Scotland is a dream destination for road trips. Scenic drives on winding roads lead through epic mountain landscapes and lush valleys, along fast-flowing rivers and beautiful coastlines, past waterfalls and castle ruins. A road trip is a perfect way to explore everything Scotland has to offer. Here are 16 ideas for epic road trips in Scotland including the most scenic drives in the country.
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Apart from a few big motorways in southern and central Scotland, the majority of Scottish roads are scenic country roads. They hug the coastlines, connect beautiful villages and small towns and lead through stunning mountain scenery.
Scotland from the roadside is a view you don’t want to miss!
A road trip is a perfect way to experience Scotland’s natural beauty and explore off the beaten path.
With the help of some of Scotland’s leading travel bloggers, I put together a list of beautiful driving routes all over Scotland. From famous road trip loops to lesser-known hidden gems – read on for 16 epic ideas for scenic road trips in Scotland.
Looks like you’re planning a road trip through Scotland – go you!
If you’re in the early stages you might find my guide to planning a trip to Scotland super useful.
It contains everything you should know about travelling in Scotland: when to go, the best transport options, how to find accommodation, tips for your itineraries and more.
And if you sign up for my FREE Scotland Resource Library, you’ll get access to documents such as a Progress Tracking sheet to keep on top of your holiday plans.
Scenic Road Trips in Scotland
South West Coastal 300
Distance: 300+ miles
Start / End Point: Ayr
Duration: 3-4 days
The south of Scotland might just be our best-kept secret – but I’m not one to keep those kinds of hidden gems from you. The South West Coastal 300 route is a mouthful, but also an incredibly varied self-drive route in Scotland.
Starting from the coastal town of Ayr, head south and inland to spend some time in the Galloway Hills and Forest Park – I recommend the area around Glentrool and Loch Trool to experience the local Biosphere and hike the local mountain range.
Then head back north to Dalmellington for a night of stargazing at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.
Continue with a visit to Drumlanrig Castle – a hot spot for Outlander fans – and explore the small towns of Sanquhar, Moffat and Dumfries.
The second half of the SWC300 hugs the coastline. Stop in the colourful artist village Kirkcudbright and browse the bookshops in Scotland’s National Book Town, Wigtown.
If you can, spend an extra day around Stranraer and Portpatrick to discover the Mull of Galloway – Scotland’s southernmost point – and Logan Botanic Garden.
A highlight on the road back north to Ayr is the stunning palace of Culzean Castle with its breathtaking views across the water to the Isle of Arran.
The A82: From Glasgow to Inverness
Distance: 170 miles
Start / End Point: Glasgow / Inverness
Duration: 2-4 days
The A82 is one of my favourite roads to drive in Scotland. Most people who plan a road trip in the Scottish Highlands will find themselves on this road eventually. Yet they usually don’t spend nearly enough time on it to really appreciate everything it has to offer.
Running from Glasgow to Fort William and on to Inverness, the A82 leads to and past some of the most iconic places in the Scottish Highlands.
Even though you could drive the entire route in 4-5 hours, I recommend spending at least 2 days on the route including an overnight stop around Glencoe or Fort William. There are many things to do in Glencoe!
However you could easily spend more time along this route and explore more in-depth, make time for detours or stop of scenic hikes.
Start early in Glasgow to beat the crowds to Loch Lomond and have Scotland’s largest loch all to yourself. Heading north, stop by the Falls of Falloch and Loch Tulla before you drive through one of Scotland’s wildest regions: Rannoch Moor.
From there it is only a stone’s throw to Glencoe – a must on every Scotland itinerary – and the scenic shores of Loch Linnhe. All around you, there are high mountain peaks, that offer hiking trails on all levels.
After a night in Fort William, continue your drive north. Stop for a gondola ride and leisurely stroll at the Nevis Range, drive down the narrow Great Glen towards Loch Ness. Stop in Fort Augustus for lunch and spend the afternoon exploring Urquhart Castle, going on a loch cruise and looking for Nessie.
The route ends in Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands and great starting point for a drive around the North Coast 500, the Aberdeenshire Coastal Path, or back down to the Cairngorms National Park.
A Road Trip on the Isle of Bute
by Ana from Lovely Scotland
Distance: 120 miles
Start / End Point: Glasgow
Duration: 1+ day
Every road trip to an isle starts with a ferry trip! So first things first: drive from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay and get aboard the Calmac ferry to Rothesay to let your adventure begin. You will love the views of the Southern Highlands and many islands in the Firth of Clyde during the brief sailing.
