Rugged terrain with thick green moss-covered rolling hills always attracted me. Iceland and New Zealand were the very definition of the mystical scenery I imagined. I loved how their landscapes showed the age of the Earth. But they weren’t the only places that attracted mystical scenery lovers like me. During my Scottish Highlands expedition last winter I explored this region that was on my road trip wish list. Its fifty shades of green lured me into forests, brick bothies were captured with my cameras, and we explored the mountains in search of Highland cattle.
This is by no means a complete guide to the Scottish Highlands’ best driving routes. But I’m sure you’ll be pleased with any route you choose.
Edinburgh to Inverness
During my first adventure in Scotland I landed in Edinburgh and took a train to Inverness. Trains are one of my favorite ways to travel! Through the entire journey I couldn’t help but imagine how amazing this scenery would be if I were driving. Abandoned bothies against a backdrop of green hills brought out my photographer’s passion. The train ran alongside the road most of the time. I promised myself that one day I would come back here to drive this same road.
Here you can drive across the stupendous Forth Road Bridge to Fife and follow the scenic coastal route around East Neuk. Stop at some of the enchanting fishing villages before you reach St Andrews, the home of golf.
Head to Inverness and take your time to enjoy the vistas. The road runs by the Cairngorms National Park. The stunning landscape never ends. Inverness, the Highlands’ unofficial capital, is where the Scottish Highlands adventure starts. Inverness is surrounded by countless historical and natural attractions. The Western Highlands stand in the west, Kessock Suspension Bridge opens up the Black Isle to the north, there castles to the east, and the famous Loch Ness and popular Cairngorm National Park to the south.
Northwest Highlands Geopark
If you enjoy the scenery and want to learn more about the Earth, visit Northwest Highlands Geopark. The gateway to the Geopark is Ullapool which is just over an hour’s drive from Inverness on the A835. It extends roughly from Durness to Ullapool. Here you can see the oldest rocks in Europe, roughly 3 billion years old. This place is called the “Cradle of Geology” where the thrust structures were first discovered and proved by pioneering Victorian geologists Benjamin Peach and John Horne. They demonstrated that older rocks could be pushed (thrust) up and over younger rocks, and discovered the Moine Thrust, now recognized as the most significant crustal dislocation of its type in North West Europe. Also the Geopark contains the earliest evidence of life to be found anywhere in Europe.
The Scottish Highlands’ biggest and most famous attraction is its exquisite landscape. This park exhibits the unique relationship between the landscape and its underlying geology. As they say, “The landscape is the Geology and the Geology is the landscape”.
One more thing, this place has a site interpretive to represent the ejecta deposits of a giant meteorite impact around 1.3 billion years ago. Does it get any better?
Lochinver is the second largest fishing port in Scotland and offers the very best views back across to Suilven. The town splits into three parts: the harbor, the village, and Baddidarach, along the shore of Loch Inver. Lochinver is the place to go if you are a food lover. After all, this is home to two of Scotland’s finest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Albannach and Chez Roux, an Albert Roux-run kitchen at Inver Lodge Hotel. But if you want casual style dinning a lot of people visit Lochinver just to eat Lochinver Larder’s pie. Pie is always a worthwhile reason to travel! Don’t miss out on the huge scene in the fish market. Also check out the monumental costal drive to Achiltbuie just south of Lochinver.
Glencoe and Fort William
In terms of its scenery, Glencoe is a must-see. It’s a place to see grand mountains and scenery up close for very little effort. Though the views from the road are spectacular, Glencoe draws walkers and climbers onto its ridges and superb terrain. The mountain Buchaille Etive Mor, meaning the great shepherd of Etive, guards the way into the glen from the west. This is an area for outdoor lovers with skiing at the Glencoe ski area in winter and the West Highland Way further extending the walking options.
West of the glen, the main road crosses Loch Leven by the Ballachulish Bridge en route to Fort William. The A828 takes the coastal route south by Loch Linnhe’s shores, passing Kentallen and Duror before continuing south for Kinlochlaich Gardens, and Barcaldine Castle.
#Disclosure: Enterprise is a supporting partner of Runaway Juno Media but had no influence on the content of this article.