I think I have never been to one single place as often as to Scotland. This Northern part of Great Britain simply has so much to offer! Surreal landscapes like the Isle of Skye, cool cities like Edinburgh, crazy traditions like the Loony Dook and a nice pub on every other corner. Scotland is amazing and perfect for a road trip – a tour of Scotland means pure adventure!
Road trip Scotland: what you can experience on a tour of Scotland!
The land of the Scots – perfect for a little road trip!
When you think of a road trip you probably think of countries like Canada, New Zealand or Australia. All pretty great countries but pretty far away too. But there also is a little region in the North of Europe that is just as suitable for a road trip: Scotland!
Scotland is not far away and has two bigger airports, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. Thanks to airlines like EasyJet or Ryanair you can fly from Germany to Scotland and back for under 30,00 € and will be there in around 2 hours.
Once you are there renting a car is really simple, rates are 8,00 € a day on average. And the best part: camping out in the wild is still permitted in Scotland! So just bring a tent and find yourself a secluded place where you can sleep out in the open. Alternatively you can rent a little mobile home and drive from campsite to campsite. There are plenty of places where you can stay with your campervan on your tour of Scotland.
Or you take a little more time and drive your own car to Scotland. There is for example a daily ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle which is right on the Scottish border and a three hour drive from Edinburgh. The fares for the crossing start at 179,00 € for two people plus vehicle. If you don’t mind the long drive then you can also drive the 50 km Eurotunnel connecting France and England, you then cross England until you finally get to Scotland.
Beware: Traffic in all of Great Britain is left-sided which is especially bewildering if you are traveling in your own car where you sit on the wrong side.
The best part of a road trip through Scotland however is that you can experience so much in so little time! You can easily do an entire tour of Scotland in a week. If you have more time on your hands then you can do a trip to the Isle of Skye or all the way up North to Thurso.
Edinburgh: starting point of your tour of Scotland
The best place to start your road trip through Scotland from is Edinburgh, because there are direct flights into Edinburgh from eight German airports. You also have a larger selection of car rental companies and thus it is easier to get a better price. You can pick up your car right at the airport and immediately start the tour or you head into the city first, spend two days there and then start out on the road trip. Whichever way, you should definitely plan some time for this cool city!
Enjoy the best view from Arthur’s Seat
When you are in Edinburgh you should absolutely hike up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a small mountain of volcanic origin and only 20 minutes away from the city center. Best to come early in the morning when it is not too full yet, or early evening and watch the sun set behind the city. You can either hike up to Arthur’s Seat’s peak which takes around 30 minutes or leaving Edinburgh you head left up the Salisbury Crags. This place is less run over and the view is just as good!
Explore Edinburgh on foot
When walking through the city you normally will pass all the cool places on your own. Stroll through the student neighborhood and stop by Bobby’s. If you stroke his nose you are sure to return to Edinburgh! Then you can walk through Greyfriars Kirkyard and to the Grassmarket.
You should of course have a look at Edinburgh’s landmark: Edinburgh Castle. Carlton Hill from where you have a cool view of the city and the castle is also worth the ascent. And from the Princess Street gardens you have a great view of the castle from below.
If you enjoy being up and outside then you can go for a several hour walk along the Bach Water of Leith. From the Dean Gardens you can make your way to the sea in Leith. You will pass by nice residential neighborhoods and can also stop by the botanical garden.
Time for coffee and tea!
In Scotland too you will not get past the typical British tea time! Casa Angelina, a small vintage cafe on London Street, has the best scones and goodies. And if you like coffee as much as I do then you have to go to Brew Lab! This super cool cafe lies in the heart of the student neighborhood and makes what is in my opinion one of the best flat whites in the world! This place gets pretty crowded, especially on weekends, but if you find a seat, then you get to sit on big leather sofas.
Glasgow: Scotland’s underestimated city!
Depending on what route you want to drive Glasgow could also be a good starting point for the trip. There are direct flights to Glasgow from Berlin and Düsseldorf for example. The city has a very different character from Edinburgh, a very own charm.
It used to be a city for workers and you will find mostly old industrial areas with warehouses and huge manufacturing plants. These are slowly being turned into really cool restaurants, bars and cafes and create an amazing atmosphere. Compared to Edinburgh, which will feel more like a quaint little sleepy town Glasgow feels almost cosmopolitan and pretty lively.
This is because of university and the many students that live in Glasgow. Most visitors only come for a few hours or a day, so you will meet mostly locals in the restaurants and bars. Do give Glasgow a chance, don’t just pass this cool city up on your road trip through Scotland!
