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.
- 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 off at the small kiltmaker's cottage, signposted off the road near 4 Luss. At 5 Inveruglas, just after the hydro-electric pipelines, park up for more loch views.
- After 8 Bridge of Orchy, the A82 heads out across 9 Rannoch Moor, one of western Europe's largest remaining wilderness. Barren, spectacular landscapes!
- At the 10 Kings House Hotel, head into the lounge and admire the view through the picture window - framed like a portrait is the view out to Buachaille Etive Mor, the great herdsman of Etive, an archetypal mountain.
- The road descends into 11 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 14 Glenfinnan Monument - an atmospheric spot at sunset. Optionally carry on to 15 Arisaig (interesting museum), view the 16 White Sands of Morar, or visit the port at 17 Mallaig, with options to continue on ferries to the islands, including the 18 Small Isles.
- Backtrack to the A82 and take the A87 to 19 Kyle of Lochalsh. Cross the bridge to the 20 Isle of Skye for a tour of the island.
- Head north via 22 Gairloch and 23 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 24 Achiltibuie.
- Return south and eastwards along the A835 toward the highland capital of Inverness. Perhaps stop in on the Victorian spa resort of 25 Strathpeffer for a break to enjoy the architecture.
- 26 Muir of Ord, on the Black Isle (so named for its peaty soil) offers excellent (and free) distillery tours.
- In 27 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 28 Moray Firth offer dolphin spotting boat trips, or visit the 29 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 30 Elgin see the statue of the Wolf of Badenoch.
- Head south along the route of the River Spey into the depths of 31 Speyside. Stop at 32 Craigellachie for a drink in the hotel's whisky room, then on to 33 Dufftown for a free tour of the Glenffidich Distillery or the Speyside Cooperage.
- Continuing south the placenames read like labels in a whisky cabinet - 34 Glenlivet, 35 , 36 Knockando, 37 Tomintoul.
- Down again from the hills and you're at 38 Balmoral Castle near 39 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 40 Ballater and take a walk through the Balmoral Estate to the summit of 41 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 44 Glamis Castle (pronounced "Glaarms"), childhood home of the Queen Mother and a great castle to tour. Returning back onto the A93 you pass the 45 Meikleour Beech Hedge, the tallest row of trees in Britain.
- From 46 Perth continue down the A9 to 47 Stirling - turn off beforehand into 48 Bridge of Allan and visit the 49 Wallace Monument, a grand memorial to William Wallace. (And learn how inaccurate Braveheart really was!)
- Visit 50 Edinburgh, Scotland's capital. Take a walk up 51 Calton Hill to view the city, see the 52 Old Town around the 53 Grassmarket (try the eerie pubs) and the 54 New Town just to the north of 55 Princes' Street - together a World Heritage Site, or walk up 56 Arthur's Seat - an extinct volcano and now a public park.
- Finally, an hour's drive back to 57 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 - 58 House For An Art Lover, 59 Glasgow School of Art, or the 60 Hill House at 61 Helensburgh are a good starting place. For some Victorian splendour visit the free museum at the 62 People's Palace at 63 Glasgow Green, or take in the free museums at 64 Kelvingrove.
Other than basic precautions like locking your car and not leaving items in view, the Scottish Highlands are safe and friendly.