The Driving tour of Scotland is in the United Kingdom. It would take about two days to drive this route non-stop, but it would be best to allow 7 - 10 days to have a relaxed tour, seeing the sights on the way.
One way of looking at Scotland is to think of it as divided in two parts: the first is the Highlands whereas the second is known as the Lowlands and contains the industrial heartland. Traditionally the Highlanders spoke Gaelic while the Lowlanders spoke Scots. The "central belt" cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh house the vast majority of Scotland's population. They're worth a visit for their culture, architecture and history. Heading up into the Highlands there are relatively few people, small villages, just the occasional town, and great sights to enjoy.
Rainy days and midges are the main threats to your visit. Both are annoying rather than dangerous - the small flies don't carry diseases but will bite you leaving an itchy spot for a few days. The rain is what makes the landscape so lush and green, so try to be philosophical about it!
It is best to plan your stops in advance, as there are limited places to sleep in some locations, and it would be best to book accommodation a month or two in advance.
Roads and Bridges
Most arterial roads in Scotland are bidirectional. However, many country roads remain to be narrow, single-track roads. It is highly advisable that people not used to driving on single-track roads do not learn to do so on dangerous roads in busy tourist hotspots. Single-track roads have many "passing-places" where you can wait for oncoming traffic to pass, or they can wait for you to pass. Be considerate to other drivers, and decide whether it will be easier for you to move into a passing-place or for them to do so.
Many of the bridges on the A82 around Rannoch Moor are narrow. The road is mostly 7 metres wide but the bridges tend to be a fraction of this. Many drivers lose wing-mirrors from minor collisions of the wing-mirrors of adjacent cars. Therefore, when crossing the bridges don't move too far into the middle or you will lose your expensive wing-mirror.
The A82 becomes quite frightening between Tarbet and Ardlui, so be cautious and be comforted that this is one of the worst parts of the journey - you won't encounter anything as bad as this again as long as you stay on the main road.
When walking in the Highlands, be vigilant as there are many bogs and marshes which you may accidentally step in and get stuck in. Wear wellies and preferably carry a hiking pole. Don't stray from the road too far, and never stray from the main path unless there is a bog in your way.
- See also: Scotland#Get in
This itinerary starts in Glasgow, so the directions below are for this city, however, you could start anywhere along the journey, so see the individual Wikivoyage guides for these places for information on how to get there.
There are airports throughout Scotland, and 1 Glasgow Airport (GLA IATA) has regular international flights. However, nearby 2 Edinburgh Airport (EDI IATA) is the busiest in Scotland, again with regular international flights.
There are also other airports in Scotland, with services from international destinations or England:
- 3 Aberdeen Airport (ABZ IATA).
- 4 Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK IATA). mainly serving Spain and Italy.
- 5 Inverness Airport (INV IATA).
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom
The East Coast Mainline comes from London King's Cross to 6 Edinburgh Waverley, with trains running throughout the day. Getting from Edinburgh to Glasgow is easy, as there are many trains running regularly. There are also trains which run from London Euston to 7 Glasgow Central.
- From 1 Glasgow head north-west up the A82 towards Fort William, along the side of 2 Loch Lomond. At the visitor centre at 3 Balloch admire the view down the loch. Stop at 4 Luss, a small honeypot village with a pleasant pier you can walk out over.
- At Tarbet, slow down and take the sharp right-hand turn to continue North on the A82. If you continue round with the current road, you will be on the A83. The road from here to Ardlui is extremely winding, narrow in places and often hangs out over the loch so be cautious.
- At 5 Inveruglas, just after the hydro-electric pipelines, park up for more loch views.
- Just beyond 6 Crianlarich, at 7 Tyndrum stop and try your hand at gold panning. Tyndrum is an excellent place to stop off and get a coffee, something to eat and to go to the toilet.
- After 8 Bridge of Orchy, the A82 heads out across 9 Rannoch Moor, one of western Europe's largest remaining wilderness. Barren, spectacular landscapes!
- Just before Glencoe, you can take a left into Glen Etive - famous for its portrayal in many films and TV series. This road is single-track, so continue on past to Glencoe if you don't feel comfortable with single-track road.
