Scottish Highland Road Trip - Glasgow to Glasgow

Scottish Highland Road Trip Loop

I don't know why but islands with mountains that meet the sea with a touch of green and slightly rainy weather have special pull for me, and not the tropical kind. I can never quite put my finger on it but it's part that I love striking scenery (I mean who doesn't really) and part that I love a little air of the mystical. They speak to me on a level I cannot explain, verbalize or even truly understand.

Scotland is the latest of this grouping to draw my attention. I first visited Scotland in 2011 driving from York  up to Edinburgh. It was just a few days but I fell in love with it and knew (hoped) I would be back one day. While visiting Edinburgh, I heard a lot about the highlands and their singular beauty. People in my work circle at that time had a special relationship with the Scottish Highlands and spoke of it with a deep love and longing. My eventual return to Scotland seemed almost destined.

Between this trip in and my last, I took numerous other trips and did my RTW (Round the World). I almost visited Scotland during my RTW, going as far as to look at booking some Airbnbs, but it didn't come to pass until now. (Fun fact, I ended up staying in an Airbnb I had looked at during my RTW on this trip to Scotland! It was so worth the wait!)

There is so much to say about this trip and I will in subsequent posts but today, I'm going to share a little bit about my route.

It is easy to look at a map of Scotland and think "oh it's not that big," especially if you are from the U.S. However, the distances in miles do not correspond to driving time in the way you might think. The distance markers do not account for the number of times you will stop to take pictures because something is too beautiful to pass up, or the times you will pull off to the side of a road to take a random hike for the afternoon, or even the single track roads which are infinitely more fun to drive and view than you can imagine.

I found the single track roads easier to drive than other places I have been with single track roads. The ones across the Scottish highlands are generally wider than a lot of other single track roads I have been on and have significantly more "passing places." In fact most of them can be seen from the one before it, a rarity in other places (if they have passing places at all, that is). Reminder: They drive on the left (And it's so fun! Check out my notes on driving on the left HERE)

I was looking for a more relaxed trip on this outing so I decided to base myself in mostly two places and then do day trips. It broke down into one night in Ford, three nights on Skye, and three nights in Inverness. Even though I still drove 1,575 miles, it was a great way to get equal part movement and stability. Often when I stay in a different place each night I get drained by the end of the trip since I am the sole driver.

Gateway to Isle of Skye
Gateway to Isle of Skye - Loch Duich 

What I Would Do Differently Next Time

First, I would suggest a shorter stay in Inverness. Although it makes a pretty good base for seeing the Northern Highlands if you are short on time, it is a small town. Technically it just got city status but by any common standards it's small. It has some good restaurants and sites but you can basically do it all in an afternoon.

Second, I would go for longer of course! In all seriousness, I wanted to get to more islands. I almost went to Orkney but I decided that 2.5 hours drive each way and a 90 minute ferry ride for only 6 hours on mainland Orkney was just too aggressive, not to mention the nearly $200.00 ferry price tag when bringing a car over there. It was stormy too so I decided to pass it up and save it for next time when I can go full force and do an island focused trip.

What I Loved 

3 Days and Nights on the Isle of Skye felt perfect to me.  It's not a huge island but there is a ton to do. 3 Days gives you enough chance of at least a non-rainy few hours, and plenty of time to hike and site see. You can check out more in my Isle of Skye Guide.

Eco-yoga retreat in Ford, Argylle - The place is really off the beaten path and a unique stop. Fancy taking a bath next to a waterfall? Full post here .

Really the whole darn country. There are so many different routes you can take, mine is just one option that I was really happy with. Things went really smoothly, probably more so than any other travel experience I have had. It's an easy country to travel around. And there are only so many roads, some are only one way in and one way out, so it's easy to find your way.

Top Tips 

-Write out directions on paper if you need them, mobile and gps signals are very spotty throughout the highlands.

-Pick the top 5 things you want to see and do on your trip and plan everything else around them. For example, if you have always wanted to go to Isle of Skye, do that and then find out what you can see and do on the route to Skye. If you have to go see Nessie, do that and then visit the area surrounding it and find the gems for you. Outdoor adventure is all around you in Scotland, and it is easy to take full advantage of it.

- Bring road trip snacks. Between hiking and isolated locations, it is always good to have provisions in your car, especially water. I always stop at the grocery store before I start a road trip, especially if know I am going to be in remote places.

- I also make sure that even if I don't really need petrol, I stop and get it, so I never get stuck. I don't think I sent below a half tank this whole trip for that reason. It is often hours between stations in some of these areas. 

(Note about the map below, google wouldn't let me put too many stops on the same route map, so it is all broken up, hence the duplicate letters, but this way you can also see shorter small loops you can do.)

Rest and Be Thankful Pass Scotland
Rest and Be Thankful Pass 

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the road!