Scotland Road Trip: Edinburgh, Isle of Mull, Isle of Skye, Highlands
Whether you want to escape the city for a few days, need some peaceful vacations surrounded by nature, or looking to be mind-blown by incredible landscapes, Scotland is full of treasures. Its beautiful roads are made for road-trips, and photography enthusiasts will be in paradise.
You will discover here the plan for a 10-day road trip that will bring you from Edinburgh to the Isles of Mull and Skye, through the Highlands, and back to Edinburgh.
We decided to go there in May since it's the month with the least amount of rain, and to avoid the peak tourism summer season.
A road trip In Scotland in a few words
Welcoming locals, a long history, a lot of mysteries coming out of it, spooky stories, Highlands, Isle of Mull, Isle of Skye, castles, beautiful landscapes, breathtaking views, lakes, mountains, sheep (a lot of sheep), cows with funny hair, Beer, Good whisky (not whiskey which is Irish).
Getting to Edinburgh
No flight this time. We decided to join Scotland from Paris by train. Airports being located outside of both cities, the whole trip door-to-door wasn't too much longer and taking the train allows to discover other faces of countries.
Paris --> London (2h30) London --> Edinburgh (4h30)
Day 1 & 2 - Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a very cool city with a lot of history. Your feet will be all you need to visit it as it isn't large. Two days in Edinburgh should be good enough. While some places like the Edinburgh Castle shouldn't be missed, you should walk, and walk, and walk and let you be amazed by Edinburgh streets, with their typical architecture and colors.
There are giant parks in Edinburgh for people to enjoy the rare sunny days. You can even play golf on Bruntsfield Links. You just have to get your clubs at The Golf Tavern.
We stayed at the Black Ivy hotel, freshly renovated, which was a very nice surprise.
Labelled as a "boutique hotel", the whole place is very well decorated with famous photographs on the walls of the hallways and rooms, but it's also a trendy bar and a restaurant serving very good food. On Saturday evenings, a pianist will enchant your night.
Day 3 - From Edinburgh to Oban
125 miles / 200km and 3h15 on road today.
It’s time to leave the wonderful Edinburgh and really kick off our road trip.
Tonight we will sleep on the edge of the lands, ready to embark on the water the morning after.
On the road, we have lunch in Stirling on the road. If you stop there, make sure to check the Holy Rude church for a Game Of Thrones feeling. A cute restaurant across the street of the church entrance will serve you tasty home-made simple meals.
One of the most magic gems on the road, the Saint Conan's Kirk church, will suddenly appear on the left side of the road.
While entering this amazing place, an indescribable feeling emerges out of it. Is it the weight of the past, the majesty of the church itself? Probably both.
We finally arrive in Oban. The whole city is built around its bay and the never-ending waltz of ferries.
The view from our Airbnb in Oban set the tone of a series of beautiful views we'll have the chance in the places we'll stay all along our road trip.
Tonight our dinner will be fish and chips on the docks of Oban while the sunset set the sky on fire in background.
Early bed time as the ferry leaves at 8.30 a.m. but the check-in ends 30 minutes earlier.
Note that most of main ferry lines can be booked online in advance.
Day 4 - Isle of Mull
The ferry leaves the Oban bay toward Craignure on the Isle of Mull.
We leave the car and appreciate a croissant and coffee aboard. It's pretty cloudy and foggy this morning. A real Scotland atmosphere.
The vibe on ferries is always a bit mystical.
After 55 minutes on the ferry we arrive on the Isle of Mull. The first few miles on the road are already breath-taking. That's more than promising.
There is only one main road, so you can't get lost on Isle of Mull.
The landscapes on the road change often but remain beautiful. I have never seen such an enchanting environment like this. That's definitely what we were looking for when planning a road trip through Scotland.
We are getting hungry.
There are not that many villages with places serving lunch. As our hopes were starting to vanish, a small wooden house appears. The Hen House. Freshly opened a few days ago by the sweetest and kindest lady on earth that prepares simple meals for travelers on the road. It's not even yet on Google Maps, so the only thing I can tell you is to simply drive until you pass by it.
After a good meal in front of a stunning view, we are back on the road.
Next stop: the beach of Calgary Bay. Turquoise water, white sand... That's not a dream, we are indeed still in Scotland. And the sun is with us, like if this incredible place couldn't be seen under a grey sky.
Locals living on Mull were right about the fast-changing weather: "You don't like the weather? Wait for 5 minutes."
Lunar landscapes, mountains, a white-sand beach, forests and lakes, cliffs, all that in one small island.
We finally arrive in Tobermory. Probably the cutest village of the whole road trip, with these houses of different shiny colors.
Tonight we sleep at the Tobermory Hotel, with a lovely view on the bay of Tobermory.
Don't miss the Cafe Fish on the docks of Tobermory for some delicious seafood on the menu directly from the bay.
Before diner, we decided to go catch the sunset over the Glengorm Castle which is only a few minutes by car from Tobermory.
Oh boy, that was worth it!
Even simply the road to come back to Tobermory from the Glengorm Castle with that sunset in background was worth the quick trip there.
Day 5 - Road from Mull to Skye
It's already time to leave this island full of treasures. In 24 hours, we have seen so many wonders...
We take the ferry in the morning from Finnish to Lochaline.
It's rainy today, but hey, that's Scotland! We knew where we were going and we have been pretty lucky so far.
We aim to be at the Glenfinnan Viaduct for lunch. This name might not ring a bell for you. But what if I tell you that it's the bridge on which the Hogwarts Express passes in Harry Potter movies? This place has to be magic.
