Here in Scotland, there’s no shortage of spectacular roads. With roads that wind through dominating mountains, passing by lochs and through dramatic glens, Scotland has so much to offer when it comes to great drives – it can be hard to keep your eyes on the road!
Growing up in Strathpeffer north of Inverness, Scotland’s incredible scenery was my playground, and there’s no better way to see it than with the freedom of a car. Scotland is one big spectacular drive in itself, a sightseeing paradise, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you …
Forming part of the legendary North Coast 500 driving route, the Bealach na Bà is one of the most famous roads in Scotland – demanding your full attention as it deals out tight hairpin bends, multiple switchbacks, steep gradients and oh, did I mention it’s single track …
This twisting road is one of the highest roads in Scotland, rising up to 626 metres (2,054 ft) above sea level. First built in 1822, the road was used to drive cattle from Applecross and the surrounding settlements to other parts of the Highlands – the name means ‘Pass of the Cattle’.
Once at the top of the pass there are parking spaces so you are able to stop and admire the dramatic and unforgettable views across Wester Ross, the Isle of Skye, and the Outer Hebrides.
Next up is the A83 – a very important road in Scotland connecting the Central Belt with the south west of Scotland, all the way down to Campbeltown in the Mull of Kintyre. It is in equal parts as vital a link as it is a spectacular drive.
The words ‘rest and be thankful’ are inscribed on a stone near the junction of the A83 and the B828. The original stone was placed there by the soldiers who built the military road along this route in 1753. That stone, however, fell into ruin and was replaced by a commemorative stone.
Once you have reached the view point, you can look down on the route of the old military road that was engineered by General Wade following the Jacobite rebellion. Take a moment, rest and be thankful, and enjoy the breathtaking views down across Glen Croe and the Arrochar Alps.
Another impressive road in the West Highlands is the A82 which passes through awesome Glencoe. Surrounded by dramatic mountains and vast moorlands, the A82 is sure to take your breath away.
Featured in the movie Skyfall when James Bond drove through it, the A82 provides stunning scenery come wind, rain or shine. There is an almost haunting atmosphere and a wonderful sense of history. Mile after mile you will pass through undisturbed landscapes and imposing mountains – it is an experience you will never forget!
The A82 is perfect for a great road trip – just add your own playlist, good company, and enjoy plenty of photo opportunities. Our self-guided James Bond Tour follows in Bond’s footsteps through Glencoe and more.
“When God designed Paradise, this area must have been the prototype” – that’s just one of many comments that you can find describing the A87, a wonderful road taking you along the banks of Loch Duich before you reach the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan.
One of Scotland’s best-loved attractions – Eilean Donan stands majestically amid the magnificent scenery and is definitely worth taking time to stop and explore before carrying on with your journey on the A87. When you do, you will drive along the banks of Loch Alsh before reaching the Skye Bridge – the gateway to the legendary Isle of Skye, which you can explore on our popular Escape to the Highlands itinerary. Built in 1992, the Skye Bridge provides easy access to the beautiful island which was once only accessible by ferry.
Once on Skye, the A87 continues all the way up to Uig on the west coast of the island and the famous Trotternish peninsula. This drive is truly spectacular as it twists its way through the mystical and magical Skye scenery as far as the eye can see. Definitely a road to put on your bucket list of Scottish drives!
One of the most important roads Scotland – connecting north with south – the long A9 passes through some incredibly beautiful scenery and has a lot of picturesque and worthwhile stops on the way, including Pitlochry and Aviemore.
Often referred to as ‘The Spine of Scotland’, the A9 was also once dubbed the most dangerous road in Scotland, however, the recent building of more sections of dual carriageway has greatly improved driving conditions, enabling you to enjoy the scenery in a much more pleasant environment.
The A9 takes you through some absolutely beautiful stretches of Perthshire and the Cairngorms National Park, eventually crossing the Cromarty Bridge (pictured below) and venturing all the way to the Far North. Passing over many rivers and stunning hills, this road is a visual experience, a feast for the eyes and one that’s really worth driving… so don’t let its past reputation put you off! This road is also one of my personal favourites as it’s the road that takes me home to my family in Strathpeffer, near Inverness!
It is not just the west coast of Scotland that is a joy to drive, the exciting new North East 250 driving route highlights some of the most beautiful drives in the east.
‘The Snow Road’ is a stunning route which starts at Blairgowrie in Perthshire, passing through the Cairngorms National Park before heading into the Cairngorm Mountains over the highest public road. The road winds through the mountains with stunning views at every turn and some fantastic stop-offs on the way, including modern art installations and photo-posts.
This route also makes a great, quieter alternative to the A9.
Our final suggestion will take you into the far north-west of Scotland where you will often feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere – and well, you are.
The ancient landscape of Assynt and beyond is a joy to explore, as you drive along the narrow and twisting roads of the North Coast 500, with lochs in touching distance, hills all around and beautiful sights to be seen in every direction. There are also some charming villages along the way, such as Lochinver, which are well worth a stop.
This is a truly stunning drive through some of the most remote and beautiful scenery you will find anywhere in the world. The saying “it’s not the destination it’s the journey” rings incredibly true here with the unspoilt landscapes and incredible vistas. This is a journey through the best of the Scottish landscape that is awe-inspiring, spectacular and will leave you with a huge desire to head off on your next road trip.
Scotland has so much to offer, but the roads are sometimes overlooked for the destinations. The journey, however, is equally as important. I may be biased, but Scotland has some of the most incredible roads in the world, so grab your road map, sunglasses, and head for Scotland to explore these winding, rewarding, and truly stunning roads for yourself!
P.S. If you’d like to drive these breathtaking roads, check out Absolute Escapes’ award-winning self-drive itineraries in Scotland.