Are you planning a Scotland road trip itinerary? Driving is undoubtedly the best way to see the best of Scotland and with highlands, wild islands, white sand beaches, stoic castles, historic monuments, welcoming villages and friendly locals is can be hard to decide on the best Scotland Itinerary. If you are touring Scotland by car for one week or more here are some ideas to get you started.
Scotland Road Trip Itinerary: Places to Visit in Scotland by Car
Here is some inspiration for your Scotland road trip itinerary to make your one week in Scotland a visit to remember. Self-drive tours are a great way to see the country at your own pace. Touring Scotland on your own is easy, the scenery is stunning and the locals friendly. Check out this post and start planning your own Scotland road trip itinerary.
Places to visit in Scotland by car:
Edinburgh is the perfect place to start your Scotland road trip itinerary.
Edinburgh is an easy city to visit by foot or using public transport, so if you are trying to visit Scotland on the cheap picking up your rental car on your way out of Edinburgh will help you stay on budget.
We stayed in an apartment on the iconic Royal Mile which included car parking a 10-minute walk away. There are also car parking buildings throughout the city.
You could fill a week or more in Edinburgh but if you only have a day or two you can still see some of Edinburgh’s best sites.
Glasgow seems to have a reputation as the ugly sister to Edinburgh but it has a lot to offer. The city steals the hearts of many and only an hour from Edinburgh you don’t have to decide between the two, you could easily visit either by train or car as a day trip.
Glasgow has a thriving music scene, with plenty of museums and great food. The people of Glasgow are known as Glaswegians are well known for being friendly and chatty with a distinct accent and local slang.
Glasgow is still on our list of places to visit but one of my favourite bloggers has been and she writes about her trip here.
Visit magical Scotland by car. Check out this 1-2 week road trip itinerary. Click To TweetLoch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
It was raining when we were passing Loch Lomond. Low clouds clinging to the well quenched green landscape that surrounds Britains largest lake. Even though it is less than an hours drive from Glasgow the area feels more remote and you really feel like you are entering the Scottish Highlands.
With the weather the way it was and limited time to make our evening Ferry to Oban we decided to push on to an indoor activity at The Cruachan Power Station.
For wildlife enthusiasts, you might like to stop at one of the birds of prey centres.
There are two bird of prey centres near Loch Lomond.
Falconry, the art of hunting for food using trained birds of prey, has been practised in Scotland for centuries and is a strong part of Scottish History and culture. At each of the bird of prey centres, you can learn more about the conservation and heritage of the practice of Falconry as well as have the chance to see a demonstration and even experience it for yourself.
Be sure to check the times of the flying displays when you plan your visit.
Cruachan Power Station
Visit a power-station within a mountain.
Found inside a hollowed-out mountain this power station is an impressive feat of engineering. A lake on the top of the mountain and a Loch at the bottom. A network of tunnels and turbines converting the gravitational potential energy into electricity able to be rushed onto the UK grid at peak times in only 28 seconds! With an engineer father and husband and science mad kids, we were thrilled to stumble upon this example of physics in action.
The power station can only be visited by tour which runs at regular and frequent intervals throughout the day. A visitor centre with a café and small playground makes a good place to stop and enjoy the views of the Loch even if you don’t take the tour.
Oban is a charming seaside port town.
We visited for an afternoon and spent our time stocking up for our trip to the Isle of Mull at the local Tesco, eating homemade chocolate and drinking good coffee at The Oban Chocolate Company. Dinner looking out over the harbour and devouring fresh and delicious seafood at Waterfront Fishouse restaurant rounded off a perfect day.
Oban has its own distillery, ruins of a 13th Century Castle and Museums.
The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary is a great place to visit in Oban with kids with rescued marine creatures on display in the indoor aquarium, a working seal hospital, otters and seals to see outdoor. Feeding and education sessions run throughout the day. There is a touch and feel rock pool where children can hold starfish and crabs and an adventure playground in the forest.
