Exploring the Best Driving Roads in Scotland – Must-See Routes

Exploring the Best Driving Roads in Scotland – Must-See Routes
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Scotland is well-known for its stunning landscapes and picturesque scenery, making it the perfect destination for a road trip. The country offers a wide range of driving roads, from scenic routes through the highlands, to coastal drives along rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. With so many breathtaking landscapes and hidden gems to explore, Scotland is a road trip enthusiast's dream come true.

Key Takeaways

  • Scotland offers some of the best driving roads in the world, with stunning views and diverse landscapes.
  • The North Coast 500 is an iconic route that takes you through some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the country.
  • The A82 is known for its scenic beauty, passing through the heart of the Scottish Highlands and offering breathtaking views of mountains, lochs, and forests.
  • The Isle of Skye is a must-visit destination for any road trip enthusiast, offering diverse landscapes and iconic landmarks.
  • The A701 is a must-see route that takes you through the Scottish Borders, with rolling hills, picturesque towns, and historic sites to explore.

The Iconic North Coast 500

One of the most iconic routes in Scotland is the North Coast 500 (NC500). This scenic route covers the stunning north coast of Scotland, taking you on a 500-mile journey through beautiful landscapes, historic castles, charming villages, and breathtaking coastal views. The route starts and ends at Inverness Castle, taking you along the rugged coastline of the Scottish Highlands. You will pass through places like Dornoch, John O'Groats, Ullapool, and Applecross, each offering its own unique attractions and experiences.

One of the highlights of the North Coast 500 is the North West Highlands Geopark, a UNESCO-recognized area that boasts ancient rocks, stunning mountains, and diverse wildlife. It is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities like hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting.

Throughout the journey, you will have the opportunity to visit impressive castles, such as Dunrobin Castle and Castle of Mey, both steeped in history and offering magnificent views of the surrounding landscape. You can also explore picturesque villages like Ullapool and Portree, where you can immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy traditional Scottish hospitality.

The North Coast 500 is not only about the scenery; it also offers a wide range of outdoor activities. You can try your hand at mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, or even take a boat trip to spot dolphins and seals along the coast. There are also plenty of opportunities to indulge in the local cuisine, with many restaurants and cafes along the route serving fresh seafood and traditional Scottish dishes.

Whether you choose to drive the entire route or just a section of it, the North Coast 500 promises an unforgettable journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes Scotland has to offer. It is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking adventure, natural beauty, and a taste of Scottish culture.

Thrills on the Bealach Na Ba

Another must-see driving road in Scotland is the Bealach Na Ba, which translates to "Pass of the Cattle" in Scottish Gaelic. Located in the Scottish Highlands, this winding mountain pass offers thrilling experiences for adventure seekers, providing breathtaking views and an adrenaline-fuelled journey.

The road rises to a height of 2,054 feet (626 metres) in just five miles, with steep inclines, hairpin bends, and narrow sections that make it suitable only for experienced drivers and skilled motorcyclists. Despite its challenging nature, the sharp bends and sheer drops create a heart-pounding experience that will leave any adventure enthusiast wanting more.

The surrounding rugged landscape offers stunning scenery that unfolds along the Bealach Na Ba. As you ascend the pass, the views of the surrounding mountains, lochs, and valleys become increasingly awe-inspiring. The journey itself becomes an adventure as you witness the beauty of the Scottish Highlands from a unique vantage point.

Aside from the thrills of the road and the captivating landscapes, Bealach Na Ba also offers opportunities for hikers and cyclists to explore the area. With numerous walking trails and cycling routes branching off from the pass, outdoor enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the beauty of the Scottish countryside.

It is essential to note that drivers and visitors should exercise caution and respect the road's conditions and regulations. Due to its narrowness and challenging nature, it is not recommended for large vehicles or those who are uncomfortable with steep and winding roads.

So, if you're seeking an adrenaline rush and a chance to immerse yourself in the stunning Scottish scenery, venture to Bealach Na Ba and experience the thrills of this remarkable mountain pass.

Coastal Beauty on A82

For those seeking a coastal drive, the A82 from Glasgow to Fort William is a must-see route. Spanning across 167 miles, this scenic road takes you through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Scotland.

As you embark on your journey, you will encounter the charming village of Arrochar, nestled at the head of Loch Long. The tranquil waters of the loch and the rugged mountains in the backdrop present a mesmerising view, perfect for photography enthusiasts.

Continuing along the road, you will come across the largest freshwater loch in Scotland, known as the Loch Lomond. With towering mountains surrounding it, the loch is an ideal spot for picnics and serene walks along the shoreline.

Further along, you will reach the town of Tarbet, nestled where Loch Long meets Loch Lomond. From here, you can take a boat trip to explore the lochs, or simply take in the stunning views from the shore.

Driving north on the A82, you will reach the majestic Glen Coe, famous for its dramatic landscapes and towering peaks. Hiking enthusiasts will love the numerous trails available, while others can enjoy the mist-covered mountains and cascading waterfalls.

Finally, you will reach Fort William, a charming town situated on the shores of Loch Linnhe. It offers breathtaking views of the surrounding sea and mountains, and is the starting point for conquering Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles.

In conclusion, the A82 route is a must-visit destination for its scenic coastal beauty. With picturesque lochs, towering mountains, and dramatic landscapes, this drive offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural splendour of Scotland. Whether you are a nature lover or simply appreciate stunning landscapes, the A82 is the perfect route to discover the coastal beauty of Scotland.

Exploring the Isle of Skye

If you're a fan of island adventures, the Isle of Skye is a must-visit destination. This Scottish island boasts stunning landscapes, historic sites, and outdoor activities that will appeal to nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts alike. With its rugged mountains, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque lochs, Skye is a haven for hikers and climbers. Experienced mountaineers will relish the challenge of the famous Cuillin Mountains, while those seeking a less taxing adventure can enjoy stunning views from the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr. Visitors can also explore various walking trails, allowing them to immerse themselves in the island's diverse flora and fauna. Skye is not just a natural paradise, but it also boasts a rich cultural heritage. The Dunvegan Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, is a must-visit attraction. Visitors can explore its extensive gardens and learn about the MacLeod Clan, who have resided there for centuries. The Talisker Distillery, famous for its single malt Scotch whisky, is also a popular destination, offering tours and tastings that provide insight into the island's distilling traditions. For wildlife enthusiasts, Skye offers ample opportunities to encounter various species. The island's coastal areas are home to seals, dolphins, and even whales, making it a paradise for marine wildlife lovers. Birdwatchers will relish the chance to spot golden eagles, puffins, and numerous other species in their natural habitats. To truly immerse oneself in the island's charm, visitors can explore its quaint villages and thriving local arts scene. Portree, the island's capital, offers a range of shops, galleries, and restaurants, allowing visitors to sample traditional Scottish cuisine and browse locally crafted goods. Overall, exploring the Isle of Skye promises a diverse range of experiences, from awe-inspiring landscapes to rich cultural heritage. Whether one seeks adventure, tranquility, or a taste of Scottish history, the island has something to offer every visitor. When planning a visit, be sure to include the Trotternish Loop in your itinerary, as it boasts dramatic landscapes and iconic landmarks that are not to be missed.

The Thrills of Applecross Pass

For those looking for a shorter but equally rewarding drive, the Applecross Pass is a must-see. Located in the Scottish Highlands, it offers a thrilling and breathtaking experience for both locals and tourists. With its winding roads, stunning scenery, and challenging terrain, it is a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

The pass, also known as Bealach na Bà in Scottish Gaelic, is one of the highest and most renowned mountain passes in the UK. It stretches over 6 miles and reaches heights of up to 2,054 feet, making it a true test of driving skills and nerve.

The thrill of driving through Applecross Pass lies in the hairpin bends and steep gradients that require full concentration and precision. As you navigate the narrow road, you are rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, lochs, and the Isle of Skye in the distance.

For cycling enthusiasts, Applecross Pass is a popular destination, attracting both road cyclists and mountain bikers. The challenging ascent and descent provide an exhilarating experience, and the surrounding landscape makes it even more memorable.

Hikers and walkers also flock to Applecross Pass to explore the nearby trails and take in the panoramic views. There are various routes to choose from, ranging from easy walks to more strenuous hikes. A visit to the famous Applecross Inn, located at the foot of the pass, is a must for those looking to relax and refuel after a day of outdoor activities.

During the summer months, Applecross Pass can be a lively spot, with motorcyclists and driving enthusiasts gathering to experience the thrill of tackling the twisting roads. It has even been featured in popular TV shows, further increasing its popularity.

However, it's important to note that Applecross Pass can be challenging, especially during winter when the weather conditions can be harsh. It is advisable to check local weather forecasts and road conditions before attempting the pass.

In conclusion, Applecross Pass is a thrilling destination that offers a unique and exciting experience for those seeking adventure or simply wanting to enjoy the beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Whether you choose to drive, cycle, or hike, the pass promises to leave you with unforgettable memories and a renewed appreciation for nature's wonders.

