A road trip: Driving through the Scottish Highlands with a Hymer motorhome
Our route: In five stages to Scotland’s most beautiful places
We watched Bethany Kingsley Garner in Glasgow doing ballet dancing, had the privilege to have dinner in Scott Davies’ excellent kitchen on the Isle of Skye and tried on Scotland’s tradition-steeped kilts in Edinburgh at Howie Nicholsby’s. One thing we have definitely learned during this journey: Scotland is a lot more than just bad weather and whiskey. It is a country full of breathtaking places, pristine nature and wonderful people.
Here we show you our travel itinerary – perhaps these milestones will inspire you to undertake your own road trip through the Scottish Highlands.
Etappe 1: Edinburgh and Glasgow – Scotland’s bustling cities
Narrow cobbled streets, historic neighbourhoods and Edinburgh Castle that sits majestically on the top of an extinct volcano: There can hardly be a better starting point for our journey than Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital manages to be an imposing, liberal-minded metropolis while exuding the charm of a cosy small town at the same time. Attention: Allow sufficient time for the exploration of the medieval “Old Town“ and the Georgian “New Town“ for it is not without reason that these contrasting neighbourhoods have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage.
Going up to Calton Hill at sunset
The best view over the city is offered by Calton Hill which provides an exhilarating experience, especially at sunset. There is certainly a lot to see up here: the National Monument whose twelve pillars are reminiscent of ancient Greece, the Nelson Monument in the shape of a beacon, or St Andrew’s House which is the H.Q. of the Scottish Government – all of them witnesses to Edinburgh’s rich history. At night, Scotland’s charm and the hospitality of its inhabitants can be experienced in one of the cosy pubs.
After about an hour of relaxed driving in our motorhome, we reach Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Once known as an industrial city, Glasgow has meanwhile developed into a thriving centre for art, music and architecture. Apart from its 600,000 inhabitants, it is also the home of the Scottish Ballett and Opera.
Etappe 2: From the city into the “Lowlands“
In our Hymer, we leave the two large Scottish cities and their wonderful people behind. We are heading towards the “Lowlands“. With every kilometer that we are moving away from Glasgow, the landscape is becoming greener and quieter. Now there are very few people lining the streets and nearly no cars coming our way.
On the other hand, the scenery becomes more and more spectacular. We make an intermediate stop at Loch Lomond National Park & The Trossachs where you can find Scotland’ largest and probably most beautiful freshwater lake. During a picnic on the shore, we have a spectacular view of over 30 islets, snow-covered peaks in the distance and a hilly, dew-covered landscape with its grazing mountain goats and sheep. We rent a canoe and cross Loch Lomond.
From Oban to the Isle of Tiree: the feeling of freedom
With renewed vigour, we continue our journey towards Oban. The seaport has retained the charm of a small fishing village: Alongside the pier with its many coves, numerous restaurants offer locally caught fish and seafood. These can best be enjoyed with the particularly memorable sunsets – or very traditionally with a glass of Scottish whiskey: Oban prides itself on housing one of the oldest destilleries in the country.
The city also bears the name of “gateway to the islands“ as the local ferry will take you to the numerous islands of the west coast, such as Tiree: There, we find ourselves on an island with hilly pasture lands, vast beaches and turquoise sea water – and experience the feeling of total freedom.
Do not be deterred by the fairly long journey: The breathtaking scenery of the island is well worth the extra time. On Tiree, we experience one of the most beautiful moments of our journey. We pick up surfing boards and dare to jump into the floods between the rocky islets while the sun is setting in the background.
Etappe 3: Visiting the most beautiful places with the Hogwarts Express
Our road trip takes us further northwards, more specifically, to Fort William. The eyes of witchcraft enthusiasts will certainly light certainly up when they see what is ahead of this destination: The Jacobite Steam Train is also known as Harry Potter’s “Hogwarts Express“. However, unfortunately our final destination is not the “School of Witchcraft and Wizardry “, but the remote fishing community of Mallaig. The journey with the steam locomotives takes us to the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the world-famous railway bridge from the Harry Potter films. The ride itself, however, is definitely worthwhile. Magnificent landscapes pass by our windows, whereas the rustic atmosphere of the steam locomotive takes us back into past decades. And upon our arrival in Mallaig, the next highlight is already waiting for us: the view of the Isle of Skye, probably the most spectacular spot in Scotland.
Skye – a magical place
Breathtaking coastlines, mountain chains rising from finely polished rocks and waterfalls crashing with full force into the ocean – Skye is a truly magical place that we can explore very well with the Hymer. As varied as the island itself are its weather conditions: Whereas at one moment dense wafts of mist float over the magical mountaintops, the next day the same landscape is illuminated by the golden rays of the Scottish evening sun. Precisely because of the incalculability of the weather you should not only reserve a few days for the island but bring along some good rain gear as well.
Etappe 4: On the “North Coast 500“ across the wild North
Back on the Scottish mainland, we continue our journey northwards into one of the last regions that can rightfully be referred to as a “wilderness“. The way there leads across the “North Coast 500“, Scotland’s answer to Route 66. We start the route in the small city of Ullapool – the last settlement before you get to the Northern Highlands is a good place for enthusiastic hikers, but also for a stopover. We drive along roads that wind endlessly across the countryside, past mountains, moors and coasts, to the northernmost point of the mainland: Dunnet Head Viewpoint. The steep, almost dramatic cliffs in this area do not fail to captivate us. However, if you take a closer look, you will also discover dolphins and seals which remain undisturbed by the harsh northern climate.
Etappe 5: Short stop at „Nessie’s“
Those interested going back to the South one last time, should head from Dunnet towards the city of Inverness. Fans of tourist attractions must stop at the nearby “Loch Ness“ to pay a visit to its legendary “inhabitant“ Nessie. And anyone who still has surplus energy left, is encouraged to stop in Aviemore in the middle of the large Cairngorms National Park. Numerous leisure facilities such as climbing, riding or quad biking will help him or her to get a really good workout. The last stop that appears on the map in our motorhome is Edinburgh – the city in which our journey through the wild and unforgettable country of Scotland has also begun.
Driving in Scotland
Hardly any other European country is more suited for road trips with a motorhome or van than Scotland. For one thing, this is due to the beautiful, long and often lonely roads winding through this country in the North of Great Britain. But of course, it is also the diverse, rough and sometimes lonely landscapes which turn a roadtrip through Scotland into a very special experience.
There are a couple of things, however, that you should take note of when travelling in Scotland with your car or motorhome: