Four Car Tours of Scotland
by Jeremy Hawkings (CEO – Luxury Scotland)

Four Wonderful Road Trips around Scotland

The North Coast 500 [NC500] is a stunning tour around the north of Scotland and is one of the greatest road trips in the world. Starting and ending in Inverness you will experience 500 miles of spectacular countryside, wide open roads, friendly people and delicious fresh, local food.

The NC500 will take you the best part of a week to drive but, if you are looking for something shorter, before or after your NC500 experience, then these four tours are for you. They will introduce you to four special regions of Scotland with magnificent scenery and most are easily driven in a day.

Wide shot of Crail Harbour, Fife

1. The East Neuk of Fife

This trip of 25 miles forms part of the Fife Coastal Route which runs around the coast of Fife from Firth of Tay to the Firth of Forth.

In it you will enjoy some spectacular coastal scenery, find out how Scotch whisky is distilled, discover how cheese is made and gain some knowledge on Scottish architecture. For this route, start at The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa and take the A917 coast road past Kingsbarns where you will find Kingsbarns Distillery where there are a range of distillery tours, thereafter continue to Crail where you will find a little village with cobbled streets leading down to the miniature working harbour which has been portrayed by many artists over the years. Here you can buy freshly cooked lobster and locally caught crab. If you follow the B940 out of Crail you will come to Scotland’s Secret Bunker. Originally a Nuclear Command Bunker this is now a famous tourist attraction and well signposted from Crail.

A little further along the coast you will find Anstruther, the largest of the East Neuk fishing villages and home of the Anstruther Fish Bar - probably the best fish and chip shop in Scotland. You can take a boat trip to the Isle of May where you will see puffins, seals and other wildlife.

MOntage of East Neuk of Fife images

The next stop is Pittenweem where the fishing boats unload their catch early in the morning. The picturesque harbour has old houses with red pantile roofs and traditional crow stepped gables. Kellie Castle and Gardens which date from the 14th century are nearby and well worth a visit. Just north of Pittenweem is St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company where you can visit their café and buy some of their cheese which is made on site.

St Monans is our next stop, the smallest of the East Neuk fishing towns with 17th and 18th century pantiled houses. As you continue your trip you will begin to appreciate the unique and very special East Neuk architecture. The local parish church is worth a visit.

A short distance along the road is Elie, a popular seaside town with a good beach and two very good golf courses. Visit The Elie Deli for provisions for your journey and good Scottish food to take home.

Our final destination is Upper Largo, sometimes called Kirkton of Largo. Here you will find the church where Admiral Sir Andrew Wood, the Scottish sea captain, was laid to rest. There is a legend that the hill of Largo Law has hidden gold and silver buried in it.  From Largo, which is the end of the tour, you can take the A915 east back to St Andrews or westward to join the M90.

Wide shot of North Berwick Beach

2. East Lothian
– Castles and Border Country

This tour is about 65 miles long, depending on how many of the Border stately homes you decide to visit.

From Greywalls & Chez Roux at Gullane, take the A198 to Dirleton Castle, part of which dates from 13th century. From Dirleton continue east to North Berwick and have a walk around this pretty seaside town, dominated by North Berwick Law, a larva plug from a pre-historic volcano. It is a well worthwhile walk with some impressive views once you get to the top. The other landmark, sitting prominently on the horizon is The Bass Rock, a bird reserve and home to 150,000 gannets during the height of the breeding season. North Berwick is home to Scotland’s Seabird Centre and there are daily boat trips to the Bass Rock from North Berwick Harbour.

Having explored North Berwick, take B1347 to Haddington, then A6093 to Pencaitland where you will find the Glenkinchie Distillery, one of the smaller distilleries in Scotland producing what is known as The Edinburgh Malt which is light, fragrant and floral. There are distillery visits and inside you will find what was once a working model of a distillery built for the Great Exhibition. From Pencaitland, journey south and join the A68 southwards into Scotland’s border county where you have a myriad stately homes to visit.

Thirlestane Castle is at Lauder and is a magnificent example of 16th century architecture, one of the oldest and finest castles in Scotland. It is open to the public in the summer months. 

Montage of places in East Lothian

Manderston is in the village of Duns and is a magnificent ‘money no object’ example of the Edwardian era. The house and gardens are open to the public.

Mellerstain House and Gardens are on the A6089 between Kelso and Gordon and were built by William and Robert Adam the famous Scottish architects. The interior decoration, especially the ceilings and the Library are masterpieces of Classical decoration.

Abbotsford at Melrose is the 200 year old home of Sir Walter Scott, famous Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet. Here you can learn about his life and achievements.

