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
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Guide Updated - 3 October 2023
Approximately 330 miles / 530 Km
4 to 7 Days
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
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.
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.
I convinced my other half to get the Scenic Tour 4-5 Days guide (even though he very much wanted to do it all himself), and it was the best experience ever. In fact, ever since this trip, we're trying to re-create the experience. Of course, Scotland can hardly let anyone down, but this guide truly made it an adventure. We found so many hidden and not so hidden gems, and everything was perfectly laid out for us so that all we had to do was decide how much time we had and what we wanted to see next. I can't recommend it enough and wish more guides like this existed!
Excellent! We thought the information provided was fantastic and allowed us to see things I am sure we would have missed. Mike was very helpful in sending the itinerary through again for us when we had trouble with our downloads. Would definitely recommend this site. We have been travelling for a number of years and normally would just rely on the internet and books but decided to give this a go. So glad we did.
Secret Scotland is EXCEPTIONAL in providing guidance for itinerary planning and accommodation referrals for those wanting a self guided driving vacation in Scotland.... Simple to use. Thorough in suggesting ‘must see’ venues. Complete - sites, restaurants, pubs and experiences.” That is how I would describe what they do and provide. Exceptional accommodation recommendations. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
The itinerary Secret Scotland provided was a trip saver. We loved the suggestions for sight seeing, eating, and places to stay, but the best part was the detailed driving directions. Driving on the opposite side of the road from the opposite side of the car was a little easier without having to worry about how to get there! We will definitely use this service the next time we visit Scotland!
Secret Scotland's itineraries, accommodations guides, and other resources are incredible value with great attention to detail. Their owners, Mike and Aury, are experienced and honest, and they helped us so much as we attempted to narrow down a very long list of things we hoped to do during our time in Scotland. I feel so much more prepared for our trip and can now just look forward to our approaching vacation!
We have just got back from an EXCELLENT holiday following the Borders to Orkney route suggestions.
We can't say enough about how much the detailed information enhanced our experience in Scotland. We had a wonderful time seeing so many interesting sites that we would have passed by without your guide.
Thank you so much.
These guys really are the best. We used Mike's Flexi Days East to West itinerary last July and it was truly indispensable. His itinerary is full of detail, including driving directions and options. Mike is also very responsive if you have any questions. We had such a wonderful time we are going back again this year, and we will be using his itineraries again for our planning. I would also recommend his accommodations guide.
Just like pictures of Scotland can’t do justice to the magnificence of the actual landscape, words can’t do justice to the brilliance and sheer volume of work you put in your guide. The level of detail provided on each stopover sheet, in all the different itinerary options and on all the B&B features exceeded even my most crazy expectations.
Mike and Aurey from Secret Scotland prepared a fantastic itinerary for us. It was a huge ingredient in the success and huge enjoyment that we got from our trip. It was absolutely worth every penny and there is no way we could have seen so much and so well without their itinerary. We felt like we belonged in Scotland, we knew what we were doing and what it all meant at every step. We recommend their services wholeheartedly. Scotland is such a marvelous place. Thank you Mike and Aurey... and we will be back!