While Brits and Europeans alike plan epic road trips everywhere from America’s Deep South to coastal South Africa these days, could one of the greatest road trips of all be far closer to home? We certainly think so, because the spectacular West Highland Way is a route to thrill the senses in every way, taking in some of the very best things to see and places to visit in Scotland, from vast lochs to staggering manmade wonders.
The other huge advantage of Scottish road trip is that expensive flights and car hire are not required. Indeed, within just a short drive from Glasgow you are already in the thick of Britain’s largest expanse of wild, untamed landscape. Whether it is the first time or the tenth, the journey up into the Highlands is a stirring experience, with truly epic moors, mountains and waters.
So, for those of you who have your eye on a road trip to Scotland, here are a selection of the best views, most interesting stopping points and ideal places to go and visit as you make your way up into Western Scotland.Whether it is a dramatically scenic honeymoon or simply a dream trip you've had for years, it is sure to be a journey you never forget.
1. Loch Lomond
Spectacular vistas run all the way along the A82, on the west side of this classic, vast loch, which begins within a mere 20 miles of Glasgow. Should you want one final taste of retail therapy or a look at some of the life under the waves, you could always stop off on the way at Loch Lomond Shores, which has a variety of shops to browse. Just footsteps away, Loch Lomond Aquarium has playful otters and a huge range of fish too, including one of Lomond’s top wild predators, the pike.
Other places to stop include wildlife parks, famous estates and other Lomond visitor attractions. The area is also great for a spot of golf or fishing. See the Visit Loch Lomond Site for further details.
2. Fort William
The only major town for many miles as you ascend into the Western Highlands, this is a popular stop with travelers looking to stock up on supplies or take a breather. Attractions such as the West Highland Museum are worth a look, while the town also serves as a base for outdoor activities and a natural base camp for those bound for Ben Nevis.
3. Neptune’s Staircase & The Caledonian Canal
Some feat: Neptune's Staircase marks the start of the Caledonian Canal, and provides wonderful walks and views (image: Dominic Garnett)
This is not only a great place to take a break and have a glance at Ben Nevis, but a great place to investigate in its own right. The mighty Caledonian Canal stretches sixty miles and offers beautiful walks and views of Scotland’s highest summit along Great Glen Way. It's very pretty and most unlike other British canals; those who enjoy fishing can even cast a fly or spinner here for the chance of a wild brown trout.
Right beside the A830 north of Inverlochy you’ll also find the magnificent Neptune’s Staircase, which is Britain’s longest staircase lock. Spare a thought for travelling barges and boats, who have to open and close each of the eight lock gates in turn to continue their journey. You’ll also find ample parking, local crafts and refreshments here.
4. Loch Shiel
Another dramatic body of freshwater, with towering mountains and a great deal of history, Loch Shiel is another of those must see places in Scotland, offering a truly iconic perspective. If you only make one stop here, pause to take in the dramatic Glenfinnan Monument, depicting an unknown Highlander and erected to commemorate the 1745 uprising under “Bonnie” Prince Charlie.
Just above this location, as you ascend the road north, the St. Mary and St. Finnan Church is also a pretty and fascinaing stop, while you are also not far from spectacular local landmark The Glenfinnan Viaduct; an impressive feat that has caught the eye of filmmakers besides travelers over the years, including the director of Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets.
5. Loch Sunart & Kilcamb Lodge
Following the A861 south of Glenfinnan, you will reach one of Scotland’s most beautiful sea lochs, Sunart. It is here that you will also find us at Kilcamb Lodge Hotel and Restaurant, along with epic views over the waters. It is a wonderful spot to stop and relax, enjoy some truly outstanding food (including produce fresh from the loch and Ardnamurchan coast), an excellent selection of malts and wines, along with superb accommodation. You could make it a flying visit, but equally you might spend several days exploring the stunning local area as a wild western leg to your road trip.
Highland walks, distillery visits and heritage sights are all wonderful to explore, while it is also one of the best places to see wildlife in West Scotland, with some fabulous cruises where you might see anything from whales to rare seabirds (see our attractions section for further details).
6. Ardnamurchan Lighthouse
It is not just the rugged, wild coast of Western Scotland that draws road trippers west in this part of the world. Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is something of a one-off in the UK, being built in Egyptian style. There is also a neat visitor centre with the Kingdom of Light Museum, giving a revealing insight into local history, wildlife and culture.
While there are many beautiful seaside locations in Ardnamurchan, few are as beautiful as Sanna Bay, which is surely one of the best beaches in Scotland. It's a winding, craggy route from the lighthouse along the B8007, but you'll take in some fantastically wild views, complete with trickling burns and hill lochs. Endless sand dunes, rockpools and dazzlingly clear waters characterise the shoreline, while on a clear day you'll get a lovely view of the Western Isles. It's also a fabulous place to bring the binoculars for Scottish wildlife.
8. Loch Morar & The White Sands
Loch Morar is Britain's deepest lake (image: Dominic Garnett)
Heading north to Britain’s deepest lake has a natural grandeur that is an obvious draw for anyone embarking on a Scottish road trip. Loch Morar is utterly spectacular, yet the west shore is also fairly accessible for those who wish to stop. It is a wild and supremely rocky lake, with unique history and some excellent and affordable fly fishing. The loch even has its own monster myth with “Morag”, a giant serpent which tends to get bigger the more malt is consumed.
The White Sands of Morar make a magical place to dip your feet or stop for a picnic (image: Dominic Garnett)
Also remarkable and well worth a stop is Morar Beach, often better known as the “White Sands of Morar.” The name is no word of a lie; pause here and marvel at the clean, pale-coloured sands and clear water. It’s also a famous movie location with Local Hero (1983), Highlander (1986) and Breaking the Waves (1996) all featuring the white sands.
Should you want to explore the Western Isles such as Rum, Eigg and Muck, the pretty small town of Mallaig is your gateway, offering the perfect way to add a seaward detour to your Scottish road trip. Various ferry services run, along with some cracking wildlife, culture and history to explore. However the obvious is to head to Skye; taking your car or motorcycle on the ferry to continue your journey.
10. The Isle of Skye
Skye is a fantastic roadtrip destination for any journey to Western Scotland. Besides the epic scenery and magical spots such as Kilt Rock, Faerie Glen and Neist Point (some of the most amazing places to take a selfie in Scotland!) it is also a fabulous place to discover the rich cultural heritage of Scotland's wild west. Why not be king of the castle at Clan Donald or Dunvegan, or sample cracking local seafood, arts and crafts while you're here?
Last but not least, the gravity defying Skye Bridge (above) will take you back to the mainland in spectacular fashion. As for further possibilities, the road is literally wide open! Don't forget to keep an eye on our blog and Facebook Page for more travel ideas and things to do in the West Highlands, along with some fantastic special offers and last minute deals on breaks and escapes in Scotland.