Planning a road trip around Scotland

Planning a road trip around Scotland

Thinking of planning a road trip around Scotland? Me too! It’s my favourite way to travel. I love the variety, I get to see everything and road-trippin’ soothes a serious case of itchy feet. If you are visiting Scotland or fancy a road trip for your next holiday, here is how to do it.

Planning a road trip around Scotland

Step 1. Decide where to road trip around Scotland

So where in Scotland are you going to go?

The most popular road trip around Scotland is to do the North Coast 500, which takes in the whole of the northern coast. However, if you don’t have time to do the full 500 miles, why not choose one of my Scotland road trip itineraries: 

My video guide below has more ideas!

I also recommend you join the VisitScotland iKnow Community – browse the posts and ask for recommendations. We are very helpful!

Step 2 – Plot your Scotland road trip

My first step is to work out my road trip area. To do this I use an online road trip app. My favourite is Google Maps*. The benefits? It’s free and the app is integrated with GPS so you can use it offline and whilst you are actually road tripping.

I start by adding the main places I wanted to visit on a new google map:

  • Log in to Google Maps and click on the menu on the left-hand side.
  • Click on ‘your places’ and then ‘maps’ and then ‘create map’. A new map will pop up.
  • Search for your first destination. Try ‘Eilean Donan Castle‘.
  • A pop-up box will appear above the pin. Click ‘add to map’. Your destinations will appear as pins on the map.

You will now have a rough idea of your road trip area!

Planning a road trip

Step 3 – Find the best places to stay in Scotland

Once I have my Scotland road trip area, I work out where I want to stop – be it a great little town like Plockton for a wander, a fabulous view of a loch, a place for a seafood lunch, or a fantastic hotel to cosy up in for the night.

It is worth finding out the name of the area you are visiting – Scotland’s regions can be a little confusing. VisitScotland has a handy travel map of Scotland, click on the ‘region’ tab. I also use Booking.com’s map search* to find accommodation in your road trip area. AirBnB is also a useful as a search tool to find areas to stay.

Have a look at my where to stay in Scotland section – there might be a perfect hotel, cottage or campsite for your trip! I have popped some ideas below. Click on the photos for more information!

Before booking anything, I save all the options onto Google Maps by using the ‘stars’ function. 

  • Open up Google Maps, either online or on the app.
  • Search for the hotel and a box will appear (online – left, the app – below) and a pin will also appear on the map.
  • Click on ‘save’ or the ‘star’ in the box and a star will appear on your map.
  • Your destination is now saved. Simple! 

All your stars should now be giving you an idea of your road trip! Another benefit is that all the stars will appear in the app when you are travelling around.

Planning a road trip

Tips for booking road trip accommodation in Scotland

  • Mix up the accommodation, from B&Bs to cottages camping and glamping, to fancy hotels. Why not stay at one of my favourite campsites in Scotland, or search for a campsite on Cool Camping.  Walkhighlands have links to hostels in Scotland or stay in a mountain bothy!
  • Be ready to change your road trip direction based on what accommodation is available.
  • Stay for at least 2 nights at each place (unless it’s a really special hotel or a treat) after all that driving you will need lie-ins! 2 nights also gives you a full day to explore the area and have time for a relaxed meal without having to drive the next day.
  • If you can, book early on a website with free cancellation policies. Especially if it is a popular place. You can always cancel if your route changes.

Don’t forget to check for music, arts 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. You might also want to plan your route so you can go! Have a look at Visit Scotland’s Events page.

I also search for foodie destinations such as for ‘seafood in Scotland‘ ‘craft beer’, ‘burgers’, ‘best restaurant in Applecross’ (or whatever you are into!) as I like to stay in the heart of the action. You don’t want to be driving to for a meal when you arrive at your road trip stop.

Step 4 – Plan your Scotland road trip route

I plan my road trip route using Google Maps route mapping tool.

  • Open up Google Maps, either online or on the app.
  • Below the search box is an ‘add directions’ option. Click it and a new box will appear on the left-hand side with the option to add new places.
  • Using this box add each place as A, B, C etc. A route map will appear. Magic!
  • Keep adding destinations until your route is complete.
  • To see timings, click on the 3 dots on the right of the box and click ‘step by step directions’.

Here is one Scotland road trip I prepared earlier, just to give you a road trip planning example.

*Disclaimer, there are other route planning apps out there, you may have another favourite, let me know!

Your road trip planning should now be now complete, so here are some tips for your journey!

Road tripping Scotland tips!

