Are you planning a Scotland road trip? Trying to squeeze a country into a few days can be daunting, but it IS possible to plan a Scotland travel itinerary with the best places to visit, as well as some places away from the main tourist areas.
We'll show you the best driving roads in Scotland, scenic routes and how to visit the Scottish Highlands. Whether you're touring Scotland by car on a self-drive holiday, by motorhome, campervan, motorbike (or any other vehicle!), our map of the route we drove around Scotland will help you plan your own adventure.
How to plan a Scotland Road Trip
Scotland is one of those incredible places where you turn corner after corner and each is more breathtaking than the last! (Exactly the same as Norway) The problem with places like that is there is SO MUCH to see.
How do you possibly narrow down all these ‘must-visit' places into a reasonable road trip, especially if you only have 7-10 days for your Scottish road trip?
Do you focus on visiting beautiful cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, seeing the history of Scotland (which is fascinating!), HARRY POTTER sites (so worth it!), hiking in the Highlands, enjoying the views of the lochs? Or a bit of everything??
In this Scotland Itinerary, we've included a bit of everything to allow you to create the perfect Scottish Road Trip and make the most of your time in this breath-taking country.
How long does it take to Tour Scotland?
Our itinerary takes 10 days, but there are some bits you can miss if you only have 7 days for your trip. Likewise, if you have longer, you can either travel more scenic routes around Scotland (especially on the Highlands tourist route), see more incredible places, do some more tours around Scotland or just take your time and linger a while over your favourite places.
When is the best time to visit Scotland?
If you want to road trip Scotland (which we highly recommend- there are some INCREDIBLY scenic roads in Scotland), then the best time to go is either late Spring/ early Summer (May or June) or in early Autumn (September/ October). This way, you avoid the high crowds AND the midges, which are mostly around in July and August.
Want some more ideas for places to see in Autumn? Here are 27 of the best places to experience Autumn in Europe.
Download this Scotland Itinerary and take it with you!
This is a LOOOOOONG post )nearly 4000 words!) Why not download it so you can keep it with you and use it for planning your own Scotland itinerary. Yep, you can download this entire post and take it on your Scottish road trip with you.
Whether you're travelling by motorhome, camper, car or public transport, you'll be able to adapt it to use for your own schedule and requirements.
Scotland Road Trip Map and Itinerary
The map below shows our 10-day driving route for our tour of Scotland. We travelled from the Isle of Skye to John o'Groats using the main driving roads (which are quicker), but otherwise, we tried to take scenic roads where possible (although that's not always easy in a Motorhome!)
Our Scotland Itinerary is around 800 miles (1300km), with around 23 hours of actual driving over a 10 day trip. The map starts on the west coast of Scotland, but, of course, you can do the drive in reverse if you prefer.
Where should I go on a road trip in Scotland?
As you'll see below, there are many (many!) beautiful places to visit in Scotland. Your exact itinerary will be created from the things you enjoy. We plan our UK road trip itineraries like this and it's not let us down yet!
For us, we prefer to stay away from big cities when we're travelling in our motorhome and instead focus on areas like national parks, nature reserves, mountains, waterfalls… you get the idea. ‘Scenic Scotland' does not disappoint- we've seen some of the most breathtaking places on our trips to Scotland, which I share with you in this itinerary. (If you're looking for more breathtaking locations, check out 11 of the most beautiful places in Norway!)
So, let's get started on your Scotland Road trip!
Scotland Road Trip DAY 1- LOCH LOMOND and the Trossachs National Park
We'll start our Scotland tour in Glasgow, on the west coast of Scotland. It's a nice enough city although, personally, I prefer Edinburgh.
(That sound you hear is me being skinned alive… one of my best friends comes from Glasgow. Sorry hon xx)
There is PLENTY of things to see and do in Glasgow and you can easily spend a couple of days enjoying the city before you set off on your driving holiday.
TOP TIP– If you're not from the UK and you don't really understand football (soccer!), don't mention football. The rivalry between Celtic and Rangers fans (both clubs are based in Glasgow) is HUGE and openly supporting the wrong one could end in tears- for you. Different pubs support different teams and it frequently gets… heated.
Embrace your tourist side and stay impartial. The same is true in Liverpool and Manchester too if you venture further south. Places like London don't care so much.
