Scotland Road Trip

Scotland Road Trip


1000 mile 13 day road trip

Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park → Isle of Skye → NC500 → The Cairngorms

walked around 70 miles, wild camped 4 nights


  • Day 1 -  Home, Loch Lomond & Trossachs
    • Hikes, explored Trossachs, camped by Loch Lomond lakeside
  • Day 2 - Glencoe, Fort William, Glenfinnan, Skye
    • Harry Potter train, beach, boat to Skye
  • Day 3 - Exploring Skye
    • Hikes / exploring, Portree
  • Day 4 - Skye, Bleach Na Ba / Applecross, Torridon
    • Hikes / exploring, mountain pass
  • Day 5 - Torridon, Loch Maree, Ullapool
    • Empty wilderness, mountain views
  • Day 6 - Ullapool, Lochinvar, Scourie
    • Breakfast on an empty beach, saw the northern lights, waterfalls, amazing roads
  • Day 7 - Scourie, Durness
    • Craft village, smoo cave, zipline over beach, Sango sands, rainbow county
  • Day 8 - Durness, Forsinard, Melvich
    • Empty wilderness, wild seals, beach fire watching the sunset
  • Day 9 - Melvich, John O'Groats
    • Most northern point, signpost, wild seals
  • Day 10 - John O'Groats, Dornoch
    • Pink House, Black Rock Gorge, distillery, Dunrobin Castle
  • Day 11 - Dornoch, Inverness, Loch Ness, Fortrose Bay
    • Sea glass and pottery - found Victorian bottle stop
  • Day 12 - Fortrose Bay, Cairngorms, Balmoral
    • Hikes and Green loch, Aviemore, snow roads
  • Day 13 - Balmoral, Home
    • Pyramid, Cairnwell Pass

         = faves

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Explored Trossachs a bit then hiked up Ben A'an. Views at the top are amazing. Allow 1 hour up and 1 hour down to climb. Afterwards we sat around a loch with some beers. That night we camped at water edge of Loch Lomond.

View at the top of Ben A'an


After cooking breakfast, we left Loch Lomond and headed north towards Glencoe. We kept stopping at various points along the way - the road really starts to open up and you're surrounded by mountains. Went to Fort William for lunch and then made our way to Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Jacobite steam train passes 4 times a day. 

It passes over the viaduct 30mins after departing Fort William on its way to Mallaig.
To see it going the other way (which we did due to time) then it goes over the viaduct around 40mins before arriving at Fort William.

We then made our way to Mallaig and got the ferry to Skye. It was getting quite late so we got some woodfired pizza from Cafesia and found a nice quiet place to wildcamp.

Loch Tulla viewpoint
Driving through Glencoe

Boat to Isle of Skye


Intermittent weather in the morning, so we shuffled the itinerary up. Went round Portree and then we made our way to Storr. After checking the weather app, it said it was due to clear up in the afternoon. Storr car park wasn't too busy, so we waited for the drizzle to stop and set off for the hike. When we got to the top, it was very foggy. You could however see that it was trying to clear, so we set up camp with some food and drink and waited for an hour. It didn't clear to blue skies, but it cleared enough so you could see the views. We went got there at a good time because there were only a handle of people there, and on the way down to the van you could see the crowds coming. This was one of my bucket list hikes, so happy we got to do it.

Mist at the Fairy Pools


Went to the fairy pools in the morning, and then stopped at a few places in Skye on the way to a homerun bakery near Eilean Donan castle. We then made our way north to join onto the NC500 and drive to Applecross. The weather looked to be clinging to the mountains, but didn't look too bad so we drove up the Bealach Na Ba mountain pass. It was all going well, until we got near the top and started turning foggy - which meant you couldn't see the next passing point. We came to a traffic jam with a giant motorhome stupidly trying to squeeze down the road. Neither of us could reverse due to cars being behind us both. Luckily he made it past, but definitely though he was going over the edge. After stopping at the top to see nothing but fog, we continued past Applecross, along the peaceful, windy costal road. We continued all the way to just outside Torridon where we wild camped for the night again.

Passing place on Bealach Na Ba


Left Torridon and continued along the NC500. We drove through miles of emptiness without seeing another person. The terrain became mountainous and almost marshy, with nothing but heather for miles. It then changed when we started getting towards Loch Maree, where there were lots of tall pine trees everywhere. We continued along the road, on the way to Ullapool, stopping off at, and exploring, many points along the way. We detoured off the 500 a little bit, and ended up in Gairloch where we found 'Mountain Coffee Co' and the 'Hillbillies Bookstore and trading post'.

Driving along the NC500


If you were to ask my favourite day, it'd be hard to choose, but this would be it.

We continued along the route, found a NC500 sign, and made our way to Lochinver where we climbed down to a remote beach. I took along a kettle, gas and some food and we sat and had breakfast on it. We didn't see another person for about 2hrs. It was amazingly warm too, so I swam in the sea - which was freezing.

After that we carried on, stopped a various places, saw some jumping salmon, scrambled to a waterfall and later on, arrived at Scourie, were we found some highland cows right next to our campsite.

