Scotland is special. It’s a country that I’m incredibly proud to call home, and a place I’m always happy to come back to at the end of my travels. Over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to spend more of the time I do have at home exploring Scotland through the eyes of a traveller…and one of the best ways to do this is by road tripping. A while back, my sister and I embarked on a Scottish Road Trip from Stirling to Skye for her birthday (it was a magical mystery tour for her – she didn’t know where we were headed and had to guess each location from clues I’d written!) We stopped at ancient castles, paddled in glistening lochs, visited famous filming locations, ate local grub on pub boats and followed the fairy trails across misty glens!
If you need inspiration for your very own Scottish road trip, here are 20 pictures to help get you started!
DOUNE CASTLE (AKA “CASTLE LEOCH” and “WINTERFELL”)
First stop – Castle Leoch! Doune Castle is just a 10-minute drive away from my family home in Stirlingshire and has been used for many different TV and film locations over the years. From Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the pilot episode of Game of Thrones and, most recently, Outlander, the castle has seen its fair share of famous faces.
You can explore the inside of the castle for just £6 or, if the weather is nice, take a walk along the beautiful River Teith to the nearby village of Deanston for amazing views of the castle at a distance.
Mocktails at Mimi’s, Auchterarder
Cafe Mimi’s is possibly one of the cutest cafes in Scotland! From their delicious cakes and breakfasts to excellent coffee and some amazingly tasty mocktails, this is the perfect food stop if your Scottish Road Trip takes you through Auchterarder. Auchterarder itself is a lovely town to wander around, with the longest main street in Scotland (running for over a mile) and plenty of boutiques and unusual shops to pick up souvenirs in.
Crowning Place of Scottish Kings: Scone Palace, Perth
One of Scotland’s most important historic sites, Scone Palace was the home of the “Stone of Destiny” (or Stone of Scone) for centuries. Used for over 1000-years to crown Scottish kings, the stone was taken to Westminster Abbey during the 13th century, where it became part of the chair used to crown English sovereigns.
On Christmas Day in 1950, the stone came back to Scotland in two pieces, after a group of Scottish students stole it from Westminster Abbey. Although it was later recovered by the police and returned to England, many people believe that copies of the stone were made during the “theft” and that the original was hidden somewhere in Scotland. In 1996, the stone was given back to the people of Scotland by the British Government and moved to its current location at Edinburgh Castle. Scone Palace has a replica of the stone on display, which you can sit on outside the Scone Palace Chapel.
It costs £11.50 for a ticket to see both the Palace and grounds, but for those visiting in the low season like we did, you can enter the grounds (complete with an epic star-shaped maze!) for free. Find out more about visiting Scone Palace here.
Queen’s View: Loch Tummel, Tay Forest Park
One of Scotland’s most famous and photographed lookout points, Queen’s View can be found on the edge of Tay Forest Park, and offers incredible views over Loch Tummel, with Schiehallion mountain in the distance.
There are two main theories behind the lookout’s royal name. Some say it was a favourite of Queen Victoria, who visited here in 1866, whilst others claim it dates back much further, to Queen Isabella of Scotland, Robert the Bruce’s wife, during the 14th century. There’s also a tea room and shop, as well as the Queen’s Post box…where you can mail a postcard should you have one handy (like I did!)
Ardverikie Estate (AKA “Glenbogle”), Loch Laggan
If you’re young (or not from Scotland!), chances are you might not recognise the name “Glenbogle” – the fictional estate from the BBC One drama series Monarch of the Glen. I grew up watching the programme, and when I realised that we were going to be passing the filming location of the series – Ardverikie Estate and castle – on our Scottish Road Trip, I knew we had to squeeze in a visit!
Sadly, the estate is private, and you can’t actually see the castle from the road or from the side of the Loch Laggan, but Ardverikie Estate does offer self-catering holidays and can be booked as a (fairytale!) wedding venue. According to their website, if you stay at one of the cottages you also get exclusive tour access to Ardverikie Castle…something worth thinking about for next time! For any die-hard Outlander fans, the estate’s incredible scenery was also used as a lesser-known filming location for the pilot episode, and Loch Laggan has also featured in the show.
The Eagle Barge Inn on the Water, Caledonian Canal, Spean Bridge
Situated on the Caledonian Canal, along the Great Glen Way, the Eagle Barge is a floating pub-boat with excellent food and drink…and a warm, Scottish welcome! We stopped at the converted Dutch barge, originally used as a troop carrier in World War II, for dinner before heading on to Fort Augustus.
If the weather is good, you can sit on the Eagle’s deck and take in the gorgeous surrounding views or, if the weather is more typically Scottish, there’s a cosy fire and seating inside!
Fort Augustus, on the Southern Tip of Loch Ness
After deciding to extend our road trip for an extra day, we made an overnight stop at Fort Augustus, on the most southerly point of Loch Ness.
Located half-way between Fort William and Inverness, Fort Augustus is a picturesque hamlet-town, with plenty of pubs and restaurants to sit and watch the boats go by, or for those on the hunt for Nessie, this is the ideal place to join one of the many Loch Ness boat tours.
Eilean Donan, Scotland’s most iconic castle
There are few castles in Scotland as instantly recognisable as Eilean Donan, sitting majestically on her own island at the meeting point of Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich. The castle is one of the most visited attractions in the Highlands and, even on a dreich day (like the one we had!), she’s an absolute beauty to behold. Eilean Donan played an important role in the Jacobite risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, during which time the castle was almost completely destroyed. After lying in ruin for almost 200 years, the castle was bought and restored to her former glory by Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap in the early 1900’s and is still owned by the Macrae family today. We didn’t go in this time (we’ve been fortunate enough to visit several times on family holidays as kids!) but you can find out more about visiting Eilean Donan Castle here.
skye bridge: over the sea to Skye
It’s impossible not to stop and take in the beauty of the Skye Bridge once you’ve crossed over from the mainland to the island. The bridge was opened in 1995 and offers an alternative way to get to the island from the car ferry at Mallaig. Once we’d arrived on Skye, we made straight for the last stop on our Scottish Road Trip – one of the island’s most beautiful (and popular!) natural attractions…
The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
Skye’s Fairy Pools need little introduction. In the past few years (and in large part due to social media) the beautiful pools of blue water have become incredibly popular with visitors…with some locals saying they’ve become a bit too popular.
The Isle of Skye as a whole has seen a big increase in visitors…but the traffic on the road to the Fairy Pools and the limited car parking has become particularly problematic. The pools are an unmissable sight on the island, and I’m in no way trying to discourage anyone from visiting this beautiful part of the country…but it’s wise to think about the time of year you go and your mode of transport to get there. It’s possible to park in Portree and get the Go Skye seasonal shuttle or, if you are bringing your own car, the Forestry Commission car park can be found on the single track road between Glenbrittle and Carbost. There are plans for an extension of the carpark but until then, arriving early is your best bet for getting a space.
On the day we visited, we were unlucky with the weather, but that did mean we were lucky with the lack of crowds! Located at the foot of the Black Cuillin Mountains on the River Brittle, the walk to the Fairy Pools takes around 35 minutes from the carpark, but you’ll want to leave plenty of time to photograph the gorgeous blue pools and waterfalls along the way!
Scottish Road Trip, Stirling to Skye: Need to Know
- We started our Scottish Road Trip in Stirling and ended in Skye, travelling via Doune, Auchterarder, Scone, Loch Tummel, Loch Laggan, Spean Bridge, Fort Augustus and Kyle of Lochalsh (Eilean Donan Castle). This is by no means the fastest way to get from Stirling to Skye! Google had our journey taking over six and a half hours from Doune Castle to the Skye Fairy Pools, but if you drove the more direct route (via Glencoe) it would take under five hours.
- We spent a full day travelling (with many stops!) between Stirling and Fort Augustus, where we decided to stay overnight to break up the driving and allow for more time on the island the following day. The Skye Bridge is just over an hour away from Fort Augustus by car, making it a great base to explore both the island and nearby Loch Ness/Inverness.
- The B&B we stayed at in Fort Augustus is no longer listed online but Fort Augustus has a huge range of accommodation available, from budget hostels to guesthouses and hotels.
- Prepare for any and all weather on a Scottish Road Trip! We packed hiking boots and wellies, as well as waterproofs and extra layers…and we used them all! Depending on the time of year, I’d also highly recommend bringing midgie repellent. If you want up-to-date (and often hilarious!) weather reports for Perthshire, check out what Windy Wilson is saying before you leave, or the Met Office for accurate weather on Skye.
- If you haven’t driven on single track roads before (like the ones on Skye) take your time and use the marked passing places to allow others to get by…not to stop and take pictures!
- Watch out for the wildlife…which includes everything from deer to sheep to otters. Dusk can be a particularly common time to encounter deer on the road, so keep your eyes peeled…
- We had no problem finding petrol stations on the route we took, but it’s wise to fill up before you leave the mainland…island petrol stations are few and far between, as well as more expensive.
- The Visit Scotland website is an amazing resource for trips (road or otherwise!) in the country. It’s also worth checking out the Walk Highlands website for information and advice on hiking in Scotland.
Have you been on a Scottish Road Trip? Or visited the Fairy Pools in Skye? If you have any tips or recommendations, I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below!
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