Favorite places in Glasgow
Glasgow’s student neighborhood which is situated West of the city center is super cool. You immediately feel like you entered a Harry Potter movie here, the university buildings actually served as inspiration to Joanne K. Rowling. Every Sunday there is a cool market in Ashton Lane close to the main building and from Kelvingrove Park which is right around the corner you have a stunning view of the entire city!
The best coffee and delicious cake are only a few minutes walking away at Café Artisan Roast on Gibson Street. The best area for going out at night is around Merchant City in the East of the city center. It gets pretty busy especially on weekends when Weegiies (Glasgow people) meet up for dinner and a few drinks in a cool atmosphere. Bar Home for instance is super chilled and serves great burgers!
The three best routes for your tour of Scotland
There are several cool routes that work well for a round trip. Which one you choose depends on how much time you have and what you want to experience. If you have less than a week but definitely want to go to the Highlands and visit famous Loch Ness then the best way to drive is through Glencoe and back through Cairngorms National Park. You want to travel mostly along the Scottish coast and see some of the cities in the region? Then skip the real Highlands and drive through Inverness and Aberdeen! And if you are in for a proper adventure and have at least 12 days then you should definitely head to the Isle of Skye and further North to Thurso!
Tour of Scotland route 1: Highlands adventure
- Stops: Edinburgh, Stirling, Glencoe, Inverness, Aviemore, Killiecrankie, Edinburgh
- Highlights: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, Cairngorms National Park
- Possible add-ons: Hike to Ben Nevis’s peak, Isle of Sky
- Total length: 580 km
- Time: minimum 4 days
The first route takes you from Edinburgh via Stirling and Glencoe up to Inverness and back to Edinburgh through Cairngorms National Park. The cool thing about this route is that you see pretty much all of Scotland’s highlights! Starting with Glen Coe valley with its amazing scenery to Great Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis to the famous Loch Ness lake. Cairngorms National Park is great for hiking and provides so many great views! This route is 580 kilometers long.
Segment 1: Edinburgh – Stirling – Glencoe
You will need around one hour from Edinburgh to Stirling by car. In Stirling you can make a short stop and look at the old fortress. It is located on a little hill and thanks to its strategic position played an important role in Scotland’s history. Just after Stirling you can make another stop at Doune Castle, after that the Highlands and your actual road trip adventure begins! The drive to Glencoe is around two hours but better to plan a little more time to be able to relax from time to time and take in the wonderful landscape.
All in all you will be traveling around 200 kilometers and if you leave in the morning you still have the entire afternoon to explore Glen Coe and maybe go for a little hike. You can for instance hike to the Lost Valley. The path is pretty rocky but the views and the surrounding landscape are unbelievable! In the evening you can really get comfortable at Glencoe House*, an old, beautiful castle-like house with nice rooms and a fireplace. If you are looking for an unusual accommodation then River Beds Lodges* is right for you!
Suggestion: If you have a few more days then you can drive to the Isle of Skye in only 3,5 hours from Glencoe or Mandally on the A87. Stunning landscapes, old fortresses and some great hiking trails await you – more on that later!
Segment 2: Glencoe – Loch Ness – Inverness
The next morning you can drive on to Loch Ness passing Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s highest mountain. Urquhart Castle, an old ruin or the truly beautiful Aldourie Castle are worth a visit. But the best thing to do here is a boat tour either in a regular boat or for the more adventurous in a speedboat! In the afternoon you then continue to Inverness which takes around 30 minutes.
Inverness is a nice little city and with 50.000 inhabitants it is the largest town in Northern Scotland. In summer you can take a boat out to the North Sea from here and with a little luck will find dolphins! The best place to stay here are the modern Highland Apartments* right in the city on the Ness river. The castle of Inverness is only a few minutes walking distance from here.
Suggestion: If you enjoy hiking then you can stay another night in Glencoe and hike Ben Nevis the next day. The most popular hiking trails are the so-called Tourist Route and Mountain Track. You hike around 17 kilometers and climb up to 1.344 meters. The visitor centre at Glen Nevis is the starting point for the hike, plan around 8 hours time to complete it.
Segment 3: Inverness – Aviemore – Cairngorms National Park
From Inverness you head out in the morning again and 45 minutes later reach Aviemore. From here you can set out on various hikes and bike tours in Cairngorms National Park. Find out which tour is the best for you at VisitScotland Information Centre! After a day out and in Great Britain’s largest and youngest national park you can unwind at The Old Minister’s House*.
Segment 4: Aviemore – Killiecrankie – Edinburgh
From Aviemore you continue to Killiecrankie. You will need a little more than an hour. When you arrive in Killiecrankie an amazing adventure awaits you: a bungee jump from the bridge spanning the Killiecrankie Pass! I jumped twice, forwards once and backwards once which is even more intense! Then you can drive back to Edinburgh in around two hours. You either stay a little in this cute city or you check out Glasgow and fly home from there.
