Road trips in Scotland: six of the best Scottish drives

Road trips in Scotland: six of the best Scottish drives
With its stunning lochs, mountain trails, historic cities and charming coastal paths, Scotland is a road trip lover’s paradise – home to some of the UK’s most rewarding drives.

With such a diverse range of landscapes packed in, it pays to plan your pilgrimage of Scottish scenery before setting off.

Not sure where to start? Fear not, we’ve picked out six of our favourite routes for starters. Have you tried any of these?

The Bealach Na Ba (Lochcarron to Applecross)

Best road trips in Scotland

For a fairly short yet breathtakingly beautiful and camera-worthy drive in the north west of Scotland, look no further than the zig-zag route known as the Bealach Na Ba.

Starting in the sleepy village of Lochcarron, the A896 eventually turns into the Applecross pass as it winds its way – at almost Munro height – towards coastal serenity.

The pay-off, a jaw-dropping view out over turquoise Applecross Bay and back over Loch Kishorn, is more than worth the effort, and the route’s mountainous views once earned it the non-too-shabby title of “Best Drive” by National Geographic.

Do prepare, though, for its severe hairpin bends and harsh gradients. Your all-important pre-journey checks are an absolute must.

Edinburgh to St Andrews

Best road trips in Scotland

Notable for its incorporation of the Forth Road Bridge, this north-easterly drive makes for an intriguing hour and a half – also passing by Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy on its way up to coastal St Andrews.

On a sunny day, the east coast road through the Kingdom of Fife guarantees beautiful vistas, particularly on its meander up the coastal A915 by the Coaltown of Wemyss.

Stopping off? Golf enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice (after all, the route does end up at the ‘Home of Golf’), or for something just as authentic, the fish and chips at Anstruther are hard to beat.

As for the Bridge, it’s been toll-free since 2008, so you can enjoy the most exciting stretch of A90 without added expense.

Glenelg to Skye

Road trips in Scotland

In terms of getting that unrivalled feeling of complete freedom, it’s hard to see too far past the A87 drive from mainland-hugging Glenelg over to the rugged, spectacular island.

As you follow the Kylerhea straits, keeping an eye out for bathing seals and water-bound otters, you’re met with a choice of options for your passage to Skye.

For maximum enjoyment and authenticity, take the Glenachulish – the only manually operated turntable ferry in the country. It won’t get you there as quickly as the road bridge from Kyle of Lochash, but we’re assuming you’re in no great rush anyway.

Once you’ve made it over, there’s endless beauty to digest, none more so than via the lush lochs of Ainort, Siligachan and Portree, to name but a few on the island’s long east coast. And you’ve probably already earmarked the Talisker distillery and amazing Dunvegan Castle as things to explore.

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Balloch and the Trossachs

Road trips in Scotland

Many would argue it doesn’t get any better than this. Few roads can lay claim to the breathtaking beauty afforded to the A82, which passes along Loch Lomond’s bonnie banks, with views of the Arrochar Alps and Crianlarich also vying for attention.

Branded ‘Scotland in miniature’, due to being home to such an array of scenery over a relatively modest area, the Trossachs were brought to life in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘The Lady of the Lake’ – a work responsible in no small part for making this a globally-renowned hotspot for romantics.

The A821, one of the passageways to the Highlands, includes many stop-off highlights including the north shore of Loch Venachar, perfect for a picnic, and the refurbished steamship (aptly named the SS Sir Walter Scott) on Loch Katrine.

For a true feeling of escape, try the southerly wind down Duke’s Pass, from Loch Achray down to Aberfoyle – a route best avoided in wintry weather, but a treat when fine.

Ullapool to Durness

Road trips in Scotland

Now we’re getting into the very upper reaches of the British Isles and a stunning, north-westerly coastal route to the mainland’s exotic tip.

This 68-mile drive is widely considered Scotland’s wildest and most scenic – encountering lochs, mountains and wildlife in abundance among its 1 hour 40 minute stretch.

Such is the beauty of this trail that we wouldn’t recommend rushing it. As it snakes through the Highlands, hiking enthusiasts would be mad not to take on the likes of Munros; Foinaven or Quinag – while Achiltibuie, which offers great views of the Summer Isles, and Lochinver are other scenic highlights.

Finishing up at Durness and its awe-inspiring views out over the rugged northern coast – not to mention its spectacular and hugely surprising beach – is a fitting reward for taking on this most other-worldly of routes.

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Carter Bar to Edinburgh

Best road trips in Scotland

When driving north from the border you’re faced with several options – there’s the often busy M74, the somewhat samey A1… but if it’s scenic views you’re after, look no further than the A68.

Carter Bar is the point on the border where the road dissects into Scotland, but you’ll likely have followed it up from the Tyne Valley – a hair-raising ride in itself with sometimes ‘blind’ summits through the heart of Northumberland National Park.

Once the route tears into Scotland you’ll be treated to a remarkable expanse of towering hills including the Eildons – a taster of things to come on this pleasing hour-and-a-half long road trip.

Passing through Jedburgh, Lauder and Dalkeith on its path into the historic capital, the A68 doesn’t disappoint. Take a detour from St Boswells through to Dryburgh and Scott’s View, which affords unbeatable panoramics out over the glistening River Tweed and Eildons.

Did we miss your favourite? Tell us your favourite routes through Scotland below.