Remote Wilderness in the North-West Highlands

If you're in search of a remote and secluded driving experience, the North-West Highlands Geopark is the perfect destination. This region offers a truly wild and untouched experience for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. Located in the Scottish Highlands, it is known for its rugged landscapes, vast moors, majestic mountains, and pristine lochs.

The North-West Highlands Geopark is a haven for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountaineering, camping, and wildlife watching. With its remote location, visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse themselves in the tranquillity and natural beauty of the area.

Driving through the North-West Highlands offers stunning views of unspoiled landscapes and tranquil lochs. The winding roads take you through the heart of this remote wilderness, offering a unique and memorable driving experience.

Exploring the dramatic peaks of Ben Nevis or delving into the ancient Caledonian Forest will leave you awestruck. The North-West Highlands promises an unforgettable and remote wilderness experience.

Road Trip Essentials: Tips and Tricks

Planning a road trip through Scotland requires some essential tips and tricks to ensure an enjoyable experience. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey:

  1. Plan your route: Before embarking on your road trip, plan the route you'll be taking. Include stops for refuelling, meals, and sightseeing. This will help you stay on track and avoid getting lost.
  2. Pack a car emergency kit: It's essential to have a car emergency kit that includes a spare tire, jack, jumper cables, basic tools, first aid supplies, and a flashlight. This will come in handy in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
  3. Stay hydrated and snack smart: Make sure to pack enough water and healthy snacks to keep you energised during the journey. Avoid excessive sugar and opt for snacks like nuts, fruits, and granola bars.
  4. Comfortable clothing: Dress in comfortable clothing, especially if you'll be on the road for long hours. Loose-fitting clothes and layers are ideal for adjusting to various weather conditions.
  5. Entertainment options: Long drives can become tedious, so have some entertainment options ready. Bring along your favourite music playlist, audiobooks, or podcasts to keep yourself entertained during the journey.
  6. Keep important documents handy: Make sure to have your driving licence, vehicle registration, and insurance documents readily available. It's also a good idea to have copies of these documents in case of any loss or emergencies.
  7. Stay well-rested: Prioritize getting a good night's sleep before your road trip. Driving while tired can be dangerous, so take regular breaks and switch drivers if possible.
  8. Plan for accommodation: If your road trip involves multiple days of driving, plan for accommodation in advance. Research hotels or campgrounds along your route and make bookings to avoid any last-minute hassles.
  9. Check your vehicle before the trip: Ensure that your vehicle is in good working condition before hitting the road. Check the oil, coolant, brakes, lights, and tires to ensure a safe and smooth journey.
  10. Enjoy the journey: Lastly, embrace the road trip experience and enjoy the journey. Take breaks to appreciate the scenic routes, capture memorable moments, and explore new places along the way.

By following these road trip essentials and tips, you can have a stress-free and enjoyable adventure on the open road. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for an unforgettable trip!

Embracing Scottish Hospitality: Roadside Attractions and Cafes

Along your driving journey in Scotland, make sure to embrace the Scottish hospitality by visiting roadside attractions and cafes. When visiting Scotland, one cannot miss out on experiencing the warm and welcoming hospitality of the Scottish people. One of the best ways to embrace this hospitality is by exploring the roadside attractions and cafes that dot the breathtaking Scottish landscape.

Scotland is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, and the roadside attractions offer a unique opportunity to appreciate this beauty while enjoying a warm cup of tea or a delicious meal. From the charming villages in the Highlands to the picturesque coastal towns, there are countless roadside attractions that cater to all tastes and preferences.

Many of these attractions are housed in traditional Scottish cottages, which exude a rustic and quaint charm. These cottages are often adorned with colourful flower gardens and offer a cosy and inviting atmosphere. Inside, visitors can expect to find a wide range of Scottish delights, including traditional dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties, as well as freshly baked scones and cakes.

One of the highlights of embracing Scottish hospitality is the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals. The staff at these roadside cafes are known for their warm and genuine hospitality, making visitors feel right at home. They are always ready to offer recommendations on local attractions and provide interesting insights into Scottish culture and history.

In addition to the welcoming atmosphere, the roadside cafes also offer stunning views of the Scottish countryside. Many of these establishments are strategically located, allowing visitors to enjoy their meal while gazing out at rolling hills, picturesque lochs, or rugged coastlines. It's the perfect way to relax and soak in the breathtaking scenery while savouring a taste of Scotland.

Moreover, these roadside cafes often source their ingredients locally, ensuring that visitors can experience authentic Scottish flavours. From freshly caught seafood to locally sourced meats and vegetables, these cafes take pride in showcasing the best of Scotland's culinary heritage. This commitment to quality and freshness can be tasted in every dish served.