Loch Lomond National Park
Ok, now that you've enjoyed Glasgow, let's head up into the ‘real' Scotland. Loch Lomond is one of my favourite spots, and is definitely one of the must-visit places in Scotland.
Loch Lomond is actually part of the Trossachs National Park, which has 22 lochs! Loch Lomond is the biggest. You can kayak, paddleboard, canoe and even hire jetskis in the summer. There are 30 islands on Loch Lomond alone to explore- plenty to keep you occupied if you want to stay for a few days.
The loch is absolutely breathtaking, especially if you're lucky enough to see it on a sunny day.
Don't believe me? See it for yourself:
WATCH VIDEO of us at Loch Lomond (and seeing the Harry Potter sites!)
Wild Camping is forbidden within the Trossachs National Park, so be careful where you park up for the night if you're in a camper. We chose to drive out of the National Park and camped in a layby on the way up to Loch Ness.
Road Trip Scotland DAY 2- Oban and Fort William
If you have time while you're touring Scotland, detour to Oban. I LOVE this town- it has the prettiest harbour and in Summer you can do a ferry tour out to some of the islands- well worth the trip on a calm day.
We stayed here a few years ago and the views were spectacular- especially at night. I remember standing outside our log cabin and gazing up at the stars in absolute amazement- they were so bright and clear. Magical.
Another detour worth the effort is to Devil's Pulpit– a hidden waterfall between the rocks. Full directions can be found here.
Fort William is known as ‘the gateway to Ben Nevis', which is the UK's highest peak. It's also close to Steall Falls– the second highest waterfall in Scotland at 120m and the waterfall in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, in case you're wondering!!
Getting there is about a 2.5 miles walk and takes about 1.5-2 hours depending on how often you stop. It's good for kids, as you can read here.
Scotland Itinerary DAY 3- Harry Potter Time!
Scotland is full of places used in the Harry Potter films. We visited a few of them, all on the way to Mallaig (where the ferry is for the Isle of Skye. In one day we saw:
This is the viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films. You can walk right up to the base of it. You can also ride on the Jacobite Steam train, which is the one used for the film and which goes straight over the viaduct! The train goes from Fort William to Mallaig and does get booked up well in advance, so be sure to book early! We got the drone out and took some amazing shots of the viaduct and Loch Sheil, as you can see in the video above.
This is the loch used as Hogwarts Lake, along with Loch Morar. This is where Buckbeak dips a happy toe (claw?) in the waters in Prisoner of Azkaban.
We parked in the visitor centre on the shores of Loch Shiel, which also allowed a walk up the slope for incredible views of the viaduct, even in the rain!
Loch Eilt, along the same road as the viaduct and Loch Shiel, is where the little island of Eilean na Mòine lies, which played the starring role as the site of Dumbledore's Grave.
We sent the drone up to get a picture of this beautiful island… but alas, Mr WB is NOT a die-hard Harry Potter fan (boo!) and therefore had no idea which island he was meant to be filming. Bless him, at least he tried!
It's about an hour drive from the western end of Loch Ness to Mallaig, which is where the ferry to Skye goes from. You can also drive over the bridge to the Skye- but it's much further north.
Scotland Road Trip Itinerary DAY 4 & 5- Isle of Skye
Search “Isle of Skye” on Google and you'll get pages and pages of blog posts and itineraries, all waxing lyrical about the beauty of Skye. And they're right- it is beautiful. And there is loads to see and do. As long as it's not raining!!
Our Isle of Skye itinerary contains things to do in the sunshine, but also things to do in the rain- as it rained for 48 hours when we visited!
We are not ‘hike whatever the weather' people and we really don't enjoy getting sopping wet climbing a mountain when there's no view anyway, so you might find that itinerary useful too.
Having said that, Skye is beautiful and well worth a trip if you're touring the west coast of Scotland.
Driving Scotland Day 6- Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Ness and up to Thurso
This was one of our longest driving days- about 5 hours and 350km. Leave Skye and head up towards Thurso, stopping at the incredible Eilean Donan Castle on the way. We didn't go inside, as we knew we had a long day ahead of us, but it's beautiful from the outside. There's also a little cafe at the carpark here which does a great coffee!
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
You can't come to Scotland and not stop to see Loch Ness- it's another of the must visit places in Scotland. Loch Ness village itself is VERY touristy. It's ok for young kids, but it's pretty expensive, so if you're on a budget you might want to keep driving and stop at one of the many laybys along the loch.