That evening, we had the most amazing sunset, while also raining, creating a huge full rainbow. After a pretty amazing full packed day, we went to bed. I just so happened to open the curtains to look at the night sky, which is when I noticed beams of light appearing on the horizon. At first I thought it was a lighthouse, but then it dawned on me that it could be the Northern Lights. I got dressed and jumped outside with my camera to get a better look and that's when I noticed that half the entire sky was glowing green and red.

Probably the most amazing experience I've had. Completely unexpected at 9.30 on a Friday night. They were so bright that phone camera were easily picking them up. and you could clearly see the colours with your eyes.

I instantly got the people nearby to us to look at the sky - no-one had noticed. I took some photos of people for them with the northern lights in the background, then set up my camera for a time-lapse. We sat and watched them until they finally ended 1½ hours later.

View of Achmelvic Bay
Norther Lights in Scotland Scourie

Green Aurora over Scourie Scotland campsite


The holiday had been so amazing so far, and we'd done so much, that I felt like we'd peaked too early. Nothing could possibly top yesterday and if we had to cut the holiday short and go home, id be very content with what we'd done. We got up, chatted to the other campers about the previous night, swapped details (to be able to send the pics to them), and they gave us some firewood as a thanks.

We made our way to Durness, stopping and taking drone pictures along the way. Went to Coco Mountain and the Balnakeil craft village, sango sands and smoo cave. I also ziplined across a beach. I really liked the craft village, it was nice chatting to the different businesses about their products. I loved Mudness (ceramic shop) and Woodwind Workshop & Wood Turning (self explanatory). One thing I did notice about Durness is that there seemed to be a lot of rainbows over the ocean.

Drone view of the NC500


After a lay in, we topped up all the water, made sure the fuel tank was full, and made our way East - following along the North coast. Again, the landscape was impressive as hell, no matter where you looked. We stumbled across the Royal Navy doing some training exercises. Then decided to impromptu detour off the NC500 and explore a bit - we slowtimed it and came across miles and miles of remote landscape, without meeting a single person or car for hours. 

That's when we came across a random huge building in the absolute middle of nowhere, which turned out to be 'The Garvault' - the most remote hotel in mainland England.

We continued until we came to Forsinard Flows and nature reserve,  which is a blanket bog and one of the worlds rarest habitats. We walked to the lookout tower and saw a herd of red deer in the distance. After that we then drove to our stop for the night in Melvich.

It was another amazing evening, so we walked down to the beach to try to find sea glass, which is where we spotted 2 wild seals swimming extremely close to the shoreline. After watching them for a bit, we then went and got the van and unpacked the firewood we were given and made a fire with it while watching the sunset.

Sunset at Melvich Bay taken on Kodak Portra 400 Film
Drone view of Scotland mountains


A slow day. Probably the least favourite day. Started getting into civilisation now - lots of people and cars. Went to Thurso. Stopped at a distillery. Went to Dunnet Head - most Northern point. Then went John O'Groats. We started walking to Duncansby stacks, but it started raining so took shelter in a cave. While we were there, more seals appeared, this time 8 of them. Luckily I had my camera this time so got pics of them.

Wild seals at John O'Groats
John O'Groats signpost


Made our way South down the east coast now. Definitely back into civilisation now. More traffic, more people, lots of tat shops. We went to Clynelish and then went to Dunrobin Castle. It was ok, but we realised neither of us were that arsed about it, so we didn't go inside and decided to shuffle round the plan to make use of the sunny day. It meant more driving, but was worth it, as now it meant we'd end up with a 'free' day on the 2nd to last day. We walked to the pink house at Loch Glass, and then went to Black Rock Gorge. Both were very impressive and luckily had both places to ourselves. After that it was back up North for a bit to Dornoch where we finished in a pub.

Forrest views near Loch Glass

Pink house at Loch Glass


Went to Rogie Falls and then Inverness. Didn't spend too long in Inverness as again we ended up not being that bothered about it. There was an amazing burger place there though - Coyote's. Saw Loch Ness, literally just because we were nearby, and then went to Fortrose Bay. We found seaglass and pottery, I also found a Victorian bottle stopper, then walked to Chanonry Point to try to see the Dolphins. 


That was the end of the NC500. We did skip a little bit out that would of made it a complete loop, but with our spare day we decided to work our way a bit down South and go to the Cairngorms. The weather was another sunny day, so we hiked to the Green Loch, went into Aviemore, drove part of the snow roads to Ballater and then wildcamped near Balmoral.

Green Loch in the Cairngorms


Got up just before sunrise, got the van ready for the journey home, and walked to Balmoral Pyramid just as the sun was coming up. The view at the top was amazing, with the sun clipping the top of the trees. After that, we then continued along the snow roads, down Cairnwell Pass and then finally home.

It felt much longer than two weeks, probably due to the shear amount that was packed in. If it wasn't for having my van, I don't think it's a trip that we'd ever have done. We got extremely lucky with the weather and I'd quite happily say its probably been the best holiday that I've ever been on, which in fairness didn't cost that much either - with the only major cost being fuel. 

The West coast is much more interesting than the East coast however. Better landscape, better roads, less people.

Morning Sunrise Skies in Balmoral
Balmoral Pyramid
Sunrise view at the top of Balmoral pyramid

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