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