This tour route explores a wide range of Highland landscapes with a focus on rural areas rather than cities.
The itinerary covers a lot of ground, but the driving time between stopovers has been kept to 2 - 3 hours so there's plenty of time for sightseeing.
It is an ideal itinerary if you are touring Scotland by car for two weeks.
Allow a minimum of 10 days to drive this tour route.
The guide contains extra day trip suggestions for extending the tour to 17+ days
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Guide Updated - 23 January 2023
Approximately 825 miles / 1330 Km
10 to 17 Days
Arrive Glasgow -
We provide a stopover guide to Glasgow’s main attractions and recommended restaurants. The guide also includes directions for a short drive to the villages around Loch Lomond, so you can choose between staying in the vibrant city, or in a scenic rural location.
Stopover in Glasgow / Loch Lomond area
Glasgow to Loch Fyne -
The tour starts with a choice of routes to the pretty 18th century village of Inveraray.
The direct route features Loch Lomond where you could take a short cruise before heading to a small brewery and an excellent smokehouse where you get lunch, or could stock up on some Scottish delicacies for a picnic.
The alternative route is a quieter and more meandering route that crosses into the Highlands via a short ferry trip on the Firth of Clyde. You then drive through the Argyll Forest Park where you can explore the botanic gardens at Benmore, and then take a detour to an award winning restaurant.
There are lots of interesting places to visit in the Inveraray / Loch Fyne area. We guide you to castles, botanic gardens, and unusual museums. Should you feel energetic, we recommend a short, but steep climb to a magnificent viewpoint above Inveraray castle.
You can end the day in Inveraray, but you might prefer to continue further along the shores of Loch Fyne to the active fishing village of Tarbert where we can recommend some excellent restaurants.
Driving Distance: ~ 60 Miles to Inveraray / ~98 miles to Tarbert
Stopover in Loch Fyne Area (Inveraray / Tarbert)
Loch Fyne to Fort William via Oban -
The first leg of this journey takes you via the bustling seaside town of Oban. We give you 2 route options for the drive to Oban:
On the second journey leg, from Oban to Fort William, you can take a small side trip into Glen Coe, scene of the infamous massacre of the MacDonalds in 1692.
The drive ends in the Fort William area where you can take a cable car ride up a mountain near Ben Nevis, or pull on your boots for a short hike to see the valley where they filmed the backdrop for “Harry Potter’s” Quidditch tournaments.
Driving Distance: ~ 83 miles / ~106 miles (Inveraray to Fort William)
Stopover in Lochaber (Fort William) area
Fort William to Skye -
We supply 3 different route options for getting to Skye by the bridge or the Mallaig ferry.
Option 1 - If travelling via the Skye bridge, you don’t need to plan your day around a ferry schedule so you have time for a visit to Eilean Donan castle, a detour to one of the best viewpoints in Scotland and a relaxed drink at a pub in Plockton, which is arguably the prettiest village in Scotland.
Driving Distance: ~77 miles – Fort William to Skye Bridge
Option 2 - If taking the most direct route to the Mallaig Ferry you follow the “Road to the Isles”, which gives you a good chance of seeing the Jacobite steam train (AKA “Hogwarts Express”). Time your drive right, and you can stop to take a picture of the train as it crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct. Nearer to Mallaig, we guide you to the Silver Sands of Morar and beaches that can rival anything in the Caribbean, although the sea is not as warm.
Driving Distance ~43 miles (plus a ~40 minute ferry crossing) – Fort William to Mallaig ferry
Option 3 - The third option is a longer route to the Mallaig ferry that bypasses Fort William in favour of following a wandering road through the wilderness and forests of Sunart and Moidart. The scenery in this area is magnificent and it is all the better for the lack of other tourists.
Driving Distance: ~66 miles (plus a ~40 minute ferry crossing) – Glencoe area to Mallaig ferry
Stopover on Isle of Skye or the nearby Lochalsh area
Day Trips around Skye & Lochalsh -
Skye is a large island with many of the interesting sites located at the end of single track roads. As a result, you are limited in how much you can cover in a day and you need to schedule at least a 2 night stopover.
Stopover on Isle of Skye or the nearby Lochalsh area
Skye Bridge to Gairloch -
We guide you on a route through mountain scenery that we rate as the best in Scotland. If you really want to explore away from the “beaten track”, you can follow an alternative longer route around the remote Applecross Peninsula using a road that was only completed in 1975. The drive also includes a visit to the very pretty village of Plockton and the famous botanic gardens at Inverewe.
The Gairloch area is blessed with stunning beaches and spectacular scenery, so you may want to allow a 2 night stopover here. Our guide gives you details on the best activities for a longer stay.
Driving Distance: ~77 miles
Stopover in Gairloch area
Gairloch to Ullapool -
Head up the North West coast through magnificent Highland scenery to the active fishing village of Ullapool. Along the route you can explore great beaches and test your courage by crossing a 200 feet deep gorge on a bouncy little foot bridge.
