Scotland is full of beautiful landscapes both on its coastline and inland. One of the best ways to discover them is by road. Remember, however, not to let your amazement make you forget that you have to drive on the left! Here is a selection of the most beautiful routes in Scotland, from north to south, east to west, through the Highlands and Hebrides. Have a nice trip!
1. From Perthshire to Royal Deeside
From Perth, nicknamed The Fair City, to Aberdeen – The Granite City – runs the A93, a 177km long road with bends and hills. It passes through one of the most beautiful areas of the Scottish interior: Royal Deeside. Weather permitting, it reveals castles and ruins perched on the hills. It also climbs the Glenshee Pass where Scotland’s largest ski resort is located, and past the famous Balmoral Castle, one of the royal residences and the Queen’s summer quarters.
2. From Fort William to Mallaig
The road from Fort William to Mallaig along the A830, also known as The Road to the Isles, leads to the islands of Eigg, Mull and Skye via Mallaig, from where you can take the ferry. The variety is what makes this road a vertiginous ride, where you want to almost idle to enjoy each of its 69 kilometres. Its diversities include the “high” mountains with Ben Nevis, the highest point in the United Kingdom at 1344 m above sea level, a portion of the Caledonian Canal, and magnificent lochs. In Glennfinnan, a stop is needed to admire its viaduct, made famous thanks to the Harry Potter series. Finally, the lochs give way to a majestic meeting with the sea, lined by long sandy beaches and bordered by clear turquoise water.
3. The Road to Applecross
This route is not recommended for inexperienced drivers, wide vehicles or caravans. This is made clear from the outset by means of a signpost and suggests an alternative route for larger vehicles. For the experienced driver, The Road to Applecross or in Gaelic the Bealach Na Bà, is a single-lane road that is all twists, turns and hairpin bends that climbs over 600m before dropping down to the charming coastal village of Applecross, at the end of a Highland peninsula. The Bealach Na Bà is also a road of clouds. They of course make it even more enchanting, even mystical, but also dangerous because of the lack of visibility.
4. The NC500 (North Coast 500)
Inaugurated in 2015, this “new” road, or rather this new circuit with Inverness as its start and end point, is partly an initiative of Prince Charles, a fan of open spaces and nature. It offers a summary of the Far North West of Scotland. For over 800 km, it runs alongside all that is beautiful and exotic in the country, including dramatic coastlines, long desert-like beaches, loaches, herds of sheep that pay no attention to the cars that pass by, distilleries, seafood, ruins and castles. A road not to be rushed – take between three and eight days to appreciate what this great area of Scotland has to offer.
5. The Golden Road, Harris
From Ullapool, you can take the ferry to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and sail down to Harris, with a visit to a Tweed factory a must. At Tarbert, a small single-lane road of 38 km runs along the entire eastern coast from Harris to the southern tip of Rodel. It is known as The Golden Road.Some say it owes its name to its high cost of construction, others to its importance in the development of the island as it connects the most remote hamlets and communities of Harris. Its beauty is revealed along mini-fjords, sometimes giving the impression of being on the moon, especially when the sun reflects off the bare rocks. Animal lovers will not be disappointed with a view of the seals swaggering serenely on the rocks below the lochs bordering the road, which is very deserving of being named after a precious metal.
6. The Highland Perthshire Loop
North West of St Andrews up in Perthshire, the Highland Perthshire Loopis a beautiful road that draws a 157km loop through the heart and heights of Highland Perthshire. Landscapes of mountains, forests and rivers follow on from each another. Pitlochry, a former holiday resort for Queen Victoria, Loch Tay and Aberfeldy, famous thanks to Robert Burns, are all worth a visit. Whisky lovers can also go for a wee tasting at the Blair Athol distillery and also visit Blair Castle (before or after!). Braver souls can try a bungee jump near Killiecrankie or rafting on the River Tay. The more contemplative, on the other hand, can indulge in a little peace and quiet with the salmon fishermen on the banks of the Tummel River.
7. From Glenelg to Skye
The road from Glenelg to the Isle of Skye is a nice alternative to the Skye bridge over Loch Alsh. The charming village of Glenelg can be reached from the A87, by leaving it at Shiel Bridge and taking the Old Military Road. These 15 kilometres of small winding road, most of which is single-lane, give a foretaste of Skye’s splendid scenery. In Glenelg, situated on a peninsula between the Luich and Hourn lochs, you take the ferry to Kylerhea on Skye from the old Sandaig lighthouse, which also deserves special attention. Beware, this very enjoyable ferry, which is run by the local community, only operates from March to October.
8. Glencoe, the Loch Leven tour
The village of Glencoe is located in the heart of one of the most beautiful of Scottish Glens, and is also the starting point of an enchanting road, the B863. It goes around the sumptuous Loch Leven for about thirty kilometres at the foot of the Munros, the name given to Scottish mountains of over 3000 feet (914 m)-. Views not to be missed include the mountains known as the Three Sisters to the east of Glencoe, the isle of Eilean Munde with its 16th century chapel and its tombs, as well as the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfalls near Kinlochleven. A small village that climbing enthusiasts will especially appreciate for its Ice Factort indoor ice climbing centre.