If you have an interest in landscape photography, Scotland is your perfect destination.
We originally created this itinerary for a Swedish TV company, so it was scheduled to allow time for lots of journey breaks for photography and filming.
The tour is paced to keep the driving times short and it will suit the traveller who likes to stop and take lots of pictures.
Allow a minimum of 8 days to drive this tour route.
The guide contains extra day trip suggestions for extending the tour to 16+ days
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Guide Updated - 17 November 2023
Approximately 610 miles / 980 Km
8 to 15 Days
Explore Edinburgh -
Edinburgh is a compact city and easy to explore on foot. So we provide directions for 3 walking routes that show you different sides of the Capital city;
Stopover in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Day Trips -
In case you wish to use Edinburgh as a touring base for several nights, we provide details of interesting places that you can visit within, and beyond, the city by using buses & trains. We also provide a choice of day trips by car that let you explore :
Stopover in Edinburgh
Edinburgh to Oban via Stirling Castle -
You start with a fast drive to Stirling where you can visit the castle and the visitor centre at Bannockburn Battlefield, which uses clever technology to bring this momentous battle to life.
Travelling west, you can break the journey with a visit to Doune Castle, which starred as “Castle Leoch” in “Outlander”. You then enter the Trossachs and we suggest a small detour to the photogenic Falls of Dochart in Killin, where there are also standing stones and a very spooky castle.
Continuing along the route of an old Cattle Drovers’ road, you arrive at Loch Awe, the longest loch in Scotland. Here, you can stop to walk to Kilchurn castle which is an impressive stronghold that guards the eastern approaches of this strategic passage to the west coast. The path to the castle is easy to miss, but our directions will ensure you find this picturesque lochside ruin.
The day ends in Oban where you can indulge in a tasting session at Oban Distillery followed by a memorable dinner in one of the town’s great choice of seafood restaurants.
Driving Distance: ~122 miles
Stopover in Oban Area.
Oban to Fort William -
This journey leg is just a short hop up the coast so there’s time for a variety of activities.
If you set off early, you could join a day trip to Mallaig on the “Jacobite Steam” train, a must for “Harry Potter” fans. Alternatively, for the people that prefer to escape the crowds, we provide details on how to explore the beautiful Isle of Lismore, where the pace of life goes slower.
On the way to Fort William, you can take a small side trip into Glen Coe, scene of the infamous massacre of the MacDonalds in 1692. We also give directions to help you find a curious little “Fairy Bridge” in a quiet forest, but you need to get your walking boots on for this.
Fort William is a centre for outdoor activities so another option is to spend your day climbing Ben Nevis, hiking to the Steall Falls, or a take it easy with a cable car ride up the Aonach Mor mountain.
Driving Distance: ~44 miles
Stopover in Lochaber Area.
Fort William to Skye -
We supply 3 different route options for getting to Skye by the bridge or via the Mallaig ferry.
1. If travelling via the Skye bridge, you don’t need to plan your day around a ferry timetable so you might wish to schedule time for a cable car ride, or a short hike in Glen Nevis. Eilean Donan castle is a highlight on this route, but we also supply directions for a small detour to one of the best viewpoints in Scotland.
Driving Distance: ~77 miles – Fort William to Skye Bridge
2. If taking the Mallaig ferry to Skye you follow the “Road to the Isles” to Mallaig. You have a good chance of seeing the Jacobite steam train (AKA “Hogwarts Express”) as the railway track runs close by. 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, if not as warm.
Driving Distance: ~43 miles (plus a ~40 minute ferry crossing) – Fort William to Mallaig ferry
3. The Alternative route to the Skye ferry is one that bypasses Fort William in favour of following a meandering 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. One of the highlights of this route is the opportunity to visit the ruins of Castle Tioram.
Driving Distance: ~66 miles (plus a ~40 minute ferry crossing) – Glencoe area to Mallaig ferry
Stopover on Skye or in the nearby Lochalsh Area
Day Trips around Skye & Lochalsh -
Skye is a large island with many of the places of interest located along dead end 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 in Skye & Lochalsh area
Skye Bridge to Gairloch -
We guide you on a route through scenery that we think is 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 includes a visit to the very pretty village of Plockton and the famous botanic gardens at Inverewe. Despite lying further north than Moscow, the mild west coast climate enables all sorts of sub tropical plants to thrive in this Highland oasis.
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 to try.
Driving Distance: ~77 miles
Stopover in Gairloch area
Gairloch to Inverness -
This journey leg starts with a very scenic drive back past Loch Maree and we give you directions for a short hike to a great viewpoint above this truly beautiful loch. The route includes options to explore picnic spots beside a river where you might spot wild salmon leaping upstream in late summer / autumn.
On the last leg of the drive to Inverness, you can either take a direct drive along the Beauly Firth, or follow a longer route via the ancient Caledonian forest of Glen Affric and then down to Loch Ness.
Driving Distance: ~72 miles / 112 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 cairns at Clava, 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, the road passes through the Spey valley where you have options for detours to explore the whisky 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 can keep a look out for Grouse popping their heads above the heather.
After the high plateau of the Cairngorms, you descend to the neat little villages of Ballater and Braemar in Royal Deeside. This region is synonymous with Queen Victoria and still has strong connections with the Royal family. Consequently, Balmoral castle is the obvious place to visit in this area, 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 Edinburgh -
We guide you south to Perth on an old military road that was built through Glen Shee by the “Redcoats” to help them fight rebellious Jacobites. You can take a journey break in Perth, or visit nearby Scone Palace, where Scotland’s Kings were crowned on the “Stone of Destiny”.
After Perth, you have a fast motorway drive back to Edinburgh, but we include the option of a detour to the pretty conservation village of Falkland where you can visit Mary Queen of Scots' favourite country palace. Fans of “Outlander” should also recognise the village from its appearances in the TV show.
Driving Distance: ~106 miles
Stopover in Edinburgh
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!
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We have just got back from an EXCELLENT holiday following the Borders to Orkney route suggestions.
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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.
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