Scotland is one of the best countries in the world to take a road trip. Here are some of my favourite routes, many of them easily linkable for longer trips.
Note: Place names located above the central belt of Scotland have been translated into Scottish Gaelic to help with navigation.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
1. Ayr → Turnberry (Ayrshire, A719)
As you leave the town of Ayr (Inbhir Àir, “Mouth of the River Ayr”), head south on the A719 and visit the birthplace of Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous bard. Jump back on the coastal main road and check out the Electric Brae, or Croy Brae as it’s known locally. The hill is an optical illusion where you appear to be going uphill when actually you’re traveling down. Next, stop at Culzean (pronounced “Culain”) Castle and Country Park, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower had an apartment during the Second World War. Finish at Turnberry and enjoy a walk down the magnificent beach bordered by a championship golf course.
2. Fort William → Inverness (A82)
Follow the Caledonian Canal north from Fort William on the A82. The canal links the lochs of the Great Glen to form a maritime route from west to east, precluding the need to sail round the often stormy seas off the north coast. Stop at the Commando Memorial just north of Spean Bridge, which commemorates the men of the original British Commando Forces of World War II. Look back south and on a clear day you’ll see Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain.
Continue north along the banks of Loch Lochy (Loch Lochaidh) and Loch Oich (Loch Omhaich) to lunch in Fort Augustus. As you go further north aside Loch Ness, keep an eye out for the elusive monster, Nessie. Stop at the visitor centre just after Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit (Druim na Drochaid) to learn about the hunt for the monster. Continue north along the loch to Inverness, where the canal finally joins the sea spilling into the Moray Firth.
3. Crail → Elie (Fife, A917)
Drive southwest along the A917 and visit the fishing villages of the East Neuk of Fife. Don’t miss the Anstruther Fish Bar down at the harbour, one of the best chippies in Scotland. Journey on to Pittenweem and St Monans, finishing up at Ship Inn in Elie, which overlooks the natural harbour.
4. Balloch → Inveraray (Argyllshire, A82/A83)
Cruise north up the “bonnie banks” of Loch Lomond (Loch Laomainn) and turn left at Tarbet (An Tairbeart) onto the A83. Climb up through Glen Croe (Gleann a’ Chrò) and stop at the summit of the Rest and Be Thankful. Look back down the valley to view the old road twisting its way up the pass. Drop down off the top and stop at Loch Fyne Oysters to enjoy some of the very best of Scottish seafood. Finish up at the wedding cake, Inveraray Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Argyll.
5. Craignure → Tobermory (Isle of Mull, A849/B8035/B8073)
Take the ferry from Oban (An t-Òban) to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. Drive north and turn left at Salen (An t-Sàilean) onto the B8035, then right onto the B8073 up the northwest coast of the island. Stop off and take the pedestrian ferry over to Ulva (Ulbha) Island for a pint of prawns at the Boathouse. Continue to Calgary Bay, where island emigrants boarded ships for the New World after being evicted from their crofts during the Highland clearances. Enjoy a bracing swim in the Atlantic off the stunning beach. Journey on to Dervaig (Dearbhaig) and finish up at Tobermory (Tobar Mhoire), with its multicoloured houses. Don’t miss a pint in the Mishnish bar on the harbour front.
6. Crianlarich → Ballachulish (A82)
Glen CoeHighland, United KingdomOut of this world view of the Scottish Highlands in the vicinity of Ben Nevis. If it’s cloudy or foggy when you arrive, just wait it out to see some of the greenest mountains on the planet. #free #hiking #mountains #views
Follow the West Highland Way (Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar) north to Tyndrum (Taigh an Droma) past the Green Welly shop. Climb up onto the moon-like landscape of the Great Moor of Rannoch, past the ski centre, before dropping down through the stunning scenery of Glen Coe (Gleann Comhan), site of the massacre of the MacDonalds by the English. Take time to stop and try to spot the many climbers and walkers on the surrounding Munros (mountains reaching over 3,000 feet).
7. Fort William → Mallaig (Inverness-shire, A830)
Take the A830 west from Fort William along the Road to the Isles. Stop at Glenfinnan (Gleann Fhionghain) to admire the railway viaduct made famous in a number of Harry Potter films, particularly The Chamber of Secrets. Walk down to the shores of Loch Shiel (Loch Seile) and view the monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie called for the local clansmen to assemble in 1745, proclaiming the throne of Great Britain to be denounced and rightfully returned to his family, the Stuarts. Continue on to Mallaig (Malaig), where the road finishes at the ferry to the Isle of Skye (Eilean a’ Cheò).
8. Armadale → Elgol (Isle of Skye, A851)
Take the ferry from Mallaig over the sea to Skye. Visit Grumpy George’s shop on the right as you come off the ferry and say hi to his parrots, then drive north up the A851 till you reach the A87. Turn left, then left again after two miles onto the B8083. Follow this challenging road all the way to the end at Elgol (Ealaghol). Park and take in the views south to the islands of Eigg (Eige), Rhum (Rùm), and Canna (Canaigh). Grab the picnic and catch the boat across the bay, then walk up to Loch Coruisk (Coire Uisg) into the natural amphitheatre of the Black Cuillin and marvel at the scale of the mountains.
9. Selkirk → Moffat (Scottish Borders, A708)
From Selkirk, cruise up the side of St Mary’s Loch, at the head of the Yarrow Valley in the heart of the Scottish Southern Uplands. Stop at Tibbie Shiels Inn for an excellent pub lunch. The surrounding area forms a nature reserve spanning 922 hectares, owned by the National Trust for Scotland. To work off lunch, climb up the pass and drop down to view one of Scotland’s finest waterfalls, the Grey Mare’s Tail. The Southern Uplands are a wonderland for botanics, bird watchers, and hill walkers.
10. Invergarry → Plockton (A87)
Leave Invergarry (Inbhir Garadh) west along the north side of Loch Garry (Loch Garraidh). As you climb up from the loch, stop at the viewpoint and drink in the view west up the glen. Turn left past Loch Cluanie through Glen Shiel (Gleann Seile), where the Five Sisters ridge (three of which are Munros) dominates the view to your right. Drop down to Shiel Bridge, and at the head of Loch Duich (Loch Dubhthaich) is the iconic Eilean Donan castle built on a small island. After Kirkton, turn right off the A87 onto an unclassified road over to Plockton, which fringes a natural harbour just inside Loch Carron (Loch Carrann). Try either the Plockton Hotel or the Plockton Inn for excellent seafood.
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