As we approached Glen Coe from the barren Rannoch Moor and drove past the Glencoe Mountain Resort, the first mountain I set my eyes upon was the great herdsman of the Buachaille Etive Mor with its distinctive pyramid shape and sweeping ridges.
Struck by the unfolding scenery, I parked my car on a small bay lay and walked over a mound, away from the extremely busy A82, out on a moorland plateau scattered with lochs and bogs to go and explore.
A reassuring sense of peace and harmony washed over me as I looked on towards the endless horizon to the east and the inviting mountains to the northwest.
I steered my gaze towards River Etive as it tumbled and bent through a series of waterfalls, narrowing and widening and providing interest everywhere I looked.
Ah, Bonnie Scotland.
You are achingly appealing, in a rugged, existential, transcendental, tear-in-the-eye – words elude sort of way.
Read More: What To See and Do In Edinburgh: 12 Amazing Things For The First Time Visitors
Getting You Started on a 5-Day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
This driving tour of Scotland will point you in the right direction for your trip, but feel free to adjust it for your time restraints and interests.
It focuses on covering a giant loop, seeing Scotland at its finest, with most of your time spent exploring rugged coastlines and the famous Highlands.
To make the most of this itinerary, I recommend arriving in either Edinburgh or Glasgow the night before and getting your rental car either that night or first thing on the morning of Day 1.
As you can see, I’ve set the starting and ending location to Edinburgh for this road trip, but if it works better for you to begin and end in Glasgow, you can do that as well.
The driving time between the two cities is around one hour, so the first and last day of this itinerary won’t be much different regardless of which city you choose to start in.
Read More: Top 11 Things To Do In Edinburgh This Autumn That Are Good For Your Soul
A Quick Glance at Your Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1 – Glasgow to Balloch
Top sights: Glasgow, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Balloch
Day 2 – Balloch to Glencoe
Top sights: Kilchurn Castle, St. Conans Kirk, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe
Day 3 – Glencoe to Stirling
Top sights: Stirling, Stirling Castle, William Wallace Monument
Day 4 – Stirling to Edinburgh
Top sights: The Kelpies, Edinburgh, Dean Village
Day 5 – South Queensferry to Glasgow
Top sights: South Queensferry, Forth Rail Bridge, Glasgow
Read More: 8 Amazing Reasons Why You Should Visit Edinburgh At Least Once
Day 1 – Glasgow to Balloch, Loch Lomond
If you are starting your trip in Glasgow, be sure to set aside some time to explore it. There’s plenty to see and do in Glasgow, the city is perfect for the start of your trip and allows you to dip your feet into Scottish culture and life.
After that, head north on the A82 for around an hour to reach the largest loch in Scotland famed for its natural beauty- Loch Lomond.
You’ll find the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Centre located in Balloch with plenty of leaflet material and general information.
The lake itself is part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Nationa Park so you could easily spend an entire holiday here as the park is home to 21 Munros, 2 forest parks, 22 lochs, and more than 50 designated special nature conservation sites on the lake.
Some of the best things to do around the lake:
- If you’re a keen biker, you can explore Loch Lomond by renting a bike (or bringing your own) and riding the West Loch Lomond cycle path.
- Take a relaxing boat trip to experience the loch’s breathtaking scenery
- Enjoy the woodlands and check out the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park
Total Distance: 27 miles
Length of Drive: 42 minutes
Overnight stay: Balloch House by Innkeeper’s Collection
Read More: Some Of The Best Things To See At The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Day 2 – Balloch, Loch Lomond to Glencoe
Today you are going to see some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of Scotland!
After a restful night, begin your day by driving further along the A82 towards Glencoe.
As you travel along the length of Loch Lomond, you’ll see it change from a broad stretch of water up to 5 miles wide to a narrow, fjord-like finger at its most northerly end.
Travelling north, you gonna drive through one of Scotland’s great, uninhabited wildernesses, Rannoch Moor. This vast moorland occupies nearly 150 square miles of unspoilt rugged terrain.
Some of the best things to do in Glencoe:
- Take a scenic drive along the Glen Etive, which winds its way through some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and where The James Bond Skyfall was filmed.
- Hike to the top of Buchaille Etive Mor, one of the most popular trails in Scotland. The views from the summit are simply incredible.
Total Distance: 70 miles
Length of Drive: 1h 40 min
Overnight Stay: Kingshouse Hotel
Read More: Your Guide To Some of The Best Edinburgh’s Neighbourhoods Worth Exploring
Day 3 – Glencoe to Stirling
From Glencoe, you will drive south to Stirling, but not without needing to stop multiple times to see some of the castles and beautiful scenery as this route gives some lovely views over the distant mountains of the Southern Highlands.
While you could easily skip past Stirling on the motorway, catching a snippet of Stirling Castle as you do so, I’d really suggest a pit stop in the historic city.
Some of the best things to do in Stirling:
- The Wallace Monument is a heritage building commemorating Sir William Wallace’s life.