Add the Isle of Mull to your Scotland road trip itinerary
Mull is the second largest Island in the Inner Hebrides. There are a couple of places on the mainland to catch a Ferry to the Isle of Mull, the most frequent ferries leave from Oban. Oban is a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from Glasgow so Mull makes a great addition to your Scotland road trip itinerary.
Visiting the Isle of Mull by car is the best option for enjoying the Island. The scenery on Mull is stunning. Can you believe that Scotland has white sand beaches that look like they belong on a Caribbean postcard?
While the Island is easy to get to it still has the charm and solitude of the more remote Scottish Islands.
Not as busy and with a shorter driving distance it makes a great alternative to the Isle of Skye for families or those wanting to avoid crowds.
Lush green farmland and pockets of native forest are home to rare Scottish plants and native orchids. There are castles, ruins and shipwrecks to discover.
The main town on the Island is Tobermory. Here you’ll find a small distillery, quaint stores selling handicrafts, creamy ice cream and crunchy fish and chips.
Take a walk out onto the marina to enjoy the best view of Tobermory’s colourful townhouses lining the hillside.
Mull is a great jumping off point for wildlife watching. Orca, dolphin, humpback whales and basking sharks are frequently spotted in the waters surrounding the Island. The rare white-tailed sea eagle is now known to nest on the Island and boat trips to see these, other rare birds and Puffins, the cutest of the seabirds, can be easily joined during the summer months.
Fort Williams sits on the shores of Loch Linnhe and is surrounded by a mountainous landscape. Unfortunately, the town itself, bisected by the main road, is less than picturesque but it makes a great jumping off point for those wanting to experience the many outdoor attractions in the region.
Stop for lunch at Crannog Seafood Restaurant. This restaurant serves locally caught seafood and other traditional dishes on the town pier with views out over Loch Linnhe.
You’ll find this impressive feat of engineering just 4 miles north of Fort Williams. Neptune’s Staircase is a series of locks that lift boast approximately 19 metres over 90 minutes.
It is a fun place to stop and see boats using the locks, there is always activity here. The Jacobite Steam Train also passes through here so if you are lucky with timing you can get a 2 for 1 attraction.
The spectacular valley of Glencoe is worth the short detour depending on which direction you are passing through Glencoe from. Dramatic mossy green mountains launch from the road in the base of the valley.
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland, on a clear day you can enjoy the view as you drive through the Scottish Highlands. Keen walkers can climb the summit, there are 2 main tracks, one is suitable for a moderate level of fitness, the other only for experienced hikers. It can be shorts and T-shirt weather at the bottom of Ben Nevis and below freezing at the top so come prepared if you are planning on summiting the mountain.
Another option, especially for families, is to take the Gondola up nearby Aonach Moor, there is a playground, restaurant and skiing in the winter months. In the summer there are walks and views to enjoy.
Glenfinnan Viaduct: Places to visit in Scotland by car
Harry Potter and train enthusiasts will want to check the timetables of the Jacobite Steam Train before arriving at Glenfinnan Viaduct. The train takes 30-40 minutes to reach the Glenfinnan viaduct after departing Fort Williams.
The “Hogwarts Express” steam train running across the curving viaduct is an iconic image from the Harry Potter movies.
The steam train typically passes through at 11 am and 3 pm and it is recommended to arrive an hour prior in the summer or on the weekend to secure parking and make the short walk up to the viewpoint, other times of the year 30 minutes prior would be sufficient time.
Fort Augustus is a gorgeous small town that sits at the bottom of Loch Ness.
The town is intersected by a section of Locks allowing passage of boats in and out of Loch Ness. Watching boats travel up and down as well as the bridge lifting up and down is entertainment in itself.
From Fort Augustus, you can head up the western side of the lake to visit Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Discovery Centre as well as drive to Inverness, Culloden and the family-friendly Tomatin Distillery.
The Fort Augustus Abbey is the perfect accommodation to suit families and small groups visiting Scotland by car.
