Stuck on how to plan a road trip in Scotland? Can’t decide when to go and what time of the year will make your adventure as epic as possible? Not sure how to highlight the best stop-offs? Want to make sure you include all the best places to visit in Scotland?
There are so many factors to consider and think about when planning a road trip to Scotland. It’s really important to do some basic research in all the areas mentioned in this blog post before you start making decisions and bookings for your Scotland road trip.
For example, weather conditions vary across the country so if, for example, you’re planning it around weather predictions, it may be good to have a think about the areas you’re going to road trip in Scotland before you write off certain times of the year. For example, the wettest parts of Scotland (the western highlands) experience an average of 250 days of rain per year, whereas the driest parts only experience an average of about 150 days of rain per year. If you’re wanting to avoid rain, you could look at the drier areas in Scotland (tend to be more east coast) and that may open up more date options for you.
Anyway, in this blog post, I’m going to run through all the things you should consider before your road trip through Scotland so that you are prepared for the adventure of a lifetime.
A trip to Scotland to witness and adventure through the likes of the Scottish Highlands, Skye, NC500 and film locations featured in the likes of Harry Potter is definitely a one-in-a-lifetime and it’s important you plan it well.
Ready to tuck in to some tips for planning your road trip in Scotland?
How to plan a road trip in Scotland ft. the best routes to go on
It’s also really important to have some kind of awareness when it comes to cars and keeping them well oiled (literally) on road trips. Particularly the long kind where you’re carrying all your bags and maybe bikes too. Long distances and extra weight can put added strain on your car and you want to make sure you avoid as many road trip breakdowns/disturbances along the way.
Click here to see my 10 essential checks before any road trip you do. On top of that I’d highly recommend making sure you’re on top of your MOT/services and that you’ve sorted breakdown cover.
Okay so before you get into the nitty grittys of your Scotland road trip, let’s start with the basics.
Have you got a car? Do you need to hire one? If you’re travelling from overseas to the UK have you checked out what documents you need and what is required legally to drive here?
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE?
Consider the areas you have time to cover on your road trip
This is probably the best place to start. Have a think about how long you have to explore Scotland and consider the pace of adventure you’d like. There are so many incredible places to visit and experience in Scotland and if you go in with no plans and just 7 days to play with – chances are you’ll get a little overwhelmed and spend a long time driving and not actually tucking into the juicy adventures.
A few things to think about at this point…
- Is this a once in a lifetime?
- Do you want to see as much as possible in that time?
- Do you have a long bucket list?
- Or are you looking to just immerse in some Scottish culture and spend your days a little slower, covering a little less ground?
- Do you have time to head right up to Inverness and the north?
- Are you more interested in the highlands and main attractions?
Once you’ve got a bit of an idea of what kind of trip you’d like and how much time you can take off of work etc, it’s time to look at some example itineraries and use other peoples experiences to your advantage…
Photo was taken from Visit Scotland’s website, where they have unlimited resources and tips for planning.
What road trip routes have you got to choose from?
Do you want a road trip focussed on the mountains? Do you want lakes? Do you want ocean time? Or ocean drives? Do you want hiking possibilities or more of a city vibe?
There are road trip routes to suit everyone so now that you know how long you have to play with, it’s time to find the road trip that suits you best. Visit Scotlands website is an amazing resource and has been a great source of information for me when writing this blog post and planning my Scotland road trip. Always check out the tourism websites when visiting somewhere new!
Here are some popular road trip routes to consider:
- North Coast 500 (NC500)
Located right up in the North of Scotland, the NC500 is most likely the road trip you’ve been told about. They say the North Coast 500 (NC500) is Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the famous Californian route and is backed by many as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The North Coast 500 (500 miles hence the name) hugs the coastal edges as you wind around the North Highlands, soaking up all the medieval castles, beaches and incredible heritage as you go. See more here.
- The Fife coastal route
A perfect add on to a city trip to Edinburgh, this route is a shorter 77miles along the glittering Firth of Forth coastline, passing places such as the Royal Burgh of Culross, the beautiful fishing towns in the East Neuk and historic St Andrews. See more here.
- Argyll coastal route
If you haven’t got time to head up to the North Highlands and the likes of the NC500, consider this scenic route from Loch Lomond up to Fort William. Loch Lomond is one of the two national parks in Scotland and is home to all the outdoor adventure so be sure to add some water sports and hikes to your road trip. If you make it the full 129 miles of this route up to Fort William, consider a day trip on the West Highland Line across the Glenfinnan Viaduct (the Harry Potter one!) or up Ben Nevis (the tallest mountain in Scotland). This route is known for great seafood dining! See more here.
- South West Coastal 300
This 300 miles circular route through the South West is one of the most accessible road trip options if you’re driving up from England and you have limited time to explore. It starts from Carlisle and follows roads along the coast of Dumfries & Galloway and into southern Ayrshire, an area which takes in part of a UNESCO Biosphere. Forests, sandy beaches and coastline drives galore.
TIME OF YEAR
Choosing the best time to visit Scotland
Word on the street often goes that Scotland’s weather is unpredictable, well, that day to day weather can vary enormously anyway. Typically though, the climate is cool and a little on the wet side in Scotland. A little cooler than England because of the hilly terrain and the Atlantic Ocean. As mentioned previously, the weather totally depends on where exactly you’re visiting. Head further into the western Highlands and you’re likely to experience more rain than the east. In the west, rainfall per year is can be around 3000mm in the western Highlands, to under 800mm per year near the east coast.
In the mountains, you are likely to experience cooler temperatures on average and this goes hand in hand with snowfall. In the mountains and on the peaks snowfall day can be 4/5 times higher.
January and February are generally known as the coldest months to visit Scotland, with the daytime maximum temperatures of around 5 to 7°C. This could be a good time to avoid the crowds and but you may find there aren’t as many campsites/facilities open. My friends have actually just completed a January road trip in Scotland and though the weather was crazy, it made for an epic adventure. See their vlogs here.
July and August are normally the warmest months in Scotland, with temperatures of an average 19°C. Of course, in the months where you see the most sunshine, you see the most tourism. This can be good for many reasons but can also mean more traffic and crowds.
Hence why many people say the shoulder season of October/November is an ideal time, a balance of good weather and ideal tourism.
PLOT YOUR ROUTE
Use ‘my maps’ on Google Maps to plot the best spots for your trip…
If you haven’t used My Maps before on Google, let this be the day you start. I use My Maps to plot all my trips and to compile and record all the recommendations people give me before heading to a destination. If you start plotting on a map before you get to Scotland, when you get there you will already have a list of all the best places to see and the best things to do, down to cafes, bars and recommended walks.
If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to creating your own map, see this blog post here where I run through it with you.
- Read lots of blogs and search google for all the questions you have
- Search YouTube vlogs for first-hand recommendations and tip-offs. E.g. See the NC500 road trip come to life in this Jamalon vlog series here.
- Search ‘Scotland road trips’ on Pinterest and sift through other peoples images, blog posts and top tips
- Ask friends! Recommendations are the best!
- Look at the tourism board website for Scotland
- See all my Scotland guides here.