When you get to Ullapool, you can watch the fishing boat activity in the harbour and then sample the delicious fresh catch in an award winning fish & chip shop. The village is a vibrant place with several good restaurants and range of pubs where you'll find live music and entertainment most nights of the week.
If you wish to extend the day, you can follow our directions for a back road drive to Lochinver that takes you past the distinctive peaks of Stac Pollaidh, Suilven and Canisp. These mountains emerge like rocky icebergs from the wild moorland of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve. This is an area of true wilderness and we recommend some hikes of varying degrees of exertion.
Driving Distance: ~55 miles
Stopover in Ullapool or Lochinver
Ullapool to Inverness -
There are faster routes to Inverness, but we guide you away from the main roads to traverse the Highlands via a more northerly route through Strath Oykel. We supply 2 route options so you can choose between;
The last leg of the tour takes you from the Glenmorangie Distillery to Inverness with detour options to explore a very photogenic lighthouse and a Victorian Spa village where you can still sample the mineral waters.
Driving Distance: ~100 miles / 117 miles
Stopover in Inverness area
Day Trips from Inverness -
Inverness is a great touring base for exploring the Highlands and we supply you with directions for a range of day trips:
Stopover in Inverness area
Inverness to Royal Deeside -
Within a few miles of Inverness you can travel through 4,000 years of history. The route passes the Bronze Age burial chambers at Clava Cairns, the 14th century Cawdor Castle, which is still home to the Countess of Cawdor, and Culloden Battlefield, where the tragic events of 1746 changed the Highlands forever.
Travelling southwards, you pass through the Spey valley where you have options for detours to explore the distilleries that Speyside is famed for. From Speyside, you climb over the Cairngorm mountains. This is a great road with wide open vistas and fast sweeping bends. If you aren't driving too fast, you might catch a glimpse of grouse sticking their heads above the heather.
After the high plateau of the Cairngorms, you descend to the neat villages of Ballater and Braemar in Royal Deeside. You may wish to end the day at Balmoral castle, but there are many more castles here with much longer histories that are worth exploring.
Driving Distance: ~78 miles
Stopover in Royal Deeside
Royal Deeside to Pitlochry -
There are many great castles to see in Royal Deeside so we have kept the driving time short in order to allow a morning enjoying the local attractions before heading to Perthshire. The drive to south from Braemar involves climbing through Glen Shee on the path of an old Military Road that was built in the 1700's to enable Redcoat troops to mobilise against the "Jacobite" supporting clans around Braemar.
The journey ends in Pitlochry, which is located in the heart of Scotland’s “Big Tree” country. You could simply have a relaxed afternoon in this charming Victorian spa town which has 2 distilleries, a craft brewery, a theatre and the famous “Salmon Ladder”. BUT, If you feel like exploring, we have included directions for discovering woodland walks, waterfalls, picturesque loch side roads and Blair Castle, the impressive home of the Duke of Atholl.
Driving Distance: ~56 miles
Stopover in Pitlochry / Aberfeldy Area
Pitlochry to Edinburgh / Glasgow -
We guide you back to Glasgow or Edinburgh via a choice of routes that both feature a visit to Stirling Castle.
The shorter route utilises fast main roads to allow you more time for sightseeing. Along the way, you can break the driving with a visit to the romantic ruins of Dunkeld Cathedral. Although it is now a tranquil spot in a pretty village of 18th century houses, the cathedral was once at the centre of a desperate battle between Jacobite and Redcoat soldiers.
Driving Distance: ~99 miles (Pitlochry - Edinburgh)
The longer route takes you west, towards Loch Tay with opportunities to visit standing stones, a distillery and a haunted castle. You then drive through the Trossachs where you can take a small detour for a loch cruise on an old steam yacht. Fans of “Outlander” will be pleased that Doune Castle (A.K.A Castle Leoch) is included in these route directions.
Driving Distance: ~126 miles (Pitlochry - Edinburgh)
Stopover in Edinburgh or Glasgow
Explore Edinburgh -
Edinburgh is a compact city and easy to explore on foot. We provide directions for three walking routes that show you different sides of the Capital city; a walk down the historical Royal Mile, a leafy riverside walk to the Botanic Gardens that escapes the hustle & bustle of city life, and a more energetic walk to Arthur’s Seat with a good pub at the end. Edinburgh boasts a great range of atmospheric old pubs and we steer you to a selection of our favourites.
The guide also includes options for day trips around the surrounding area by car or bus / train.
The day trips by car take you to West Lothian where you can visit many of the sites used in the filming of “Outlander” and to East Lothian where you can visit some spectacular castle ruins, a distillery and lots of pretty villages.
To help you book the best places to stay, we offer a guide to Recommended Accommodation along the route of this tour.
We personally visit all the accommodation featured in the guides and only select places where we would wish to stay ourselves. Read More...
When you "Checkout", you will have the option to buy the Accommodation Guide.
When you buy a Secret Scotland Tour Itinerary you will receive a Discount Code that gets you a 10% reduction on the cost of Car Hire from Arnold Clark Rental.
Simply use the Secret Scotland code when you book via the Arnold Clark website and your car hire discount will automatically apply.
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