It’s time for the outdoor lovers and adventure seekers to explore the magic of a Scottish road trip. Packed with classic whiskey, detailed glimpses of history, and anecdotes of eloping couples, any of these road trips in Scotland makes a worthy day tour. Some of these routes cover the lush and magnificent greens of Cairngorms National Park that also boasts charming wildlife. Some treasures must be trekked through woods or reached by boat. You might also come across a famous train from a wizard film or a remarkable site from a drama series. Check out our list of the 10 best scenic drives in Scotland, UK.
1. North and West Highland Route
The North and West Highland Route may be counted among the wildest and longest scenic drives in Scotland. Stock up the bags at Ullapool before hitting the gas. This route involves the rugged coastlines of Coigach, where you might need to walk or bike to brave narrower paths. Lochinver, a fishing community familiar to tourists, makes a good stopover spot with hidden gems – beaches and lochs. These are landmarks you can’t miss – the legendary Smoo Cave, the artisan community of Balnakeil Craft Village, and The Castle of May. The trip concludes at the far northwestern point, John O’Groats, where wanderers get rewarded with panoramic views.
2. Moray Firth Route
Moray Firth is the gateway to a popular character in fiction, the Loch Ness Monster! The triangular North Sea inlet is also the key to the Urquhart Castle that has dramatic ruins of medieval times and an attractive site overlooking the Loch Ness waters. This road adventure is best enjoyed for several hours – you’ll be grateful for the extra time to wander around the waterfalls, the French-style Dunrobin Castle, and distilleries like Glen Moray at Elgin. Their whiskey is a luxury that tourists pine for long after the drive. Late summer might be the golden time to schedule this trip for a chance to see leaping salmons.
3. Argyll Coastal Route
Ready for a big and bold adventure? Argyll Coastal Route is filled with shoreline sceneries, delicious seafood, and interesting spots to keep you hopping around for days. The exploration sets off from the scenic An Ceann Mor at Loch Lomond. Along the way, you’ll encounter Inveraray Castle, former home of the influential Clan Campbell and now the Duke of Argyll’s residence. This 129-mile (207 km) drive is mostly shaped along the coastlines, so visiting nearby islands like Inchcailloch and Iona is also a popular activity. The trip officially ends at United Kingdom’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, a fitting adventure finale. At this point, you’re already near Jacobite Steam Train – a coveted landmark among Harry Potter fans with a scenery enjoyed by all. This landmark is very popular, so don’t forget to book your train tickets ahead.
4. Fife Coastal Route
Fife Coastal Route hides a variety of sights to see. It has beaches, forests, old castles, bustling fishing villages, and diverse wildlife. From bridges to pretty landscapes, this 77-mile (124 km) long route makes a perfect Instagram shot or postcard. The route starting point itself offers a load of interesting spots – the Kincardine Bridge and the Devilla Forest. The forest hosts red squirrels, an explosive research station, and church ruins. St. Andrews hides a magnet spot for passionate golf fans – British Golf Museum and The Home of the Golf, the oldest known golf course in the world.
5. Borders Historic Route
In Scotland, a road trip is worth the drive even up to the last Scottish mile. Borders Historic Route – the 89 miles (143 km) long route at the land’s edge – stands as proof. Its wondrous valleys, hills, rivers, and lush woodlands look like they were plucked from fantasy. The history surrounding these borders is as rich as the sights like Abbotsford, grand residence of late novelist Sir Walter Scott. Along the ride, adventurers get an endless to-do list — catch some festivals, watch a rugby game, visit a mining museum, look over River Tweed, and bring the kids to enjoy Fort Douglas. Lastly, any wild passerby must not miss Gretna Green village and explore runaway love history at the Blacksmiths Shop. Touching the famous anvil might just boost your chances of finding a runaway partner.
6. Forth Valley Tourist Route
This route is short compared to other trips on this list, with only a 43-mile (69 km) distance. But, it’s still packed with sights and excitement! Start at the iconic Forth Bridge, then take an afternoon tea aboard the vintage Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway. Along the way, there are historic ruins to explore and canal boat trips to take. Once your trip concludes at the Stirling Castle, drive a little further to The Gallery Restaurant and experience a three-course meal served by Forth Valley College students.
7. Clyde Valley Tourist Route
Here’s an even shorter route that’s suitable if you’re pressed for time. The trip takes off at M74 and covers a span of 38 miles (61 km) to Hamilton. Chatelherault Country Park, one of the prettiest attractions along the way, served as a summer lodge for the Duke of Hamilton, but now rings bells as a popular wedding venue. Make sure to visit the 18th-century cotton mill industry in New Lanark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Near Lanark Rd, you may take a breather and enjoy a loaded brunch at The Oven at Overton Farm, a tourist favorite for fresh and homemade portions.
8. Galloway Tourist Route
Right where Borders Historic Route ended lies another adventure packed with water sports, majestic red kites, and a glimpse of the life of Scotland’s known national poet. If you’re looking for the less crowded drive without loss of things to do, here’s the route for you. Take a boat to see the medieval Threave Castle and watch red kites flying high and swooping down gracefully. Bring comfortable clothes when you pass by Loch Ken for exciting water activities for the family. Finally, let Robert Burns Birthplace Museum give this 92-mile (148 km) adventure a fitting close.
9. Deeside Tourist Route
Deeside is one jam-packed adventure through the Cairngorms National Park, with its sights, hidden delicacies to taste, and royal histories to explore. After taking in the sight of the charming Balmoral Castle, stop by Royal Lochnagar Distillery nearby. Deeside Route also passes by Drum Palace and Scone Palace, where some of the significant historical figures lived. If you want the perfect trip finale in Aberdeen, book early tickets at His Majesty’s Theater.
10. Highland Tourist Route
Elements of Moray Firth and Deeside routes merge in Scotland’s most well-known road trip – the Highland Tourist Route. It hosts endless outdoor thrills, numerous castles, and the most breathtaking views. Like Deeside, Highland also covers a part of the largest national park in the United Kingdom, the jaw-dropping Cairngorms. Gardens and castles including Gordon, Drum, and Ballindalloch will put visitors in a historic spell. For outdoor adventurers needing that highland thrill, The Lecht 2090 offers snow sports, sledging, and mountain biking activities. In this popular Highland route, prepare to be charmed by grumpy-looking Scottish wildcats, eagles, and osprey nestlings.