You can walk to a nice viewpoint to see the viaduct from above. Unfortunately the weather is not helping us, so we will admire it from the ground which is already beautiful.
The old steam train passes only a couple of times per day, so make sure to check in advance if you want to be there when it crosses the bridge.
We drive until Mallaig to catch our ferry that will bring us to Armadale on the Isle of Skye before the night. There is a storm and authorities are not sure if the ferry will be allowed to leave. It finally does and moves a lot during the trip. But that's fun!
Tonight we sleep on the very south of the Isle of Skye.
Our Airbnb has a view on the water. We can feel the intensity of Scotland Highlands weather.
Day 6 & 7 - Isle of Skye
First Day: South and North-East of Skye
I have heard a lot about the Isle of Skye while planning this road trip. Still amazed from what we have seen on Mull, we can't wait to discover what Skye has to offer.
Just like we felt on the Isle of Mull, the first miles on the roads of Skye are already beautiful.
How can't one not melt in front of all these cute lambs met on the road?
With two full days on the Isle of Skye, we have time to explore and we decide to drive to the small village of Elgol in the south of the island.
What a peaceful place on the edges of this very promising Isle of Skye.
The beautiful road to Elgol by itself is worth the trip. While on it, we bump into a herd of Highland cattle, these very typical Scottish cows with their stylish haircut.
We now head up north in the direction of the Sligachan Old Bridge, a pretty bridge made of stones with mountains and valleys in the background.
We continue on the road and follow the loop at the north-east of the island. The Isle of Skye offers some beautiful views that will make you think you're in front of a painting.
We finally arrive to our nest for the night: the lovely town of Portree.
It definitely has similarities with the village of Tobermory where we stayed on the Isle of Mull, with these cute colored houses on the docks.
On these docks, on Quay Street, several restaurants offer very good local food. While waiting to be seated at the restaurant of the Pier Hotel, we are invited to taste a beer from local breweries at the bar next door, part of the hotel. Locals seem to have their habits here and heavy Scottish accents resonate in the bar. We exchange for a few minutes with other travelers before to savor a delicious fish.
Our Airbnb is situated just 5 minutes by car from Portree center. It offers a stunning view on the fields and the mountains around.
Every sunset during this road trip is breathtaking while always having a different texture from the others. It reflects on the lands, hills and mountains, and will make you feel like in a fairy tale.
Second day: West Side of the Isle of Skye
It's a bit cold and windy today and a grey Scottish sky will follow us the whole day. We can't be lucky every day on the Isle of Skye! We are going to drive along the roads of the other side of the island, on the west.
Our first target is Neist Point Lighthouse: one of the most famous views of Skye, seen on gazillions of photos when I was planning this road trip.
You can walk to the lighthouse if you want. I prefer to enjoy the spectacular view between the water, these impressive cliffs, and the lighthouse. Walking up to a nice point of view on all this wasn't that easy. The wind was crazy strong, the fields were muddy. But the effort was worth it.
We go back on the road in direction of the south. We stop at a cute coffee shop called Cafe Lephin that also serves food. Second time during this road trip that I taste their typical brie-cranberry toast with salad. So good.
The rain is back, and we want to use the opportunity to visit a whisky distillery. Good timing, the Talisker Distillery is right on our road. But all tours are already booked for the whole day. So don't make the same mistake and book in advance, especially on a rainy day.
Alright, no worry for us, we go back in the car. Next stop: the Fairy Pools. The name itself sounds amazing.
It's still raining pretty strongly and we can't go too far on the simple 30-min walk to approach closely the Fairy Pools, but the lunar landscapes around is already impressive.
We head back to Portree for our second night there. Once again the combo seafood dinner from Portree docks + sunset is making our evening wonderful.
Tomorrow we leave Skye. We will spend the last few days slowly going back to Edinburgh across the Highlands.
The Isle of Skye was gorgeous. But the roads are a bit more moderns and I saw more tourists. The Isle of Mull felt a bit more authentic. However Skye is bigger and I'm sure there are still many treasures we haven't had time to discover there.
Day 8 - From Isle of Skye to Fort William via the Loch Ness
Bye Skye! Our road today will bring us to a castle, the famous Loch Ness, and will end in Fort William.
The first stop of the day is the Eilean Donan Castle, a real must-do for any road trip in Scotland Highlands. It is not only a gorgeous monument, perfectly (and strategically) located at the intersection of three lochs, it's also very well preserved.
Visiting it takes about an hour depending on how fast you are. The decoration inside has been well reconstituted.
Of course, a road trip in Scotland Highlands can't be done without passing by the mythical Loch Ness. Colors of the mountains and forrest around are gorgeous.
Our home for tonight in Fort William is really cosy and has a great view on the Loch Linnhe.
Fort William has a few very good seafood restaurants on the borders of the lake you might want to try.
Day 9 - Glen Coe and back to Edinburgh
Today we will drive back to Edinburgh, but not before having admired the gems the Glen Coe has to offer with its stunning view points, and small cottages lost in the middle of impressive mountains.
I have spotted in advance a few places on the road I do not want to miss. The first one is the Achnambeithach Cottage, at the foot of a mountain embellished by a pretty waterfall.
The second place I really didn't want to miss is a tiny house completely lost in the immensity of a lunar landscape. It is called Lagangarbh Hut, but can be also found (especially on Google Maps) as the Glen Coe Photography House.
The last hours on the road are gorgeous, just like this whole road trip has been. We refuse to admit that it's almost the end of this wonderful experience. One last night is waiting for us in Edinburgh. The train will take us back to Paris tomorrow morning.