Updated on November 16th, 2020
If you are looking for the best Scottish Highlands itinerary for a road trip, then look no further. This includes numerous castles, lochs & the Harry Potter train, the Trossachs, Fort William, Oban & Glencoe as well as the islands of Skye & Mull. It’s busy but the spectacular scenery will blow your mind!”
Starts & ends in Glasgow & includes The Trossachs, Oban, Isle of Mull, Fort William, Glencoe & the Isle of Skye.
Due to the pandemic, all travel for me has been put on hold in 2020. Even now things have opened up in the UK I am reluctant to get on a plane just yet. When I had an offer to take on a road trip with my friend Manda to the Scottish Highlands however it seemed to be the perfect solution. It took some research for me to feel comfortable to get out into the world again, but it was well worth it for me to explore this region for the first time.
We took my friends car & drove up to start & finish in Glasgow. This itinerary gives an opportunity for all sorts of exploration including hiking, steam train journeys, stunning beaches, castles, wild swimming, waterfalls & so much more. This Scotland road trip itinerary is all about the journey, not necessarily the destinations. Every road here is spectacular & I encourage you to stop in awe with your camera at the ready every single step of the way. I will be expanding on each section of the journey over the next few weeks so if you need more details, then be sure to return here for more!
Scottish Highlands Itinerary – A Perfect 10 Day Road Trip for the Highlands & Islands
I have made this itinerary for 10 days & it will start early & end late in Glasgow. If you would like to explore more & do additional hiking or boat tours, then you may need more time. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, many of the castles & attractions were still closed when we visited.
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Day 1 – Travel to Glasgow
However you get there, this is the perfect starting point for your journey.
Day 2 – Glasgow to Oban (The Trossachs)
Just an hour’s drive from central Glasgow, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park covers an area of 720 square miles of untamed landscapes.
It is home to 21 Munroes (Scottish mountains over 3000ft) & over 20 lochs. This includes Loch Lomond, the largest expanse of freshwater in Britain. So, not a bad place to dive into this Scottish Highlands road trip!”
The National Park has handily constructed 4 art pieces which are strategically placed in some of the most spectacular viewpoints.
To start with take Dukes Pass, a winding scenic road into the Trossachs & the perfect introduction to the trip. The first stop is then down a single track road to Loch Voil with it’s beautifully placed mirrored box. It reflects the spectacular lush green glen in between 2 lochs.
Then continue your journey to the Falls of Falloch. This is a great place for a dip, a picnic or for an adrenaline rush, you could opt for a leap off the 30-foot high waterfall. For refreshments, stop at the 300-year-old Drovers Inn, purportedly the 2nd most haunted pub in Scotland. From here make your way to beautiful Kilchurn Castle. Built in the mid-1400s, the best view of this atmospheric castle is from across Loch Awe. The final stop for the day is St Conan’s Kirk, one of the best-kept secrets of Argyll in a stunning location on the banks of Loch Awe. Go inside & explore.
Want to read more? See also Things To Do in The Trossachs – A One Day Road Trip
Stay overnight in Oban, the seafood capital of Scotland. Enjoy your fill of mussels, scallops, langoustines, lobster & crab but don’t panic as you’re back tomorrow night too. The perfect bed for the night is The Perle Oban Hotel.
Day 3 – Isle of Mull
Do not miss Mull! For both of us, this was one of our favourite stops on this whole exploration of Scotland’s highlands & islands. If you are interested in stunning scenery, sheep, empty white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, cows, cliffs & more sheep, then you are in the right place!
I advise you to execute the route in this direction as it takes you back to the ferry on the fastest road from Tobermory. Trust me, you will thank me!
Starting on the early ferry at 6.45am will give you all day to explore. Head straight for Duart Castle. It is the ancestral home of the Maclean clan & perfectly situated overlooking the Sound of Mull. From here, take the road along the south of Mull to the beach of Uisken before discovering a little piece of the Caribbean near Fionnphort. Fidden Beach is an empty & idyllic stretch of white fine sand & turquoise blue waters…just a palm tree short of paradise!