The Abbey has been converted to apartments and communal spaces with large grounds sitting on the edge of Loch Ness.
The Abbey has a playground and tennis courts and is just a short walk to the amenities of the town via a pedestrian path along the river.
Attractions on Loch Ness
Urquhart castle has a long history dating back over 1500 years with the last occupants blowing it up before abandoning it.
The castle ruins sit overlooking the lake with beautiful views and the free guided tours fill in the history with vibrant stories of life here through the ages.
Our guide Andrew was great at keeping the whole family engaged and interested and since the castle is already in ruins you don’t need to worry about kids touching things they shouldn’t.
Top Tip: Use Google maps to check peak times of Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Discovery Centre then plan your visit outside of peak times.
Loch Ness Discovery Centre
Only a few kilometres further down the road is the Loch Ness Discovery Centre. This is a series of multimedia rooms which cover the myth and legend of the Loch Ness monster, the geography of the lake and the scientific expeditions to confirm the existence of the Loch Ness monster.
Groups are let through at timed intervals to follow through the rooms in order, videos and audio are played before you then move into the next room.
Some sensitive and young children may be a little frightened at times but it is appropriate for all ages.
Take a boat trip to try to spot the Loch Ness Monster
Cruises on Loch Ness leave throughout the day from Fort Augustus. We enjoyed a late afternoon cruise ourselves. Commentary on the boat explained more about the legend of Nessie as well as the geography of the lake.
The virgin forest covering the eastern banks of the lake are home to wild goats, deer and birds of prey which can be spotted from the boat, take binoculars if you have them.
Should you add the Isle of Skye to your Scotland road trip itinerary?
The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular destinations in the summer months. This is a well-earned accolade all due to its beautiful landscapes.
The Isle of Skye has interesting rock formations, breathtaking views and many waterfalls. Restaurants serve fresh seafood straight from the ocean and gorgeous hairy highland cows dot the landscape.
If you have time and book early the Isle of Skye can be fantastic. We decided to skip a visit to Skye on our most recent trip. In July and August, you can expect a lot of traffic and inflated accommodation prices. We chose to visit the Isle of Mull instead.
Inverness is a great alternative to base yourself if you want to be close to the attractions around Loch Ness but prefer to stay in a more metropolitan area.
Inverness has a beautiful walking trail that runs along the River Ness, you can get views of the city as well as see people fly fishing along the river.
There are plenty of good restaurants in Inverness as well as castles, beaches and distilleries nearby. The famous Culloden battlefield is only a short drive away.
Culloden was the site of the famous battle that ended the Jacobite rising and changed history. The site is open and windy with memorials throughout and anyone who has Scottish heritage will likely be able to find a family name here.
After watching Outlander we were not only looking for our own ancestral roots but also the Fraser Clan which was depicted with some historical accuracy in the popular TV show.
There are a number of Distilleries you could visit from Inverness.
We chose to visit Tomatin distillery as they admit children to their tours. Most distillery tours have an age limit of over 18.
The tour through the distillery is informative and fun. Of course, there is a tasting at the end, and don’t worry drivers, there is a complimentary dram of whisky to take home if you are unable to partake in the tasting on site.
It is advised to book a tour ahead of time to avoid missing out. You can find the details here.
Blair Atholl Watermill
Sitting halfway between Perth and Inverness or Fort Williams the Blair Atholl Watermill is a perfect place to stop for a doorstop sandwich and a stretch of the legs.
The watermill which is still used to this day to grind flour for the bakery can be seen working periodically throughout the day.
There is a small free museum which tells the history of the watermill and about the process of milling the flour.
Delicious sandwiches made with the very flour ground in the mill are served up in the cafe.
Perth is a historic riverside city. There are plenty of attractions around Perth to keep you busy and its central location make it a great location for day tripping.
On the outskirts of Perth visit the Scone Palace one of the most important buildings in Scottish history and the home of Kings. The grand palace is full of antique furniture and the stately gardens even have a playground for kids to enjoy.
