Drone photo birdseye on Isle of Skye

Scotland Road Trip: Lowlands to Highlands to Islands

Published: 14 December 2019 Modified: 21 December 2019

Scotland is known for its kilts, bagpipes, mysterious castles, Harry Potter and whiskey. Besides these mascottes, Scotland also has the most stunning nature! We finally went to the UK’s most northern country to immerse ourselves in the Scottish culture. It’s safe to say Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. For one week we immersed ourselves in the Scottish culture and surrounded ourselves by its nature. We rented a car to do a road trip from Edinburgh in the Lowlands to Isle of Skye in the Highlands. If you’re planning on going to Scotland anytime soon, I hope we can convince you to do a Scottish road trip as well! You will not be disappointed.

Road Trip Scotland: Arrival and preparation

If you’re from outside the UK, the fastest way is to fly to Edinburgh. If you’re coming in from England you can the train from London to Edinburgh. That is of course if you don’t have a car:)

Upon arrival on Edinburgh Airport you have a few options to get to Edinburgh center:

  • By tram. The tram takes you directly from the airport exit to any of the stops downtown. Tickets can be bought at the machine at the station. It costs £6 and takes about 45 minutes
  • By Airlink bus. Tickets can be booked in advance. The Airlink bus costs £4.5 and takes about 30 minutes
  • By rental car. On the airport a number of rental agencies are available. We chose Alamo because we had a really good experience with them in Mexico. Also on our road trip in Scotland Alamo turned out to be reliable and straightforward.

Our arrival at the airport was far from perfect as we were supposed to pick up our rental car. The rental company tried to push all kinds of insurances and policies on us, so bad that we ended up leaving without the car. It just didn’t feel right. At home we found out the company charged us £100 after all. The fine print indeed stated that we had no chance of getting that back. Because we stayed two nights in Edinburgh first, we decided to get the car after Edinburgh, which turned out well as mentioned before. We renal itself was about £15 more expensive, but well worth it! Lesson learned..

Day-by-day itinerary for the Scotland road trip

Did you write it all down? Good. On to the itinerary! Below you’ll find the timeline of our Scotland road trip. If you’re planning on going longer than a week, we don’t blame you. There are so many more beautiful things to see in Scotland. Priceless views are awaiting you further north up the Scottish Highlands.

Pro tip: Select “Avoid highways” on your GPS/satnav. Spectacular views and epic nature guaranteed

Day 1: Explore Edinburgh

Edinburgh is an awesome city. It has a very interesting history, great architecture and nice bars and restaurants. The city offers so many things to do and see that a week for Edinburgh alone isn’t even enough. On our first day we start exploring Edinburgh’s city center. The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s most famous street. It actually is a series of connecting streets that are in the old town. A little further you can find Victoria Street which has its own charm with colorful buildings.

From here we walk to Arthur’s Seat, which offers a spectacular view over the city. While distances are walkable, I don’t blame you if you take the tram or the bus to visit this highlight as it’s quite a long way to walk. We didn’t go all the way up to Arthur’s seat, but it is possible. Maybe we should have taken the bus so our feet wouldn’t be too sore to climb the hill.. From here we walked to Carlton Hill, which is another spectacular view of the city, especially of Princes Street.

We finish our day by going on a ‘Free Ghost Tour‘ which starts every night at High Street (a £10 – £20 tip is expected). On the tour a guide takes you to various places around the city were all kinds of gruesome things have happened in history. The tour was awesome! We definitely recommend it. We decide we’ve earned a drink so we hit the Hanover Tap. Scotland is also pretty famous for its craft beers, so I’m in heaven. Kirsten has a Sex on the Beach, I have a Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Delicious.

We stayed at the Ballantrae Hotel, which is a typical British hotel with spacious rooms and carpet:P We found it on Booking because it had a good deal. It has an awesome location and clean rooms.

Booking.com
Victoria Street, Edinburgh
Carlton Hill, Edinburgh
Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
Crow in Scotland

Day 2: Doune Castle, Trossachs National Park, Corran

In the morning we pick up our rental car at the Alamo office at Waverley Station and well before noon we’re on our road trip!

Argh, why doesn’t drive every country on the same side of the road..

Our first stop is at Doune Castle – which is were parts of Monty Python were recorded – one of Scotland’s numerous castle ruins. After a short coffee break in Doune we drive on to Trossachs National Park. Here we walk along Lake Lomond, Scotland’s largest lake. In the afternoon we drive north. We stop at a few waterfalls, one of which are the Falls of Falloch. Late in the afternoon we arrive at Fort William, near Glencoe.

We stay at The Corran, which is next to the ferry. In the vicinity of the hotel there aren’t many restaurants. The owner of the B&B next door tells us there’s a pub across the river that serves some simple dishes, so we take the ferry to the other side to have diner. The ferry is free of charge for pedestrians.