- Stirling Old Town Jail – is a fascinating tourist attraction which retains period features and tells tales of many memorable characters from the city’s past.
- Stop by Stirling Castle which was home to the once-powerful Stewart Monarchy of Scotland.
Total Distance: 82miles
Length of Drive: 2 hours
Overnight stay: Inglewood House & Spa
Day 4 – Stirling to Edinburgh
Start your day with a filling breakfast as there’s much to do on day 4 of your Scotlands itinerary!
Depart in the morning from your accommodation and drive to Edinburgh along the way stopping to admire magnificent 100-foot tall steel horses, that stand proudly beside the Forth and Clyde Canal called the Kelpies.
It’s possible to see the Kelpies from the main road, so you won’t miss out if you don’t stop, but they are quite impressive to walk around. Plus, there’s a lovely cafe and a gift shop on site for warm food and drinks.
Once you arrive in Edinburgh, park your car and set to explore the city.
This charming city is full of historical landmarks, independent bookshops, and free attractions. Ensure you visit Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace. You can also take a stroll through its neighbourhoods or go on an underground tour.
Total Distance: 37 miles
Length of Drive: 1 hour
Overnight stay: The Hawes Inn, South Queensferry, Edinburgh
Read More: Some Of The Best Things To See at The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh
Day 5 – South Queensferry to Glasgow
On the morning of the final day of your 5-day Scotland tour itinerary, explore the picturesque town on the edge of the Firth of Forth. It might be a little sleepy village, but you’ll find plenty of colourful history, heritage and the iconic three bridges.
The star attraction of the town is the mighty Forth Railway Bridge – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the wonders of the world. You can view the bridge from High Street, Hawes Pier and from one of the hills located further inland.
The grandeur of some of the architecture you see in the town is a testament to the wealth that South Queensferry used to enjoy.
Craftsmen, ship-owners and merchants of South Queensferry exploited their geographical position and traded coal, wool, and wine to the rest of the country.
Some of the Best things to do in South Queensferry:
- Pop into the South Queensferry Museum, located on High Street and soak up South Queensferry’s heritage. It’s a great little museum (and free) and has some fantastic information about the construction of the bridges.
- Take The Forth Bridges trail – since one of the best things to do in South Queensferry is spend checking out the bridges, you may as well learn a bit about them whilst you’re here.
- Embark on one of the Forth boat trips which usually takes about 1.5 hours and leaves from the Hawes Pier in South Queensferry. It takes you under the Forth Rail Bridge and around Inchcolm Island, Inchgarvie Island, oil supertankers and Haystack Rock.
Total Distance: 47 miles
Length of Drive: 1 h 5min
And, that’s a wrap!
If you’ve got time for more than a 5-day Scotland road trip, lucky you!There are SO many things you can do to extend this itinerary.
If you want to spend some time in the bigger cities, consider adding a day or two for Glasgow and/or Edinburgh. These cities have very different vibes but they both have so much to offer.
Driving Around Scotland
This 5-day Scotland road trip has been planned with a rental car in mind.
While some tour companies are offering great tours, nothing beats the freedom of having a car. As you can travel at your own pace, stop when you want to and take whatever route and breaks work for you, I think it’s the best way to see Scotland.
When explored by car, its hidden escarpments reveal themselves and any wrong turn will gleamingly deliver you to an unexpectedly beautiful town or village.
If you are used to using trains or buses to get around as a backpacker, renting a car and having a driving tour is an exciting way to see Scotland. Also – public transport in the highlands is non-existent, and I wouldn’t recommend relying on it for your Scotland itinerary.
Here are some useful tips to help you have the best experience on Scotland’s road trip:
- Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, so that means they drive on the left side of the road.
- Pay careful attention to what kind of fuel your car takes and when grabbing a gas pump at the station. If you are driving a rental, it should say by the fuel cap what kind of fuel it takes.
- Know the speed limits, road signs and general driving advice – in Scotland, understand how to drive on a single-track road!
- Watch out for animals on the road, especially in more rural areas where sheep aren’t always fenced in.
- Many of Scotland’s roads can be affected by poor weather conditions, so always check the forecast before you drive.
Useful Tips For a Memorable Scottish Road Trip
By now, you should have plenty of ideas on how to fill your Scotland itinerary as you plan your driving tour of Scotland, a beautiful nation you are sure to fall in love with!
Here are just a few tips for a memorable trip:
- Midges in Scotland are at their worst from May until September. If you want to avoid the midges, plan your Scotland road trip between late September and May, when the weather is considerably cooler.
- If you plan on visiting castles and historic places, I recommend you get yourself a Scotland Explorer Pass. The pass gives you a discount in many places and already saves you money if you plan to visit more than two castles.
- It’s a good idea to check for arts, music and other festivals taking place on your dates. This will help you discover if prices might be higher or if there will be low accommodation availability.
- In Scotland, you can expect rain all year round. However, the wettest times of the year are autumn and winter.
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Now, over to you!
Have you been on a road trip around Scotland? Let us know in the comments!
Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Scotland and have travel-related questions!