Essential Highlands

This Scottish Highlands tour plan takes you on a road trip through the best scenery of North West Scotland.

The driving route features stopovers in pretty seaside villages where you can sample the freshest of seafood direct from the fishing boats.

The itinerary also includes some of the North Coast 500 tourist trail with a start and finish in the lively town of Inverness.

Allow a minimum of 4 days to drive this tour route.
The guide contains extra day trip suggestions for extending the tour to 7+ days

PLEASE NOTE: The Guides come in the format of PDF files. After payment, you will receive an automated email that enables you to access your Scotland Tour Itinerary.

Essential Highlands

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Tour Stats :

Guide Updated - 22 December 2023

Core Route Mileage:

Approximately 330 miles / 530 Km

Tour Duration:

4 to 7 Days

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Tour Summary

  • Arrive in Inverness -

    We provide a sightseeing guide to Inverness that covers the best tourist attractions, scenic spots, activities and restaurants in the city and the neighbouring areas. If you arrive early in Inverness, you may wish to follow our guide for a driving route around the Black Isle where you can discover the charming old village of Cromarty and embark on dolphin spotting boat trips.

  • Inverness to Gairloch -

    You start your driving tour of the Scottish Highlands by heading North West towards Ullapool. Along the road, we reveal a picturesque old bridge on the Blackwater River where you might be lucky enough to see salmon leaping upstream if you visit in late Summer / Autumn.

    For a seafood lunch stop, we recommend the photogenic fishing village of Ullapool which was established in the late 1700s to capitalise on the abundant herring stocks of Loch Broom. The bountiful days are past, but Ullapool is still home to a fishing fleet so the catch doesn’t take long to get from the sea to your plate.

    Continuing from Ullapool, we guide on a great scenic drive along the Wester Ross coastline. This is a section of the famous North Coast 500 route and it features beautiful sandy bays as well as the celebrated botanic gardens at Inverewe.

    We recommend you stopover near Gairloch, Mike’s favourite part of Scotland, but this is largely because his favourite pub is here.

    Driving Distance: ~ 90 Miles

    Stopover in Gairloch Area

  • Gairloch to Skye -

    We suggest a route through Glen Torridon to see what we think is the best scenery 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 includes a visit to the very pretty village of Plockton where there is a great choice of restaurants and bars. We also provide directions to get to Skye and the iconic Eilean Donan castle.

    Driving Distance: ~77 miles

    • Explore Skye - We provide directions for an Isle of Skye road trip that includes the famous scenic landmarks of Skye plus Dunvegan Castle, Talisker Distillery, craft shops, tearooms, pubs, and walks. However, you really need a full day (preferably more) for sightseeing on Skye. If you want to have enough time to enjoy a visit to Skye, you really need to allow 5 days for this Scottish Highlands tour.

    Stopover on Skye or the nearby Lochalsh area

  • Skye to Fort William -

    For the journey to the Fort William / Glen Coe area, we have proposed 2 options for the driving route:

    OPTION 1 starts by taking you past Eilean Donan Castle, a must for a photo stop. You then enter the dark and moody valley of Glen Shiel where a short-lived Jacobite uprising came to a bloody end in 1719. Continuing south, you travel along the Great Glen towards Ben Nevis, which towers over Fort William. If you arrive early in Fort William, you can take a cable car ride up a mountain, or pull on your boots for a short hike to see the valley where they filmed “Harry Potter’s” Quidditch tournaments.

    Driving Distance: ~77 miles (Skye Bridge - Fort William)

    OPTION 2 is a route with less driving, but it involves taking the Skye ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. From Mallaig, you follow the “Road to the Isles” through a landscape that is steeped in the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie. You are likely to see the Jacobite steam train and may even catch it crossing the famous viaduct at Glenfinnan.

    Driving Distance: ~43 miles  (Mallaig Ferry - Fort William)

    If you arrive early in Fort William, you can extend the day with a drive down to the infamous Glen Coe. We also give you directions to find our favourite seafood restaurant.

    Stopover in the Lochaber Area

  • Fort William to Inverness -

    Time to go “Nessie” spotting with a drive that travels the length of Loch Ness as we guide you back to Inverness. You can follow the main tourist trail past Urquhart Castle and the various “Nessie” attractions, OR you can take a scenic road that passes along the quieter southern side of the loch with opportunities for some gentle walks and a stop at a traditional coaching inn near the loch side.

    Driving Distance: ~70 miles

    If you arrive early in Inverness, or wish to extend your stay in the area, you may enjoy the day trip option that we have detailed for a drive around the historical attractions of Moray. This guides you to Culloden, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Elgin Cathedral and Fort George. As well as some less known places that are worth taking time to explore.

    Stopover in Inverness Area.

Tour Gallery


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.

Preview Accommodation Guide

Car Hire - How to Save Money

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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