- The road descends into 10 Glencoe. Admire the waterfalls at the Meeting of Three Waters. Admire the stone bridges on General Wade's military road. And more than all of these, admire the skyline above - a line of mountains to the left, and to the right the snaky spine of the Aonach Eagach ridge. Finally, at the bottom of the glen, stop and look out across the loch at mist-covered islets.
- Take the Road to the Isles, the A830, to the 13 Glenfinnan Monument - an atmospheric spot at sunset. Optionally carry on to 14 Arisaig (interesting museum), view the 15 White Sands of Morar, or visit the port at 16 Mallaig, with options to continue on ferries to the islands, including the 17 Small Isles.
- Backtrack to the A82 and take the A87 to 18 Kyle of Lochalsh. Cross the bridge to the 19 Isle of Skye for a tour of the island.
- Head north via 21 Gairloch and 22 Poolewe, maybe stop off at Poolewe Gardens. This coast enjoys warms waters from the gulf stream, and on a sunny day the beaches seem tropical. Ullapool is a small pocket of civilisation in this wilderness.
- Keeping on northwards along the coast there's a spectacular landscape of mountains rising from a rumpled blanket of ground - evocative names like Suilven and Stac Polly. See bananas growing in northern Scotland at the Hydroponicum at 23 Achiltibuie.
- Return south and eastwards along the A835 toward the highland capital of Inverness. Perhaps stop in on the Victorian spa resort of 24 Strathpeffer for a break to enjoy the architecture.
- 25 Muir of Ord, on the Black Isle (so named for its peaty soil) offers excellent (and free) distillery tours.
- In 26 Inverness, walk along the mighty river Ness, cross the pedestrian suspension bridges, stroll by the cathedral.
- Drive east along the A96 to visit Moray. The sheltered waters of the 27 Moray Firth offer dolphin spotting boat trips, or visit the 28 Findhorn Foundation - an eco-community complete with houses built from recycled whisky barrels and a hobbit-hole meditation room built into the ground. At the market town of 29 Elgin see the statue of the Wolf of Badenoch.
- Head south along the route of the River Spey into the depths of 30 Speyside. Stop at 31 Craigellachie for a drink in the hotel's whisky room, then on to 32 Dufftown for a free tour of the Glenffidich Distillery or the Speyside Cooperage.
- Continuing south the placenames read like labels in a whisky cabinet - 33 Glenlivet, 34 , 35 Knockando, 36 Tomintoul.
- Down again from the hills and you're at 37 Balmoral Castle near 38 Braemar. Take a castle tour. Or time your visit right and visit the Braemar Highland Gathering in early September.
- Optionally, head down the Glen Muick road from 39 Ballater and take a walk through the Balmoral Estate to the summit of 40 Lochnagar. (Remember Prince Charles' book "The Old Man of Lochnagar"?) Anyway, this is a fine Munro to climb - much more rewarding than nasty old Ben Nevis. An easy ascent via estate track and good path leads you to a dip in the C-shaped summit ridge, giving fine views across the Grampians.
- Optionally detour to 43 Glamis Castle (pronounced "Glaams"), childhood home of the Queen Mother and a great castle to tour. Returning back onto the A93 you pass the 44 Meikleour Beech Hedge, the tallest row of trees in Britain.
- From 45 Perth continue down the A9 to 46 Stirling - turn off beforehand into 47 Bridge of Allan and visit the 48 Wallace Monument, a grand memorial to William Wallace. (And learn how inaccurate Braveheart really was!)
- Visit 49 Edinburgh, Scotland's capital. Take a walk up 50 Calton Hill to view the city, see the 51 Old Town around the 52 Grassmarket (try the eerie pubs) and the 53 New Town just to the north of 54 Princes' Street - together a World Heritage Site, or walk up 55 Arthur's Seat - an extinct volcano and now a public park.
- Finally, an hour's drive back to 56 Glasgow, renowned as the second city of the British Empire, and use any spare time enjoying this city's architectural sights. See some Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings - 57 House For An Art Lover, 58 Glasgow School of Art, or the 59 Hill House at 60 Helensburgh are a good starting place. For some Victorian splendour visit the free museum at the 61 People's Palace at 62 Glasgow Green, or take in the free museums at 63 Kelvingrove.
Other than basic precautions like locking your car and not leaving items in view, the Scottish Highlands are safe and friendly.