10 Scenic Places to Visit in Scotland by Car (That You’ll Love)

Places to Visit in Scotland by Car

One of the best ways to discover the amazing views and scenic landscapes of Scotland is to set off on a road trip! Scotland is not a big country, but it does have a lot to offer; from beaches to mountains, golf courses to whiskey, pubs to campsites, there is something for everyone here. 

There are hundreds of places I could recommend for you to visit in Bonnie Scotland, but in this list I have combined my personal favourites.  Most importantly, these are all places that you can visit in Scotland by car!

So buckle up and get driving; you’ve got some adventures ahead of you!

The first step to planning your driving tour of Scotland is to figure out which area of Scotland you would like to drive around (if not all of it).

Here you have a few options of what area you’d like to cover, but I have mapped out the general areas for you below:

  • Central Scotland – this can include the country’s capital city, Edinburgh, as well as Stirling, Loch Lomond and Perthshire.  This is a nice easygoing route, with more cities and towns than mountains and countryside – it’s great if you want to see the famous sight such as Edinburgh castle or the Kelpies!
  • The West Coast and Islands – you can hop between islands on car-friendly ferries to discovery beautiful beaches and tall mountains, or keep to the mainland and explore the busy city of Glasgow.  The west coast without a doubt has the best variety of urban and natural routes to take.
  • Wester Ross – head far north to experience parts of Scotland that almost seem undiscovered!  Still, serene lochs and towering mountains await you here (included in route 500)
  • Angus – situated between Dundee and Aberdeen, this underrated section of coastline can be made into an entire holiday! This coastline is rugged and untamed, in the most perfect way!
  • The East Coast – there are so many little hidden gems of towns on the East Coast, and every town has its own special charm.  Food, drink and pretty harbours – all can be found on this coastline!
  • The North Coast – take an epic journey along the whole north coast and discover Scotland’s most rural landscapes! See the route 500 section for more info!

The list below now has some more specific examples of places you can go to:

1# The Isle of Skye

Fairy Pools Isle of Skye Scotland

Location: northwest coast of Scotland, connected by bridge.

Largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago

Gaelic Name: an t-Eilean Sgiathanach

Skye is an island situated on the Northwest coast of Scotland, connected to the mainland by bridge.  It is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago, and takes its name from the old Norse sky-a, which means ‘cloud island’.  This name is a Viking reference to the misty Cuillin Hills.

Skye is the second largest of Scotland’s islands and offers a mosaic of landscapes; moors, mountains, lochs and cliffs.

This Scottish island is potentially one of the most beautiful and scenic destinations that you can drive to in Scotland.  Situated right off the West Coast, this destination has an abundance of activities available to tourists and Scottish locals alike.

It’s not just the island itself that displays such beauty; even the drive that will get you there is absolutely stunning! I would recommend driving from Fort William along the road to the island, and then hop on the ferry from Mallaig to Armdale, and then do your tour of Skye! Portree as a town is the perfect place to start exploring, with its adorable pubs and independent shops – it really does feel like something out of a movie!

This island offers so many activities and things to do, but is most famous for its gorgeous mountains, unique whiskies and delicious craft beer.  Furthermore, it offers many historical connections which can be found in the learnings of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

More opportunities found on this scenic island include:

  • Castles
  • Fishing villages
  • Lochs
  • Coves
  • Birdwatching

2# Loch Ness

Loch Ness
Loch Ness

Loch Ness is a large freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands, expanding approximately thirty-seven metres southwest of Inverness.

Fun fact: it contains more water than every single lake in England and Wales combined! Amazing, right?

Beside the busy and bustling city of Inverness, which will have all of the amenities that you may need while you are travelling, Loch Ness is one of the easiest sites to get to in northern Scotland, and is without a doubt one of the most interesting experiences that Scotland has to offer. 

The most intriguing thing about this body of water is that it is steeped in the very mysterious monster mythology that Scotland is best known for.  This site is truly untouched by time, and thus is the very best way to be transported back to a time where Nessie’s mythologies were in their prime among highlanders.

Eye-witness accounts of the famous Nessie date all the way back to 1933, and there have been over a thousand of them to date[3].  Scientists to this day cannot figure out the anomaly of Loch Ness, but why not go and try to figure it out for yourself?  Get yourself onto one of the ever-popular boat trips on Loch Ness, and be sure not to forget your binoculars!