After retracing your steps, take the West Coast Scenic Drive to Calgary Beach. It looks like a simple road but be warned, on Mull everything takes longer than you expect. The journey took us over 2 hours but it was worth every second! From Calgary, the roads get faster & the final stop is the picturesque ‘capital’ of Tobermory. Here you can take your time, enjoy the shops & get some refreshments before the easy & quick (30 minute) drive back to the ferry. Stay for the 2nd night in Oban. We were treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen… & a rainbow!
Want to see more? See Top 10 Things to do on the Isle of Mull
Day 4 – Oban to Fort William
Today you can take advantage of a shorter drive as the rest of this Scottish Highlands road trip is full-on. We were hoping to get a boat to see the puffins but when we visited, they had literally just left! The lady at Staffa Tours was very helpful though. We had a slow start & headed for our first stop at Castle Stalker. This is potentially one of the most spectacular of all the castles we visited in Scotland, perched on an island offshore. The castle is privately owned but operates tours as long as you book ahead.
Love a castle? Check out 15 Reasons to Visit the Tower of London
Then, head for your first glimpse of Glencoe with its spectacular mountains, rivers & waterfalls. Wait for day 6 to explore the area further. For the next 3 nights, we stayed at Myrtle Bank Guest House which was perfect. It is a short walk to the town & the station with views over Loch Linnhe. It is also spotlessly clean. Although Fort William itself is not the prettiest place on this trip, it is perfectly situated for exploring the area. Fort William sits at the base of Ben Nevis & is known as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’.
I have not seen any of the films or read any of the books, but if you are a Harry Potter fan then this is the day for you! We start with a view of the ‘Hogwarts Express’ curving around the famous viaduct. We then discover yet another scenic drive, more idyllic beaches & finish with a ride on the iconic steam train itself.
First stop is the Glenfinnan Monument on the banks of Loch Shiel. This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard to rally the Jacobite clans in 1745. From here it is a short walk to the viewing point for the viaduct. Make sure you get here early as it gets very busy to see the steam train pass. It does so twice a day, 30 minutes after the train leaves Fort William. Therefore, ensure your spot well before 10.45am or 3.10pm. It would be such a shame to miss it.
The viaduct itself is spectacular but to see the steam train traverse the structure is very special, Harry Potter fan or not!”
We were booked onto The Jacobite train for the afternoon journey, leaving at 2.40pm so had time to explore further along the famous Road to the Isles. Another day & another stunning road which will take you to more beautiful white sand beaches at Morar & Arisaig before heading back to make the train. If you’re lucky you may also make another connection with the steam train en route.
The afternoon trip is perfect! It’s not every day you get to ride on a historic train, through mesmerising scenery. The journey takes around 2 hours to Mallaig, allowing 1 ½ – 2 hours there before returning. This gives you enough time to have lunch/brunch/discover Mallaig or take a boat trip.
For more details on the Jacobite steam train check out Everything you need to know to ride the Hogwarts Train, Scotland.
Glen Coe is jaw-droppingly beautiful & potentially one of the most dramatic landscapes you will ever visit. Driving along the road through the valley will take your breath away but you will need to park up & take a walk to truly appreciate the splendour of the ‘Three Sisters’.
Next, head a little further along the valley & onto the Glen Etive Road. This is mainly a single-track road which runs 12 miles down to the end at Loch Etive. But it is so much more than that!
The landscape was used as the backdrop for the house in the James Bond film ‘Skyfall’ & has been described as the prettiest glen in the country. It seems to change every mile from mountains & rivers to waterfalls & forests, ending at stunning Loch Etive.”
Clachaig Inn is the perfect stop on your way back to Fort William for some refreshments.
