochs, imposing mountain-tops, mesmerizing sea views, and liberating open road.
Take a boat trips to see Scotland’s finest wildlife close-up.
Explore the beautiful Glen Nevis, a valley in Lochaber hiding the imposing Steall Falls. Bordered to the south by the Mamore range, and to the north by the highest mountains in the British Isles including Ben Nevis, the views are spectacular.
THE DEESIDE TOURIST ROUTE
The 108 mile Deeside Tourist Route – which stretches from Perth to Aberdeen – is one for the foodies.
This list of the best road trips in Scotland just wouldn’t be the same without a journey packed with culinary delights.
This is the perfect route for those who want to gorge on perfect scotch whiskey and fantastic local cheeses. Whiskey distilleries are numerous, however particular highlights include the Royal Lochnagar Distillery and Cambus O’May Cheese Co., where you can dabble in the art of cheese making. Ensure you stop by one of the many fruit-growing farms in Blairgowrie, for fresh local produce.
But it’s not just culinary delights that this route has to offer.
There’s also adventure aplenty.
Along with the Highlands Tourist route this is the perfect opportunity to explore the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park and five of Scotland’s six highest mountains. Navigate your way around the huge network of hiking and mountain biking trails that we already talked about and spot countless species of Scottish wildlife.
THE NORTH EAST 250
Modelled on the infamous North Coast 500 (keep reading…), the new North East 250 route is a beautiful Scotland road trip that offers a quicker alternative to its busier counterpart.
The 250-mile circular route nestled in the north-east corner of the highlands is one of Scotland’s best-kept road trip secrets and showcases the best of everything enchanting Scotland has to offer.
Its manageable length makes it the ideal choice for those who want to spend less time in the car and more time enjoying the many attractions. You’ll pass ancient castles, medieval churches, fascinating museums, world-class whisky distilleries, finely groomed golf courses, pristine beaches, endless mountain bike and hiking trails, buzzing wildlife reserves and even ski resorts!
As the road is circular, you can begin and end the road trip wherever you wish. However, 2 logical starting points are Spittal of Glenshee in the southern Cairngorms or Aberdeen.
Braemar Golf Club (the highest course in the country)
Braemar, Ballindalloch and Balmoral castles
THE SOUTHWEST COASTAL 300
The South West Coastal 300 is a stunning Scottish road trip.
As the name suggests, set over 300 miles this is a long trip. Set aside enough time to see everything it has to offer.
The route really is a joy to drive. Consisting mostly of quiet country roads you’ll navigate past the spectacular scenery of Dumfries & Galloway and south Ayrshire.
From rolling verdant hills and thick forests to secluded beaches and rugged clifftops, this road trip offers some of the best views in Scotland.
Soak up picture perfect spots, like the coastal town of Kirkcudbright and the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. Get your history fix with a lesson on the Vikings and the Iron Age in Whithorn and in the gardens of the ruin of Sweetheart Abbey.
Marvel at the dazzling stars from the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park
The SWC300 is a loop so you can begin your road trip anywhere you so please. However, Dumfries, Stranraer and Ayr all make logical starting points as they are located on the route.
FORT WILLIAM TO THE ISLE OF SKYE
This unbelievable Scotland road trip begins on the Scottish mainland with the 74km drive between Fort William and Mallaig, before crossing the water to the dramatic landscapes of the Isle of Skye.
Fort William is the access point to Ben Nevis – the highest peak in Scotland (and the UK) – and Glen Nevis valley. Here you’ll find a huge network of forest trails, perfect for hiking and cycling.
Venture west towards the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct – the bridge the Hogwarts Express famously crosses in the Harry Potter movies.
Near the ferry port, you’ll encounter the spellbinding Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater lake in the UK. Stop and enjoy the unworldly views, before continuing across to the Isle of Skye.
To get across, you have 2 options:
Take the ferry from Mallaig
Double back and follow the A82 and then A87 to drive directly onto the Isle
Once on the Isle of Skye, spend as much time as you can exploring its wonders via the A87, A63 and A50 roads.
Soak up views of the unworldly natural wonders of the Cuillin Mountains, Fairy Pools, and the Old Man of Storr. Marvel at the mystical Dunvegan Castle and enjoy the delights of the Talisker Distillery.
Before you leave, make sure you tuck in to some fresh-caught seafood. A speciality on the Isle of Skye.
THE NORTH COAST 500
The North Coast 500 is quite simply the best road trip in Scotland. Scotland’s version of the infamous Route 66 boasts some of the best views in the world.
The circular route winds along the coast for a spectacular 516 miles and also features in our list of best road trips in the UK.
As the route is a round trip, you can start where you like. The official start is at Inverness Castle.
En route, you’ll see jaw-dropping views of the Highlands, magical castles, traditional seaside towns, white sand beaches, and classic scotch distilleries (47 to be exact!!).
Keep an eye out for the Northern Lights. This area of Scotland is is one of the best places to spot them outside Scandinavia.
From Inverness the route heads to the west coast to Applecross. Take in the views from Bealach na Bà before soaking up the dramatic peaks of Loch Maree and taking part in some water sports at Achmelvich Bay.
From the west, you’ll venture to some of the most northern points in Scotland, including the famed John o’ Groats before heading south again down the east coastline.
Look out for whales and dolphins off the coast.
SCOTLAND ROAD TRIP – NOW IT’S YOUR TURN…
There you have my top 8 Scottish road trip routes.
Which one are you most excited to go take?
Or do you have any other great Scotland road trip recommendations?
Either way, leave a comment below and let me know.