3# Jedburgh to Lauder

Thirlestane Castle in Lauder

A more southern look at Scotland’s scenic driving routes takes us to the less talked about Scottish Borders.  However, I personally think that this is a hugely overlooked part of Scotland’s car routes, because these drives are honestly some of the most incredible looking routes that I have seen.

This drive in particular offers some of the most breath-taking scenery, with plenty of pit-stops you can take a breather at and explore a gorgeous trail.

Lauder is very near to busy Edinburgh, and Jedburgh is only ten miles north of the border with England, so if you are touring Scotland, this drive will be super easy to work into your route!

Lauder is a small but popular and bustling town with plenty of attractions to keep you busy while you explore.  The best way to see the town in a short amount of time is to complete the Lauder Town Trail, which will allow you to explore the town in a condensed period of time as well as learn about local history.  This trail takes around one hour to complete, so it’s super easy to work into a tight schedule.

If you are doing a summer trip in Scotland, then Lauder is certainly the perfect place to go, as they host an annual summer festival with fun events including a concert!

Jedburgh also exhibits many fun attractions to see at the end of your drive; such as the majestic 12th century Augustinian Abbey, founded in 1138 by David I, pillaged and rebuilt multiple times to look like it does when we see it today!  Another fun fact about Jedburgh? Mary Queen of Scots stayed here in 1566!

4# Glencoe to Fort William

Steall Waterfall
Hiking Steall Waterfall in Ben Nevis

The most famous of Scotland’s glens, Glencoe, is home to the UK’s tallest mountain, making it a truly unmissable stop on your trip.  If you do fancy tackling Ben Nevis itself, it is certainly achievable and not as steep an ascent as come of Europe’s other mountains, averaging an eight hour ascent.  Therefore, this is an attraction that can quite easily be added onto your list of things to do whilst you are in this area.

If an eight hour trip up a mountain does not sound like your cup of tea, however, then the drive from Glencoe to Fort William alone will be more than enough to give you a taste of some of Scotland’s most incredible scenery and wildlife.

On your drive you will see grassy (or snow-capped) mountains, fresh rivers, lochs, and moors.  Although you are never too far from a small town to stop off at, this drive truly makes you feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere – totally lost in nature.

Once you arrive in Fort William, located in Lochaber in the West HIghlands, you will be greeted by cosy pubs, friendly people, and traditional Scottish restaurants – what more could you ask for after a day spend in the great outdoors?

Fort William is often described as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK and makes a great place to stop for a weekend away or as part of a tour of the Scottish Highlands.

5# The East Neuk

You simply cannot visit Scotland without treating yourself to one of our national favourite dishes: the fish supper.

These comforting, wonderfully salty portions can be found just about anywhere you look in this country… but if you want the best of the best (as I am sure that you do) then the East Neuk is the place where you should be looking. 

Whilst driving the East Neuk, you will wind through numerous beautiful fishing villages such as Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem, St Monans and Earlsferry, before arriving at the stunning town of St. Andrews at the end of your drive.

For an award-winning fish supper, you will need to wait until you are in Anstruther for the Anstruther Fish Bar, which as won four awards for ‘Best Fish and Chip Shop’ – pretty impressive, right?  Well, it certainly does not disappoint – these are certainly some of the best fish and chips around, so don’t miss out!

Aside from the incredible food, each one of these towns offers its own beauty and quaintness in itself.  Sometimes, it is almost as if you have gone back in time completely.

6# The Whiskey Island of Islay

Ardbeg whisky distillery

Islay (pronounced Eye-la) is a part of the southern Hebrides, and also goes by the name Queen of the Hebrides. It is the southernmost island of the inner southern Hebrides and lies in Argyll and Bute. It is best known for its whiskey distilleries, stunning scenery, wildlife and friendly natives – sounds pretty great, right?

Much like the fish and chips, I would recommend that your tour of Scotland is not complete until you have attended one of their world famous whiskey distilleries. 

There is a huge amount to choose from when it comes to deciding which one to go to, and this can seem very overwhelming when trying to decide. That is why I would recommend visiting the island of Islay, which offers a whole host of distilleries – nine in total – all on the one island. 

Islay is worth visiting anyway, for its rich history and stunning camping opportunities, but when it comes to whiskey, it really doesn’t get any better!

7# The Cairngorms National Park

Hillwalking in Cairngorm Mountains Scotland

Right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, and the proud owner of the title of largest national park in the UK, this national park is renowned for its amazing wildlife and access to nature.  For places to crash at the end of the day, there are plenty of campsites that are easy to access by car, and also a selection of cosy b&bs to catch a good rest.