For more details, check out 18 Best Things To Do In Fort William
After a hearty breakfast, it’s time for a hike before the drive to the Isle of Skye. In the foothills of Ben Nevis is Glen Nevis & it is a beautiful 1.5-mile walk through Nevis Gorge to 100m high Steall waterfall. When you reach the end of the valley, the adventure begins as you can cross to the waterfall itself via a precarious wire bridge. Test your balance if you dare!
Then it’s back into the car for another scenic drive to the Isle of Skye via yet another castle, this time in the guise of Eileen Donan Castle. It’s the perfect backdrop for a picnic or you can cross the evocative stone bridge to see this magnificent castle at closer quarters. Next, it’s not far before you reach the bridge over to the final stop on this Scotland self-drive itinerary, the jewel that is the Isle of Skye.
If you have time, I would thoroughly recommend a small detour en route to Portree by taking the road from Broadford to Elgol. Once again you will not be disappointed as you head off the beaten track to explore the sharp & intimidating Cuillin mountains. Along this road, you have 2 amazing panoramic views of the range, across Loch Slappin & at the end of the road above Elgol pier. It is best on a clear day but if I learnt anything during my 3 days on Skye it’s that a clear day on one part of the island could mean thick fog elsewhere!
Portree is perfectly situated on the island & therefore makes a great location from which to explore. I stayed at Oronsay B & B which I would thoroughly recommend, within walking distance of the town.
Day 8 – Isle of Skye (Old Man of Storr, Trotternish Peninsula, Fairy Glen)
For many people, Skye is a day trip destination. However, I don’t believe in rushing these things, so we took 3! Day 2 on the island is time for your next hike, this time the iconic Old Man of Storr.
It was a mean & moody old man that we met that morning, hiking up in low cloud before reaching the top for a glimpse of the dramatic landscape in glorious sunshine.”
Then the weather gave us a confusing mixed message on the way down – with cloud on one side & blue skies on the other. It is a challenging uphill trek but well worth it. Up, down & a bit of exploring at the top will easily take you 3 hours.
After the hike, continue to explore the Trotternish Peninsula around to Uig & beautiful Fairy Glen. Anywhere you stop is a treat of waterfalls, scenic vistas & fossil hunting. Once you get to Fairy Glen, it’s hard to believe with the drama everywhere on this captivating island that it is also home to this gentle green oasis of rolling hills & grass circles. Finally, drive through the centre of the peninsula to see the Quiraing. Apparently, this is yet another spectacular display of rock formations which dominate the landscape. I can’t clarify as we drove straight from blue skies into the thick fog as we arrived. It’s always good to have a reason to return!
The final full day of this Scotland driving itinerary is yet more of this awe-inspiring island. First head to Dunvegan Castle, first built in the 13th century & home of the clan MacLeod. The setting is picturesque once again, especially on a still & sunny morning. Then take the road to Neist Point. It’s a good walk to get to the lighthouse itself but keep your eyes peeled out to sea. When we visited, there had been sightings of dolphins, Minke whales & basking sharks.
Then it’s the final official stop & a trip to the Fairy Pools. Overall this takes around 90 minutes, to get down to the gorge & move through successive pools & waterfalls cascading in the shadows of the Cuillin mountains.
Don’t stop before discovering the small horseshoe falls towards the end. Take a dip, it is just magical!”
The last day of this driving Scotland itinerary is another long journey back to Glasgow but it also gives you the chance to pick up on anywhere you may have missed along the way. You head back through the Isle of Skye, past Eileen Donan Castle, Fort William & Glencoe before re-entering the Trossachs for a drive along the length of Loch Lomond. Enjoy & soak it all up!
Interested in the Isle of Skye? See Top 15 Picks for your Perfect Isle of Skye Itinerary
I very much hope that you enjoy this 10-day Scotland road trip as much as I did. Taking this route truly made me fall in love with this spectacular country & the wonderful, friendly people who inhabit it. I will definitely be back & I look forward to sharing many more details with you on each part of the journey over the coming weeks. Watch this space…
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