Getting reading for a road trip in Scotland
A trip to Scotland is perfect for an epic road trip. With two weeks it is possible to carry out a relaxed loop (with about 1h30min of driving per day). With a week or ten days it will be a bit more difficult to make a loop but it is enough time to visit a good part of Scotland.
Our first advice to plan your road trip is the timing. It is essential to get the most out of the activities. We arrived on the last weekend of August to enjoy the first half of September. Travelling around those dates allowed us to:
- Maximise our chances of not having a terrible weather (which was true on 2/3 of the trip).
- Avoid the worst season for the midges (itchy little flies). We haven’t been disturbed much, only slightly on the Isle of Skye.
- Attend the Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival (one of the largest art festivals in the world) and the Edinburgh’s book festival.
- See the Queen Elisabeth in person during the Highland Games final (we organised all our trip around this date and it was really worth it).
- Bring rain gears, even hiking rain gears for bad weather. We missed some beautiful hikes and were very sorry not to have brought waterproof rain pants.
- Renting a car is the best way to achieve your road trip but stay alert on small winding roads. Also, be careful of the sheeps on the road, especially on the Isle of Skye.
- Accommodations are expensive everywhere in the UK but we found beautiful and unique places to stay along the road, our selection.
Our 2 weeks road trip in Scotland
Edinburgh: 2 days
You will not be bored in Edinburgh. This is especially true during the Fringe Festival where we have seen excellent comedy shows for free.
For food, we loved the small and cosy Italian restaurant Domenico’s.
Finally we stayed in a charming historic building at a very affordable price, more information in our article on unusual housing in Scotland.
It’s easy to walk or take the bus in Edinburgh, so we picked up the car just before leaving the city in a car rental near the main train station (to facilitate our return by train to London).
Scotland Book Nerds Alert
For book nerds like Clémentine Scotland is a destination of choice. For example, in Edinburgh at the end of August you will enjoy the popular Edinburgh Book Festival and its quality events. You can also go in front of The Elephant House, a cafe where JK Rowling wrote passages from Harry Potter. Be aware if you want a chance to sit down and sip a drink you will have a long time to be stroke by inspiration while waiting in the queue (especially if you come during the Book Festival, you will be far from being the only nerd book in town).
Clémentine also loved the city of St Andrew and the Topping & Company Booksellers of St Andrews bookshop.
Crail: half a day
Mandatory stop at Crail on the road between Edinburgh and St Andrew. It is a charming little village by the sea where we ate a delicious lobster for only £11. We were sitting at a picnic table on a parking lot next to the Lobster Hut, the best culinary experience of the trip!
You can also check out the Crail Harbour Gallery, a nice tea room, but lobster first!
St Andrews: 1 day
We really enjoyed the city of St Andrew. First St Andrew’s Castle next to the beach. If the weather is nice and you are brave enough we advise you to take your swimsuit with you. It was unexpected to see swimmers in the sea and we were disappointed not to have our swimsuits. The ruins of the cathedral are very beautiful and impressive. Finally you can visit the University of St Andrew where Prince William met his sweetheart Kate.
To conclude this lovely day, it is near St Andrew that we spent the night in our dream accommodation. It is a Scottish adventure must: a castle! We were also able to walk from the castle to Dunina Parish Church and observe a very impressive and authentic druid well.
Dundee: 1 day
After the beauty of St Andrew and the most incredible accommodation of the trip we were a little disappointed with our visit to Dundee. The only notable activity was the visit of RSS Discovery, the boat in which the Discovery Expedition expedition to Antarctica was successfully conducted. A visit that we highly recommend if you are like us: fans of adventure, travel, history and you share our fascination for the old facilities (boats, houses and castles).
Glamis Castle: 1 day
We love visiting castles and Glamis Castle did not disappointed us. A castle very well preserved and furnished.
Cairngorm National Park: 3 days
As we said we love visiting castles! If it’s not your passion we recommend visiting only Glamis Castle, Crathes Castle is not as impressive. The visit of the castle was not very long but we also went for a walk in the gardens which are very nice. There is also the possibility of tree climbing for the more adventurous.
Cairngorm’s landscapes are beautiful, but our favourite travel activity was the Cairngorm Reindeer Center where we were able to approach a herd of reindeer (re-introduced to Scotland after extinction) and feed them with the healers. It was a moment we will cherish forever.
It was a day dedicated to wildlife since we then visited the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, a park where you can go by car like on a safari. It is a nice activity to do with children or if the weather is too bad for a hike.
