Time to plan your Scotland Road Trip? Great!
Below is my Scotland road trip planner guide with information about:
- when to visit,
- where to go,
All you need for a successful Road trip in Scotland!
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STEP 0 - Scotland road trip planner - Essential to know
Why visit Scotland?
There are many reasons to visit Scotland: the History, the scenery, the drinks... But I think the following photos are enough to convince anyone 🙂
General Scotland Facts
- Scotland is in Geographic Europe
- Scotland is the North area of the United Kingdom main island (North of England)
- The capital is Edinburgh
- But Glasgow is its largest city
Is Scotland a country?
That is a frequent question as the situation is quite confusing. In sports you consider Scotland as a separate country. But on the international political scene, the United Kingdom is represented. But it does print its own pounds with different bill size and images... Confusing!!!
Verdict: Scotland is a nation of people but not an independent country. It is a division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
STEP 1 - WHEN - Best time to visit Scotland
With such amazing landscapes, all periods of the year have something to offer and could be the best time to visit Scotland. It really depends on what you love.
Here are a couple of facts to help you take your decision:
- The weather in Scotland is unpredictable so be ready to appreciate everything - one day we had a beautiful blue sky and 20 minutes later, we were driving under pouring rain...
- July and August are the hottest months, so they also are the busiest month
- May and June are dryer than July and August
- There are midges from April to October, especially near water. Personally, I had none in May, but it varies greatly from year to year.
- Many castles and monuments only open from Easter to October - so if you like history, winter is not the best time to go to Scotland. But if you love snowy landscapes, then winter is for you 🙂
- Many consider the the best time to visit the Scottish Highlands are in Autumn as the colors enhance the bare landscapes and mountains.
STEP 2 - WHERE to go on your road trip in Scotland
Scotland Road Trip Map
Let's start with a map of Scotland to show you how I structured the touristic regions in this blog and in my eBooks:
Regions of Scotland - Where to go?
STEP 3 - Define your Scotland Road Trips Itinerary
Driving Times for your Scotland by car itinerary
Here are some travel times (without stopping) to give you a general idea to plan your itinerary around Scotland by car:
- Edinburgh to Glasgow - 1h15
- Edinburgh to Inverness - 3h30
- Edinburgh to Fort William - 3h30
- Edinburgh to Portree (Isle of Skye) - 5h30
- Edinburgh to Aberdeen (Ferry to Shetlands) - 2h30
- Edinburgh to Thurso (North Coast, ferry to Orkneys) - 5h40
- Edinburgh to Dumfries - 2h
Planning your Scotland Road Trip itinerary
With so much history and nature to offer, your road trip around Scotland will be quite busy.
You can either:
- Check out my Scotland itinerary examples from 1 week to 10 days and 2 weeks
- Check out my list of the best drives in Scotland
- or to help you plan your Road Trip itinerary around Scotland, you can use this site and have a look at the digital guides I wrote to make your planning a lot easier!
Be overwhelmed by the beauty not the planning!
STEP 4 - Plan a Scotland trip - how to get there
How to get to Scotland
- The main airports in Scotland are Edinburgh (EDI, 10km from the city center) and Glasgow (GLA, 11km from the city center)
- Edinburgh and Glasgow can also be reached by train from the rest of the United Kingdom mainland
- Other smaller airports are spread out in Scotland and its islands
- Another way to reach Scotland is by boat - cruises or ferries from Ireland or mainland Europe - check out options
- You need a valid passport to enter the UK (and Scotland) or ID card for some countries
- EU citizens, Canadians, Swiss and many other nationalities do not need a visa but can only stay for up to 6 months
- Check if you need one on the Government website
STEP 5 - Transportation for a Scottish road trip - Rent a car
Travelling Scotland by car
Driving in Scotland is generally quite easy and stress-free even if it is on the left side of the road. With so many amazing landscapes to admire alongside the main and side roads, renting a car in Scotland is definitively the best option for freedom.
Ferries to most islands also transport cars so you can really tour Scotland by car.
Check out the video, information and advice on my article dedicated to driving in Scotland.
Renting a car in Scotland
- Compare prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (prefer a compact car for the narrow single-lane roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
- See my 36 tips about renting a car in Scotland
Campervan in Scotland
If you want to save on accommodation, you can also travel by campervan or motorhome. This is great to wake up in beautiful locations.