Even if the Isle of Bute is a small island there is plenty to do and to see there. My best advice, if you only can spend one day in this location, is to start with a visit to Rothesay Castle in the town centre.
Then take the quiet road B881 going south until you get to Garrochty. Here, St Blane’s Church, Dunagoil Fort, the mythical Blackpark Stone Circle and a hundred fluffy sheep are waiting for you.
Nexdrive back north on the A884, a coastal road with stunning views over to the Isle of Arran, the Kintyre peninsula and the Kyles of Bute. I strongly recommend you to make a stop on Scalpsie Bay and end your road trip on Bute gazing at the sunset on Ettrick Bay.
If you have a few extra days to spend on the Isle of Bute, make sure you also visit Mount Stewart, hike to a hidden WWII bunker with stunning views near Rhubodach and follow the West Island Way to Glencallum Bay.
Down the Kintyre Peninsula
Distance: 80 miles
Start / End Point: Tarbert
Duration: 1-4 days
Kintyre is not on many road trip itineraries for Scotland, because this finger-shaped peninsula on the west coast is a little bit out of the way. However, a road trip to the Kintyre peninsula is 100% worth it!
Begin in Tarbert, a colourful village at the top of Kintyre. Only a narrow strip of land, just over 1 mile wide, connects the peninsula to the rest of Argyll – a fact that gave it its nickname: “Scotland’s only mainland island”.
After a walk up to the ruins of Tarbert Castle view views of the bay and the Kyles of Bute in the distance, continue south on the road towards Campbeltown (A83). Stop at the Ballochroy Standing Stones and hop across to the Isle of Gigha from Tayinloan.
Beaches, gardens and bays with crystal clear waters are waiting for you. The tiny island is owned by a community trust and is a great destination for an active family-holiday off the beaten track.
I recommend spending at least one full day and a night on the island. If you don’t want to bring your car, you can also hire bicycles near the ferry terminal on Gigha.
Back on Kintyre, continue for a hearty lunch at Glenbarr Stores & Cafe, take in the beaches at Westport and Machrihanish and explore the Mull of Kintyre – made famous by no other than Paul McCartney.
Campbeltown makes for a great stopover to visit a whisky distillery and go for a stroll along the waterfront. Next, take the small country road leading north on the west side of Kintyre (B842).
Visit one beach after the other, spot public art and ruined castles, stop for afternoon tea at the Drumfearne Tearooms or stay overnight near Carradale Bay.
The final section of this drive leads along a narrow and winding single-track road with stunning views of the northern peaks on the Isle of Arran and bring you back to Kennacraig and Tarbert.
The Road to the Isles (A830)
by Nicola from Funky Ellas Travel
Distance: 45 miles
Start / End Point: Fort William / Mallaig
Duration: 1+ day
Beginning at the foot of Ben Nevis the so-called Road to the Isles winds its way west from the mountains towards Mallaig by the sea. Along the way, it takes in some of the most stunning scenery Scotland has to offer.
Photo opportunities present themselves around almost every corner. Atmospheric lochs, majestic mountains and stunning beaches make this section of road one of my all time favourites.
Driving along the banks of Loch Eil you can’t help but gasp at the sparkling water overlooked by the heather covered hills. Glenfinnan, with the famous viaduct used in the Harry Potter films and the monument at the head of Loch Shiel, is a great stop. Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite Rising in the exact spot. If you can squeeze in a little hike up higher the views over the loch are outstanding – you might even spot the Jacobite Steam Train crossing the viaduct.
As you drive on and turn the corner, the ocean opens up in front of you and you get your first glimpse of the Small Isles, Eigg, Muck and Rum.
This is where the road changes, as you emerge from the hills and the jurassic-like mountainous landscape out into the open coastal landscape. From the stunning white sand beaches to the turquoise waters of the west coast, it is like a shock to the system.
If you find the beaches of Morar and Arisaig on a nice sunny day you are in for a real treat.
From Mallaig, either return to Fort William, drive south towards Ardnamurchan and Mull or take the car ferry over to the Isle of Skye.
Ardnamurchan Peninsula: From Mallaig to Tobermory
by Kate from Love from Scotland
Distance: 55 miles
Start / End Point: Mallaig / Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Duration: 1-2 days
Scotland’s west coast is a road tripper’s dream, however, the best section – if you ask me – is not on the North Coast 500. Instead, drive from Mallaig across the Ardnamurchan peninsula and on to the Isle of Mull.