As mentioned above we planned all our trip to arrive at Braemar on the day of its Highland Games final. A day out of the ordinary that went by really fast. The Highland Games are sport events celebrating Scottish culture, especially focused on the Highlands. A day full of kilts, rope shooting, thrown incredibly high tree trunks, dancing, bagpipes and throwing hammers. The bonus, as it is the final, the Queen of England and her suite, give the medals to the winners at the end of the day. A great afternoon sitting in front of Elisabeth, Philippe, Charles and Camilla. Once in a lifetime.
Be aware Braemar is overcrowded due to the event, make sure you book your accommodation in advance. To find a low price accommodation we had to stay relatively far from the city.
Between Braemar and Inverness we stopped in Carrbridge to sleep in a nice hostel. There are hiking trails starting from the hostel, it’s worth to plan a few hours of hikes.
Loch Ness: 1 day
A must! Both the story around Loch Ness and the landscapes made this day mystical and beautiful. We toured the Loch through Fort Augustus, Invergarry, Invermoriston and ended at Urquhart Castle. The ruins of the castle are quite disappointing, it’s not worth paying to visit them. The Loch Ness and the surroundings are very impressive, we strongly advise you to explore them.
After this day we spent the night in Inverness and slept in the city centre. We were a little disappointed with the city and don’t believe it is a necessary visit.
Loch Torridon: 1 day
We loved Loch Torridon and its beautiful beaches. We had a very nice walk in Torridon and finished at the Deer Museum where we could feed the gorgeous deers.
The evening was just as nice, we ended the day in Strathcarron, a beautiful place with beaches and a majestic view on Shieldag Island. We had a seafood dinner at Tigh An Eilean Restaurant followed by a night at the very original accomodation Loch Torridon Smokehouse.
Isle of Skye: 2 days
The road to the Isle of Skye from Loch Torridon is very impressive. Do not forget your insect repellent and pay attention to the midges. We visited Sligachan, Kylechin, the Quirrang, The Fairy Pools, the pretty village of Portree, Fairy Glen (which Nicolas loved) and Duntulm Castle. We climbed up the Old Man of Storr but it was under a lot of wind and the climb was much more difficult than expected (especially for Clémentine).
The Isle of Skye offered us our second delicious lobster at the Oyster Shed, accompanied by fries and a selection of seafood for a ridiculously low price, highly recommended!
For our 3 nights on the island we decided to go for glamping.
The Isle of Skye is beautiful but is much more popular with tourists than the rest of Scotland which can be a little annoying.
Glenfinnan: 1 day
We arrived in the afternoon at Glenfinnan where we walked to the famous viaduct over which the Hogwarts Express passes in the Harry Potter movies. We ate venison steak, which is quite popular in Scotland, at Prince’s House Hotel (we wish we also had haggis but it contains lactose to which Clémentine is allergic). We spent the night in the most unusual and most profitable accommodation of the trip sleeping in a former Victorian train converted into an inn.
Fort William: half a day
We visited the West Highland Museum as the day was rainy (we recommend enjoying the nature otherwise) and hiked at Glencoe.
We ate in our favourite pub, The Drovers Inn, with the craziest decor that includes (among others) bears, wolves, sharks, stuffed ferocious felines and undoubtedly ghosts! We stumbled upon it in the middle of the day but it must be a great place to stay for one night.
We spent the night in a lovely Airbnb in Kippen (to get a discount on your next Airbnb reservation, use our discount link).
Loch Lomond: half a day
Beautiful scenery but unfortunately under heavy rain for us.
Glasgow: half a day
In Glasgow, we visited the Mackintosh House, the Glasgow Cathedral, and the Glasgow City Chambers. We loved the Riverside Museum, great with kids and with the extra bonus of being free. the city is nice and the walks in the streets offer a beautiful architectural panorama.
We spent our last night on the road between Glasgow and Edinburgh and ended the road trip to Edinburgh where we returned the car before taking the train back to London.
Our Scottish road trip highlights:
Our favourite moments are focused on the first part of the trip, achievable in a few days if you do not have the opportunity to go for two weeks.
- Favourite event: Highland Games Braemar Gathering.
- Favourite meal: Lobster in Crail (or on the Isle of Skye).
- Favourite accommodation: Stravithie Castle.
- Favourite activity: visit to the reindeer herd in Cairngorm.
Clémentine’s movies and reading list
- Scotland Lonely Planet Guide.
- The 8 Harry Potter movies: to recognise landscapes on the road.
- The movie Braveheart: just because we had to mention it on this list.
- The book Trainspotting: a much more serious topic with a story taking place in Edinburgh. We also recommend the excellent film of the same name.
- Horrible History Scotland: Horrible History is an great children’s book collection making history funny. Perfect if you are looking for a light and quick way to deepen your knowledge of the Scottish history.
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion by Don Rosa: one of my favourite cartoon as a child (which surely was an inspiration to travel). Scrooge is from Scotland and return there for some great adventures involving a haunted castle.