Just keep in mind that Scotland has many roads which are single track. Crossing cars might be difficult in some places and difficulty is not indicated on the road signs.
- Scotland has a good network of busses with Scottish Citylink, StageCoach and National Express
- The train network Scotrail is also interesting with links to the main cities in mainland Scotland and connections to the ferries
- Ferries get you to the main Scottish islands
Of course, it has a typical disadvantage of not allowing you to stop and admire the landscapes along the track or road. And it will not take you along side roads such as the magnificent Glen Etive.
There are small airports on most islands and smaller towns, which could help traveling within Scotland.
Scotland Road Trips with Organized Tours
But if you want to just sit back and relax, there are a huge quantities of organized day trips and multi-day tours around Scotland. Check out options
STEP 6 - Book Accommodations on a Scotland Road Trip
And to finish planning your Scotland Road Trip you need to book accommodations.
Scotland has a good selection of Hotels, Guesthouses, BnBs and Rentals.
BnBs are the most typical mode of accommodation in Scotland. They are great to enjoy typical Scottish Breakfast and meet locals.
Along your road trip, I recommend staying at:
- Edinburgh to explore the fascinating city - see best rated accommodations
- Portree central to explore the isle of Skye - see best rated accommodations
- Glencoe to take the time in the magnificent valley - see best rated accommodations
- Ullapool for the West coast on the North 500 - see best rated accommodations
- Thurso for the North coast and ferry to the Orkneys - see best rated accommodations
- Kirkwall to explore the Orkneys - see best rated accommodations
- Inverness for the famous Speyside whiskies - see best rated accommodations
Check out my article dedicated to Scotland Accommodations with suggestions and reviews of places where I stayed.
STEP 7 - Get ready - Useful Info for your Road Trip around Scotland
The language in Scotland is English with a strong accent and some specific expressions. Be assured you will have some interesting moments taking with locals!!!
Concerning locations, Scotland also has its own terms:
- Ben - Scottish or Irish mountain peak
- Munro - Scottish Mountains over 3000ft (914m)
- Glen - Narrow and deep mountain Valley
- Loch - Scot word for lake (also covers sea lochs which are arms of sea in Scotland)
- Firth - Narrow inlet of the sea
- Cairn - a mound of stones erected as a memorial or marker
- Brough - round tower or enclosure or outer wall
- Broch - Iron age walled structure
The money used in Scotland is the British Pound.
However, do not be surprised that the bills may be different because Scotland prints its own money. Both Scottish and United Kingdom bills can be used in when traveling in Scotland.
Credit card is largely accepted but some small BnB sometimes accept cash only so always have enough with you to pay the next night.
Tipping in Scotland
There are no fixed rules for tipping in Scotland.
- It is not common to tip in pubs unless the service is excellent. They often have a jar for tipping.
- Tipping is to be considered in restaurant if service charge is not applied. But keep in mind that there is a minimum wage for waiters in the UK regardless of tips
- The 10% rule tends to apply for taxis.
STEP 8 - Scotland Packing List
Layers, Layers, Layers
As said before, the weather is unpredictable so bring layers for warmth, wind and rain so that you can switch easily
Do not forget hat and gloves as the wind can be very cold even in Summer.
- Plug: Voltage is 220-24 and 3 rectangular sockets of Type G
- Do not forget Mosquito cream to protect from the midges' bites
Otherwise, nothing special... Use my Travel Packing Checklists to get ready for your trip.
And don't forget to bring binoculars to make the most of those views!!!! Check out my guide to find the best travel binoculars for your needs.
And keep track of your own trip!
And don't forget to purchase Travel insurance! I wish you a very smooth trip, but my policy is: better be prepared.
I personally use World Nomads. Get a quote online here.
Want to see more of the best Scotland has to offer?
- Most beautiful landscapes in Scotland - read article
- Best things to do in Scotland - read article
- Best Scotland destinations - where to go? - read article
- Best Scottish Castles - read article
- Most beautiful lochs in Scotland - read article
- Most scenic drives in Scotland - read article
- The magnificent Isle of Skye - read my best-of guide
- The magnificent Wester Ross region - read article
- The Borders Abbeys including Melrose Abbey and the photogenic Jedburgh Abbey
Planning a trip to Scotland?
Check out my travel guides to help you plan:
Want to see more of SCOTLAND?
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