Photo credit: Eilean Musdile Lighthouse via photopin (license)
Perhaps not the first destination that comes to mind when planning a road trip, Scotland throws up such a vast array of stunning vistas and landscapes that you would be rather foolish to NOT take a journey to the home of whiskey, shortbread and the Loch Ness monster. Connected by a vast network of roads and motorways, grab yourself a rental car and get exploring all the beauty Scotland has to offer.
Start in Scotland’s capital as there is plenty to see and do here. If you’re driving from England, take the A68 or of course fly direct into Edinburgh airport.
Your first port of call should be Edinburgh Castle. The historic attraction is located on Castle Rock and overlooks the entire city. The sight of many battles and conflicts, the castle has played a significant role in Scotland’s famous history and is well worth a visit. Edinburgh is also great for a spot of shopping; head to Princes Street for some retail therapy. Rosslyn Chapel and St Giles Cathedral are also must-sees whilst you’re there.
After Edinburgh, head northwest along the A85, taking in the beautiful and breath-taking scenery of Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Parks along the way.
Continue onto the A82 and take in such famous spots as Bridge of Orchy, Glencoe and Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak (4,414ft in case you were wondering). Just beyond Fort William is the famous Glenfinnan Aqueduct, which like Glencoe, was used as a filming location for the Harry Potter film franchise.
Isle of Skye
Home to a plethora of hiking and bike trails, not to mention historical landmarks too, the Isle of Skye is a rugged and natural beauty spot tucked away on Scotland’s northwest coast.
From Fort William, head west on the A830 to Mallaig, and then board the ferry to Skye. For the historians amongst you, hike out to the ruins of Knock Castle (just off the A851). Originally built by the MacDonald clan in the 15th Century, it is claimed the ruins are haunted by a gruagrach known as the Green Lady.
Getting back to nature, at the foot of the Black Cuillins in the Glen Brittle Forest are the famous Fairy Pools of Skye. You can take in the sheer magnificence of Glen Brittle and Skye via a hike or cycle along the nature paths located all around.
Take the A87 heading south to check out the rock pinnacles of The Storr. Have you seen the film Prometheus? If so, you’ll recognise it from the opening scenes. Once you’ve taken in all Skye has to offer, the next stop on the trip is Inverness, accessed via continuing on the A87.
Two and a half hours from Portree, Inverness is a good starting point for exploring the central Highlands. Before continuing further south, don’t miss iconic and legendary Loch Ness (monster not guaranteed) and the remains of Urquhart Castle.
From Inverness, take a short drive along the A9 to explore the Cairngorms National Park. There is no shortage of photo opportunities to capture the landscapes and views. If it’s activities you’re after, there is mountain biking, hiking and guided walks all available within the park. During the winter months’ snow sports are also available. Check the website for a schedule of what’s on and when.
There are camping grounds within the park, so why not set up camp in a rented camper van to save money on hotel fees? Once you’ve passed through the park, make your way south to Stirling along the A9 via Perth.
Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in Scotland, and It’s been said that whoever holds the castle holds Scotland. Generations of Scottish royalty made their home here and it’s close to where the Scots defeated the English army in the 1927 Battle of Stirling Bridge.
And after all these historical castles and gorgeous landscapes, it’s time to bid farewell to bonny Scotland. From Stirling, it’s merely an hour’s drive back to Edinburgh followed by the journey home from there.
Hiring a car
If you choose to hire a car for a trip such as this, it’s important to take out car hire excess insurance before you travel. This covers any excess charges you may incur if the vehicle you hire is damaged or stolen and is much cheaper than buying through the rental company at the desk. It is also more comprehensive, covering the most vulnerable parts of the vehicle which the rental companies do not offer.