We had nine nights to see as much of Scotland as possible, starting from our home in Glasgow the plan was to drive in an anti-clockwise direction around the highlands. Our aim was ambitious especially considering the further north you get the worse the roads are; I’m talking single lane, windy roads and no mainstream petrol stations for miles. Still this was likely to be our one opportunity to see as much as possible and we were going to make the most of that!
So What Is It Like To Road Trip Scotland?
I was completely blown away by Scotland and it certainly reminded me of New Zealand. Once you get within an hour north of Glasgow, mountains start to fill the landscape and it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road. Once you hit the pure highlands no matter where you look you will find mountains and beautiful views that scream ‘typical Scotland’. Carry on further north and the roads become thinner and windier as the landscape gets flatter towards sea level. Expect the roads to be single lanes with passing places every 100 or so yards, sheep roaming freely and old ruins dotted around everywhere. The north and west coast are full of beautiful blue sea and white sand beaches with barely a sole in sight! You can drive miles without seeing a person or building – something very hard to find in the rest of Britain. Phone signal is limited to none and don’t expect to connect to your phone’s 3G!
What Route Did We Take?
Day 1 – Glasgow to Loch Insh (Aviemore)
Day 2 – The plan was to snowboard on the Cairngorm mountains but they were closed so we ended up driving out to Lecht for some snow fun.
Day 3 – Loch Inver to Cannich via Loch Ness and the Cairngorm Mountains
Day 4 – Cannich to Wick via Glen Affric & Black Isle
Day 5 – Wick to Durness via Dunnet Head
Day 6 – Durness to Ullapool via Sandwood, Achmelvich Bay and Loch Inver
Day 7 – Ullapool to Portnalong via Gairloch, Torridon and Applecross
Day 8 – Portnalong to Kinlochleven via Portree and Fort William
Day 9 – Kinlochleven to Arrochar via Oban
Day 10 – Arrochar to Glasgow via Loch Lomond
Which was a total of 1239 miles
How Much Did It All Cost?
Accommodation – £316 for 8 nights based on two people sharing (our last night’s stay I was offered for free).
Food/Drink – £161 – This was mostly self-catering from big named supermarkets, and the occasional bite to eat out.
Petrol – £301 (we were luck to already have a car so didn’t have to pay for car rental too)
Parking – £2.20 – The only place we had to pay for parking was Oban because we visited in the off season, most places charge April – October.
Extras – Lift passes and snowboard hire over two days – £89
TOTAL = £869.20 for two people for 10 days
This equals £43.50 per a person per a day – we were not trying to keep our budget to a minimum but nor did we have a huge amount to spend on our trip.
Where Did We Stay?
Loch Insh – Loch Insh Chalet – lochinsh.com
Cannich – Cannich Caravan Park – Camping Pod
Wick – Wigwam Holidays – Wigwam
Durness – Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse
Ullapool – Point Cottage B & B
Portnalong – Wigwam Holidays – Wigwam
Kinlochleven – Blackwater Hostel – Micro Lodge
Arrochar – Lochside B & B
What Was The Highlight?
There were so many great things but choosing the highlight is easy because it stands out above everything. We looked at this destination on the map only to discover that there was no road out there. After asking around we soon found out it was a 4 mile hike there and the same again back. Despite many people recommending this place, we were a little short on time and not sure if we could fit in an 8 mile hike. Given the gorgeous weather we get up at the crack of dawn and headed out to our start point of Blairmore. Where were we heading? Sandwood Bay one of the most remote and beautiful beaches I have ever come across. It felt like something you should find in the Mediterranean or South East Asia, except it couldn’t be because sat behind the beach was a huge loch. Looking over the bay from the cliffs was one of the most stunning landscapes I came across in Scotland yet down on the beach among a pinkish coloured beach I felt like the only person ever to discover this piece of paradise. We didn’t see another person on the beach while we visited and this made it all the more special!
What Was The Craziest Road We Drove?
The A896 to Applecross aka Bealach Na Ba or in English the Pass Of The Cattle – This road is the third highest motor road in the UK and longest continual climb. In some places this road has a 25% gradient with hairpin corners and only one lane. I was petrified driving it but knew I would be even more scared sat in the passenger seat. Having missed the Lonely Planet chapter about this road I had no idea what we were install for until it was too late. As I climbed this very steep road, my petrol light flickered on and off causing me to worry unnecessarily of what we would do if we ran out of fuel on this road…. Luckily we didn’t as Applecross had a petrol station, needless to say the drive back along this road knowing what to expect and with enough fuel in the tank was much more enjoyable. Still I never expected to find such a road hidden away on the west coast of Scotland.
Our roadtrip around Scotland was incredible, the weather was on our side for the most part and the further north you got the more it felt like you were in another country! If you live in the UK and have never visited the north of Scotland, I urge you to go, GO NOW, because it feels so very different to the rest of main land Britian.