You can also visit Urquhart castle, which are impressive ruins along the shore of Loch Ness. There is parking here, but it can be limited for Motorhomes, so be prepared to have to park some distance away in high season. Alternatively, why not treat yourself to a boat trip on Loch Ness and be taken there in style!!
Driving Tips for Scotland
Be aware of your fuel levels on this part of the trip- we passed very few fuel stations. We did debate going all around the western edge and completing the NC500, but we only had 10 days for touring Scotland, so we decided to cut across to save time, plus see Loch Ness and to escape the rain on the Isle of Skye!
Did we miss some beautiful views and places by cutting through the middle? Absolutely- but with only just over a week to explore, we had to choose what worked for us. If you have the time, take the slow scenic route in the Highlands.
We used the A87, which passes down the side of Loch Clunie, a hydroelectric dam. It's a beautiful place for a picnic if the weather is pleasant. If you have time, Inverness is definitely worth a visit. Again, we made a compromise and chose to visit Orkney instead- guess we'll just have to do another trip to Scotland!
Highlands Road Trip Day 7 – John o’Groats and Duncansby Stacks
John o'Groats is one of those places which has been on our bucket list for years! It was also one of the main reasons we drove to Scotland- to tick it off the list!
It was great to make it and see the famous post, but, I'll be honest, the place is a little underwhelming! There are a few tourist shops, a harbour and a snack shack- that's about it!
We waited for the post to be clear so we could take photos with our motorbikes… and then we felt a little confused about what to do next.
That's the weirdest thing about travelling- when you finally get to your destination, it can sometimes feel a little hollow. But we were blessed with INCREDIBLE weather at John o'Groats- definitely made up for the misery of Skye!
Whilst we were at John o'Groats, we saw a postcard of the Duncansby stacks, which were apparently just down the road! We'd never heard of them before, but they looked pretty, so we decided to pay them a visit.
They're a little tricky to find but well worth the effort! Basically, head for Duncansby lighthouse and park right next to the lighthouse. Then walk (with the lighthouse on your left) over the field and keep going- you'll see them from the bottom of that field. PLEASE be careful with kids and dogs… it's a sheer cliff and a long drop.
Here's the first EVER video where we flew our drone over the sea… the views of the shoreline and the rocks are incredible.
We stayed at Dunnet Bay campsite near John o'Groats for a couple of nights, which allowed us to ride our motorbikes and leave the motorhome somewhere safe. If you're looking for a beautiful spot to stay, we highly recommend this campsite- lovely wardens, great little shop and stunning location right on the beach!! Just look at this view!!
Day 8 – Orkney mainland
We didn't plan to visit Orkney during our tour of Scotland- and we definitely didn't plan to visit Orkney on our motorbikes.
However, the day after we visited John o'Groats, the weather was still beautiful and we learnt we could take a ferry over for just the day- so we did! It is a beautiful place, although VERY busy in July and full of tourists. Still, if you have the time, you should try to add Orkney into your itinerary. If you don't want to drive, there are coach tours which go all day, so book yourself onto one of them.
Scotland Road Trip Itinerary Day 9- Dunrobin Castle and Aviemore
Dunrobin Castle is possibly one of our favourite castles. It's about a 90-minute drive south from Thurso. It's the largest castle in the Northern Highlands- and set in the most breathtaking scenery! You can pay to walk the gardens, but we decided to press on and head south before the rain closed in. Still, we did stop for a quick drone shot (be careful not to fly over anyone's property if you're flying drones- stay well clear and if possible, stay over the sea.)
We drove to Aviemore for the night, which was another hour or so south. Aviemore is in the Cairngorms National Park and is Scotland's winter sports mecca, but there's plenty to do in the summer too, including a visit to the famous Speyside Distilleries.
Restaurants and shops were open, as were many outdoor activities for all ages. The Aviemore website is a great place to find out more.
Scotland trip Day 10- Edinburgh
Sooo… before we go any further… DO NOT DRIVE YOUR MOTORHOME INTO THE MIDDLE OF EDINBURGH.
Let me repeat that so it sinks in.
DO NOT DRIVE YOUR MOTORHOME INTO THE MIDDLE OF EDINBURGH!!!