Drive through the volcanic landscape of this remote peninsula. Visit white sands that challenge the Caribbean and indulge in those stunning west coast sunsets!
Ardnamurchan has castles, coos and miles of sea lochs to discover and the most westerly point of mainland UK, which is marked by the iconic Ardnamurchan lighthouse.
Sanna Bay is a breathtaking beach and the ruins of Tioram Castle challenges every other castle for the most dramatic in Scotland! Before you continue, swing by Ardnamurchan Distillery for a dram or two.
From Ardnamurchan jump on the Kilchoan Ferry to Tobermory for a slice of island life and continue exploring the Isle of Mull.
A Road Trip on the Isle of Mull
Distance: 45 miles
Start / End Point: Toberymory / Craignure, Isle of Mull
Duration: 1-3 days
The Isle of Mull is one of my favourite islands in Scotland, because it has everything the entire country has to offer, on such a small space: quaint fishing towns, high mountains, fascinating wildlife, white sandy beaches, a castle and even a forest!
Instead of taking the direct road from Tobermory to Craignure, I recommend going the long way and drive a loop around the north-west of the island (B8073).
After cutting through the hills behind Tobermory, you will soon see the sea again. Your first stop is Calgary Bay, a sheltered beach with endless white sands and gorgeous views out to the ocean.
From the beach make your way south towards Kilninian. Being a single track road, this route forces you to slow down, but gives you also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views across to the Treshnish Islands, Gometra and Ulva.
After you’ve passed Eas Fors Waterfall, take a break to explore the Isle of Ulva – which is worth an entire day of exploring it itself. Summon the boat to come pick you up (foot passengers only), take a stroll across this beautiful mostly uninhabited island and grab some lunch at the Boathouse.
Back on Mull, it is only a short way back to Craignure. Enjoy the views of Ben More, Mull’s very own Munro (= mountain over 3,000 ft) and surrounding peaks.
With a few extra days on Mull – I generally recommend 3 full days – plan a day trip to the south-east of the island, visit Iona and Staffa, venture out to the Treshnish Isles to see puffins or tackle the peak of Ben More on a clear day.
The West Coast of the Isle of Lewis
by Katie from Stories my Suitcase Could Tell
Distance: 50 miles
Start / End Point: Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Duration: 1 day
The drive is a circular loop, but as a local, I always recommend first driving north-west from the main town of Stornoway to the village of Arnol.
Your first stop will be the Arnol Blackhouse, an example of a traditional thatched home that islanders lived in until the turn of the 20th century.
Afterwards, grab some lunch from the locally-sourced menu at 40 North Foods in Bragar – you can either eat in or take food away to eat on one of the nearby beaches, Dalmore and Dalbeg.
Carry on along the loop until you reach the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, where you can wander around the restored homes and even hike up along the cliffs.
Next up is Dun Carloway Broch, an old Iron Age fort that’s as much fun to play in as an adult as it is as a child; it sits high on a hill with stunning views across the moorland and out to the Atlantic.
And finally, you’ll reach the highlight of the road trip, the famous Neolithic standing stone circle, the Callanish Stones. Aim to arrive around sunset, when these ancient stone giants will seem even more magical than usual.
If you have some a few extra days, add in a detour to the Butt of Lewis, the northernmost point of the island, or a drive over to Great Bernera, an island connected to Lewis by a small bridge. Bosta Beach on Great Bernera is among the most beautiful beaches in the Outer Hebrides.
The Golden Road on the Isle of Harris
by Kay from The Chaotic Scot
Distance: 45 miles
Start / End Point: Tarbert, Isle of Harris
Duration: 1 day
Drive just 5 minutes south from Harris’ main town of Tarbert and you will shortly be enveloped by otherworldly scenes, courtesy of the ‘Golden Road’.
Nicknamed for the cost of its construction, rather than the glow of the landscape, this is a scenic drive unlike any other.
Visitors commonly describe the road as lunar-like, which is a truly accurate description; the composition of the ancient rock bears close resemblance to that of the moon!
Stop in at the Clò-Mòr Harris Tweed Exhibition in Drinishader, and look out for the many abandoned croft houses which scatter the area. Continue onto ‘The Bays’ to go seal spotting at Finsbay and visit the medieval St Clement’s Church at Rodel.
Croft 36 at Northton is the perfect pit-stop for fresh pies, soup and cakes, before looping around the popularly photographed west coast.
The paradisiacal beaches are even more dreamy in real life, particularly against a mountainous backdrop. Pull into the ‘Passing Place’ for a perfect shot of Seilebost, and explore Horgabost and Luskentyre on foot, before returning to Tarbert.