  • Know the speed limits, road signs and general driving advice – in Scotland, understand how to drive on a single track road!
  • I recommend that your stops are no more than 1-1.5 hours apart unless much of the journey is on a motorway or you know the rules of the road. 2 hours on mountain roads will exhaust even the most patient of drivers. If you are island hopping in Scotland, remember to add in the journey time for ferries!
  • You don’t need a satnav – you can use your mobile phone. On a smartphone, GPS works without using data. Plot your route with Wifi before you leave the hotel and you can follow it. Note, as the driver you can be fined for using your phone as a Sat Nav – so this is only an option if you have a passenger to direct you.
  • Don’t drive hungry (or thirsty) as like most people, it can get a bit nippy especially if you get lost. So use check-ins and outs to your advantage – enjoy your breakfast and always arrive somewhere strategically for lunch! 
  • If you want to go to a very popular attraction (say Eilean Donan Castle) think about staying nearby so you can get up and go first thing before the crowds arrive and you head off to your next stop.
  • Always be honest with the driver about how long the drive will take, remember they will probably have no idea of where they are going!

Finally, remember road tripping isn’t all about the driving, so make sure you get out of the car too! For walks along the way, I use both Walkhighlands and the 40 favourite walks books; they mean I never miss out on an amazing view! Don’t forget to allow time to squeeze other activities, why not go whale watching or rib boating on Loch Ness?

Take a look at my guide to where to visit in Scotland for things to get up to or have a look at the ideas below…

My best tip for road tripping? Keep stopping, Scotland’s scenery is spectacular…

Want more? Check out my Scotland Road Trip Itineraries

 Love from, Scotland x

Pin Planning a Road Trip for later

Planning a road trip around Scotland

Follow:
Share:

17 Comments

  1. lifeasunusuals
    15/08/2016 / 10:34 am

    Visiting Scotland has been on my travel bucket list for ages! My husband is from there and we’d love to visit together at some point. Out plan is to do a long Scotland trip when we come back to the UK as we’re currently living in Belgium. Although, we’d be going by bike rather than car, since we don’t own one and I prefer my bike. The thing I love about Scotland is the opportunity to wild camp rather than stay in campsites – that’s a great way to save the pennies when travelling.

    ~ K

    http://www.lifeasunusuals.com

    • lovefrom
      15/08/2016 / 11:29 am

      Welcome & thanks for visiting! Will you be doing it by push bike or motorbike? If you are doing it by cycling, wow! Have a wee look at my North Coast 500 page, there are loads of tips from people on places to go and see! http://www.lovefromscotland.co.uk/north-coast-500

      • lifeasunusuals
        15/08/2016 / 11:33 am

        We’ll be going by bike. We’ve got no set plans at the moment it’s more of a “I’d really like to do that”plan 🙂 will definitely check out that page, thanks!

  2. 15/08/2016 / 11:58 am

    WOW. This is an amazing resource. And to be honest, you had me at gin. I am definitely pinning for later as this is on our short list of trips – looks amazing and this is the perfect place to start planning. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #MondayEscapes

  3. 15/08/2016 / 11:59 am

    Excellent advice! Now I want to go to Scotland again. 6 years ago I did a tour of Great Britain with my boyfriend and a friend but sadly there wasn’t much Scotland on there – just Edinburgh and Fort William with a quick stop at Loch Lomond on the way back to England.

    #MondayEscapes

  4. 15/08/2016 / 12:11 pm

    I did a similar road trip last summer and i wish I had knew some of these tricks 🙂

  5. 15/08/2016 / 1:06 pm

    We just got back from a Road Trip around Scotland with the littles. We had a great time and these are great tips for those planning their adventure! #MondayEscapes

  6. 16/08/2016 / 7:57 am

    What a great and comprehensive guide! We’ve always wanted to do a road trip around Scotland! I’ve just saved this! #MondayEscapes

  7. 16/08/2016 / 8:58 am

    Well this is a very timely blog post! We are heading off to Scotland very soon for a road trip around Dumfries and Galloway. My hubby is from Edinburgh so we have had several trips north over the years but neither of us know this bit of the country. Very excited about our trip.
    #mondayescapes.

  8. 27/08/2016 / 11:52 am

    One of the best trips we ever had was a road trip around Scotland including Torrindon. Some really great tips! #MondayEscapes

  9. 08/11/2016 / 9:09 am

    Wow! Putting stars on the map is a great way to make sure you get to see everything on your list! Great photos.

  10. 08/02/2017 / 9:57 am

    What a great blog…..my hubby & I are going to Scotland in April with our Campervan & the dogs…..thanks so much for all the tips…this should be such a help!

  11. 18/08/2017 / 9:46 am

    And always leave extra time for the wiggly roads! It took us as long to get from Glasgow to Clachtoll Beach up past Ullapool as it does to get from Glasgow to London!
    Great blog, by the way, I love the fell walking posts, by the way.

  12. 19/08/2017 / 12:45 am

    I just got into your blog and I’m loving it! This is great. We just returned from a 16-day road trip around Iceland and the West fjords and in 2018, we are so doing the North Coast 500. Epic road trips are the way to go!

    • Love from, Smidge
      28/08/2017 / 12:00 pm

      Hullo! Thanks for popping by, we are looking forward to doing the NC500 early next year – so hopefully i’ll have lots of more tips 🙂

Leave a Reply