Floors Castle at Kelso is the largest inhabited Scottish Castle and home to the Duke of Roxburghshire. The castle and grounds, located just a few miles outside Kelso, are open to the public and there are walking and cycle trails as well as many activities for all ages. From Kelso you can journey back to East Lothian or Edinburgh via the A699 and A68.   

Wide shot of Oban Harbour

3. The Rest and be Thankful
& The Bridge over the Atlantic

This route is approximately 200 miles and best accomplished in 3 days.

Starting at either One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow take the A82 to Dumbarton, then A814 to Garelochhead and and on to Arrochar.  Here you join A83 to Cairndow and begin your climb over The Rest and be Thankful, one of the most famous roads in Scotland about which several historical articles have been written. Originally just a track, the road was formed by generations of travellers and herds of cattle being taken by drovers down from Argyll to the cattle markets of the Lowlands. The Old Military Road dates from 1743 but this fell into disuse many years ago and has been replaced by an easier, if longer, road up the mountain. At the summit, there is a car park with wonderful views where you and your horses can indeed Rest and be Thankful that you got so far.

Follow the A83 round the head of Loch Fyne and you will come to the town Inverary and Inveraray Castle, the home of the Duke of Argyll. The town has an interesting museum and popular visitor attraction in the form of the old town jail. Continue along Loch Fyne to Minard where you can have a good walk and see the now disused iron and the gunpowder works. The standing stones at nearby Brainport Bay are thought to be an ancient solstice calendar. Along the road south from Minard to Lochgilphead you will see many rhododendron plants - these were introduced to this part of Argyll by Dr Joseph Hooker after his visit to the lower slopes of the Himalayas in 1847.

MOntage of Car Tour Photos - West of Scotland

After Lochgilphead and Cairnbaan, take the B841 to Crinan and drive along the Crinan Canal. Built in 1801 by John Rennie, the canal was designed to shorten the sea journey from the Clyde to the Inner Hebrides. After an overnight stop at Crinan Hotel and some of their wonderful seafood, you are ready to start the next part of the journey.

Head north, on B8025, to Kilmartin, where you will join A816. At Kilmartin you will find one most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland. Continue past Kilmelford and at Kilninver take a short detour along the B844 where you will be able to drive over the Clachan Bridge which is known as ‘The Bridge over the Atlantic’. Re-join the A816 and drive north to Oban which is the gateway for ferry trips to the islands and the home port of MV Hebridean Princess. You may be lucky enough to see her – the world’s smallest luxury cruise ship.

Continue north on A85/A828 to Appin, where you can stay at Airds on the shores of Loch Linne. Alternatively drive few miles further north to Glencoe House, the former home of Lord Strathcona. The next morning, you can begin your journey home. Take A82 through Glen Coe, one of the most spectacular, historic and beautiful glens in Scotland and the scene of one of Scotland’s greatest massacres. It was here in Glen Coe in 1692 that the Macdonalds were slaughtered by the Campbells who, during the previous evening, had been enjoying their hospitality.

Follow A82 south and it will take you back to south to where you started.

Road to the Isles

4. The Road to the Isles

This is one of my favourite journeys in Scotland.

Every so often, you will want to get out of your car, look around and give thanks for experiencing such a beautiful part of the world. The Road to the Isles follows the route that drovers used to take their livestock from the Western Isles to market. It runs from Fort William to Mallaig. It is 50 miles long and has some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland.

Images from Road to the Isles Car tour

Leave Inverlochy Castle Hotel and drive six miles south on A82 to Fort William, then turn right onto the A 830. You will cross The Caledonian Canal just below Neptune’s Staircase, which is an impressive flight of locks. You will follow Loch Eil, an open sea loch which offers great views of Ben Nevis. Just after Loch Eil, at the head of Loch Shiel you will find Glenfinnan with the Glen Finnan Viaduct, made famous by many films including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Nearby is The Glenfinnan Monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the standard for the Jacobite Rising. You may catch a glimpse of The Jacobite Steam Train which operates in the summer months. There is also a little church at Glenfinnan, notable for the different coloured stone used in its construction.

The road continues to Arisaig and offers wonderful views out to the Small Isles. If you take the B8008 coast road which runs between Arisaig and Morar you will find The Sands of Morar and some of the finest beaches in Britain. Loch Morar has the deepest body of freshwater in the UK. At Mallaig, which is the end of the tour, you will find the ferries that take you over the Sound of Sleat to Skye where you can overnight at Kinloch Lodge Hotel before extending your trip to the nearby islands of the Inner Hebrides.

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