Fairytale Blair Castle with its pristine white exterior and 30 furnished rooms to visit is found in nearby Blair Athol.
While you are in Blair Athol check out the Blair Athol Watermill and Tearooms, the small working watermill is used the grind the flour used in the bakery, the artisan bread with a rich crust is used to make the best gourmet doorstopper sandwiches.
Other things to do in Perth include the Famous Grouse Experience, Scottish Crannog Centre. Find more things to do in Perth here.
Stirling Old Town is best explored on foot, there are a number of parking buildings in the town where you can leave your car. There are a number of signposted walking trails in Stirling that maximise the views from the hilltop Old Town, the Castle and the historic Old Town walls.
There is parking at Stirling Castle or you can walk or bus up from car parks throughout Stirling. Try to arrive before 10 am to beat the day trippers coming from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Buy your tickets online to fast track your entrance into the castle. Free guided tours run throughout the day with a special children’s tour at 2 pm on Saturdays.
Stirling Castle is great to visit with kids and even joining the regular tour was entertaining for the children. The tour goes through the grand hall, chapel, royal apartments and the royal kitchens. The kids enjoyed the story about how the King had blown up a cow with a handheld cannon.
The kitchens are very well set up with taxidermy animals/food and manikins set up to show what it was like when in use.
Visit the National Wallace Monument
The National Wallace Monument sits like Sauron’s eye (Lord of the Rings) surveying over Stirling and the surrounding countryside. It is another movie that made William Wallace well known on the world stage but it’s best not to ask the locals if they met Mel Gibson who played William Wallace in the Hollywood movie Braveheart.
A shuttle collects visitors from the carpark and transfers them to the base of the monument, or you can take the 15-minute forest walk.
You’ll need to climb the 246 steps of the spiral staircase to reach the Crown Spire where you’ll find the best views.
There are 3 museum levels to visit on the climb up. Break up the walk to the top by stopping on the 3 museum levels. The first gallery, the Hall of Arms unpacks the life of William Wallace and the surprise victory in the battle at Stirling Bridge. The Hall of Heroes tells the story of how William Wallace became such Scottish legend. The Royal Chamber Journals the construction of the tower which was built 500 years after William Wallace’s death.
The two standouts in Falkirk are the Kelpies and Falkirk’s wheel. These are a must visit for a Scotland road trip itinerary and are easily reached by car. The Kelpies and Falkirk’s Wheel are only 7 km, from each other and a 20-minute drive from Stirling, 45 minutes by car from Edinburgh or Glasgow and an hours drive from Perth.
The Kelpies are large sculptures. A latticework of steel shaped into two large horse heads.
A Kelpie is a mythical being of Scottish legend. Found in the waterways and rivers and taking on the shape of a horse with 10 times the strength. The monument was constructed as part of the Helix project which has turned the area into a pleasant green space with recreational areas and waterways.
There are bike and walking paths within the Helix complex and it is also possible to take a boat trip along the canals. A nice boardwalk area leads from the Kelpies car park, past a small wetland and to a large adventure playground.
On the weekends and holidays, the Kelpies car park can get very busy. The walk from the playground, which is closer to the main road, takes 10 minutes so park there and make the walk if you need to.
The park is free to visit. It is possible to take a 30 minute guided tour within one of the sculptures. I didn’t think this was necessary to enjoy the visit but if you have done this please leave a comment to let other readers know about your experience.
The Falkirk Wheel is a fascinating feat of engineering, the mechanics of which are incredibly simple but oh so impressive. The wheel is used to lift boats between one canal and another.
With the Union Canal being more than 30 metres higher than the lower Forth and Clyde The Union Canal is more than 30 metres higher than the Forth and Clyde Canal and the wheel allows boats to move from one canal to the next in lightning speed compared to how long it would take for locks to climb the same distance.
There is a playground and splash pad for kids at the bottom of the wheel.
I hope you enjoy visiting Scotland by car as much as we did!