We tried it. With a Motorbike trailer on the back. It did not go well. There are NO Motorhome parking spaces near the City Centre. And the streets are narrow and not designed for lorries, let alone Motorhomes! You will not be popular!!
We stopped in Edinburgh for a few hours and, honestly, the only thing we did was see Edinburgh Castle- which is beautiful but left us wanting more. I was gutted as I'd already planned a self-guided Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh– yes, really.
We're already planning a trip back up sometime… just not with the motorhome!! But from what we saw, there are at least 3 days worth of activities in Edinburgh if you have the time.
If you enjoy food- you're in for a real treat- Edinburgh has some FANTASTIC eating places. Here are 10 vegan-friendly restaurants in Edinburgh for everyone to enjoy.
The Perfect Scotland Itinerary
As you've seen, this Scotland driving itinerary can be adapted to suit all tastes, abilities and durations. It can also be suited for all vehicles (although if you're crazy enough to do it on a pushbike, it's going to take a while longer!
Some things you need to know about Scotland before you go.
- Scotland is part of the UK, so they speak English *I really want to insert a bad Scottish joke here… but I'll be good! ;)*
- British Pound is the currency. Don't worry if you get notes saying ‘Bank of Scotland' instead of Bank of England- they are all Pound Sterling (although some places in England get funny about taking Bank of Scotland notes- there's no reason for this; it's perfectly legal tender.)
- There is another language in Scotland called Gaelic (pronounced GAH-LICK) which is technically the National language, but only 1% of the population speak it. You might see some signs in Gaelic around the country, but there will always be an English version too! (It's the same in Wales- see our Wales road trip itinerary ideas here)
- Driving in Scotland isn't any scarier than anywhere else with mountains. They drive on the left, just like the rest of the UK.
- There is no proper border between Scotland and England, so you can explore Scotland from England without taking a passport. We drove right up after our England Road Trip
- Scotland has an amazing law called Right to Roam. It allows you much more freedom to wild camp in your vehicle (with certain restrictions of course.)
Weather in Scotland- is it suitable for a driving holiday?
For us, it rained solidly for 3 days on the west coast- the Isle of Skye was a complete washout, even in July, but up at John o'Groats it was beautiful weather- so we detoured and went up there instead!
My suggestion is to plan your itinerary on Google Maps, and then be as flexible as possible to work around the weather. This is obviously easier if you are touring Scotland in a camper, instead of driving in a car and using hotels, but do the best you can.
The weather in Scotland can change very quickly, so please dress appropriately and take suitable clothing if hiking etc.
What is the best month to visit Scotland?
If you're driving in Scotland, the best months to visit are April- October. Roads should be free of snow then and the temperature is warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities. Our favourite time to visit Scotland is June or October. (Want more ideas for October travel? Here are 15 of the best places to enjoy Europe in October)
When is peak tourist season in Scotland?
UK school holidays are July and August. I would try to avoid these if you possibly can.
Where is the most beautiful place in Scotland?
There are too many to pick just one and a lot will depend on the weather. Personally, I loved visiting Loch Lomond and also Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan viaduct- but that was because I'm a Harry Potter nerd. The Scottish highlands are always breathtaking- you need to include them on your Scotland road trip!
What is the best way to travel around Scotland?
In my opinion, a road trip holiday is the best way to see Scotland- and by that I mean a self-drive holiday, not a tour. Having your own vehicle allows you to set your own itinerary, plan your visits, pick the best roads in Scotland and generally be more in control. Have a motorhome or campervan will further increase your flexibility and allow you to choose the scenic route based on weather or interest, not on hotels you've booked.
How far are the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh?
Did you know there is actually a place called Highland in the Scottish Highlands?? Driving time from Edinburgh to Highland is 3 hours and 15 minutes (157 miles)
How long does it take to drive to Scotland?
Well, this obviously depends on where you're starting from (!) but driving to Scotland (from London to Edinburgh) takes about 7 and a half hours.
If you've been road tripping in Cornwall and want to drive from Lands End to John o'Groats, it will take you about 15 hours non-stop.
How long does it take to tour Scotland?
As long as you have- or as long as you let it!! 🙂 If you are lucky enough to have longer than a couple of weeks to explore Scotland, there are LOADS of places to visit you can add into your itinerary.
Have you visited Scotland? Where was your favourite place? If you haven't, where would you like to go first?
How else can I help you today??
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