With extra long days and scenery that reveals itself in a palette of soft blues, greens and browns, summer is the best time to explore the spectacular Scottish Highlands. Driving along the Highland's winding lanes will reveal unexpected views, quaint villages and of course, country pubs.
When it comes to getting there, the traditional choices are driving your own car, or taking a train or plane to Glasgow or Edinburgh before switching to a hire car. This year, there's another option for travellers – booking a car through a peer-to-peer car sharing company. With an increasing number of horror stories in the press on the hidden costs and charges of a number of hire car companies, this new alternative is well-timed.
Turo is bringing its peer-to-peer car-sharing revolution to Scotland. With more than ten million users worldwide, Turo connects local hosts to anyone who needs a vehicle for short-term use for business or pleasure, whether it’s a few days or a few weeks. With this in mind, here are five brilliant Scottish road trips that will take you through the heart of the country.
Route 1: Glasgow to Inveraray (65 miles)
This journey could easily be done in a day, but it would be a shame to rush it. Taking the M8 out of Glasgow, you’ll follow the Great Western Road (A82) alongside beautiful Loch Lomond. Stop over in pretty towns such as Luss or Arrochar to enjoy the lakeside, or head for a hike at Trossachs National Park. Walking, golf, boating and fishing are also on the menu, along with many great pubs and restaurants.
After Arrochar, the road (by now the A83) starts to twist and turn through the Southern Highlands. Tired soldiers employed as road builders named this route Rest and Be Thankful, so take their advice and enjoy the amazing views yourself. It’s a photo-worthy stop to rival your first sight of a herd of hairy Highland cattle.
Next stop is Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch, famous for its oysters – make sure you taste a few. Here you can go fishing or diving and look for dolphins, seals or even basking sharks.
At Inverarary, the castle is well worth a visit, while the town is a good base from which to explore the area. It’s also a good starting point for driving on to the Western Isles, following the route below, or further north into the Highlands.
Route 2: Edinburgh to Skye (250 miles)
This drive takes in many of Scotland’s highlights, starting with Stirling Castle, an hour's drive outside Edinburgh. After Stirling, slow down and enjoy the views before joining the A84 to head into the Highlands at the Pass of Leny.
Places like Callander, Balquhidder and Crianlarich all make great stops to get out into the majestic nature you’re seeing from the car windows.
Then come Rannoch Moor and Glencoe with their even bigger mountains, the “Munros” of more than 3,000ft and the dramatic glens in between. Don’t miss the Glencoe Visitor Centre to learn more about the bloody history of the Scottish clans.
All routes lead to Fort William on the Great Glen that cuts Scotland in two. After that, it’s on to Invergarry and Glen Shiel, surely one of the most beautiful glens of all, then the landmark Eilean Donan Castle.
Soon after, you reach the road bridge to Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh. You can return to the mainland via the Mallaig to Armadale ferry to make a circular route via the west coast and Glasgow.
Route 3: Isle of Skye (150 miles)
Skye, within easy reach of Glasgow or Edinburgh, is worth a road trip of its own to see sights such as the dramatic, jagged mountains of the Cuillins and Neist Point. This latter, the most westerly point of the island, has a lighthouse perched on cliffs from where you can watch squawking seabirds and sometimes even whales or porpoises
Portree, the island’s capital, is a good base whether you have one day, a week, or longer. First stop for many is Bridal Veil Falls and the rock spires of the Old Man of Storr. Take more time to hike the hill circuit of the Quiraing, one of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. Skye is all about views and weather, and the Quiraing is one of the best places to capture that mood. If you do fall for the magic, you’ll want to visit the Museum of the Isles in the south of the island.
Route 4: Edinburgh to Inverness (156 miles)
The A9 is one of the most scenic roads in Scotland, passing through must-see places such as as Perth, Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. Scone Palace in Perth, the coronation place of the kings and queens of Scots, is be a natural introduction to this culture-rich route.
At Dunkeld, near the boundary between Highland and Lowland Scotland, visit Dunsinane Hill Fort that was once home to the real King Macbeth. Bungee-jumping and canyoning are among the more up-to-date activities on offer.
Time your visit to Pitlochry to coincide with the Highland Games and see pipe bands, caber-tossing and Highland dancing – maybe you’ll even learn a few steps.
Blair Castle at Blair Atholl is an interesting contrast to Edinburgh Castle, and its grounds, bizarrely, hold the second-tallest tree in Britain. Next, you pass Dalwhinnie, with Scotland's highest whisky distillery, before reaching Aviemore, the ski resort that is the centre of the Cairngorms. On the way you can visit Newtonmore, where the open-air Highland Folk Museum has a great collection of old buildings.
Your final destination is Inverness, Capital of the Highlands. From here, you drive further north, deep into the Highlands on the well-marked North Coast 500 route, or turn down the Great Glen to visit legendary Loch Ness.
Route 5: Inverness to Aberdeen (116 miles)
This “Highland Tourist Route” makes its first stop at the atmospheric site of the Battle of Culloden, where the last major battle on British soil took place. The Visitor Centre will bring to life those tragic events of 1746.
Grantown-on-Spey, famed for its whisky distilleries, is also an outdoor centre for exploring the Cairngorms. Go skiing in winter or mountain biking in summer amid some of the most beautiful scenery in Great Britain.
Aberdeen, the “Granite City”, is a port that has boomed from North Sea oil and its international population supports a wide range of arts, restaurants and other attractions. The Maritime Museum might inspire you take the return drive to Inverness along the coast via Fraserburgh, with its Museum Of Scottish Lighthouses. Otherwise, it’s an easy hop back to Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Top Image: Scotland road trip © Turo