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Road to the Cairnwell
Road to the Cairnwell
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The 12 Most Beautiful Scottish Road Trips

Picture of Tori Chalmers
Updated: 23 August 2017
Scotland and road trips go together like the Isle of Skye and photographers. Thanks to the dramatic scenery, many castles embedded into the landscape, ominous glens and evocative network of lochs, all you need is a great playlist and you’re looking at a dreamy combo. From Scotland’s own Route 66 to an enthralling Sunday drive alternative, explore our guide to the most stunning Scottish road trips.
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Edinburgh To St Andrews

Now this one is perfect for anyone visiting Edinburgh on a whistle-stop tour. Start by cruising the age-old streets of Scotland’s capital and head towards Cramond, a fairytale village tucked away on the fringes of the city. Stop in at Cramond Falls Café for incredible food and enjoy the bobbing boats, glistening sands and charming vernacular architecture. Next, cruise the Forth Bridge, Scotland’s own Golden Gate, and admire the moody seas of the Firth of Forth. From there, enjoy the scenic drive to Elie where the 1908 Lighthouse and 1770s Lady’s Tower are worth a gander, before arriving in St Andrews, the world’s home of golf.

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Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail

Meticulously signposted and breathtaking beyond belief, the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail is an adventure of epic proportions. Although you can hop on at any point of this spectacular 165-mile route, the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve is a fine place for the journey to commence. Those who have four or five days to spare can enjoy absorbing the magnitude of the vertigo-inducing sea cliffs punctuating the entire coastline. Other highlights include spotting rare wildlife, roaming the spellbinding dunes, unearthing the maze of hidden beaches and exploring the coastal villages. Believed by many to inspire Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Slains Castle is worth a visit, as is Fraserburgh, home to Europe’s largest shellfish port.

North Coast 500

As Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66, North Coast 500 is one of those iconic bucket list drives. Crowned one of the world’s top coastal road trips, it has all the votes and reviews to prove it too! With 500 miles worth of life-affirming views, this epic route ticks every box from magical castles and distilleries, to evocative Highland scenery, whale watching cruises and Munro-bagging opportunities. Doing its reputation justice, this exhilarating trail features multiple stops — think Dunrobin Castle, Smoo Cave, Duncansby sea stacks, Sandwood Bay and Beinn Eighe, to name a few.

Sandwood Bay
Sandwood Bay | © andrew/Flickr

Borders Historic Route

A swoon-worthy pocket of Scotland, the Scottish Borders are drenched in charm and worthy of attention. Punctuated with ancient abbeys and breathtaking countryside, the Borders Historic route journeys from Carlisle to Edinburgh and is the only route to start outside of Scotland. Swing by Gretna Green and explore its colourful heritage as one of the world’s leading marriage and elopement capitals (don’t forget to touch the marriage anvil), stop in at the Borders Textile Towerhouse and discover the Scottish Borders textile industry, watch tartan crafted from scratch and explore every nook and cranny of Abbotsford House, the beloved home of Sir Walter Scott.

Melrose Abbey In The Scottish Borders
Melrose Abbey In The Scottish Borders | ©alljengi/Flickr

Argyll Coastal Route

There is something truly magical about the Argyll Coastal Route, with its haunting lochs, imposing mountains and 129 miles of liberating road. This route, which ventures from Tarbet to Fort William, is infused with fresh sea air, a never-ending array of local seafood and scenery destined to take your breath away. Witness the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond in all her glory, taste your way around the west coast and revel in the awe-inspiring juxtaposition of majestic mountainscapes and wispy shorelines. Surprises along the way include Loch Fyne Restaurant & Oyster Bar, wildlife boat trips, a 19th century prison, and Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain peak.

Deeside Tourist Route

The Deeside Route from Perth to Aberdeen is as delicious as it is adventure-filled. This is your chance to witness the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park, home to five of Scotland’s six highest mountains, and unleash the inner outdoor adventurer. To appease the taste buds, this dynamite route also includes a pit stop at Royal Lochnagar Distillery, as well as Cambus O’May Cheese Co., the perfect opportunity to delve into the art of cheese making. Architectural lures include Scone Palace and the 13th-century Drum Castle.

Scone Palace
Scone Palace | © Wikicommons

Galloway Tourist Route

A dream for thinkers and families alike, the Galloway Tourist Route beckons you to explore the culture-rich treasures dotted along Scotland’s south west. Between the coveted mountain biking paradise that is 7Stanes, the wild red kite birdwatching haven of Galloway Kite Trail and the Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura, it’s hard to peel all road trip parties away. The lush scenery is medicine to the soul, while the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is the perfect grand finale for literature lover’s.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum | Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Highland Tourist Route

Those in it for the magic should look no further than the Highland Tourist Route. Overflowing with jaw-dropping panoramic vistas, tiny remote towns, mystical forests, distilleries galore and an impressive collection of castles, the striking Highland stereotypes could never do the real-life beauty justice. Soak up the history at Culloden Battlefield, Gordon Highlanders Museum and Cawdor Castle and lap up Scotland’s whisky heritage (and smuggling stories) at Glenlivet Distillery. You’ll never want this one to end.

Culloden Battlefield
Culloden Battlefield | © _nymeria_/Flickr

Moray Firth Route

A stunner of a road trip setting, the Moray Firth option is an 80-mile semi-circular route bursting with an abundance of magnificent sights from Inverness to Loch Fleet. Peruse the wonders within the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, watch the artisans work their organic magic at Black Isle Brewery and prepare to be hypnotised by the cascading ribbon that is Rogie Falls. This trip includes wondrous views of Easter Ross and Sutherland landscapes, as well as the brooding swelling waters of Beauly Firth, Cromarty Firth and Dornoch Firth.

Moray Forth
Moray Forth | © John Loach/Flickr

Perthshire Tourist Route

Those seeking one of the shorter Scottish road trip routes should lean towards the Perthshire Tourist Route from the Dunblane area to Ballinluig. Graced with the perfect fusion of history, food, nature and luxury, Culture Trippers can anticipate dramatic landscapes lined with wooded pockets and overwhelming scenery. Pit stop highlights include the Victorian spa at Crieff Hyrdro, the Library of Innerpeffray (a book lover’s utopia), The Famous Grouse Experience and Drummond Castle Gardens.

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Isle of Skye

Wonderfully untainted and magical to the core, the Isle of Skye is a beauty of a road trip route. Experience first-hand all the natural wonders — Cuillin Mountains, Fairy Pools, Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr — and the old-world charm — Dunvegan Castle and Talisker Distillery — via the A87, A63 and A50 roads. From transformative mountain vistas to otherworldly scenery, there’s something about Skye that unleashes the best of us.

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Stirling To Inverness

At 273 miles long, ‘Scotland’s Spine’ or the A9 is a seemingly never-ending road of mesmerising scenery and picture-perfect landscapes. The drive from Stirling to Inverness boasts culture-rich sites for days, including Dunblane, Auchterarder, Gleneagles, Perth, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl and Aviemore, each as intriguing as the next. As spellbinding as the scenery is with this one, make sure to pay extra attention on that road.