If you are looking for a reliable road atlas, check out Collins Road Map Scotland!
The Best of Fife: From Edinburgh to St Andrews
by Gemma from Two Scots Abroad
Distance: 130 miles
Start / End Point: Edinburgh
Duration: 1-3 days
One of the lesser known road trips in Scotland starts by heading over the new Queensferry Crossing from Edinburgh to the Kingdom of Fife. Stop off and visit the world’s smallest light tower and enjoy the views of the Forth Rail Bridge.
Then head to the historic capital of Scotland, Dunfermline, to see the Abbey and Palace, browse the new museum or catch a gig at the Alahambra.
Next, head to Cowdenbeath to snap the street art murals and make a splash at Lochore Meadows just outside of Lochgelly. But this is only a selection of things to do around Fife.
Outlander fans will find Falkland of interest, before setting off for St Andrews (where Prince Will and Kate Middleton met) and the fishing villages of the East Neuk.
Keeping on the coastal route, stop off at Kirkcaldy to see a show at the Adam Smith Theatre then hit the beaches of Kinghorn, Burntisland and Aberdour.
Hikers, why not join the Fife Coastal Path for a stroll before heading back to Scotland’s capital.
The Other Highlands: Exploring Perthshire
Distance: 140 miles
Start / End Point: Perth
Duration: 3 days
Perthshire is known as Scotland’s Big Tree Country, but it makes up a quieter section of the Scottish Highlands.* A scenic drive on the leafy roads of Perthshire leads through beautiful woodlands, up scenic viewpoints, among towering mountains and through quaint Highland towns. This is particularly beautiful in autumn when the trees change colours.
Begin your road trip in Perth. You can follow this route in one day at a push, but taking 2-4 days allows you to explore more in-depth, go for hikes on forest trails and visit more castles and distilleries in the area.
Drive north on the A9, a fairly big road with many scenic places to visit along the way. Your first stop is Dunkeld for a short woodland walk at the Hermitage, a visit to Dunkeld Cathedral and a bite to eat from a bakery in the village.
Next, visit the bustling Victorian town of Pitlochry. There are whisky distilleries, a lovely high street with shops and restaurants and trails along the River Tummel. A detour takes you to the scenic Green Footbridge near Killiecrankie and up to the stunning Highland viewpoint at Queen’s View.
Continuing along the A9, you will eventually get to Blair Atholl for a visit to Blair Castle and a walk up to the Falls of Bruar. Now, leave the big road and take a series of small country roads to Kinloch Rannoch and views of Schiehallion, an iconic cone-shaped Munro.
Aberfeldy with its walks, distillery and the bustling village, makes for a great overnight stop, before continuing your Perthshire road trip along the shores of Loch Tay. Consider a longer, alternative route through Glenlyon and the narrow Ben Lawers range road.
Stop to see the Falls of Dochart in Killin and make your way back to Perth via the scenic Highland villages of Comrie and Crieff.
* The geographic area, not the Council district.
Down the Scottish Castle Trail in Aberdeenshire
Distance: 115 miles
Start / End Point: Aberdeen
Duration: 3 days
Over 260 castles can be found in the region of Aberdeenshire, and 19 of the most beautiful palaces and ruins are part of the Scottish Castle Trail. It is possible to visit several castles in one day, but I recommend spending around 3 days exploring the area. Use my Aberdeenshire itinerary!
Leaving from Aberdeen, drive east into the Royal Deeside valley, a lush green valley east of the Cairngorms mountains. I recommend driving all the way to Balmoral Castle first thing to beat the crowds and visit the gardens of the Royal summer residence.
Slowly backtracking your steps our of the valley again, stop in Ballater for lunch or pick up snacks for a picnic at the Muir of Dinnet nature reserve.
If you have an extra day, I recommend staying in the area for longer to go on a hike around Loch Kinord and explore nearby castles like the pink dream that is Craigievar Castle.
Time your visit with sunset to see the castle glow in the golden hues of the evening sun, walk down the coastal path to Stonehaven and treat yourself with ice cream from Aunt Bettys.
The Aberdeenshire Coastal Path
by Victoria from The Aye Life
Distance: 150 miles
Start / End Point: Aberdeen / Inverness
Duration: 2-4 days
On the Aberdeenshire Coastal Path – between Aberdeen and Inverness – there is a plethora of stunning beaches, spectacular scenery, thousands of years of history and a notable change in Scottish accents.