However, your most difficult task here will be choosing between all of the different activities that are available in the park, including:

  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Rafting
  • Golf
  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Visiting historic castles and sites

A great route to take when driving in the Cairngorms is the Snow Roads route.  This route takes you through ninety miles of mountains, glens, pubs, restaurants and activities – if you want to really make the most of the Cairngorms then this is a great route for you to try.

Included in this route is the highest public road in Britain[5], which will give you a spectacular view of some of the most incredible scenery in Scotland.  The mountains surround you here, and offer some excellent photography opportunities as well.

7# Blair Atholl

Blair Atholl is a stunning little village in Highland Perthshire, sat right on the very edge of the Cairngorms National Park, and is home to a whole host of outdoor activities and leisure opportunities.  Enjoy outdoor sports or a leisurely walk in the great outdoors around the Atholl Estates – there is really no shortage of things to do.

Go and see the River Garry, which flows through many picturesque villages and towns such as Bruar and Killiecrankie – both of which are plentiful in Scottish sites and rich histories. 

The spectacular looking Blair Castle is like an entryway into the highlands, where you can learn about the history surrounding this area.

8# Angus Coastal Route

This is perhaps one of the more well-known Scottish driving routes, spanning from Dundee to Aberdeen – two great cities to visit while in Scotland!

Here, we visit the eastern coastline of Scotland, where one can experience the gorgeous ocean and countryside views.

This is one of the longer drives on the list, but it is sure worth it.  If you are doing a tour of Scotland, you would probably be driving this distance anyway between the two cities, so why not make it worth your while and follow the coastline while you’re at it? 

This route takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes, and the entire time you are driving you are surrounded by gorgeous scenery and ocean waves – so crank up the music and enjoy the view!!

 9# Route 500

Sign post at John O Groats, Scotland

I know we’ve gone over many different destinations to go to by car in this list, but now it is time for the ULTIMATE road trip route, known as the route 500.  It’s pretty much common knowledge in Scotland that this is the best routes to take for a road trip. It’s pretty long, but definitely worth it!

So, as the name suggests, this route is 500 miles long (there’s a Scottish song to match your trip, look up The Proclaimers to see what I mean).

The total drive time of the route is roughly 13 hours and 35 minutes, so definitely do not try to drive it all in one go! It is highly recommended that you take several days to complete the route – and with such great options for stops along the way, who can complain about that??

This route spans across the north coast of Scotland and begins in the city of Inverness.  It then takes you along the west coast to Applecross and northwards to Torridon and Ullapool.

It is from this point that you then head to the northmost points of the Scottish coastline, passing by Caithness and John o’Groats and seeing the ocean in a way that makes it look like you’re on the very edge of the world. 

The route will then take you south again, through Dingwall, and back to Inverness again.

Because the route takes you in a circle, it makes it very easy to incorporate it into a bigger trip around Scotland. This route will show you some of the best coastal scenery that the country has to offer, and every small town it takes you through makes an excellent pit-stop!

10# The North East 250

Don’t feel like you’re up to driving the full 500 miles? No problem!  Here if offer an alternative that only covers half of the distance, but is also an amazing road trip to try out!

The North East 250 is not as well known as the 500, but it is a beautiful drive that will show off some of the best views (and sunsets) that Scotland has to offer.

This route is one that I would certainly recommend to whiskey lovers as well, as it spans the Malt Whiskey Trail, meaning that on your travels you can stop off at some of the world’s most famous distilleries in the world, such as Glenlivet.

For the mountain lover, this route will also suit you very well!  This route encapsulates dozens of Munros that can easily be climbed in a day – for those who wish to get the best views possible.

For the golfer, this route also encapsulates  some of the greatest golf courses in the country, such as Braemar Golf Club (the highest course in the country) which is travelled to by golf lovers the world over.

And last, but by no means least, the beaches on this route are simply incredible.  This also means that the surrounding villages offer some incredible seafood that you can try out.

I do hope that this guide has been helpful and has given you some ideas of places to travel in Scotland.  It really is a beautiful country with so much to offer, and I can’t recommend driving around it enough! Getting out into nature is so underrated these days, where every day is a whirlwind of jobs to do and people to see.  Sometimes it can be so cathartic to just *breathe* and be with the outdoors for a while!

In my opinion, the locations listed above are some of the most incredible places to do this.  Scotland has a sort of magical feel to it; it makes you feel serene and calm, and somehow part of it…even if it is your first time visiting!

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