Doune Castle. Scotland Road Trip
Erick near Loch Lomond
Falls of Falloch on our Scotland road trip
Loch Lomond

Day 3: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Skye

At sunrise we continue our Scotland road trip. Today we will arrive at Isle of Skye, the most beautiful part of the journey. On the way we stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct which is part of the West Highland Line Railway. The viaduct became world famous after it was featured in Harry Potter. Step in Harry’s shoes and board the Jacobite Locomotive A.K.A The Hogwarts Express for an amazing day.

Our next stop is near the village of Dornie, very close to the bridge to Isle of Skye. The gorgeous and mysterious Eilean Donan Castle guards the entrance of the island. Even though it’s closed for the winter, it still is worth the stop.

After a long but fruitful day we arrive in Portree, where we will stay the next two nights. In the evening we have diner and we have a drink in one of Portree’s pubs.

We stay at the edge of Portree, at Air Leth Bed & Breakfast. Our room has a stunning view over the surrounding fields and hills. Besides the view, the B&B has a very good included breakfast and the room is very clean.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct
Eilean Donan Castle

Day 4: Isle of Skye

On the road trip, we had high expectations of Isle of Skye and I’m happy to say our wishes were granted. The scenery truly is amazing. It was cold and cloudy which added to the mysticism of the Highlands. After a great breakfast: smoked salmon on toast for Kirsten, vegetarian English breakfast for me, we hit the road. We admire the Old Man of Storr, walk through Quiraing make a stop at Kilt Rock and Meat Falls and take pictures of Highland Cows. The cliffs, the water, the animals. It is what make the Isle of Skye a great place to visit.

That evening I ask “Can we see the Northern Lights from here?”. After ten minutes of Googling, we both end up on Aurora Alerts and we find out that there’s actually a chance of finally seeing the aurora borealis in the north of the island. We get in our car for the hunt. After a few hours of driving around in the snow and spotting a very, very faint green glow in the distance, we decide this is not our time. We return to our B&B somewhat disappointed and exhausted.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh
Kirsten at Arthur's Seat
Birdseye drone photo on Isle of Skye
Scottish sheep

Day 5: Loch Ness, Cairngorms National Park

We would have stayed on Isle of Skye if we could, but unfortunately it’s time to go. On the way back we don’t have time to stay another night, so we drive back to Edinburgh in one go. Of course we make a few stops to do some sightseeing. This is definitely one of the best things of having a rental car. We decide to drive around Loch Ness where we stop at Urquhart Castle. One castle and no monster later we leave the lake behind us to continue our way back. After Loch Ness we cross Cairngorms National Park, which is Scotland’s largest. It’s a well known place to make amazing hikes. The park is home to a herd of reindeer which might be a nice addition to your hike.

Highland Cow on our Scotland road trip
Snowy fields in Scotland
Castle along Loch Ness on our Scotland road trip

Day 6: Back in Edinburgh

Back to Edinburgh! If you have more time, be sure to visit Glasgow. It’s supposed to be an awesome city as well. We don’t have that luxury, so on our last day we visit the Princes Street Gardens from where the view on Edinburgh Castle is awesome. After the park we walk on to Dean Village, on which – I think – a lot of postcards have been based. The stream between the old buildings make it a very adorable view. One last craft beer in this magnificent city and it’s time to get some shuteye for tomorrow’s flight.

Even though we had an amazing time in on our Scotland road trip, we sure wish we had more time. Further north in the Highlands, the city of Inverness and Glasgow are only but a few places that we would have liked to visit. Thank you Scotland, we will be back.

Dean Village, Edinburgh

Camping in Scotland during summer

Chances are you will be traveling to Scotland during warmer periods. If you like camping, you’ll be in for a treat as it’s allowed to camp for free on most places. A great way to save money traveling Scotland.

Mirror of our rental car on our Scotland Road Trip

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We are very curious about what you think of Scotland. Are you planning on going to Scotland and have more questions? Have you already been and have additional tips? Please leave a comment. It will be much appreciated by everyone!

Erick - When your girlfriend (Kirsten) has the travel virus, it doesn't take long before you are infected as well. Traveling has become a big part of my life, just as Travelaar has. Web developer and translator for Travelaar.com and it's Dutch counterpart Travelaar.nl. Photo and video editing are also my tasks. My motto: Don't take life too seriously

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2 responses to “Scotland Road Trip: Lowlands to Highlands to Islands”

  1. Jen says:

    So happy you enjoyed your time in Scotland! Do return there’s so much to see. I recommend the NC500 route and if you’re in Edinburgh again visit The Shore and get a real ale and scrumptious seafood! Lovely guide!

    • Erick says:

      Thanks! Does the NC500 require a 4×4? It definitely looks like the ultimate roadtrip in Scotland
      We will definitely come back to see more of the region:)

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