Whether you're on a road trip through the Scottish Highlands or exploring the charming coastal towns, embracing Scottish hospitality at roadside attractions and cafes is a must-do experience. From the warm and inviting atmosphere to the delicious food and stunning views, these establishments embody the essence of Scottish hospitality and provide an unforgettable taste of what this beautiful country has to offer.

Hidden Gems: Off-the-Beaten-Path Routes

Scotland is not just about the well-known routes; it is also home to hidden gems waiting to be discovered. If you're looking to explore Scotland's lesser-known destinations, here are some off-the-beaten-path routes that you shouldn't miss:

  1. The Cairngorms Scenic Route – This route takes you through the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, offering stunning views of the Scottish Highlands. Along the way, you can explore ancient forests, quaint villages, and peaceful lochs.
  2. The Angus Coastal Route – This route takes you along the picturesque Angus coastline, offering breathtaking views of the North Sea. Along the way, you can visit charming fishing villages, historic castles, and sprawling beaches.
  3. The Borders Historic Route – This route takes you through the Scottish Borders region, offering a glimpse into Scotland's rich history. Along the way, you can visit ancient abbeys, imposing castles, and picturesque market towns.
  4. The Argyll Coastal Route – This route takes you along the stunning west coast of Scotland, offering panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, you can explore historic castles, beautiful beaches, and quaint fishing villages.
  5. The Wester Ross Coastal Trail – This route takes you along the remote west coast of Scotland, offering breathtaking views of the rugged coastline. Along the way, you can visit charming fishing villages, historic castles, and stunning beaches.

These hidden gems provide a unique and authentic travel experience, allowing you to explore Scotland's lesser-known destinations and create unforgettable memories. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a new adventure, these off-the-beaten-path routes have something for everyone.

Exploring Scotland's History: Castles and Historic Sites

Scotland's history comes alive as you explore its castles and historic sites along scenic driving routes.

One of the most famous castles in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle, located on Castle Rock in the heart of Edinburgh. It has been a site of historical significance for over a thousand years and offers stunning panoramic views of the city. Inside the castle, you can explore the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, and the National War Museum.

Another iconic castle in Scotland is Stirling Castle, situated on a volcanic rock overlooking the city of Stirling. This castle played a key role in Scotland's history, serving as a royal palace and a strategic fortification. Today, visitors can discover its fascinating history through guided tours, exhibitions, and interactive experiences.

If you're interested in exploring a ruined castle, you can visit Dunnottar Castle on the northeast coast of Scotland. Perched atop a rugged cliff, this castle offers a dramatic setting and a glimpse into its turbulent past. It was once home to Scottish royalty and has witnessed many battles and sieges throughout its history.

In addition to castles, Scotland is also home to numerous historic sites that bear witness to its past. One such site is the ancient standing stones of Brodgar, located in Orkney. These Neolithic monuments are believed to date back to 2500 BC and are a testament to the early inhabitants of Scotland.

For a truly immersive historical experience, you can visit the Scottish Borders, an area rich in history and heritage. Here, you can explore the ruined abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh, and Dryburgh, which stand as reminders of the country's religious past.

In conclusion, exploring Scotland's castles and historic sites is a fascinating journey into its history and heritage. From magnificent castles like Edinburgh and Stirling to ancient standing stones and ruined abbeys, there is something for everyone to discover and appreciate. So, pack your bags and embark on a trip to Scotland to delve into its captivating past.


In conclusion, Scotland offers a range of must-see driving routes that cater to every type of road trip enthusiast. From the rugged cliffs and majestic mountains of the North Coast 500, to the hairpin bends and stunning views of Bealach Na Ba, to the coastal beauty and picturesque views of A82, Scotland has something for everyone.

The Isle of Skye's dramatic landscapes and iconic landmarks, the thrill and beauty of the Applecross Pass route, the remote and secluded driving experience in the North-West Highlands Geopark, and the hidden gems of lesser-known routes all offer unique and off-the-beaten-path driving experiences.

When planning a road trip in Scotland, it is important to keep in mind essential road trip tips such as driving on the left side of the road, being prepared for weather changes, and planning your route ahead of time. Additionally, embracing Scottish hospitality by visiting roadside attractions and cafes can enhance your road trip experience and provide a taste of local culture.

Finally, exploring Scotland's rich history by visiting its castles and historic sites along scenic driving routes offers a unique cultural exploration that is not to be missed. Scotland truly is a road trip destination that offers stunning landscapes, unforgettable routes, and endless adventure.

So, whether you're a seasoned road tripper or a first-timer, Scotland's best driving roads are waiting to be explored. So, hit the road and discover the beauty that this incredible country has to offer!