Taking the A90 from Aberdeen, heading north towards Peterhead, you will pass a beautiful little coastal village named Cruden Bay which is home to the spooky Slains Castle and a picturesque beach where Netflix ‘The Crown’ was filmed.
Continuing further up north, drive down the bumpy road to Rattray Head lighthouse and learn about the history of Scottish lighthouses at the Lighthouse Museum in Fraserburgh.
Further up the coast are the little fishing villages of Crovie and Pennan. Pennan, in particular, is known for playing film-set to ‘Local Hero.’
Following the coastal road will lead you through Banff, MacDuff, Gardenstown, Cullen and Portsoy. Portsoy hosts the infamous Portsoy Boat Festival which is definitely worth checking out.
Turning onto the A96 at Fochabers, you can head towards Inverness via Brodie Castle, Nairn, Kilravock Castle, Cawdor Castle, Fort George, Castle Stuart and Culloden Battlefield.
Need even more Inverness inspiration? Check out these things to do in Inverness.
Scotland’s Route 66: The North Coast 500
by Patricia from Mad About Travel
Distance: 305 miles
Start / End Point: Inverness
Duration: 5-8 days
Highly publicised as “Scotland’s answer to Route 66”, I must admit that the North Coast 500 is possibly THE best road trip to do in Scotland. That is if you have at least 5 or 6 days.
Starting and finishing in Inverness, this route will take you to some of the most scenic places in Scotland. The 500+ mile journey will make you fall in love with the rugged wilderness of the northern Highlands.
Driving up the Bealach Na Ba road to Applecross is a terrific experience, but so is exploring gorgeous castles like Dunrobin Castle or the ruins of Ardvreck Castle.
There are plenty of waterfalls, gardens by the sea and some breathtaking beaches, along with the tall and shrouded peaks of Stac Pollaidh, An Teallach, Suilven or Ben Hope.
Make sure you stop at some of the whisky distilleries en route and do not miss Smoo Cave.
A Road Trip on Orkney
by Sonja from Migrating Miss
Distance: 50 miles
Start / End Point: Kirkwall, Orkney
Duration: 1-4 days
What better way is there to explore the nooks and crannies of an ancient isle like Orkney than by car?
Driving from the capital of Kirkwall up to tidal island called the Brough of Birsay will take you past many of Orkney’s best attractions. Although there are several roads to take and much to explore, it can be done in a day at a push.
Your first stop will be Maeshowe, a tomb built by the Picts, but now famous for the Viking graffiti that covers its walls. Be sure to book a tour because spaces on tours fill up!
Continue past the Standing Stones of Stenness to the Ness of Brodgar, a still-active archaeological site where they are uncovering a Pict settlement that’s changing what we know about the past.
Just down the road is the famous Ring of Brodgar, one of the largest stone circles in Britain at 104 metres wide. All three of these places are free to enter!
Skara Brae is next, a stone-built Neolithic settlement, where you can take an after-hours tour to walk along the streets that were built thousands of years ago.
Lastly, you can visit the ruins of the Earl’s Palace at Birsay, and if you time it right with the tide and you’re not over pre-historic wonders yet, you can walk across to the Brough of Birsay.
The Coigach Peninsula in Wester Ross
by Susanne from Adventures Around Scotland
Distance: 60 miles
Start / End Point: Ullapool
Duration: 1 day
I discovered the Coigach peninsula by chance while staying in Ullapool. It turned out to be one of my most magical and scenic road-trips in Scotland!
Heading north from Ullapool on the A835, a turn off onto a single track road that takes you towards the Coigach Peninsula. Through a stunning mountainous landscape, it passes the instantly recognisable Stac Pollaidh which always reminds me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
I first followed the road to the village of Achiltibuie where numerous ruins of crofts lie abandoned in the nearby fields. This is a good point to stop and refuel with some tea and cake at the Piping School Café.
The road continues on through a remote landscape towards Achduart at the end of the track, which very much feels like the end of the world. Heading back and taking the circular route around the peninsula will bring you to a viewpoint with a superb panorama over the Summer Isles.
Further along, the road passes the beautiful beach at Achnahaird – this is where you return to the single track road leading back to the A835.
The road-trip route I took from Ullapool around the Coigach Peninsula was approx. 60 miles through some of the most breath-taking and remote scenery in Scotland.
Scotland is a paradise for self-drive holidays. Take this list of scenic road trips in Scotland and let it inspire many future adventures around the country,
Have you ever gone on a scenic drive around Scotland? Which route would you add?
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Thanks to all the bloggers who contributed, for their advice & beautiful photos!