Tour of Scotland route 2: coastline and history
- Stops: Edinburgh, Braemar, Inverness, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Aberdeen, Stonehaven, Dundee, Perth, Stirling, Glasgow
- Highlights: Cairngorms National Park, coastline, fortresses and castles of Scotland
- Total length: 770 km
- Time: at least 1 week
The second route also takes you through Cairngorms National Park to Inverness and then back to Glasgow along Scotland’s entire East coast! You will be passing several cities, castles and historical places and get to learn more about Scotland’s history. Plan at least a week for this route to have enough time for each town. You will be traveling a total of 770 kilometers.
Segment 1: Edinburgh – Braemar
The first segment is the trip from Edinburgh to Braemar which takes around 2,5 hours. Similar to Aviemore on the other side several hiking and biking trails into the Cairngorms National Park start off here. Depending on when you arrive you can go for a little hike in the afternoon or you allocate the next morning for that, because the segment for the next day is pretty short. Again, you can get all the information you need to decide which tour is best for you at the VisitScotland Visitor Centre.
Segment 2: Braemar – Inverness
Braemar to Inverness is around two hours by car. The city has a lot to offer culturally, it lies right on the Ness river and on the sea at the same time. By the way, Macbeth used to reign at the castle of Inverness! For a rush of adrenaline you can go rock climbing on the cliffs of Loch Duntelchaig a little South of Inverness. And if you do decide to make a trip out to the Highlands then this is still possible from here.
Segment 3: Inverness – Elgin – Fraserburgh
From Inverness you continue to Elgin which is about an hour away. The ruins of the Elgin Cathedral really are worth a stop, Brodie Castle is pretty cool too. From Elgin you continue some one and a half hours along the coast to Fraserburgh. Definitely stop at Pennan. This little town lies right on the sea underneath a cliff and looks incredibly cool!
Fraserburgh is a small sleepy harbor town with a really nice beach. You can go for a walk along the shore heading towards Inverallochy and back through the backlands or gallop in the sand. You should also have a look at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Scotland’s first light house is at home here! And for sleeping try The Saltoun Inn*, cozy yet modern.
Segment 4: Fraserburgh – Peterhead – Aberdeen
You will need around 30 minutes from Fraserburgh to Peterhead. Driving along the coast you keep passing beautiful beaches and should plan a little more time for stops on the way. With a little luck you might even encounter dolphins and whales depending on the season! Even killer whales have been sighted at St Combs and Rattray!
Peterhead itself is known for fishing and is one of the busiest and most efficient fishing ports in Europe. Here you can get delicious fresh fish at the daily fish market. South of the city you have Slains Castle that was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Definitely stop here, the castle ruins by Cruden Bay are pretty cool!
From there it is another 45 minutes to Aberdeen where there is a lot to see. You can for example walk to the so-called Castle Gate where you have Aberdeens Market Cross or you visit Marischal College and the King’s College Chapel of Aberdeen’s university.
A little under an hour away from Aberdeen you come to Craigievar Castle which also is worth a visit! This pink tower castle looks very different from other fortresses and castles in Scotland and is surrounded by a beautiful park.
Segment 5: Aberdeen – Stonehaven – Dundee – Perth
From Aberdeen you continue to Stonehaven and Dundee and on to Perth. Shortly after Stonehaven you should definitely stop by Dunnottar Castle, these castle ruins are situated nicely on a protruding cliff right on the seaside. From there you need another 1,5 hours along the coast to Dundee. Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland, stop by The Dundee Law and enjoy the stunning view.
Dundee to Perth is another 40 minutes. In Perth you can have a look at the Scone Palace or Scone Abbey. All kings and queens of Scotland were crowned here on the ‘Stone of Destiny’. Drummond Castle, some 45 minutes outside of Perth is also cool. A good place to stay in Perth is The Townhouse* for example.
Segment 6: Perth – Stirling – Glasgow
The last segment takes you from Perth to Stirling first, which is a 45 minute drive. You can make a short stop at Stirling Castle, another 40 minutes later you arrive in Glasgow. Take at least two days time for Glasgow, explore the cool student neighborhood around the university. If you have a little more time you can also make a trip out to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. We did a little bicycle tour around the lake once and had a lot of fun doing that!
An especially cool place to spend the night in Glasgow is CitizenM*!
