Planning a road trip: Scotland

We are now 8 weeks till our trip to Scotland, I am so excited and my shopping list keeps getting longer and longer! Like did you know Hunter boots are sooo much cheaper there (will definitely be getting a pair – I’m in love with them). I have no idea how I will fit everything I want to buy in my suitcase but I will try 🙂

Road tripping

Having not only spoken to a few people about my wanting to go to Scotland but also reading a lot of travel blogs, they all agreed that the best way to see the country, is by hiring a car and driving. The roads are in good condition, the only thing we will not be used to, is the small country roads. But, luckily Garith (my husband) & I are adventurous and will manage. They can’t be worse than Cyprus 🙂

I must admit when I decided I wanted to do a road trip through Scotland, there wasn’t really much information out there about how to plan such a road trip. I mean, the reason I want to plan one, is because I have never been to Scotland. Which in its self makes it hard to plan, as I have no idea how far anything is, and how long it would take.

The great thing for us, South African’s is that in Scotland they drive on the same side of the road as we do (the left). Which not only means navigating the small winding roads is less stressful but it is also easier. And, you can save some money as you will easily manage with a manual car. To be honest, I was surprised how reasonable car hire was when I booked my car. It wasn’t that much more than what we pay when hiring a car in Cape Town for the same amount of time.

So I will let you know how I went about planning it and I will also give you my very ambitious itinerary.

Research, where do you want to go?

This is probably the most important step, as you need to know what you want to see and where you want to go in Scotland. As there is so much to see and do, so it kind of depends on what your interests are. My husband is already complaining because there are way too many castles on my list… but I just love old buildings, castles and architecture. I am the queen of research, so I did a lot of it, before settling on which towns and cities I wanted to stay in.

What time of year?

Sometimes, you have a choice and can choose when you want to go. Do you want to go while it is snowing and see the beautiful white countryside or would you prefer to go in Summer with everyone else? Personally, I am not a huge fan of hoards of tourists, so depending on the holiday, I do try to go just outside of peak season. Also, keep in mind that Scotland doesn’t have ‘hot’ Summers like we are used to here, from what I understand from all the blogs, it rains pretty much all year round and tends to have what they refer to as mild weather (for us, this means pretty chilly).

Another thing to consider is, if there are any festivals taking place, that you would like to be in Scotland for. I know the Royal Tattoo takes place in August, but there are loads of other festivals that take place. The Speyside Whiskey Festival that is happening in late April 2017, is how we decided to go during this time. And, I ended up planning our whole trip around this.

Are there any specific attractions?

You need to decide if there are any specific attractions you want to see or maybe an activity you want to do while in Scotland. And, if there is, you will need to research and find out when you can do it and what time of year it is available, etc. As, I found out not everything is open and available all year round. So keep that in mind while planning.

For me, I really want to go on the Jacobite train from Fort William to Mallaig, but the train only runs from end April – beg Oct, in the morning and during the week. So, I had to make sure that I had a full day available during the week for us to do this. If you want to have a look at the train, the route, book, etc, you can visit their website

The other activity which is very ‘time’ specific is going to see the Puffins, this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me – I am really looking forward to going on a boat trip to go and see them. They are only on land from mid April – end July to breed, and then they leave and go back to the sea. If this interests you, I booked while we are on the Isle of Skye through However, there are other places around the Scottish Isles you can see them.

Work out distances 

Now, that you have decided where you want to go and what you want to see. You need to know how far apart they are, so you can work out which of the cities/towns you want to stay in or just stop in for a few hours. For us Africans, everything looks and sounds like it is so close but if you are in peak season or times, there can be a lot of traffic, which means it will take you longer to get to some places. Which means that potentially you will not be able to do everything you wanted to.

What I did, was sit on goggle maps, and work out the distances between all the attractions I wanted to see while traveling between the towns/cities we are staying in. As well as, work out what the best order, to see them was. However, I also have must see and would be nice to see attractions, as I am not 100% sure how long we will even need at all the different attractions or maybe I should just say castles… as I am castle mad!

Book everything & hope for the best

You have done as much research as you can, there isn’t much more you can do at this stage. So now, book everything before you change your mind. And, just hope that it will work out as close to plan as possible. But, be FLEXIBLE, as you never know, you might find amazing new adventures while road tripping through the countryside. I know that is, what I am hoping will happen to me… but only after I have seen everything I want to…haha 🙂

Images of Scotland (please note, none of them are my own, but taken from Pixabay with permission)

Images of Scotland (please note, none of them are my own, but taken from Pixabay with permission)

My ambitious itinerary (14 nights)

Below, is what I want to see and do in Scotland. There is so much more, depending on your interests. Again, I need to mention, this is probably very ambitious and we probably won’t even get through half of it, but we all need a dream and a place to start. So this is mine:

Land in Glasgow, collect car, drive to city (2 nights)

Things to see Glasgow:

  • West Brewery
  • Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanical Gardens
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Glasgow University
  • People’s Palace & gardens

