Experience a spectacular journey on the highest public road in Britain as you travel through the incredible landscape of the eastern Cairngorm Mountains. You will drive through a dramatic landscape of snow-covered hills and ancient woodland.
In the quiet, rural areas of the Moray Coast and Speyside, the skies come alive with thousands of stars sparkling above you. Wrap up warm and head outside to see this spectacular nightly performance. If you get very lucky you might even catch the Northern Lights.
Speyside is home to the world-famous 70-mile Malt Whisky Trail. This area is the heart of the whisky industry, and concentrated within a few miles are more distilleries than any other area in Scotland. Whisky takes on a new life in winter, warming your soul.
Visit the charming towns of Royal Deeside and discover why this region has been the holiday spot of choice for the British Monarchy since the time of the Victorians, characterised by mighty mountains, tumbling rivers and wide moorland.
Explore the brooding ruins of Dunnottar Castle, the dramatic clifftop fortress once home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland: the Earls Marischal.
After a day exploring distilleries and castles or taking a coastal or woodland walk, heading into the warmth of a hospitable pub with a cosy fire is sure to be a highlight. Scotland’s north east has these in abundance and many also have an array of whiskies to sample of an evening.
Driving the North East 250 encompasses everything that is magical about winter in Scotland in one unique and unforgettable road trip, from castles and distilleries to wintery walks and stargazing. The circular route begins and ends in ‘the Granite City’ of Aberdeen, and offers a fabulous drive through a breathtaking variety of landscapes in Royal Deeside, Speyside and the Moray Coast.
The route follows a wonderful contrast in landscapes including the majestic, snow-capped mountains of the Cairngorms, the tranquil banks of the River Spey and the pretty coastal villages and beaches of Moray. Walking opportunities are endless and you can finish each one by entering a cosy cafe or pub to warm up and relax.
In Speyside, sample our most warming of drinks – Scotch Whisky. Speyside contains the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland including Macallan, Glenfiddich and Balvenie among many more. Winter is when whisky was meant to be drunk, a warming spirit for the colder months.
Historic sites also come in abundance as you discover the dramatic Dunnottar Castle which sits majestically on a clifftop keeping a watchful eye out to sea. In Royal Deeside, explore the charming village of Ballater and pass by the royal residency of Balmoral Castle, while the medieval Elgin Cathedral is one of Scotland’s most beautiful ruins.
As the sightseeing comes to an end the delights of the day are not over. In this undisturbed corner of Scotland, you will find a pleasing lack of light pollution which allows you to look up in the evenings and feast your eyes on the breathtaking number of stars lighting up the night sky. The Moray Coast is one of the best spots for stargazing in Scotland, occasionally you may even glimpse the Northern Lights.
This is our suggested itinerary for our North East 250: Scottish Winter Road Trip self-drive tour. We design each itinerary around your interests, so think of this as a starting point which can be tailored into something completely unique to you.
We love the opportunity to use our first-hand knowledge and experience to design and deliver the perfect, bespoke holiday experience for you.
Your journey begins by leaving ‘The Granite City’ behind and travelling to Royal Deeside. Why not take a short but worthy detour to visit Dunnottar Castle? This dramatic clifftop fortress was once home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland: the Earls Marischal. You could also stop in at the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery.
As you travel to Royal Deeside, take the opportunity to admire the countryside and notice the incredible number of castles you pass on the way, each one with its own story and character.
Overnight – Royal Deeside
Royal Deeside is unmatched in the richness and diversity of its castles, and Scotland’s Castle Trail brings together some of the most splendid examples of castellated architecture on a clearly signposted tourist trail. This stunning region has been a holiday destination for British royalty ever since Queen Victoria began visiting in the 1850s, and you will pass Balmoral Castle – the Queen’s Scottish ‘holiday home’.
If the conditions are favourable and you feel like something more adventurous you could also visit the Lecht Ski Centre, close to Ballater and practice your snow sports. Glenshee Ski Centre is also not too far away.
Overnight – Royal Deeside
Travel north through the Cairngorms – Britain’s largest and wildest national park – following the spectacular Snow Road to Tomintoul. The village lies at a height of 345m and is popular with visitors to the surrounding whisky distilleries, as well as the Lecht Ski Centre.
Visit nearby Glenlivet Estate which has an information centre offering maps of local walks and cycle trails.
Overnight – Speyside
There are countless distilleries to visit as you wind your way through the charming towns and villages of Speyside.
In Dufftown, we recommend the Explorer’s Tour at Glenfiddich Distillery where you can see how the world’s best-selling single malt whisky is made. You could also arrange an exclusive tour of The Balvenie Distillery.
The Speyside Cooperage at Craigellachie is a vital part of whisky production and also well worth a visit.
Overnight – Speyside
Continue northbound towards the breathtaking Moray. This coastline is famous for its rich variety of marine wildlife – wrap up warm and take an energising wander along the beaches and look out for bottle-nosed dolphins.
Overnight – Moray Coast
Enjoy a leisurely day at stunning East Beach in Lossiemouth or visit nearby Elgin Cathedral. Even as a ruin, the 13th-century cathedral is one of Scotland’s most ambitious and beautiful medieval buildings.
We recommend making a stop in Cullen to try the local delicacy Cullen Skink – a hearty soup made with haddock, potatoes and onions and best served with thick crusty bread. A perfect winter warmer.
Overnight – Moray Coast
From the Moray Coast you will make your way back to Aberdeen, where your unique journey on the North East 250 will come to an end.
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We know that after a busy day of sightseeing an exceptional place to stay makes all the difference. That’s why all of the accommodation we select is hand-picked using our first-hand knowledge of the best places to stay.
Our discerning team has a wealth of experience, and we extensively research and regularly review all of the accommodation we select for our clients.
Please choose from one of our accommodation categories below. If you wish to combine these categories or perhaps upgrade for a special occasion let us know in your enquiry.
Our Premium category includes a unique collection of luxurious and stylish boutique Guest Houses and small 4* Hotels. These are wonderfully charming and intimate and run with great flair by their owners.
It also comprises larger 4* Hotels selected for their high standard of accommodation, exceptional service, and great location. These range from traditional luxury to contemporary Hotels.
A collection of quality 4* Guest Houses and 3* Hotels often located in beautiful locations which provide an excellent standard of accommodation.
Tastefully decorated and furnished, these properties are generally owned and operated by locals who have a genuine passion for their region which they are keen to share with you. Their warm hospitality is sure to be a highlight of your Scottish experience.
A collection of 3* B&Bs and Guest Houses offering comfortable accommodation close to local attractions. Your accommodation is great for the little personal touches.
A chat with your warm and friendly hosts and fellow guests over breakfast will arm you with local knowledge and tips for the day ahead.
From award-winning luxury Hotels to unique country retreats, all of which offer exceptional accommodation with superb facilities and outstanding service.
These are truly magical places and amongst the best Scotland has to offer. The perfect choice when you would like somewhere really special which can be a treat for the night or for your entire holiday.
Our packages include car rental and comprehensive insurance for the duration of your holiday. Absolute Escapes has an excellent relationship with a number of car hire operators and we are able to offer quality vehicles and great value for money.
If you plan to bring your own vehicle, we are also able to offer this itinerary without a rental car.