Driving in the Scottish Highlands

| April 9, 2012 | 29 Comments

Driving in the Scottish Highlands is one experience you have to try if you ever visit Scotland.

Driving in the Scottish Highlands

The roads seem to wind endlessly into the mist that descends like an impenetrable shield from the towering peaks above. The tyres splash across the uneven road surface and your wipers batter the constant rain from the windscreen.

The cars demister blasts warm air inside to keep the growing patches of condensation to a manageable level.

Suddenly a finger of sunshine pierces the black and grey shield of clouds and hits the valley floor. In an instant your view clears and a magical scene opens up before your very eyes. The moisture from the rain glistens on distant grasses like the light bouncing of a rough cut diamond.

While the gazillion waterfalls run from unseen natural springs into every gulley. Whether they are tiny trickling slithers that have to flow around obstructions or thundering cascades of white water that tumble over precipices they all have something in common. They all add to the wildness of the Scottish highlands. With each waterfall creating a beautiful contrast against the jagged granite rocks.

The mottle red, yellow, brown, green, black and grey colours somehow leap off the hillsides. And you struggle to keep your eyes on the road as your mouth opens in awe. Before you know it, it’s time to pull over and take some photos. Again.

Scottish Highlands Drive

This is driving in the Scottish Highlands at it’s best.

If you have ever had the opportunity to escape to Scotland to follow in William Wallace’s footsteps, or even Harry Potter’s, then hopefully you have had the chance to drive in the Scottish Highlands. Sure Edinburgh is fantastic with it’s Castle overlooking the city centre and walking Arthurs Seat is perfect for stretching the legs.

But nothing compares to hopping in the car and heading north to explore the many backcountry roads in the Scottish Highlands.

Over every hill, around every bend and through every village there are picturesque vistas to keep even the most jaded landscape lover happy. Plus you will more than likely meet a few cute Highland Cows as well!

Highland Cow

To be honest I don’t know how such a wild and barren landscape can be beautiful. There are hardly any trees. The grasses and shrubs barely reach knee high. And the weather as described above seems to be a common factor.

Add to this the freezing cold winds blown south from the Arctic circle and you really have a recipe for a bleak and desolate landscape. But somehow they all work together to create something special.

So tips to driving in the Scottish Highlands?

There are rest areas and pullover bays everywhere so that you can take it slow which we highly recommend. Most likely you will have to anyway with the huge number of caravans and buses slowing the procession of constant tourist traffic.

The only problem with taking it slow is that a 5 hour drive can quickly turn into a 12 hour epic road trip like we recently discovered on the way to the Isle of Skye. And stopping every half hour can really take it’s toll on the driver.

Stretch your legs and get out of the car. Sure the Scottish Highlands look great from the road. But there are literally thousands of pathways for you to explore. Even if it is just a 10 minute stroll to a waterfall you will see more than the average tourist.

Watch out for some of the single track roads. Most of them are barely wide enough for one car. Luckily there are plenty of passing areas so drive slow and be courteous to the other drivers. There is nothing worse than trying to reverse along a twisty road in the dark!

In winter many of the roads will be covered in snow and ice. So again take your time, be safe and enjoy the scenery.

A final word of wisdom; Dress appropriately as the weather can change in a blink of an eye up here!

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (29)

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  1. Natalie says:

    We’re desperate to drive through the Scottish Highlands this year!

  2. Laurence says:

    That is one cute looking cow! I’ve spent a few holidays up in the Scottish highlands. They are a really beautiful place to visit. Plus the whiskey ain’t half bad ;)

    • Cole says:

      Haha we finished off a couple of bottles of some tasty whiskey over the long weekend. Felt a bit worse for worth unfortunately and the windy roads were a bit of a killer!

  3. Laura says:

    OMG! I did not know the Highland Cows look so cute!

  4. This is an amazing place! And I can’t imagine a better way to see it. I love that the weather can change so quickly. Nice!

    Thanks!

  5. Fiona says:

    “In winter many of the roads will be covered in snow and ice”… The same can be said about Scottish summers!

    Brilliant post.

  6. I want a highland pet cow!! So. Cute.

  7. Julia says:

    I adore me some highland cows! And a good road trip of course (with a couple Tesco salmon sammies to snack on)!

  8. We loved our time in the highlands, and are eager to go back and explore further. We drove from Edinburgh, made a stop at Stirling, then on to the Glenfinnan Viaduct (made famous by a certain train in Harry Potter), Loch Ness and finally up to the Isle of Skye.

    Make sure to plan more time than you think you will need. Distances are not covered as quickly in the Highlands as they are in the USA, and you should definitely allot extra time for photo taking. Lots of photo taking.

    • We still haven’t been up to the famous Harry Potter viaduct yet! But we will get there soon hopefully since Adela is a back fan. We took 8 hours to drive what google maps told us was 5 hours because of all the stops so thanks for the tip Shanna!

  9. Pete says:

    This is definitely on our radar to do at some point. That highland cow looks like something out of Fraggle Rock :)

  10. Christy says:

    Omg.. that Highland Cow is adorable.

  11. Ali says:

    I’d be stopping way too often on a road trip like this too. I like taking pictures way too much. I’ve also never driven on the left, so I’m not sure how that would work out for me.

  12. Looks like a great trip! If you hadn’t have stopped to take all of those photos, we couldn’t swoon over them on here–so thanks!

  13. cheryl says:

    OMG! That cow is adorable. Definitely a landscape that I’d love to viit

  14. Kurt says:

    Seems like they share a lot in common with Ireland. Some treacherous roads, heavily furred cattle (or sheep) and lush landscapes.

  15. ha ha that bull looks like my friend :) LOL
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