Drive to Edinburgh (3 nights)

  • Glasgow
  • Stirling Castle (29.5 – 38 mins)
  • National Wallace Monument (2.7 miles – 11 mins)
  • Doune castle – Monty Python (7.1 miles – 16 mins)
  • Blackness Castle (32.2 miles – 38 mins)
  • Rosslyn Chapel (23.9 miles – 43 mins)
  • Edinburgh (7.5 miles – 29 mins)

Things to see Edinburgh:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • The Palace of Holyroodhouse
  • Royal Mile
  • Scotch Whiskey Experience
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • The Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Victoria Street (inspiration Diagon Alley)
  • Arthur’s Seat (short hike)
  • Scott Monument
  • Ghost Tour
  • The Real Mary King’s Close
  • St Giles Cathedral
  • Greyfriar’s Kirkyard (HP Grave yard)

Drive to Aberdeen (1 night)

  • Edinburgh
  • St Andrew’s Royal & Ancient Gift Club – Museum & Club House (51 miles – 1h25) / maybe St Andrew’s Cathedral
  • Drummond Castle Gardens (53.6 miles – 1h19)
  • Pitlochry – Edradour Distillery & Blair Athol Distillery (38.6 miles – 1h03)
  • Scone Palace (28.3 miles – 0h44)
  • Dunnotter Castle (73.1 miles – 1h47)
  • Aberdeen (18.4 miles – 0h27)

Drive to Grantown-on-Spey (2 nights)

  • Aberdeen
  • Castle Fraser (18.5 miles – 0h36)
  • Craigievar Castle (14.5 miles – 0h26)
  • Balmoral Castle (26.8 miles – 0h42)
  • Glenlivet (31.6 miles – 0h54)
  • Cardhu Distillery (12.6 miles – 0h23)
  • Speyside Cooperage (8.7 miles – 0h16)
  • Grantown-on-Spey (24.3 miles – 0h37)

70 mile Speyside Malt Whiskey Trail


  • Glenlivet
  • Cardhu (Knockando)
  • Speyside Cooperage (Craigellachie)
  • Glenfiddich (Dufftown)
  • Glen Grant (Rothes)
  • Strathisla (Keith)
  • Glen Moray (Elgin)
  • Benromach (Forres – first organic)
  • Dallas Dhu (near Forres)

Drive to Inverness (1 night)

  • Grantown-on-spey
  • Ballindalloch Castle (15 miles – 25 mins)
  • Elgin Cathedral (23 miles – 36 mins)
  • Cawdor Castle (27 miles – 45 mins)
  • Clava Cairns (10 miles – 17 mins)
  • Culloden Battlefield (2 miles – 5 mins)
  • Inverness (8 miles – 20 mins)

Things in Inverness

  • Inverness Castle
  • Inverness Cathedral
  • Ness Islands
  • Cross River Ness on bouncy suspension bridge
  • Tomnahurich Hill
  • Walk up Craig Phadraig
  • Loch Ness Boat Trip

Drive to Glendale on Isle of Skye (3 nights)

  • Inverness
  • Urquhart Castle (17 miles – 30 mins)
  • Eileen Donan Castle (54 miles – 1h15)
  • Glendale (62.1 miles – 1h34)

Things on Isle of Skye

  • Duntulm Castle
    • Old Man Storr
    • Trotternish Peninsula
    • Quirang
  • Uig Bay
  • Fairy Glen
  • Dunvegan Castle
  • Neist Point
  • Talisker Distillery
  • Fairy Pools
  • Cullin Hills
  • Puffin & Seal Boat Trip
  • Three Chimney’s Restaurant

Drive to Fort William (2 nights)

  • Glendale
  • Armadale
  • Mallaig via Ferry (30 mins – check timetable, leaves about 09h25)
  • Mallaig to Fort William (45 miles)
    • Arisaig
    • Loch Nan Uamh
    • Glenfinnan
      • Glenfinnan Monument
      • Glenfinnan Viaduct
    • Corpach, great views of Ben Nevis by Caladonian Canal

Things in Fort William

  • Jacobite Train trip, Leaves at 10h15 and returns 16h00
  • Ben Nevis Distillery (2 miles from FW – 6 mins)
  • Inverlochy Castle (4 miles from FW – 10 mins)
  • Oban (44 miles – 1h10)
    • Mc Caig’s Tower
    • Oban Distillery

Drive to Glasgow to catch flight home

  • Glencoe on route A82
  • Kilchurn Castle (59.2 miles – 1h20)
  • Inveraray Castle (15.2 miles – 0h23)
  • Falls of Dochart in Killin (54 miles – 1h19)
  • Glasgow Airport (64.5 miles – 1h39) – arrive at 17h00
google map scotland, road trip map of scotland, map of my road trip

A Google Map image of our general trip (could only include all the cities we staying in and not all the attractions on route)

When I am back, hopefully I will be able to let you know what was and wasn’t possible. As well as review a few things 🙂

Happy road trip planning 🙂

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