A road trip: Driving through the Scottish Highlands with a Hymer motorhome

We are Adrian, Noel, Linda and Marko – four friends travelling through Scotland. Be inspired by the route of our roadtrip with the Hymer.

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.

1. Edinburgh

The starting point of our road trip. The Scottish capital has about 500,000 inhabitants but still has the charm of a cosy small town. Particularly imposing: The neighbourhoods “old town“ and “new town“ which provide insights into entirely different periods in Scottish history.

2. Glasgow

Glasgow once became known as an industrial city but is now characterized by a multitude of museums and art galeries – most of them are free of charge, by the way. We also recommend a visit to the opera or the ballett.

3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

Let’s go out into nature: Scotland’s largest freshwater lake is situated amidst a large national park. The quiet woods invite you to take a long walk, followed by a picnic on the lake.

4. Oban

The seaport has been known to us primarily as the “gateway to the islands“ as many ferries to the Inner Hebrides set off from here. But even Oban itself has stuck in our minds thanks to its beautiful location in a picturesque bay.

5. The Isle of Tiree

One of the smaller and less well-known Scottish islands. Consequently, there are fewer tourists but the sceneries are all the more impressive. Our insider tip!

6. Fort William

The second largest city of the Highlands has numerous outdoor activities on offer, such as a hike to Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of Britain, for example.

7. Mallaig

A rather small fishing village that serves as an important connection point: The ferries to the Isle of Skye start from Mallaig Harbour.

8. Isle of Skye

The most beautiful part of the Highlands: The island impresses us above all on account of the variety of its landscapes. The synergy of mountain chains, coastlines, bays and waterfalls is simply magic.

9. Ullapool

The last settlement  before you reach the wild Northern Highlands is a popular base camp for hikers. The ferry terminal also serves as a link to the Outer Hebrides.

10. Dunnet Head

Up here the ocean is rough, the landscapes are deserted and wild. The Dunnet Head Viewpoint marks the northernmost point of Scotland that you can also admire from the beacon close by.

11. Inverness

The Highland capital is virtually encircled by tourist attractions: Inverness Castle, St. Andrew´s Cathedral, the famous Loch Ness and Culloden Battlefield are only a stonethrow away.

12. Aviemore

Aviemore is beautifully situated in Cairngorms National Park. There is something on offer for every season: climbing, quad cycling, riding, watching native species – Aviemore is the ideal city for leisure activities.

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.

Three individuals sitting on a wall overlooking Edinburgh’s houses
Inside a pub - view of a pub table with benches
A man looking through the window of a high-rise over Glasgow’s houses

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.

A brown highland cow with shaggy mane standing on a pasture
A single house in a vast landscape in front of a mountain
Two sheep standing in the middle of the road

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.

An old steam locomotive passing a green landscape

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.

The Hymer passes a bridge that crosses a lake
A Hymer on a Sprinter chassis driving through the green scenery off the coast
A single house in a vast landscape in front of a mountain

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:

Driving licence
  • Apart from a valid driving licence, visitors should always carry a proof of ownership or lease agreement plus the insurance documents for their vehicle.
  • In addition, non-Europeans require an international driving licence.
Driving, refuelling and parking
  • Traffic drives on the left-hand side!
  • Distances and speed are measured in miles resp. miles per hour – one mile corresponds to approx. 1.6 kilometres.
  • The speed limit is 50 to 65 km/h (20-40 miles per hour) in built-up areas and 110 km/h (70 miles per hour) on motorways or dual carriageways.
  • Parking on double red or yellow lines should be avoided!
  • Most petrol stations are self-serving.
Traffic signs and roads
  • Traffic signs are fashioned according to EU standards, blue stands for motorways, green for important routes and white for secondary routes.
  • Motorways are marked by an “M“, followed by the specific motorway number. “A-roads“ are usually “dual carriageways“ with two lanes in each direction and stand for main routes, whereas “B-roads“ are secondary routes.
Breakdowns and car clubs
  • In case of a breakdown, the breakdown services “Automobile Association“ or “Royal Automobile Club“ will help. They can be contacted via the orange-coloured emergency phones alongside the motorway or from your mobile phone.
  • Both organisations offer support for members of foreign automobile clubs.

Directed by Marko Roth

Photos by Linda Ambrosius