How to do an epic roadtrip in the scottish highlands

roadtrip scottish highlands

The Scottish Highlands should be on everyone’s bucket list. Do you want to discover the very best of the Scottish Highlands without breaking the bank? Well, here’s the ultimate guide for an absolutely epic roadtrip, so fasten your seatbelt and let’s GO!

The Scottish Highlands undoubtedly offers one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world. With their wild mountains and rivers, their decadent castles, and their impressing history, Scotland can indeed offer something for everyone. However, you don’t have to splurge out on a tour company in order to fully explore the Highlands – in this jam-packed guide I will offer you a full 3-day itinerary, optional excursions, and suggestions for overnight stays.

Should you book a trip with a tour company?

There are lots of tour companies out there that will let you roam the Highlands with them for a (rather high) fee, and that’s perfectly fine if you like being gently shuffled from one scenic view to another. If this sounds like something for you, then Haggis tours might just be a perfect match. As some of you might remember, I had the pleasure of exploring Isle of Skye with them last year. There is absolutely no shame in loving tour companies – trust me on this, I’ve tried basically all of them! However, there are some experiences that might just be a wee bit more budget-friendly and offer a better experience if you do it independently. A roadtrip through the Scottish Highlands definitely falls under that category.  I don’t think there’s any doubt about the fact that the Highlands are best discovered in your own pace…

Should you go rogue and ditch the tour company?

In my opinion – HELL YES! After two years in Scotland, I have roamed the Scottish Highlands both with tour companies and with a rental car. My favorite is certainly the latter.

This guide is for those of you who want to discover the beauty of Scotland in your own pace. All you need for this epic roadtrip is a rental car, an amazing playlist on Spotify, and a rather great group of friends (or just yourself if you prefer your own company). This itinerary starts in Glasgow, but it is also easily accessible from Edinburgh.

If you follow this itinerary, you will

  • fall in love with bonnie Loch Lomond
  • be enchanted by Glencoe’s wild nature
  • search for Nessie in Fort Augustus
  • explore a Victorian spa village in Strathpeffer
  • taste the best fish and chips in the UK in A…
  • Roam around the scenic streets of St Andrews

Does this sound like something for you? Well, then grab yourself a cup of coffee and keep on reading!

DAY 1: Loch Lomond to Fort Augustus

Starting from Glasgow, you will be on the road for exactly 40 minutes before you arrive at your first stop of the day – the bonnie shores of Loch Lomond. Here you can grab a coffee in the picturesque village of Luss, and take a stroll down to the shore. Alternatively, you can bring your hiking shoes and attempt to conquer one of the many surrounding mountains.

Is Loch Lomond so beautiful that you want to stay for longer? Well, perfect – the shores of Loch Lomond are packed with a great selection of spa hotels and several golf courses!

Are you ready to get back in the car? Excellent! The next part of the roadtrip will take you through the absolutely stunning scenery of Glencoe – this is undoubtedly one of my favourite places in the UK. Dramatic mountains, wild nature, terrifying history… Glencoe has it all! You can read more about the stunning area of Glencoe here. And hey, don’t forget to occasionally stop for photos!

Your last stop of the day will be in the quaint village of Fort Augustus. Perfectly situated on the shores of Loch Ness, this is a brilliant place to end your day with a search for Nessie. Furthermore, Fort Augustus offers accommodation suitable for every budget. Here you can find swanky hotels and cozy hostels – and basically everything in-between.

DAY 2: Fort Augustus to Strathpeffer

Rise and shine, babe! Are you ready for day 2 of the ultimate roadtrip in the Scottish Highlands?

Today’s drive will be a lot shorter as we are only headed towards the wee village of Strathpeffer. However, there are options for this part of the tour: the stunning Isle of Skye is just a few hours drive away from Fort Augustus. Alternatively, you can drive to Ullapool and take the local ferry over to Isle of Lewis. Both of these islands are absolutely breathtaking, and they definitely deserve that you spend a day or two (or even four!) there.

However, we are headed further north towards another famous village, Fort William. Here we will also find our first stop of the day: the Glenfinnan Viaduct! Or, as it is perhaps more known as, the Harry Potter bridge! The viaduct is located near Loch Shiel in the West Highlands, and it is definitely worth a visit if you’re a Potter fan (I certainly am!). During summer, you can even travel on the very popular Jacobite Steam Train and pretend that you’re headed to Hogwarts!

After photographing the crap out of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, you should direct your car towards Inverness and the decaying remains of Urquhart Castle. The castle, located on the shores of Loch Ness, was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent it being used by Jacobite forces, and today it’s actually one of the most visited historical castles in Scotland!

Your journey today will end in the wee village of Strathpeffer, a village that once used to be a Victorian spa town. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind after two days on the road as there is absolutely nothing to do here. Besides a tiny coffee shop and the Red Poppy – the only restaurant in the village – Strathpeffer offers nothing but beautiful sceneries and lots of serenity. We stayed at the rather decadent Ben Wyvis Hotel, but there’s other budget-friendly options available.

 

DAY 3: Strathpeffer to St Andrews

Brace yourself for a long car drive, hun! Today, we are headed from Strathpeffer to St Andrews! Of course, there are lots of places to stop on the way, but I would recommend driving directly so that you can spend as much time in St Andrews as possible.

Best thing to do in the Scottish Highlands on a cold Friday? Some shameless posing of course! 🕺🏼📸 #cavaforlunchcom

A post shared by CavaforLunch by Christina (@cavaforlunch) on

However, on your way to St Andrews, I recommend one specific stop. Your stop will be located in the wee village of Anstruther, only a few miles outside of St Andrew, and you will stop for a very good reason: the best fish and chips in the UK.

Yes, it’s true. Like, I’m not even joking. The Anstruther Fish Bar was voted the best Fish and Chips in the UK for seven years. Seven years, folks, how crazy is that! I’m as far from a fish and chips expert as it’s possible to get (this was actually my very first fish and chips while being sober…), but my friends, who are all experienced fish and chips tasters, all vouched for its greatness. The only downside is the huge queue outside the fish bar – but I reckon that’s a sign of quality, right?

From Anstruter, the beautiful city of St Andrews is just a quick drive away. With it’s cobblestoned streets, lush and green gardens and a beautiful beach area, this is definitely a place to fall in love with. If you’re a fan of the royal family, you should stop by the university area where Prince William and Kate met and fell in love!

After exploring the streets of St Andrews, which definitely resembles Oxford, we bought gelato and headed down to the beach in order to watch the sunset. And oh wow, I’m so glad we did that!

scottish highlands roadtrip

We sat on the beach until the sunset had faded away and been replaced by a starry evening sky. It was such an incredibly beautiful end to an absolutely amazing roadtrip.

Are you planning on exploring the Scottish Highlands anytime soon? Hopefully this itinerary will help you along the way xx

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Roadtripping in the Scottish Hiighlands

Christina
Writer
Christina Sunneklep (b.1992) is a rather snap-happy Norwegian travel blogger. For the past few years, she's been winging it in Rome - now she's doing her best to conquer Glasgow, Scotland.

Need to get in touch? CHRISTINA@CAVAFORLUNCH.COM

16 Comments

  1. Det blir ingen tur til Skottland med det første for min del, men det står absolutt på ønskelisten! Det ser så øde og vilt og fint ut, og slottene som tilsynelatende ligger i hver krik og krok gjør at det virker ganske eventyrlig.

    Reply
    • Christina April 1, 2017

      Skottland er virkelig helt eventyrlig, ja! Det er nok ingen overdrivelse å si at jeg forelsker meg stadig mer i landet for hvert år som går… Absolutt en undervurdert destinasjon! :)

      Reply
  2. Isadora April 1, 2017

    I love this post!! It is so cool to read it and remember of all the places you had visited few months ago!! I loved Scotlands and specially the highlands, I tookcompany tours but dont regret it, because guess what, i dont know how to drive yet! Yeah lame, I know. I’m planning to go back to the Highlands soon though to spend more time and visit other parts!

    Reply
    • Christina April 1, 2017

      Thank you, Isadora! And there’s absolutely no shame in taking a pro company tour, I’ve done it myself on several occasions and they were all great experiences. Hopefully you’ll come back soon xx

      Reply
  3. Meg April 1, 2017

    I keep seeing amazing trips from the Scottish Highlands and it has me itching to go! Road trips are amazing ways to see a country. I love how you went during the shoulder season. Usually the photos are so green, but I like the dusting of snow and . moody clouds!

    Reply
    • Christina April 2, 2017

      The Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning – and every season has its charm up there! I definitely recommend for you to go, Meg, it will be an absolutely epic experience :)

      Reply
  4. Gabby April 2, 2017

    Your photos are gorgeous! :) Loved this piece and the vibe made me feel very Scottish and wild!

    Reply
    • Christina April 2, 2017

      Hey Gabby! I’m glad you enjoyed it! xx

      Reply
  5. Ellie Cleary April 2, 2017

    Stunning pictures Christina and really enjoyed this post! I fell in love with Scotland two summers ago, on my trip to Oban. I went back last summer for more fun and rode the Harry Potter steam train, it was amazing! Your pic of Glenfinnan is nicer though – view better from below :-). I totally agree with you about ditching the tour companies. I’ll be sharing this for others to enjoy! Happy travels, Ellie

    Reply
    • Christina April 2, 2017

      Hello Ellie – and thanks for dropping by!
      I’m so jealous that you actually got to ride the steam train! We were a bit too early in the season to be able to do that, so I reckon it means that I just have to go back right? I’m glad you enjoyed Scotland, it’s an absolutely stunning country xx

      Reply
  6. Flo April 2, 2017

    I would definitely opt to ditch the tour company too! I love seeing things at my own pace and this looks like the kind of place where you would want to take your sweet time :)

    Reply
    • Christina April 3, 2017

      Oh it definitely is! Thanks for stopping by, Flo xx

      Reply
  7. Cory Varga April 6, 2017

    I honestly can’t agree more. Totally better to explore alone. I think being able to see things at your own pace, falling in love with the place, taking pics at your own accord: all so much nicer. we visited Scotland not that long ago and we still can’t wait to just go back.

    Reply
    • Christina April 6, 2017

      Hey Cory! I’m glad you agree, I think the freedom you get from exploring something in your own pace is incredibly valuable!
      Hope you’ll return soon xx

      Reply
  8. Maria's Adventure April 8, 2017

    For noen nydelige bilder! Minner meg veldig om da jeg selv var på roadtrip her i januar for et par år siden – hvor landskapet varierte mellom å være snødekt og ikke, men uansett hvor vi var så var det helt amazingly fint :-D

    Reply
    • Christina April 12, 2017

      Ja, det er helt fantastisk, ikke sant? :)

      Reply

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