road winding down the side of bare scottish mountain with valley

And I Would Drive 500 Miles, to See the Best of Scotland

3 February 2017

Driving around the winding high and low roads of Scotland and the lines of the immortal Scottish classic, “Loch Lomond” will undoubtedly repeat in your head: “O ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye…” Indeed, there’s something about this landscape of primal beauty - and its high and low roads - that captivates the imagination.

Here urban sprawl quickly transforms into wild beaches, ancient ruins, lush greenery, magical waterfalls, mist-laden lochs and otherworldly mountains. And an extensive and well maintained road network provides both fast and efficient travel between its cities, towns and rural areas, making a sightseeing journey by car an ideal option. From the city slicker comforts of Glasgow to the rugged beauty of the highlands and the charm of Edinburgh - this is a road trip itinerary that truly has something for everyone. 

Location: Scotland

Distance: 775 kilometres 

Highlights:

  • Hunt for Nessie on Loch Ness.
  • Stare in wonder at the Fairy Pools of Skye.
  • Eat gourmet seafood in Glasgow’s oldest restaurant.
  • Spoil yourself at the UK’s only Guerlain spa in Edinburgh.
facade of art deco building in glasgow Art Deco pioneer Charles Rennie Mackintosh has left his mark on Glasgow's skyline.

Day 1-2: Glasgow

Start your Scottish adventure with a few days in Glasgow. Scotland’s biggest, yet still very much up-and-coming city, it boasts one of Britain’s best live music scenes. While there’s plenty to see when the lights go out, by day, backstreet walks uncover Victorian and Art Deco masterpieces and heritage industrial buildings, courtesy of Deco pioneer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

For dinner make a beeline to the The Gannet restaurant, which has risen like a phoenix from the flames in an almost derelict building in the fashionable Finnieston area -  a vibrant, young neighbourhood packed with trendy bars and eateries - to become one of the most talked about eateries in the city. In Glasgow central, the city’s oldest surviving restaurant Rogano makes for an oyster-clad champagne lunch in decadent surroundings, perfect for resting your shopping bags.

ben nevis covered in snow behind lake Challenge yourself with a vigorous trail walk or climb up the infamous Ben Nevis.

Days 3-4: Glasgow to Fort William 

Driving from Glasgow a pleasant 170 kilometres north and you’ll set eyes on the mighty Ben Nevis in Fort William - widely known as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK.’ From here, the Nevis Range ski, snowboard and mountain biking centre offers enough activities to fill an entire day, and more in winter when the ski slopes are open.

If you’re not one to go on, or off-piste, it’s possible to scale 2150ft on the north face of Aonach Mor, in a gondola. The Inner Hebrides can be seen from here on a clear day.

waterfalls into fairy pools on isle of skye, scotland The stunning Fairy Pools tempt the most daring of visitors in for a swim.

Days 4-6: Fort William to Skye

You’ll need to be up early and stay out late to make the most of ‘Outlander’ territory in two days, but it is possible. The drive from Fort William to Skye is very scenic, which helps make the five-plus hours it takes go by relatively quickly.

Scotland’s largest island has much to explore, from its drastic, craggy coastlines and belligerent sheep, to some first class whisky and five-star cuisine. Foodies shouldn’t miss The Three Chimneys, which cooks up seasonal produce from Skye, the Highlands and other Scottish regions. The stunning Cuillin Hills are a walker’s dream, and the Fairy Pools must be seen to be believed. These staggered pools and waterfalls tempt the fearless few in for a swim, even on the coldest days. If you’d rather drink your fluids than swim in them, a stop at the nearby Talisker Distillery for a wee whisky is a must, swiftly followed by a super-cheap half a local lobster and chips at the nearby Oyster Shed. Portree is the place for knitwear, which you’ll need if you’re planning a blustery boat trip from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, courtesy of Misty Isle Boat Trips. Local skipper Seumas Mackinnon will warm you up with humorous stories and cups of tea, and seal sightings are almost guaranteed.

castle with dark lake in foreground in scottish highlands, loch ness Cruise eerie Loch Ness and keep your eyes peel for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

Days 6-7: Skye to Inverness

Drive just over three hours from Skye through breathtaking highlands scenery to Inverness. This busy city is lorded over by a pink castle (now a government office) and on a sunny day, a stroll along the River Ness is a must. Of course, you can’t come to Inverness without saying hi to Nessie. Take the Loch Ness by Jacobite cruise and listen to Scottish history along with accounts of Loch Ness Monster sightings. The tour will drop visitors off at the iconic Urquhart Castle, where you’re free to explore the grounds and uncover 1000 years of history, before sailing back for yet more Nessie-spotting opportunities.

overlooking georgian buildings in edingburgh with mountains in background The Georgian New Town of Edinburgh contrasts the Victorian Old Town, on the opposite hill below the castle.

Days 7-9: Inverness to Edinburgh

Hit the road early for the final leg of your journey to Edinburgh. Three hours-plus south, the Scottish capital sees a medieval Old Town contrasting with the Georgian splendour of the New Town. And while steeped in history, it’s a city that doesn’t live in the past.

Ease post-driving knotted shoulders and muscle cramped backs with a treatment in the Waldorf Astoria’s Guerlain Spa. A UK first, the spa is part of the hotel’s recent $50 million makeover and offers personalised spa experiences in custom-built treatment rooms. Post-spa, continue the indulgence with dinner in what the city’s most renowned restaurant - and the one lauded by Andrew Lloyd-Webber as the “prettiest” - the Witchery. Located at the top of the historic Royal Mile, the restaurant, now in its fourth decade, showcases the best of Scotland's produce in a magical setting. 


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.


 

Paul Ewart

Originally from the UK, Paul has lived and worked in three different continents: from the heady metropolis of Dubai, to North America and - as of six years ago - Sydney, Australia, a place he now calls home. His travel career spans 13 years across various print and digital outlets. Until recently, he worked as a senior TV producer for Channel 7. Now, he's back doing what he does best: travelling.