Scotland is somewhere that I, as a British person, really haven’t seen enough of. So when fellow travel blogger and Scotland expert Graham offered to write this Scottish Highlands itinerary to add to my overland itinerary series, I jumped at the offer! Here’s Graham’s recommendation for an unforgettable Scottish highlands trip.
The highlands of Scotland are undoubtedly one of the most magical places on earth. Famous for jaw-dropping mountains, exciting wildlife, lush greenery, and tranquil lochs, it’s a place that has to be seen to be truly believed. The beautiful landscapes are simply breathtaking.
Taking a car is an advisable way to travel around the highlands. This will allow you to take as much of the magic as possible during a short visit.
To make your trip planning a little easier, we have devised a five-day itinerary for your road trip adventure. Buckle up and enjoy the best parts bonnie of Scotland.
Five Day Scottish Highlands Itinerary
Day 1 – Set off for Aberfeldy
Let’s set off from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow. Take off early to make the most of your day. Your first stop is the town of Aberfeldy which is a short 55 miles away. If you need to take off from the capital, Edinburgh, the drive will take an extra half an hour or so.
On arrival, you can explore the famous Birks of Aberfeldy, a circular walk around the woodlands. Birks is the old scots term for Birch trees. This area was originally named the Dens of Moness but was aptly renamed after Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns penned the ‘The Birks o’Aberfeldy’ in 1787, he was inspired by his visit to the Highlands and this very walk in particular.
Once you’re done exploring for the day, make your way into the town of Aberfeldy for a walk and bite to eat. If you find the time, check out the town’s famous distillery before resting in your chosen accommodation for the evening.
Day 2 – Kinloch Rannoch & Aviemore and the Cairngorm Mountains
Get up and get ready for a spectacular day filled with breathtaking views. Your first stop is pretty, Victorian village Kinloch Rannoch. The name itself comes from the Gaelic term of ‘Ceann Loch’ which means ‘end of the loch’ as it sits on the tip of Loch Rannoch. The magnificent Schiehallion Mountain (Gaelic for Hill of the Caledonian Fairy Queen) will be by your side for most of the way there.
Once you’ve taken in all the town has to offer, turn back and head towards Aviemore. Have a break and a picnic on the beachy banks of beautiful Loch Morlich before setting off for the heart of the Highlands, Cairngorm Mountains. From here, you can experience magnificent views and dramatic landscapes.
Once you’re done taking it all in, make your way back to Aberfeldy for a peaceful night, you will need it for day 3!
Day 3 – Glen Tay, Glen Coe, Glenfinnan/, Silver Sands of Morar, Arisaig and finally, Malaig
Pack your things and prepare for the busy day ahead. Hit the road and head towards the west, cutting straight through the heart of Scotland via Perthshire, through Glen Tay and into the Glorious Glen Coe Valley where you will be stopping for the night.
We stayed at the lovely Red Squirrel Campsite and really enjoyed it. It’s right by the river but only a short distance from the road and offers a great wild camping experience. If you don’t fancy camping, the Clachaig Inn in Fort William is a great spot to stay over. It’s an award-winning, modern and comfortable hotel with stunning mountain views.
After you unpack and unwind a little, jump back in the car and head toward Mallaig port town. On your way there make sure that you make a stop at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the glorious spot made famous by the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter.
Your next stop along the way is the aptly named ‘Silver Sands of Mora’. Take your time enjoying these stunning, rock framed white sandy beaches that clash with the bright turquoise sea that neighbours them. Once you’re done, you can continue to either Arisaig or Mallaig and find a cosy spot for dinner.
Day 4 – Great Glen, Glen Shiel, Eilean Donnan, and Plockton
The first stop on your penultimate day of the trip is Eilean Doran. Make sure that you take that route that drives through Glen Shiel, it is not to be missed. This nine-mile glen is lesser-known but just as breathtaking as the famous Glen Coe, The Cullins, and Torridon. It will make your drive an unforgettable one. Eilean Doran itself is a tiny tidal island where three of the highlands sea lochs meet.
On it stands proudly one of Scotland’s most famous castles. This iconic scene is one of the most photographed in the country so make sure that you take time to admire it. If you fancy, you can take some time to go inside the castle. Inside you will find period furniture, Jacobean artefacts, and displays of weapons and fine art. If you’re happy enough to enjoy it from the outside, skip it and continue on a 30-minute drive to your next destination, the quaint village of Plockton.
This little picturesque place has been in many films and tv shows. It’s an alluring and appealing, traditional village that sits on the edge of the stunning Loch Carron. Enjoy wandering around and grab a bite to eat in one of the cosy restaurants.
Day 5 – Rannoch Moor
It’s the last day and time to make your way back to the city, but not before taking in some final, staggering views and memories to cherish.
Your final drive is through Rannoch Moor, which offers miles and miles of remarkable landscape to enjoy. Littered with waterfalls, lochs, mountains, and moors along the way, it’s best to take your time on this drive. Although you will have already passed by from the opposite side on day 2 and caught a glimpse on your drive on day 3, the final day is the time to really enjoy it in all of its glory.
There are countless spots along the way that allow you to pull over, take some pictures, and take it all in. It’s a truly breathtaking end to your trip to the Scottish Highlands.
If you fancy seeing some more of Scotland, how about this Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye road trip?
About the Author
Graham Grieve is a Scottish blogger based in Glasgow. Graham’s blog, My Voyage Scotland, focuses on the less visited, hidden side of Scotland. You can keep up to date with his travels at his blog, Facebook or Instagram.