Tour of Scotland route 3: Northern adventure
- Stops: Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Skye, Ullapool, Thurso, Inverness, Elgin, Ballater, Perth, Edinburgh
- Highlights: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Isle of Sky, Sandwood Bay, Cairngorms National Park
- Total length: 1300 km
- Time: minimum 12 days
If you have a lot of time and want to see the real Scotland then this third route is the one for you! It takes you from Edinburgh via Glasgow, Loch Lomond and Glencoe to Skye. From there you continue along the West coast via Ullapool all the way up North to Thurso and back via Inverness, Elgin and Ballater to Edinburgh. You should plan two weeks for this trip, 12 days minimum to really have enough time for every stop. The entire route is 1300 km!
Segment 1: (Edinburgh) – Glasgow – Glencoe
It is best you drive from Edinburgh right to Glasgow and start your tour in Scotland’s largest and Great Britain’s third largest city. The drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow is around 1,5 hours, you can also fly directly into Glasgow and pick up your rental car there. From Glasgow you can drive to Glencoe via Loch Lomond in around 2,5 hours. If you like to hike you can take an extra day and drive into Trossachs National Park.
Segment 2: Glencoe – Isle of Skye
At Glencoe the Glen Coe Valley and Ben Nevis await you. From Glencoe you continue to Skye. You can drive either via Glenfinnan and Armadale or via Invergarry and Kyle of Lochalsh. The former is a four hour drive, the latter will take around three and a half hours. Definitely take a few days time for the isle of Skye, you should have at least two days for the adventures that await you here! A hike on Quiraing is especially nice and will blow you away with the stunning views! A really nice place to spend the night on Skye is at Colbost at the Hillstone Lodge*, Springburn Cottage* and Grants House by Carbost are also good.
Suggestion: These are the best hikes on Skye!
Segment 3: Isle of Skye – Ullapool
From Skye you need around three hours and fifteen minutes via Achnasheen to Ullapool. But take a little more time than that for this segment because you find yourself in the midst of the Highlands and will be having amazing views all over! Half an hour before Ullapool you have the Stac Pollaidh mountain where a hike with the most beautiful views in Scotland awaits you! Best to drive to the parking lot by the little street to Achiltibuie and start your adventure. The hike up Stac Pollaidh takes two to four hours on average. You can stay overnight in Ullapool at Làrach an t-Seann Talla*.
Segment 4: Ullapool – Thurso
From Ullapool you keep to the coast until you reach Scotland’s and thus obviously Great Britain’s northernmost city Thurso. This is a three and a half hour drive but you should plan for a stop: after around one and a half hours you reach Blairmore where you can park your car and depart on a four to five hour hike to Sandwood Bay – the beach here is considered one of the most beautiful in Great Britain! Blairmore to Thurso is another two and a half hours.
20 minutes from Thurso you have the Castle of Mey with its beautiful gardens. When driving out there you can also make a short stop at the bay of Castletown. And if you have always wanted to spend the night in a castle then you can do so at Ackergill Tower Castle* which is around thirty minutes along the coast from the Castle of Mey or thirty minutes from Thurso!
Segment 4: Thurso – Inverness
From Thurso it is two hours and twenty minutes on the A9 to Inverness and all along the way you keep passing beautiful beaches like Bora Beach. With a little luck you can see dolphins, minke whales and even seals here! Dunrobin Castle is also worth a stop, which looks like it comes from a fairy tale and is surrounded by a nice park!
Segment 5: Inverness – Ballater
From Inverness to Ballater via Carrbridge is a two hour drive. Again you should take a little time here to go for a hike or bicycle tour in Cairngorms National Park. By the way, there is a super cool place to stay in Baltimore: the Auld Kirk*. Here you sleep blissfully in a remodeled church! If you prefer things more cozy and normal you can drive to Aboyne which is 15 minutes away and stay in either Struan Hall* or Lys-Na-Greyne*.
Segment 6: Ballater – Perth – Edinburgh
The last leg of the trip takes you back to Edinburgh via Perth. If you don’t stop at all you will need a little under three hours for the drive. In Edinburgh you can hand over your rental car again and should give yourself at least two days time for the city – it is among my favorite cities in Europe! Nice places to stay are for instance Apartment Old Edinburgh* in the student neighborhood or in this apartment* close to the Grassmarket or this* one.
Your next adventure already awaits you on your round trip to Scotland!
Scotland is one of my absolute favorite places in Europe and really has a lot to offer! Not just the landscape blows me away time and time again, the Scots themselves are great people! And the best part: it is super fast and easy to get to Scotland from Germany and yet you feel like you have entered another world. In my opinion Scotland can really keep up with other impressive countries like New Zealand or Iceland and thus is the perfect country for a short road trip. Find the best route for yourself and set off to Scotland for a round trip!
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