Rahul and I had been wanting to explore Scotland and not just do the usual Edinburgh-Loch Ness-Isle of Skye routine. We wanted to traverse the whole country, its fields scattered with fluffy sheep, highland cows, snow-capped mountains along with vast stretches of greens by the ocean, and all its nooks and corners! Having travelled 1171 miles (to be precise) of this gorgeous country, I can undoubtedly say that Scotland is best experienced on road.
It does not matter that you haven’t seen all the castles or visited every one of the “must-see” sights. You will take back so much of Scotland from just the drives, roads and views than you ever will by only ticking off the top spots and moving on to other destinations. The on-road experience made our memories of Scotland uniquely ours, not shared by thousands of social media pictures.
We availed the car rental services of SixT from Edinburgh. We started out from Edinburgh and drove to Fraserburgh on the M90 till Dundee and then the A90 till we reached our destination. On the way we stopped at Stonehaven to soak in the most beautifully located Dunnottar castle. The winds were crazy here but we were literally blown away (pun intended) by the views. After we had quenched ourselves of this beauty we moved towards Aberdeen. This was our first experience or views of a port city in Scotland and it was beautiful to say the least. We drove around for a bit till we retired at the Esplanade Sea Beach for a meal with views of the sea and a dramatic twilight that my eyes could not believe to be real! Last stop of the day was Fraserburgh, but the day wasn’t done yet. We were blessed to spot a magical trace of the Aurora Borealis!!
Stay: The Saltoun Inn
What to see: Dunnouttar Castle, Stonehaven; Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and the Scottish Lighthouse Museum, Fraserburgh; Museums and Cathedrals, Aberdeen (personally I would drive around the city and head straight to the sea beach for a stunning sunset.)
Day 2 & 3
Not having gotten over our first day yet, we were back on the road to the neighbouring Lossiemouth and in for some more amazing views and drives. We drove along the shore, past beautiful small towns straight to our most memorable stay in Scotland. From Aberdeenshire to Moray, the drive was through mountains on either side lined with tall trees on one-lane roads. The perfect town to settle in for a couple of days with uninterrupted views of the sea just behind our cottage. Lossiemouth was our base to explore the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park, nearby castles, towns and Whisky Distilleries around us.
Stay: Firthview Cottage, Lossiemouth
What to see: Multiple options for Whiskey Distilleries tours (we visited Glenlivet), Elgin Cathedral & townside, Spynie Castle, Huntley Castle & townside, Duffus Castle, Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle.
We also explored parts of Cairngorms National Park. We took the funicular up to the top but more enjoyable was the drive from Glenlivet to the Cairngorms funicular base. Other places we explored included the pristine Lake Morlich, and Balmoral Castle. Braemer Castle is also in the vicinity.
We made our way to Inverness to try and spot Nessie! The drive to Inverness was on the A96, a pleasure to drive on such smooth roads. After a day full of soaking in the Inverness vibe, we entered a whole different world as we moved towards the gates of the Isle of Skye. Not only did the views and the roads change, but also the weather. If until now we had been blessed with cool breeze and sunshine, it was our turn to get wet and drenched next. This stretch was the only part of our drive where we did not find open cafes or anything warm to drink even at gas stations. A few miles in the direction of Kyle of Lochalsh and we were taken over by the views! This is also where we stopped for a hearty meal before we crossed over into Skye via the Skye Bridge. Slowly and carefully, driving through foggy mountain roads, we made our way to the town of Dunvegan on the north western end of Isle of Skye.
Stay: Minnie’s Room (with a view!!)
What to see: Check out this link for a full day itinerary in and around Inverness.
We just could not get over this magical place that Isle of Skye is! Views so heavenly, weather gods being decently kind and limiting the rains only to drizzles and vast areas to freely trek, hike and explore. We started off with the farthest point on Skye which is the Neist Point Light House. Driving here was a delight as the entire route we passed only 2 cars and a whole lot of sheep! We then head towards Portree and stopped to hike around the well marked trails of Quiraing. We ended the day with a delicious meal at Café Arriba in Portree town.
Stay: Fasgadh, Portree
What to see: Dunvegan castle, Neist Point Lighthouse, Hikes in the Quiraing, Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock Viewpoint. Plenty of hiking options on the way.
Check out the Isle of Skye itinerary and pictures here.
We had a long drive back to Edinburgh and lots more to do. So off we were in our BMW X1, on wide, clear roads with stunning views of waterfalls, streams flowing alongside, barren snow-capped peaks making their way into the greens of Glencoe. But not before stopping at the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Potterhead Alert!! There’s a lot more we had planned for Edinburgh, but more on that here.
Stay: Ibis Budget, Edinburgh
What to see: Fairy pools, Talisker Distillery & beach, Glenfinnan monument and Viaduct, Glencoe (we went for a stroll to Lake Lochan)
Day 7 & 8
We spent a total of 2 and 1/2 days in Edinburgh and wished we had a day more. But what vacation ends without wanting a couple more days to linger?
This trip was special because we both love being on the roads and Scotland is a delight for drivers and tourists who wish to make it to it’s far corners.
Thank you for your warmth Scotland, even in your chilly weather. Cheers to coming back here soon 🙂
Leaving you with a picture of a Potterhead and the joy of visiting the ‘Hogwarts Express Viaduct‘